Colby Chamberlain

  • Justin Matherly

    The centerpiece of Justin Matherly’s exhibition “All industrious people” was a twenty-five-foot-long concrete sculpture modeled after several ancient stelae discovered in Turkey. Archival photographs of the rock-strewn site, thought to be the tomb of the Hellenistic king Antiochus I, appeared in large monoprints that lined the surrounding walls. It’s hardly surprising to find Matherly directly referencing archaeological digs, since for several years he has been excavating a singular ruin: sculpture itself.

    The same argument runs through each of Matherly’s pieces: Painting is periodically eulogized,

  • Sergei Tcherepnin

    In his exhibition “Ear Tone Box,” a seven-minute video showed Sergei Tcherepnin idling beneath a crumbling aqueduct at the edge of a sparsely populated plaza in Rio de Janeiro. Dressed in ripped fishnets and a blue cocktail dress, barefoot and sporting an orange bandanna, he appeared to be a lost extra straying from the set of a Pasolini film, or, given his lanky frame, Francis Alÿs in drag. He crouched and paced, occasionally catching a wary glance from a passerby while leaning against the aqueduct’s arches. It all seemed so out of place—not Tcherepnin in his louche getup, but the video

  • Ignacio Uriarte

    Ignacio Uriarte never got the memo explaining that artists often keep two résumés: one listing the exhibitions, degrees, reviews, and awards that comprise an artist’s career, and a second cataloging the stints—as bartender, computer programmer, proofreader, paralegal—that contribute to an artist’s livelihood. Pushing against this unwritten convention, Uriarte prefaces his CV with an overview of his past positions at such corporations as the German electronics conglomerate Siemens, and he underscores his administrative background by rooting his art in materials ubiquitous to cubicles.

  • Letha Wilson

    How does an artist become both modish and quaint? Both timely and anachronistic? Such is the predicament of Letha Wilson. In photography circles, the conversation seesaws between ontology and social function—that is, between a modernist concern with medium specificity and a contextualist inquiry into photography’s various “discursive spaces.” Of late, a generation of young American photographers has tipped the scales toward the former topic, insisting on photography’s status as an artistic medium by lavishing attention on its material support. Following the lead of Liz Deschenes, artists

  • picks February 14, 2013

    “The Book Lovers”

    In her essay “Two Paths for the Novel,” the author Zadie Smith argues that, despite some dalliances, the novel has remained faithful to the conventions of nineteenth-century realism. “The received wisdom of literary history,” writes Smith, “is that Finnegans Wake did not fundamentally disturb realism’s course as Duchamp’s urinal disturbed realism in the visual arts.” For artists, the readymade cast doubt on all the old assumptions—the authenticity of the individual, the fixity of meaning, humanism’s whole song-and-dance—yet somehow the authors of novels have carried on unperturbed.

    But what if

  • Gina Beavers

    The paintings in Gina Beavers’s solo exhibition “Palate,” we are told, were based on images of food found online, mostly through social media. Sounds ho-hum, no? Why must a painter so strenuously declare the jpeg provenance of her reference points? What gave rise to the trending sentiment that Google Image Search serves up a more convincing representation of the world than anything encountered en plein air? What genre—if that term even applies—of online photography could be more gratingly anodyne than the compulsively shared cataloging of last night’s dinner? Is this some flailing

  • picks January 11, 2013

    George Maciunas

    In Fluxmanifesto on Fluxamusement, 1965, George Maciunas writes, “To establish [the] artist[’]s nonprofessional, nonparasitic, nonelite status in society, he must demonstrate [his] own dispensability . . . he must demonstrate that anything can substitute art and anyone can do it.” To rephrase, the role of the artist is, paradoxically enough, to eliminate the role of the artist. Maciunas’s ambivalence, if not outright hostility, toward art as a profession accounts for his reluctance to identify as an artist; he preferred to introduce himself as an architect, a graphic designer, or as the chairman

  • Haroon Mirza

    For his first New York solo exhibition, curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Jenny Moore, British artist Haroon Mirza stocked the New Museum’s next-door storefront space with signal emitters. Studio speakers issue modemlike trills, junk-shop televisions flash syncopated bursts of white noise, and strips of LED lights intermittently douse the room in red, blue, or green. It is an installation that doubles as a concert, a pulsing electric fugue.

    Surprisingly, the installation also supplies an inadvertent comment on the legacy of Matisse, specifically the painter’s characterization of his art as “

  • “A Disagreeable Object”

    “A Disagreeable Object” had a simple premise: Surrealism’s afoot. More difficult was the proof. Arguing for an avant-garde’s renewed relevance first entails defining the original movement—no easy task when that avant-garde was exceptionally long-lived and riven by factionalism from the start. Instead of honing a signature style, Surrealism stockpiled strategies, aesthetic techniques devised to trigger that exhilarating condition known alternately as the marvelous or uncanny. Curator Ruba Katrib resolved this preliminary dilemma by borrowing her exhibition title from a 1931 work by Alberto

  • Wooster Enterprises

    It’s a pathetic scene. Painful, even. In 1930s Paris, Marcel Duchamp hawks his Rotoreliefs from a booth at the Inventors’ Fair. “Like a smiling salesgirl,” Henri-Pierre Roché would recall. Obviously, Duchamp won’t be the last artist to test the strategic and commercial potential of modeling artwork as everyday retail merchandise. The cash register rings through Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store,” 1961, Keith Haring’s 1986–2005 Pop Shop, Christine Hill’s Volksboutique, 1996–, and Superflex’s Guaraná Power, 2004– (to say nothing of certain Louis Vuitton collaborations). But what a disheartening precedent.

