Grant Johnson

  • interviews February 06, 2018

    Nina Chanel Abney

    Since appearing nine years ago as part of the influential exhibition “30 Americans,” the painter Nina Chanel Abney has established herself as an artist whose work uniquely fuses social commentary and formal play. Below, Abney discusses the evolution of her practice and her first solo museum exhibition, “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Currently traveling the country, the exhibition will be close to home for the Harvey, Illinois–born artist when it opens at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 10, 2018.

    THIS SHOW gives the viewer a

  • interviews January 30, 2018

    Ann Carlson

    The choreographer Ann Carlson has directed attorneys, undergraduates, and goats, and has staged her work in swimming pools, hotels, and aboard trains. In 2009, she discussed Meadowlark, her collaboration with the video artist Mary Ellen Strom, for this column. As reported by the New York Times, her latest performance, Doggie Hamlet, 2018, has been targeted by efforts to defund the National Endowment for the Arts. Here, Carlson talks about the work and its presentation at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance at Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles, February 3–4, 2018.

    DOGGIE HAMLET

  • Keith Mayerson

    Disparate faces in the crowd—those of the Dalai Lama, Anne Frank, and LeBron James among them—peered out from the more than 140 paintings dating from the late ’90s to the present that filled the walls of “My American Dream,” the first solo museum exhibition of Los Angeles–based artist Keith Mayerson. Mayerson’s compositions, which appropriate images from found photographs, films, and comic books, as well as document personal events from the artist’s own life, might be aptly described as “faux folk” for their familiar, pop subject matter and naive approaches to naturalism and figuration.

  • interviews November 02, 2017

    Xavier Cha

    Xavier Cha is a New York–based artist. Her latest work, Buffer, 2017, was made during her Harkness Foundation for Dance residency at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) this year, as part of Performa 17. The piece is on view at BAM through Saturday, November 4, 2017.

    IN A STRUCTURAL SENSE, Buffer is an analog representation of consuming digital media, but it doesn’t have to be that specific. That’s just the surface structure of how it’s built. It alternates between three channels, or switches between tabs on a viewing device, and some of the scenes buffer or pause or loop or freeze. Then it

  • interviews October 24, 2017

    Barbara Chase-Riboud

    In addition to her work as an artist, Barbara Chase-Riboud is an acclaimed poet and novelist, recognized for her historical novel Sally Hemings (1979), which challenged official American history. In 1969, Chase-Riboud began her series of twenty “Malcolm X” stelae, monumental sculptures made up of metal and fibers such as silk, rayon, and cotton. She completed the series in 2016. Fourteen of those works are currently on view in her solo show at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York through November 4, 2017.

    BY THE TIME I began the first four “Malcolm X” stelae in 1969, I was already past my

  • picks July 21, 2017

    “Material as Metaphor”

    In a shop window, an assortment of quirky, fuzzy spindles that recall drawings by Ernst Haeckel or Dr. Seuss dangle and sprout in Joel Allen’s Hooked on Svelte, 2017. Inside, Lloyd Hamrol’s Cascade, 2017, a stack of flat disks cut from gray industrial felt, slips from standing to lying supine, recalling the tension and release of Robert Morris’s work. The sharp contrast between these pieces exemplifies the diversity of the exhibition as a whole. Surveying recent work in fiber art by eleven artists, the show demonstrates how the variety of practices under its umbrella has always made the genre

  • picks May 19, 2017

    Peter Shire

    In an iconic 2001 essay by Jules Prown, the careful study of a teapot reveals the values of the Revolutionary War–era United States, a “symbol of the act of giving, of charity,” not to mention serving as “a structural metaphor for the female breast.” What would happen if we took Scorpion (Black) Teapot, 1996–2013, or any of Peter Shire’s many other teapots here, not only as evidence of an artistic repetition compulsion but as psychic condensations of our own cultural unconscious, soothing decanters for our postmodern hangover? The artist’s titles often index a modernist legacy, as in Early

  • Greg Ito

    Behind an arch made from a plywood room divider whose patterned incisions gave the effect of palm fronds, candles flickered in a purple haze created by the tinted tubing that lined the rim of the pink gallery walls cradling Greg Ito’s “Soothsayer.” The screens prepared one to see the exhibition as a rebus. They evoked the folding screens of a psychic’s reading room and made a sculptural pun on the mystical art of “palm” reading. With a sleight of slender white hands and decorative élan, this glamorous installation, grounded by three handsome paintings, made fashion of fate. Out to Sea (all works

  • picks June 28, 2016

    Jon Pestoni

    Look at any one of Jon Pestoni’s funky abstract paintings by itself and you’re likely to miss the point. Luckily, this small survey offers thirty-one works that demonstrate the value of repeating oneself and the playful charge between repetition and difference. In Underbite, 2014, a brushy rectangular field of royal purple fills the center of the canvas. Obscuring the shapes below it, only brief passages of color show through its veil. At the edges we get snatches of figuration, such as leaf and tooth shapes described by graphic black outlines. To the right of that painting Accordion, 2015,

  • picks June 24, 2016

    Roberto Burle Marx

    At the entrance to this exhibition, one is seduced by a real garden of yellow bromeliads and pulsating, patterned walls, inspired by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx is known for his animated biomorphic designs, such as the graphic pavement along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, and the scintillating, verdant discotheque that is the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park—gigantic modernist arrangements that simultaneously disrupt and compliment their surroundings.

