Christopher Bedford

  • Mike Kelley

    In Detroit, it is difficult to use an architecture-based vocabulary in a civic context without striking a topical note. The city—which since the 1960s, when white flight triggered a slow, decisive economic decline, has shrunk to less than half its peak size—wears the ravages of urban blight on its sleeve. Woodward Avenue, the metropolis’s most populated artery, and home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (mocad), doubles as a colorful architectural barometer of socioeconomically stratified decay. At one end, downtown, the center of big business and home to convention centers, hotels, and

  • Ryan Trecartin

    The agitated camera work, gaudy palette, complete disavowal of intelligible narrative, emphasis on slippery models of beauty, desire, gender, and sexuality, and strategic use of lo-fi graphics evident in the seven videos on view in Ryan Trecartin’s recent solo exhibition “Any Ever” are by now standard fare for the artist. But where previous viewing “environments”—for instance, Sibling Topics (Section A), 2009, seen at New York’s New Museum—recall the work of predecessors such as Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy in their emphasis on materiality, the installations in this show are far sparer and

  • André Ethier

    Described in the press release accompanying this exhibition as “self-portraits of his own adolescent subconscious,” André Ethier’s new paintings are every inch the exercises in creative onanism that this boldly unfashionable characterization might suggest. Self-consciously brooding and superficially melancholy, each modestly scaled, putridly colored oil-on-Masonite picture in “ACTUALIZED, and it feels so good” convincingly channels the imaginings of a disaffected young man with a spotty understanding of art history and a healthy investment in the lifestyle and aesthetics of psychedelia, metal,

  • Marilyn Minter

    Can a high-definition video, shot from under a glass plate, that shows an ample set of fleshy lips and a playfully roving tongue spitting, slurping, and licking a Technicolor array of cake decorations suspended in vodka, be said to make a feminist statement in 2010? Your response to that loaded question is likely to be roughly congruent with your position on the ubiquitous Lady Gaga and her hyperbolic, sometimes eccentric, expressions of female sexuality. If you are among those who believe that today’s unofficially anointed queen of pop is an icon of female empowerment, chances are that Marilyn

  • Cecil Balmond

    A renowned structural engineer, Cecil Balmond has over the past three decades played an instrumental role in the work of architects such as Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas, and Daniel Libeskind. His unconventional approaches to engineering problems and structural geometry have aided those figures in realizing some of their most daring ideas and, in the process, radically expanded the realm of possibilities in architecture. Though also—and increasingly—an architect in his own right with notable projects to his credit, Balmond will likely remain best known as the engineer whose structural ingenuity

  • Brian Jungen

    In a gallery adjacent to Canadian artist Brian Jungen’s survey “Strange Comfort” is a show called simply “Our Lives.” In this exhibition, to quote the introductory text, “members of eight communities describe how they work to remain Native in an ever-changing world”—a powerful condensation of the museum’s charter. The National Museum of the American Indian recognizes expressions of native cultures not as strictly historical phenomena, preserved in and understood through dusty artifacts and aging fables, but rather as mutable and alive, with the potential for being creatively perpetuated in

  • Jennifer Steinkamp

    Jennifer Steinkamp’s installations frequently induce a level of immersion that is unusual, the familiar act of looking shading quickly into something more like swimming. The four works in her series “Orbit,” 2008–, for instance, are each like a fall in zero gravity. The matrices of branchlike tendrils and fluorescent leaves that make up the video projections blow, swirl, and rotate across two expansive perpendicular walls. But also, and very deliberately, the projections wash legibly across the body of the viewer, physically absorbing him or her into the installations. The spectator, then,

  • Julian Stanczak

    One of the leading exponents of Op art even before a 1964 review by Donald Judd gave the movement its name, eighty-one-year-old Julian Stanczak has maintained a dogged commitment to that manner of painting, which highbrow critics almost immediately dismissed as cheap, regressive, and populist. Though Op is often seen as a period trend, in years hence a few of the movement’s other founding figures, including Bridget Riley and François Morellet, have, like Stanczak, found ways to expand the implications and applications of Op’s manipulations of perception.

    But Stanczak’s ongoing engagement with Op

  • Ann Lislegaard

    Science fiction as a literary and filmic genre is distinguished in large part by its exponents’ appetite for extreme conjecture, and by the need for writers and directors working in this domain to elaborate those conjectures into fantastical worlds that answer not to natural law or existent social structures, but to decrees set forth and imposed by the creator. In this sense, science fiction also supports a model of overstated authorship that presumes facets of a narrative cannot be borrowed from the observed world, but must instead emanate from the author’s mind.

    Though each of the works in Ann

  • Keith Tyson

    Given the critical antagonism that still faces painting—a sense of abstraction’s diminishing returns, the apparent anachronism of representation, and the assumption of market complicity—the decision to work in the medium today cannot be an easy one to make. Though cautionary notes have, since the 1980s, been repeated to the point of banality, they still represent hurdles to be negotiated before many viewers are willing even to consider what else the artist in question might be up to. Some artists operate with a fierce, perhaps reactionary disregard for such critical touchstones, while others

  • Jennifer West

    For half a century, artists have been negotiating the vexed relationship between abstraction and representation. Los Angeles–based artist Jennifer West’s sexy, whimsical, painting-scale DVD projections walk that elusive line between pictorial modes with deftness, wit, and airy originality.

