Brian Sholis

  • interviews March 28, 2012

    James Benning

    Several years ago, filmmaker James Benning built first one, then another small cabin on property he owns in California. Modeled on the redoubts constructed by Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber), Benning’s cabins are the subjects of Two Cabins, a new book edited by Julie Ault and published by A.R.T. Press.

    I HAD BOUGHT A “TURNKEY” PROPERTY IN THE MOUNTAINS, and as soon as I got my hands on it I worked for months to make it mine. I got addicted to construction, to solving the problems inherent in taking something apart and putting it back together again. I added a guest room.

  • Robert Bourdeau

    Robert Bourdeau trained and worked as an architectural technologist before an influential encounter with Aperture magazine and its editor, Minor White. A ten-year friendship with that elder statesman of photography encouraged Bourdeau to pursue the medium and embrace the emotional expressiveness on which White placed so much importance. Now in his eighties, Bourdeau is best known for landscape photographs in which the subject fills the entire frame, a compositional choice that emphasizes texture and occasionally creates odd spatial effects. Two pictures in this exhibition, his second at the

  • picks January 19, 2012

    “Nature Morte”

    Curator Chris Murtha’s tightly packed exhibition handles with grace what might seem to be an unimaginative enterprise: displaying still-life photographs in a horticultural society’s gallery. Of the three artists presented here, only Sharon Core is primarily identified with the genre, though her painstaking re-creations of and riffs on earlier artworks simultaneously engage other artistic lineages, chiefly appropriation art. In recent years, Core has expanded from a detailed exploration of nineteenth-century American painter Raphaelle Peale’s compositions to a sampling of still-life paintings

  • “Andy Coolquitt: Attainable Excellence”

    Andy Coolquitt’s minimalist sculptures evade the genre’s usual standoffishness. Behaving less like severe, reticent objects and more like casual acquaintances, they slouch, lean, point, or congregate.

    Andy Coolquitt’s minimalist sculptures evade the genre’s usual standoffishness. Behaving less like severe, reticent objects and more like casual acquaintances, they slouch, lean, point, or congregate. They’re made of scavenged consumer detritus—broom handles, lighters, pails, drinking straws, old lamps—that bear traces of human (ab)use. Between the objects’ anthropo­morphism and the familiarity of the materials, it’s tempting to imagine this exhibition—the artist’s first institutional survey—as a family reunion. Though the sixty works slated for inclusion were made in

  • Simon Norfolk

    Simon Norfolk might be called a war-landscape photographer. He focuses on not only battles and resultant refugee crises but also the technological infrastructure that underpins conflict and the arenas in which those conflicts play out. Among his many subjects are the beaches where Allied soldiers landed on D-day in 1944; the electronic-spying equipment on Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic; Beirut during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah; and the material detritus produced during the early years of the current war in Iraq. This exhibition, his third at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, included

  • Richard Benson

    Puerto Rico, 2007, despite being one of only two photographs in this large exhibition to have been made outside the continental United States, is emblematic of photographer Richard Benson’s series “North South East West,” 2005–11. The image’s subject, an isolated tropical tree at the edge of a parking lot, is representative in its humbleness and outdoor, out-of-the-way location. The sky behind it, as in many of the show’s photographs, is a rich cerulean, the clouds near the horizon puffy and white; shadows are nonexistent. The tree’s visual similarity to a peacock’s tail feathers metaphorically

  • Daido Moriyama

    Spanning more than half a century, “Daido Moriyama: On the Road” confirmed the artist’s importance to the story of Japanese photography. The quintessential street photographer, Moriyama has, since 1965, prowled avenues and alleys in Japanese cities and across the globe. His quarry is not only the unguarded human subject, often seen from the side or behind, but also our idealized, artificial replicas of ourselves, from store mannequins to movie-poster idols. Moriyama’s art, despite his penchant for surface and artifice, is anything but celebratory. If his touchstone is Warhol, whose art he seems

  • picks October 13, 2011

    Jill Freedman

    When photographer Jill Freedman embedded with the New York City Police Department’s Ninth and Midtown South Precincts in 1978, the city was just past its postwar nadir. Three years earlier, in the eyes of Daily News editors, President Gerald Ford had told the struggling metropolis to “drop dead.” The summer of 1977 had been marked by the tragic denouement of the Son of Sam killing spree, as well as rioting and looting under cover of the July blackout. In a city troubled by crimes both petty and spectacular, Freedman sought to counter the largely negative opinion of cops on the beat, to humanize

  • picks October 04, 2011

    “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”

    During the past fifteen years, scholars have dramatically revised our understanding of the American civil rights and Black Power movements, proposing answers to questions such as: When did each begin and end? What traits, if any, do they share? What is the relative importance of acknowledged leaders and lesser-known participants? Historians including Charles Payne, Martha Biondi, Thomas Sugrue, and Peniel Joseph have crafted nuanced portraits of both movements’ protest dynamics and the merits of the gains each made. The visual record of the era, however, has not been given an equivalent boost,

  • picks September 01, 2011

    “Cartographies of Time”

    Every so often, scholars dramatically revise and expand our knowledge of particular visual phenomena. The designer Jessica Helfand did so recently with her entertaining survey of information wheels, suitably titled Reinventing the Wheel (2002). Last year, the historians Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton performed a similar feat with their book Cartographies of Time, on the history of timelines. This small exhibition, drawn primarily from the library collections at Princeton, where Grafton teaches, is a welcome reminder to look beyond fine art for revelatory, informative visual experiences.

