Barry Schwabsky

  • Robert Bittenbender

    Looking at Robert Bittenbender’s assemblages and works on paper, you’d almost think that there is still some kind of bohemia in New York, that somewhere out there a few artists are trying to live their lives in the interstices of the market economy, breathing life into its detritus, taking Apollinaire’s famous advice to “paint with whatever material

    you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.” Bittenbender’s exhibition “Cosmo Freak” included six pieces, all dated 2018: two wall-hung, three-dimensional


    Part of a slow-moving wave of late-blooming, venturously eclectic New York painters who are widely esteemed by fellow practitioners but who, despite increasing international renown, have still not quite found the public they deserve—Chris Martin and Dona Nelson also come to mind—Rochelle Feinstein is probably the most politically feisty of the lot. She uses abstract painting to question just about everything, and then uses just about anything to question abstract painting. Following on the heels of a three-venue German/Swiss retrospective in 2015–16, this exhibition,

  • Zoe Pettijohn Schade

    The seven densely layered paintings on paper that made up Zoe Pettijohn Schade’s exhibition “Shifting Sets” produced a distinctly disorienting effect, especially since the works themselves, all sixty by forty inches, were hung close together in Kai Matsumiya’s small storefront space. There was something dizzying about their shifting patterns, and about the way so many of the multitudinous images out of which those patterns are formed seemed to want to jump out and fix themselves in the viewer’s gaze as individually significant; they kept the viewer’s eye and mind off-balance. In some ways,

  • Bice Lazzari

    Those who appreciate the art of Nasreen Mohamedi or Agnes Martin—artists whose pursuit of simplicity led them to probe the endless vibrations of space rather than the construction of form—might want to start looking into the work of Bice Lazzari, yet another of the seemingly endless number of underrecognized women modernists whose work is ripe for reconsideration. Born in Venice in 1900 and trained as a figurative painter, she began working abstractly in the late 1920s, first as a practitioner of the applied arts—fabric designs, decorative panels, and the like—but her abstract

  • Mimi Lauter

    Seeing Mimi Lauter’s work for the first time brought home to me how rare it is to see contemporary painting whose substance is rich and full-bodied but possibly inchoate, rather than style, topicality, or an arm’s-length commentary on art history. Lauter’s work is clearly imbued with historical self-consciousness—the press release rightly cites “Redon, Vuillard, Bonnard, as well as other members of the Nabis and Post-Impressionists” among the Los Angeles–based artist’s precursors, to which list I would add Blaue Reiter–period Kandinsky and maybe a few more recent explorers of the cusp

  • Thornton Dial

    “Mr. Dial’s America,” the second gallery exhibition of Thornton Dial’s work since his death in 2016 at the age of eighty-seven, included seven paintings dated between 1990 and 2011, as well as a freestanding sculpture, The Top of the World, 1998. Dial is often referred to as an outsider, or self-taught artist, and while it is understandable why commentators resort to such handy but potentially misleading labels, this exhibition made the best possible case for seeing Dial as, simply, an artist of his time, with no need for further qualification. Like most artists, Dial considered art itself as

  • Anita Rée

    Anita Rée was a leading artist in Weimar-period Hamburg. No avant-gardist, this devotee of Paul Cézanne, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and the Italian Renaissance was ambivalent about Picasso and dismissive of abstract art. Her portraits, the largest part of her oeuvre, are close in spirit to Neue Sachlichkeit, but more broadly her art was in accord with efforts to reconcile tradition and modernity internationally, from Diego Rivera to Duncan Grant to the Novecento Italiano. Born in 1885 to a Jewish father and a Venezuelan Catholic mother, though raised a Protestant, Rée seems always to have been

  • Elizabeth Murray

    An unexpected, utterly unstable synthesis of Chicago’s unruly, almost lowbrow Imagism with the more calculated approach—and blockbuster scale—of New York abstraction: That’s what Elizabeth Murray achieved at her best. The twenty-five works in “Elizabeth Murray: Painting in the ’80s” made it absolutely clear why she became one of the leading American painters of that decade, even though her work—no more neo-expressionist than neo-geo—didn’t really fit in with anything else going on. The frenetic energy of these paintings is simply undeniable, and it’s the energy of a formidable

  • Alberto Savinio

    THE MUSICIAN, PAINTER, AND WRITER Andrea de Chirico changed his name to Alberto Savinio in 1913. An Italian born in Greece in 1891, having studied under the renowned composer Max Reger in Germany, he’d moved to Paris in 1910, followed shortly thereafter by his older brother, Giorgio. The elder de Chirico was just starting to make his own now-indelible reputation, though he was already painting the works for which we still know him best. But at this point—as the cultural historian Keala Jewell has pointed out in her book Art of Enigma: The De Chirico Brothers and the Politics of Modernism

  • Marianne Mueller

    Photography has the peculiar capacity to show how things feel, thanks to peculiarly photographic ways of distorting the way things look. That, I guess, is what Garry Winogrand was talking about when he spoke of wanting to see “what things look like photographed.” Marianne Mueller seems to rephrase this idea: “Photography because the pictures I see don’t exist.” The camera’s cyclopean eye creates appearances that deviate from those supplied by natural binocular vision, and through those differences photography creates metaphors we recognize as “true.” That’s what Mueller does with her photographs,

  • Robert Moskowitz

    Having been included in William C. Seitz’s Museum of Modern Art exhibition “The Art of Assemblage” in 1961, and with a solo debut at the Leo Castelli Gallery the following year, Robert Moskowitz has maintained a quiet but persistent presence on the New York scene for more than half a century. Quiet persistence has been a characteristic quality of his art as much as of his career. That tenacity pays off was demonstrated by his recent exhibition of six paintings, some of which were probably among his best, and, for that matter, are among the best anyone is making today.

