Catherine Taft

  • View of “Karon Davis,” 2016. From left: Morphine, 2016; Nicotine, 2016.

    Karon Davis

    Catharsis, according to the American Psychological Association, is “the discharge of previously repressed affects connected to traumatic events that occurs when these events are brought back into consciousness and reexperienced.” Karon Davis’s solo exhibition “Pain Management”could easily be described as cathartic, availing itself of the transformative powers of painful memories recalled. Davis’s two large-scale installations revealed the emotional depths of their maker. As the exhibition’s press release explained, they were based on a “hospital-bound” reality of illness, which Davis and her

  • Ericka Beckman, Cinderella Game 1–4, 2015, four C-prints, overall 32 × 40".

    Ericka Beckman

    Ericka Beckman’s Cinderella, 1986, a 16-mm rendering of the fairy tale, is an Atari-like musical in which the title character staggers through various levels of narrative as if in a video game. As the centerpiece of a spellbinding exhibition, this rarely screened film demonstrated the staying power of Beckman’s work thirty years on. Mostly employing the artist’s signature palette of bold primary colors against black backgrounds, the stylized film resembles the classic tale only insofar as a female protagonist is put through the wringer of some odd gender socialization: Cinderella toils at an

  • Laeh Glenn, Landscaping, 2015, oil on linen, 62 × 50".


    HOW SHOULD A PAINTING BEHAVE? The dreamy yet sober canvases of Laeh Glenn seem predicated on this question. The Los Angeles–based artist asks why a painting should exist at all, what its motivation should be, and how one should relate to it—particularly at a moment when images circulate so quickly and casually, and when painting itself seems to exist somewhere between code and canvas. She extracts the medium’s genres—still life, portrait, nude, geometric abstraction—to coolly linger in and wonder at its protocols. Through her distillation of these pictorial archetypes, she reveals

  • Howardena Pindell, Video Drawings: Football, 1976, C-print, 8 × 10". From the series “Video Drawings,” 1976–2007.

    Howardena Pindell

    To legibly capture a television screen, a photographer must have both patience and a variety of technical tricks at her disposal, including a carefully calibrated shutter speed and an exposure time determined through trial and error. In addition to the motion of the video image, the analog photographer must also be sensitive to the friction between the camera’s straightforward light-capture process and the CRT monitor’s beams of magnetized electrons, which light up pixels within the screen to present a steady image to the human eye, but whose glow registers quite differently to the camera. This

  • Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (Splatter Painting), 2011, acrylic on canvas and cotton shirts, wood, 17' 8 1/2“ × 13' 1 1/2” × 3'.

    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, Pinch drawing, 2015, fabric appliqué, 54 × 54".

    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, Radcliffe Tennis Team, 1963, Duco and oil on canvas, 68 × 60".

    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, Anima V (Air), 1987, oil on canvas, 17 × 14".

    “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, Empire (detail), 2014, Plexiglas, sandbags, two-channel digital video (color, sound, 43 minutes 1 second), dimensions variable. Installation view.

    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

  • View of “K.r.m. Mooney,” 2014–15. Background: Joan Green, Bimetal I, 2014. Foreground, from left: Bimetal, Plurals, 2014; Joan Green, Bimetal II, 2014.

    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

  • Ari Marcopoulos, 31000001, 2015, color photograph, 8 x 10".
    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

  • Jim Shaw, Not Since Superman Died (detail), 2014, acrylic on muslin, eight parts, overall 22' 6" × 50'.

    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