Ara H. Merjian

  • Katrin Heichel, Guten Morgen Deutschland (Good Morning Germany), 2010, oil and egg tempera on canvas, 87 x 106”.
    picks July 06, 2011

    Katrin Heichel

    As if this gallery needed to flesh out further its standing as a nexus for talented young international painters, the US debut of the Leipzig-based painter Katrin Heichel obliges with a tight show of seven works. In its title, palette, and surface alike, NPSP (There Is No Beauty Without Danger), 2010, recalls Francis Picabia’s mechanomorphs from 1915-22, in which isolated, flattened objects of industry serve as as deadpan doubles for the artist’s mordant wit. Here, a cement mixer hovers between schematic presence and prodigious corpulence, enlivened with touches of light and a striking play of

  • Jayson Keeling, New Graffiti, Old Revolutions, 2010, color photograph, 30 x 40”.
    picks June 25, 2011

    “Mixed Messages”

    On the eve of Gay Pride––and the marketing emporium it has become––the quips and anthems assembled by curator John Chaich in this exhibition co-organized with Visual AIDS conjure up a different moment in the history of queer sloganeering. Veering from the angry to the elegiac, the messages here are as mixed as their vehicles. All of the works, however, attest to an effort to give voice to the AIDS crisis, from its emergence in the early 1980s to the present day. That more than half of the objects date from the end of the last decade, in fact, confirms the enduring, if increasingly undetectable,

  • Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator, 1940, stills from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 125 minutes.
    film June 01, 2011

    Charles in Charge

    “LEAVE ME, I WANT TO BE ALONE.” Thus growls a sullen Hitler to one of his attendants in an original trailer for Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940). Slithering down from an unlikely perch high up on a curtain, Der Führer proceeds to stalk an outsize globe, eyeing it greedily and portentously, in lone contemplation of his imminent world dominion. The globe turns out to be a balloon, affording Chaplin some highly amusing pantomime. He bounces and spins it in a comical allegory of arrogant control, until the object pops in his face. The prelude to Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin underscores the

  • View of “The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914–1918.” From left: Jacob Epstein, Torso in Metal from “The Rock Drill,” 1913–14; Wyndham Lewis, The Crowd, 1914–15. Photo: Andrea Sarti.

    “The Vorticists”

    LINED UP NEATLY in the first gallery, the sepia-soaked portraits of Vorticism’s leading lights––Wyndham Lewis in a suit, Edward Wadsworth in a bow tie––hardly betray their subjects’ defiance of post-Edwardian propriety. Only Ezra Pound in a broad-collared cloak––bearing some Napoléon III stubble, a shock of unkempt hair, and the glazed expression of a poet—looks the part of bad boy. Of course, Vorticism’s erratic boys’ club was not only male, and “The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914–1918”––curated by Mark Antliff and Vivien Greene, and traveling here from the Nasher

  • Kwakwaka’wakw, Yaxwiwe’ (Peace Dance Headdress), ca. 1922, maple, abalone, paint, cloth, ermine fur, sea-lion whiskers, 8 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 3 1/2".

    “The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art”

    In this, the largest Surrealism survey mounted in Canada to date, a diverse assembly of more than three hundred works by some eighty artists aims to illuminate the movement’s revolutionary aspirations.

    In this, the largest Surrealism survey mounted in Canada to date, a diverse assembly of more than three hundred works by some eighty artists aims to illuminate the movement’s revolutionary aspirations. Ceremonial objects and First Nation masks from artists’ collections will promise to demonstrate precisely how the indigenous art of the Pacific Northwest filtered into the movement’s primitivist vocabulary, while documentary photographs by Kurt Seligmann, along with the self-declared “totemic” imagery of artists such as Wolfgang Paalen, will further flesh out Surrealism’s

  • View of “Laboratorio Schifano,” 2011.
    picks March 24, 2011

    Mario Schifano

    “The work,” Walter Benjamin once said, “is the death mask of its conception.” Pinned between large walls of transparent glass, which are installed in a staggered, labyrinth-like hall, this exhibition of Mario Schifano’s working sketches, notes, Polaroids, and ephemera from the 1980s and ’90s grants the conceptive process of his late work continuous breathing room, even as it wedges it between airtight panes. In forging a homegrown strain of Italian Pop in the ’60s, Schifano drew on the work of Johns and Rauschenberg and the language of advertising in equal measure. His most notable paintings

