Amy Gerstler

  • Tim Hawkinson

    Tim Hawkinson seems like the kind of guy who builds robots in his basement out of whatever’s lying around—aluminum foil, mannequin limbs, pencils and pens, an old motor, wiring, whistles—and who works out names and even biographies for his mechanical beings. A guy who treats his creations like pets. Hawkinson’s obviously drawn to mutants, diagrams, and models. His historico-futuristic sensibility makes me think I wouldn’t mind seeing a sci-fi movie he directed, or playing a CD-ROM game he designed. Hawkinson also seems to have an attraction to narrative, highlighted in the paragraphs of explication

  • Man Ray: Photographs

    Undeterred by recent allegations that certain “vintage” Man Ray prints are counterfeit—charges that cooled plans for a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the Getty is mounting a selection of some 100 of the artist’s 300 images from its collection. Curator Katherine Ware is taking a broad view of the American Dadaist-turned-expatriate Surrealist, sampling work from 1916 to 1951, including portraits, nudes, photograms, clichés verre, and solarized and hand-altered images. Did the spark go out when Man Ray left Paris for Los Angeles, as conventional wisdom has it? The photographs and

  • Julia Margaret Cameron's Women

    There are plenty of nineteenth-century photographs of women; few, though, were actually made by women. Of those that were, Julia Margaret Cameron’s stand out, as much for their self-conscious dramatization of identity (think ’80s tableau photography) as for their Pre-Raphaelite sensibility. According to Art Institute curator Sylvia Wolf, who selected the sixty prints on view, the aim is to demonstrate “what it meant to be a Victorian woman making pictures of women.” Another point that’s hard to miss is Cameron’s importance in establishing an art of photography beyond the bounds of pure documentation.

  • Brassaï: The Eye of Paris

    Seldom has a show been longer in the making: curator Anne Wilkes Tucker spent fifteen years readying this retrospective of the great photographer, outlasting colleagues at the Met, MoMA, and Art Institute of Chicago (all of whom ended up at odds with Brassaï’s contentious widow). Among the highlights of this triumph of perseverance: artfully arranged “candid” nightclub scenes, plenty of the signature romantically charged night views of Paris streets, underground shots in the city’s sewer tunnels, and close-ups of graffiti that seem to anticipate Abstract Expressionism—in all, some 140 black-and-white

  • Martin Kersels

    In his recent show, Martin Kersels wrestled with questions about how we navigate the world, addressing complex issues of awkwardness, safety and danger, and fear and discomfort. With a vocabulary taken from Conceptual art, performance art, slapstick, and dance, he exaggerates the embarrassing racket we make bumping and stumbling through life housed in our own too, too solid flesh. The work owes its unique perspective to Kersels’ knowledge that we are both privileged and doomed to lumber through the world as blobs of thinking, breathing meat.

    The show’s centerpiece, Loud House (all works 1998),

  • Jim Shaw

    Given Jim Shaw’s penchant for treating his mental landscape as an archaeological dig, it’s not surprising that for the last few years he’s been mining his dreams. This show contained forty-five pieces based on images that Shaw has lugged back from his excursions into the Land of Nod. Executed in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, fake greeting cards, cartoons, models, photographs, and drawings in various mutations, the work reflected the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality of dreams. These souvenirs from far-flung psychic galaxies ran the gamut from tweaked cartoon pastiche,

  • Bruce Conner

    Bruce Conner’s latest show conjured the ghosts of Edgar Allen Poe, William Blake, and Max Ernst. Spanning nearly a decade, the works (which ranged from 1987 to ’96) were divided, by methodology, into two categories: inkblot drawings and wood-engraving collages. The latter are elegant black and white cutups of fin-de-siècle engravings, which Conner scissored into surreal, absurd incarnations, full of mystical hints. One such piece, The Advance of Technology, 1996, is an altered biblical illustration. Gesturing energetically toward a shy Christ is a barefoot, robed figure whose head is covered by

  • Pina Bausch Tanztheatre Wuppertal

    German choreographer Pina Bausch’s elegant, often absurd images vacillate between the intimate and the spectacular. Crouched in a niche gouged out of a huge fake tree, a man takes a leisurely cigarette break. A woman empties some sort of powder from her panties. Men scale walls like flies to sultry music. Assembled dancers of both sexes do backbends amid a shower of falling leaves. Nur Du (Only you, 1996), Bausch’s site-specific dance-theater work created during a short LA residency, was intended in part to reflect her take on the city. The varied score featured tangos, fados, jazz, and doo-wop.

  • Allen Ruppersberg

    If Allen Ruppersberg has always had a severe case of bibliomania conceptualis so much the better for us. His most recent show investigated the secret lives of books—as admired and debased objects, embodiments of a zeitgeist, and repositories of laughter, value, and mourning.

    Portraits of books were presented as though the tomes themselves were famous personages. Fiction, 1991, is a drawing of a book whose cover modestly declares: “Good Stories by the Best Authors of the Day. 10 cents.” This piece sets the show’s tone: tongue-in-cheek reverence mixed with sly elegance. Low to High, 1994–96, gives

  • Annette Messager

    For years I’ve pored over magazine reproductions of Annette Messager’s pieces, deeply intrigued, sighing with longing to see the real thing(s). Messager has not shown much in the U.S. and only twice before on the West Coast. This first major American exhibition of her work, co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, where it opens this month, was long overdue.

