Barry Schwabsky

  • Susan Mastrangelo, Shining Lights, 2020, acrylic paint, yarn, cord filler, fabric, 60 × 48".

    Susan Mastrangelo

    Having flown mostly under the art world’s radar for decades—during which time she’s moved nimbly between abstraction and figuration, primarily in sculpture—Susan Mastrangelo is now doing what looks to me like her best work yet, and it’s painting . . . but only sort of. Her most recent pieces are rectangular and hang on the wall, and there’s even paint on them, but other materials take the leading role. (One might even call her objects polychrome reliefs, to be pedantic about it.) This show, “Safe at Home,” included three smaller works from 2021 (each one thirty inches high by twenty-four inches

  • Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, At the Studio #1, 2018, oil on canvas, 82 × 108".

    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

    The title of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s current exhibition, “Paintings About Paintings,” seems to second poet Rod Mengham’s assertion that their canvases “exist within quotation marks . . . acts of ventriloquism, speaking as, or for, others, rather than finding and keeping a voice of their own.” But as writers of fiction know, there’s always a voice within the voice—one hears through characters and narrators, however distantly, the author.

    Painting as citation, not of particular paintings but of various ideas of painting, is evident everywhere here, but most explicitly in a pair of gargantuan

  • Wallace Berman, Untitled #120, ca. 1964–76, Verifax collage, acrylic, 6 × 6 1⁄2".

    Wallace Berman

    Wallace Berman showed  in New York only once in his lifetime (at the Jewish Museum in 1968), and his work has been seen only fitfully in the city since then. It’s surprising to realize that he was a native New Yorker—Staten Island born—given that he was central to the art and counterculture of California from the mid-1950s until his death on February 18, 1976, his fiftieth birthday. The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum’s great exhibition of 2006, “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle”—which, luckily, traveled to New York University’s Grey Art Gallery the following

  • Geoffrey Young, Portal (for Nellie McKay), 2020, colored pencil on paper, 11 × 11". From “Colored Pencil Redux.”

    “Colored Pencil Redux”

    Do real artists use colored pencils? Not often, I suppose—it’s something more readily associated with hobbyists, dilettantes—so when they do, there must be a good reason for it. “Colored Pencil Redux” was the follow-up to a show of works in this sidelined medium mounted at McKenzie Fine Art in 2019. Judging by the nearly fifty abstractions on paper by sixteen artists in this recent iteration, the explanation might involve a desire to make space for qualities of obsessiveness, eccentricity, and self-indulgence that are all too often ironed out of professional-grade artwork. Hallmarks of most of

  • Cait Porter, Window at 11pm, 2021, oil on canvas, 24 × 20".

    Cait Porter

    Observing Cait Porter’s New York solo debut “Within These Walls,” one might have found it easy (and one wouldn’t have been exactly wrong) to peg the artist as an old-fashioned realist putting time-tested techniques in the service of contemporary quotidiana. In the paintings on view here her attention was fixed on what we could assume was her own domestic environment and its distinctly banal, insignificant details: a drain with some suds bubbling around it, jumbled clothing inside an open chest of drawers with a stray power cord on top of it, a robe draped over a wooden door. These were not

  • Alice Mackler, Untitled, 2020, glazed ceramic, 13 3⁄4 × 11 1⁄2 × 8 1⁄4".

    Alice Mackler

    In his introduction to a new book on Alice Mackler’s work, curator Matthew Higgs urged viewers “to think of her as a ‘young’ artist who just happens to be in her eighties.” I couldn’t agree more. But the temporal paradoxes hardly end there; she might equally be considered an ancient artist, the survivor of some lost civilization who just happens to live among us today. The belief system underlying the artifacts of this prehistoric culture remains obscure; and the insistent untitled designation of all of Mackler’s works suggests a staunch refusal to initiate outsiders into a body of knowledge

  • Connie Fox, Sammy’s Beach I, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 80 × 88". From the series “Sammy’s Beach,” 2007–14.

