Donald Kuspit

  • Kiyoshi Nakagami

    The striking thing about Kiyoshi Nakagami’s paintings is not so much their sublimity, but the unexpected influence of Barnett Newman’s “zip” on their construction—“unexpected” because Nakagami’s ethereal waterfalls of gold paint on black grounds are, formally, miles away from Newman’s rigorously geometric Color Field abstractions. Yet it is not the drip’s form—the cleanly demarcated vertical line—in which Nakagami is interested. Rather, he is inspired by the way in which the zips recall “drips,” the way in which they seemingly cascade down the flat planes of Newman’s painting,

  • Dennis Adams

    For his forty-two-minute-long video Malraux’s Shoes, 2012, artist Dennis Adams disguises himself as André Malraux, a novelist, art historian, and politician who is known in part for his concept of the “museum without walls.” Malraux famously realized this museum in The Imaginary Museum of World Sculpture (1952–54), a three-volume cornucopia of reproductions of works of art from all cultures, a virtuoso demonstration of heterogeneity in art—deliriously varied and infinitely extendable. The museum-as-archive brings to mind T. S. Eliot’s line in The Waste Land (1922): “These fragments I have

  • Martine Franck

    Featuring twenty-six photographs made between the early 1960s and 2008, “Pérégrinations” offered a retrospective tour of Martine Franck’s work. A photo from 1995, Tory Island, Donegal, Ireland, was one of the show’s triumphs. It portrays two girls holding hands in midair as they jump off a wall; they’re caught in an instant of infectious excitement—in a “decisive moment,” as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Franck’s husband, called it. The image is rich with striking formal achievement: The bright white dress worn by one of the girls contrasts with the dark shadows she and her companion cast, and

  • Peter Saul

    Peter Saul’s paintings are clever, witty, ironic—and nasty. In Peter Saul vs. Pop Art, 2012, a grimacing, sweating figure—a representation of the artist himself—uses a chain saw to cut into a can of CAMPBELL’S TOMATO SOUP, clearly a reference to Warhol’s work. In a further act of destruction, Campbell’s is spelled “Cambell,” suggesting the childishness or perhaps faux naïveté of Pop artists; they don’t know how to spell, let alone copy. cambell tomato soup is hand-written—clumsily, even crudely—and the word CONDENSED may acknowledge the cheap artificiality of the soup,

  • Stanley Boxer

    Stanley Boxer (1926–2000) has been called a Color Field painter, but I don’t think that does justice to his works—or at least not to the paintings he made in the 1990s, nineteen of which were on view in this exhibition (along with one canvas from 1960 and one from 1973). In these works, Boxer’s fields of color are not as uniformly smooth as Ellsworth Kelly’s in his hard-edge Color Field paintings, nor are they as ingeniously blended, even magically merged, as Morris Louis’s in his stained paintings. What distinguishes Boxer’s paint-saturated canvases from these supposed epitomes of the

  • Edwin Dickinson

    When art historian Lloyd Goodrich observed in 1965 that Edwin Dickinson “does not fit into any neat classification,” he could have been comparing the paintings Frances Foley, 1927, and Frances Blazer, 1937—both of which were on view at the artist’s recent show at Babcock Galleries. The first represents Dickinson’s young wife in a Romantic realist style, her facial features crisply delineated; in the second, her visage is a pure abstraction. On the cusp of the new, yet devoted to the old, Dickinson was a student of academic realist Charles Hawthorne, yet he nonetheless appeared—along

  • Fernando Botero

    The theme of helpless victim and arrogant victimizer recurs again and again in the art of Colombian-born painter Fernando Botero. From his earliest works, made in the 1980s, which deal with dictatorial power in Latin America, to his brutal 2006 paintings portraying torture at Abu Ghraib, Botero repeatedly addresses the theme of man’s inhumanity to man, the humiliation and violence human beings have perpetuated upon each other since time immemorial. This exhibition took as its theme yet another event charged with cruelty and suffering: the Passion of Christ. Throughout the series of twenty-seven

  • Joan Mitchell

    The Abstract Expressionists were known for their energy, and in Joan Mitchell’s last paintings—a selection dating from 1985 to 1992 were on view at Cheim & Read—that energy didn’t flag; in fact, it grew ever stronger. In River, 1989, and Trees, 1990–91, for example, Mitchell’s gestures are breezier, more free-spirited and responsive to nature than those in her earlier work. One can sense the sparkling flow of the water and the wind between the branches—the aliveness of nature. (An artist’s late style need not be redundant, as seems to be the case, for instance, with de Kooning.)

  • Jenny Saville

    Jenny Saville’s “Continuum,” a presentation of eight drawings and five paintings, demonstrates the pull and power of the past—indeed, the inescapability of art history. The inclusion of the word pentimenti in several titles makes the point clearly: Pentimenti are compositional elements that an artist has painted over, yet still remain visible—they are the return of the repressed. From Saville’s The Mothers, 2011—a depiction of a seated mother holding two children—emerges Leonardo’s drawing The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John, ca. 1499–1500, owned

  • Simon Dinnerstein

    Simon Dinnerstein’s The Fulbright Triptych, 1971–74, is the centerpiece of this exhibition of twenty works at the German Consulate. Writing about the painting a year after it was made, critic John Russell called it a “scrupulous representation of a suburb in the sticks” and an “inventory of the kinds of things that in 1975 gave [young] people a sense of their own identity.” In fact, the “suburb” is the small town of Hessich Lichtenau in Germany, where Dinnerstein spent a Fulbright year in 1971. Two windows, both in the painting’s central panel, offer a bird’s-eye view of the village, revealing

  • John Storrs

    In 1913, John Storrs studied with Rodin in Paris—and the human form would always influence his work. But over the next decade or so, his figures became less and less natural-looking and more and more abstract. Finally, in the early 1920s, Storrs began producing vertical constructions explicitly modeled on the early American skyscraper. One of these, Architectural Form No. 3, ca. 1923, seems like a model for a skyscraper—it’s a vertical, rectangular column, reaching upward, a euphoric celebration of those soaring industrial constructions, and very timely in an upwardly mobile America.

