Barry Schwabsky

  • “Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977”

    For a time, the consensus on Conceptual art was that it had to do with “dematerialization” or “idea”; after a while, though, it began to seem better to read the specificity of Conceptualism through its emphasis on language. But in recent years, there has been a shift away from seeing language as Conceptualism’s distinguishing attribute to what might seem a somewhat surprising element: photography. In the past, there was a tendency to strategically ignore photography’s role as a medium, since Conceptualists often treated the camera as a simple artless recording device, leaving “fine art” photography

  • Rosa Loy

    About a decade ago, a German painter of my acquaintance explained the difference, as he saw it, between himself and the then newly fashionable painters from the former East Germany. “Their work is based

    on what they know about painting,” he told me. “Our work is based on what we don’t know.” His quietly dismissive comment was clear enough: The Easterners—mainly the painters of the so-called New Leipzig School—were too enamored of tradition, insufficiently exploratory. Among those often cited as members of the Leipzig School is Rosa Loy; whether or not my friend’s strictures hold against

  • “Happenings: New York, 1958–1963”

    The organizer of this exhibition, Mildred L. Glimcher, does not define “Happenings.” That is, she does not attempt to distinguish them from, say, poets’ theater, Fluxus events, or other types of experimental performance of the time or after. That decision is probably wise. But it’s interesting to remark that she took 1963 as the project’s terminal date, because by the fall of that year, “numerous artists, musicians, and even critics”—even!—“began to create performances that became part of global exhibitions, demonstrations and festivals; the originating moment had come to an end.”

  • Paul Bloodgood

    Modernism shares with Romanticism a fascination with the fragment, with things that are broken yet by that very fact seem to offer the possibility of recombining to create something new. Collage is only the most obvious manifestation of this outlook, and its history is now a century long. So “Objects in Pieces,” the title of the most recent exhibition by Paul Bloodgood—a veteran, by now, of the New York art scene, but a seriously underknown one—might sound a bit generic. As a gallery press release explains, however, it takes on a more determinate meaning in relation to Bloodgood’s

  • Katharina Grosse

    Was this a very big show or a very small one? Normally a painter might exhibit ten or a dozen works giving a sense of what she’s been up to recently, or, offered a big survey at a public space, perhaps forty or even a hundred canvases demonstrating the development of her practice over multiple decades or a whole career. In Katharina Grosse’s “One Floor Up More Highly,” which occupied MASS MOCA’s Building 5 from December 2010 to January 2012, the German artist showed only two works: a single untitled painting on canvas (dated 2010) and a vast, three-dimensional site-specific “painting” (after

  • June Leaf

    It’s usual, and not without good reason, to praise a contemporary artist’s work, or even that of a historical figure, for its currency—for the way it seems to put its viewer in touch with the now. But while I mean to praise the “Recent Works” June Leaf has just exhibited, I can’t do so on those grounds. Although all but one of the paintings, sculptures, and things-in-between in the exhibition were made in the last two years, they feel distinctly untimely, like scattered finds from an archaeological dig into the strata of a human psyche, where past, present, and eternity mingle playfully

  • David Antin’s Radical Coherency

    Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005_, by David Antin. University of Chicago Press, 2011. 384 pages. $25.

    DAVID ANTIN IS most often ID’d as a poet, though usually with some qualification: “Poet-cum–performance artist” gives a better idea of what he does, but “poet-cum–performance artist–cum–stand-up philosopher” is better still. In other words, he’s sui generis, the man who reinvented oral composition for the postmodern world, and in a manner that would probably make Milman Parry turn in his grave. Although Antin is now seldom referred to as a critic, he took a

  • Alfredo Jaar

    What would Pier Paolo Pasolini say today about the Italy he denounced so passionately all his life and that now, after so many years under the thumb of Silvio Berlusconi, leaves even less space for any alternative to what he called the “stereotyped and false” construct of an “official Italy”? “That acculturation and homologation that fascism didn’t manage at all to bring about,” Pasolini said, “is now perfectly achieved by . . . the power of the consumer society . . . emptying out the diverse ways of being human.” Alfredo Jaar’s Le ceneri di Pasolini (The Ashes of Pasolini), 2009—its title

  • Enrico Castellani

    Enrico Castellani is nothing if not consistent. He has followed seemingly without deviation the path he broached in 1959 with his first Superficie nera (Black Surface). He has unswervingly striven to lend an undifferentiated, uninflected monochromatic (or achromatic) canvas something of the spatial richness and luminosity of traditional painting purely through the physical manipulation of the canvas itself—typically inserting nails beneath its surface, so that it protrudes and draws back in complex patterns at times reminiscent of those in the Op paintings of his British contemporary Bridget

  • Charles Andresen

    This selection of works by Charles Andresen, curated by Chris Byrne, was subtitled “Paintings 2001–2011,” though seven of the eight were dated between 2007 and 2011, with just one from 2001. But the dates hardly seemed to matter; in this oeuvre, consistency trumps development, so if all the dates were scrambled, you’d never notice the difference. And I suspect this would have been true even if the chronological scope of the exhibition had been greater. The work on hand was made according to a procedure Andresen has been using since at least 1996, when Richmond Burton described it in a text

