Barry Schwabsky

  • “Supports/Surfaces”

    “Is Supports/Surfaces a group or a movement?” asks Rachel Stella in the catalogue to this exhibition. “The boundaries remain indefinite,” responds Bernard Ceysson, whose French gallery copublished the volume with Canada, but the core was a “theoretical debate, which took place among a number of artists over a period of time in various manifestations.” The artists were French—mostly from le Midi rather than Paris—and the time was the late 1960s through the ’70s; the manifestations included not only exhibitions but also publications, including the journal Peinture: Cahiers Théoriques,

  • Dan Colen

    The basics of the Dan Colen story are well known. He emerged as part of a latter-day Rat Pack of hard-partying, skateboarding, incomprehensibly successful New York bad boys (and one girl) who seemed more interested in following the dissolute lifestyle of a Keith Moon or a Darby Crash than in joining the professionalized ranks of earnest MFAs on their long march through the institutions. But the 2009 death by overdose of the scene’s central figure, Dash Snow, appears to have marked a turning point; today, in any case, Colen lives quietly in upstate New York. As for me, I might not have been

  • Zilia Sánchez

    It’s hard to know whether to be gratified or dismayed by the number of extraordinary women artists who continue to be drawn out of the shadows of art history in their old age—gratified, of course, because they’re finally getting the recognition they’ve long deserved, but dismayed that it’s still taking so long. The latest such “case” is that of Zilia Sánchez, born in Cuba in 1926 but a longtime resident of San Juan, Puerto Rico. A prominent figure on the island—as a teacher as well as an artist—she has rarely exhibited elsewhere. This exhibition, “Heróicas Eróticas en Nueva York

  • Eva Rothschild

    She’d already been profusely exhibited in British galleries and institutions for at least five years by then, but my initial encounter with Eva Rothschild’s sculpture was via “Early One Morning: British Art Now.” That 2002 Whitechapel Gallery exhibition proposed a link between some of the rising sculptors of that moment—along with Rothschild, they included Shahin Afrassiabi, Claire Barclay, Jim Lambie, and Gary Webb—and the artists associated with the new British sculpture of the 1960s: Anthony Caro (from whose wonderful 1962 piece the Whitechapel borrowed the title), Phillip King,

  • Dona Nelson

    In an interview twenty years ago, Dona Nelson praised the messiness of late Picasso, describing it as evidence of a “total confidence” that allowed him to do whatever without self-questioning, without looking back. And then she went on to point out that “[Sigmar] Polke has that kind of confidence.” Even before I’d read that old interview, the affinity between Nelson and Polke, one very American and the other sehr deutsch, was nonetheless patent. Granted, Nelson lacks Polke’s reach, but both artists tend to throw all caution to the wind in a way that can sometimes induce something close to pure

  • Arnold Mesches

    Arnold Mesches had his first solo show in 1947, and according to the Life on Mars Gallery website, he has by now had 124 of them, which perhaps gives a new meaning to this one’s title, “Eternal Return.” The exhibition included selections from three series of paintings, “Coming Attractions,” 2003–2007; “SHOCK AND AWE,” 2011; and “Eternal Return,” 2013–14. As a title, “Coming Attractions” recalls the fact that Mesches, who spent most of his career in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1984, worked in the film industry in the 1940s and ’50s. The first work in the series (not in this show)

  • Pat Steir

    Since 1989, Pat Steir has been working in more or less the same manner—splashing her paint and turpentine on the top of her canvases and letting it find its own way back home to earth. “I . . . use nature to paint a picture of itself by pouring the paint,” she has said, the echo of Jackson Pollock’s “I am nature” in the vicinity of the act of pouring undoubtedly no accident. I never much cared for the results, though. Either the colors seemed too blatant, or the space too shallow, or whatever—until now, twenty-five years later, when suddenly artistic process and the phenomenology of

  • Sue Williams

    Although the title of Sue Williams’s most recent show, “WTC, WWIII, Couch Size,” suggested a two-to-one ratio of global horror to interior decoration, what came to the fore was pure painting of such boisterous energy that it holds the blandness of bourgeois home furnishing at bay even as it sublimates sociopolitical anxiety. It does so by dint of the sheer nerve with which that anxiety is apotropaically invoked—not so much whistling past the graveyard as striking up a whole brass band against death. In a way, this is not terribly different from what Williams was doing in the work with which

  • William King

    Sixty years after William King’s first New York gallery show, his art looks as fresh as ever. The twenty-seven sculptures and six drawings that were on view in this survey ranged in date from 1946 to 2010, and showed a surprising consistency of attitude given the variety of materials (wood, various fabrics, ceramic, vinyl), sizes, and art-historical referents employed, not to mention the various artistic trends and movements King has seen come and go, from Abstract Expressionism through postmodernism to whatever we call what we think is going on at the moment. As for those trends and movements,

  • Thomas Demand

    The title of Thomas Demand’s recent exhibition “Dailies” evokes the cinema—dailies (also known as rushes) being the raw footage of each day’s shooting prepared for viewing the following day by the director and crew. But while Demand has made films in the past (for which he may well have used dailies as part of his working process), this was a show of still photographs. As would be expected by anyone familiar with the work of this photographer, who trained as a sculptor, everything in his new images appears to have been fabricated in the studio from basic materials such as cardboard; as

