Bruce Hainley

  • Jess

    “Got Wallace’s Art Forum [sic] (tore out everything else) and made a delightful Berman pamphlet,” reported Jess (né Burgess Collins in Long Beach, California, in 1923) to his lifelong partner, the poet Robert Duncan, in 1966. As curator Ingrid Schaffner notes in her sharply revisionist catalogue essay, the gesture of the artist, an expert bladesman, cut in at least two ways: “It was a tribute to the success of a friend and fellow Californian with whose work Jess’s was identified” and it was a “tacit act of reproach”—not against Berman, “but against the contemporary art world represented by

  • Ree Morton/“for Ree”

    In the past five years, Los Angeles has become a privileged site for seeing and thinking about the amazing work of Ree Morton. This is due in no small part to a coterie of younger artists—including Evan Holloway and John Williams—who have channeled her wayward sculptural and installational innovations, and to the revisionary critical research and writing of Kristina Kite. It is both thrilling and fitting that Kite, who was a graduate student when she first undertook her research into the artist, and is now a gallerist, should have been in a position to present one of two great recent

  • “Double Album: Daniel Guzmán and Steven Shearer”

    A recent commercial for the video game Guitar Hero III has Slash flaying his way out of the body of one player to conquer the other, as if masculine so-called heroics, rock ’n’ roll or otherwise, required some kind of intense metabolizing. I doubt that either Mexican artist Daniel Guzmán or Canadian artist Steven Shearer will step out of the other’s skin for this sprawling dual show, but it would be really interesting if one of them did. Both artists haunt and are haunted by their adolescent selves from the 1970s, when, if their devotional, Tiger Beat–style installations

  • Bruce Hainley

    A BLACK RUBBER DOG TOY is a key component of all but one piece on view in Haim Steinbach’s most recent show, held at Sonnabend Gallery, his first New York solo exhibition in a decade. Brand-named Kong, the bulbous, three-tiered chew operates as a sign of punctuation marking the syntactical phrasing of objects, all the while looking like a sinus-clearing butt plug. Steinbach has said that the thing’s shape evokes a Brancusi. With the matte sheen of plastique, the toy also evokes a grenade.

    According to the Kong website, Joe Markham founded the company in 1976, after finding a way to keep his German

  • Andrew Masullo

    Despite key lime, hot pink, cerulean, stop-sign red, rain-slicker yellow, whether arranged in quasi-modern geometries or lava lamp bubbles, many of Andrew Masullo’s strangest and strongest works deploy white as simultaneously positive and negative space. In the dinky 3713, 2000, two “teeth” bite into part of a red star; the fried egg– white surface of 3156, 1995–2000, puckered and crunchy, is about the size of a fried egg, sunny-side up, the yolk a variegated posy. A white, curved “cloud,” like the soft explosion announcing the arrival of another outré relative on Bewitched, envelops most of

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    BORIS KARLOFF IN THE MUMMY. Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Whether inspired by such luminous Hollywood hieroglyphs or (according to Menil director Josef Helfenstein) by a book given to him by Marian B. Javits, wife of the New York senator, Robert Rauschenberg’s “Early Egyptians,” 1973–74, the series ending his cardboard-related works, all quietly glimmer in a gaudy twilight, due to Day-Glo pigment painted on their backsides in orange, yellow, pink, green, violet; situated near the edges of a room, as they were last spring in the Menil Collection’s “Robert Rauschenberg: Cardboards and Related

  • Richard Prince

    CONSIDER, FOR A MOMENT, “Fugitive Artist: The Early Work of Richard Prince, 1974–77,” currently on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, State University of New York, and organized by art historian Michael Lobel, director of the master’s program in modern and contemporary art, criticism, and theory at the college. A sharp, smart survey composed of fifty-four works, the show coruscates a range of maneuvers prior to the artist’s now-iconic rephotography of advertisements featuring fashion models, living rooms, and luxury accessories. The accompanying catalogue is elegant, and

  • Rachel Harrison

    Neither easily formalist nor really readymade; seemingly discrete, though often grouped as if for some sort of bacchanal; candy-colored and yet thoroughly theoretically pedigreed; all the while turning the “photographic” into the sculptural and vice versa—Harrison’s work is America’s answer to Isa Genzken’s, though usually with an even rowdier feminist twist.

    Often blobby, rarely slobby, Rachel Harrison’s sculptures zig just when you expect them to zag. Neither easily formalist nor really readymade; seemingly discrete, though often grouped as if for some sort of bacchanal; candy-colored and yet thoroughly theoretically pedigreed; all the while turning the “photographic” into the sculptural and vice versa—Harrison’s work is America’s answer to Isa Genzken’s, though usually with an even rowdier feminist twist. The show, curated by Heike Munder, is accompanied by a suitably fancy-pants catalogue and combines six sculptures, whose titles nod to good guys

  • John Wesley

    While walking around this tight show of seven works spanning thirty years of John Wesley’s career, my friends and I concurred that although Wesley is not among those on the tips of the tongues of hedge fund collectors, so-called edgy curators, or, sadly, many younger painters, there is more to look at in his work than in many rooms at MoMA.

    “Retroactive Pop” and “meta-representation,” two idiosyncratic terms that Donald Judd used to negotiate the strange, powerful paintings of John Wesley, resonate even as Judd noted, in an early review, seemingly structural concerns: “Most of the paintings are

  • Roger Hiorns

    Often perplexing, and pointed in the titling of his works, Roger Hiorns has made various pieces in strikingly different media—from one deploying dark steel plates sprayed, at crotch level, with the tony scent of Jean Patou’s Joy to another with fire tongueing through a metal grating—all dubbed Vauxhall, 2003. As writer Siobhan McDevitt points out in the brochure accompanying Hiorns’s UCLA Hammer Projects show, “If the word Vauxhall can mean, among other things, a London tube stop, the seventeenth-century pleasure garden for which the tube stop is named, a car company, a Morrissey record . . .

