Ara Osterweil

  • Rebekah Goldstein, Chasing My Tail, 2022, oil on shaped canvas, 74 x 93".
    picks April 06, 2022

    Rebekah Goldstein

    Certain kinds of geometric abstraction yield to the lure of the shaped canvas. Rebekah Goldstein, the San Francisco–based painter known for her exquisite formalism, has now joined the ranks of artists such as Elizabeth Murray, Harvey Quaytman, and Frank Stella in her abandonment of rectangular constraint. Goldstein’s magnificent show here—filled with boldly colored shaped paintings whose elegantly convoluted forms dialogue with a selection of linear and quietly voluptuous sculptures—makes no bones about claiming space.

    Although her paintings are not three-dimensional, they were inspired by the

  • Stan Douglas, Exodus, 1975, 2012, digital C-print mounted on Dibond aluminum, 71 × 101 1/2". From the series “Disco Angola,” 2012.
    picks March 11, 2022

    Stan Douglas

    Conceptual photographer Stan Douglas is acclaimed for mining the counterfactual potential of the image to create historical reconstructions that reflect upon the present’s fraught relation to the past. The reason to see his show here is not only that he will represent Canada at the fifty-ninth Venice Biennale, but because some his large-format, digitally collaged photographs on view are so pregnant with manufactured possibility that they quicken the blood with unexpected anticipation.

    Half of the images, from the 2021 series “Penn Station’s Half Century,” were commissioned by New York City’s

  • Sylvia Safdie, Inventory, 2021, organic and mineral materials, steel, bronze, glass, brick. Installation view. Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

    Sylvia Safdie

    For decades, Montreal-based artist Sylvia Safdie has walked, retracing through her peregrinations the lost terrain of her childhood in Lebanon and Israel. As she meanders, she collects stones, fungi, leaves, seedpods, branches, and other such fragments. To those who lack her naturalist’s eye, most of her findings seem ordinary enough. Other objects—such as giant kayak-shaped pods or the enormous leaf she hauled back from Brazil, bisected, cast in bronze, and then collapsed upon and around a stone like a pair of broken wings—thrust more expansively toward the imagination. This sculptural herbarium,

  • Daïchi Saïto, earthearthearth, 2021, 35 mm, color, sound, 30 minutes.

    ALCHEMICAL ROMANCE

    WE BEGIN IN THE BLACK, as the film exhales. Slowly, a jagged horizon appears against the darkly glowing empyrean. It flickers out, then returns. Another ragged lip of earth teethes a lambent sky: an awakening. Shot on 16 mm in 2015 in the Atacama Desert spanning the border between Chile and Argentina, and later blown up to a magisterial 35 mm, Daïchi Saïto’s thirty-minute experimental film earthearthearth (2021) is an optical acid trip in which the boundaries between terra firma and yawning firmament dissolve in a hallucinatory explosion of color and light.

    Like Ronald Johnson’s ARK (1996), the

  • Alice Neel, Nancy and Olivia, 1967, oil on canvas, 39 × 36". © The Estate of Alice Neel.

    Staged Mothers

    IN A 1978 INTERVIEW, Alice Neel recalled that an acquaintance once approvingly told her she painted “like a man,” but the artist herself rejected the very notion of gendered painting. “I don’t feel that there is definite female painting,” she said. “I don’t feel that you could tell a man’s painting from a woman’s painting.” Transcending any essentialist approach to gender, her portraits of mothers register a complex ambivalence that resonates poignantly with anyone who has ever experienced the terror of keeping another being alive. In spite of her resistance to gendering the creative process,

  • Wanda Koop, Barcode Face, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 84 × 60".