    Burle Marx’s site plans, such as Design for the Minister’s Rooftop Garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio De

  • Alice Könitz

    The black foamcore neck of Periscope, 2016, extended out of the skylight of an otherwise empty room, its mirrors visible thanks to a circular cutaway at the base of the tube, which rested atop a spindly pedestal with thin metal legs and two royal-purple shelves. The pedestal indicated the work was a tool and a sculpture, and neatly summarized the ambivalent status of all of the objects in Alice Könitz’s “Commonwealth,” named for the gallery in which it was situated. Könitz used this loaded term as a springboard to assemble a collection of “social sculptures” that echoed the artist-run gallery’s

  • picks May 03, 2016

    Scott Anderson

    Near the bottom of Scott Anderson’s Salsa Wash, 2016, what appear to be a yellow apple, a black tomato, and a plaid pear congregate atop translucent blue and flumes of opaque green. They are the most recognizable elements in a work that is otherwise tantalizingly unresolved in its figurations. For instance, two polygons cut out of a brown ground suggest ambling slippers. The incoherent forms that consume the rest of the painting—hairy teardrops, black leaves, cerulean triangles—are open to anyone’s interpretation, and that’s the fun. Given the title, this work’s imagery is both as distinct and

  • picks January 20, 2016

    Rafaël Rozendaal

    The product of two translations, Rafaël Rozendaal’s six tapestries materially fix the Internet’s fleeting forms into pulsing, vibrant abstractions. In 15 05 02 Gmail (all works 2015), for instance, the myriad cells and boxes of the familiar inbox architecture become a bold spectrum of solid-color rectangles rendered as a stunning Jacquard weaving. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are also beautifully obscured until they become largely unrecognizable in the final works. Threaded looms, now notably powered by computers, warm up the cold interfaces of the Internet and spin them into comforting

  • picks October 09, 2015

    Giorgio Morandi and Robert Ryman

    In what feels like an inevitable, predestined union, small, quiet works by Giorgio Morandi and Robert Ryman come together in a vast white room. And yet they are not swallowed. Careful studies, these works dramatize and depict the melodrama that small details within a much larger whole can command.

    In Morandi’s Still Life, 1948, six vases bob atop the vast surface area of a table, thick and gray as a slab of concrete. Their casually sketched edges hum, playing with our expectation of symmetry. Blue slate, coral earth, fluorescent white, and bone china hues compliment and calm the eye, allowing

  • picks December 10, 2014

    “Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting”

    “Variations: Conversations in and around Abstract Painting” tests the limits of abstraction’s abundance by assembling a luxurious stable of paintings, as well as videos and sculptures. Works by expected names such as Amy Sillman, Mark Bradford, Gerhard Richter, Julie Mehretu, Albert Oehlen, and Christopher Wool ground this exhibition, but it is the addition of less expected practitioners and practices that makes it particularly comprehensive and surprising.

    Analia Saban’s banal and elegant marble countertop on linen, Kohler 5931 Kitchen Sink #2, 2014, Anthony Pearson’s framed pigmented Hydrocal

  • picks October 19, 2014

    Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler

    In Giant, 2014, the highlight of this show and an apt introduction to this duo’s recurring interests, two distinct settings and cinematic modes intertwine into one sublime vista. The first, a period piece of Merchant Ivory detail, watches a Warner Bros. secretary circa 1955 as she types out a location contract for the eponymous 1956 film. The second follows Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler and their crew as they fastidiously record the sounds and sights around the now-skeletal remains of the film’s Reata mansion in a field outside Marfa, Texas. The technology of the first, the typewriter,

  • picks August 13, 2014

    Corita Kent

    “Someday is Now” surveys the work of artist, teacher, and nun Corita Kent (1918–1986), emphasizing her both as prolific artist and inventive educator. Kent taught at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles from 1947 until ’68, and her Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules, 1967, includes pedagogical edicts such as NOTHING IS A MISTAKE. THERE'S NO WIN AND NO FAIL. THERE'S ONLY MAKE. and THE ONLY RULE IS WORK. Beyond the classroom, Kent courted serious international interest during her lifetime, gracing the cover of Newsweek in 1967 and connecting with such figures as John Cage, who, along

  • picks July 24, 2014

    “Comic Future”

    “Comic Future,” curated by Ballroom Marfa’s Fairfax Dorn, assembles drawings by Sigmar Polke and Walead Beshty, sculptures by Liz Craft, a video by Paul McCarthy, and paintings by Lari Pittman, among other works, to plumb the formal and conceptual plasticity of comics and cartoons within contemporary art. The works on view tease out the cartoon body, a ready-made form implicated as a sign of globalized capital and identity, and as such a tool for spirited social critique. In this context, it's not surprising that Walt Disney’s various characters abound along with superheroes and other robust

  • picks April 16, 2014

    “Take It or Leave It”

    Assembling works by thirty-six artists from the late 1970s to the present, “Take It or Leave It” underscores the dynamic and often blurry intersection of appropriation and institutional critique. Tempting questions arise: Does appropriation’s critique always reflect upon its exhibiting institution? In want of a discursive frame, must institutional critique always employ some form of appropriation?

    “Take It or Leave It” aggregates works likely necessary for its task by artists including Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Haim Steinbach, and Fred Wilson. It transcends the expected by presenting both

  • picks March 11, 2014

    Lisa Sanditz

    In her latest exhibition, “Surplus,” Lisa Sanditz equates gestural landscape paintings with a series of quirky ceramic cacti. This particular dialogue highlights the materials of both practices, emphasizing hierarchies between art and craft. Sanditz’s paintings command a vocabulary of styles and surface treatments that could easily lead to disaster in less trained hands. The Salad Kings, 2013, places a precisely rendered home within a squeegeed void that recalls Gerhard Richter. Meanwhile, Rotting Halloween, 2013, and Farms Houses/Edge, 2014, work between the baseness of Georg Baselitz and the