Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • Akinbode Akinbiyi, Lagos Island, Lagos, 2004, ink-jet print, 23 5⁄8 × 23 5⁄8".

    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

  • Elizabeth Ibarra, The Moon Dancing, 2019, watercolor on paper, 14 x 10".
    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, Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater #3, 2020, oil on canvas, 68 × 60". From the series “Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater,” 2019–20.

    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, Relapsing in2 mysticism, 2019, oil on velvet, 39 1⁄2 × 23 1⁄2".

    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, Elevation, 2018–19, oil on linen, 72 × 120".

    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

  • View of “Larry Poons,” 2019. From left: For “Glenda”, 2019; Things Minus People (Kubrick), 2018.

    Larry Poons

    Two very different sides of Larry Poons appear in his most recent exhibition. On the one hand are a dozen paintings—made between 2014 and 2019 and built out of masses of small, flickering gestures—that in their meditative lyricism hearken back to Impressionist landscapes. On the other are thirteen canvases, or “Particle Paintings,” dating from 1996 to 2002, that Poons made using a technique that involved laying down mostly linear relief elements onto the work’s surface before applying paint. Via this approach, “drawing” became a material fact, to which Poons could react with color, presumably

  • Lisa Brice, Untitled, 2019, oil on tracing paper, 16 1⁄2 × 11 5⁄8".

    Lisa Brice

    Among my favorite paintings by Marlene Dumas is The Painter, 1994, which shows a serious-faced little girl—the artist’s daughter, then five or six—whose hands are completely covered in paint: blue for the right hand, red for the left. I’d like to think that girl could have grown up to be Lisa Brice—like Dumas, a South African by birth, though she now lives in London. True, the age isn’t right (Brice was born in 1968, not the late 1980s), but Brice clearly doesn’t mind getting her hand dirty with blue, the dominant (and sometimes only) color in most of the twenty works on view in her recent

  • E’wao Kagoshima, Until Sleep, 1996, oil and acrylic on canvasboard, 20 × 32". From the series “Etymological Paintings,” 1991–97.

    E’wao Kagoshima

    Born in Niigata, Japan, in 1945, E’wao Kagoshima has been a New Yorker since 1976. Working in a manner that combined aspects of Symbolism and Pop into an unstable cocktail of seductive decadence and a (possibly naive?) cosmic consciousness, he made a discreet reputation for himself in the East Village of the ’80s when the artist, writer, and all-around impresario Nicolas Moufarrege drafted him into his self-proclaimed Mutant International, a group of artists who, when hymned in Moufarrege’s inimitably vatic and enthusiastic style, sound less like members of an art movement than like a bunch of

  • Peter Saul, Ethel Rosenberg in Electric Chair, 1987, acrylic on paper, 60 x 40".

    “Peter Saul: Crime and Punishment”

    Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari

    Peter Saul has been called a painter’s painter. But when I hear that phrase, I think of someone whose work trades in refinement, in nuances likely to be lost on the layman, not an in-your-face provocateur like Saul, whose work art historian Richard Shiff has called “vulgar to such an extreme that it disturbs even the vulgar.” And yet it’s true: Most painters I know are fascinated by Saul and seem to believe he’s on to some of the art’s inside secrets—which means they suspect, I think, that the essence of painting must be something other than

  • “Think of Them as Spaces: Brice Marden’s Drawings”

    Curated by Kelly Montana

    Brice Marden has said that he starts his work “far away and end[s] up really close.” He continues, “Usually, when I am drawing, say with a brush from a distance, I always close in on it and I end up working it with a knife. . . . It’s like going from the vague to the specific—closing in on it, focusing.” Likewise for the viewer: You want to keep getting nearer to the work. Rather than trying to be all-inclusive, this first survey of his works on paper since 2001 delves deeply into a few important themes—including, for instance, thirty-five studies for the 1988–91 “Cold