David Lewis

  • Francis Picabia

    FRANCIS PICABIA is famous above all for his flamboyant stylistic and ideological diversity. This diversity has created a legend. The legend has to do with freedom: Picabia is heralded—especially by artists—as the insouciant trickster deity of modernism, the Aquarian hero of artistic self-determinacy in the face of all sorts of orthodoxies, even (especially) the right ones.

    The legend is productive and, given the pictorial efficacy of so many of his best works, deserved. It does, however, confuse the central problem of Picabia’s career. It mistakes the symptom (the artist’s matchless

  • Étienne Chambaud

    Objets rédimés” (Redeemed Objects) was an exhibition in the high Duchampian idiom. Seven circles of debris on the floor contained the remains of glass molds of various objects—an umbrella, a rope, a broom, a bottle, a hammer, a bag, and some books—that had been dropped from the gallery ceiling. The exhibition thus marked seven destructions. Each time one of these “redeemed objects” is displayed, it is, necessarily, destroyed. Moreover, since Étienne Chambaud has produced only eight casts of each object, the amount of available installation-destructions is limited; each presentation of

  • Rirkrit Tiravanija

    The inspiration for this exhibition was a coal barge called the Louise-Catherine, which the Salvation Army in Paris commissioned Le Corbusier to transform into a floating shelter in 1929. Rirkrit Tiravanija reconstructed the 260-foot vessel in Thailand at about half scale, so that it would occupy the gallery from floor to ceiling (part of its length could not be accommodated and had to be left behind). Visitors climbed onto the barge by way of a small wooden staircase near the bow. Inside were rows of wooden cots with white pillows and folded orange linens. Between the cots stood dressmakers’

  • Théodore Fivel

    These were Théodore Fivel’s first solo shows, marking his formal debut as an artist. Fivel’s background is mainly in performance—in 2009, he founded the Parisian cabaret group Le Grand Bizarre—and this inflected both exhibitions in some intriguingly theatrical ways.

    In “Mais! Où est ma scène?” at Le Confort Moderne in Poitiers, there were just six pieces, but Fivel’s goal was to create an entire environment. At the entrance to the exhibition was I See You, I See Thru, I See True (all works 2010), a spray-painted mural of two great golden eyes. The piece is indicative of one of Fivel’s chief

  • picks May 21, 2010

    Florian Pumhösl

    The sparse black lines and curves executed in black acrylic lacquer on the back side of glass panes in Florian Pumhösl’s latest exhibition are based on the operation of diminution in music and inspired by the abstract portraiture of early modernism (Marius de Zayas’s portraits of his friends, for example). Each group consists of between two and six vertically formatted “portrait” images. The show is erudite, refined, and precise, its pieces united by the compositional principle of the reduction of a motif. What gives the work its heft, however, is the reference from which Pumhösl derived his

  • picks April 20, 2010

    Jason Dodge

    Jason Dodge’s latest exhibition consists of six sculptures. The doctors are sleeping (all works 2010) consists of pillows arranged in the positions they were slept on by certain doctors, according to the cryptic press release. Twelve flutes of various sizes are arranged in a row on the floor for . . . . the flutes are filled with poison . . . . ; in the light carrier, two lightbulbs, wall-mounted in a corner, press against each other; the unlit bulb glows by virtue of the adjacent, illuminated one. Parts are movable Or un mov(ed)able is a heater perched on two aquariums. Be the moss-dim yellow

  • “Non-Solo Show, Non-Group Show”

    This really was a group show, but of a very specific kind. Artist Ei Arakawa was invited to invite, in turn, the participating artists. What counted, then, were not so much the works themselves, however beautifully executed, but rather the relationships among them and the way they drew attention to correspondences of all kinds: between artists and styles; between different media, attitudes, and theoretical principles; and so on. To the question, What is art (or, What is an artist?), the exhibit offered a catalogue of relationships as answers; in every case, though, to be, in this world, meant

  • picks February 11, 2010

    “The Colin de Land Library”

    Some lessons from Colin de Land, whose library has been reassembled, on its original shelves, at the Parisian apartment of Daniele Balice and Alexander Hertling. First: Always buy the most colorful copy of the work in question; favor books with hot-pink spines or cobalt-yellow covers (Lukács’ Concept of Dialectic [1972] by István Mészáros, for instance), and leave particularly garish price tags in place as points of pride. Second: Self-help and gossip add intellectual heft. Consider, in addition to art-world staples by Anthony Hayden-Guest, lesser-known gems like David J. Schwarz’s The Magic of

  • Reena Spaulings

    A visitor to “The Belgian Marbles,” the recent exhibition by the Reena Spaulings collective, would have noticed two things right away. First, thanks to a series of colorful lithographs of the shadows of palm trees called “A Place in the Sun (Shadows)” (all works 2009), marble surfboards (Mollusk [Portoro] and Mollusk [Rosa Portogallo]) installed on the balcony, and brightly colored yoga mats on the floor, the exhibition felt tropical—but for no apparent reason: This being Brussels, the effect was incongruous, or merely weird. Second, everything seemed completely offhand, as if the artists had

  • picks January 09, 2010

    Keren Cytter

    This exhibition, Keren Cytter’s first in France, consists of the videos Four Seasons, 2009, Something Happened, 2007, Der Spiegel (The Mirror), 2007, The Mysterious Series, 2000–2006, In Search for Brothers, 2008, Repulsion, 2006, and Untitled, 2009. There is also a small room of drawings, as well as the larger drawings Vinyl, 2009, and Pentagram, 2009, each of which, we are told, bears a structural relationship to the video that follows in the next room. Additionally, there is a table with copies of Cytter publications, including her novels The Man Who Climbed Up the Stairs of Life and Found

  • picks December 23, 2009

    “Words”

