Hannah Stamler

  • “East German Painting and Sculpture 1949–1990”

    Little is truly permanent in a museum’s permanent collection. Holdings wax and wane; new works are purchased each year, old ones sold off to fund new accessions. Sometimes, politics intervene. Western museums face increasing pressure to return antiquities seized illegally or under colonial duress; the call for such repatriation echoes efforts to restore Nazi-looted art to descendants of its original, Jewish owners.

    Both the precarity and polemics of museological “permanence” are highlighted in an excellent showcase of East German painting and sculpture at Dresden’s Albertinum, one of the leading

  • "Le centre ne peut tenir”

    "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” This line, from William Butler Yeats’s 1919 poem “The Second Coming,” is often resurrected in today’s political landscape, expressing the decline of centrism and the unraveling of established ideologies. Rather than lament the precarity of the center, however, “Le centre ne peut tenir” (The Center Cannot Hold)—curated by François Quintin with Charles Aubin, Anna Colin, and Hicham Khalidi—asked visitors to reconsider the value of centrality. The show displayed work by eleven artists that revealed how binaries fail to capture social and physical

  • picks July 16, 2018

    Chaim Soutine

    At the entrance to “Flesh,” a survey of Chaim Soutine’s meat still lifes, we are greeted by an oil on canvas of a dead rayfish (Still Life with Rayfish, ca. 1924), inspired by a Chardin painting. The titular creature hangs flag-like, facing the viewer with empty eyes and a wide-open mouth that wavers between song and scream—an ecstatic martyr for the dinner table.

    Like all of the paintings in this show, Rayfish reminds us that the pleasure of consumption relies on the pain and sacrifice of others—an understanding that should prompt us to give meals the solemnity of ritual they deserve. This is

  • Deana Lawson

    In her highly acclaimed 2007 book Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, Saidiya Hartman observes that the black diaspora has, out of necessity, mythologized a shared past: a Mother Africa. When one’s ancestors, as well as the stories they carried, have been violently effaced, speculation and lore are all that remain. “Slavery,” she writes, “made your mother into a myth, banished your father’s name, exiled your siblings to the far corners of the earth.”

    For her first solo show at Sikkema Jenkins, Deana Lawson exhibited two landscapes and eight portraits that explore what a

  • picks January 19, 2018

    “Josef Albers in Mexico”

    Josef Albers’s series “Homage to the Square,” 1950–76, oil paintings of the titular form in three or four colors on Masonite, are icons of modern art—printed in textbooks, on posters, and, in the 1980s, on US postage stamps. We are familiar with these works. We have memorized their contours. We have learned the principles of color theory and geometry they make manifest. And yet, what remains exceptional about them is precisely what we cannot immediately perceive—the infinity of reactions their disarmingly simple designs cause. What will lingering in front of an Homage piece make us see, and how

  • “Making/Breaking the Binary: Women, Art, and Technology (1968–1985)”

    Spanning from the year of the groundbreaking “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the dawn of the personal-computing era, “Making/Breaking the Binary: Women, Art & Technology” at the University of the Arts’ Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery presented pieces by twenty-two female artists and composers who were inspired by modern media. A prominent figure featured was Beryl Korot, who is known for her work in both video and weaving. She has linked the latter practice to computing by describing the loom as a proto-computer, in that it follows

  • interviews September 26, 2017

    Julia Weist and Nestor Siré

    Julia Weist is a New York–based artist and 2016–17 Queens Museum/Jerome Foundation Fellow. For her fellowship exhibition, on view at the museum through February 18, 2018, Weist traveled to Cuba and collaborated with Cuban artist Nestor Siré on a project exploring El Paquete Semanal (The Weekly Package), a hard drive loaded with a mix of media, including films, TV shows, games, and software. For most Cubans, the internet is only accessible via Wi-Fi hot spots, and content is censored by the government. The Paquete, circulated and sold extralegally each week, serves as a replacement for in-home

  • picks July 14, 2017

    “alt-facts”

    Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Celebrating an image’s fictitious nature may have been cool nearly a century ago, but is it ethically imperative in 2017, the heyday of spin and “alternative facts.” In this exhibition—a summer group show done right—work by seven individual artists and four artist duos, centered on Kellyanne Conway’s noxious phraseology, demonstrates the continuing social and political worth of artistic sleight of hand.

    Matt Johnson’s Untitled (Amazon Box), 2016, is an exacting replica of a crumpled delivery carton, made from carved and painted wood. The sculpture enshrines the debris

  • picks May 12, 2017

    Nancy Spero

    This exhibition presents Nancy Spero’s contribution to the Fifty-Second Venice Biennale for the first time in the United States. For her large-scale sculpture Maypole: Take No Prisoners, 2007, the late artist transformed a maypole—that folksy emblem of rebirth and community—into a monument to violence, national culpability, and complicity. Ribbons in cheery reds flow from a central beam strung not with flowers but with aluminum tragedy masks that wear contorted, aggrieved expressions. Some have mouths agape in Munchian howls; others spew gore that darts from their jaws like sharpened daggers.

  • picks April 21, 2017

    Sara Cwynar

    In Sara Cwynar’s pigment print Tracy (Grid 1) (all works 2017), the artist’s titular friend reclines in an outfit of pale, foamy pink against a studio backdrop of multicolored squares. The bright, syrupy composition seduces from a distance, but up close you can see its flaws: the rips in the backdrop fabric, the chips in Tracy’s nail polish, the web of wrinkles in her shirt, and the hollow, far-off look in her eyes, more dead than dreamlike.

