Ara H. Merjian

  • Joseph Cornell, Hotel de la Mer (Hotel Goldene Sonne), 1950–51, wood, glass, pigment, paper, 17 7/8 x 12 x 4 5/8". From “In Search of Time.”

    “In Search of Time”

    With ribbed sides flaring like the gills of some steely fish, Zaha Hadid’s new building for the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University does anything but rest on its Grand River Avenue plot. This importunate assembly of angles pitches, soars, lurches, shifts—refusing the fixity of any formal envelope or elevation, even as it sits within a taut, stainless-steel skin. Following from the kineticism of Hadid’s structure, the museum’s inaugural exhibition, “In Search of Time,” organized by curator and founding director Michael Rush, likewise shrugged off the surrounding

  • Edmund Clark, Home IV—Ex-Detainee’s Dining Table, 2009, chromogenic color print, dimensions variable.
    picks December 28, 2012

    Edmund Clark

    In Edmund Clark’s mixed-media evocation of imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, a photograph of a sour green isolation unit sits flanked by a few different images. On the left wall, Camp IV–Mobile Force-Feeding Chair (all works 2009) speaks for itself. Or rather, its inert objecthood is made to speak for the nameless bodies it has restrained. Hung to the right is an interior shot of a well-lit bedroom, its carpeted corner occupied by a child’s plastic slide. A similar juxtaposition obtains nearby, in the image of an exercise cage placed across the gallery from Home IV – Ex-Detainee’s Dining Table.

  • David Humphrey, Pink Couch, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 72".
    picks December 27, 2012

    David Humphrey

    David Humphrey’s new set of acrylic canvases trade in broad, raw brushstrokes and neatly delineated figures. Nonrepresentational forms alternate with elliptically narrative imagery—an overturned truck, churlish youths, a voyeuristic peeper. The type of coexistence between these phenomena, however, shifts from scene to scene. A foreshortened recession of lounging legs in Kicking Back (all works 2012) ends in an unruly brown smear, while Pink Couch neatly and cheekily corrals its abstraction in a further frame, hung on the wall. Scout’s Break sacrifices spatial coherence altogether, linking

  • Sadie Barnette, Untitled (Boom Box), 2012, vintage cassette player, enamel, dirt, 32 x 32 x 10".
    picks December 18, 2012


    Featuring work by twenty-nine different artists—many of them represented through multiple contributions—“Fore” continues in the vein of the Studio Museum’s previous group shows (the alliterative “Freestyle,” 2001, “Frequency,” 2005–2006, and “Flow,” 2008). The exhibitions have helped introduce emerging talent in a number of different media, from painting to site specific installation. To be sure, many of the artists in “Fore” have already staked out notable places in the contemporary scene. Noah Davis contributes with Found Photo, 2012, a characteristically arresting portrait of a foregrounded

  • Bernd and Hilla Becher, Coal Bunker: Zeche Hannibal, Bochum, D. 1973, 2012, eight framed gelatin silver prints, overall 37 1/4 x 75 1/2".

    Bernd and Hilla Becher

    The photographic enterprise of Bernd and Hilla Becher is by now as seemingly archetypal as the structures it documents. Recording, over several decades, a range of building “typologies” around the globe—from water towers to grain elevators—their images offer up a kind of anonymous, parallel history of the industrial edifice. The same inexorably milky sky frames each structure, and atmospheric indicators are so minimal as to compel concentration upon the objects themselves. This is not to say that the eye isn’t tempted by minutiae—the erratic arc of tire tracks, cement planters bearing shrubs,

  • Domenico Gnoli, Ritratto di Luis T (Portrait of Luis T), 1967, acrylic and sand on canvas, 18 1/2 x 15".