  • Nicholas Krushenick

    How to explain the fact that Nicholas Krushenick’s art has flown below the radar for so long, despite recurrent attempts to revive interest his work, and despite the fact that it not only is in itself excellent but self-evidently fills a niche that needs to be filled—namely that of the missing link between hard-edge abstraction and Pop art? Alas, he is that cursed thing, an artist’s artist. I was reminded of this again last year when I saw a piece of his in “The Jewel Thief” (2010), a remarkable exhibition curated by Jessica Stockholder (with Ian Berry) at the Frances Young Tang Teaching

  • Ann Pibal

    Abstract painters usually give their works titles after the fact, and often quite arbitrarily, so trying to draw out connections between these verbal handles and the real content of the art is a dangerous game. But the way Ann Pibal titles her paintings really does correspond to an important aspect of the paintings, namely a sort of agnosticism about whether abstraction should be strictly nonobjective, a self-contained construct eschewing all reference to the outside world, or should instead evoke aspects of reality but in an indirect way. The titles of paintings in this show, “DRMN’,” are, but

  • Tracey Emin

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite so much pussy in an art exhibition. Tracey Emin’s retrospective “Love Is What You Want,” curated by the Hayward’s Ralph Rugoff and Cliff Lauson, could make even Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party seem almost neuter by comparison. In what is by now a vast oeuvre, represented here by 160 works, the most recurrent image is of a woman with her legs spread, showing her vulva, often masturbating. Emin wants her art to originate from the essence of her being, and, like any good 1970s gender essentialist, she believes the essence of her being is in her sex. At the same time,

  • Rodney Graham

    Because he is a sort of straight-faced comedian, a Buster Keaton of Conceptualism, it’s all too easy to make Rodney Graham sound more serious than he really is. True, he started out as an intensely literary artist, “a kind of co-author” (as Julian Heynen recently put it), making works using texts by Georg Büchner, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Allan Poe, and others as raw material. As Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev once said, Graham “annihilates literature” with these pieces—but he does so in a playful way and with great refinement. Likewise, his “reading machines”—optical devices, such as the 1993

  • “Carlo Mollino: Maniera Moderna”

    Of all the great Italian artist-designers of the twentieth century, Carlo Mollino was the closest to Surreal- ism and to fin-de-siècle decadence while never renouncing the Futurist passion for speed and risk (he was an expert skier, race-car driver, and stunt pilot).

    Of all the great Italian artist-designers of the twentieth century, Carlo Mollino was the closest to Surreal- ism and to fin-de-siècle decadence while never renouncing the Futurist passion for speed and risk (he was an expert skier, race-car driver, and stunt pilot). “Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic,” he once said, and though his buildings are now mostly gone or neglected, his furniture, streamlined and eerily animistic, fetches prices in the millions. And then there’s photography: those extraordinary Polaroids that transform his built designs into

  • Clem Crosby

    I don’t think that Clem Crosby’s work is mainly derived from Abstract Expressionism (or any of its European cognates), despite some evident commonalities: the emphasis on gesture and improvisation; the play between form and formless, between plasticity and the inarticulable. Instead, I’d wager that his work stems from the cooler, sometimes even deadpan, formally buttoned-up (yet still fundamentally intuitive rather than systematic) abstraction that flourished in the 1960s and ’70s alongside Minimalism—the art of Robert Ryman, for instance, or of Imi Knoebel. Crosby’s recent show included

  • Valérie Blass

    The sculptural modus operandi of Valérie Blass is hardly an unfamiliar one these days: She makes assemblages out of a wide repertoire of everyday objects and materials; the play of the Montreal-based artist’s perception and invention reveals itself more through the gaps and disjunctions in the construction or, rather, the arrangement of the various parts brought together through some seemingly imponderable conjunction of chance, intuition, and will than through any immediately perceptible formal resolution. However, unlike many other sculptor-bricoleurs, Blass distinguishes herself through her

  • Hans Hartung

    I never thought I’d have either the desire or the occasion to write about the paintings of Hans Hartung. No desire, because the few paintings I’d seen from his heyday in the 1950s, either on the walls of European museums or in the pages of art-history books, always struck me as brittle and overagitated in their choppily repetitive linear gestures. No occasion, because it hardly seemed likely that I would ever cross paths with a significant show of work by the Leipzig-born School of Paris abstractionist, he having become little more than a faint whisper in the historical memory.

    Well, that’s all

  • Varda Caivano

    You forget how hard it is to make a really good abstract painting until someone does it and keeps doing it again. Then you notice how surprised you feel. And you forget, too, how rare truly abstract paintings really are—I mean paintings that are not paintings of preconceived, preexisting images but simply of painting. Varda Caivano’s paintings are abstract, and as good as any being made these days. With this exhibition, “Voice,” the Buenos Aires–born Caivano has moved on from being one of London’s most promising younger painters and established herself as one the best painters, of any age,

  • Kostis Velonis

    “Marx in Arcadia” may seem a somewhat oxymoronic title for an exhibition. Is Kostis Velonis positing a revolutionary pastoralism? Well, why not? Who but Marx foresaw a future society beyond the division of labor, where I may “do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic”? Velonis, though, seems to spend his days more as a carpenter and handyman than as any sort of agriculturalist who engages in bracing postprandial