Catherine Taft

  • Hermann Nitsch

    In the decades following World War II, Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch and his contemporaries pursued an approach to artmaking that—like those of so many artists around the globe at midcentury—attempted to deal with the underlying psychological depths of human existence. The particular avant-garde methods of the Viennese Actionists emphasized the body as a challenge to pictorial traditions and conservative cultural and political systems (specifically, Austria’s Second Republic in the early 1960s). Their work was raw, materially driven, scatological, performative, and ceremonial, at

  • Kate Costello

    Drawing has a directness and immediacy capable of revealing an artist’s thought process and, over time, formal development. It can document aesthetic mutability and demonstrate technical acumen, all the while circumventing the baggage of painting or sculpture. Kate Costello’s recent exhibition—simply titled “Drawing”—which included nine fabric appliqué works; a sculpture in paper, cement, and steel; and an artist’s book, was less concerned with draftsmanship than with the conceptual, linguistic, and symbolic possibilities of drawing. And for an artist well versed in sculpture, video,

  • John Wesley

    John Wesley’s flat, reductive, figurative paintings from the early 1960s represent an alternate Pop vision that not only emphasizes the slick surfaces of postwar consumer culture but also filters the esoteric visual iconography of WASP tribalism through the artist’s own odd psychology. Titled “Important Works from 1961 to 1966,” the sixteen pieces—painting, sculpture, and drawing—that made up this exhibition underscore Wesley’s importance during an early period in his career, namely the years immediately following his move from Los Angeles to New York, when he started exhibiting. As Wesley has

  • “Jim Shaw: The End Is Here”

    Jim Shaw recently explained to me that “creativity sometimes comes out of moments of crisis”—and when that moment is the apocalypse, the imagination gets wilder and more intense. “The End Is Here,” Shaw’s first comprehensive New York museum show, will foreground the Los Angeles–based artist’s longtime fascination with American cultural mythologies, marginal political histories, secondhand curiosities, and good old-fashioned religious fanaticism. Installed across three museum floors and accompanied by a substantial catalogue, the exhibition

  • Lutz Bacher

    One summer evening in 1964, at the suggestion of his friends, Andy Warhol trained a rented 16-millimeter camera on the Empire State Building, shooting the monolith for hours on end. The resulting film, Empire, 1964, is a study as much in cinematographic looking as it is on the properties of film itself; though the image of the building at night is otherwise fixed, small dramas play out through exposure, the shifting of light over time, and the slight jumpiness of the image as the celluloid passes through the projector.

    The centerpiece of Lutz Bacher’s exhibition “For the People of New York

  • K.r.m. Mooney

    Bad Reputation is a small, artist-run project space located in an anonymous prewar office building in Los Angeles’s Westlake neighborhood. Run by artist Andreas Waris, Bad Reputation takes its name from the title of Penny Arcade’s book on performance art, allegedly written in a seventh-floor office within the same building (where Arcade’s publisher Semiotext[e] also rented its offices and provided studios to writers). This past January, the gallery was supplanted by the Cologne Room, another off-space run by Waris, who conceived of the gallery-within-a-gallery as a tribute to 1980s Cologne—this

  • interviews March 31, 2015

    Ari Marcopoulos

    Underlying a new body of work by the New York–based artist Ari Marcopoulos is a wintry restraint that adds new depth to his more than forty-year career as a documentarian of subculture. His upcoming exhibition at Marlborough Chelsea, “L1032015,” is as much about the everyday compulsion to make images as it is about the currents of art history that steer it. The show is on view from April 4 through May 9, 2015.

    CERTAIN THINGS INVITE YOU TO TAKE THEIR PHOTOGRAPH. They trigger an emotion or chemical in your brain that compels you to make an image. I wanted to get away from that, to work more

  • 1000 WORDS: JIM SHAW

    LIKE WILLIAM BLAKE, who wrote, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s,” Jim Shaw is compelled by a logic of his own design, inventing alternate realities as bulwarks against—and cautionary tales about—contemporary existence. With an incisiveness akin to Blake’s, Shaw offers sharp insights into the complexities of global politics, economics, urban and environmental turmoil, the powers of organized faith, and human bondage. The worlds he creates via his drawings, monumental paintings, stage-set-like sculptures, “Dream Objects,” and videos—all of which will be

  • interviews July 24, 2014

    Christopher Williams

    Since the early 1980s, Cologne- and Los Angeles–based artist Christopher Williams has utilized photographic discourse as a way to analyze social, cultural, institutional, and economic histories. He speaks here about his three-part exhibition “The Production Line of Happiness,” which is Williams’s first major museum survey. It opened at the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this year and will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from July 27 to November 2, 2014, before traveling to Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2015.

