James Meyer

  • Hans Haacke, Blue Sail, 1964–65, chiffon, oscillating fan, thread, fishing weights. Installation view, New Museum, New York, 2019. Photo: Dario Lasagni. © Hans Haacke/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

    Hans Haacke

    THIS EXHIBITION, titled “Hans Haacke: All Connected,” was painfully overdue. The last US retrospective of Hans Haacke’s work occurred at the New Museum in 1986 during the Reagan-Thatcher era—a period that both foretells the inequality and cruelty that are hallmarks of our current moment and feels increasingly distant. Installed at the museum’s former space on Broadway, that show, “Unfinished Business,” restored the career of an artist who had been severely impacted by the infamous shuttering of his one-person show at the Guggenheim Museum by then director Thomas Messer in 1971. Denouncing Haacke’s

  • Robert Goldman, untitled, 1991, ink on paper, 5 1⁄2 × 8 1⁄2". From “Notebook.”

    “Notebook”

    The request was simple. The artist Joanne Greenbaum, the curator of this show at 56 Henry, asked each contributor for a “notebook drawing,” defined as a work that they would “never show to a dealer or pull out during a studio visit.” The notebook page is a site of experimentation; it affords a glimpse into the mind of the practitioner while s/he is dreaming and creating. Sheets of modest size—containing doodles, scribbles, diagrams, calculations—ripped from sketch pads, notebook drawings are typically studies for something else, or nothing at all. Their status as “art” is uncertain; this

  • Robert Ryman, Classico 6, 1968, acrylic on six sheets of handmade watermarked Classico paper mounted on foamcore, each sheet approx. 30 x 22 1/2". From “50 Years: An Anniversary.”

    “50 Years: An Anniversary”

    Summarizing the activities of a major art gallery in a single exhibit would seem an impossible task, especially if the gallery happens to be the one opened by a young woman named Paula Cooper a cool fifty years ago. Originally the proprietor of the Paula Johnson Gallery and subsequently director of the collective Park Place Gallery during the mid-1960s, Cooper, one of SoHo’s first “settlers,” launched her eponymous space on an upper floor of a loft building on New York’s Prince Street in October 1968. (She would later move to nearby Wooster Street and ultimately to a cathedral-like space on West

  • View of “Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away,” 2018. Foreground: 08:03, 28.05, 2009. Background: Christmas (Rome), 2012, 2013. Photo: David Heald.

    Danh Vo

    THE ART OF DANH VO consists of objects either acquired and modified or fabricated by the artist—and also, in a sense, explicated by him. The extensive labels in his exhibitions tell us how Vo procured these things, the histories and persons they represent, and how we might interpret them. Vo’s objects and images are testaments to public and private histories so intricately interwoven they must be explained; otherwise, these things (some are barely “things”) and their significances would elude our grasp. Many shows of contemporary work require discursive framing; Vo takes this convention to an

  • Kris Martin, T.Y.F.F.S.H., 2011, hot-air balloon, basket, metal ring, fans. Installation view, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. From “S, M, L, XL.”

    “S, M, L, XL”

    Taking its title from Rem Koolhaas’s 1995 manifesto, “S, M, L, XL” is an examination of sculpture and scale. Scale, the relative size of one thing to another, became a preoccupation of aesthetic theory with the publication, in these pages, of Robert Morris’s “Notes on Sculpture” in 1966. Fittingly, two of the four works in the show are by Morris: Portal, 1964, a post-and-lintel structure so narrow we can barely squeeze through it, and Passageway, 1961, an increasingly constricting curved corridor that funnels us to a dead end. And while Franz West’s Blue, 2006, adds a

  • Carl Andre

    THE PAST DECADE AND A HALF has been good to Minimalists and post-Minimalists. Yet compared with many of his contemporaries, Carl Andre has been relatively undersung. The last American retrospective of his work was in 1978–80; the last European survey in 1996. A chill has surrounded Andre’s art since the horrific death of his former wife, the remarkable artist Ana Mendieta, in the early morning of September 8, 1985. Andre was acquitted of responsibility, yet the furor surrounding his life drowned out attention to his work, which is among the most important contributions to the history of modern

  • “Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010”

    In Carl Andre’s own telling, his sculpture has occupied three distinct phases: “sculpture as form” (the carved beams of 1958–59), “sculpture as structure” (the stacked constructions of 1959–65), and “sculpture as place” (the horizontal arrangements of bricks and metal plates of 1966–2010 for which he is best known). This long-awaited retrospective, the artist’s first in the US in more than thirty years, aims to trace the contours of these developments with some fifty works produced between the late 1950s and early 2000s. Yet the show promises much

  • Henri Matisse, Young Sailor I, 1906, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 32".

