Jan Avgikos

  • Gladys Nilsson, Jumpers, 2022, watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, 24 × 18".

    Gladys Nilsson

    To my mind, Gladys Nilsson is the reigning queen of weird-ass figuration and has been for more than fifty years. She was a founding member of the Hairy Who, a group of six Chicago artists who showed together in the mid- to late 1960s and borrowed equally from high modernism and the sordid ranks of populist art to create irreverent images and objects. Their work seemed designed to challenge the tyranny of good taste and decorum, especially as defined by their contemporaries in New York and across Europe.

    While many of her colleagues borrowed significantly from straight porn, underground comics,

  • View of “Painting in New York: 1971–83,” 2022. From left: Faith Ringgold, Windows of the Wedding #16: Lovers, 1974; Faith Ringgold, Juanita, Eddie and Caron, 1973; Elizabeth Murray, Table Turning, 1982–83.

    “Painting in New York: 1971–83”

    From the perspective of many luminaries in the art-critical establishment of yore, the pluralistic 1970s was the decade that went wrong. The messy dismantling of modernism then taking place was tantamount to patricide and shattered the idea of cohesive movements in art. Many lamented the seeming lack of direction, noting the death of painting as another grim marker of decline. Calvin Tomkins went so far as to declare that no major artists emerged in America during those so-called deplorable years. Robert Motherwell proclaimed his fellow Abstract Expressionists the last artists to make substantial

  • John Baldessari, Man (With One Opinion and One Theory) and Leaf, 1993, photocopies, color photograph, graphite, and tape on graph paper, 8 × 11". © John Baldessari 1993. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2022. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

    John Baldessari

    Breakthrough works from the mid-1960s by John Baldessari (1931–2020) owe their success to gestures of removal that paradoxically allowed the West Coast Conceptualist to make his mark. He curtailed his vision, his judgment, and his hand by turning the production of his paintings over to “professional artists.” And when he began in the ’70s to source materials from the film industry for his art, Baldessari made strategic excisions that became even more acute, adopting an approach that might be summed up as “The less said, the better.” Movie stills, publicity photographs, posters, and lobby cards,

  • View of “New York: 1962–1964,” 2022–23. Photo: Frederick Charles.

    “New York: 1962–1964”

    The Jewish Museum’s boisterous exhibition “New York: 1962–1964” is stuffed full of energy, focusing on a three-year period in New York City when sundry creative realms coalesced in a delirious apogee of full-blown American vanguardism. In addition to the “new art” of the era on display here, there is an abundance of contextualizing material drawn from advertising, media, music, dance, film, magazines, fashion, poetry, and interior design, ostensibly documenting a so-called common cultural pulse that fomented in Gotham and spread across the land.

    The presentation’s time frame, aligned with the

  • Geles Cabrera, Untitled, ca. 1983, terra-cotta, 8 1⁄2 × 7 1⁄8 × 3 1⁄2".

    Geles Cabrera

    Geles Cabrera, now ninety-seven years old, was the focus of a 2018 exhibition at the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City titled “Mexico’s First Female Sculptor,” in recognition of her trailblazing determination to enter a discipline almost exclusively practiced by men. Following her art-school training in Mexico City and Havana, she emerged in the early 1950s and was associated with the Generación de la Ruptura (Breakaway Generation), a group of artists who distanced themselves from the nationalistic and political motifs of the Mexican muralists in pursuit of abstraction.

    Cabrera embodied

  • Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Venetian), 1973, cardboard, driftwood, fabric, 90 × 28 1⁄2 × 110". From the series “Venetians,” 1972–73.

    Robert Rauschenberg

    Just when you think you’ve fully parsed the historical significance of Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), more is revealed. Kudos to New York’s Rauschenberg Foundation for collaborating with three exhibition spaces—Gladstone and Mnuchin Galleries in Manhattan, and Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg, Austria—to open the vaults on the artist’s practice with a concentration of rarely shown works made between the 1970s and the 1990s, following his momentous move in 1970 from New York to Captiva Island, right off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

    The trove situates us at an important dividing line in his career. Rauschenberg’s

  • Barbara T. Smith, Holy Squash (detail), 1971, digital video transfer, altar fiber-glass drawing and cast test tubes, bag with foam, spacing material in bag, plastic drop cloth with overspray, three foam sheets with overspray, four foam sheets, reliquary, sound, staff with fiberglass hand, old shoes used during production, miscel-laneous items from production, shirt used during production, the Holy Squash and plastic casting of original offering, flowers, dimensions variable.