    I’VE WORKED almost my whole life as an artist to distance myself

  • Paul Heyer

    Oarfish, a twenty-seven-foot-tall soft sculpture representing the titular deep-sea creature, its silver silk body speckled with sumi-ink brushstrokes, presided over Paul Heyer’s second solo exhibition at Night Gallery. With a rippling, fiber-optic fin that glowed red in the darkened space, the fish was a curiosity among a show that featured fourteen semi-abstract paintings. The serpentlike form was borderline hokey, something you might find in a puppet theater or at a child’s birthday party. Yet the quietly symbolic allure of the fish—a mysterious and rarely seen creature that lives in

  • Llyn Foulkes

    WE CAN’T ALL BE GOOD LOOKING: This ugly truth is written in the margin of a drawing, inked around 1949, by a teenage Llyn Foulkes. Fourteen or fifteen years old, the aspiring cartoonist sketches six goon-like men whose jowls droop, nostrils flare, tongues wag, and foreheads bulge, and whose necks are festooned with neat little ties. He signs the work “Spike Foulkes,” a nod to the bandleader and satirist Spike Jones, one of Foulkes’s great populist heroes. A tragicomic caricature of adult disposition filtered through an adolescent imagination, the piece already hints at subjects that would define

  • Amelie von Wulffen

    Amelie von Wulffen’s first solo museum show in the US comprised fifteen canvases that surrounded a conspicuous architectural intervention: The main gallery’s ductwork had been handpainted green and connected to the gallery floor by four green-striped faux columns that looked like so many oversize maypoles. Although this sculptural appendage seemed a curious choice—prominently emphasizing the gallery’s worst preexisting features and clashing with the artist’s markedly intimate canvases—the spatial tension it created was precisely the sort of visual and symbolic conflict von Wulffen aims

  • Allison Schulnik

    For such gendered mythological creatures, mermaids have a peculiarly sexless anatomy, at least below their scaled hips. So when Allison Schulnik paints a work like Mermaid with Legs (all works cited, 2012)—a large canvas depicting a seated nude spreading her legs to the viewer—she grants these half-women not only their sexuality but their personhood too. Similarly positioned, Mermaid with Legs #2 features a figure surrounded by brushy, flowerlike patterns that radiate across the surface of the canvas. Included in her recent exhibition “Salty Air,” these pictures are typical of Schulnik’s

  • diary August 16, 2012

    Sachs Race

    TOM SACHS HAS MADE an art of aping the emblems and rituals of American culture. So when the artist was honored during the rituals of this year’s ArtCRUSH, it seemed a chance for the culture to give back. Wednesday marked the kick-off of the Aspen Art Museum’s annual benefit gala, and after eight years the museum and its winning host committee have the three-day fund-raiser down to a science. The events began with WineCRUSH, an opening ceremony held at the impressive home of collectors and AAM board members John and Amy Phelan. Though the Phelans’ collection was rehung to strike a serious note—with

  • diary May 16, 2012

    Lost Weekend

    “HAS IT REALLY BEEN TEN YEARS?” more than one partygoer wondered aloud last Friday night at the opening of Dave Muller’s resurrected Three Day Weekend (TWD). Indeed, it had been nearly a decade since the artist hosted one of his performance-exhibition events in Los Angeles, the last taking place at the Hammer Museum in late 2002. But apart from a few more silver foxes and a handful of children (two belonging to Muller and his wife, Ann Faison), very little seemed to have changed since the heyday of those storied parties. Tecate and ice cubes filled a clawfoot bathtub; art was installed on a

  • Mitchell Syrop

    It would be all too easy to describe Mitchell Syrop’s recent body of text-based works as the product of some loose stream of consciousness. But this show’s sole work, Bifurcated Life, 2011—comprising twenty-eight archival prints, each identically framed and hung in a single line across three walls—ultimately gives a more complicated portrait: The hastily generated, half-cocked thoughts scrawled by the artist in pencil suggest the hand of a Concrete poet crossed with a serial killer. Scanned from a lined notebook and enlarged to nearly twenty-three by sixteen inches, these “documents”

  • Liz Glynn

    In her exhibition “No Second Troy,” Liz Glynn made her own archaeological dig through the epic chronicles of “Priam’s Treasure”—the supposed gold of Troy discovered by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1873—in order to trace (forward and in reverse) the movement of the people, objects, ideas, identities, and truths implicated in the story and its historical residue. Taken from Schliemann’s excavation site at Hissarlik (in modern-day Turkey), this resplendent cache of axes, pots, jewelry, and other such items was displayed in Berlin until Allied bombing campaigns forced

  • “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973–1977”

    Among Mike Kelley’s 1976 series “Untitled (Allegorical Drawings),” a sketch shows a bony nude figure crouching on the mutating head of another; the caption below reads, CRUDE PEASANTS STANDING ON THE GLORY THAT ONCE WAS ROME—UNAWARE OF A RICH HERITAGE. The understated drawing, one of many from this period included in Prism’s exhibition “Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973–1977,” seems emblematic of the attitude behind the protopunk/art collective founded by Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara, and Jim Shaw. With inborn eccentricity, subtle aggression, and faux naïveté, the four

  • Polly Apfelbaum

    Polly Apfelbaum’s “Feelies”—an ongoing series of small, unfired polymer-clay sculptures that the artist began during her Yaddo residency in 2010—point to a handful of cultural references, namely the midcentury abstractions of painter Paul Feeley, the “feelie” vessels created by potter Rose Cabat, and the proto–indie rock of the Feelies. The title of this show, “Double Nickels on the Dime,” was also referential, having been taken from an album by West Coast hardcore band Minutemen that, in turn riffs on a song by former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. Such layers of knowledge could be

  • Stephen Shore

    Sometimes a quiet, understated image demands equally unfussy discourse, which is why it is difficult (if not counterintuitive even to try) to articulate the vernacular magic within Stephen Shore’s photographs: scenes that are familiar yet rare, static but pregnant with energy, at once immediate and strangely drawn out. In Shore’s work, even a title can say too much, so it seems appropriate that the thirty-two prints (all works 2009) exhibited at the Aspen Art Museum this summer share the same title: “Abu Dhabi.” Produced during the artist’s first visit to the capital emirate, this series depicts