Christopher Bedford

  • Catherine Opie, Untitled #10 (Surfers), 2003, color photograph, 50 x 40".

    “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

  • École d'aviation (Flying School) (detail), 2000, umbrellas, harmonicas, motors, steel, halogen lamp, MIDI controller, and computer, dimensions variable.
    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,

  • Two Planes (with marks), 2007, oil on linen, 40 x 30 x 3/4".
    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

  • Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ (detail), 2006–2007, polyurethane paint over lacquer on aircraft honeycomb aluminum, dimensions variable.
    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 (

  • Christian Boltanski, La Danseuse (The Dancer), 1987, doll, mechanical plinth, and projector, dimensions variable.
    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

  • We Warned You About China, 2007, oil and enamel on panel, 80 x 70".
    picks September 21, 2007

    Jules de Balincourt

    Many of the most challenging painters working today—Dana Schutz, Daniel Dove, Lisa Sanditz, and Tom McGrath, for example—are disparately engaged with one central (albeit multifaceted) question: What is at stake in negating intelligible mimetic imagery with passages of pure facture and, inversely, in undermining the autonomy of materials and process with overt images? And how can mining this dialectic through the act of painting help illuminate and analyze the human and material conditions of contemporary life? Where this ambition takes holds and directs Jules de Balincourt’s practice, his work

  • Überleben im Chaos (Surviving in Chaos), 2006, oil on canvas, 46 1/2 x 50 3/4".
    picks September 18, 2007

    Markus Draper

    The architecture of German cities registers the passage of time and the impact of sociopolitical upheaval more acutely and literally than almost any other European context. A dynamic admixture of selective preservation, radical reconstruction, and elegant decay endows cities like Berlin and Dresden with an archaeological character that is as politically charged as it is riveting. Within this context, German artist Markus Draper’s multimedia work is unusually attuned to the way architectural sites can register, preserve, and help us come to grips with the deep social trauma that is a central part

  • Untitled (Santa Monica Bay), 2007, C-print, 89 1/4 x 73".
    picks September 11, 2007

    Florian Maier-Aichen

    Photographs do not bare their technical souls as easily as—for example—paintings. While it is perfectly plausible to examine the surface of a canvas closely and gain a rudimentary understanding of how a painter arrived at a certain effect, the same cannot be said of photographs. Many remain baffling and opaque even to the trained eye, and when moments of facture do occur, the cause is often not readily apparent. This is certainly true of Florian Maier-Aichen. Though his multistep technique is often compared (somewhat erroneously) to painting's on the basis that his photographs incorporate various

  • Greenhouse, 2007. Installation view.
    picks August 06, 2007

    Charles Gaines

    With work as topical and conceptually taut as Charles Gaines’s new installation, Greenhouse, 2007, there is a risk that polemics will trump aesthetics. But here, the Los Angeles–based artist has achieved a suggestive, mutually constitutive situation wherein one does not feel coerced by his agenda, but rather gently seduced into his way of thinking. In the center of the gallery is a large glass enclosure supported by a nondescript blond wooden frame. The construction is proficient but far from precious and as a result operates more as a platform for rumination and experimentation than as an object