Joanna Fiduccia

  • picks December 18, 2008

    “Insoluble Solids”

    This elegant show, organized by artist Cyril Dietrich, benefits from the special purchase of the artist-curator: Although intuitively coordinated, it features a counterintuitive group, bridging generations of artists and mingling conceptual moves with moments of optical indulgence. An enormous woodcut by Franz Gertsch, rippling with innumerable, minutely rendered wavelets, is so stunning that no curatorial conceit need buoy it. In the rest of the work here, formal concerns dovetail with ontological, what-context-makes-this-art? questions with the subtlety and intimacy of a “possible personal

  • Josef Strau

    The sheer quantity of language in Josef Strau’s installations generates a logorrheic din that could test the patience of even the most committed viewer. Yet his installations are by no means chaotic, but instead rather modest or even cozy: Floor lamps huddle near posters of type-written text, discreetly pinned up, strung on ribbons, or stacked in piles for distribution. A Dissidence Coincidence but W.H.C.T.L.J.S, 2008, created for the Malmö Konsthall, is another example of Strau’s typical narrative overload: Seven texts that revisit the artist’s biblical namesake go alongside writings from past

  • picks November 28, 2008

    Eva Rothschild

    Two intersecting wooden frames, painted glossy black and trussed with a web of beams, dominate Eva Rothschild’s recent exhibition. Fat cables coil around the frames, capped with serpent heads and molting sheaths of woven leather. Supernature, 2008, is complemented by a wall paneled in black Perspex, imprisoning a murkier reflection of the structure and its heterogeneous suggestions, from Constructivism to folk art to Martin Boyce and Louise Bourgeois. Eva Rothschild’s practice courts opposites—organic/inorganic, craft/industry, abstract/figurative—and it is perhaps her ease amid these antipodes

  • picks November 18, 2008

    Mats Adelman

    Mats Adelman’s drawings are reminders that weirdos make art, too—in this case, the kind inspired by Black Sabbath lyrics and elaborately illustrated on the reverse side of class notes. Yet Adelman’s work is far more ambiguous than his backwoods aesthetic might suggest: as indebted to the imagination’s lofty reaches as to its lower fixations. In his current show, the young Swedish artist presents sculptures and a pair of films alongside landscapes befitting horror movies and antisocial adolescent fantasies—two settings that self-consciously find their high-culture likenesses in the avant-garde’s

  • Mike Kelley

    Educational Complex, 1995, marks a breakthrough in Mike Kelley’s career, though not as one might expect. An architectural maquette combining all the schools the artist ever attended, it initiated Kelley’s work on Repressed Memory Syndrome, the pop-psychology notion that critics had grafted onto his earlier exhibitions. But if Educational Complex triggered the body of work presented at Wiels, it also managed to bracket the autobiographical sincerity behind any art-therapeutic revelation. Kelley’s “breakthrough” consisted of rendering his own liberally falsified biography as a foamcore campus,

  • picks October 01, 2008

    Sergej Jensen

    This exhibition of over forty paintings describes Sergej Jensen’s prodigious range, from tonic ink bleeds to abstract motifs of iron-on patches, Color Field painting to Op art, and Blinky Palermo to Jasper Johns. Sensuous depth alternates with conceptual remove in paradoxically delicate and rough-and-tumble paintings made with unprimed canvas, jute, money bags, metallic mesh, accidental stains, purposeful tears, and needles and thread. What makes Jensen’s paintings disarming, however, is not the heterogeneity of their means or references, but rather the stately indifference with which the artist

  • picks October 01, 2008

    “Reality Check”

    The curatorial concept for this exhibition of contemporary art in the halls of Denmark’s royal collection is shrewdly vague: ample enough to include a diverse selection of great works, while imprecise enough to excuse any glaring omissions. Under the conceptual headings of reenactment, recontextualization of the object, and the dubious neologism docufication, “Reality Check” addresses the representation of reality, uniting the crowd-pleasing predictability of Fischli & Weiss’s polyurethane studio and Elmgreen & Dragset’s hospital in-patient simulacra with more dialectical treatments of the theme.

