Jan Avgikos

  • Renée Green: Endless Dreams and Time-Based Streams

    The conceptual currents within Renée Green’s twenty-year practice gain force from the cyclical return to prior installations, as each reconfiguration condenses a multitude of ambient identities grounded in global histories, feminism, identity politics, and fiction.

    The conceptual currents within Renée Green’s twenty-year practice gain force from the cyclical return to prior installations, as each reconfiguration condenses a multitude of ambient identities grounded in global histories, feminism, identity politics, and fiction. One of the two recent projects that make up this show, Endless Dreams and Water Between, 2009, commissioned for the National Maritime Museum in London, blends meditations on oceans and memories, uncertainties and desires, in film and sound works, banners, diagrams, and drawings. Also on view is United Space

  • Lutz Bacher

    Shifting stylistic strategies underwrite her critical engagement with politics and contribute to a sense of interruption—we always only have partial views of her chameleon practice. This exhibition aims to emend that with a site-specific installation of ten new works, as well as a rotating display of older pieces.

    Women artists of the ’70s—the topic is white-hot. Suddenly everyone is receptive. Many once-neglected female artists who emerged in that decade are now beginning to receive wider recognition and even, as in the case of Lutz Bacher, their first-ever solo exhibitions in major museums. Working in California in the mid-’70s and in New York (in affiliation with Pat Hearn Gallery) in the ’80s and ’90s, the intentionally elusive Bacher has long enjoyed a “cult” following. Her work resists easy categorization—she is not strictly a photographer, installation artist, videographer,

  • “Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art”

    “Decision 2008” is shaping up as a campaign during which, collectively speaking, we are looking for equal parts inspiration and transformation. The sense of “history in the making” is palpable, the race also being played up in the media as an infinity of meaningful moments, ranging from the cataclysmic to the cozy, that may be used to sell a candidate or lobby for a cause. These days, it seems, everybody has a hand in history. When a culture suffers from short-term memory in this way, archives are vital testaments to times past, repositories stuffed with documents, photographs, films, records

  • Hirsch Perlman

    Hirsch Perlman exhibits regularly but infrequently in New York—it’s been six years since he participated in the Whitney Biennial and more than a decade since his last solo show here. These time lapses are sufficient almost to allow us to forget about his practice, an effect that complements the already spare means and demeanor of his art and ratifies his preference for understatement. Perlman’s use of ephemeral materials, simple black-and-white photography, and text dates back to the ’80s and aligns itself with vintage Conceptualism’s promotion of ideas over objects. True to form, he often

  • Martin Creed

    “Feelings,” British artist Martin Creed’s first retrospective in North America, was noisy, chaotic, hyperactive, circuslike, funny, stupid, clever, provocative, elegant, and annoying—none of which qualities jibe with the sensitivity alluded to by the title. Creed’s verbal and visual jokes, far from simply describing physical sensations or emotional states, often mark the distance between historically informed maneuvers and genial allusions to intimate personal experience.

    Presented in two concurrent parts (at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies [CCS], along with a two-work Manhattan

  • Lee Bontecou

    Lee Bontecou achieved success in the early 1960s with shaped paintings and wall-mounted assemblages that hovered on the edge of figuration, vaguely suggesting bodies, buildings, and machines. Though resistant to narrative, the works’ telescoping elements lend them an aggressive feel, while their orifices seem to suggest a secret, subcutaneous functionality. Shreds of canvas tied to welded steel armatures, some incorporating menacing, mouthlike saw blades, transcend the aesthetic of impoverishment as a purely formal device to suggest pathologies of the unknown, war, and death. A ongoing sequence

  • Justine Kurland

    The celebration of motherhood hasn’t been a favored subject for artists since Impressionism and the early-twentieth-century movements on which its influence is immediately discernible. German Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, for example, is renowned for her intimate portraits of mothers and their children (which look back to Renaissance portraits of Mary and the infant Jesus), as well as for her nude self-portraits in nature. What is unique about her art is the visualization of a subjectivity that is decidedly feminine. Indeed, taken at face value, Modersohn-Becker’s oeuvre portrays

  • Orlan

    Going where no one dared—or wanted—to go before, Orlan has long occupied the yawning gap between extreme body art and the postmodern probing of the body as a commodified object. Her methodology has included plastic surgery, and it has been difficult at times to distinguish her art from her life, critique from camp. Orlan’s calculated and much publicized challenge to the fetishization of beauty and youth is becoming wildly more relevant as we zoom past mere physical manipulations of the body to confront advances in genetic engineering, virtual reality,

  • Gary Hill

    The most striking component of Gary Hill’s Frustrum (all works 2006), one of two installations commissioned by the Fondation Cartier that were recently presented concurrently in New York and Paris, is a projected video animation of a giant eagle caught in the wiring of an electrical pylon. As the bird flaps its powerful wings in a futile attempt to escape, the loud crack of a bullwhip punctuates the darkness while ripple generators disturb the surface of a large pool of black oil in front of the screen. In the center of the dark liquid sits an impressive twenty-six-pound brick of gold bullion.

  • Mario Schifano

    For all the experimentation—bred from crossovers with film, performance, music, dance, and new technology—that characterized the art of the 1960s, art histories chronicling that decade still too often distill its raucous energies to fit neatly into three distinct movements (Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual art), packaging each as both self-contained and uniquely American. But such oversimplifications can’t account for the hybridized practices that flourished in the margins; illicit alliances between high art and popular culture; and the simultaneities of influence generated by a shrinking world.