  • Martin Creed

    What becomes of a Conceptual artist when he runs out of ideas? He becomes, with luck, an artist—without adjectives. Martin Creed has had some pretty great ideas in his day, enough to show that he knows implicitly what some artists never quite get around to learning: that a great art idea is one whose execution makes possible something that you’d never have imagined from its formulation. Case in point: his Work No. 202: Half the air in a given space, 1998, whose Robert Barry–esque ineffability (compare that artist’s designation as works, in 1969, of quantities of inert gases released into

  • Eileen Quinlan

    The mostly color work that Eileen Quinlan showed in the “New Photography 2013” show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York this past fall is evidently abstraction yet just as clearly consists of pictures “of” something or other, though what that might be is not readily identifiable. In those photographs, Quinlan—like Cubist painters a century ago—leaves just enough pictorial space to preserve the idea of the image as depiction. By contrast, the twenty-four black-and-white prints (all but one unframed) in her one-person exhibition “Curtains” at Miguel Abreu Gallery suggest that even

  • Mark Strand

    A onetime poet laureate exhibiting his collages? That sounds like another one of those slightly embarrassing crossover exercises on the order of Bob Dylan showing his paintings or philosophers moonlighting as curators. Mark Strand, however, is no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to pictorial culture; he studied with Josef Albers at Yale, where he earned a BFA in 1959. And the pieces in this exhibition—fifteen small abstract collages made between 2011 and 2013, each titled only with the name of the city where it was made, either New York or Madrid—could never have been the work of a

  • 43 Salón (inter) Nacional de Artistas

    Is there really a need for yet another international biennial? I wouldn’t have thought so, but this exhibition, titled “SaberDesconocer” (To Know Not to Know), following no less than forty-two previous incarnations of the “national salon of Colombian artists,” has revised its designation to become the 43 Salón (inter) Nacional de Artistas—and with those gingerly parens and that distinctly lowercase i, the biennial has managed to find just the right balance, showcasing the strength of Colombian art by indicating its broader context, highlighting both connections and particularities. Along

  • “Les Aventures de la vérité”

    The once nouveau philosophe Bernard-Henri Lévy is not only the curator of “Les Aventures de la vérité: Peinture et philosophie: un récit” (The Adventures of Truth: Painting and Philosophy: A Narrative) but also one of its artists, of a sort. Although you won’t find his name on the checklist, perhaps it should be there, thanks to a series of videos for which he asked artists, not all of them represented by works in the exhibition, to read passages of philosophy. In one of the diary excerpts that constitute Lévy’s main catalogue text, he relates how Jeff Koons declined to read the extract from

  • Giorgio Morandi

    GIORGIO MORANDI was a legendary homebody, sticking close to his studio in Bologna most of the time and summering less than an hour’s drive away in the rustic village of Grizzana (renamed Grizzana Morandi some twenty years after his death in 1964). But somehow it was a surprise to learn that, even late in life when he’d become internationally renowned, exhibiting in New York and São Paulo as well as across Europe, Morandi only once set foot outside Italy’s borders, going just as far as Switzerland. I couldn’t help but reflect on what this might imply about his centrality in last year’s Documenta

  • Charlie Roberts

    Charlie Roberts may be a native of Kansas who studied in Vancouver and lives in Oslo, but his work makes me think more of Leipzig than of anywhere else. Maybe that’s just to say that his art thrives not on his heritage, education, or context but on inherently unpredictable factors of imagination and energy. In any case, his bluntly stylized figuration suggests an affinity with Christoph Ruckhäberle and the artists associated with Lubok Verlag, and indeed Roberts’s work shows a similar fascination with folk art and popular graphics.

    Sharing the exhibition’s title, “Sporty Girls,” was a series of

  • Beauford Delaney

    This was the first exhibition of Beauford Delaney’s work in New York since a solo presentation at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2002, and it couldn’t have been more timely. In his lifetime (1901–1979), Delaney’s uneasy oscillation between abstract and figurative modes of painting was probably pretty hard for viewers to wrap their heads around; these days it’s almost par for the course. He was passionately championed by literary lions such as James Baldwin (for whom he was something of a father figure) and Henry Miller, but his place in the history of art still seems uncertain. Yet as time goes

  • Robert Bordo

    Born in Montreal, Robert Bordo has been a New Yorker for forty years, and his work a point of reference for painters here since his first exhibition at the Brooke Alexander Gallery in 1987. Does the title of his most recent show, “Three Point Turn,” signal a volte-face, a recantation? Thankfully not. But while Bordo hasn’t shifted into reverse, he has changed gears, as could be seen by comparing the eleven new paintings (from 2012 and 2013) exhibited on the ground floor at Alexander and Bonin with the eleven older ones upstairs (two from 1996, the rest from between 2007 and 2011). A telegraphic

  • Zach Harris

    Aesthetics, as Jacques Derrida famously observed, “presupposes a discourse on the limit between the inside and the outside of the art object, in this case a discourse on the frame.” A number of painters over the years have taken this discourse in hand, as it were: One thinks of Howard Hodgkin, Neil Jenney, or Christian Eckart, each in his own way an artist who has made efforts to unsettle the distinction between painting and frame, thereby leading us to wonder what, if anything, is intrinsic to the work. Another such painter is Zach Harris, a Californian who recently exhibited fifteen pieces in