Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • Gerd Arntz

    The subject of this show was, as the press release said, “one of the more unusual, if less well-known, artists of the Weimar Era.” So “Gerd Arntz (1900–1988) and Isotype” was exactly the kind of quirky, unexpected exhibition that has made Between Bridges, the tiny exhibition space run by Wolfgang Tillmans, one of my favorite London art destinations. The twenty-eight works shown here ranged in date from 1924 to 1969 and were mostly black-and-white woodcuts, though there were also a couple of black-and-white linocuts as well as eight of the one hundred color plates from the portfolio Gesellschaft

  • Eugène Leroy

    Take courage, late bloomers! Persistence sometimes pays off. It certainly did in the case of Eugène Leroy, a painter born in Tourcoing, near France’s border with Belgium. Although the reputation he enjoyed, once he’d established one, was as an isolato, an artist who’d worked in humble obscurity most of his life, that wasn’t quite accurate: From the 1940s onward he exhibited regularly, primarily in France and Belgium but also abroad, and to all appearances with gradually increasing success. Still, he only gave up his day job as a schoolteacher in 1963, and it was 1983 before his career went to

  • Hew Locke

    There have been more than a few processions in art in the past decade or so; actual performances aside, one recalls the cinematic one in William Kentridge’s animated Shadow Procession, 1999, for instance, as well as the motionless sequence of rhesus monkeys in Chris Ofili’s suite of paintings The Upper Room, 2002. Like those parades carved in marble on Roman pediments or represented in mosaics on the walls of Byzantine churches, such works depict triumphs of one sort or another—but contemporary triumphal processions tend to be heavily ironic. Kentridge’s film, as critic George Baker has noted,

  • Ernesto Neto

    BE GENTLE WITH THE EDGES OF THE WORLD read the sign that greeted visitors as they entered Ernesto Neto’s recent exhibition, whose subtitle was precisely “The Edges of the World.” Several more such signs reminding viewers to be gentle with this or that would be encountered as one wandered between the walls and under the ceilings constructed using Neto’s signature stretchy translucent nylon that made up much of this show, which felt more like a multipart installation than a grouping of separate works. Of course, the injunction was to some extent a reflection of the fact that although Neto has long

  • Morton Feldman

    Fellow composer Christian Wolff once described Morton Feldman’s working method, presumably in the 1950s: “He used to put sheets of graph paper on the wall, and work on them like paintings. Slowly his notation would accumulate, and from time to time he’d stand back to look at the overall design.” Feldman, who took profound inspiration from painting, was extremely articulate in explaining how he carried insights derived from art—particularly the works of Mondrian and the American Abstract Expressionists—into his music. It’s harder to tell what influence, if any, has gone in the other direction,

  • “Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera”

    By nature, as Aristotle said, people desire to know, and for this reason we love our sense of sight. But since we further desire knowledge beyond the limits of our unaided senses, and beyond the different limits set by ethical scruples and social convention, we also love the artificial sense organs we have devised: first and foremost, the camera. According to this exhibition’s organizer, Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (where the show will travel in October before concluding at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in spring 2011), “We

  • Ron Terada

    The first thing that should probably be said about Ron Terada’s project comes at the end of the catalogue for his largest exhibition to date, in the acknowledgments: “It is more than obvious that my work is indebted to others.” Few artists have so consistently pursued the hypothesis that originality is merely a “modernist myth” by noting that even the dumbest, bluntest, most literal uses of words, when framed as quotation, skitter endlessly out of the author’s control. The catalogue itself makes the point brilliantly, turning the authors’ presumably original contributions as well as Terada’s

  • “Walls Are Talking”

    The literary critic I. A. Richards once expounded on the nature of poetry with the resounding conclusion, “Poetry is the house we live in.” T. S. Eliot piped up from the audience, “I should rather have called it the wallpaper.” That wallpaper has its poetry, in any case, was already clear enough to modernist painters like Matisse, Vuillard, and Bonnard, for whom its rhythmic patterns had at once a formal raison d’être, functioning as an approximation of what Clement Greenberg would later call the “all-over picture,” “tightly covered, evenly and heavily textured,” which “tended—but only tended—to

  • Eva Hesse

    Marcel Duchamp marked a historical rupture when he spoke of wanting to make works that are not “of art”; on the other hand, artists have always produced (or can I say “by-produced”?) art that does not quite amount to works. Painters used to call such things sketches, and rigorously distinguished them from finished works. For example, the ravishing plein air oil sketches that Corot produced in Italy in the 1830s, now so highly valued in part because they seem to point the way to Impressionism and beyond, would never have been exhibited or openly sold in the artist’s lifetime, even if they circulated

  • Alain Séchas

    Had I walked into the wrong gallery? Or the right gallery, but in the wrong month? Or somehow misread the gallery guide? I’d been expecting to see an exhibition of Alain Séchas, but this did not look like the work of an artist who has been plausibly called—by critic Jeff Rian—a “grandchild of Freud and Disney, child of modernism and Pop art, a first-generation TV baby, artistic cousin of Mike Kelley and Charles Ray, and one of France’s best artists.” Where, for instance, were the cartoony sculptures, often of cutely anthropomorphic felines—the artist’s name being a homonym for ses chats, “his

  • Elinor Carucci

    Elinor Carucci gives a formal slant to diaristic photography. Her subject is herself and her family; the focus is narrow; there is little sense of what might be on the other side of the wall, outside the frame. Yet the images are not claustrophobic. Nor are they ever raw or chaotic. Instead, they are almost classically composed. In an interview, the New York–based Israeli photographer has said that at the beginning of her career, she “was worried about staged work. I was trying to make everything like a snapshot, very spontaneous, because I wanted it to be true, to be honest. I then realized