Daniel Culpan

  • Keith Cunningham, Two Hanging Chickens, 1956, 35 7⁄8 × 27 3⁄8".

    Keith Cunningham

    Keith Cunningham’s paintings are exercises in inscrutability. In art as in life, the Australian-born artist was driven by private obsessions and a desire for obscurity. Stashed in a spare room until Cunningham’s death in 2014, the seventy-plus oils on canvas or board featured in “The Cloud of Witness” are dense with macabre moods and ever-lurking violence.

    With a background in graphic design (Cunningham left school at fifteen to work in the advertising department of premier Sydney retailer David Jones), the artist fled the sunniness of his homeland for the bleak landscapes of postwar London.

  • View of “Lonnie Holley,” 2022. From left: Hung Out III, 2020; Still Busted Without Arms, 2019. Photo: Andy Keate.

    Lonnie Holley

    You can learn a lot about a culture from what it chooses to throw away. In “The Growth of Communication,” Lonnie Holley attempted a subtle yet profound act of salvage, repurposing discarded materials to create a counterhistorical archive of silenced voices and dispossessed lives.

    Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama—a center for heavy industry in a former Confederate slave state brutalized by Jim Crow laws—Holley is both witness and translator of the Deep South’s fractious legacy. During a residency earlier this year in Orford Ness, a stretch of coastline in Suffolk, UK, the artist traced the

  • Rachel Rose, Colore (1820), 2022, pigment and metallic powders on ink-jet print, 13 1⁄4 × 19 5⁄8".

    Rachel Rose

    Capitalism profits from the very things it takes away from us. As Rachel Rose’s “Enclosure” suggested, our present climate crisis has been a long time coming. Interweaving film, sculpture, photography, and painting, the show took its name from the process of privatization of England’s common land from the twelfth century onward. The works reflected on the tangled history of property ownership and ecological decline, and on art’s own role in both the mystification of the natural world and its bourgeois consumption.

    The 2019 high-definition video that lent the exhibition its title is styled, at

  • View of “Rashaad Newsome,” 2022. Photo: Stephanie Berger.

    Rashaad Newsome

    For “Assembly,” Rashaad Newsome boldly transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a multisensory video game-cum-twenty-first-century reboot of Paris Is Burning. With the show’s title nodding toward a collective politics of radical reimagination, the cavernous Wade Thompson Drill Hall became the stage set for a pair of videos that immersed the viewer. Screened simultaneously across the walls of the 55,000-square-foot space, these works cascaded and pulsed, creating a fluid and hypnotic procession of brash shapes and bodies in motion.

    In Cornrow, 2022, a dancer—his bright yellow hair matching his

  • Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, Seasons (caa9fb36da5d789d55a6e4e33611), 2022, gesso and digital print transfer on canvas framed in aluminium, 32 x 39 3/4 x 1 1/2"
    picks April 27, 2022

    Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė

    The technology behind notorious “deepfakes,” generative adversarial networks (GANs) are essentially robot artists: two neural networks pitted against each other to generate copies of data. For their exhibition “Counting Seasons,” the Basel-based artist duo Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė use these networks to manipulate images, transferring digital prints directly onto aluminum-framed canvases. The results are bewitching distortions of nature endowed with a glitchy urgency. Pixel Plot Squatter (1bba13785edc9e257113a44ac796), 2022, resembles a metallic flower, serrated petals blooming from a

  • Nicholas Hlobo, Elizeni Ienkanyiso, 2021, acrylic,  ribbons on linen and cotton canvas, 51 x 51 x 2."
    picks March 31, 2022

    Nicholas Hlobo

    In the exhibition “Elizeni Ienkanyiso” (Xhosa for “On the Wave of Enlightenment”), the South African artist Nicholas Hlobo breathes life into a bestiary of animal forms, emblems of both instinct and survival. In the show’s titular painting (all works 2021), stripes of thick yellow and maroon acrylic surf across the circular canvas, which the artist has further embellished with tentaclelike ribbons stitched into the surface. They unfurl in pinks and dark greens, endowing the composition with an undeniable sense of propulsion, as if it were perched on the crest of a wave.

    On the opposite wall, two

  • Rachel Jones, SMIIILLLLEEEE, 2021, oil pastel and oil stick on canvas, 63 × 98 3⁄8".