    Domenico Gnoli

    Domenico Gnoli’s untimely death in 1970—just months after the widely anticipated show of his paintings at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York—cut short what had promised to be a prodigious career. This exhibition, a presentation of twenty-four selections from the artist’s limited, strikingly consistent corpus, marked a return, of sorts, to a city he first visited in 1956. Departing from the creeds of both abstraction (then in its twilight) and Conceptual practices (on the rise), Gnoli’s work stood out during its time as something of an anomaly and an anachronism, both on American shores

  • James Busby, Tunnel Vision, 2012, gesso, graphite, oil, and acrylic on linen, 18 x 21”.
    picks September 20, 2012

    James Busby

    James Busby’s working materials—from gesso on MDF and spray paint on polycast acrylic to ink on yupo paper and his recent panels made with oil, acrylic, and graphite—are as varied as his method is consistent: Over the past decade, he has been steadfast in his investigation of plasticity, pictorial space, and the playful tussle between them. The pokerfaced, demure white of his earlier output has ceded in this exhibition to a vibrant play of color, which is by turns striped, striated, and laid in rectilinear blocks. Despite this shift, geometry still takes pride of place in Busby’s paintings, and

  • Dario Argento, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, 1970, color, 35 mm, 98 minutes.
    film September 18, 2012

    Fever Dreams

    DERIVING FROM the late 1920s yellow (“giallo”) covers of the Mondadori publishers’ crime series, the giallo literary and cinematic phenomenon comprises what in English is rendered roughly as “crime drama,” and in French, the roman policier. It is to London and Paris, in fact, that the genre may be traced in the main: You see origins in Poe’s Detective Dupin prowling about the Rue Morgue, or Sherlock Holmes’s abode on Baker street. The Parisian pulp crime serial Fantomâs echoes to the far reaches of avant-garde experimentation, from Magritte’s 1927 painting The Menaced Assassin to the masked

  • Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On, 2012, 35 mm, color, 102 minutes.
    film September 05, 2012

    Between Men

    TRACING THE TURBULENT vicissitudes of a young New York couple over the arc of a decade, Keep the Lights On keeps the camera trained—almost unwaveringly—on the pair’s faces and physiognomies, arguments and intimacies, by turns steeped in pleasure or charged with anguish. Eric, a Danish, thirtysomething documentary filmmaker who has yet to fulfill his early promise, turns a casual trick with Paul, a closeted lawyer who—after a steamy one-nighter—tells Eric not to get his hopes up, as he has a girlfriend. Against those odds their relationship evolves, but only apace with Paul’s drug-fueled devolution.

  • View of “La Tendenza: Italian Architectures, 1965–1985,” 2012.
    picks August 28, 2012

    La Tendenza: Italian Architectures, 1965–1985”

    With 250 drawings, photographs, painting, maquettes, and photographs from one of the postwar period’s more influential architectural movements, “La Tendenza” foregrounds the prominence of visual imagery in architectural innovation in the 1960s through the 1980s, when the Tendenza group—including Alessandro Anselmi, Carlo Aymonino, Paolo Portoghesi, Ernesto N. Rogers, and Aldo Rossi—tackled the daunting landscape that was postwar Italy. The burden of devising an urbanism that could transcend Fascist legacy—learning from its innovations without falling into a dehistoricized functionalism—proved

  • Stefan Brüggemann, I like the way it is wrung, 2007, white neon, 96 1/2 x 23 1/2".
    picks June 20, 2012


    Featuring works by five artists in a range of media, this compact exhibition offers some striking interventions into perceptions of space and the poetics of materials. As her raw material of choice, the artist Alicia Martín uses seemingly refined objects: books, which she combines into new, striking configurations. The spherical sculpture here, Meteorito V (Little Meteor), 2007, comprises hundreds of different tomes, pressed into a globular mass. Some volumes are opened outward, as if inviting a read; others offer up only their spines, such that various titles in different languages are tucked

  • Frank Hallam, Filming Pompeii New York, 1982, archival digital print from slide, 12 1/2 x 18 1/2”.
    picks June 06, 2012

    “The Piers: Art and Sex Along the New York Waterfront”

    Re-creating the sensation of the piers along Manhattan’s West Side Highway––sites, during the 1970s and ’80s, of burgeoning artistic activity and a thriving gay subculture––provided curator Jonathan Weinberg with a daunting task. Assisted by Darren Jones, and informed by a decade of archival research and interviews with artists, “The Piers” assembles a compelling constellation of images, evoking not only a vital dimension of New York’s East Village art scene, but the social and sexual contexts with which it was bound up.

    As the exhibition makes clear, it often proves impossible to tease the erotic