Frances Richard

  • Futurefarmers

    In 2010, for a project in Abruzzo, Italy, the Futurefarmers art collective built a wooden contraption with a big central wheel. Steered from behind with a shaft similar to the beam of a plow and topped by a bucket- or kitelike appendage made of sticks, the wheel was powered by people walking hamster-like inside it. Trundling around the countryside like a cross between a tractor, a moon rover, and a gargantuan toy, the vehicle—titled This Is Not a Trojan Horse—was a conversation piece, designed to get weather-beaten local farmers, kids, and anyone else who might troop after it to talk,

  • Francis Cape

    A bench is a minimal form. A plank supported by two legs (or in some instances by four), maybe braced with crosspieces, a bench is hard and narrow, typically backless, conducive to sitting upright. Comparatively easy to build and a leveler of hierarchy, such furniture takes on particular resonance when used, as it has been for centuries, in vowed communities, where the mundane facts of simplicity and nonluxuriousness plus the lack of precedence for seated members take on symbolic value. A bench is a social sculpture, and this is why it interests Francis Cape.

    Cape trained as a woodworker, and

  • Doug Aitken

    Imagine that you are wandering through an old warehouse. It’s near the river in an ex-industrial zone; it might have been a taxi garage once. What’s that dripping sound? Why is it so musical? A hole has been gouged in the concrete floor. It is filled with milky water and has apparently been miked; a rig of pipes and spigots in the rafters is releasing timed drops into the pool. Amplified, they reverberate as if struck on a postapocalyptic xylophone. Concentric ripples shiver on the surface of the toxic-looking puddle and throw reflections onto the black ceiling, a synesthetic extension of the

  • Nayland Blake

    Get together, reuse, remember, give something away: These are feel-good values, even if rubber bondage masks may be among the souvenirs. Nayland Blake’s recent pair of shows played ebulliently with innuendo. But “FREE!LOVE!TOOL!BOX!,” a group of interlocking installations at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, really did mean to proffer a tool kit for sustaining communal pleasures. Running concurrently at Gallery Paule Anglim, a miniretrospective—comprising just four works—was titled “Not Drowning, Waving.” Twenty-six years into his career and counting, Blake inverts Stevie Smith’s darkly

  • “Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective”

    It behooves the twenty- first century to look and look again at pioneering assemblagist and feminist provocateuse Meret Oppenheim (1913– 1985). Her famous “Object,” aka Le Déjeuner en fourrure, which she produced at the astonishing age of twenty-three, will not travel to this retrospective. But some two hundred items will, including paintings, drawings, photographs, fashion designs, and sculptures—for example, versions of her Urzeit Venus, a hermaphroditic fetish, drafted in pen and ink (1933) and sculpted in terra-cotta (1962) and bronze (1977). The catalogue

  • Sharon Hayes

    Sharon Hayes’s ambitious show was set amid wooden dividers, platforms, and stair-units. Designed by Hayes and her frequent collaborator Andrea Geyer, the mise-en-scène was a cross between speaker’s corner, radical-history library, and trade fair—mixed, of course, with major-museum exhibition. (The show was curated by Chrissie Iles.) Hayes’s art, here as in the past decade, explores oratory, confession, re-performance, and the erotics of public talk. We need all the intelligence we can muster on such subjects, and hers is considerable. Still, results were mixed.

    Arriving visitors were confronted

  • Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith

    Between 1994 and 1997, Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith produced sixty-odd hours of two public-access cable-TV shows, Cash from Chaos and Unicorns & Rainbows. Their recent exhibition condensed it all to 458 minutes. The installation looked like a children’s playroom crossed with a media-conglomerate viewing room mocked up by IKEA. Walls were painted glowing blue-screen blue, with a mural of test-pattern color bars at one end. Oversize red beanbags, gray-and-red hanging pod-chairs, and red shag carpet invited visitors to veg out before eight cube monitors on the floor. It looked innocuous, but

  • Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s first solo show in New York since 2005 was an occasion, though the work deviated not a jot from the Conceptualist-feminist trajectory established by the artist in the 1970s. Visually, the affect was cool, perfect—a mood contrasting, deliberately, with the works’ approach to issues of violence, memory, and the power of the voice. This conundrum of clinical austerity enframing messy intergenerational feeling hinges on what Kelly calls “the political primal scene.” How and when do we develop historical desire? What trauma exposes our sociopolitical origins?

    Four items were on view.

  • Rashid Johnson

    Suppose that there are three kinds of grooves. One you make by raking an implement through a semiresistant substance. One takes hold when a great song plays. And one you get stuck in. Rashid Johnson’s show had them all.

    His exhibition, titled “Rumble,” comprised eleven assemblages distributed along the painting-to-sculpture spectrum, plus a short film. Johnson has for several years been making wall-based and freestanding consoles presenting particular kinds of fetishistic objects, like altars crossed with rec-room entertainment centers and boutique displays. Just one piece in the current group—

  • Jess

    The painter and collagist Jess (1923–2004) had a poet in his life, of course. On New Year’s Day, 1951, he exchanged vows with Robert Duncan, sage of the San Francisco Renaissance, and they lived together for nearly four decades. But the poet that Jess’s early paintings—nineteen, made between 1950 and 1966, were exhibited here—brought to mind, for me at least, was Frank O’Hara, specifically his “Memorial Day, 1950”: “Fathers of Dada! You carried shining erector sets / in your rough bony pockets, you were generous / and they were lovely as chewing gum or flowers! / Thank you!” Jess

