Bob Nickas

  • “Mark Flood: Gratest Hits”

    Mark Flood is a Pop artist with punk-rock roots, gnarly and deliriously twisted, and this show’s misspelling of “Greatest Hits” is obviously intended. To grate: to irritate or annoy, to rub or wear away, to make a harsh rasping sound. That’s what Flood’s been doing all along, wielding a poison pen in his wickedly inspired writing and using an X-Acto knife like a scalpel to dissect modern life. This survey of nearly fifty works made over the past thirty years brings together fractured collages that eviscerate celebrity, and paintings that rattle the basest drives of society

  • passages September 10, 2014

    On Kawara (1933–2014)

    I MET ON KAWARA ON OCT. 25, 1991 AT 4 PM. He lived just a few streets over from my apartment in SoHo, but it might as well have been miles and lifetimes away. Until that day, he only existed for me through his work, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before you meet an artist, you have an image of the person by way of what they do, which was particularly the case with On. To look at a Date painting from his “Today” series was, in a sense, to see him sitting quietly at his desk, from the back, of course, carefully brushing the ground on which he would paint the letters and numbers to record the

  • passages June 06, 2014

    Hudson (1950–2014)

    THE END OF AN ERA.” That’s the common reaction when someone or something significant is lost—a historic train station that should have been landmarked and was ingloriously torn down, a person who embodied a higher standard to which we all might aspire. Here in New York, as possibly nowhere else, a certain class of people has much in common with the plastic-fantastic buildings they inhabit. They physically and philosophically block the view, a view to which we may have opened their eyes. Some of them enliven and decorate their lives with art, though just how many acquired any of it from the art

  • passages January 31, 2014

    Lou Reed (1942–2013)

    SIDE A

    If there’s one tragic factor in the downfall of an artist, it’s that he or she forgets what he or she originally set out to do. This never happened to Lou Reed. All too often it’s the case that a few years into a career, artists lose their way, though it doesn’t stop many, and many of the most successful, from going on. We are cursed, you might say, with boatloads of ambitious, talented professionals. So we should be thankful, because they allow us to appreciate, in stark contrast, those few who remain true to an original impulse and shift gears with some regularity, to pull the rug out

  • Artforum, September 1969

    MY LUNCH PERIODS IN JUNIOR HIGH were rarely spent in the cafeteria or out on the playground. The quiet library was the preferred destination (along with the reedy woods behind the football field, where I discovered other loners, stoners, and perverts.) Just shy of thirteen in September 1969, I came across a magazine I had never seen before, Artforum, and was struck dumb by the cover: mirrors wedged into piles of rocks, sand, and dirt on a scrubby ground. It didn’t look anything like the other art magazines in the library, such as Artnews (not very exciting, but it was there), Popular Photography

  • X-TG’s Desertshore/The Final Report

    WHEN A SONG OR A PIECE OF MUSIC is reimagined, we find ourselves in a loop, where points in time echo one another and reverberate, as if the original and the interpretation simultaneously emerge from speakers positioned to our left and right: the auditory as a form of mnemonic stereo. So it is with X-TG’s “reimagining” of Nico’s 1971 album Desertshore, a project with a circuitous backstory. X-TG comprises the trio of Chris Carter, Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Together with Genesis P-Orridge, in 1975 they formed Throbbing Gristle, the pioneer of industrial music. As with

  • OPENINGS: JUSTIN MATHERLY

    IN HIS 1938 PAINTING Imaginary Portrait of D. A. F. de Sade, Man Ray renders the great libertine in profile, his features recognizably human—a blue eye, red lips—but his face and body made of worn gray blocks of stone, his name and dates of birth and death inscribed as if by chisel. Literally “built like a brick shithouse,” as artist John Miller has observed, and just as impassive, Sade looks on while the Bastille, his former site of imprisonment, is engulfed in flames. Man Ray memorializes him as if he were a monumental living statue, animate yet inorganic.

    The writings of Sade are

  • Daan van Golden

    Dutch painter Daan van Golden remains one of the art world’s best-kept secrets.

    Dutch painter Daan van Golden remains one of the art world’s best-kept secrets. Exhibiting infrequently and generating a relatively modest output, he’s an “artist’s artist,” reverently name-checked by fans such as Trisha Donnelly and Richard Aldrich. As van Golden turns seventy-six (and has suggested he will soon stop painting), the time is right for him to receive the wider recognition that has long been his due. To that end, Wiels brings together about fifty works, ranging from those first shown in the early ’60s to pieces made expressly for this retrospective—an

  • Mark Grotjahn

    Mark Grotjahn’s first major museum survey will bring together the seemingly polar temperaments of the artist’s work—the sublime cool of his abstract “Butterfly” paintings (with which he is most closely associated) and the emotional heat of his gnarly, primitivistic figurations.

    Mark Grotjahn’s first major museum survey will bring together the seemingly polar temperaments of the artist’s work—the sublime cool of his abstract “Butterfly” paintings (with which he is most closely associated) and the emotional heat of his gnarly, primitivistic figurations. Each speaks to the artist’s distinctive handling of paint, surface, and chromatics that can appear both subtly modulated and highly expressive, no matter what the final image. The catalogue will debut essays on the artist’s work by Jacobson and Barry Schwabsky, and the twenty-two paintings

  • “Chris Martin: Painting Big”

    Chris Martin, one of the most freewheeling abstract painters working today, serves up a tripartite exhibition for his first American museum survey, to be held in his hometown.

