Johanna Burton

  • “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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

  • 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: 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

    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

  • Haim Steinbach

    In an interview published in Artforum’s April 2003 issue, Haim Steinbach discussed what he saw as the ideal system for pricing what he made: “I devised a formula by which there would be a price for the work—plus the price of the objects. Let’s say a shelf has three cornflakes boxes and six ceramic ghosts on it. If the ceramic ghosts are $10 apiece, that’s $60; the boxes, at $2 each, would make $6, bringing the total of the objects to $66. So if the price of a given work is $12,000, that’s $12,066.”

    The artist’s mode of reaching a price point is worth remarking on, because it lays the foundation

  • Pipilotti Rist

    It’s hard to believe that twenty-five years have passed since Pipilotti Rist made I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much.

    It’s hard to believe that twenty-five years have passed since Pipilotti Rist made I’m Not the Girl Who Misses Much. In that breakout video work (completed while she was still in school), the artist—appearing as a blurry image, breasts exposed, hair tousled, speech and actions variously sped up and slowed down via bare-bones tech tweaking—delivered a hysterical (in all senses of the word) rendition of John Lennon’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” Over the ensuing decades, Rist’s oeuvre has expanded to include large-scale multimedia installations, sculpture, and all manner

  • Joan Semmel

    I first encountered works by Joan Semmel during my undergraduate education, in an introductory contemporary art class. The slides I was shown were of those canvases for which the artist is best known, produced in the mid-1970s, that portray sexual scenes from the perspective of one of the participants, Semmel herself. Incorporating a Polaroid aesthetic and rude, raw washes of color, Semmel’s approach—I think of a canonical piece like Intimacy/Autonomy, 1974—gave rise to an unlikely effect both piquantly pornographic and uncannily clinical. That I was confronting these pictures during

  • Cathy Wilkes

    For her first one-person museum show in the US, the Glasgow-based artist has opted to focus on a single aspect of her multifaceted practice: painting.

    In his 2009 essay “Painting Beside Itself,” David Joselit makes an argument for a new mode of artistic “transitivity”—in certain contemporary practices, he claims, paintings are not so much isolated, autonomous things as parts of larger, more complicated systems of association (networks is Joselit’s word). Cathy Wilkes’s work, which is installation based and yet strikingly medium-specific in its components, hews to such a description, while pointing provocatively to the gendered aspect of nearly every aspect of our cultural milieu. For her first one-person

  • Alison Knowles

    Best known for her role as a founder of Fluxus some five decades ago, Alison Knowles has produced a remarkably multivalent yet precise body of work during the course of her long career, working in painting, sculpture, performance, sound, and in various ways with the printed and spoken word. For many years, I associated Knowles with beans—yes, those ubiquitous and overdetermined foodstuffs—because they so often appear in her performances, as do other such everyday materials. Like some figures with whom she is often associated (Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, for instance), Knowles can be

  • Joe Scanlan

    The day that I visited Joe Scanlan’s “Three Works” at Wallspace—the artist’s first solo show at a New York gallery in a decade—he was there, bag of food in hand, clearly digging in for an afternoon’s work. It wasn’t a performance (though I wondered) or even one of the scheduled moments to change the “round robin” configuration of works on view. Instead, it seemed, he was there to tweak some element that had him unsatisfied, to refine, mid-exhibition, a stray aesthetic element or imperfect detail.

    The impulse seemed incongruous enough with the work on view. While material exactitude or

  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Though I didn’t see Rhapsody, 1975–76, Jennifer Bartlett’s best-known installation, when it was first shown at Paula Cooper Gallery, I did see it some thirty years later, in 2006, at the Museum of Modern Art. Finally encountering the sprawling, epic work, which comprises nearly a thousand enamel-bearing metal plates, I suddenly—and even rather violently—had to reconfigure my own internalized images of it. Memories of the holistic photographic panoramas (and attendant detail shots) I’d found in books over the years yielded to the actual experience of tripping back and forth for closer

  • Ilene Segalove

    A small, framed still from a black-and-white film shows a scene from the 1957 drama The Violators: A haggard, brooding man sits at the kitchen table, cigarette in hand, while his dutiful wife—robe-clad yet still vaguely glamorous—leans over him to fill his coffee cup. Hung adjacent to the still are four larger images, silver gelatin prints on Masonite. The first merely magnifies the shot from the film, thereby freeing it somewhat from its recognizable status as film still. The second repeats the image a third time but renders it with obvious difference. Here, though the overall schema

  • Maria Lassnig

    “I do not aim for the ‘big emotions’ when I’m working,” Maria Lassnig explained in these pages two years ago, “but concentrate on small feelings: sensations in the skin or in the nerves, all of which one feels.” The real trick to pursuing such fleeting, ephemeral “sensations,” the painter goes on to say, is by notating them with some fidelity while nonetheless acknowledging their utter strangeness and instability. In other words: how to depict that which outruns depiction? “Well—a feeling doesn’t have edges, and you can’t quantify it.”

    Nonetheless, the ninety-one-year-old Austrian artist