Ian Bourland

  • Julie Mehretu, Fragment, 2008–2009, ink and acrylic on canvas, 47 x 66”. From the series “Grey Area,” 2008–2009.
    picks July 19, 2010

    Julie Mehretu

    Painter Julie Mehretu is currently the leading revivalist of the epic-landscape form. Over the past decade, her large canvases, which invoke everything from traditional Asian inkwork to Constructivist geometries, have made both a medium and a genre newly relevant to the artistic investigation of globalization. Barely legible pictures of fragmented and centrifugal topographies, they capture the peculiar feeling of dispersion and interconnection specific to the digital age.

    In “Grey Area” (all works 2008–09), a suite of six new paintings commissioned by Deutsche Bank and the Guggenheim, Mehretu

  • Carolee Schneemann, Up To and Including Her Limits, 1973–76, crayon on paper, rope, harness, two-channel video transferred to digital video, Super 8 film and projector, dimensions variable. Installation view, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, 2010.
    picks June 18, 2010

    Carolee Schneemann

    “Within and Beyond the Premises,” the current retrospective of New York artist Carolee Schneemann’s work, is a secret history of modern art. Schneemann worked in the city and upstate during the apex of Abstract Expressionism and early Conceptual, performance, and feminist art. Each is referenced here, but Schneemann’s singular, embodied consciousness is what shines through most of all in these intimate and idiosyncratic pictures and installations. Curator Brian Wallace has managed to condense a rich and varied career into four thematic categories—research, ecstasy, furies, and dwelling—that

  • Pieter Hugo, Omo Omeonu, Enugu, Nigeria, 2008, color photograph, 68 x 68". From the series “Nollywood,” 2008–2009.
    picks March 20, 2010

    Pieter Hugo

    Taking pictures in Nigeria is a tricky business: Between a public savvy about the monetary value of commercial photography and a police force leery of external documentarians, one can spend weeks in Lagos or Abuja and come up short. This is not the case for artist Pieter Hugo, whose previous work offers thematic investigations of the quotidian and extraordinary in this vibrant but poorly understood region.

    The photographs on display in “Nollywood,” his latest exhibition, recall film stills but are neither narrative nor cinematic. Instead, these works offer carefully staged portraits of familiar

  • Tania Bruguera, Untitled (Havana, 2000), 2000, Performance view.
    picks March 15, 2010

    Tania Bruguera

    Tania Bruguera is a name familiar to anyone tuned in to the international biennial circuit. Less known are her actual installations, which are conceived in and for specific environments and are, in many cases, transient. As the recipient of the first Neuberger Exhibition Prize, Bruguera is now the focus of a painstakingly installed solo show that assembles more than a decade of her work for the first time.

    “On the Political Imaginary,” however, is no mere rehearsal, and the avowedly committed character of the projects therein is augmented, but not lost, in translation. While performances that

  • View of “Denise Green,” 2010. From left: A Rose Is a Rose (Marvin), 2005; “Beyond Richter,” 2009.
    picks February 22, 2010

    Denise Green

    The paintings in Denise Green’s latest exhibition, “Wonder and Evanescence,” are florally themed but not flowery––they are serious latter-day abstractions. This is unsurprising given that the New York veteran trained at Hunter College some forty years ago with Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. The influence of her teachers shines through in Green’s vibrant color fields and explorations of heavy raw canvas. But Green’s concern in work such as A Line Is Never Just a Line (For John Stringer), 2009, and A Rose Is a Rose (Ralph), 2006, is less with the formal progression of the medium than with

  • Helmut Federle, Requiem for My Cat, 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas, 23 5/8 x 19 5/8".
    picks December 22, 2009

    Helmut Federle

    Helmut Federle’s paintings are not spectacular. But in an art market in which painting jostles with photography and sculpture in pursuit of epic scale or self-conscious smartness, this exhibition of delicate, smaller paintings is a breath of fresh air. “Scratching Away at the Surface” is a suite of five canvases from a series of nine that explore rotations around their geometric centers. Paint is applied here in thin washes so that even as the intersecting planes of color collide and accumulate, the luminosity of underlying layers shines through.