    “Matisse: In Search of True Painting”

    SOMETIME DURING the summer of 1906, in the French border town of Collioure, a teenager named Camille Calmon sat down to model for Henri Matisse. Matisse completed two paintings of Calmon in sailor’s clothes. Young Sailor I possesses the brilliant color, vigorous handling, and accentuated facial contours, verging on scarification, of the painter’s Fauvist portraits of the previous year; his voluminous green leg and the sweeping crescent line of his arm foretell the grand manner of the famous paintings of bathers and dancers of 1907–1909. Calmon looks to his right. His body is wiry, compact. His

  • Ellsworth Kelly, Banana Leaf, 1992, pencil on paper, 30 1/8 x 22 1/2".

    “Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings”

    Since the late 1940s, when he moved to France, Ellsworth Kelly has drawn from nature with a remarkable consistency.

    Since the late 1940s, when he moved to France, Ellsworth Kelly has drawn from nature with a remarkable consistency. Whereas the earliest paintings from his sojourn in Paris court a deliberate clumsiness, the plant drawings he made then, such as his stunning depictions of apples and seaweed, are paragons of finesse. Kelly’s experiments with noncompositional techniques later resulted in a new kind of abstraction, as Yve-Alain Bois has shown. Yet Kelly is arguably our greatest draftsman in a more conventional sense. The plant works are all contour. Kelly’s line reveals the

  • View of “Glenn Ligon: AMERICA,” 2011, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Six works from the “Door Paintings” series, 1990–92. Photo: Sheldan Collins.

    Glenn Ligon

    THE LATE 1980s AND EARLY ’90s is a time without a name. Eras become knowable after the fact: Only recently have scholars and younger artists turned their attention to that relatively undefined art-historical moment. The moment in question witnessed the rise of AIDS activism and an expanded institutional critique (with its “minings” of public institutions and engagement of sites beyond the white cube), the Whitney Biennial of 1993 and the first manifestations of an art of relational exchange. Glenn Ligon and his generation—my generation—emerged in this milieu. Bracketed by such events

  • Sol LeWitt, Münster Pyramid, 1987, white painted concrete block, 13’4” x 13’8” x 13’8”.

    “Sol LeWitt: Structures, 1965–2006”

    We tend to think of Sol LeWitt as a gallery artist, yet he moved beyond the white cube as early as 1968, burying a work in a collector’s backyard.

    We tend to think of Sol LeWitt as a gallery artist, yet he moved beyond the white cube as early as 1968, burying a work in a collector’s backyard. By 1969, he was building large-scale “open” cubes to be exhibited outdoors; in the decades to come, he would develop his “Complex Forms”—strange, pointed shapes suggestive of crystals and icebergs—and his monumental sculptures made of concrete blocks. Redeeming an ordinary building material for art and evoking enormous towers and ziggurats, the block pieces make explicit the artist’s fascination with architecture,

  • Larry Bell, XTTHOJ 32, 2001, mixed media on canvas, 42 x 42".

    Larry Bell

    Transparent, reflective, and opaque all at once, the art of Larry Bell has always flirted with contradiction.

    Transparent, reflective, and opaque all at once, the art of Larry Bell has always flirted with contradiction. During the 1960s Bell became known for his vacuum-coated glass cubes mounted on pedestals. Initially aligned with the so-called finish-fetish aesthetic of Los Angeles’s Ferus Gallery, he was equally associated with East Coast Minimalism, yet his works, which brilliantly undermine their objectness, subvert Minimalism’s literalist aims. (Even Michael Fried admired Bell’s “gorgeous baubles.”) Known primarily for these sculptures and for his walls of glass, Bell