    Describing Messager’s work as poetic, mysterious, eerie, dark, smart, playful seems woefully pale. I suppose this is the critic’s most dreaded disease—admiration fever. If you love the work, you choke. If

  • Charles Gaines

    In “Night/Crimes,” Charles Gaines presented eight noirish photo-and-text-based works that combine what looks like pages from an astronomy book with photos that resemble the ones Weegee managed to snap before police photographers arrived to document his city’s latest mayhem. Each piece consists of a large vertical rectangle encased in a thin black frame, recalling the way funeral announcements used to be surrounded by dark borders. The predominance of black and white in this show typified the exhibition’s central juxtaposition, evoking at once the conventions of fine-art display and the bleary,

  • Jennifer Pastor

    Visitors to Jennifer Pastor’s first solo show were treated to a three-dimensional, freezeframed explosion of cartoon energy. Pastor’s single, sprawling sculpture dominated the small gallery like a cuddly, restive tiger cub held captive in a shoebox. Viewers had to stoop and then flatten themselves against walls as they circumnavigated the piece to experience it in its goofy, slightly unsettling entirety.

    Pastor’s sculpture presents an image of cute, loony Christmas decorations run amok that seem to both shrink and elongate while thrashing about in some kind of wild tide. Like any well-conceived

  • Karen Finley

    Karen Finley’s exhibition “St. Kilda” presented an assortment of works that dealt with bereavement and the regressive, helpless condition it can reduce us to. In Written in Sand, 1992–94, a memorial installation first shown at HallWalls in Buffalo, ten tons of damp sand were deposited in a dim, gilded room, and the sand hillocks that formed were topped with flickering white votive candles. A handwritten text on the wall invited you to “write the names of those you have loved and lost” in the sand and then to smooth them away.

    The main gallery contained nine framed pieces that resembled giant

  • Kim Abeles

    Mounted as a kind of mid-career retrospective, this exhibition surveyed the prolific Kim Abeles’ work from 1979 to the present. She tends to work in series, 12 of which were represented in this show of more than 80 works. Combining elements of assemblage, Dada, and the diction of instructional materials, Abeles creates shrines that are often armed with an insistent social message. Beautifully conceived, designed, and produced, the catalogue that accompanied the show successfully advanced Abeles’ primary goals: to captivate and educate. Presented as a faux–World Book encyclopedia volume, it comes

  • Jeffery Vallance

    Jeffrey Valiance’s stance—the role he’s cast himself in and the way it determines his practice—can only be described as the result of an oddball vision that, when broken down into its contributing parts, doesn’t convey how resolved and monolithic the work ultimately is. Valiance’s tone approximates a fusion of an overzealous, fixational seventh-grader’s-international-affairs report; the knowing/naive diction of a 1956 World Book Encyclopedia entry; a rapt article in some fringe phenomena magazine like Fate or UFO Digest; and the travel notebooks of an eccentric uncle—journals that prove amazing

  • Todd Murphy

    Todd Murphy’s pieces are striking for several reasons, including their scale—a third of the works in this show are of imposing proportions (around 10 by 12 feet). Murphy’s imagistic vocabulary of undefined symbols afloat in an open-ended syntax may or may not be intended as narrative. In various combinations, the works feature: geese; chandeliers; a wind-up toy duck; faceless figures in voluminous dresses; a boxer in long underwear, dukes raised, standing on a brocade chair; another figure, its face hidden from the viewer, standing on an ornate chair shouldering a small old-fashioned airplane;

  • Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin-Kienholz

    Six years ago, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin-Kienholz embarked on a project that would address the arbitrary, unfair distribution of wealth in the world. Their stated premise was that human fate is largely determined by “accident of birth”—that economics can be destiny. Through extensive travel they gathered raw material for their work: an octagonal life-sized carousel, controlled by the spin of a wheel of fortune, was exhibited with thematically related 3-D wall reliefs referred to as “drawings” and with monoprints. All the works were fabricated largely from items collected during visits

  • “Relocations and Revisions”

    Closing, ironically, the day after: Independence Day, this exhibition marked the 50th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which declared all persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast a threat to national security, and led to the incarceration of 120,313 Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II. Deprived of liberty, livelihood, property, and dignity—virtually jailed in hastily constructed “camps” located in desolate areas of the country—two-thirds of these internees were U.S. citizens. The toll of this injustice and its historical

  • Nancy Rubins

    Table and Airplane Parts, 1990, was the title of the first of a trio of pieces, each occupying its own room, that comprised Nancy Rubins’ recent show. Installed in the gallery’s large, concrete, bunkerlike front room, the work consisted of a gigantic tumble of crumpled airplane parts: wings, doors, ducts, metal sinks, turbines, etc., bound together with lengths of wire. Bunches of severed cables dangled from the wreckage like bouquets of snakes. (Dirt still clung to some of the plane fragments.) At one end of the piece, plane parts seemed to rest on or stem from an unpainted wooden table, and

  • “Misfit Lit: Contemporary Comic Art”

    For aficionados of the genre, the “Misfit Lit” experience was like being afflicted with a serious sweet tooth at a pie-eating contest. Confronted with so much interesting work crammed into so few rooms, one had to quell a little stab of panic at the overwhelming plenty and stifle the urge to stuff oneself sick. Isn’t it time to establish a few museums devoted to this flourishing medium, which has outgrown the modest accommodations “alternative” art spaces can provide? Or would that be ushering an art/literary form characterized by flexibility, spiritedness, and iconoclasm into the restrictive,