Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • Nicola Tyson, Big Yellow Self-Portrait, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 80 × 62 1/4".

    Nicola Tyson

    Three of the eight paintings in Nicola Tyson’s exhibition “Sense of Self” were designated as self-portraits, but they didn’t tell you much about how she looks. First of all, they didn’t have faces, usually a sine qua non of the genre. I can also assure you that, contrary to Self-Portrait: Wings (all works 2020), the artist lacks the feathery appendages common to birds, the ones covered in tiny iridescent scales boasted by butterflies, or the presumably more immaterial ones worn by angels. Likewise, if more prosaically, she did not (last time I saw her) have the massive body of the seated figure

  • Karine Laval, Quarantine #24, 2020, C-print, 30 × 40".

    Karine Laval

    This was, you might say, an entirely homegrown exhibition. It obeyed Voltaire’s great admonition “Il faut cultiver notre jardin” (Let us cultivate our garden); for an artist, following the adjuration might mean shouldering the responsibility not only for making the work but for presenting it to the public with little endorsement and intermediation of dealers, curators, or other gatekeepers. For several years, Karine Laval has been making photographs in public and private gardens throughout Europe and North America for her ongoing series “Heterotopia,” 2014–. When the coronavirus pandemic confined

  • Adrianne Rubenstein, Love Letter, 2020, oil on panel, 35 × 23".

    Adrianne Rubenstein

    I made a big mistake by walking through “Ruby in the Dust,” Adrianne Rubenstein’s exhibition at Brooklyn’s Deli Gallery, without a checklist in hand. Sure, I found plenty to enjoy in her ebullient, inventively composed oils—her painterly and coloristic gusto would probably have precursors such as Asger Jorn, George McNeil, or Don Van Vliet nodding in accord. But I “got” her works in another way when their titles clued me in to just how much humor is in them. Yes, I could see that the subject of that mostly pink-and-orange horizontal painting resembles a lumpy sofa, but it was quite something

  • Nancy Brett, Funnies with Twill, 2019, newspaper, linen, 9 × 7".

    Nancy Brett

    When I first saw Nancy Brett’s work, around 1990, she was making landscape paintings. I couldn’t quite tell how much direct observation might have gone into them, but they seemed rooted in reality despite their subtle otherworldly mood. Within a few years, her art had changed radically: She was making figure paintings, steeped in images of childhood, and blending memory and metaphor without any pretense of realism. Brett’s last solo show was in 2008. Her reemergence in “Over and Under :: Painting and Weaving,” organized by her fellow artist McArthur Binion along with Anna Stothart, chief curatorial