Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

  • Akinbode Akinbiyi

    It would be easy to peg Akinbode Akinbiyi as a street photographer in the classic mold. Though the label is to some degree apt, the astringent lyricism of the artist’s images is more than just a product of his evident immersion in the scenes where they are produced, whether these are in African cultural capitals such as Bamako, Johannesburg, or Lagos, or in Berlin, where he has been based since the 1970s. As he once explained to fellow photographer Rahima Gambo, “It is not the environment that determines the approach, but rather how you stand in relation to yourself and what you want to say, to

  • picks June 19, 2020

    Elizabeth Ibarra

    The titles of Elizabeth Ibarra’s paintings invoke the sun, the planet Mars, a meteor, and, most often, the moon, but there’s something distinctly earthy about her rough-hewn aesthetic. And distant echoes of precursors such as Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Louise Bourgeois, and A.R. Penck—artists who knew how to lend their sophistication an air of naïveté by combining pictogrammatic images with visceral abstract marks—give her works a sense of deliberate untimeliness. Are her recurrent but never identically formed stick figures (always one per work) avatars of the artist herself? Maybe, but what

  • Heidi Hahn

    The first thing to notice about Heidi Hahn’s paintings is the artist’s adroit way with the fundamentals of the medium. Her handling of color, line, luminosity, and so on comes across as somehow both instinctual and analytical: Chromatic washes condense into emotional atmospheres, while swift gestural drawing elicits, rather than imposes, definition. Hahn makes mood palpable.

    The second thing one observes is how indebted her loose-limbed figurative style is to that of Henri Matisse, in whose work that amalgam of intuition and intellect reached a pinnacle. This might be worrisome, as an awful lot

  • Issy Wood

    Somewhere between realism and surrealism sits a distinctively uncomfortable yet curiously seductive pictorial mode I call perverted realism. It draws on traditional, even ostentatiously conventional representational styles in order to estrange them, but without resorting to the overtly self-contradictory strategies of, say, René Magritte, or the blatantly subjective grotesquerie one finds in the work of an Ivan Albright. Painting of this sort is almost by definition dark in temperament. But much of it is chromatically dark, too, conjuring spaces full of shadow and murk. Think of Michaël Borremans,

  • Brice Marden

    Brice Marden’s recent show “It reminds me of something, and I don’t know what it is.” included a sextet of horizontal paintings (each six by ten feet), as well as five smaller but still substantially scaled studies in oil (three by five feet), and four vertical drawings on paper. (I note at the outset the works’ format because, in a very interesting way, they make an issue of it by playing their rectangularity against a contained square.)

    Marden has long been fascinated by Chinese calligraphy, most evidently until now in his “Cold Mountain” series, 1989–91, which was directly inspired by the