    Connie Fox

    Sammy’s Beach is a narrow stretch of sand in the Northwest Harbor area of East Hampton, New York. There’s a lot to take in, but not all at once. Look one way as you stand there, and you’re gazing out across Gardiners Bay toward Long Island’s North Fork. Turn around and there’s Three Mile Harbor. Across the harbor is Springs, the East Hampton hamlet that was a magnet for the Abstract Expressionists: Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner as well as Willem and Elaine de Kooning were among its celebrated residents. It was Elaine who suggested to Connie Fox, her somewhat younger contemporary, that she

  • Alastair Mackinven, Untitled, 2020, oxidized iron powder and oil on canvas, 63 × 86".

    Alastair Mackinven

    The haunted, dreamlike atmosphere of Alastair Mackinven’s paintings hearkens back to the late nineteenth century—to the era of symbolism, aestheticism, and decadence. While many of the forms in his tableaux may be well-defined, one always has the suspicion that each picture’s hazy and interfusing hues are acting independently of the obscure irresolvable dramas that seem to unfold in the work. His figurative scenarios, full of eerie doings in intangible and indeterminate spaces, are enigmatic: In one of the works (all are Untitled, 2020), the head of an unsmiling woman, pale as a marble statue

  • Barry Stone, Box of Prints Thrown from the Car, US I-59 Outside Fort Payne, Alabama, 2018, ink-jet print, 13 × 19".

    Barry Stone

    Every picture tells—no, needs a story. The eleven mostly black-and-white photographs (and a zine-like publication assembled from photocopies) that made up “Drift,” Barry Stone’s solo exhibition here, are striking enough at first sight—but they’re also mysterious, both individually and as an ensemble. Water is a recurring element: as the backdrop for the hands holding the vulnerable-looking little sea creature in Hermit Crab, Bailey Island, Maine, 2018, or the substance on which a couple of kids back-float in Floating, Birmingham, Alabama, 2018. In Rainbowed Seaweed, Bailey Island, Maine, 2017–20,

  • Karen Kilimnik, Christmas service for the forest pets, 2008, oil on canvas, 16 × 16".

    Karen Kilimnik

    Twenty years ago, while teaching the craft of art criticism to undergraduate art students, I asked my class to write a review of a show by Karen Kilimnik. The responses were scathing—everything these kids had been painstakingly teaching themselves not to do in order to become serious artists, Kilimnik was doing. While they were taking baby steps toward artistic sophistication, they saw that she’d been strolling in the opposite direction. And it drove them crazy. Well, Kilimnik hasn’t altered her approach, and she’s still making it work. Even now, she manages to shock me by putting her finger on

  • Hayley Barker, Front Yard at Dusk with Visitor, 2020, oil on linen, 82 × 100".

    Openings: Hayley Barker

    I FEEL LIKE I’M SEEING EVERYTHING from a distance these days. It’s disconcerting, but the seeing is no less precious for that—maybe the opposite.

    Something of that sensation is captured for me in Hayley Barker’s painting Front Yard at Dusk with Visitor (all works 2020); as quotidian as the ostensible subject may be, her treatment of it possesses a kind of visionary grandeur. The flower garden her tableau leads us into and through is a chromatic symphony all the more seductive for the fact that the artist has applied her colors so lightly, so sparingly. She has orchestrated the composition by

  • Archie Rand, Therefore, God exists., 2017, acrylic on canvas, 24 × 18". From “The Cherry-Blossom Proof” series, 2017.

    Archie Rand

    Although Archie Rand’s long career as a painter has shown many—and sometimes seemingly incompatible—aspects, he has become best known (or perhaps, best underknown) for presenting Jewish themes on a sometimes extravagant scale and in his own highly idiosyncratic way. Among his noteworthy projects is “The 613,” 2008, a series of, yes, 613 paintings (that’s 1,700 feet of wall space to you!), each of which is meant to correspond to one of the mitzvoth, the commandments or rules for behavior scripturally required of all Jews. Other ensembles are more manageable, e.g., the ten paintings of “Had Gadya