  • View of “8 1/2,” 2011. Foreground: Elmgreen & Dragset, Short Cut, 2003; Background: Paweł Althamer, Balloon, 1999–2007.
    picks January 27, 2011

    “8 1/2”

    As neither a museum nor a private collection, the nonprofit Fondazione Nicola Trussardi has played a somewhat elusive role in the contemporary Italian art scene since 2003, deploying works in the public spaces of Milan. The foundation’s latest collective assembly—in Florence’s Stazione Leopolda, an abandoned train station—is a double anomaly that gathers together various works from previous solo shows. The exhibition fittingly opens with the installation that originally marked the foundation’s public debut: Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset’s Short Cut, 2003, which features an off-kilter Fiat

  • View of “Mark Bradford: Alphabet,” 2011.
    picks January 12, 2011

    Mark Bradford

    Embedded in a field of nacreous blue and silver, each of the twenty-six letters in Mark Bradford’s Untitled (A-Z), 2010, appears embossed or set into relief on its individual plate. Affixed to their white frames with clear plastic screws, the individual works are hung on the gallery wall in horizontal clusters, placed at uneven levels. A, B, C, and D form their own quorum, while the more exclusive E and F sit huddled nearby. The seemingly arbitrary parsing of the alphabet underscores what is arbitrary about its signs to begin with. In this sense, Bradford participates in a modernist project that

  • Lee Krasner, Kufic, 1965, oil on canvas, 6’ 9” x 10’ 8”.
    picks January 04, 2011

    Lee Krasner

    Painted partly in her New York studio and partly in the barn at the Springs, this selection of Lee Krasner’s work veers from diffident, quasi-pictorial experiments (tellingly signed, in one instance, “L.K.”) to some assertive displays of real virtuosity. A number of 1950s gouaches bear the influence of Gorky and Pollock yet reveal a sensibility that Krasner would often take to her own, successful ends. Those ends are exemplified in Moontide, 1961, a large, horizontal canvas of maroon, black, yellow-green, and white. If the composition still bears a certain indebtedness to post-Cubist pictorial

  • Salvador Dalí, Aphrodisiac Telephone, 1936, mixed media, 7 x 4 7/8 x 12". From “Surreal Objects: Three-Dimensional Works from Dali to Man Ray.” © Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

    Surreal Objects

    From the foundational penchant for objective chance to Breton’s inquiries into the “situation of the object,” the thing stood as Surrealism’s nexus of materiality and metaphysics, the empirical and the erotic.

    From the foundational penchant for objective chance to Breton’s inquiries into the “situation of the object,” the thing stood as Surrealism’s nexus of materiality and metaphysics, the empirical and the erotic. Comprising roughly 180 pieces, “Surreal Objects: Three-Dimensional Works from Dalí to Man Ray” features Man Ray’s literally rebarbative Gift, 1920/1961, and Dalí’s more anodyne lobster-handled Aphrodisiac Telephone, 1936. Alongside fur-lined crowd-pleasers, notable works often given short shrift—such as Ángel Ferrant’s sculpture and Dorothea Tanning’s soft

  • Martin Soto Climent, Luminous Flux (detail), 2010, video, tables, seven mixed-media objects, 3' 2“ x 1' 3 3/4” x 24'.

    Martin Soto Climent

    Martin Soto Climent’s objects are nominally ready-made: buckets and broom handles, a plastic tissue holder and women’s stockings, a wine bottle and gloves. Yet their presentation here has entailed some refashioning, by turns straightforward and lyrical. Folding, wrapping, and draping these things, Soto Climent draws out a poetics intrinsic to particular fabrics and textures—a poetics relentlessly, but subtly, corporeal. Composed simply of two nestled ballet shoes and some downy plumes, Dorothea (all works 2010), discreetly evokes female genitalia. Moon Bouquet features a cluster of large

  • Jean Cocteau, The Blood of a Poet, 1930, stills from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 55 minutes.
    film November 17, 2010

    Poetry in Motion

    IN THE AGE of CGI digital wizardry, the homespun effects of Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” trilogy appear quaint and sometimes clunky. But even (or especially) in their simplicity, numerous scenes remain seared on our collective cinematic imagination—whether Jean Marais locked in a narcissistic embrace with his own mirrored reflection, or Lee Miller as a talking, armless statue come to life. Of course, the thirty years that separate The Blood of a Poet (1930) from The Testament of Orpheus (1960) underscore a chasm between contexts: from the burgeoning realm of sound film to the technical advances of