  • Robert Graham

    “Imagine a bevy of beach bummerettes,” wrote Robert Pincus-Witten in these pages in 1968, “in sunbleached tresses and wet T-shirts [who] had stumbled into Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 A.M. [1932].” He is describing tabletop sculptures by the Californian artist Robert Graham (1938–2008). Graham’s dioramas, made between 1965 and 1971, are populated by hyperrealist wax figurines, nearly all female and mostly scaled at one inch to one foot. They are housed in Plexiglas boxes reminiscent of Richard Neutra bungalows as decorated by a slapdash Richard Diebenkorn, with interlocking rectilinear daubs of

  • Andrea Bowers

    Published in Berkeley in 1973 and edited by Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie, The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a gazetteer of second-wave feminism, a directory of the era’s woman-run bookstores, law firms, credit unions, health clinics, and more. Andrea Bowers, whose documentary practice consistently considers grassroots activism, takes the Catalog as the context for “The New Woman’s Survival Guide,” her latest project. Or is it the project’s pretext? Or simply its text? That is, does gallery-based art borrowing content from an almost-forty-year-old activist sourcebook produce an independent

  • Sanford Biggers

    Sanford Biggers’s art fixates on recurring symbols—trees, carnival, musicians, and a bodiless smile that is part minstrel, part Cheshire cat, and part logo for a conglomerate whose name might be “history.” Two concurrent exhibitions with works spanning 2002 to the present explored these emblems vis-à-vis legacies of violence that constrain the powers and desires of black men. At times, Biggers’s ruminations sit uneasily inside a glamorized stagecraft. At best, grim knowledge makes his magic potent.

    Biggers framed his Brooklyn Museum show not quite as a retrospective—it is titled “Sweet

  • Sterling Ruby and Lucio Fontana

    In a 2006 article on his work (which earned attention while he was still a student), Sterling Ruby speaks to the author regarding his abiding interest in “the idea of something malleable being stopped.” In Ruby’s terms, this means manipulations in materials that start out molten or flowing and then set, such as bronze and ceramic, urethane and nail polish. Male sexuality is implicated, as is the rhetoric of power: Is it most impressive to be unyielding? Or does potency inhere in a gushiness that morphs rather than shatters? The juxtaposition of Ruby’s sculpture with that of Lucio Fontana (

  • Gego

    The maverick modernist Gego was born Gertrud Goldschmidt in 1912, into a Jewish banking family in Hamburg. She trained as an architect, then fled in 1939 to Venezuela, where she taught and made art for the rest of her life. At the time of her death in 1994, Gego was respected as a sculptor in Latin America but uncelebrated elsewhere, despite a stint in the early ’60s when she was represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York and hobnobbed with Naum Gabo and Josef and Anni Albers. Important fine-art presses (including Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles) produced her prints, and

  • Kara Walker

    There are things one expects in a Kara Walker show: rape, lynching, dismemberment. Trees against stark sky, pert breasts, petticoats, high cravats. Women black or white with snaky tresses, field hands with huge erections, hatchet-faced overseers, little kids engaged in unspeakable acts. All the grotesquerie of Walker’s antebellum hells remained on hand in a recent pair of concurrent exhibitions. Yet there also appeared a slew of things one wouldn’t have thought to look for, such as an enraged intergalactic nude prophesying in go-go boots (Muckraking Prophet from the 21st C. Foretells Coming Doom

  • Alvin Baltrop

    Alvin Baltrop is that unsurprising wonder: an unsupported artist fully in touch with the preoccupations of his time. When he died of cancer at age fifty-five, in 2004, he had shown sporadically, at such places as the gay arts nonprofit the Glines, and the Bar, a dive on the Lower East Side. In a brief piece after his death, the New York Times profiled him as a neighborhood character, referring to his photographs of sunbathers, cruisers, and homeless kids on the West Side piers—but the paper did not, of course, reproduce riskier images of pulchritudinous booty, sex acts in progress, or

  • Dennis Oppenheim

    When Dennis Oppenheim died in January at the age of seventy-two, he was working on a light-based installation to be projected onto the facade of the Musée d’Art Moderne as the coup de théâtre crowning his forthcoming retrospective.

    When Dennis Oppenheim died in January at the age of seventy-two, he was working on a light-based installation to be projected onto the facade of the Musée d’Art Moderne as the coup de théâtre crowning his forthcoming retrospective. While this commission will, for now, remain unrealized, the rest of the exhibition will go forward; plans call for representative works chosen from the promiscuously various modes the American post-Minimalist explored during the forty-some years of his career, including architectural constructions, body works, performance, and puppetry. Three

  • “Painters & Poets”

    In 1950, Hungarian émigré Tibor de Nagy and American impresario John Bernard Myers announced their new gallery. “Not only will painting and sculpture be here,” they declared, “but also anything that an astonished or adoring eye might select instantaneously from the cinema of life. . . . [Visitors] will be objets trouvés among objets trouvés, beheld by one another in joy.” Much of the venerable gallery’s ethos is predicted here, from the tone of amused overripeness, to the accent on instantaneity and life as cinematic. What Myers and de Nagy didn’t anticipate was that the “objects” joyously found

  • David Hammons

    In 2007, David Hammons made a show at L & M Arts on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Collaborating with his wife, Chie Hammons, he installed six fur coats on dressmaker’s dummies; each fur looked fine from the front, but was grotesquely charred or glopped with paint or plaster at the back. For this recent exhibition—his first since then—Hammons returned to L & M’s neo-Georgian town house with another not-subtle, not-simple caricature of luxury goods and fetishism. If the coats were conceived as post-Duchampian sculpture, their burns and drips the Hammonses’ R. Mutt in quotation marks, then