    Observers have always

  • “Terry Winters: Facts and Fictions”

    Terry Winters has said that, as a young man mesmerized by Minimalism, he was led by the desire to draw “away from that blankness and toward developing an imagery that could play a role in my work.” This effort precipitated the atmospheric paintings inspired by scientific illustrations of organic specimens for which he first became known in the early 1980s. The seventy—eight works in this retrospective will follow Winters’s development from that time through the more fully abstract approach that has occupied him since the ’90s, with dense weaves of swirling, crisscrossing

  • Peter Doig

    It’s been fifteen years since Peter Doig moved from London to Trinidad. But his art has never gone tropical. If anything, his work these days seems more “northern” than ever. The thirty-four paintings and works on paper in this show kept making me think of Marsden Hartley, Max Beckmann, Helene Schjerfbeck—not of the Gauguins and Matisses who looked to the south for their light. Doig’s early paintings often seem to represent remembered or, perhaps, imagined scenes from his Canadian childhood, but stylistically they are hard to locate, concerned more with inner than outer landscapes, apparitions

  • Stanley Whitney

    I’d been waiting for a show of Stanley Whitney’s drawings for a long time. Catching sight of them periodically in his studio, or in the back room of a gallery, I’d always been amazed. Whitney is, as should now be apparent, among the supreme colorists of contemporary painting, but what’s amazed me in his drawings has been his mysterious ability to communicate the variable weights and densities of color, as he does in his paintings—without actually using color at all, instead relying on pure line to express, as if through metaphor, chromatic differentiae.

    Conjuring color through its absence

  • Kyungah Ham

    This was Kyungah Ham’s first one-person show outside South Korea—yet to call it a solo venture felt odd, not just because some of the exhibited pieces were the work of many hands, but also because Ham herself seemingly operates as two artists simultaneously. The first is a producer of strikingly lush, colorful, and imposing “paintings” made not with paint but with embroidery on canvas. The works of this artist are lavishly sensual, often very pleasurable to look at, possibly a little too slickly produced, and occasionally—as in a series that imitates Morris Louis’s 1960–61 “Unfurled”

  • Vicky Wright

    Vicky Wright’s exhibition “Night Shift” was articulated in two distinct parts. The gallery’s compact ground-floor space was devoted to an installation of wall-mounted figurative paper sculptures along with some drawings, titled five parts MACHINE, one of DESIRE (perpetuates a self-replicating monadic structure) (all works 2017), whose composition served in part to draw the viewer toward the stairwell leading to the more extensive basement level, which housed seven paintings. The ground-floor installation featured a pair of abstracted, comically elongated figures, apparently male, constructed

  • Sam Contis

    If you happened to be a guy who scored well on your SATs and had a slight yen for paths less taken, then you probably wondered for at least a minute: What would it be like to go to Deep Springs College? Deep Springs, as you might know even if you don’t fit that demographic, is the country’s smallest college, and possibly its most geographically isolated; its seven or eight faculty members offer thirty or fewer male students a rigorous two-year education from which most go on to complete their BAs at one of the Ivies. And it’s all free, but each student is required to work twenty hours a week on

  • John Graham

    Born in Kiev in 1886, a descendant of minor Polish nobility, Ivan Gratianovitch Dombrowski trained as a lawyer in his hometown, served in the Russian army, and in 1918 was briefly imprisoned as a counterrevolutionary; upon arriving in New York in 1920, he found work as a riding instructor. What led this thirty-six-year-old who’d never picked up a brush to enroll in the Art Students League in 1922? Who knows. But it turned the anti-Bolshevik émigré into one of the revolutionaries of American art. As John Graham, he was part of the triumvirate (along with Arshile Gorky and Stuart Davis) whom Willem

  • “Sputterances”

    “A poem should not mean but be,” a poet formerly famous once wrote: The line is a perfect example of one that does the opposite of what it says, since the dictum’s force lies in its all-too-seductively self-evident meaning. Language only begins to reveal its being when meaning trips itself up, when communicative urgency interferes with its own expression. The Dutch artist René Daniëls must have had something like this in mind when he coined the delightful portmanteau sputterance—the term denoting, apparently, an enunciation whose very resistance to completion or closure constitutes its

  • Thomas Trosch

    Exemplifying truth in labeling, “Thomas Trosch: Paintings New and Old” presented a dozen paintings made between 2010 and 2017, along with two from 1993 and three dated 1996. Then and now, it’s been hard to know how to receive this work, which is almost ridiculously ambitious yet so eccentrically campy that some might dismiss it as vapid (or, worse, “idiotic,” as Benjamin Weissman worried in these pages in 1993). Perhaps as a result, Trosch has been shamefully neglected by the critics—myself included. His sheer incalcitrant originality has probably done his career as much harm as it’s done