    The piece is one of many standouts in “Rose Gold,” Cwynar’s meditation on color. Throughout a small selection of photographs and one film of the same title,

  • picks April 07, 2017

    Allan McCollum

    I was midway through a Google image search when I descended into the subway. My cell-phone service flickered out before the results could fully load, leaving the screen crowded with uneven rectangles of gray, tan, and black. When the pictures materialized a few moments later, I felt disappointed. In their chrysalis state, they were full of possibility. Now, they were dead ends.

    I was reminded of this experience later in the day while visiting Allan McCollum’s “Lost Objects.” Throughout his decades-long career, McCollum has created hundreds of plaster casts in the shape of framed artworks with

  • picks February 10, 2017

    Peter Campus

    The photograph Earthrise, taken from NASA’s Apollo 8 space shuttle in 1968, captured the Earth as seen from the distance of the moon. Half engulfed in shadow, our home planet looks radiant and fragile—a kaleidoscopic cobalt-blue-and-misty-white shard floating in a vast and unbroken pitch-black sky.

    The picture’s capacity to transmit the beauty and vulnerability of Earth is credited with helping to launch the environmental movement of the 1970s. But today, decades after Earthrise and the advent of satellite imagery, we’ve grown accustomed to such all-encompassing aerial views of the planet and,

  • picks January 13, 2017

    Miguel Ángel Cárdenas

    A glass case full of household sprays and soaps—like a shaken-up medicine cabinet—opens Miguel Ángel Cárdenas’s first solo show in the United States. The assemblage, Nog schlechts enkele dagen (1) (Only a Few Days [1]), 1963, is a fickle and incomplete time capsule of the year it was created. The clutter seems arbitrary and provides little insight into the Colombian-Dutch artist’s life.

    Cárdenas excelled at creating suggestive, elusive arrangements of everyday items. He explored the sensuality of the zipper—that teasing metal barrier between dress and undress—years before Andy Warhol’s infamous

  • picks December 09, 2016

    James Crosby

    Canvas masks with square polycarbonate welding lens eyes and two tubes, each dangling like strange appendages, line one wall of the gallery. The masks, together titled the Garrett Morgan safety hood allowing the wearer to breathe in a hostile environment (all works 2015), are replicas of air-filtration hoods––originally conceived to protect firefighters from smoke––created by African American inventor Garrett Morgan. Here, James Crosby reinterprets them as defenses against both atmospheric and social threats. A large black-and-white photograph of a figure donning the hood highlights its capacity

  • picks November 18, 2016

    James Hoff

    In his last exhibition here, James Hoff showed how computer viruses could “infect” digital paintings to striking, sensuous effect. For his new show, he considers the banal side of technology with two series addressing how contemporary forms of photography dull our experience of the natural world. “Life Cycle” (all works 2016) comprises rocks painted a black-and-white camo pattern to confuse and escape the flattening, miniaturizing gaze of aerial photography. For his second and primary body of work, “Useless Landscapes,” Hoff translated cell phone pictures of upstate New York into copper etchings

  • picks October 14, 2016

    “Total Proof: The GALA Committee 1995–1997”

    If primetime is the ultimate venue for product placement, then shouldn’t it also work for plugging art? So wondered Mel Chin, who in 1995 contacted the set decorator of the sexy Los Angeles soap Melrose Place with an offer to make props for the show. She agreed, and Chin, with a network of artists collaborating under the moniker “The GALA Committee,” began a two-year project of churning out artworks for the series. In return for their unpaid labor, they demanded just one thing: the license to respond, subtly, to social issues.

    In “Total Proof,” more than ninety-four of the group’s pieces are on

  • picks October 07, 2016

    Lillian Schwartz

    The 1970s art world was, in general, skeptical of the computer’s artistic value. Fittingly, The Artist and the Computer, a 1976 documentary on Lillian Schwartz’s work at AT&T’s Bell Labs, possesses the corny vibe of an educational after-school special. The movie alternates between clips of Schwartz’s computer-generated films and footage of her explaining the skill and artistry behind them. In one scene, she flips through a book on nineteenth-century art (before a roaring fire, naturally) and pauses for an aside on modernism’s debt to science and technology. The camera, Schwartz reminds the

  • picks September 16, 2016

    Jesse Chun

    Jesse Chun’s “Blueprints” series, 2016, comprises twenty-three framed pigment prints, several of which are layered, and covered in dark-blue rectangles and lines. What are these strange schematics, one might ask? Machine diagrams? Alien communiqués? The answer is far more banal. Chun photographed immigration forms and digitally purged them of text, removing their national and linguistic markers. Only the uniform fill-in bubbles and answer grids remain, floating unmoored across the page in geometric patterns that point to a widespread visual language of global transit and expatriation.

    Immigration’s

  • picks September 07, 2016

    “Solid Liquids”

    In the Ninth Berlin Biennale, DIS describes the present as a moment of paradox, when people are data and the virtual doubles as the real. Miles (or kilometers) west, curator Gail Kirkpatrick presents another contemporary contradiction, with a ten-artist show that dubs sculpture today “solid but also liquid.” In Berlin, artists attempt to give the immaterial networked form. In Münster, that which is already considered fixed and solid is revealed to be unstable and mutable.

    The Greek myth of Pygmalion recounts how the gods breathed life into a marble woman. Björn Dahlem’s Der goldene baum (The

  • picks July 01, 2016

    “The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men”

    In a curatorial move akin to a Sadie Hawkins dance, this exhibition asks women to flex their female gaze and depict men. Thirty-two artists present varying perspectives on the male form—from neutral, detached portraits to ones steeped in obvious desire. Many offer up their sitters in attitudes historically reserved for female subjects, as come-hither nudes or odalisques. Others catch them in private moments of sleep or self-love, both literal and figurative, as in Grace Graupe-Pillard’s painting of a young artist mid iPhone selfie, hand curled in a manner that recalls Dürer’s Self-Portrait in