Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • “Dance of Colors”

    The drawings of Vaslav Nijinsky were first exhibited in 1932, thanks to his wife, née Romola de Pulszky, and while they have regularly aroused the interest of those who remain fascinated by his revolutionary achievements as a dancer and choreographer or simply as an exemplary and tragic figure of modernist culture, they have hardly been seen as significant instances of modernist art. Even as knowledgeable an observer as Marsden Hartley saw them mainly as “psychopathic charts.” Recently, however, with “La danza de los colores: E torno a Nijinsky y la abstracción” (Dance of Colors: Around Nijinsky

  • Jane and Louise Wilson

    While the CAM exhibition focuses mainly on work produced in the past three years, “Suspending Time” will nonetheless be the largest survey of the sisters’ output to date.

    The Wilsons possess an uncanny ability to elicit the historical and psychological reverberations of architectural space through their eerie, seductive, and hauntingly atmospheric film and video installations of sites such as the abandoned East German secret-police headquarters of Stasi City, 1997, and the ruined New Zealand hospitals of Erewhon, 2004— places that are decrepit, out of time. While the CAM exhibition focuses mainly on work produced in the past three years, “Suspending Time” will nonetheless be the largest survey of the sisters’ output to date, comprising

  • Sharon Horvath

    I’m always happy for an excuse to go back to my Wallace Stevens. So when I noticed that Sharon Horvath titled her recent show “Parts of a World” after the poet’s wartime collection, the book immediately opened. And why not? Horvath is, in fact, a literary painter, though not in the sense of being an illustrator. While there is often a hint of the glorious preciousness of medieval manuscript illumination or the dreamlike intensity of Maurice Sendak in her style, there is no text that guides the making of the paintings. And yet there is a kind of ensuing text, one that coalesces in the mind of

  • Stu Mead

    Stu Mead’s paintings touch the art world at a tangent. Not that he’s exactly an outsider, having received a formal art education. But the Berlin-based American has a bigger reputation in “underground” culture than on the established art scene. Maybe that’s because his paintings are unabashedly (one could even say sincerely) about their subject matter rather than about art. That the subject matter Mead is drawn to is entirely disreputable—girls, often conspicuously underage, as objects of desire—is a separate issue. From Francis Picabia through David Salle to John Currin, pornographic imagery

  • “Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.”

    Named after the legendary magazine published through most of the 1960s by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, “Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.” was a game attempt to trace, in the confines of the ICA’s four petite spaces (and one passageway), five decades of the interplay between poetry and what is still unfortunately often called “visual art.” What emerged was a loose and necessarily spotty history of fifty years of text in art, minus Conceptualism: Instead, the show took concrete poetry as its starting point.

    The exhibition was articulated in four distinct parts. The first room was devoted to Finlay, the

  • Alice Channer

    On a window ledge at the Approach sat a pair of drinking glasses, one a bit larger than the other, touching each other. They might have been left by a couple of patrons of the downstairs pub who’d wandered upstairs to the gallery, except they looked quite clean and dry. A glance at the gallery checklist showed nothing made of glasses, but I thought I’d better ask: Yes, despite lacking a title, date, and list of materials—which I thought every artwork had to have these days—this was Alice Channer’s work, if not, perhaps, a work.

    As a viewer, you’ve got to be willing to sweat such details if you

  • Robert Holyhead

    For this exhibition Robert Holyhead showed ten small to medium-size abstract paintings, each titled Untitled and dated 2009. All but one of the paintings feature white and a single other color, although this additional color is present both as a highly saturated hue and as a paler, washier one—in other words, they use white, a color, and that color mixed with white through its having been applied to the white ground and then wiped away. (In the one exception, the second-largest of the paintings on view, about which more later, the colored parts of the painting appear as an uneven mix of two

  • Richard Hell

    “I DO NOT REPUDIATE any of my paintings,” Henri Matisse once wrote, “but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo.” Once a painting is out of the artist’s hands, of course, the opportunity to rework it rarely presents itself—though Pierre Bonnard is said to have carried a little paint box with him during museum visits in case he felt the need to revise one of his canvases on the spot. Prose writers and poets, on the other hand, more readily revisit their earlier efforts (not always happily, as the onslaughts of Marianne Moore and W. H. Auden against