    Chris Martin, one of the most freewheeling abstract painters working today, serves up a tripartite exhibition for his first American museum survey, to be held in his hometown. Along with a selection of large-scale paintings produced over the past nine years, and a salon-style grouping of at least 150 more modestly sized canvases in the rotunda, the show will feature a site-specific installation of three new paintings, each twenty-six feet high, in the Corcoran’s central atrium. The guaranteed “wow” effect of these works, each animated by undulating forms and electric hues,

  • Bob Nickas

    BOB NICKAS

    1 Abstract painting With a new book under way, I’ve spent as much time in studios as at exhibitions this year. Among some memorable visits: Charline von Heyl, where I spent three hours (I left only because I had another appointment); Carrie Moyer (ditto); Daniel Hesidence (looking over my notes, I found the word virtuosic, which, trust me, I have never, ever written before); David Ratcliff and Monique Prieto in Los Angeles (her painting with the phrase IS THAT FOR HERE OR TO GO? should be at every art fair); Bernard Frize in Paris (which was like a retrospective—the man seems to

  • Philip Taaffe

    IT’S NOT SO EASY to recall that first hit, that immediate emotional and intellectual warp one felt when confronted by Philip Taaffe’s transformation of a Barnett Newman or a Bridget Riley in the mid-1980s. Maybe that’s what—and who—retrospectives are really meant for: the artist’s original audience who, sent back in time, revisits its initial experience of the work. For some, Taaffe’s early paintings were highly provocative; but for all the attention they first generated it’s clear now that they were often misread. When those early paintings are seen again and in relation to all that

  • Steven Parrino

    ONE OF THE NUMEROUS guerrilla flyers that popped up around the most recent Venice Biennale wondered: “What will the artist do after the curator is gone?” Reverse the polarity and a far more provocative question emerges: “What will the curator do after the artist is gone?” When artists die, curators who would have otherwise collaborated on exhibitions with them, choosing and installing works in tandem, are left on their own. The touch of the artist—and some are exacting about the placement of their work—is absent, to various degrees, in a show installed by someone else. The postmortem exhibition

  • Adam Helms

    VISITING AN ARTIST’S STUDIO for the first time is a lot like going on a blind date. One of the surest points of entry is to scan the walls to see what has been tacked up––postcards, posters, newspaper clippings, art reproductions. Within seconds you might absorb enough information to at least hold your own. In the case of Adam Helms, you hit the ground running, armed with a head full of images and associations: photographs of Chechen guerrillas, Cuban revolutionaries, and guys in fatigues playing war games; stills from Dead Man and The Night of the Hunter; pictures showing the surrender of

  • Lee Lozano

    In the early ’70s, Lee Lozano left the art world and never looked back. The rediscovery of this iconoclastic—and notorious—figure of the ’60s began just before her death in 1999 and continues apace with this comprehensive survey, the artist’s first in Europe. Comprising approximately one hundred works spanning Lozano’s ten-year career, the show traces the path of her art from the physical to the cerebral. Included are intense and emotionally raw early drawings (the words “he gave her a good screwing he said” accompany the image of a man sawing through a two-by-four); “

  • Jutta Koether

    With the renewed interest in the Cologne art scene of the ’80s and ’90s, it was only a matter of time before Jutta Koether, one of its most adventurous figures, finally got her due. Comprising objects, painting, writing, and music, Koether’s oeuvre still feels experimental, even after twenty-odd years. Little wonder that when offered an exhibition in her hometown she opted against a traditional retrospective. Instead, she will present two projects—a large black installation combining new and recycled paintings in the museum’s theater, and, in response to the all-glass

  • Steven Parrino

    STEVEN PARRINO’S austere practice and straightforward approach to the art world made him a model to many of those who knew him and an influence on a wide range of artists. Following his untimely death at age 46 in a motorcycle accident early New Year’s morning, Artforum asked critic and curator Bob Nickas and sometime Parrino collaborator Jutta Koether to offer their thoughts on the late New York artist.

    BOB NICKAS: I probably saw Steven Parrino’s work for the first time in 1984 at Nature Morte, the gallery Alan Belcher and Peter Nagy ran in the East Village. I’d never seen anything like it

  • Matthew Day Jackson

    What could a Viking burial ship, Piet Mondrian, and the punk bands Black Flag and Bad Brains possibly have in common? For Matthew Day Jackson they serve as points in a constellation, multiple references that can be overlaid to draw, in his words, “a cosmological chart.” The Viking ship in question is Jackson’s sculpture Sepulcher, 2003–2004, which the artist constructed from unused material in his studio, as well as from bits and pieces scavenged from previous work. This conscious process of recycling extends to the sail, which references a Mondrian abstraction but is entirely composed of

  • Larry Sultan

    Is there realism in porn films? Larry Sultan’s recent photographic series “The Valley” makes these locations his subject, and the trappings of middle-class life are everywhere evident.

    Is there realism in porn films? While the sets of these movies are part of their artifice, the shoots often occur in rented suburban homes. Larry Sultan’s recent photographic series “The Valley” makes these locations his subject, and the trappings of middle-class life are everywhere evident: manicured lawns, family photos, dolls in a little girl’s room, and, for Southern California, the requisite pool. But instead of splashing kids, Sultan’s large-scale color photographs show us lights, cameras, performers, and crew. Senior curator of photography Sandra S. Phillips

  • PORTFOLIO: JOHN MILLER

    A LITTLE GIRL FEEDS DUCKS IN A POND as her father watches from a park bench. German tourists stroll through a sun-drenched square on the island of Mallorca. An older woman lost in thought on the subway. A snow-covered playground. An empty train yard. What, if anything, do these pictures have in common? Aside from the fact that they were all taken during the day, that they’re set in cities, and that most are in color, very little connects them. Some might seem related to the street photography of Garry Winogrand and the vernacular aesthetic of William Eggleston; others could be linked to the