Johanna Burton

  • Barbara Kruger’s 1990 Pope Fetus I, New York, 1990.


    Johanna Burton is the Maurice Marciano Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Prior to joining MoCA, Burton served as executive director of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, and as Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum, New York.


    That Kruger’s work gets only more relevant with time speaks directly—and profoundly in its paradox—to how we’ve not only failed to progress as a society but in many ways gone backward.

    Co-organized with

  • “Be a Place, Place an Image, Imagine a Poem: Ree Morton: A Retrospective”

    “BE a place, PLACE an image, and IMAGINE a poem” are lines of verse taken from one of Ree Morton’s notebooks. A repository of her thinking, the notebooks offer an unexpectedly intimate way to get close to a figure who died in 1977 at the age of forty-one, early in both life and career. A fierce, generous, and unique voice, Morton produced affectively complex, gendered engagements with post-Minimalism and Conceptualism. This survey of some 150 works, accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Manuela Ammer, João Ribas, and the curators, will feature early

  • “The Passion According to Carol Rama”

    The title for Carol Rama’s upcoming survey borders on the tautological, as, indeed, the Italian artist’s career, and her very person, have become so deeply aligned with the twin poles of eros and pathos that her name alone triggers delicious shudders. In this much-needed consideration of Rama’s oeuvre, nearly 200 works take viewers through the artist’s complex trajectory. While exploring, from the mid-1930s through the mid-2000s, all manner of forms, techniques, and vocabularies, she remained committed to deconstructing conventions of

  • Barbara Kruger

    In 1984, Barbara Kruger wrote “Job Description,” a short piece that begins, “Your work is about,” and then proceeds with a formidable list of such things as “formula and the elegant solution,” “desire and the prolongation of stasis,” and “pleasure and the proper name.” Three decades later, the operations Kruger named in this cheeky CV, a meditation on her work’s engagement with the public sphere, seem no less urgent. The artist’s signature style—which mimics the language of advertising to invert the power dynamic that that language imposes—no longer produces the

  • Zoe Leonard, December 3, frame 3, 2011–12, gelatin silver print, 30 1/2 x 24 3/4".

    Zoe Leonard

    Moving. It’s a word that, used to describe artworks, risks cliché, to say nothing of dangerously separating affective responses from intellectual ones. Yet for the past three decades, Zoe Leonard has honed a practice that calls for and complicates this slippery denomination: In her first solo show in a New York gallery since 2003, she even employed the literal valence of the word. She rendered Murray Guy’s newly expanded Chelsea space a giant camera obscura, conjuring a vast, continually changing image. Emptying the room while filling it lushly to the brim, she shuttered its windows, refusing

  • Annette Messager, Bras/Voitures (Arm, Cars), 2009, mixed media, 97 5/8 x 78 3/4 x 19 5/8".

    Annette Messager

    In interviews, Annette Messager has spoken of her admiration for Roland Barthes and, in particular, for his Fragments d’un discours amoureux (A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, 1977). It makes sense that the artist, perhaps best known for her portrayals of literal and figurative dismemberment, would be attracted to this volume. An account of things come undone (a love affair, a life, the body, discourse itself) written, appropriately enough, in parts (some that feel like shards), Barthes’s book not only echoes formal and conceptual elements of Messager’s forty-year career but interestingly was

  • Harry Dodge, Fred Can Never Be Called Bald, 2011, still from a color video, 39 minutes 56 seconds.

    Harry Dodge

    Intro to Logic, freshman year, college. I recall these sentences on the blackboard: “God is love. Love is blind. Stevie Wonder is blind. Therefore Stevie Wonder is God.” The example was given as the epitome of fallacy, illustrating, that is, a breach of reason while appearing to maintain reason’s very form. Such sleights of hand, we learned, are identified easily enough yet are surprisingly pervasive (and persuasive). While nonsensical, they can be steeped in such emotional or affective content that their inaccuracy goes unnoticed or, more to the point, feels inherently correct despite obvious

  • Stephen Prina, Blind No. 15, Fifteen-foot ceiling or lower, (Primary Magenta/Phthalo Blue [Red Shade]/Hansa Yellow Opaque/Primary Yellow), 2011, triptych, acrylic on linen, window-blind mechanism, each panel 15' 3 7/8“ x 3' 4 7/8”.

    Stephen Prina

    One might reasonably wonder whether or not the review you are now reading is warranted. Though the press release accompanying Stephen Prina’s seventh exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery announced the presentation of “new paintings,” the exhibition nonetheless closely mirrored one staged at Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, in 2009.

    It’s a fair question. In Boston, as in New York, the paintings were gestural monochromes, executed on the surface of commercial blinds—the bland, single-piece-of-fabric type that rolls up and out of sight when not in use. The double meaning of “blind paintings”

  • Doug Ischar, Untitled (San Francisco, 1987), 2012, color photograph, 13 1/2 x 20".

    Doug Ischar

    Doug Ischar’s presentation of work at Golden Gallery might have appeared, to a visitor first walking in, a modest affair. Indeed, the gallery itself is no more than a slim slice of storefront in SoHo. Yet the seven works assembled in “Sleepless” all deftly challenge any notion of modesty, wholly bucking that word’s association with conventions of decorum and bodily restraint even while utilizing antispectacular formal elements and means. While quiet—clandestine, one might say—Ischar’s work opens to the eye like a clenched orifice to the right touch. If that metaphor sounds more than

  • View of “Justin Vivian Bond,” 2011.

    Justin Vivian Bond

    It’s by no means a comparison with strict symmetry, but thinking recently about Justin Vivian Bond’s work and person, I was reminded of Adrian Piper. Finding herself the object of various misrecognitions and slights, Piper took to entering all social situations armed with small, printed messages; handing them out, she could expediently address many unfortunate scenarios without having to deliver again and again the time-consuming, awkward clarifications face-to-face. My Calling (Card) #2, 1986, for instance, opens with: “Dear Friend, I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you

  • Rineke Dijkstra, Long Island, New York, July 1, 1993, color photograph, 66 1/8 x 55 3/4".

    “Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective”

    One learns, over time, to look confidently at images by Rineke Dijkstra. But when first encountering them (say, for instance, those pictures of arrogant-prudish-awkward adolescents on the beach), a genre-based vertigo ensues.

    One learns, over time, to look confidently at images by Rineke Dijkstra. But when first encountering them (say, for instance, those pictures of arrogant-prudish-awkward adolescents on the beach), a genre-based vertigo ensues: Are these photographs following legacies of social documentary, or do they, instead, unapologetically address the scopophilia lurking in all of us? Critics are quick to assign a lineage to Dijkstra’s oeuvre, tracking her roving lens to predecessors from Dutch portrait painters to Diane Arbus. But there is something to be

  • Nan Goldin, Sisters, 2010, diptych, color photograph, overall 24 x 59".

    Nan Goldin

    Scopophilia, according to the press release for Nan Goldin’s recent show at Matthew Marks Gallery (her eighth there since 1992), means “the love of looking.” While such a benign definition is more or less etymologically correct, we know—via legacies of psychoanalytic theory and feminist critique—that it hardly does the word justice. Indeed, as Goldin herself narrates during her twenty-five-minute video projection of that title (dated 2010), scopophilia simultaneously stirs and satisfies desire in the looker, a quite remarkable feat. Yet for its pleasures there is a price: As Laura