Grant Johnson

  • 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

  • picks November 23, 2013

    Paulo Bruscky

    O que é arte? Para que serve? (What is art? What is it for?), is printed on a sign slung around the neck of Brazilian artist Paulo Bruscky, who is imaged in a 1978 series of photographs that introduce this somber retrospective. Comprised of surrealist objects, films, and documentation of interventions and happenings that cast the Fluxus artist as a globalizing presence, “Art Is Our Last Hope” presents an expansive archive framed by the repressive regime that presided over Brazil until 1985. In a climate of extraordinary censorship, Bruscky may have been brave just to ask, let alone answer his