Donald Kuspit

  • 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

  • Jakub Julian Ziolkowski

    With the painting Timothy Galoty & the Dead Brains (all works 2010), Jakub Julian Ziolkowski has invented a surreally raucous, somewhat wild-eyed band of performing artists, apparently based on a fantasy heavy metal band. Galoty, an imaginative surrogate for Ziolkowski, is divided against himself, as his split head, featuring two faces in profile, suggests. One, more pugnacious visage has blubbery lips and a small face; the other, marked by tight lips and a larger face, is relatively handsome. Both have the same electrifying eyes—sort of lurid white jellyfish, each with streamers of tentacle-like

  • Jim Nutt

    What struck me about this exhibition of Jim Nutt’s works (perhaps it had something to do with the tidy elegance of the installation) was not the monstrousness of his figures, to refer to their place in the so-called Chicago monster roster, or to their supposedly “hairy” (who) character, in the slang sense of that word—difficult, frightening, or risky—but rather the immaculateness of their execution. His figures may be monstrous and hairy, but Nutt is a perfectionist—a master draftsman.

    Almost half the show, which included works made from 1967 to this year, were drawings, seven of them of female

  • Marlene Dumas

    There is an air of mournful intimacy to Marlene Dumas’s paintings, a sort of muted pathos. The thinly painted figures in this recent exhibition, “Against the Wall,” have a miragelike appearance appropriate to the emotional desert in which they exist. Many of the images are derived from photographs documenting the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dumas’s handling serves to subjectify the photographically objectified figures, to make the prosaic images quasi-poetic, or at least to aestheticize them. In this regard, the presence of a photograph at the emotional and almost literal center

  • George Condo

    This exhibition of George Condo’s work consisted of only three paintings—all masterly, all large, all 2010. Part of a series titled “Drawing Paintings,” 2009–, they depict standing figures—some “interlocking,” some “spatial,” as the titles of two of the pieces tell us, and some in Washington Square Park, per the title of the third. The canvases are noteworthy not only for their mix of acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastel, almost indistinguishably integrated, but for their fusion of styles, resulting in what might be called an expressionistic surrealism or, per- haps more pointedly, an expressionistically

  • William Eggleston

    William Eggleston’s color photographs were the first ever to be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1976. This breakthrough was shocking to some at the time, but the content of his photographs has generally been more interesting, not to say more provocative, than their use of color. In fact, Eggleston’s deployment of color rarely seems innate to the image, suggesting it functions instead as a sort of distracting camouflage for the real subjects of his work.

    Of the twenty-four new images on view here—all made in the “21st Century,” as this exhibition was titled—there were some

  • Philip Guston

    Many of the small oil panels that Philip Guston produced between 1969 and 1973—of which this show featured almost fifty—depict scenes from the artist’s life, and are thus infused with an uncanny sense of the biographical. The cigar in the 1973 work of that title must be his, for instance; and so must the shoe depicted on one untitled and undated canvas. The paintbrushes in an untitled 1972 work are certainly his own, suggesting that the paintings pictured in other works—one hangs on the wall by a nail; another is centered, in effect a painting within a painting; and a third is on an easel—are

  • Alan Gussow

    In 1953, a twenty-two-year-old Alan Gussow arrived at the American Academy in Rome, thanks to a Prix de Rome fellowship he had received while a student of painting at the Cooper Union—as, at the time, the youngest American to date. He had impressed Stuart Davis and others with his work, especially with Untitled, 1953, an abstract painting he called, simply, “The Big Yellow Thing.” Already the following year, however, he wrote: “I am shaking off a dependence on popular abstract idioms. . . . I have begun a great deal of drawing from life and landscape, making a strong and valid response to the

  • Sally Mann

    The male nude that is the subject of the thirty-three photographs in Sally Mann’s “Proud Flesh” series, 2004–2009, on view in Gagosian’s recent exhibition, is about as far from the ideal of ancient sculpture as it is possible to get. There are a few torsos, but their arms and legs are invariably cut off by the edge of the picture. Disturbingly, it’s not clear that the missing limbs are implied. Like certain of Max Ernst’s and René Magritte’s limbless torsos, they are all skin, as if they were depictions of T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men.” In other words, Mann focuses on what psychoanalysts call part

