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

  • Office in a Small City, oil on canvas, 1953.

    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, The Producer, 2002.

    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

  • Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000.

    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