Christopher Howard

  • picks March 10, 2014

    Suara Welitoff

    Suara Welitoff’s three videos—silent, black-and-white, a few minutes long, and looped continuously—explore the tenuous demarcations between past and present, between an original moment and its recollection or revival. Exploiting the look of film—in particular its scratches and flickering—as well as the glitches from compressed digital video, these works produce a preternatural sense of déjà vu. A brief clip of a child drawing a whorl on a chalkboard repeats in Untitled (Spiral) (all works 2013), with jolted edits triggering the same action to begin at different points, while the titular words

  • picks December 07, 2013

    Willie Cole

    Fans of Willie Cole have had ample opportunities to see his prints, sculpture, drawings, and photography over the past ten years, as three consecutive survey exhibitions—“Afterburn” (2004–2006), “Anxious Objects: Willie Cole’s Favorite Brands” (2006–2008), and “Deep Impressions” (2010–12)—have traveled to museums and university galleries across the United States. Patterson Sims, the curator responsible for the last two shows, sustains his singular dedication to Cole’s work with “Complex Conversations,” which will land at three more institutions after its current stop at the Weatherspoon Art

  • picks October 11, 2013

    Anna Betbeze

    Anna Betbeze’s signature works—flokati rugs abused with acid dyes, watercolor pigments, and hot coals, distressed by the outdoor elements and sliced with razor blades—exhibit shaggy, savagely marred surfaces that beg to be touched. Her latest pieces, which substitute plush terry-cloth towels and extra-large bathrobes for the woolen mats, are just as tactile, and the gallery even lets visitors try on the robes. The pure-blue Cold Bath (all works 2013) is roomy enough for a small whale yet considerably more lightweight than Merman and Mermaid, a ponderous pair of cloaks beautifully colored with

  • picks May 30, 2013

    “Outsiderism”

    “Outsiderism,” organized by Alex Baker to coincide with a historical survey at the Philadelphia Museum of Art of self-taught artists, both complements and provides a contrast to the larger exhibition. “Great and Mighty Things” presents canonical figures such as James Castle, Martín Ramírez, and Purvis Young, among others, “each with a moving personal story, many from disadvantaged, rural backgrounds far removed from the mainstream art world,” according to the museum’s news release. “Outsiderism” rebuffs the loner perception by framing its nine artists as engaged practitioners addressing complex

  • picks April 15, 2013

    Eddie Martinez

    The title of Eddie Martinez’s exhibition, “Matador,” characterizes his new paintings as the outcome of a brute encounter between man and beast. These brawny canvases—measuring seven by ten feet apiece—burst with hastily applied spray paint, arbitrarily collaged gum wrappers and baby wipes, and viscous oil paint scraped and smudged with a wide palette knife and housepainter’s brush. The artist even defaces his impasto surfaces with an electric disc sander. Also demonstrable are the influences of Picasso and Miró, with whom Martinez shares a love of bold color, painterly gestures, and cartoonish

  • picks January 31, 2013

    “Oh, Canada”

    The Cedar Tavern Singers aka Les Phonoréalistes, a folk group formed by Daniel Wong and Mary-Anne McTrowe, wondered what the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art since 1989 might have in store. “Oh, Canada,” organized by Denise Markonish and three years in the making, doesn’t quite harmonize with the wry speculations in the duo’s 2012 music video Oh Canada, Oh Canada—in which they sing of an “interactive Mountie installation,” “neolumberjack abstraction,” and “postpainterly hockey”—but nevertheless, the exhibition delivers an abundance of works exploring familiar themes north of the US

  • picks January 26, 2013

    Vandana Jain

    The global financial system—including banking and insurance, petroleum and energy, the pharmaceutical and automotive industries, and communications and computer technology—is so enormous and complex that it nearly defies description, let alone representation. In her ongoing practice Vandana Jain dissects and rearranges corporate logos and wordmarks, making institutional graphic design collide with traditional visual forms of Eastern cultures, such as mandalas, tangrams, and prayer flags. Jain’s video The 100 Highest Grossing Corporations of the World for the Fiscal Year Ending in March 2011,

