Brian Droitcour

  • Left: Musician Malcolm Mooney with artist Fia Backström. Right: Dealer John Connelly. (Photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary July 31, 2008

    Casual Affairs

    New York

    In July, galleries think they can break the silent contract to be open Saturdays and throw together group shows like nobody’s looking, because anybody who’s anybody is somewhere other than Manhattan. The upside is that the nobodies are still willing to make the effort to put on a good show, which is what happened Saturday at the NADA County Affair on Twenty-seventh Street and Fia Backström’s midnight Poetry Club at White Columns.

    With an association of galleries hosting the first event, I expected to find art for sale, but the “fair,” held in the street, was devoted to more rustic forms of

  • Untitled, 2005, color photograph, 7 x 5".
    picks July 28, 2008

    Trisha Donnelly

    Jerry Saltz wrote that Trisha Donnelly is a good artist who doesn’t “mount good gallery shows.” Perhaps only a public institution has the patience to let her hang her work right. In this churchlike installation, her works, as ever, are like icons—flat portals to the transcendental. A photograph of a sphinx paw that supposedly keeps grains of sand from floating into the air in The Hand That Holds the Desert Down, 2002; an organ with its pipes installed seemingly pointing downward, so that its music can be felt through the floor, depicted in The Vibration Station, 2002; and twenty-two other works

  • View of “The Question Is a Compliment.”
    picks June 18, 2008

    Matthew Brannon

    Matthew Brannon arranges flat shapes to conjure familiar objects, as though playing with tangrams. A series of semiabstract prints at the rear of his latest exhibition appears to document his experiments with drawing in two dimensions. But these works are an exception. The generous amount of text in most of these letterpress prints marks a slow public metamorphosis from artist to novelist, and, for Brannon, literary concerns ultimately trump formal ones. Flatness is more than a condition imposed by the medium; it is a trope for the flimsy skins of personality that the characters of his elliptical

  • View of “Decoys, Complexes, and Triggers: Feminism and Land Art in the 1970s." Foreground: Alice Adams, Large Vault, 1975. Background, left to right: Alice Aycock, Stairs (These Stairs Can Be Climbed), 1974/2008; Jackie Winsor, Coil Piece, 1969; Michelle Stuart, Sayerville Strata Quartet, 1976; Jackie Winsor, Cement Sphere, 1971; Suzanne Harris, Inhabitant, 1975/2008.
    picks May 12, 2008

    “Decoys, Complexes, and Triggers: Feminism and Land Art in the 1970s”

    Decoys, complexes, and triggers are pivotal to cause-and-effect relations; they are objects that provoke reactions. This survey, organized by Catherine Morris, brings together works that sculpt viewers’ awareness of their surroundings with precision. An opening in the octagonal tower of Mary Miss’s Screened Court, 1979, draws viewers inward through a loose circle of fencing, but a tighter row of steel mesh at the tower’s base frustrates attempts at entrance. The perch at the top of Alice Aycock’s Stairs (These Can Be Climbed), 1974/2008, offers a sweeping view of the exhibition—a spatial sensation

  • View of “Alexander Brodsky.” From foreground: Untitled (heads), 2008; Untitled (tea bags), 2008; Untitled (street), 2008.
    picks April 19, 2008

    Alexander Brodsky

    Fourteen clay heads stare at miniature television sets embedded in one another’s occiputs. A man holds an umbrella against a shaft of rain that falls only on his umbrella. A dim scene of rained-on pedestrians—a painting that seems to have been drawn by a finger in clay slip—is backlit by a light box. A vitrine presents neat rows of used teabags. Another glass box holds a working fan, scraps of paper, and bottlenecked weights that keep the fluttering paper put. In the manner of Greek math problems, Alexander Brodsky's pictures and installations—all hermetically called Untitled—illustrate concepts

  • Left: Photographer Terry Richardson with artist Jack Pierson. Right: John Waters, Ryan McGinley, and Parker Posey. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary April 10, 2008

    Suddenly, Last Summer

    New York

    I don’t know of any young artist besides Ryan McGinley who can evoke Andrew Wyeth without seeming arch or trite. Or one modish enough to conjure an opening where downtown socialites the MisShapes have to be seen to maintain cred, yet still solid enough for the New York Times Magazine’s prim photo editor to accept his invitation to dinner. His deft straddling of wholesome and hip has a broad appeal that drew a crowd to last Thursday’s opening of “I Know Where the Summer Goes” big enough to have broken a Team gallery record, or at least its fire code.

