Donald Kuspit

  • Helen Lundeberg

    Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999) is an important if underrecognized figure in California art. Perhaps best known for her enigmatic “post-Surrealist” figurative paintings of the 1930s, she made a transition to hard-edge geometric abstraction in the ’50s; the latter works, marked by their austere and ingenious eccentricity, were the focus of this revealing show at Cristin Tierney Gallery.

    Abstract without purely being so, pieces such as Seascape, 1962; By the Sea II, 1962; and Water Map, 1963, clearly allude to the sea. It must be a serenely unruffled sea, for its surface is flat and unmoving (suggesting,

  • Andy Piedilato

    There’s something all too calculated, hyperarticulate, and luminously cold about Brooklyn-based artist Andy Piedilato’s paintings. The seven canvases that were on view in this exhibition were inspired by a friend’s new hobby: boatbuilding. But rather than honor this activity with something inspiring or warm—images of boats triumphantly setting out to sea, for example—Piedilato took a darker route, painting quasi-abstract scenes of seafaring disaster.

    Scroll Waves, 2011, was the earliest painting in the exhibition; Endurance and Pinched Red Sail, both 2016, the most recent; Sea Snail,

  • Victor Vasarely

    Victor Vasarely (1906–1997) has been accorded the historical distinction of being labeled the first Op artist, but he didn’t think of himself that way. In fact, the usual ideas about Vasarely—that he was a Systemic artist, to use Lawrence Alloway’s term, or a kind of graphic artist or designer (in 1928 and 1929 he studied both disciplines at a Bauhaus outpost in Budapest), or a serial artist specializing in what he called plastique cinétique—ignore the emotional depth and power of his works, and with that undermine their significance. Vasarely was a technical virtuoso, but his work is

  • Paul Outerbridge

    The forty-one images in this survey of Paul Outerbridge’s photographs—the largest show of his works since a J. Paul Getty Musuem retrospective in 2009—included still lifes, advertising images, and erotic nudes, though the distinctions among these categories was often far from clear. In many of the still lifes, geometric form is seemingly more important than the familiar, ordinary objects Outerbridge takes as his ostensible subject matter; The Kitchen Table: A Study in Ellipses, 1921—an arrangement of three eggs, a bowl of milk, and a milk bottle—is exemplary. In some of these,

  • Charles Koegel

    The dozen abstract paintings by in this show tracked the development of the Brooklyn-based artist Charles Koegel’s work over the past eight years. Titled “Color Maps,” the exhibition began with thoroughly geometric pieces such as Best Kept Secret, 2008, and White Lotus, 2010, and concluded with the more visually complex Echoes, 2015, and Emulsion, 2016. These final works read as an extended homage to the history of abstraction: Josef Albers paid homage to the square, but, with Echoes, Koegel honors to a gestural matrix at a square’s center. Emulsion displays a variety of marks, each a different

  • Yorgo Alexopoulos

    Talking to Yorgo Alexopoulos, it is clear that he regards himself as a painter, although his pictures are always on the move; they transform dynamically like cinema, which they are—high-tech cinema. He has traveled the earth to make the works in this show, shooting every place he’s been, among them the sand dunes of the United Arab Emirates, the savannas of Namibia, and the mountains and forests of western Canada. He’s interested in conflicted states of natural being, which he reconciles in his art. Act of Nature: In Eight Chapters, 2015–16—the grandest and key work in this exhibition

  • Dove Bradshaw

    “Poetry is everywhere evident,” Dove Bradshaw once said, which leads one to wonder what was poetic about the works in “Unintended Consequences”—a presentation of eight abstract sculptures, all from 2015–16, and eleven linen canvases, all covered with silver and liver of sulfur, and most from 2015. The works on view had an Abstract Expressionist look: They seemed intensely, even wildly, expressive, fraught with energy, beside themselves with excitement, dramatically restless. Yet this effect was deceptive—the sculptures are in fact assisted readymades. To create these works, Bradshaw

  • Janet Fish

    “The light would be through everything and energy through everything,” Janet Fish declared in 1988, and this is indeed what we find in her wondrous works: Light suffuses each of the nineteen still lifes that were on view in this exhibition, all made over the ten-year period between 1968 and 1978, which proved to be formative for the artist. The illumination is rapturous, immersive, mystical: It suffuses the transparent glass jars in Stuffed Peppers, 1970, and penetrates the wrapped transparent plastic in Box of Peaches, 1972. Energized by light, these everyday things are brought to dramatic

  • Ronnie Landfield

    Ronnie Landfield was once an enfant terrible: In 1967, at the age of twenty, he was invited to exhibit in the Whitney Annual an eight-foot-square painting called The Howl of Terror, a terrifyingly mystical Abstract Expressionist work. Now sixty-nine, he’s mellowed into an elder statesman, yet his paintings, albeit today somewhat tamer, are still poetic, the artist still seeking, as he puts it, to “fill the void that defines who we are”—fill it with glorious color, his forte from the beginning.