  • picks October 01, 2012

    Naama Tsabar

    When Naama Tsabar exhibited Untitled (Speaker Wall) and Untitled (Speaker Wall - Prototype), both 2010, in that year’s “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1, they reverberated—literally and figuratively. Eight-foot black monoliths bearing bookshelf speakers in front and an array of guitar strings in back, the sculptures emitted a loud, heavy hum that—at the pluck of a string—erupted into otherworldly oscillations, the sound of electric gamelan run through Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. These were sculptures impersonating instruments (or was it vice versa?), apropos totems for a moment when

  • picks April 11, 2012

    Frank Heath

    At the core of Derrida’s The Post Card (1980) is this key insight: Contrary to Lacan’s famous claim, a letter can always not arrive at its destination, and it’s this chance for drift that allows change—history itself—to occur. Frank Heath’s solo exhibition is a series of posts without return. First, Reruns (all works 2012), five diptychs that juxtapose clippings from the same newspaper published on the same date, only decades apart; in each pair, the precise wording of one classified appears twice, the result of Heath’s placing the advertisements anew this past February and March. Lost bags,

  • picks December 13, 2011

    Tommy Hartung

    When a mannequin is in the gallery, Surrealism is on the table. That’s been the case since 1924, when André Breton identified mannequins as a signature appearance of the “marvelous” (a romantic’s term that mirrors Freud’s uncanny). Sometimes the connection goes slack—for instance, during the grim cocktail party of waxwork figurines called “Skin Fruit” that showed at the New Museum last year. Lately, however, there’s been a trickle of exhibitions being casually described as disturbing, creepy, or simply fucked-up—after-hours chatter that, when parsed more rigorously, spells out Surrealism. Consider

  • picks November 07, 2011

    “A Show About Colab (and Related Activities)”

    From photocopied flyers, the word jumps out: OCCUPATION. On January 1, 1980, Colab (aka Collaborative Projects) rang in the decade with the “Real Estate Show,” a group exhibition illegally installed in a vacant city-managed building on a derelict stretch of Delancey Street. As a poster later wheat-pasted to the property stated, “This was to be the beginning of an exchange about landlord speculation, tenants’ rights, property misuse, projected housing development, arbitrary urban planning, etc.—a citizen’s center.” The police padlocked the building the next day.

    This “Insurrectionary Urban

  • picks July 01, 2011

    Lawrence Weiner

    Venturing into the periodical stacks, we find in the summer 1974 issue of Art-Rite a questionnaire asking artists to make a political statement. Lawrence Weiner responds with a variation on his Statement of Intent from 1968: “1) An artist may construct an art, 2) An art may be fabricated, 3) An art need not to be constructed.” This minor article, hard to find without recourse to microfilm, bolsters the argument that the core tenets of Weiner’s language-based practice were conceived as a Vietnam-era affront to power. That said, it also betrays a hint of self-satisfaction, a presumption that this

  • picks November 28, 2010

    Matthew Day Jackson, Jamie Isenstein, “The Original Copy”

    Tired of confronting his own effigy in The Tomb, 1967, Paul Thek complained, “Imagine having to bury yourself over and over.” This was precisely the underlying strategy of two compelling solo exhibitions this year. Matthew Day Jackson’s “In Search of” at Peter Blum Chelsea was riddled with allusions to his own demise, including a fabricated account of his disappearance after a cross-country road trip. Jackson introduced the conceit in a faux-documentary video that shared its title with the exhibition—a nod to both a 1970s television program of the same name and Bas Jan Ader’s In Search of the

  • picks November 17, 2010

    “179 Canal / Anyways”

    If your memory still reaches back farther than your last Facebook login, recall the sizable crowd that attended “Recessional Aesthetics” at X Initiative in March 2009. Why such a turnout? Chalk it up to the tongue-in-cheek title, which intimated that—post–Lehman Brothers, post-Inauguration—a departure from business as usual was imminent. Something could crack open. But where? One viable answer presented itself that May, when 179 Canal inaugurated its remarkable run with “Nobodies New York.” As a month-to-month beneficiary of a soft real estate market, the gallery was inevitably short-lived, but

  • picks September 22, 2010

    Melvin Edwards

    To say what’s timely about a Melvin Edwards survey in 2010, go back to 1958. That June, Clement Greenberg published “Sculpture in Our Time,” which pronounced a change in direction for the medium. Brancusi, the argument went, had effectively capped off the Renaissance tradition of sculpture as a solid, monolithic form––so much so that no one subsequently could add anything further. With that lineage exhausted, the new relevant precedents were Picasso’s Cubist guitar constructions and the welded-steel assemblies of Julio González. The standard-bearer became David Smith, who joined sheets of metal

  • picks August 06, 2010

    “Today I Made Nothing”

    Alejandro Cesarco’s print Why Work?, 2008, imagines the table of contents to a book that doesn’t exist. Along with his unwritten introduction, “Arguments for the Leisure Society,” Cesarco lists several classic critiques of labor, such as Paul Lafargue’s “The Right to be Lazy” (1883) and Raoul Vaneigem’s “The Decline and Fall of Work” (1967). Cesarco thus stockpiles justifications for refusing to work—and, to an extent, acts on them as well: He gestures toward the possibility of a book but shirks the effort involved in actually producing one. That said, Why Work? is undoubtedly itself the outcome

  • picks February 16, 2010

    Gareth Long

    A summer 2007 New Yorker cover captures it: Atop a double-decker tourist bus, a gaggle of plump passengers snap photos of Radio City Music Hall. Seated at a distance, a teenager instead peers into a slim white book bearing a few diagonal stripes on its upper-left corner. The spare cover design and the girl’s sullen expression confirm instantly that she’s reading the work of the late J. D. Salinger.

    Gareth Long’s first New York solo exhibition explores that curiously easy identification—overtly in regard to the book’s cover design and more fundamentally, I’ll argue, when it comes to that adolescent’s