Alexi Worth

  • Willem de Kooning

    The ’60s and ’70s were not happy years for Willem de Kooning. At the height of his fame, the aging painter often disappeared for days at a time on drinking binges that would culminate in hospital stays. Even good days often began with a bottle of J&B. Was the “blubbery” style of those years a relative low point, a long prequel to the (now much better known) abstractions of the “dry” ’80s? Or do its slovenly, lascivious images of women and emulsified landscapes represent de Kooning’s true “late style,” before the onset of Alzheimer’s? With about forty major works

  • Edward Hopper

    British audiences haven’t seen much Edward Hopper since the Whitney’s 1980 retrospective traveled to London’s Hayward Gallery, so this show is the first to test the American artist’s dour probity against the freewheeling post-YBA climate.

    British audiences haven’t seen much Edward Hopper since the Whitney’s 1980 retrospective traveled to London’s Hayward Gallery, so this show is the first to test the American artist’s dour probity against the freewheeling post-YBA climate. Tate Modern curator Sheena Wagstaff aims to present a straightforward look at Hopper’s achievement: roughly eighty oils, watercolors, prints, and preparatory drawings, from his early plein air sketches of Paris to the increasingly frugal mindscapes of his last years. Running concurrently with a survey of Hopper fan Luc Tuymans, the

  • John Currin

    It’s been twelve years since Village Voice critic Kim Levin urged readers to “boycott” the “awful paintings” in John Currin’s first gallery show. Now, the full range of Currin’s provocations—smiling divorcées, coeds, neo-Mannerist nudes, and rosy-cheeked gay couples—are on view in a midcareer retrospective.

    It’s been twelve years since Village Voice critic Kim Levin urged readers to “boycott” the “awful paintings” in John Currin’s first gallery show. Now, the full range of Currin’s provocations—smiling divorcées, coeds, neo-Mannerist nudes, and rosy-cheeked gay couples—are on view in a midcareer retrospective organized by MCA associate curator Staci Boris and Serpentine chief curator Rochelle Steiner. In the catalogue (which includes essays by Boris and Robert Rosenblum), Currin muses ruefully about Cosmopolitan, Scrabble, and his own conservatism: “Basically, I enjoy normality in art. I like boring

  • WHATEVER HAPPENED TO: THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTIAN LEIGH

    For a six-year run beginning in 1987, CHRISTIAN LEIGH was one of the most visible—and ambitious—independent curators in the international art world. Then he vanished. ALEXI WORTH looks back on an enigmatic impresario of many guises whose disappearance remains as mysterious as Leigh himself.

    PRODIGY

    In the mid-’90s, around the time that Christian Leigh went underground, or vanished, or worse (the more lurid versions of the story pictured him at the bottom of a Venetian canal), a curious fax began circulating through New York galleries. At the time, Leigh was a familiar figure in the art world—the

  • David Reed

    No beds, no videos. Here we got David Reed without any of his recent quasi installations. Instead, the six big new abstract paintings served up basics—Reed's slithering painterly gesturalism, complemented by deft variations of format and palette, and the occasional comic grace note. Appearing in the lower right-hand corner of #483, 2001-2002, for instance, is a luscious vermilion brushstroke that bears a distinct resemblance to the old tongue-lapping Rolling Stones logo. The effect: a teasing, impudent sign-off.

    Moments like these felt ingratiating, but the show as a whole highlighted what I take

  • Drawing Now: Eight Propositions

    “Drawing is a verb,” Richard Serra’s bluntly provocative formulation, was the keynote back in 1976, when MoMA organized its first “Drawing Now” survey. For the third go-round, curator Laura Hoptman turns the tables: “Drawing is a noun again,” she notes wryly. But her show does more than highlight a shift toward unapologetic objectmaking. The “Eight Propositions” of her title are essentially professional fields (animation, fashion, architecture, etc.) from which artists like Kara Walker, John Currin, Chris Ofili, and Takashi Murakami have adapted their often