    Wanda Koop and Oli Epp

    It’s hard to tell if Wanda Koop’s paintings are deceptively—or disturbingly—simple. Rectilinear portals, Xs, and bar codes float on watery horizons limned with light. These symbols don’t so much beckon us into the gloaming but get in the way, reminding us that the enigmatic shorelines over which they hover are too flat for us to enter. Captured between dusk and eventide, Koop’s lakeshores duet between graphic figures and idyllic grounds. Waves lap silently along placid embankments in these images, yet the artist incorporates subtle reminders of our destruction of them. But how to object to such

  • Antonietta Grassi, Linkers No. 1, 2020, oil and ink on Belgian linen, 48 x 60".
    picks November 09, 2020

    Antonietta Grassi

    Overlaying candy-colored, geometric prisms with glimmering networks of lines that weave through and around them, painter Antonietta Grassi could easily be taken for the love child of Josef and Anni Albers. Yet while underscoring the contiguity of modernist composition and traditional craft, her exquisite abstractions also demonstrate the visual similarities between loom work and computer code. These are not idle comparisons, as this exhibition of her most recent paintings makes explicit: Nineteenth-century polymath Charles Babbage developed the prototype for the world’s first computer, the

  • Ronnie Landfield, Coming Home, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 46 × 51".

    Ronnie Landfield

    His may not yet be a household name, but Ronnie Landfield is one of the best abstract painters in America. Since the late 1960s, Landfield’s paintings have been defined by billowing stains of color, poured and loosely brushed onto canvases of monumental size. Although nearly all of his images invoke the metaphysical, his approach nonetheless extends the vital dialogue between landscape and abstraction explored by midcentury pioneers such as Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell. Filtered through Landfield’s optical unconscious, translucent swaths of color layered upon or

  • Janet Werner, Untitled (Curtain), 2016, oil on canvas, 74 × 60 1⁄4".

    Janet Werner

    Through painterly and conceptual ingenuity, Janet Werner has created a visual language to explore the multiplicity of the self. Her portraits revel in their provenance, explicitly referencing both fashion magazines and a range of precursors, including Francisco Goya, Édouard Manet, Alice Neel, Francis Picabia, and the sculptor Allen Jones. Werner, who attended the MFA program at Yale in the late 1980s with John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, is a far more expressive painter than either, although she, too, strains the female figure through the sieve of popular culture, yielding a burlesque of

  • Sam Gilliam, Double Merge, 1968, acrylic on canvas. Installation view, Dia:Beacon, NY, 2019. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio.

    Sam Gilliam

    LIKE A PAIR OF ENORMOUS PAINT-SOAKED WINGS, Sam Gilliam’s Double Merge, 1968, beckons viewers to enter into the fold. Consisting of two monumental swaths of raw canvas that have been stained, dyed, splattered, and encrusted with paint in a brilliant range of hues and then suspended from ceiling beams in an undulating, contiguous form, Double Merge is at once painting and sculpture, performance and installation, act and artifact. It is also an example of how Gilliam, a pioneer of postwar abstraction associated with the Washington Color School, expanded painting’s rectilinear frame and put pressure

  • BARBARA HAMMER

    OF THE MORE THAN EIGHTY moving-image works that Barbara Hammer created, her 1974 film Dyketactics remains her most iconic. A four-minute paean to lesbian sexuality, Dyketactics publicly announced Hammer’s blossoming sexual identity after the end of her heterosexual marriage and testified to the visionary power of a woman with a movie camera. The film is a revolutionary call for recognition, a how-to guide to sensuality, and a reflection of the utopian spirit that animated a generation of women in search of sexual pleasure and empowerment beyond heterosexuality. It is also one of the most joyful

  • CLOSE-UP: LA TIERRA TIEMBLA

    COMPRISING NEARLY seven hundred miles of sand and felsic lava trapped in the twin rain shadows of the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth. It is also one of the most surreal. Within the larger geography of the Andean Altiplano—a massive plateau that reaches elevations of thirteen thousand feet—volcanic craters, salt flats, and lakes the color of blood stretch as far as the eye can see. It is no wonder that cinematographers and NASA scientists alike have used the region as a proxy for Mars.

    In her 2018 film ALTIPLANO, the Chilean-born,