Barry Schwabsky

  • Stanisław Fijałkowski

    Until now little known outside Poland, Stanisław Fijałkowski can claim, to say the least, a most distinctive artistic lineage: He was a student of Władysław Strzemiński, who in turn had studied with the modern master Kazimir Malevich. But Fijałkowski is also heir to all the upheaval that his part of the world has suffered over the past century. He was born in 1922 in Poland’s southeast, “a region that was soaked with blood in World War II,” as Anda Rottenberg and Ory Dessau write in the gallery press release; the area is now part of Ukraine. During the war he found himself in a forced-labor camp

  • A. R. Penck

    With some sixty years of artmaking behind him and impressive honors to show for it, A. R. Penck nonetheless remains a somewhat misunderstood figure. Self-taught, and a relatively late émigré from what was then still the German Democratic Republic in 1980—contemporaries such as Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter had moved west as early as 1957 and 1961, respectively (in Richter’s case just before the Berlin Wall went up that year)—Penck emerged at a tangent to the Western neo-avant-gardes even as he remained untouched by the traditional representational criteria taught by the East German

  • Bracha L. Ettinger

    “Painting is not about representation,” according to Bracha L. Ettinger, but that doesn’t mean it’s about abstraction either. Her work registers the ambivalence of the image, photographic in origin—its way of insisting on its own presence while seemingly putting itself under erasure through a destabilizing instability of focus or refusal of clarity. The resulting sense of vagueness or veiling might recall Gerhard Richter’s famous blur, though Ettinger’s defocusing produces an effect that’s different than the one conjured by the German master, who once said, “I blur things so that they do

  • Peter Barrickman

    There are painters who take inspiration from what they know about painting, and others who thrive on what they don’t know. But in some of the most interesting cases, know-how and naïveté become strangely tangled in a felicitous inconsistency: The artist does not appear to be steadily pursuing a consistent and intelligible project but striking out, almost haphazardly, in different directions, succeeding as if by so many lucky hits. And yet somehow everything seems to add up. Of course, anyone who repeatedly pulls off such a feat is not relying on luck but on a wily artfulness.

    These days when I

  • Philip Hanson

    For “It is too difficult a Grace,” his first New York solo show since 1997, Philip Hanson exhibited a dozen paintings made between 2014 and the present, along one with one dated 2010. In these works, the Chicago-based painter takes as his subject matter words—to be specific, lines from the poetry of Blake, Dickinson, and (in the earlier painting) Gerard Manley Hopkins. Those are, needless to say, formidable names to conjure with. Is it really wise to insert oneself into such exalted company?

    To a great extent, these engaging works manage to assuage such qualms—mainly by determinedly

  • Monique Mouton

    Although she’s exhibited regularly over the past decade on the West Coast (most often in Vancouver, where she studied at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design), Monique Mouton only recently received her first solo show in New York, her home now for several years. The slight awkwardness of the exhibition’s title, “More Near”—you shouldn’t need Strunk and White to tell you that standard usage would be “Nearer”—sat well with the works themselves: eight large, framed paintings on paper and six small, eccentrically shaped panels, three of them installed on the floor. The ostensible

  • “Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: From Carnegie Tech to New York”

    Admirers of Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein have long been aware of the early, unlikely friendship between the prophet of Pop and the gimlet-eyed observational realist who stripped the human figure of all glamour or narrative implications. As the latter tells it, the acquaintance began in a way that already reflects the Andy we know: On the campus of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University, a fellow student by the name of Warhola approached him because Pearlstein’s work had been published in Life magazine as the result of him winning a contest for

  • Brice Marden

    This exhibition of a dozen paintings and twenty-five drawings from between 2007 and 2015, billed as the largest presentation of Brice Marden’s work since his 2006 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, reveals the artist still in a retrospective mood: At times he returns to the method of abutting monochrome panels—mostly subdued or cloudy in color—that was typical of his work in the 1960s and ’70s; at others he avails himself of the layering of sinuous linear gestures that he began using in the mid-’80s. In one work, he combines the two modes: Uphill with Center, 2012–15,

  • Katy Grannan

    Times are tough out there, but they look even tougher than in most places in Modesto, California. At least that’s how it appears in the works that made up Katy Grannan’s recent exhibition “Hundreds of Sparrows.” Is this arid, desolate landscape, populated mostly by loners who’ve been hardened by life yet still look tremendously vulnerable, really the same town where George Lucas set his bittersweet but innocent American Graffiti (1973)? The short answer is no. Lucas’s nostalgic reverie on middle-American adolescence is clearly fictional, and probably owes as much to the equally reimagined Rimini

  • Frank Auerbach

    Frank Auerbach’s unambiguously palpable paintings keep getting more mysterious the more I look at them. T. J. Clark, in a characteristically rich, knotty, and self-dramatizing essay for the catalogue of this oddly shaped retrospective, writes of seeing one for the first time and thinking it “a crazy inconsequential daub.” That was not my initial impression, but it’s where further acquaintance with the work seems to be leading me. Curiously, the phrase Clark used to sum up his erstwhile disdain for the paintings started to sound like apt praise.

