Brian Sholis

  • picks May 10, 2004

    Amy Cutler

    Amy Cutler’s second solo at Leslie Tonkonow includes three prints and a dozen gouache-on-paper examples of her fantasy figuration, in which dour-faced women, often dressed in brightly colored and intricately patterned clothes, are set adrift in ambiguous narratives and large expanses of white space. In one etching, three matrons have birdhouses for heads; in Progeny, 2003, two pallid figures, facing each other and holding hands, give birth (through their mouths) to miniature, fully formed adults. There is a melancholic undercurrent to Cutler’s bizarre scenarios that separates these illustrations

  • picks April 29, 2004

    Rodney Graham

    Rodney Graham has nudged himself out of his seamless-loop groove and returned to New York to show a film with a definite beginning and end. The establishing shot is a head-on view of a typewriter case; the cover promptly disappears, followed by lengthy, loving close-ups of a pristine 1930s Rheinmetall that call to mind Albert Renger-Patzsch’s industrial fetishizations. But Graham is in an elegiac mood, and synthetic snow soon starts to descend from above, until the machine is entirely buried. (The first few flakes on the keys call to mind the brightly burning granules of Coruscating Cinnamon,

  • picks April 13, 2004

    Stephanie Pryor

    Los Angeles–based artist Stephanie Pryor has reversed course for her second New York solo show, substituting about thirty diminutive, representational acrylic ink paintings on paper for the medium- to large-scale abstractions of her 2001 CRG debut. What unites the two bodies of work is Pryor’s technique, which involves multiple watery layers of acrylic; here, the application, subsequent drying, and reapplication of ink washes have significantly wrinkled the paper. The texture gives the works an antiquated quality that reinforces Pryor’s pleasantly fusty subject matter. Animal studies—a flock of

  • picks March 31, 2004

    Matt Johnson

    Los Angeles artist Matt Johnson’s solo debut exhibition of six small sculptures and one photograph highlights a fringe benefit of New York’s apartment-galleries: Their intimacy affords young artists the opportunity to show alone without the pressure of having to fill a cavernous Chelsea space. A former student of Charles Ray, Johnson wears his teacher’s influence on his sleeve—one could choose worse role models—and translates the modified scale of several of Ray’s conceptual witticisms into the tweaked materials of his own. Life’s a Beach, 2004, is a sand castle shored up by wood, fiberglass,

  • picks March 25, 2004

    “Happy Medium”

    For this ingratiating show, Artforum contributor Meghan Dailey gathers together and gives context to six artists who've recently been bouncing around New York nonprofit spaces. The work included, though not necessarily their best, is strong and representative, and what emerges is a kind of hobby-shop chic that pairs material exploration with an investigation of the boundary between two and three dimensions. Lisa Sigal, whose ambitious wall-size installation in “Abstruction” at Artists Space was a highlight of the autumn season, contributes another pastel-hued painting-architecture-sculpture

  • picks March 11, 2004

    Alan Saret

    This significant selection of Alan Saret’s wire sculptures and colored-pencil drawings from the late '60s through the mid-'80s displays the artist's focus on form and process. Pushing out from the wall, hanging from the ceiling, and balanced on the floor, Saret’s variously scaled sculptures—made from precise tangles of nickel, steel, and copper wire, both coated and uncoated and prone to shifting over time—are simultaneously wispy and clotted, their volume dissolving into the airy voids between lines drawn in space. The 2-D works, rainbow-hued clusters of marks set adrift on large expanses of

  • picks March 10, 2004

    Willie Doherty

    At a moment when many artists are retreating from political issues into abstraction, mysticism, or play, Willie Doherty—in “Non-Specific Threat,” his austere show at Alexander & Bonin—presents five photographs and a video that focus on implicit violence, the dangers we project onto unknown figures, and language’s ability to alter what we perceive as menacing. Doherty is a native of Derry, central to Northern Ireland’s modern civil rights movement, and it is easy to let biography color our understanding of his work. Yet the “non-specific” in the title is key. His last New York solo presented a

  • picks March 01, 2004

    Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg

    Collaborative art practices by definition negate the myth of the solitary artist-hero. Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg's haphazard array of life-size replicas carved from sea-blue and -green polystyrene—a JumboTron scoreboard, a Marshall amp, beer coolers, string lights, speakers, and microphones—are tied together by the duo’s interest in social interaction. Each piece, whether it evokes sports arenas, rock concerts, backyard barbecues, or press conferences, nods to a group activity; at their best, they directly engage the viewer, toeing the line between sculpture and theater prop. Dozens

