Donald Kuspit

  • Markus Brunetti, Certosa di Pavia, Santa Maria delle Grazie, 2012–23, ink-jet print, 59 × 70 7⁄8".

    Markus Brunetti

    Markus Brunetti’s photographs depict the facades of Europe’s sacred architecture—synagogues, monasteries, and cathedrals—all of which have managed to live through, to paraphrase James Joyce, the nightmare of history. Brunetti’s images breathe fresh life into these majestic edifices of the past: Just as decades of devotion were needed to build these stately wonders, Brunetti had to put in years and years of devotion to make his photographic masterpieces. His work is informed by the persistence, patience, diligence, and dedication of the ingenious architects who designed these heavenly buildings—and

  • Julie Heffernan, Self-Portrait as Mad Queen, 2022, oil on canvas, 96 × 56".

    Julie Heffernan

    Julie Heffernan’s outing here, The swamps are pink with June,” featured a selection of figurative paintings. All of them were rather large, but one—Self-Portrait as Throne, 2022, which is six feet tall and five feet wide—was quite grand, as befits its subject: a rendering of the artist as some kind of nature goddess. We often saw Heffernan’s women, many of whom function as her avatars, posed like queens amid hallucinogenic arrangements of greenery and flowers. (The exhibition’s title was taken from a poem by Emily Dickinson, a fervent gardener who in her own otherworldly writing often discussed

  • Athena LaTocha, Untitled No. 2 (detail), 2022, shellac ink, earth from Green-Wood Cemetery, demolition sediment from a Brooklyn construction site, and glass microbeads from New York State Department of Transportation on paper, custom raw-steel artist frame, 18 1⁄2 × 27 × 2".

    Athena LaTocha

    If “the medium is the message,” as philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said, then the message of Athena LaTocha’s art is death. The ten mixed-media abstractions on display in the artist’s show here were made of earth—culled from Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery—along with demolition-site debris, pulverized building materials, and the glass microbeads used in traffic paint, which she sourced from the New York State Department of Transportation. LaTocha’s framed compositions distill mortality into a concentrate, undiluted by any intimations of life—unless they feature the kind of glass bead called a

  • Laddie John Dill, EST, 2022, argon and mercury gas, sand, electrodes, transformer, and neon wiring, dimen­sions variable. From the series “Silica Landscapes,” 1970–.

    Laddie John Dill

    In 1704, Sir Isaac Newton invented the color wheel, which featured red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. When rotated, the hues fade to white, collapsing the spectrum into pure lumen. This diagrammatic rainbow has had a long if eccentric life, as Robert Delaunay’s “Circular Form,” or “Disc,” pictures of 1913 indicate. In Delaunay’s hands, the thing becomes a solar emblem; more mystical in import than scientifically precise.

    In 1971, California artist Laddie John Dill exhibited the first works from his “Light Sentences,” 1969–, an ongoing series of straight and illuminated glass

  • Ursula von Rydingsvard, OGRÒDEK (Garden), 2022, cedar and graphite, 54 × 37 1⁄2 × 13 1⁄2".

    Ursula von Rydingsvard

    Tree after tree, each stripped barren and leafless: not the proverbial tree of life, but something else—a symbol of death, a memento mori of suffering and pain, its “bark swollen,” and “obscene,” akin to the chestnut tree that revealed its nothingness to Antoine Roquentin, the hero of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938).

    Why does Ursula von Rydingsvard make art? “To survive,” she said in a 2019 interview, “because it’s a place to put my pain, my sadness.” Born in Germany in 1942 to a Polish mother and a Ukrainian father, she endured, alongside her family (her parents, four brothers, and two sisters),

  • Jules Olitski, Code of Shem, 1990, acrylic on canvas, 68 1⁄4 × 69 1⁄4". © Jules Olitski ArtFoundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Jules Olitski

    In celebration of what would have been the year that Jules Olitski (1922–2007) turned one hundred, Yares Art presents just as many of the painter’s works in this marvelous retrospective, which covers every aspect of his long career. Beautifully installed, the exhibition is a tour de force of a twentieth-century master—that is, an artist who was capable of providing us with an ever-changing “sensation of the new,” to refer to Charles Baudelaire’s famous remark, amplified by the French poet’s assertion that modernism is “the transitory, fugitive element, whose metamorphoses are so rapid.” Was

  • View of “Peter Sacks,” 2022. From left: Without Title 1, Without Title 2, Without Title 3, all 2022. All from the series “Without Title,” 2022.