  • George Grosz

    George Grosz’s time of greatness was during the Weimar Republic, when he, together with Otto Dix and Kurt Günther, produced what art historian Franz Roh describes as “a new kind of painting: art engagé.” The densely packed, often chaotic and grotesque paintings Grosz made around this time sprawl over the canvas, unlike the graphic works he produced for political journals, which are brilliantly pithy. At once vicious cartoons and pointed journalism, his drawings and lithographs are more clearly addressed to the German public than the grand paintings are. Indeed, if Grosz was, on the one hand, a

  • Francis Bacon

    With photographs of and information about his two long-term lovers and various statements about his abusive parents supplementing the “twisted” relationship of the perversely intertwined figures in many of his triptychs and his use of “universal” Christian iconography, above all the crucifixion, this exhibition offered a good deal of evidence to support the idea of Francis Bacon as a homosexual, sadomasochist “outlaw,” someone obsessed with violence and suffering, his own and humanity’s in general.

    Bacon was certainly one of the great artist-explorers of the psyche’s murky depths, yet to

  • Larry Rivers

    Larry Rivers has always been hard for art historians to place—being, on the one hand, a “painterly realist,” as Jonathan Fineberg calls him, and, on the other, a proto-Pop artist, for instance in his use of commercial imagery in the “French Money” and “Camel Cigarette” series (both begun in 1959). But this exhibition of twenty-eight choice works from the 1950s and ’60s presented Rivers instead as a “poet painter”—a reading of him most tellingly conveyed in the exuberant bouquet in Flower Poem, 1953.

    Two of the other paintings in the show are rather notorious: The seated nude depicted in Augusta

  • Leon Kossoff

    Leon Kossoff’s painterliness invites us to scan the image for subconscious meaning—to play on Anton Ehrenzweig’s idea of the way we approach what he calls “gestalt-free painting”—and the meaning we find involves what Freud called “primary process thinking,” and traces of what D. W. Winnicott, elaborating and deepening Freud’s idea, called “primary creativity,” by which he meant the spontaneity innate to us all yet often stifled or channeled into trivial pursuits by society. As shown in “Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years 1957–1967,” a miniretrospective of choice works, there’s nothing trivial

  • William Anastasi

    It’s too simple to think of William Anastasi as a Conceptualist or a Minimalist, as is usually done. Think of him rather as the Buster Keaton of “post-art” (to use Kaprow’s term); that is, a deadpan master of the indifferent, not exactly ironic à la Duchamp, not exactly interested in the merely interesting. Instead, Anastasi presents himself as the tongue-in-cheek witness to the banality that avant-garde art has become by reason of its built-in obsolescence—an entropic necessity if it is to “advance,” to produce, in other words, ever newer products to satisfy the needs of capitalism, eventually

  • Vincent Desiderio

    Vincent Desiderio is a painter—militantly so. Many of the paintings in this exhibition are ambitiously large (Sleep, 2008, is a mural, and When I Last Saw Paris, 2007, a triptych) and two, Sumo and Quixote, are still in progress, perhaps exhibited to draw attention to the artist’s painterly process. In fact, Desiderio began his career as a sort of reluctant expressionist, fascinated with “fugitive” gestures, each temporally suggestive—the grandly bloody splotch pictured on the right panel of When I Last Saw Paris reads as a memento mori of this fascination. But he quickly abandoned “straightforward”

  • Elizabeth Neel

    Elizabeth Neel is an accomplished painter, though it’s not clear what, specifically, her accomplishment is. Her paintings are fourth-, fifth-, sixth- (I’ve lost count) generation samples of Abstract Expressionist painting. She is struggling hard to renew the meaningfulness of passionate gesture, but her gestures, while passionate, do not themselves seem to have much meaning. If, as Harold Rosenberg wrote, “the test of [the] seriousness [of action painting] is the degree to which the act on the canvas is an extension of the artist’s effort to make over his [or her] experience,” then Neel doesn’t

  • Bram Bogart

    Bram Bogart offers platters of painterliness, one might say, served up raw yet uncannily refined, even in such turbulent works as Geen twijfel (No Doubt), 2005. But it’s not that simple, even if one regards Bogart’s strikingly material paint, often alive with primary color—as it is in the passionately red Een kleur (One Color), 2005, and Rode Rouge (Red Red), 2008—as the bizarre conclusion of what began with the intense brushwork of his countryman Vincent van Gogh. Intensity has become intimidation in Bogart’s paintings: Van Gogh’s painterliness looks restrained compared to Bogart’s, which