Donald Kuspit

  • Victor Vasarely, Phobos, 1979, acrylic on canvas, 63 × 63".

    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 Kitchen Table: A Study in Ellipses, 1921, platinum print, 4 1/2 × 3 1/2".

    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, Who Knows, 2010, acrylic, oil, and spray-painted grass on canvas, 70 × 62".

    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, Act of Nature: In Eight Chapters, 2015–16, digital animation on eight synchronized monitors, 10 minutes. Installation view.

    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, Spent Bullet (Aluminum I), 2015–16, ABS resin, aluminum paint, 9 1/2 × 20 × 16 1/2".

    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, Windex Bottles, 1971–72, oil on linen, 49 3/4 × 29 3/4". ©Janet Fish/Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY.

    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, Blue Wall, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 82 × 103".

    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, La Question, 1957, oil on canvas, 78 3/4 × 116". © Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    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, Untitled, 1963, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, and marker on paper, 47 3/4 × 71 1/2 ".

    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, DNA: Black Painting I, 2015, oil-paint stick, graphite, and paper on board, 84 × 84".

    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, A Humument, Page 71, Version 2, 2010, pen, pencil, and watercolor on paper, 8 × 5 1/4".

    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, Untitled (Skull), 2000, platinum print, 21 5/8 × 17 5/8 × 1 1/2".

    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