  • Sigmar Polke

    Sigmar Polke’s long-standing fascination with amber, or Bernstein, was reflected in a recent exhibition of ten double-sided paintings (five new, five dating from 1989) plus two single-sided paintings (both from 1989) that simulate the fossil resin’s look, juxtaposed with three dozen rare Renaissance and Baroque amber objects, including several raw, unworked chunks of the material that are between thirty million and fifty million years old.

    The paintings are built from honey-colored, semitranslucent artificial resin layered on polyester. The tone of the striations varies as a result of the process

  • Andy Warhol

    Late work is not always great work—a truism that scholarly opinion and auction prices generally bear out. Andy Warhol, who died in 1987 at the age of 58, never really got to his own late period, although we now regard his paintings of the ’80s as such by default. By that time his reputation was already tarnished by his production of art for schlocky galleries, and by a stream of arguably undiscriminating society portraits. Yet while the art establishment may have raised an eyebrow over Warhol’s “slumming” (don’t forget his appearance on The Love Boat), his genius was never really in doubt. His

  • Jesper Just

    It Will All End in Tears, 2006, Jesper Just’s splendidly moody threepart film, weaves an oblique melodrama that involves two protagonists—a beautiful, aloof young man and a somber old man who yearns for him. Their episodic encounters are charted against three distinctly different settings—a garden in morning light, where we glimpse moments of arousal and joy; a courtroom in which an interrogation is under way; and an industrial rooftop at night, where danger seems palpable. Given their contradictory behavior, what the characters mean to each other is unclear—the young man entices

  • Catherine Opie

    Catherine Opie’s interest in community underpins an increasingly diverse body of work that ranges from life at home with partner, child, and pets to portraits of her neighborhood to the subcultures of Los Angeles (notably, its queer scene and its surfers). She also has a penchant for road trips, and it’s evident from the photographs produced on her journeys across America that she’s attracted to the down-home aesthetics of out-of-the-way places and to folk cultures that haven’t quite caught up to postmillennial modernity. Opie appreciates life lived on one’s own terms and to the fullest, and

  • Lee Mullican

    Lee Mullican, who died in 1998, is one of the most important American abstract painters nobody knows—at least nobody on the East Coast (except perhaps some of those familiar with his son, Matt). Born in the “Indian territory” of central Oklahoma in 1919 and educated at the Kansas City Art Institute, he found his way to California in the late ’40s via a stint as an army cartographer. By the mid-’50s he was producing radiantly colored canvases characterized by precision knife work that resulted in shimmering linear striations. His practice as a painter extended into the ’70s and ’80s, by which

  • Amy Sillman

    In her recent exhibition of ten new paintings, Amy Sillman demonstrated that she continues to mine the edges of abstraction, meshing patches of color with bursts of chaotic line and weblike compositional scaffolding. Sillman balances dense passages with barely worked fields washed in pale color and often traversed by fragmented horizon lines that convey a sense of open space. Her paint handling—which may appear ferocious or lyrical, careful or slapdash—is invariably deft. She borrows painterly conventions associated with an experimental visual language that can be traced back to Paul Klee and

  • Agnes Martin

    It’s rare indeed to see twenty-two works by the late Agnes Martin in the same place at the same time, but a recent show at PaceWildenstein Gallery was also unusual in juxtaposing very early works with works from the last four years of her life. After moving to New York from New Mexico in 1957, Martin began to paint abstractly and rose to prominence. But in 1967, she abruptly put her practice on hold, gave away all her tools and materials, and drove out of town. Her subsequent nomadic hiatus lasted over a year, until, as she told it, she had a vision that compelled her to return to New Mexico,

  • Alec Soth

    Like many contemporary photographers who have rediscovered the value of the road trip as a route to vernacular culture, Alec Soth encounters out-of-the-way places and people and pushes past documentary investigation into lurid hyperrealism. His new series, “NIAGARA,” 2005, demonstrates not only a knack for convincing strangers to reveal themselves, but also a penchant for channeling personal experience into passive-aggressive pictorial sensationalism. We might empathize with his subjects, but at the same time we can’t stop staring at their naked bodies and impoverished surroundings. This spectacle,

  • Polly Apfelbaum

    Trends in contemporary art come and go with brisk regularity, yet pushing the boundaries between painting and sculpture is a perennial fascination. Polly Apfelbaum surfs this never-breaking wave with consummate skill, making “bi-formalism” a leitmotif of her floor-bound fabric installations, which have sometimes been referred to as “fallen paintings.” For much of the past decade, this painterly allusion has been grounded in Apfelbaum’s quasi-Expressionist patterning of high-intensity color on synthetic velvet. The cartoonlike floral images that animate her most recent installations flash back

  • Hans Haacke

    Hans Haacke is never without an agenda; for almost forty years, he has been investigating, exposing, and protesting, refusing to be silent in the face of corporate crime, governmental corruption, and artworld mischief. He’s a perennial whistle-blower with a long and notable history of social activism and doesn’t blanch at the problematic designation of “political artist.” Frequently, he names names: Jesse Helms, Philip Morris, Daimler-Benz, Deutsche Bank, and Ronald Reagan have all figured in an ever-growing pantheon of culprits.

    Anyone familiar with this oeuvre might be justified in wondering