  • Patrick Lee

    Albrecht Dürer would have seen a reason for drawing, meticulously, the subjects of Patrick Lee’s “Deadly Friends.” The men in Lee’s pictures look like they understand, firsthand, that looks can kill, or at least inflict a serious bruising. Drifters, outlaws, parolees, gangbangers; guys with thick necks, shaved heads, and broad chests, parts emblazoned with tattoos (“Fuck All Haters”; “Trust No Bitches”; “Bad Influences”), the warnings and braggadocio of member status, make up this forbidding posse. Although Lee has photographed hundreds of men, met on the streets of Los Angeles, over the course

  • “Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images”

    Suzi Gablik, author of a key English-language study of René Magritte, noted that the Belgian master was a “son of boredom.” Possessed of “an almost constitutional dislike of painting, . . . he makes use of objects which have the appearance of paintings.” Instead of exploring his boredom, his tender antipathy, the curators of this show—in which the artist’s oeuvre is juxtaposed with a variety of contemporary selections—have opted instead to reify his commercial popularity, allowing the sweet smell of success to waft as the omnipresent odor of the lowest common denominator.

    The price of admission

  • William E. Jones

    WILLIAM E. JONES’S MÉTIER is homosexuality; his vernaculars, gay pornography and experimental documentary film; his landscapes, Southern California (where he lives and works) and suburban Ohio (where he was raised); his mode, dandyism. In eleven remarkable films and videos and countless photographs produced over the last fifteen years, building upon the cinematic inventions of both Californian and foreign artists—from Morgan Fisher, Fred Halsted, Joe Gage, and Thom Andersen to Werner Schroeter, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Daniel Cadinot, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet—Jones has

  • Ian Rosen

    In the penultimate lecture of his course on “The Neutral,” Roland Barthes considers “anxiety,” which he is quick to differentiate from “fright.” (“There is something about anxiety,” Barthes writes, pace Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, “that protects its subject against fright and so against fright neurosis.”) He relates the example of a white mouse, dropped into “a circular empty space, without nooks, without markers: it feels exposed, vulnerable to predators; and above all anxiety: the conflictual situation (cf. double bind) . . . divided between the need to eat and the need for flight.”

  • Bruce Hainley

    I wanted to get as far as my proto-dream-house,

    my crypto-dream-house, that crooked box

    set up on pilings, shingled green,

    a sort of artichoke of a house, but greener

    (boiled with bicarbonate of soda?),

    protected from spring tides by a palisade

    of—are they railroad ties?

    (Many things about this place are dubious.)

    I’d like to retire there and do nothing,

    or nothing much, forever, in two bare rooms:

    look through binoculars, read boring books,

    old, long, long books, and write down useless notes,

    talk to myself, and, foggy days,

    watch the droplets slipping, heavy with light.

    —Elizabeth Bishop, from

  • Lecia Dole-Recio

    Lecia Dole-Recio’s first solo museum show lent a shimmering vitality to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s otherwise lackluster “Focus” series of solo museum debuts by emerging Southern California–based artists. In a spare, unerring display of eight recent works, the microtonal play between Dole-Recio’s core concerns (light and color in relation to transparency, translucency, and opacity) conveyed through and by her consistent use of gouache and graphite in conjunction with cardboard, paper, vellum, tape, and glue confirmed her status as one of the most discerning and inventive of

  • Michael Queenland

    Michael Queenland made his auspicious solo debut at Daniel Hug in 2004 with a series of enigmatic black-and-white photographs and a select assembly of tables and stacked pallets on which he arranged an idiosyncratic collection of books and images or displayed spare, haunted sculptures (in one, a small chopstick scaffold traps cobwebs and Styrofoam packing peanuts); he managed to escape the desultory by adhering to his gently severe aesthetic and unlocking the surprising auratic potential of his outwardly impoverished materials.

    In his recent show “X X,” Queenland capitalized on his earlier stark

  • Lorna Simpson

    In the conclusion of his catalogue essay for Lorna Simpson’s recent survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Okwui Enwezor writes: “A portrait of a black person hanging in a museum is usually disturbing to viewers.” A strange claim. It’s not just Enwezor’s haunted syntax (is it a portrait of a black person, a portrait of a black person hanged, or the conflation of both that disturbs?) that’s problematic, it’s that—in an era when homage is paid to Jean-Michel Basquiat in the form of a limited-edition Reebok sneaker (the “Reebopper”)—his assertion seems a sweeping generalization at best.

    Enwezor’s

  • David Hammons

    Everyone I asked about the Miles Davis painting that was included in this year’s Whitney Biennial, a lively Basquiatesque oil on canvas from 1991 titled RU Legal, immediately assured me that it was actually “by” or an “intervention of” David Hammons, as if this “solved” how or why this painting came to be displayed. While I have no interest in refuting the contention that the painting appeared at Hammons’s behest, I have a lot of interest in what such an appearance and its attendant obfuscation might mean. Hammons’s name is not listed in any museum materials or in the Biennial catalogue. Described

  • Jason Meadows

    Writing about Jason Meadows’s sculpture in 1998, Dennis Cooper concluded that “there’s something about Meadows’s low-key yet forward-thinking sculptures that toys innocently with your mind while, at the same time, making you think unusually hard and well about the great unknown’s possible discrepancies.” Meadows achieves this mental mobility by way of a thorough assimilation of the seemingly contradictory syntaxes and grammars of, among others, Anthony Caro and H. C. Westermann. Even more than he’s been testing the borderlines between abstraction and figuration, in his last few shows, especially