  • picks February 24, 2004

    Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

    In their second collaborative show at this gallery, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller present new works that depart from The Paradise Institute, 2001, their prizewinning, semi-immersive miniature movie theater. With The Berlin Files, 2003, they return to a more conventional cinematic scale. Projected in a darkened room, the work is a thirteen-minute single-channel video that displays many of Cardiff’s motifs: overlapping, forebodingly ambiguous narratives (in this case involving a Nico-esque young woman who weeps in a karaoke bar’s washroom and lies in bed with an unseen lover); incredibly

  • picks February 10, 2004

    Franz Gertsch

    Few painters continually work on the supersize scale of Franz Gertsch; fewer still have a privately financed museum to support and exhibit their work. This show of seven paintings and six equally large-scale prints, now settled in the only Chelsea space in which it would comfortably fit, originated at the Museum Franz Gertsch in Switzerland. Five billboard-size portraits of Patti Smith, painted after photographs Gertsch took at a 1977 performance in Cologne, dominate the show. They depict Smith interacting with unseen fans, reading from a book, and playing guitar, but their ostensible photorealism

  • picks February 03, 2004

    Gilberto Zorio

    This small show of late 1960s sculpture by arte povera’s youngest practitioner shows just what New Yorkers missed when “Zero to Infinity” didn’t come to town. Form is content in sculptures like Odio (Hate), 1969, whose title is rendered in rope encased in a dangling brick-size block of lead. Visitors may then absolve themselves via two works titled To Purify Words, both from 1969. Each presents a mouthpiece into which you can speak; your words will be cleansed as they pass through a chamber filled with alcohol. Look up to glimpse Spot IV, 1968, a small, thin rubber disc suspended near the ceiling

  • picks January 20, 2004

    “The New Romantics”

    Critic Jerry Saltz recently deplored contemporary painters’ tendency to faithfully re-create the perspective and spatial depth of their photographic sources. This show, which features five artists who create idiosyncratic imaginary spaces, offers numerous counterexamples. Blake Rayne's two paintings of a statue of James Fenimore Cooper impose shifting pastel planes onto modulated gray surroundings—one wonders if this is how clairvoyants see auras—while Lesley Vance, in her first New York appearance, presents a tour de force: The allover composition of her twelve-foot-wide Foliage,

  • picks December 18, 2003

    “Pages”

    Not “The Page” but “Pages”: This exhibition’s title invokes the seriality of the printed page, which we expect to precede and follow others. Likewise, many of the artworks here reference predecessors on the continuum of art history: Laurie Anderson's collage It’s Not the Bullet, 1977, includes the lyrics to a reggae tune she wrote for Chris Burden, while in Rodney Graham’s Study for Casino Royale, 1989, two pages from a James Bond novel are set inside what could be a unit of a Donald Judd stack sculpture. (The pages in question narrate a torture scene, in a mischevious comment on the “difficulty”

  • picks November 25, 2003

    Matthew Buckingham

    Matthew Buckingham’s A Man of the Crowd, 2003, is a formally elegant, conceptually rich 16 mm film installation that mimics the structure of Edgar Allan Poe’s similarly titled short story of 1840. Poe’s London is now contemporary Vienna; Buckingham's camera tracks a young man obsessively trailing a slightly shabby older fellow through the city streets. The camera itself, ducking behind a tree or column as if to avoid being seen, unaccountably yet delightfully becomes a third protagonist. The noirish black-and-white film, shot in dramatic natural light, is projected through a small hole in the

  • picks November 14, 2003

    Phil Collins

    British-born photographer Phil Collins’s New York solo debut is two shows in one. On the third floor of Maccarone are selections from the 2002 series “Real Society,” in which Collins invited (via newspaper ad) anyone age eighteen to eighty-eight to strip for the camera in the penthouse suite of a San Sebastian hotel. The meat of the exhibition, though, is on the first two floors, where a video and photographs from Belfast, Belgrade, and Palestine document places and people facing social or political unrest. How to Make a Refugee, 2000, an eleven-minute DVD, betrays Collins’s misgivings about

  • picks October 29, 2003

    Hayley Tompkins

    Hayley Tompkins’s watercolors, executed on board or paper or applied directly to the wall, skirt the boundary between “precious” as a term of criticism and as a term of praise. Most of the works in this exhibition fall on the right side of the line. The best of these tiny paintings—many on square-format boards, a new surface for her—are gems and use minimal means to maximum effect. Their visual logic seems intuited, casual without being tossed off. One, approximately six inches square, uses three vertical lines with hooked ends to signify intersecting walls; another’s black dashes look like a