Barry Schwabsky

  • 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;

  • Rosalyn Drexler

    “Women in Pop art” is a thing these days. And I’m not just talking about a few big show, such as the 2010–11 American touring exhibition “Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958–1968” or the concurrent “Power Up: Female Pop Art” in Vienna. Individual artists including Evelyne Axell, Pauline Boty, Dorothy Iannone, and even Niki de Saint Phalle have lately been accorded critical attention as never before while also exerting influence on younger artists. The welcome reappearance of Rosalyn Drexler is part of this trend, and indeed crucial to it, but “Vulgar Lives,” a presentation of selected

  • Tal R

    “I want to make concrete rooms where the experience is absolutely abstract,” says Tal R. I wonder whether the Israeli-born Danish artist realizes that his aspiration is the reverse of that which was held by the American poet Marianne Moore, who famously desired to create “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Not a fiction, then, “with a place for the genuine” in it, but a genuine place capable of housing the notional and ideal. Still, Tal R also seems to be, in his own way, one of those whom Moore called “literalists of the imagination.”

    The “absolutely abstract” inhabiting the space of

  • Uche Okeke

    Born in 1933, Uche Okeke is one of the leading figures in Nigerian art. He remains little known in the United States, despite a 2006 exhibition at the Newark Museum. That show was called “Another Modernity,” and while I understand the thinking behind the title—a plea for an expansion of the conventional understanding of modernism, a reminder to stop forgetting to look beyond the familiar terrain of Europe and North America—there’s something misleading about it, too. At least so it seemed to me after visiting this eye-opening survey of Okeke’s works on paper from 1958 through 1993. It’s

  • David Weiss

    Before there was Fischli & Weiss, there were Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Fischli was still only in his twenties when they began collaborating in 1979, so presumably his solo oeuvre was as yet rather small. Weiss, on the other hand, was already thirty-three. And, as it turns out, he had already been quite prolific, if only on paper, despite the fact that, as Stephan Kunz writes in the catalogue for “David Weiss: Works, 1968–1979”—which was previously shown at the Bündner Kunstmuseum in Chur, Switzerland, where Kunz is the director—his “entry into the world of art did not follow a

  • interviews February 04, 2015

    Alice Channer

    Bodies, absent but for the imprints they’ve left on sensitive materials—above all, clothing—have been a recurrent concern for the London-based sculptor Alice Channer, but lately the imprints have begun to take on architectural scale. For her first museum show in the United States, at the Aspen Art Museum from February 13 to May 31, 2015, she presents a single large outdoor piece, R o c k f a l l, which will then travel to New York this summer for a group show organized by the Public Art Fund. A smaller, indoor version of R o c k f a l l will be shown at Pied-à-terre, San Francisco, February 15

  • Ha Chonghyun

    This selection of nine paintings made between 1977 and 2009 was the first North American exhibition of the work of Ha Chonghyun, a Korean painter born in 1935. As such, it could hardly claim to offer an overview of the artist’s career, but it made a convincing case that he is an artist of the first rank, whose Western peers would include the likes of Giorgio Griffa and Robert Ryman: artists who have put the ways and means of painting to the test but never coolly, always with ardor. Like many Korean abstractionists, Ha expresses the steadfastness of his intention—his ongoing project rising

  • Michelle Grabner

    “The great artist of tomorrow will go underground,” Marcel Duchamp predicted. And how much farther underground can the artist go than adopting the guise of a midwestern suburban housewife? As Thierry de Duve recently pointed out in these pages, the fundamental upshot of Duchamp’s work is not that anything can be an art object but that anyone can be an artist. But are we willing to accept that? Nearly a century after Fountain, Michelle Grabner has proved that the answer is no—some of us are not willing to accept that anyone can be an artist, especially if the person is or appears to be

  • Heather Guertin

    With “Development,” her second solo show (following in quick succession from her first, held this past January in Brooklyn), Heather Guertin confronted viewers with ten largish paintings packed into a fairly small space. The paintings are each quite specific in palette and touch, yet, united in format, they work together like a gang. In the gallery’s entryway, a lonely monitor, discreetly placed to the side, presented a story by the artist, an excerpt from a book in progress called Not Yet Titled, Cambodia (all works 2014), also published as a preface to the show’s catalogue. “In Cambodia we

  • Charles Gaines

    As became evident in “Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974–1989,” a dense yet elegantly presented exhibition curated by Naima J. Keith, the artist’s early works employ rules to systematically manipulate forms in such a way that the underlying systems cannot be inferred from their appearance. Suggesting the influence of both John Cage and Sol LeWitt, the series “Regression,” 1973–74, for example, features permutations of a roughly triangular abstract form that have been marked out in numbered squares on gridded paper; mathematically derived from an unidentified “specific formula,” the shape morphs from

  • “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