    Paintings such as Long Way Across and Twilight Rise, both 2015, are “constructions”—Landfield’s

  • Roberto Matta

    “Matta in the 1950s and 1960s” was a curious assortment of Roberto Matta’s works, not all commensurate with each other: eleven drawings, all wax crayon and graphite; six oil paintings; and a figurative bronze sculpture. The sculpture, titled L’Impensable, 1959, portrays a human body stripped bare to metal bones, all spindly and surrealistic like some of Picasso’s earlier works. The drawings and paintings abruptly contrast. The former were full of luminous empty space, at times thinly toned with atmospheric color. A central field of fitful markings might form caricatures of human figures, sometimes

  • Avinash Chandra

    The work of Avinash Chandra (1931–1991) went through four periods, more or less coordinate with the places in which he lived. Arranged chronologically, this show—billed as a retrospective of the Simla, India–born painter’s art—surveyed these stages via sixty-two works made between the 1950s and 1980s. First, there was the New Delhi period. During this time, Chandra made relatively sober, often gloomy landscapes, typically showing houses in forests. These works were thickly painted and tightly composed, suggesting an insular world and claustrophobic space from which there is no escape.

  • McArthur Binion

    McArthur Binion was born on September 1, 1946, in Noxubee County in Mississippi. His father, Russell Earl Binion, age thirty-one at the time of his birth, worked in “industry,” and his mother, Martha Binion, was twenty-six. All this information is available on the artist’s birth certificate, of which he has made multiple copies, arranging these into grids and using them as the substratum for repeating modules of gestural strokes. The works represent what Lawrence Alloway called systemic painting, with an expressionistic edginess. The document features handwriting that is neat, impersonal,

  • Tom Phillips

    In 1966, at age twenty-nine, Tom Phillips began his Humument project, the “treatment” of the 1892 novel A Human Document, by the Victorian author William Hurrell Mallock. The first artist’s book that resulted was initially published in 1973 and has now gone through five editions; Phillips began a second version in 1980 and continues to work on it to this day. To create these treatments, the artist removed each page from Mallock’s novel and subjected it to playful editing, surgically removing blocks of text to form an Apollinaire-like shaped poem—or, rather, a Mallarmé-like throw of the

  • Piotr Uklański

    The best of Piotr Uklański’s pictures are marked by an ironic morbidity: Untitled (Skull), 2000—one of thirty-one works in this Doug Eklund–curated survey of the Polish Conceptual artist’s photography—makes this clear. It is a striking photo, featuring naked male and female bodies arranged to form a skull, such that life and death, Eros and Thanatos, are inseparable, even interchangeable—impossible to distinguish. And if the work looks familiar, that is certainly no mistake. The picture is a near-exact copy of Salvador Dalí’s 1951 photograph In Voluptas Mors, but with an important

  • Lucas Samaras

    There’s Lucas Samaras again and again, showcased in row after row of more or less postcard-size photos—a tour de force of narcissism and inventive art. The astounding 720 pictures that were on view in this show have all been digitally altered and feature the artist at various stages of his life and in different moods, poses, states of undress: They range from images of a fresh-faced, innocent-looking boy to pictures of a bearded, sinister older man. Presiding over this autobiographical album—ostensibly a family album, for it begins with some photographs of Samaras’s Greek family—are

  • Dusty Boynton

    The first, most immediately striking quality of Dusty Boynton’s expressionist paintings is the forcefulness of her line: See, for instance, the pitch-black contours of the ghostly figures in Sunny Daze, 2014, or the clever interplay of rambling black and red lines in Drawing Class, 2015. This deft draftsmanship appears alongside outbursts of bright color, as in the garish red-lipstick smears that form the mouths of the female faces in Headstand, 2014, and Anything’s Possible, 2015, or the red blemishes that strangely spot the face of Potato Head, 2015.

    Of the thirty-three works in this exhibition

  • Yan Shanchun

    This exhibition featured two groups of works: acrylic paintings and copperplate etchings. Both are more or less abstract portrayals of China’s West Lake Cultural Landscape, an area located west of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in eastern China and Yan Shanchun’s native city. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, West Lake is home to numerous pagodas, temples, and gardens. UNESCO calls it an “idealized fusion between human and nature,” and its carefully cultivated natural beauty has been the subject of Chinese painting and poetry for over a thousand years.

    The poet Ouyang

  • Erwin Olaf

    At once staged and manicured, Erwin Olaf’s photographs put us in a suspenseful space. The key to this exhibition—and, more specifically, to nine of the twenty-two works on view—was a video clip in the multimedia installation Waiting, 2014, which shows a young woman, her clothes stylishly simple, her expression demure and revealing her to be lost in self-absorption, sitting at a table in a chic restaurant. The chair opposite her is empty; she’s waiting for someone—presumably a male companion as handsome as she is beautiful—to join her. We, the spectators, face her, but she’s

  • Jiří Georg Dokoupil

    It’s hard to believe that the abstract Plukasibo, 2014 (which was on view in this show), and the cartoonish Der Leser (The Reader), 1981 (which was not), were made by the same painter—the Czech-born German artist Jiří Georg Dokoupil. One of the six artists in the Mülheimer Freiheit group and a leader of the aggressive Junge Wilde, Dokoupil made his reputation as a figurative painter, rendering the human form sometimes as a quasi-surrealist comic monster, sometimes in the manner of realist kitsch. Generally, his paintings were designed to provoke, their targets ranging from the art world (

  • Peter Blume

    The most surprising works in this exhibition of Peter Blume’s art were the drawings, which were made with an exquisitely fine-tuned hand, an ingeniously variable touch—sometimes delicate, sometimes firm. Intense and self-dramatizing, these pieces seem to incubate a grand gesture even as they evince a keen command of nuanced observation. Blume is conventionally thought of as a social realist, but it is clear from such drawings as Untitled (Town and Woods), 1937, and Allegheny Range, 1938, that he was also a descriptive realist.

    The pencil-on-paper work Man with Camera, ca. 1938, shows just