Graham Bader

  • FORCES OF NATURE

    WHILE NO ONE who has spent time looking at Thomas Struth’s photographs would be surprised to learn that he studied painting (he was a student of Gerhard Richter’s at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf), his Stellarator Wendelstein 7-X Detail, Max Planck IPP, Greifswald, 2009, appears almost as if intended to advertise this fact. The image presents the Stellarator as a spatially disorienting tangle of cables, pipes, and ducts that resembles nothing so much as a Jackson Pollock. In subtly mimicking the earlier artist’s intricate compositions, Struth’s photograph invites us to see its titular device as

  • “Thomas Bayrle: Playtime”

    Given the prescience and range of Thomas Bayrle’s half-century-long career, it is astonishing that the German artist has never had a New York museum survey. This spring, the New Museum presents a comprehensive selection of Bayrle’s work, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, wallpapers, prints, early computer-based art, videos, and 16-mm films, as well as examples of his experiments in advertising, fashion, commercial display, and political activism. From his early “super-forms”—densely composed images in

  • TRAINS OF THOUGHT: THE ART OF REINHARD MUCHA

    THE LOWLY FOOTSTOOL: No element is more primary to the practice of German sculptor Reinhard Mucha than this. Fußbänkchen (to use the German plural) inhabit Mucha’s work in myriad guises. They stand firmly, perch precariously, lie flat on their backs with their legs in the air. In each case, the artist has noted, the footstool stands as a metaphor for his own labor. “In the hierarchy of service furniture,” he observes, “the footstool is at the bottom. . . . This matches approximately the service I am offering as an artist.”1 Much as a stool facilitates the connection of a hand with an out-of-reach

  • Thomas Struth

    Whether homing in on grand museum galleries, prosaic city streets, intimate family gatherings, or elaborate mechanical devices, Thomas Struth’s gaze has long been trained on the component structures and environments of human sociality. But for all the submerged complications filling Struth’s images of the Louvre’s halls and NASA's research facilities, can these sites hold a candle to the thicket of conflict and history that defines contemporary Israel and Palestine? This is the question driving the Aspen Art Museum’s exhibition of eighteen photographs Struth shot over

  • “Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965”

    POSTWAR. We all know the story: Jackson Pollock dripping paint in New York; Arnold Bode concocting Documenta in Kassel; Joseph Stalin demanding saccharine paintings of socialist triumph in Moscow. East versus West, abstraction versus figuration, humanism versus humanity’s seeming collapse in the entwined cataclysms of war and genocide. But what if we expand the playing field, look past the familiar names, and rethink the rules of the game? That is precisely the goal of “Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965,” organized by Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, and Ulrich Wilmes and

  • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh’s Formalism and Historicity

    Formalism and Historicity: Models and Methods in Twentieth-Century Art, by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. 592 pages.

    ALMOST EXACTLY MIDWAY through his new collection of essays, Formalism and Historicity, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh quotes El Lissitzky’s late-1920s description of the revolutionary “demonstration rooms” for abstract art he’d designed earlier that decade in Dresden and Hannover, Germany:

    Traditionally the viewer was lulled into passivity by the paintings on the walls. Our construction/design shall make the man active. . . . With each movement of the viewer in

  • Thomas Bayrle

    A simple tire perched on the wall of Thomas Bayrle’s recent show “Gerano/Pavesi” (Geraniums/Pavesi) recalled the elementary forms of Kazimir Malevich’s most austere Suprematist canvases: black circle, white field, end of story. But just as Malevich’s pared-down images are, in fact, richly differentiated material constructions in which, the artist claimed, one can see “the face of God,” so Bayrle’s tire—or more precisely, his Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per noi peccatori, adesso e nell’ora della nostra morte, 2009—is much more than a dumb, tacked-up rubber disk. It isn’t rubber,

  • Cyprien Gaillard

    A nine-second sample from the Jamaican-born rock-steady singer Alton Ellis runs through Cyprien Gaillard’s entrancing new 3-D film Nightlife (all works 2015), which anchored the artist’s recent show “When Nature Runs Riot.” Blending the refrain of Ellis’s 1969 classic “Black Man’s Word”—“I was born a loser”—with that of the song’s 1971 re-working as “Black Man’s Pride”—“I was born a winner”—Gaillard subtly interwove the resulting acoustic fragment throughout this nearly fifteen-minute work. The artist’s repeated use of this conflicting refrain—chopped, distorted, falling away, and coming

  • “International Pop”

    If a select few of Pop art’s past and present stars (think Sigmar Polke and Jeff Koons) recently took New York, the Walker Art Center’s upcoming exhibition—featuring some 140 works produced over the course of three decades on four continents—aims to widen our Pop horizons far beyond the usual names and locales. Alongside such household brands as Warhol and Rauschenberg, Polke will make an appearance, but so too will his (less recognized) fellow Capitalist Realists Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner, here joined by Argentineans Marta Minujín

  • Sigmar Polke

    PERCHED NEAR THE EDGE of the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium throughout this past spring and summer, Sigmar Polke’s Kartoffelhaus (Potato House), 1967, echoed not only the diminutive German garden sheds and rigidly formed Minimalist objects in whose shadow the work was clearly made, but also—and more oddly—the very interior in which the piece itself was installed. For just like MoMA’s expansive exhibition-cum-dinner-party space, Polke’s construction—a five-sided, pitched-roofed wooden lattice held together by an elegant joinery of fresh potatoes—is an ode to right-angled

  • “Jasper Johns: Picture Puzzles”

    Featuring just under two dozen works, the Museum of Fine Art’s upcoming exhibition will present a tightly focused look at five decades of Jasper Johns’s probing of the interplay of sign, process, and device.Highlighting the artist’s diverse and often elaborate efforts in printmaking, “Picture Puzzles”—assembled from private collections and the MFA’s own holdings—will also include a small sampling of drawings and sculptures and a copy of Foirades/Fizzles, the 1976 artists’ book Johns made in collaboration with Samuel Beckett. Spanning from

  • “Outside the Lines”

    On Halloween 1948, the association that would soon become the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston opened its inaugural exhibition, “This Is Contemporary Art,” a synoptic show of art and design that sought to highlight (in the words of its catalogue) the “important contribution contemporary arts make to modern living.” Starting on Halloween 2013, CAMH marked its sixty-fifth anniversary with a mammoth six-part presentation (two consecutive exhibition trios running over five months and including nearly one hundred artists) titled “Outside the Lines.” It could just as well have been dubbed “This Is