    Even after I pushed through the mob to the wall

  • Still from Iconoclastic Delights, 2002, single-channel color video with sound, twenty minutes.
    picks March 07, 2008

    Boris Groys

    In Boris Groys’s three video collages, clips from popular and obscure movies pass in silence as the philosopher reads dense lectures on religion, immortality, and film. While they handle similar subject matter, the images do not illustrate the texts, nor do the texts interpret the images; oblique associations proliferate in the gap between words and pictures, casting doubt on either’s capacity for effective communication. Religion as Medium, 2006, juxtaposes Andrei Tarkovsky's and Mel Gibson’s visions of faith as Groys’s voice investigates the role of the sacred today. Immortal Bodies, 2007,

  • Morning Star, 1962, ink on paper, 9 x 9".
    picks February 05, 2008

    Agnes Martin

    This brisk tour of Agnes Martin’s career—forty years in twenty drawings—is anchored by On a Clear Day, 1973, a series of prints offering thirty ways to regard the square. The number of horizontal and vertical lines in Martin’s dark, delicate fretwork varies from print to print, creating subtly different optical effects as the lines reverberate with the blankness around them. Laid flat on a table, the works align the viewer’s gaze with the artist’s by drawing it downward, and they prompt the questions that Martin may have asked herself: Why does a grid inside a square undermine its squareness?

  • Left: Architect Yury Avvakumov and Zdenka Badovinac, director of Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana. Right: Moscow Biennale curator Iara Boubnova with Art Basel director Samuel Keller. (Photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary March 11, 2007

    Mission to Moscow


    Russians grew tired of the bread lines of perestroika and switched from queuing to crowding ca. 1993, a historical shift that visitors to the second Moscow Biennale experienced firsthand last Thursday, when getting into the opening meant ploughing through a dense mob outside. The venue—Federation Tower, an unfinished skyscraper in the city’s nascent financial district—has only one working elevator, so organizers controlled traffic with an outdoor checkpoint. Visitors rushed the entrance, some squeezing their way along the fence, making for an unpleasant half hour of pushing and shoving.

    I expected

  • Heads, ca. 1920s, Indian ink and pencil on paper, 11 x 8".
    picks January 11, 2007

    Pavel Filonov

    When the Nazis blockaded Leningrad in 1941, Pavel Filonov could not survive food shortages because his constitution had been weakened by fever-pitch work on art that was ignored and unpaid for by the young Soviet art system. Unlike his archrival, Malevich, who shrewdly left his works in Germany after his 1929 retrospective there and thus assured his place in European art history, Filonov naively clung to the belief that the Soviets would someday appreciate his genius. He bequeathed his work to the state, and it languished in storage for decades. As a result, Filonov remains the greatest Russian

  • Media Comfort, 2006, stills from a video projection, dimensions variable.
    picks January 08, 2007

    Alexander Gnilitsky and Lesya Zayats

    Media Comfort, 2006, an installation by Kiev-based artists Alexander Gnilitsky and Lesya Zayats, juxtaposes domestic warmth with the cold white box of the gallery. Opposite a striped couch hangs a colorful decorative plate and a tapestry, while a lamp at the gallery’s rear casts a soft yellow glow. On closer inspection, the tapestry turns out to be a video projection, and though the couch and the plate are as solid as the gallery’s walls, without the aid of colored projections they would be just as white. The stripes on the couch change colors, while the patterns on the plate and the tapestry

  • Almagul Menlibayeva, SteppenBaroque, still from a color video, 2002.
    picks November 14, 2006

    “The Art of Central Asia. Contemporary Archive”

    By calling his survey of Central Asian art an archive, curator Viktor Misiano has laid claim to totality and inclusiveness. The show deserves its name; it fills four floors of a nineteenth-century mansion, with extensive wall texts and a “video archive” room that plays over three hours of material on six television sets. It might overwhelm the viewer if the works did not all draw from the same bucket of topics: how nomadic customs, Islam, globalization, and other native and foreign traditions have shaped national identities in the nascent states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Erbosyn