    While West’s work slyly nods to past heroic modernist gestures, her subjects are rarely, if ever, grand or heroic, and her engagement with canonical narratives of abstraction are often oblique and irreverent. Sophomoric urban myths, harmless shenanigans, and the free-love legacy of 1970s psychedelia provide

  • Nathalie Djurberg

    Stop-motion animation is generally associated with fairy-tale naïveté, due to its being used, most famously, for kids’ classics like Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970), but, as Nathalie Djurberg shows, this quality is not intrinsic to the medium. In Djurberg’s hands, clay depicts but also distorts, representing the human form for a few seconds before slipping into a series of abject deformations. In such instances, the body seems purely incidental and mimesis beside the point, both of them subordinate to the will of an unruly medium. In fact, the low-tech crudity of stop-motion—its defective

  • “Catherine Opie: American Photographer”

    Presenting more than 180 photographs, this vast exhibition should further complicate our take on these images and the social groups they portray, asking how Opie's subjectivity—as it is declared or presumed—shapes interpretation, and how meaning is made and remade through consecutive bodies of work.

    “American Photographer,” the subtitle of Catherine Opie's midcareer survey at the Guggenheim, is both a statement of fact and a critical provocation. From her now-iconic queer portraits like Self-Portrait/Cutting, 1993, to the restrainedly elegant series “Freeway,” 1994–95, the quietly polemic “Domestic,” 1998, and, more recently, her lustrous photographs of surfers, Opie's work has focused on subjects ranging from the far periphery to the dead center of Americana, often expanding and modifying conventional understandings of both. Presenting more than 180 photographs,

  • Ivin Ballen

    Ivin Ballen is an artist who confronts questions pertaining to the deteriorating political situation in the United States, but does so in largely formal terms. “50/50,” the title of Ballen’s recent exhibition, alludes to the dual nature of a practice that incorporates both painting and sculpture. Yet in spite of this apparent split, Ballen’s processes here remained roughly consistent. He constructs three-dimensional models using an improvised mixture of cardboard, masking tape, plastic, and found objects. Ballen then makes molds from these ad hoc compositions, which he fills with Aqua-Resin and

  • picks February 01, 2008

    Diane Landry

    Diane Landry’s installation École d’aviation (Flying School), 2000, comprises twenty-four umbrellas—none by any stretch of the imagination elegant or even monochromatic—ranging in pattern from bookish bears and polychromatic flowers to two-tone blue tartan and colorful confectionary. Lit from below and mounted on steel tubes outfitted with a tape measure, these umbrellas open and close mournfully in concert with a wistful fugue generated by small, motor-driven accordions and electronic harmonicas that double as pedestals for the ready-made totems. A mildly concave white sheet suspended from the

  • Glenn Ligon

    That Glenn Ligon’s most recent paintings are so seductive is as disconcerting as it is revealing. Thirty-three of the thirty-six radiant text-based paintings in his recent show, from the series “No Room (Gold),” 2007, are verbatim transcriptions of a joke delivered live by the late, great stand-up comedian Richard Pryor: I WAS A NIGGER FOR TWENTY-THREE. / I GAVE THAT SHIT UP. NO ROOM FOR / NO ROOM FOR ADVANCEMENT. Pryor was renowned for his ability to objectify race relations in his routines, using irreverent, profanity-laced comment to foreground otherwise taboo subjects. Ligon, for his part,

  • picks December 07, 2007

    Richard Aldrich

    Richard Aldrich’s studiously choreographed show comprises seventeen spare, knowing paintings, ranging from text-based conceptual work to graphic, melancholy figuration. Taken whole, this exhibition evidences a blanket refusal to expressively assert his own authorship in favor of a wide-ranging inquiry into the medium’s formal conditions. Indeed, Aldrich often engages with the most basic imperatives of art production: In some instances ,the paintings are arranged in arresting microprogressions that allow one to observe the artist wrestling with a specific problem. This is a particularly suggestive

  • picks December 05, 2007

    Robert Irwin

    Such is the methodical intellectual determination with which Robert Irwin pursues his ideas that the allure of a reasoned, teleological account of his development as an artist is nearly irresistible. MCASD’s five-decade retrospective affords the opportunity to reflect on his trajectory, from an unlikely suite of Abstract Expressionist paintings to the outsize perceptual phenomena that occupy him today. That Irwin still understands himself as an Abstract Expressionist should prompt viewers to reflect on the usefulness of conventional art-historical taxonomies, for despite the fact that his current

  • Renata Lucas

    Renata Lucas works on an institutional scale and with unmistakable institutional ambition, but like that of certain other Brazilian artists whose work has gained both critical traction and market currency in the US over the past decade—Cildo Meireles and Hélio Oiticica, for example—some of Lucas’s most provocative work is, owing to its benignly threatening nature, completely untenable in the context of a major American museum. Her lighthearted but persuasive brand of institutional critique does not, therefore, operate from within the museum, but instead refuses to enter that economy; Falha (

  • picks September 26, 2007

    “Phantasmagoria: Specters of Absence”

    Like some other recent Independent Curators International exhibitions —“Space Is the Place” and “Situation Comedy: Humor in Recent Art”—“Phantasmagoria: Specters of Absence” is thematically loose, easily digested, intelligently interactive, unapologetically populist, and mostly successful. The title of the exhibition alludes to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theatrical performances that used magic lanterns and rear-screen shadow projections to stage ghostly, ethereal spectacles that played on the public’s attraction to the paranormal and the occult. Though such terms are eschewed in the