  • picks August 29, 2011

    “House Inside City Outside House: Tokyo Metabolizing”

    Should architects help the built environment adapt to the shifting demographic profile of cities? Should they respond also to new modes of living that arise with changing social mores? This exhibition, an expanded version of Japan’s presentation at last year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, posits Tokyo as a unique incubator of novel solutions to residential problems. Although ranging in scale from a single-family home to a complex of forty-six apartments, the projects here by Atelier Bow-Wow, Ryue Nishizawa (of SANAA), and Koh Kitayama each make a virtue of porosity. Room-size models dominate

  • Max Kozloff

    Max Kozloff, once the executive editor of this magazine, is best known for his writings on modern art. Much of this work has explicitly focused on photography, a subject upon which he has trained his formidable intellect almost exclusively since the mid-1970s, publishing three collections of essays, organizing museum exhibitions, and contributing to numerous artists’ monographs. In that time, he has also been an active photographer, using the camera to capture first the environment and then the citizens of his adopted hometown. This show, wryly titled “New York Means Business,” collected

  • Victoria Sambunaris

    The border between the United States and Mexico has been contested since 1848, when the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended war between the countries. It took survey teams six years just to draw the line, then marked with small obelisks and stone mounds. Disputes arising from population growth and other forms of development necessitated that this survey work be redone in the 1890s, when more than two hundred additional monuments were erected. During the twentieth century, as towns and cities along the border grew, five hundred more markers were dedicated; in recent decades, they

  • O. Winston Link

    O. Winston Link’s magnificent photographs of steam-powered locomotives, taken half a century ago, appear now to prefigure artistic projects with which gallery-goers are likely more familiar. In one image, the speeding locomotive seen through a living room window calls to mind Martha Rosler’s Vietnam-era collage series “Bringing the War Home,” 1967–72. Link’s picture of a massive engine racing across a railway bridge, beneath which a boy shoos cows and a couple sits in a car, or his image of a man sitting at the window of a third-floor apartment as a train lumbers along Main Street, offer a

  • interviews January 10, 2011

    Mark Fell

    Mark Fell is a musician and artist based in Sheffield, UK. One half of the electronic music duo SND, in late 2010 he released two solo albums: Multistability (Raster Noton) and UL8 (Editions Mego). His solo exhibition “Coherence and Proximity” was on view at the Woodmill in South London last December. He performs a new solo work at Espai Cultural Caja Madrid, Barcelona, on January 21 and with SND at Rex Club, Paris, on January 26.

    MULTISTABILITY, in theories of psychology and perception, refers to information that cannot be easily resolved into a simple form—it’s a way of describing perceptual

  • An-My Lê

    For the past decade, public attention paid to the United States armed forces has understandably focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet our country currently has more than 1.4 million actively deployed troops, and an overwhelming number of enlistees are not at this moment patrolling Baghdad streets or stalking the mountains of Bamyan Province. Where are they? What do they do? An-My Lê’s new body of photographs begins to answer these questions. Set in locales ranging from Indonesia and Vietnam to Ghana and the North Arabian Gulf, the works here testify to the geographic spread of American

  • interviews November 01, 2010

    Susie Linfield

    Susie Linfield, director of the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University, is a journalist and critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Review, Bookforum, The Nation, and other publications. Her new book, which she will discuss on November 11 at Book Culture in New York City, is The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. It is available from the University of Chicago Press this month.

    IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME—several years—to figure out how the different subjects I was writing about, and the different arguments I was making, were connected

  • Nathan Carter

    This was a restrained exhibition. Of course, when speaking of Nathan Carter’s willfully eccentric, vibrant sculptures, restrained is a relative term. The flags, legible icons, and letterforms for which he is known, as well as the overt references he has made to maps, racetracks, soccer teams, and communications systems, have been mostly purged from his newest works. The unwieldy ham-radio-chatter titles have likewise been trimmed. In fact, having spent the past decade as a ventriloquist who made the modernist visual language of Alexander Calder, Jean Arp, and Joan Miró speak to contemporary

  • Ann Pibal

    The paintings in this exhibition, Ann Pibal’s second at the gallery, feature narrow rivulets of color zipping across and around monochrome backgrounds. They make clear that masking tape, with its chastening, restrictive qualities, is as important to the artist’s practice as are acrylic-laden brushes. Look intently, and these taped-off lines perform various feats of optical magic. They carve space out of the featureless expanse on which they rest, interact playfully with the colors they abut, and, when Pibal has painted the edges of the thin aluminum panels on which she works, appear from certain

  • picks May 22, 2010

    Thomas Struth

    In this exhibition of new large-scale color photographs, Thomas Struth discloses realms largely hidden from public view: experimental science and high-tech industry. Struth’s images do not offer a comprehensive representation of how the plants and laboratories he portrays actually function. Nor, for that matter, can we understand from viewing the photos how the industries depicted therein—pharmaceutical production, space exploration, physics research, offshore drilling—are integrated in a globalized market. But the claustrophobic images of wires, tubes, and rarefied machinery reveal something