    After reading curator Catherine Lampert’s 2015 book

  • Lucy Dodd

    An educational website I checked to make sure I was getting my mathematical terms straight tells me, “A trapezium is defined by the properties it does not have. It has no parallel sides.” Bingo: That’s the shape of most of the paintings in Lucy Dodd’s show “Wuv Shop.” Dating from 2014 and 2015—some made from such exotic ingredients as “Yerba mate, hematite, iron oxide, tetley’s and pigments on canvas” (Mantice, 2015)—they were installed as if by chance, leaning against the gallery walls and one another, surrounding a couple of beat-up old couches, an old-fashioned sound system with a

  • “Monster Roster: Existentialist Art in Postwar Chicago”

    Although the term Chicago Imagist has become a familiar catchall for several generations of Windy City figurative artists, the movement’s intricate history deserves closer study. What better place to start than with the first generation, whom art historian Franz Schulze memorably described as the Monster Roster—artists closer to expressionism and (as this show’s subtitle would have it) existentialism than were the later Hairy Who? The beastly bevy includes names that remain famous (Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, H. C. Westermann) and cult favorites who ought

  • Emily Mae Smith

    Christina Ramberg once took René Magritte on a blind date to see Disney’s Fantasia, but they couldn’t concentrate on the screen because of all the heckling from Joe Brainard and Evelyne Axell in the back row. So the four of them left the theater at intermission to chill out at Emily Mae Smith’s exhibition “Medusa,” where they all got along quite nicely. The end.

    If that scenario sounds like your idea of fun, then Smith might be your kind of painter. The visual wit, wealth of allusion, and crisp, sure-handed execution of the Brooklyn-based artist’s modestly scaled paintings, whose protagonists

  • Vera Neumann

    Sonia Delaunay’s textile designs are seen as art these days, but that may be because she began and ended her career as a painter. In the 1970s, the feminist-inspired Pattern and Decoration movement claimed to undermine the hierarchical distinction between fine and decorative art, and yet the practitioners of P&D always identified themselves as artists, never as designers—the dichotomy was still in force. In exhibiting Vera Neumann (1907–1993)—best known by her first name alone—as an artist rather than as the textile designer who became what this show’s press release calls “a

  • Carlos Bunga

    “I Am a Nomad,” the first exhibition in Switzerland by the Barcelona-based Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga, was articulated by its curator, Sabine Schaschl, in two distinct parts. The first was an installation of recent large-scale works that sit at the cusp of painting, sculpture, and architecture; the second was a selection of small-scale, model-like constructions and works on paper. The installation, on the museum’s fifth floor, was bookended by monitors showing early video works—one of them, Pintura (Painting), 2000, dates back to the artist’s student days (he graduated from ESAD.CR,

  • Ida Applebroog

    Ida Applebroog’s imagery has always been forthright, direct, unequivocal: blunt in its protest against life’s absurdity and the abuse of power. Nothing smoothed over, no lulling nuances. Its force lies in its apparent simplicity, the almost cartoonlike reduction of what Max Kozloff once called the “little butcheries” of life to their fewest essential distinguishing features. And yet this simplicity or pictorial minimalism also renders her work ambiguous, filled with unarticulated resonances beyond what’s immediately apparent.

    A few years ago, Applebroog described her work as “situated structures

  • Tino Sehgal

    Tino Sehgal calls his works, which have been devised primarily for presentations in art museums rather than theaters, “constructed situations.” Others have taken to describing them as “living sculptures.” But as I encountered the pieces in the London-born artist’s first major exhibition in the city where he now lives, it was hard to resist the feeling that they are more like theater and less like sculpture than they are meant to be. What makes the difference, after all, does not entirely reside in the work itself (whatever itself is taken to mean here) but in the relation that the work establishes

  • Natalie Frank

    At the Venice Biennale this year, contemplating Joan Jonas’s extraordinary video installation They Come to Us Without a Word, 2015, I began thinking about the great turn that took place in the artist’s work in 1976. That year, Jonas used a Brothers Grimm tale as the basis for The Juniper Tree, a move that signaled a turn from such reflexive, almost tautological pieces as Mirror Check, 1970, to a way of working in which reflexivity enters an expanded field encompassing narrative structures derived from fairy tales, legends, sagas, and other forms of traditional (often oral) storytelling. Nearly

  • Sascha Braunig

    One of the drawbacks of having been an art critic for a long time is that you sometimes forget what decade you’re standing in. When I walked into Sascha Braunig’s recent exhibition, her third in New York but the first I’ve seen, I imagined for a moment that I was back in the 1980s—specifically, in that brief interregnum between neo-expressionism and neo-geo, when what was called neo-Surrealism was the rage, and artists such as Will Mentor, Peter Schuyff, and Tishan Hsu seemed ubiquitous. Their work was typically a curiously manneristic amalgam of organicism, geometry, and Op illusion—a

  • passages May 06, 2015

    William King (1925–2015)

    I THINK OF BILL KING as an old-fashioned artist, in the best sense: someone whose hand, eye, and mind were always perfectly coordinated and constantly active. Every kind of material—wood, steel, plaster, vinyl, clay, you name it—seemed to give its all under his hand, and every kind of human material—farmers, acrobats, cocktail-party guests, musicians—was apt as subject matter. Somehow, social observation always translated fluently into formal invention. Instead of pushing a preordained style, his visual wit could assert itself through any figurative idiom, from broad realism to near-abstraction;