Barry Schwabsky

  • Ernest Mancoba

    The first North American solo exhibition of Ernest Mancoba included four small paintings ranging in date from 1958 to 1985 (one is undated) and some twenty works on paper (many of them likewise undated, but the others are mostly from the early 1990s), giving art lovers on this side of the Atlantic at least a nodding acquaintance with an oeuvre I suspect we are going to get to know much better in coming years: The artist’s work is included in this year’s Documenta 14. Mancoba, who was born in Johannesburg in 1904, began training as a wood-carver in 1925; his academically styled 1929 Bantu Madonna

  • Marisa Merz

    “Marisa Merz has always been careful to do very little,” writes Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in the catalogue to the artist’s first American retrospective, curated by Connie Butler, chief curator of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (where the show travels, June 4–August 20), and Ian Alteveer, associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. But the show, titled “The Sky Is a Great Space,” proves that doing very little for a long time is a good way to accomplish a great deal.

    After seeing this retrospective, one will find Merz’s accomplishment as hard to define as it ever was, and that

  • Edward Clark

    This show of ten canvases and three works on paper ranging in date from the 1960s through 2012 demonstrated, at minimum, an unusual consistency across decades—a consistency of idea and feeling as well as of quality. One might almost speak of a career without development. With nearly any other artist, such a phrase would carry an implicit reproach: a charge of complacency or monotonousness. In Edward Clark’s case, it’s quite the opposite: One senses that he has never ceased casting a critical eye—what Ernest Hemingway famously called the bullshit detector—on his own work. And far

  • Philip Guston

    Who would have imagined that it would one day be possible to feel a sort of wistful nostalgia for the Nixon era? Yet that is the pass we have come to, facing an administration that might make his seem almost innocent by comparison. That’s why “Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, Drawings from 1971 & 1975”—which was curated by Sally Radic of the Guston Foundation, and Musa Mayer, Guston’s daughter, and followed by a little more than six months Hauser & Wirth’s equally extraordinary and very different exhibition of abstract works, “Philip Guston: Painter, 1957–1967”—was probably the

  • Ena Swansea

    A visitor once asked me how long it takes a new arrival to become a New Yorker. My considered response: You are a New Yorker when you start to miss the “real” New York, the one you knew when the city was still fresh to you and hadn’t yet been replaced by . . . whatever it is that the next wave of arrivals brought with them. By that standard, I might have to call myself an inhabitant of the city that Ena Swansea evokes in her most recent paintings. It’s recognizably New York, but not as I see it when I walk its streets these days. Swansea’s New York is wrapped up in a decayed Romanticism that’s

  • Richard Hawkins

    Having seen a number of Richard Hawkins’s exhibitions over the years, I’ve learned at least one thing: not to expect the next one to look like the last. His most recent show made me realize something more: His works may not even look like what they really are. When I first walked into the gallery—before picking up the press release bearing the show’s title, “Norogachi: Ceramics After Artaud”—the works on view looked like paintings. And that’s not exactly wrong. The twenty-four small works that were on view are paintings, if that means, in the famous definition given by Maurice Denis,

  • film December 26, 2016

    Poetic License

    “THAT A MAN IN HIMSELF IS A CITY” is the high theme of William Carlos Williams’s modern epic Paterson (1946–58). Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, identically titled, is also about a man who is identified, at least by name, with his city, though the tone of the film is considerably lower-key than that of Williams’s poem. Jarmusch’s Paterson—we never learn the rest of his name—is a bus driver (played by Adam Driver—is there some Oulipian doubling going on here?) who lives with his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and their dog, Marvin, in a cottagey little house on a scruffy street. But Paterson has

  • Elizabeth McIntosh

    It’s been fourteen years since Elizabeth McIntosh has had a one-person show in New York. Her work has changed since then, not surprisingly, and twice over. The Canadian painter’s work of the early 2000s was strictly abstract—in fact, as I remember, it was strict altogether: rather tight and orderly. A break from the studio following the birth of her daughter shortly after that 2002 show was followed by the first shift: Her paintings started looking looser, faster, more playful. This tendency has only intensified as time has gone on. Her use of flatness, pattern, and geometry remained

  • 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