    Peter Sacks

    This exhibition highlighted four new bodies of work by Peter Sacks. Two of them—the “Without Title” and “Without Name” series, both 2022—were mixed-media paintings. They were differentiated by size: The three “Without Title” works were large, if not grandiose, each measuring eight feet by six feet, while the four “Without Name” pieces were each four feet by four feet. Both series feature a mishmash of found materials, a sort of Sargasso Sea of debris. They are a “real paradise,” as van Gogh described the “place where the street-cleaners dump the rubbish.” (“My God, it was beautiful!” he exclaimed.)

  • Frank Owen, Seeker, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 50 × 40".

    Frank Owen

    Painter Frank Owen, now eighty-three, is still making dramatic and complex works charged with spontaneous gestures, bold geometric forms, and surprising juxtapositions of luminous color. One is supposedly less active and able in old age, but not Owen, as the paintings in “Retrospection,” his solo presentation at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, clearly affirm.

    His compositions are remarkably energetic and acknowledge his debt to Abstract Expressionism. Although the artist was struck by Jackson Pollock’s art when he was a young man, he goes his own exuberant way, eschewing Jack the Dripper’s more death-inflected

  • Joan Snyder, Symphony of Pain and Joy, 2022, oil, acrylic, papier-mâché, paper, and ink on linen, 54 × 66".

    Joan Snyder

    Joan Snyder’s abstractions, bold and delirious responses to nature, are imbued with intense feeling. Take Symphony of Pain and Joy, 2022—one of the seven canvases in “To Become a Painting,” her exhibition at Franklin Parrasch Gallery—a prismatic, taxonomic display of exuberant mark-marking and sensuous form that is at once steadied and explosive. A kind of theatrical grandeur is evident in Snyder’s work, some of which includes elements of the outside world (of course, she uses paint—oil, acrylic—but she also incorporated twigs, grasses, dirt, flowers, and other sylvan items into a few of the

  • Francis Bacon, Figure in Movement, 1972, oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas, 78 × 58".

    Francis Bacon

    Five of the ten portrait paintings in this Francis Bacon exhibition, “Faces & Figures,” were studies, indicating that they may have been works in progress. The artist’s hyperactive, agitated brushstrokes seem to imply that a person’s true essence can never be definitively nailed down. Thus, Bacon (1909–1992) offers us Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on light ground), 1964, bizarre embryonic renderings of his burglar lover (who committed suicide in 1971), and Three Studies for a Portrait, 1976, a visceral excavation of some unknown soul with disagreeably wormlike lips. The show also

  • Pier Paolo Calzolari, Untitled, 2021, salt, pigment, oil pastel, gold leaf, walnut, feather, steel, and lead on wood, 39 3⁄8 × 19 3⁄4 × 4 3⁄4".

    Pier Paolo Calzolari

    All thirty of the works in “Painting as a Butterfly”—an exhibition by Italian artist Pier Paolo Calzolari—were abstractions. Some were geometric or nearly monochromatic, while several others, such as Rideau V, 1984, a landscape-like picture suffused by a midnight blue, were gestural and full of luscious, flourishing, sensual colors. Running across the top of Rideau V is a fringe of variegated gold and crimson, from which a series of thin vertical lines descend, like delicate rain. Little blossoms of red scale these marks as an uneven band of dark yellow pierces the center of the canvas lengthwise,

  • Anne Ryan, Untitled (no. 284), ca. 1948–54, collage, 7 × 5 1⁄4".

    Anne Ryan

    Anne Ryan (1889–1954) was a novelist, a poet, a painter, and, perhaps most importantly, a collagist, although her collages are also poems, composed not of words but of exquisitely articulated shapes and colors. Ryan had her “breakthrough” in 1948, when she saw a presentation of Kurt Schwitters’s collages at New York’s Rose Fried Gallery. She saw this show the same month the German artist died—one wonders if he was reincarnated in Ryan, who was so inspired by his work that she began making collages on the same day she saw the exhibition, as we know from her daughter Elizabeth McFadden’s wonderful