  • Neo Rauch

    When Neo Rauch’s parents were killed in a train crash, Rauch was six months old, and his father had just entered art school. Rauch has no idea why they chose his unusual name, but the suspicion that some sort of wry art inflection was intended seems, at least in retrospect, tempting. As a prefix, neo has a double-edged quality, a suggestion of both cynicism and freshness, which Rauch’s artwork exuberantly fulfills. His earlier paintings, with their military hardware and cartoon balloons, read as diffuse satires of the East German regime under which he grew up. Rauch’s second New York exhibition,

  • Ileana Sonnabend

    IT IS GENERALLY AGREED that “From Pop to Now: Selections from the Sonnabend Collection,” which opens in June at Skidmore College’s Tang Museum, represents only the tip of an enormous submerged iceberg of art. Talking to dealers and curators, one gets occasional glimpses below waterline: Neil Printz, coeditor of the Warhol catalogue raisonné, mentions that Ileana Sonnabend, one of the most enigmatic and influential impresarios of twentieth-century art, who also happens to be Leo Castelli’s ex-wife, owns some of Warhol’s finest drawings. Charles Stainback, the Tang’s director, recalls “something

  • Frank Nitsche

    Savvy, sleek, crisp, and flat, Frank Nitsche’s paintings make an honorable, middle-of-the-road style—gestural geometric abstraction—look suddenly like the fast lane. Lately that kind of regenerative feat seems to be a particularly German talent, so it’s no surprise to find that Nitsche was reared in the former GDR and studied at the Dresden Academy alongside painters like Thomas Scheibitz and Eberhard Havekost. Like theirs, Nitsche’s art wears both earnestness and calculation on its sleeve. Everything about the seven big canvases on view in this belated New York debut seemed shrewdly considered:

  • Janet Sobel

    Janet Sobel probably never read Clement Greenberg's glancing tribute to her in his revised 1955 essay “'American-Type' Painting,” but the passage has become an obligatory pit stop in discussions of her puzzling, newly resuscitated career. Back in 1944 at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery, Greenberg recalls, “Pollock (and I myself) admired [Sobel's] pictures rather furtively. . . . The effect, and it was the first really ‘all-over’ one that I had ever seen . . .was strangely pleasing.” You'd think the implication that Sobel had some role in Pollock's development would have guaranteed

  • James Rosenquist

    Alexi Worth recounts the series of visits Richard Bellamy made to James Rosenquist’s studio in the months leading up to his first one-man show, at Bellamy’s Green Gallery in February 1962.

    JAMES ROSENQUIST, a headstrong twenty-two-year-old from Minneapolis, arrived in New York in 1955. After a year at the Art Students League his money ran out, so he took a job as a chauffeur for a wealthy couple who provided room and board, along with a studio where he could make his smeary impastoed abstractions. It was a comfortable situation—no expenses, plenty of time to paint—and it’s easy to imagine

  • Carl Ostendarp

    More than a decade ago, Carl Ostendarp emerged as a deadpan formalist, with bulging foam reliefs and sculptures that read as mockeries—of the monochrome tradition, of Jules Olitski, of Expressionism. In the mid-’90s, just as he was shifting to a new, cartoony idiom, his career got sidetracked, partly because of a few prominent negative reviews. As his former Yale classmates and drinking buddies (Sean Landers, John Currin, Richard Phillips, Lisa Yuskavage) became marquee names, Ostendarp virtually dropped out of sight.

