Barry Schwabsky

  • Robert Colescott

    A DECADE AFTER HIS DEATH, Robert Colescott is still mostly known for his paintings of “the old masters in blackface,” as he once lamented. His pastiches—among them Eat Dem Taters, 1975 (take that, van Gogh!); George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975; and I Gets a Thrill, Too, When I Sees De Koo, 1978, which I had not realized is a pastiche of a pastiche, using the figure of Aunt Jemima to get at de Kooning by way of Mel Ramos—subvert what they pay homage to, substituting black figures for white ones to reimagine historic events and images, even

  • Cindy Ji Hye Kim

    As a writer, I know what twisting myself into knots over a word is like, though I rarely do this over a letter of the alphabet. But for an artist who might consider script a kind of drawing, the act of forming a single character might, for all I know, become more fraught. Cindy Ji Hye Kim is a draftsperson of implicit elegance and concision, with a style that falls somewhere between Max Fleischer and Christina Ramberg. To imagine Kim manipulating a pen with anything but ease is difficult, yet her paintings and drawings express anxieties about writing. These works feature stylized female figures,

  • Jean Dubuffet

    JEAN DUBUFFET has been having a moment—or maybe something longer, and certainly more expansive. New York’s Museum of Modern Art had a very well received in-house show of his work in 2014–15, which was quickly followed by a display of the artist’s collection of art brut that opened at the nearby American Folk Art Museum in 2015. (Writing on the latter show, Roberta Smith slyly suggested that many of Dubuffet’s best efforts were made during a ten-year period when the collection was out of his hands, temporarily housed on Long Island.) This New York affair continued in 2016, when Acquavella Galleries

  • Alissa McKendrick

    “Resentment” was a surprising title for a show of five vibrant, high-spirited paintings, none of which immediately gave off vibes of bitterness or rancor, even if their energy contained an understated ferocity. Alissa McKendrick is a fluent colorist with a propensity for subtly dissonant combinations of fruity, saturated hues that produce a jarring, acidic sweetness. Placing her stylishly accoutred female protagonists in spatially nonspecific color fields where they act out equivocal scenarios (motorcycling, nearly naked, past an overturned car, or confronting a seated ape as if engaged in


    Curated by Lowery Sims and Matthew Weseley

    Robert Colescott (1925–2009) was an odd man out among the painters of his time. His work has something in common with that of Bay Area “funk” artists such as Joan Brown, Peter Saul, and William T. Wiley, but has a satirical edge all its own, thanks to Colescott’s fantastical, sometimes outrageous approach to racial politics, art history, and popular culture—exemplified by his most famous work, George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975. Before Kerry James Marshall, Gary Simmons, or Kara Walker, there was

  • Marina Adams

    Although Marina Adams began exhibiting in group shows as early as 1983, she has only lately come to prominence. If her 2017 solo exhibition “Soft Power,” also at Salon 94, was, as the poet and critic John Yau noted at the time, “her breakthrough,” then this show, “Anemones,” will likely be remembered as the one that cemented her reputation as among the best abstract painters around. In particular, with the six large canvases in the gallery’s main space (seven small ones were in its upstairs reception area) she used scale to achieve something that’s been rare in contemporary painting: a sense of

  • Thomas Joshua Cooper

    Yes, a photograph is of some thing or some place. But what sort of relationship is covered by that little word of? Thomas Joshua Cooper’s work reminds us just how mysterious the link between a picture and its subject can be.

    Cooper is exceedingly deliberate in choosing what to capture. His decisions involve painstaking historical research. A long-term project of his has been to make pictures along all the coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean. In pursuit of opportunities to do so, he has—as the Parrish Art Museum’s director, Terrie Sultan, explains in the catalogue for this exhibition, “Refuge”—“journeyed

  • passages July 17, 2019

    Warren Niesluchowski (1946–2019)

    IN EARLY MAY I started to receive emails from friends who were at the professional viewing days for the Venice Biennale. No, they weren’t wondering where I was, why I wasn’t there. They were asking, instead, if I knew anything about the whereabouts of the one person without whom such an event felt incomplete: Did I know if Warren Niesluchowski was coming?

    Warren wouldn’t be making it to Venice this time, I had to tell them. He was in a hospital bed in New York—the latest (and, it would turn out, the last) of the many temporary accommodations he’d had the use of over the past two decades.

    Why so

  • Sangram Majumdar

    Certain artists settle easily and without trepidation into a credible style that allows them to proceed in an unencumbered, linear fashion; Sangram Majumdar is apparently not among them. A decade ago, it made sense for the critic Jennifer Samet to discuss the Kolkata-born New Yorker’s work under the rubric “painterly representation”; at that time his art was rather academic in character, with an affinity for restrained color enlivened by a sensitive touch. Fellow painter Kyle Staver noted—and not without admiration—“a stubborn and humorless aspect” to this approach. By 2013, Majumdar had mostly

  • Bernard Gilardi

    The poet and critic Parker Tyler, in the 1943 issue of View magazine titled “America Fantastica,” observed that the fantastic in art, “while primitive, is also sophisticated, since it makes direct appeal to that anarchy of elements which binds the most rational man to the lunatic.” I believe Tyler would have immediately recognized Bernard Gilardi as an artist of this stripe, and, if labels are useful at all, I find this a more informative way to explain what kind of artist he was than trotting out more conventional rubrics such as outsider, self-taught, or naïve. Born in 1920, Gilardi spent his

  • Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

    “In Lieu of a Louder Love,” Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition of twenty-six paintings—including two diptychs and a quadriptych—occupied both of Jack Shainman Gallery’s Chelsea spaces. These imaginary portraits conveyed a timelessness, a sense that they might have been made either a hundred years ago or just the other day. Yiadom-Boakye’s work does not elicit mere nostalgia; it evokes a sense of inward reflection, less affected by immediate sensations than by what’s been brooding in the soul. Although the artist relies on imagination rather than observation, she still uses photographs and other

  • Jennifer Packer

    Jennifer Packer’s paintings come, she has said, from “observation, improvisation, and memory.” That sounds a bit like realism, abstraction, and symbolism all at once—or maybe at different times of day? It’s a tall order, but her recent exhibition “Quality of Life” bore that out. Although what she paints—people, flowers—might sound limited, she can do pretty much anything she wants with her medium of choice (and with charcoal), and she allows herself the freedom to range widely in form and feeling, and sees more in her subjects than others might notice.

    A striking example was Jess, 2018, an

  • Cecily Brown

    The massive 2017 triptych that gives this show its title, Where, When, How Often and with Whom, is a complex but inscrutable composition. Its left canvas depicts what appears to be a shipwreck (or at least a vessel tossed on a storm), while the center is occupied by a mass of figures who direct their apparently alarmed attention not at the foundering vessel but outward at the viewer (unless we are to imagine a shift in viewpoint, so that the viewer is at sea with the boat); on the right, a single figure lies sprawled out with another kneeling alongside. The painting brings to mind the refugees

  • Raoul de Keyser

    THE PIANIST CRAIG TABORN described how, observing the venerable Art Ensemble of Chicago as a young man, the group’s five members would warm up, practice, and start playing backstage before the show, so that “by the time the concert began the music had already been happening . . . they were simply bringing it out with them.” Likewise, Raoul De Keyser’s art gives the distinct impression of having been carried from somewhere upriver, of having coalesced long before taking form on canvas—and of lingering in the air even after you’ve stopped looking at it. When De Keyser began to gain a reputation

  • Gregor Hildebrandt

    If unheard melodies are sweet, as John Keats says, there was abundant sweetness in the imposing “total environment” Gregor Hildebrandt realized for his second New York exhibition. The Berlin-based artist has long specialized in outdated recording media—most notably cassette tapes and vinyl records—focusing not on their capacity for storing and conveying sound, but instead employing them as mute materials, elements with which to create paintings and sculptures that have music buried within them. The choice of media would seem restrictive, but by showing the impressive range of formal effects he

  • René Daniëls

    WHAT I REMEMBER from the couple of shows René Daniëls (then not using the diaeresis in his name) did in New York in the mid-1980s is mainly feeling puzzled. The paintings were representational, and—if I recall correctly—mostly without figures. They more than flirted with abstraction, and they were shown at a gallery, Metro Pictures, that seemed to maintain a distinctly antipainting stance. At the time, these camps—the neo-expressionists, the abstractionists, and the Pictures crowd—seemed utterly at odds, and yet this artist shared something with all of them and none. Whose

  • Tala Madani

    In “Corner Projections,” Tala Madani’s recent exhibition of paintings and animation, the blunt, raunchy, and cartoony directness of attack that characterized her previous New York show, in 2010, was not entirely gone from her pictorial tool kit, but the paintings here were much more oblique. Stylistically, she’s dialed down her palette and added elements of illusionism. Most of the new paintings were in shades of gray, sometimes with a few small patches of prismatic color. As well, the artist provided some tricky light effects, which rendered the works a bit too slick at times, yet all the more


    Curated by Brett Littman and Jeff Fleming with Amber Harper

    Speaking about his studio, Neo Rauch has commented that “it is necessary to enter this place in a state of psychological and physical ventilation.” One might adopt the same mindset when approaching his paintings, entangled as they can be in the dank and heavy meshes of inexpressible histories. One aerated mode of entry might be through his drawings, here granted their first extensive American exhibition, in collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center. The 179 items on view, dating from 1994 to 2017, should give a clear idea of what

  • Ralph Humphrey

    By the time Ralph Humphrey (then in his fifties) came to my attention in the late 1980s, he was already known as a painter’s painter, and this reputation only increased after his death in 1990. He remains for a certain cohort “someone to aspire to, and someone I want to continue the conversation with,” as painter and critic Stephen Westfall explained in 2012.

    I never fell in with this sentiment. Yes, Humphrey’s odd color choices could linger with the viewer like a musky perfume, but beyond that I could never get the hang of his work. Its heavily built-up relief surfaces, which for Westfall are

  • Keith Sonnier

    It comes as a surprise that “Keith Sonnier: Until Today,” a selection of thirty-nine works made between 1967 and this year, really is “the first comprehensive museum survey to consider the arc of this iconic artist’s achievement,” as curator Jeffrey Grove writes in the catalogue. After all, Sonnier has been a renowned figure for five decades; by thirty he’d exhibited at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also participated in legendary shows such as Lucy Lippard’s “Eccentric Abstraction” at New York’s Fischbach Gallery in