    This exhibition consists of eighty-five sheets of A4 paper, hung edge to edge and in a row. Each page contains an artist’s text. (The artists range broadly in age and approach.) The texts were e-mailed to the gallery and then converted to Arial and ten point, which gives uniformity to what is, otherwise, a huge variety of approaches. There are aphorisms, poems, linguistic axioms and reductions, instructions to the viewer, segments of local news, letters, and pastiches of various kinds. There are numerous lists (Roland Seto). A few pieces revive famous gestures from 1960s Conceptual art (Stefan

  • picks December 08, 2009

    Jason Loebs

    Jason Loebs’s solo exhibition, “Ned Ludd said sorry,” consists of five digital C-prints (01 though 05) and a sculpture, Folded Obstruction (Lengths organized from small to large) (all works 2009). The C-prints were made by submerging a digital scanner in water: The resulting dun silvered grids, occasionally marked by little globules, were encased in plastic sheaths that were then tacked to the walls. For the sculpture, Loebs pleated a standard length of stainless steel in accordance with the proportions of the gallery walls. One side is still encased in its original white coating; on the other

  • picks December 05, 2009

    “Chasing Napoleon”

    “Chasing Napoleon” assembles figures and apparitions from around 1977 and purports to track the utopian logic that links them: Theodore Kaczynski, not yet known as the Unabomber, holed up in his Montana cabin; the first appearance of Darth Vader in movie theaters; Dieter Roth in Iceland; Iraqi vice president Saddam Hussein recruiting look-alikes to appear in his place; the Community Reinvestment Act in the United States. All this occurred two centuries after a young Napoleon Bonaparte was admitted to the Brienne military academy. As far as curatorial concepts go, this one—the third in a series—is

  • Jessica Warboys

    “Parasol,” Jessica Warboys’s solo debut show, was dominated by two large unstretched canvases at opposite ends of the gallery, both indexical in procedure. Blue Parasol, 2009, is actually a cyanotype photogram: Warboys made it by coating the canvas with a light-sensitive solution, placing a bundle of reeds in a circular formation suggesting the shape of an open parasol at its center, and exposing it to the sun. Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2009, was formed by immersion in the ocean, its pigment spread by the waves. Importantly, the artist has cut significant portions of each canvas away, revealing

  • “Bridges and Tunnels”

    “Bridges and Tunnels” was a model of what curating can and should accomplish. Its curators, New Jerseyy (Daniel Baumann, Tobias Madison, Emanuel Rossetti, and Dan Solbach), were not content to use works of art to illustrate a theoretical argument, or to begin with a list of artists and then try to glue them together by means of a text or an idea. Instead the show offered a genuine proposition, or rather invented a game—an ideal game, in the Lewis Carroll–Gilles Deleuze sense, one in which changing the rules is part of the contest. The proposition was, simply, multiplicity. Picking up on Hard

  • picks July 21, 2009

    George Condo

    If not necessarily a major artist, George Condo is, however, an intriguing figure. But it is not easy to explain why. As “Lost Civilization,” a sizable exhibition at the Musée Maillol, makes clear, Condo’s paintings are generally naive, not faux-naïf, and only rarely hilarious; his subject matter, ranging from whores to orgies and clowns, is banal but never about banality, and Condo does not seem to really “play” with bad taste—it appears instead that bad taste plays with him, overwhelming any desire, on the part of the viewer, to perceive these pictures as conceptually cunning or ironic.

  • picks July 13, 2009

    “Collatéral”

    Collatéral” brings together the work of eight artists (Liz Deschenes, Sam Lewitt, Scott Lyall, Sean Paul, Eileen Quinlan, Blake Rayne, Nora Schultz, and Cheyney Thompson) who identify, perhaps to an unusual degree, as a group. (Five of them share a New York gallery: Miguel Abreu.) Granted, they have individual practices. But the initial impression for viewers is likely to be of cogent collective identity—a shared refinement and technical precision, as well as a ubiquitous coolness of tone.

    Collectivity is reinforced by the elegant, self-referential installation. The large main wall has, for

  • picks May 08, 2009

    Tobias Madison

    Tobias Madison is one of the founders of New Jerseyy, probably the best-named gallery in the world (apologies to On Stellar Rays). This solo exhibition follows up on Madison’s small but promising 2008 show at the project space of Agnes B.’s Galerie du Jour. This newest exhibition’s title—“Yes I Can!”—refers to a training program for employees of the Radisson hotel: a customer-service mantra that derives from the corporate culture the artist appropriates, even to the degree of sometimes penning his name “Tobias Radisson.”

    A brazen, manifesto-like press release is provided by fellow New Jerseyy–ite

  • picks May 02, 2009

    “HF | RG”

    This exhibition stages an encounter between the Berlin-based experimental filmmaker Harun Farocki and the Canadian artist Rodney Graham. Rather than organizing the exhibition chronologically, the curator, Chantal Pontbriand, has instead operated along theoretical transversals, arranging works on the basis of four “code-concepts”: the archive, the machine, montage, and the nonverbal. Roland Barthes’s S/Z (1970) is cited as the model for the exhibition title, or monogram, “HF | RG.” Farocki and Graham have, presumably, been paired for their similarities, most obviously their examinations of the

  • picks April 05, 2009

    Sturtevant

    This is a slightly forbidding exhibition, which at first glance appears rather flat and insufficiently developed. But appearances are often deceiving—especially in Sturtevant’s case. BLOWJOB (all works 2006) consists of three videos, each depicting a close-up of an older woman’s lips, alternating with footage and the sounds of Beavis and Butthead laughing. There are also six framed stills of these lips on an adjacent wall. HELLO and HEY occupy each of the smaller side galleries, whose walls have been painted orange-red. In each, there is only one screen, showing a doll’s hand emerging from a