    Barbara T. Smith

    In 1971, when she was a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine, Barbara T. Smith created Holy Squash Ceremony, a durational performance for the campus art gallery that extended to an adjacent fountain pool. The inspiration for the piece was a dinner party she had recently hosted, conceived as a way to bring together her new art friends and older acquaintances she had known during her previous life as a 1950s housewife. On the menu for her special evening was a dish she made from the flesh of a large Hubbard squash, which she served in its hollowed-out husk. She felt that the

  • Michelle Stuart, Area-Sayreville, New Jersey 40-30 Latitude 74-30 Longitude Specimen Fragment Sample of Earth Showing Impression of Rock Forms, Location-Views of Northwest Section of Quarry Site, Date-July 26th, 1976, 1 PM, earth on muslin-mounted rag paper, color-coupler photographs, pencil on mounted rag paper, 22 × 30".

    Michelle Stuart

    When Michelle Stuart inaugurated her studio practice in the late 1960s, feminism and art had barely discovered one another. An expanding interest in ecosystems was just beginning to take root in Conceptualism, and the nascent Land art movement was being served up with extra helpings of machismo. Many artists engaged in forms of “field work.” Among them was Stuart, who never fully identified as a maker of feminist art, reluctantly staked her claim as an environmental artist, and avoided presenting her work as being solely systems oriented—indeed, she consistently operated somewhere in between.

  • Abraham Palatnik, Objeto cinético (Kinetic Object), 1968/2006, wood, Formica, magnets, metal, motor, industrial paint, 79 7⁄8 × 45 1⁄4 × 16 1⁄8". From the series “Objetos cinéticos,” 1966–2006.

    Abraham Palatnik

    Abraham Palatnik (1928–2020) seems to have always been ahead of the curve. His studies as an engineer in Tel Aviv during the mid-1940s would have put him in touch with nascent cybernetics and systems theories that later figured into the design and production of his kinetic sculptures. On another front, his art-school training as a painter would have introduced him to the cultural avant-garde and factored into his later receptivity to Constructivism and Concrete art—hot topics among the artists of midcentury Brazil, where he was born and eventually returned, in 1947, from Israel. Rio de Janeiro

  • Helen Pashgian, Untitled, 2021, cast epoxy, artist-made pedestal, 45 × 45".

    Helen Pashgian

    One of the members of the California Light and Space movement that emerged in the 1960s, Helen Pashgian made her mark with translucent abstract sculptures crafted from pigmented acrylic resins—forms so seemingly perfect that they tested the limits of retinal vision. She and her cohorts, including Peter Alexander, Robert Irwin, John McCracken, and DeWain Valentine, were keen to explore the plethora of new industrial materials ushered into commercial applications after World War II and, notably, were pioneers with polyester resin after it appeared on the market in 1966. In those days, their approach

  • Dorothea Rockburne, Trefoil 7, 2021, enamel paint and copper wire on layered boards, 40 × 40 × 2". From the series “Trefoil,” 2019–.

    Dorothea Rockburne

    Interrogating those intersections where the body, the object, and the space that contains them meet, Dorothea Rockburne has long sought to assert the singularity of her art. Early on, her fascination with mathematical theory, topological models, and systems of proportion became a springboard for thought and form. For decades, the artist has tested and torqued her materials with an alchemist’s zeal while also incorporating movement as an important expressive element of her production process. She contributed significantly to the flow of Minimal and post-Minimal art—and she was able to hold her

  • Georges Mathieu, Paris, Capital of the Arts, 1965, oil on canvas, 9' 10 " × 29' 6 1/4 ".

    Georges Mathieu

    Georges Mathieu (1921–2012) took painting where it had never been before—not just in pioneering lyrical abstraction but also, remarkably, in opening it up to include performance. A prototype of the artist as global citizen, Mathieu collaborated with members of the Gutai group in Osaka, Japan; staged tour-de-force events and exhibitions throughout Europe, South America, and Israel; and was an active participant in New York’s art scene. On occasion, he’d make his cinematically scaled canvases in the street. Sometimes he wore incredible kimono-style ceremonial garb to create his pictures for museum