  • picks August 11, 2008

    Katinka Bock

    The Synagogue of Delme was desanctified nearly thirty years ago, but its transformation into a contemporary art center hardly dimmed its poignancy. The work of young German artist Katinka Bock, whose interest in displacement and equilibrium already makes her a kind of mystical physicist, has no problem integrating into such a charged milieu. Bock’s exhibition “Kanon” presents sixteen recent works, some created for the space, and the rest readily precipitating into its pathos.

    Ja, 2008, one of the former, is a pipeline that routes water from the women’s bath (now the reception room), up through

  • picks June 23, 2008

    Bridget Riley

    This chronological retrospective begins with studies of Seurat and ends with evocations of Matisse. Yet thirty intervening years of Bridget Riley’s Op-art virtuosity can hardly be tamed by the show’s staid structure. On the contrary: Its methodological organization complements Op art’s impression of scientific precision, while each individual painting seethes with optical diabolism. By systematically painting shapes or lines across the surface, Riley has made the picture plane appear to shimmer, ripple, and vertiginously warp from the wall. Her work, and Riley as the fashionable figure behind

  • picks June 02, 2008

    Jimmy Robert

    Jimmy Robert’s artworks are liable to attract a whole range of catchall terms for contemporary art: They are performative, yet object-based; cinematic, yet haptic. In this exhibition, ink-jet prints, film and video, MDF boards, and A4-size sheets of white paper manage to make all these descriptors strangely happy consorts. Boards and blank sheets divide and chart the space, functioning not only as makeshift walls and supports but also as compositional elements in their own right. But rather than obscure or modify the standardized format of these elements, Robert embraces their standardization

  • picks April 23, 2008

    David Renggli

    Swiss artist David Renggli’s exhibition opens with the great good Swissness of a striking oversize radiator that is rather less concerned with representation than with wryly replicating motifs of Swiss abstraction. If one can see past the Op art–like effect of its grille, all other airs of realism quickly evaporate in the large gap left between the radiator and its pipes and, farther along, the whimsical slipknot in its pipeline. This is exacting and juvenile humor, like that of compatriots Fischli & Weiss, used here to undercut third-generation Swiss abstractionists (such as Renggli’s contemporary

  • picks April 10, 2008

    “I/you grit my/your teeth”

    From the street, the gallery seems to enclose a massive theater of coppers and blacks—a vastness that turns obliquely oppressive on entering. This shift is the first of many inversions in this unlikely group show, in which the formal dialogue between divergent practices is nuanced in a way that a more plausible group would probably bungle. The principal wall of the gallery hosts Mandla Reuter’s architectural intervention. He has plastered the partition with posters in absolute black, the maximum saturation of color for a printed surface. With the extraneous intelligibility of a billboard seen

  • picks March 27, 2008

    Raphaël Zarka

    Raphaël Zarka’s name has been cropping up everywhere since the appropriated footage of “Riding Modern Art,” 2005, which depicts skateboarders gliding across civic architecture, astutely gratified both popular nostalgia for modernism and the fashionable coveting of subculture shenanigans. The new works in this exhibition, then, can be seen as the maneuvering of a young artist as eager to show an interest beyond skateboarding as he is cautious of bumming out the audience such work brought him. While the title of his first solo show in Paris, “Padova,” doesn’t exactly evoke “backside smith grinds,”

  • picks February 26, 2008

    Pierre Vadi

    Pierre Vadi’s installations could be described as futuristic art: “voyages through a strange universe,” as the press release promises, conveyed by scattered sediment and synthetic media. His current exhibition, however, is more a twenty-first-century rendition of a Neoclassical grotto, as a revival of already-mannered representations of wilderness and the unknown. Vadi has transformed the underground galleries of the Crédac into a series of dens that offer both private recesses and ornate mise-en-scènes. In the first room, an archipelago of sugar mounds leads to an enclave of hanging crystals

  • picks February 19, 2008

    Omer Fast

    Omer Fast’s video art foils the shrill affect of most political art by counterintuitively plunging into politics’ most freighted zones, from Israeli tank duty to World War II ghettos. Yet Fast seems to eschew his own precedent of experimental montage and fiction-laced documentary with his newest work, De Grote Boodschap (The Great Message), 2007, the fictional faits divers of a Belgian apartment building. This looped twenty-seven-minute video drifts between the narratives of four couples: a stewardess and her husband; an old woman with an appetite for buttons, trinkets, and prescription meds