    Rachel Jones

    What’s in a smile? A blissed-out revelation of teeth? A flirtatious curve unloosed from language? An arc of ambivalence drawn through a face? In Rachel Jones’s exhibition “SMIIILLLLEEEE,” the Essex, UK–based artist enjoined the viewer to read the mouth as a place where identities (racial, cultural) are spoken and silenced.

    The opening room featured two large-scale canvases (each roughly five by eight feet) that exploded from the wall in monumental bouquets of intense color. Taking their name from the show’s title (as did all the pieces) and dated 2021, they were profusions of diffuse abstract

  • Karlo Kacharava, Perversion of Kings, 1993, oil on canvas, 47 1⁄4 × 39 1⁄4".

    Karlo Kacharava

    Georgian artist and writer Karlo Kacharava was feverishly prolific. A polymathic figure living in Tbilisi of the late 1980s and early ’90s, he produced paintings, essays, poetry, and art criticism as if possessed by some secret knowledge that his would be a short life: He died in 1994 of an aneurysm at the age of thirty.

    “People and Places,” curated by Sanya Kantarovsky and Scott Portnoy, offered a glimpse into Kacharava’s idiosyncratic visual universe, full of spirited melancholy and fervid discipline. He assimilated a dizzying range of enthusiasms—from Georgian art history to rock music, Futurism

  • Leon Kossoff, King’s Cross, March Afternoon, 1998, oil on board, 58 1⁄8 × 78".

    Leon Kossoff

    A key figure of the London School, Leon Kossoff (1926–2019) captures the life force of the British capital—his birthplace and lifelong muse—in all its dolorous splendor. Never has a palette perhaps best described as “shades of gloom” (the dried-blood reds and rusts of postwar Victorian tenements, the gray-brown murk of the Thames) seemed so vigorous.

    Surveying six decades of production and organized together with Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York and L.A. Louver in Los Angeles, “A Life in Painting” opens with a series of Kossoff’s portraits. The pigment is built up in dense, sludgy layers, daubed

  • Robert Rauschenberg, Stone Lady Radial (Phantom), 1991, silkscreen ink on anodised mirrored aluminum, 73 x 49 1/2".
    picks July 13, 2021

    Robert Rauschenberg

    In “Night Shades and Phantoms,” the romance of American capitalism is evoked as a kind of ghost story: a terminal empire of signs and portents. The two eponymous series of paintings, both made in 1991, feature photographs of urban life silk-screened onto sheets of mirrored metal. The “Phantoms” capture the city, teeming, clamorous, and full of visual noise, in X-ray-like flashes. In Boundary, we see laundry strung outside of a South Carolina tenement and people clustered around a DO NOT ENTER sign. Rauschenberg summons a kind of hazy desuetude in Florida Reservoir, with its scorched palms, fire

  • Christina Quarles, Sweet Chariot, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 72 × 96".

    Christina Quarles

    What is pandemic life but a reminder that we’re all bodies stuck in time and space? In Christina Quarles’s solo show “I Won’t Fear Tumbling or Falling/If We’ll be Joined in Another World,” the artist attempted to capture the warped conditions of our new reality—the claustrophobia and disembodiment, the longing to touch—in nine new paintings, all created between March and September of this past year.

    Quarles’s strange, fleshy forms are both recognizably human and not. Their elongated, bone-thin extremities recall Giacometti: attenuated bodies at the edge of existence. Yet here they seem to have

  • Gordon Parks, Untitled, Alabama, 1956, pigment print, 20 × 24". From the series “Segregation in the South,” 1956. Courtesy of The Gordon Parks Foundation, New York and Alison Jacques Gallery, London. © The Gordon Parks Foundation.

    Gordon Parks

    Gordon Parks (1912–2006) made an indelible mark on American life. It marked him, too. Born into a poor Black family in segregated Kansas, Parks saw the brutality of racial strife early on: He almost drowned, at age eleven, after a group of white boys threw him into a river. Pinballing through various jobs in flophouses and brothels, he bought his first camera at the age of twenty-five. His 1948 documentary photos of a Harlem gang war for Life magazine made him a household name; later he pioneered the blaxploitation movie genre by directing Shaft (1971). This first installment of a two-part show