    So this, his first major New York show in seven years, had the feeling of a

  • Julie Mehretu

    A map of Julie Mehretu's career thus far would have the scattered, centripetal look of her paintings. Imagine a wide swath of markings and arrows, emblems of an itinerary that has taken the artist from Addis Ababa and Dakar to Kalamazoo, Providence, Houston, and Harlem. Near the center of the map, clusters of color-coded symbols would represent a six-year run of exhibitions and reviews, quickly growing denser and soon interspersed with little plumes of flame and smoke—combustion! By the time the Whitney released its very long list of artists for the 2002 Biennial last November, her absence,

  • Willem de Kooning

    Like an unsigned will, Willem de Kooning’s 1980s paintings ended his career with a kind of divisive largesse. For some viewers, the aged de Kooning is a kind of Yeatsian hero, sailing off into his own Byzantium. To detractors, he’s a pitiable mannequin, performing wobbly pantomimes of his familiar painterly gestures. We still don’t know the exact nature or trajectory of de Kooning’s illness. We do know, however according to Gary Garrels, curator of the traveling survey “Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, the 1980s,” that there was a turning point of sorts in 1987, at which time the artist’s

  • Ben Katchor

    As Ben Katchor is the first to admit, there’s something counterintuitive, even perverse about a museum exhibition devoted to cartoon strips. Most of what was on view in this show—highlights from twenty years of deadline-sponsored creativity—is readily available, and more comfortable to peruse, in book form. So maybe the point was to encourage viewers to scrutinize the subtleties in the original drawings—to savor, for instance, careful archipelagoes of Wite-Out, lost in reproduction and now lustrously visible? Devoted Katchor fans could spend hours indulging in this kind of

  • CENTERFOLD: WOLFGANG STAEHLE

    When Wolfgang Staehle's exhibition “2001” opened in early September at Postmasters gallery in New York, it offered a panorama of eventlessness. On three walls, static video images glowed in the darkness, like vast electronic postcards. One showed a picturesque hilltop monastery near Stuttgart, its ramparts culminating in fairy-tale pinnacles. Another featured the famous TV tower in Berlin's Alexanderplatz. The third was a diptych view of lower Manhattan, seen from south Willlamsburg, across the East River. All three projections—at least on cloudless days, at moments when the boat traffic

  • Philip Pearlstein

    AFTER ALMOST FORTY YEARS, we can presume to know Philip Pearlstein's art pretty well, and at first this selection of paintings seemed to fit snugly in the “more of the same” category. All the hallmarks of his wafer-dry style were in place—the axial, overlit limbs, the narcoleptic tristesse, the corny props. So it was easy to miss this show, which is to say, to see only an acknowledged master plugging away in his established idiom. Pearlstein himself, a taciturn gradualist, certainly wasn't going to advertise any changes.

    But they were there. To begin with, this exhibition marked the first

  • John Bock

    "I’m in New Yok, and in New Yok the tradition is that the ahtist makes a Happening,” John Bock announced while standing on a curious plywood platform that formed the stage for his most recent performance. Cheerfully, earnestly, the German artist urged his Chelsea audience to “Go do it, it’s a Happening!” The viewers, most of whom were probably in diapers during the Happenings era (as Bock himself was), responded with sluggish amusement, as if they had been asked to dance the frug. Some accepted the beer and cigarettes Bock proffered. Others allowed him to douse twists of their hair with hairspray.

  • Top Changtrakul

    NOT LONG AGO, uniformed Thai policemen raided Top Changtrakul's tiny studio in the countryside outside Bangkok, confiscated most of his equipment, and hauled him off to jail. Or did they? A video included as part of this show documents the arrest, but the footage was gleefully melodramatic, and the monitor was displayed sideways, hinting that the incident was something the artist might have dreamed up while lying down. Moreover, it was all too easy to recognize Changtrakul's “studio” as another sort of facility: an outhouse.

    The spectacle of heavily armed cops staking out a privy may not be

  • Julie Heffernan

    Julie Heffernan’s imagination looks suspiciously like the gift shop at some tourist-thronged beaux arts museum—the Prado, say, or maybe the Frick. Everywhere in her lavishly rhetorical paintings are passages borrowed from Spanish still lies, Flemish landscapes, English pet portraits, and furtive, nightmarish Goya vignettes. In her foregrounds, pale red-haired figures, all titular self-portraits, flaunt the dark-lipped Hapsburg underbite fixed in our memories by Velázquez (imagine Philip IV played by a naked Tilda Swinton). That underbite, the notorious symptom of royal inbreeding, suggests