  • picks November 28, 2012

    Barb Choit

    For a show at Rachel Uffner three years ago, Barb Choit collected posters of highly stylized women rendered by Patrick Nagel—a commercial artist from the 1970s and 1980s whose graphic work graced the cover of Duran Duran’s album Rio—and subjected them to ultraviolet rays from a tanning bed as well as lamps and bleach, then photographing the faded outcomes. This summer she fitted the front windows of Rawson Projects with colored background paper, testing the material’s lightfastness by exposing sheets to the sun for up to 744 hours before pulling them off to display. For her current exhibition,

  • picks November 18, 2012

    Angel Otero

    Like Gerhard Richter’s squeegee, Roy Lichtenstein’s Ben-day dots, and Julian Schnabel’s crockery, Angel Otero’s novel painting technique has allowed him to refine an inimitable style. CAM Raleigh presents five of these signature works—all abstract—in which the artist layers oil paint onto a plate-glass or Plexiglas support before scraping off the accumulating “skins,” as he calls them, and collaging them onto a canvas, letting the thickened medium ripple, sag, and wrinkle, marvelously, across the cotton surface. In Bacchanal II (all works cited, 2012), strata of paint transform into something

  • picks October 31, 2012

    Laylah Ali

    Can a work of art with vacillating or unclear motives be political? Laylah Ali once asked this in a 2008 roundtable published in Art in America. In her case the question is rhetorical, as her “Greenheads Series,” 1996–2005, comprising about eighty small gouache works on paper, has consistently confounded viewers seeking precise meaning in the cartoonish yet quizzically violent scenes enacted by stick-thin, brown-skinned masked figures with oversize pine-green heads shaped like bowling balls. This exhibition, gathering over forty mostly untitled paintings, does little to explicate the ambiguous

  • picks September 04, 2012

    Maria Walker

    The rugged, ragged work of the Brooklyn-based artist Maria Walker—painted wooden-slat constructions, acrylic-soaked canvases straining over irregularly shaped stretchers, and postcard-size frescos fused onto burlap and mounted on square panels—is well suited for the raw concrete rooms of John Davis Gallery’s gutted carriage house. With their tough, unfinished beauty, the fourteen pieces shown here evoke a romantic preoccupation with the passing of time yet are never overly sentimental. Walker’s work also feels nostalgic in light of recent art history, recalling in particular the elegant experimental

  • picks August 23, 2012

    Kilian Rüthemann

    An abundance of summer sun streams through CLEARING’s windows during the day, so it’s peculiar that the overhead lights are all turned on. Yet without this seemingly gratuitous use of electricity, Anchor of Hope, 2011, one of three sculptural works in Kilian Rüthemann’s US solo debut, might go unnoticed. To assemble it, the Swiss artist borrowed two ninety-six-inch-long fluorescent tubes from the gallery’s storage closet and glued them to an identical pair of tubes that were already set in their ceiling-hung sockets, blaring their bright light. Taken as a whole, the scene barely qualifies as

  • picks July 26, 2012

    John Houck

    The title of John Houck’s first solo exhibition in New York, “To Understand Photography, You Must First Understand Photography,” is a tautological tease, a foil that enables the expected self-reflexive meditations on his medium but brims with an abundance of interpretive directions. To really understand photography, his work suggests, you must also consider history, literature, architecture, mathematics, and religion. Take, for example, the works in the “Echelon” series, such as #7, Axonometric and 27mm Perspective and #9, Axonometric and 27mm Perspective (all works 2012), in which Houck has

  • picks May 11, 2012

    Jennifer Bartlett

    The titles of Jennifer Bartlett’s large-scale paintings on square plates of baked enamel steel—from Rhapsody, 1975–76, to the more recent Song, 2007, and Recitative, 2009–10—undoubtedly intend to invoke music and melody. Critics have also described these and similar works in terms of speech and syntax, calling them “novelistic.” Her latest exhibition, “Addresses (1976–78),” comprising four major plate works supplemented by notes, sketches, and drawings on graph paper, shifts the focus to a subdued but ubiquitous theme in Bartlett’s work: location.