  • Alan Shields

    Luckily for him, and happily for me, Alan Shields doesn’t fit into any neat category. He’s been linked with the so-called post-Minimalists, even as he traces his own heritage back to Kandinsky and Klee. Like both those artists’ oeuvres—the touchstones of his aesthetic—Shields’s work is sensuously dazzling, intricately constructed, and mystically vital. But it is also distinguished by considerable material diversity. Shields utilizes, among other media, thread, cotton, and beads.

    Consequently, pieces such as Dance Bag, 1985 (one of fifteen works in this show), may be read as both painting

  • Thornton Dial

    A former bricklayer, carpenter, and welder, Thornton Dial is an Alabama-based, self-taught artist known for his masterful assemblages and paintings—and his paintings are, in effect, wall-mounted assemblages. Featuring scavenged debris organized “formally” to aesthetic effect, his work derives from “yard art” or “yard shows”—groupings of junk, the leftovers of life, displayed on the front lawn. This exhibition, the artist’s first in New York in more than ten years, coincides with “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial,” a traveling presentation of his work that debuted at the Indianapolis

  • Hermann Nitsch

    Over the course of two consecutive evenings this past February, Hermann Nitsch executed the first American “Painting Action,” officially the sixtieth such performance since 1960, when he debuted this mode at the Technisches Museum in Vienna. The Painting Actions—the most recent one included—are not as scandalous as his better-known Actions from the early 1960s, for which he once skinned, mutilated, and crucified a lamb, displaying its body on a wall of white fabric and its entrails on a white table, covered with blood and hot water. Hermann Nitsch 60. Painting Action // 60. Malaktion

  • Ezra Stoller

    Beginning in roughly 1939, modernist architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, Marcel Breuer, and Richard Meier, among others, had photographer Ezra Stoller document their now-classic buildings—“classic” in themselves, but also because of Stoller’s exquisite “classicizing” of them. With deft assurance, Stoller imbued the structures with an aura of inevitability. Seen through his lens, their geometry seems eternal—timeless as the pyramids—and drawn to some perceptual seventh heaven. Thus, Fifth Avenue fades into wet darkness, leaving the 1954 Manufacturers Hanover

  • Heinz Mack

    In 1958, in Düsseldorf, Heinz Mack and Otto Piene formed the group Zero, publishing a journal by the same name and staging one-night exhibitions in Piene’s studio. Expanding in 1961 to include Günther Uecker, who with Mack and Piene formed the core of the undertaking, Zero came to be associated with myriad international groups, such as Gutaï in Japan and Nove Tendencije in Yugoslavia. Yves Klein, working in the Rhineland at the time, was briefly affiliated with them.

    Important to Zero’s eclectic output was a consideration of natural phenomena; the group imagined a kind of sculpture that would,

  • David Rabinowitch

    The colorful “drawings” in David Rabinowitch’s series “Birth of Romanticism,” 2008–10, are somewhat of a surprise, especially considering that Rabinowitch is known for sober Minimalist sculpture. Indeed, he last made works on paper seriously in 1962—the year he “ceased painting”—and those works, wood-block monotypes, were geometric and Minimalist, if eccentrically so. The pieces here are largely mixed-media compounds of collage, oil paint, pencil, and beeswax, among other materials, and they are even more eccentric. But what is most striking about them is their dynamics, turbulent yet

  • Jacques Lipchitz

    “Jacques Lipchitz’s sculpture before 1914 was banal,” Douglas Cooper writes, and “the late-baroque style he [cultivated after] 1928 has led to works which are more vigorous than artistically meaningful.” For Cooper, curator of the seminal 1970–71 exhibition “The Cubist Epoch,” Lipchitz produced important sculpture only in the short period between those dates, when, under the influence of Juan Gris and Henri Laurens, his works embodied the narrow category of Synthetic Cubism. This exhibition at Marlborough—which was curated by Kosme de Baraño, former Executive Director of the Instituto

  • Adeela Suleman

    Most of the seven sculptures by Adeela Suleman recently on view at Aicon Gallery (all works 2010) may be called reliefs. Crafted from hammered steel, the works rise slightly from the gallery walls, appearing abstract as they glisten with intricate detail. They are, in fact, elaborately figurative: Birds, often flanking large plants, ornamentally proliferate, as do vases, drapery, and crowns. And despite their extravagance, the reliefs retain a sparse, self-contained, and precious look, partly because they are spread across the gallery walls with a good deal of space between them, but all the

  • Mark di Suvero

    Mark di Suvero is one of the great masters of abstract sculpture, and on the basis of the three works recently on display in the Gilbert Court of the Morgan Library and Museum, arguably the greatest. All fashioned from steel, Heraldic Bourgogne, 1995, Homebody, 2004, and Sandwich I, 2007, evince an intricate dynamic, expressive power and inherent grandeur. They immediately invite comparison with David Smith’s constructions—also made from steel—which, though laboriously handmade, maintain a sort of industrial look. Di Suvero’s works, too, have an industrial appearance—the rusted steel accords