    At first the paintings feel unremarkable, which

  • Volker Hueller, Sie sind unter uns XII (They are among us XII), 2009, mixed media on canvas, 20' 6“ x 16' 6”.
    picks December 17, 2009

    Volker Hueller

    The Berlin-based artist Volker Hueller usually displays his massive collage-based paintings and smaller etchings side by side. But for this pair of shows, curator Anna-Catharina Gebbers has divided examples of each between galleries one hundred blocks apart. This move heightens not only the stylistic gulf between the paintings and the etchings but also the resonance of those works in their respective environments.

    What unifies Hueller’s practice is a dogged commitment to an antiquated sense of craft. The smaller pieces on display at Eleven Rivington are hung salon-style in a Deco-era parlor,

  • Left: Nari Ward, Blue Rung, 2008, wooden ladder, metal gate, shoe tips, plastic, zapper, blue pigment, 78 x 21 x 38". Installation view. Right: View of “30 Seconds Off an Inch.”
    interviews November 25, 2009

    Naomi Beckwith

    Naomi Beckwith is an assistant curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She organized the exhibition “30 Seconds Off an Inch,” which explores the intersection of identity politics and dominant tendencies of the 1960s, from conceptual practices to Arte Povera. The show is on view until March 14.

    I DON’T WANT TO BRAND something called “Black Conceptual Art.” It’s less a question about who produced the work than of the object’s material history. If you can get to that history, and if that can take you to a very specific place, culturally and racially, then that’s where you locate the blackness. It

  • Siah Armajani, Murder in Tehran, 2009, laminated maple, glass, felt, cloth, cast body parts, meat cleaver, paint, 132 x 72 x 72".
    picks October 28, 2009

    Siah Armajani

    Siah Armajani’s latest exhibition takes up the brutal but largely invisible violence that erupted in the wake of this year’s contested Iranian presidential election. Although the artist, who was born in Tehran and lives in Minneapolis, has built environments that interrogate the spatial contours of the “public sphere” for decades, his recent work underscores more explicitly the human cost of Middle Eastern politics. Fallujah, 2005, for example, combines large-scale neo-Minimalist volumes with domestic objects to illustrate a collapsed family home in the Iraqi city, using universal form to give

  • T. V. Santhosh, Bitter Lessons II, 2009, oil on canvas, 48 x 72".
    picks October 22, 2009

    T. V. Santhosh

    Jean Baudrillard wrote three articles between January and March of 1991, arguing that the first Gulf War “did not take place.” He noted that the new era of war fighting—its prosecution and our perceptions of it—was so entangled with information and communication technology that our fight was in many respects virtual, one in which images rather than events became the “real.” In the subsequent two decades, we began to see more and more conflicts around the globe (from Rwanda to Afghanistan) beamed into our homes, omnipresent but diluted in their sanitized persistence. In his current exhibition,

  • Allan Sekula, My Father with His List. Sacramento, December 1979, black-and-white photograph, 24 x 36".
    picks October 06, 2009

    Allan Sekula

    In “Polonia and Other Fables,” photographer Allan Sekula documents Polonia, the diasporic zone of expatriated Poles—an “imagined community,” in Sekula’s words—in which he immersed himself during the past three years. The forty pictures in the exhibition, a joint commission of Chicago’s Renaissance Society and the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, plumb the links between the two cities—migration, hibernal light, hardscrabble working-class conditions—through a mosaic of fragments.

    “Polonia” finds Sekula modulating fluidly between street photography, aerial surveillance, and hagiographic portraiture,

  • Chris Ofili, Afro Margin Eight, 2007, pencil on paper, 40 x 26".
    picks October 05, 2009

    Chris Ofili

    British painter Chris Ofili is known for his chromatically bold and texturally dense pictures of lovers, spirits, and monkeys, which are usually supported by spheres of elephant dung. Ofili’s recent works, however, have moved beyond his familiar pop-cultural pastiche and base materiality. “Afro Margin,” a suite of eight pencil drawings made between 2004 and 2007, marks this transition and reveals an unexpected delicacy and rigor in his process.

    Ofili began each drawing with the same bounding principle, an organic yet rigid colonnade of the “Afro heads” that appear as aboriginal constellations in