    Throughout her career, Bartlett has offered

  • picks April 02, 2012

    Dan Flavin

    “Dan Flavin: Drawing,” the first museum retrospective of his rarely seen work on paper, includes numerous sketches the artist made en plein air, indicating a predilection to escape the cold fluorescent glow of his indoor electric lightbulb installations and experience fresh air and real sunshine. Several charcoal and pastel drawings of sailboats from the mid-1980s render masts and sails with an economy of means one would expect from a founding Minimalist, their angles evoking The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 (to Constantine Brancusi), 1963, Flavin’s breakthrough sculpture consisting of a yellow bulb

  • picks December 21, 2011

    Heyd Fontenot

    Nearly everyone in Heyd Fontenot’s portraits is naked. Most are touching themselves, and no, not in that way. Rather, after shedding their clothes, the subjects of this Texan artist’s intimate paintings and drawings instinctively reach for their own bodies, posing with a hand on a hip or caressing a cheek, or with an arm draped across a thigh. Occasionally one model will embrace another’s shoulder. Self-assured and at ease, these people are, quite literally, in touch with themselves. It’s puzzling, then, to have encountered a warning sign and curtained-off galleries alerting visitors to the

  • picks November 06, 2011

    Rico Gatson

    Emblems simplify complex matters and often slide dangerously into propaganda. Using the clean lines and precise forms of familiar signs and symbols, Rico Gatson’s art does the opposite, opening wide a world of resounding significance. As seen in this fifteen-year survey, Gatson’s achievement comes in part from his recurring subject matter—twentieth-century African-American history—but also from his keen exploitation of wide-ranging visual strategies, with sources including hardedge abstraction, Minimalist sculpture, Soviet-era posters, and Emory Douglas’s iconic designs, among others. The

  • picks September 29, 2011

    Aïda Ruilova

    Aïda Ruilova once used low-budget consumer-grade cameras to make videos lasting not much longer than television commercials. Drawing on horror films and experimental music, those looped works produced compact spaces of convulsive disorientation. While her latest completed project, Goner, 2010, upgrades her practice with slick production values and stylized cinematic pans, this eleven-minute 35-mm film (transferred to DVD) never quite develops a coherent plot—which is troubling, considering the action that takes place in it. The film begins with an attractive young woman, played by the model and

  • picks July 30, 2011

    Christopher Wilmarth

    Christopher Wilmarth emerged during American sculpture’s most tumultuous period, but his elegant constructions in steel and etched glass diverged sharply from nearly all of his post-Minimalist contemporaries using similar industrial materials. If something like the six-foot bowed plane of sea-green glass in Long Memphis, 1973, fastened to the gallery wall with a slender steel cable, emphasized process or duration, it was to effect a transcendental moment of suspended time. After all, the artist wrote, “I’m in the transportation business.”

    Wilmarth’s third solo exhibition at Betty Cuningham in

  • picks June 01, 2011

    “The Making of Americans”

    Presented as a concise history of modern art’s development through the mid-twentieth century, “The Making of Americans” offers all the elements of a serious, scholarly exhibition: tasteful but crowded hangings, vintage catalogues under glass, televisions playing documentary footage, even a period room loosely reconstructing Gertrude and Leo Stein’s Parisian salon. Indeed, the Berlin-based Museum of American Art, which organized the show with the James Gallery and the Salon de Fleurus in New York, frames its mission as an ethnographic investigation into the legacy of the Museum of Modern Art