Johanna Burton

  • Joseph Beuys, Cosmos und Damian, 1973.

    The Beauty of Failure/The Failure of Beauty

    Harald Szeemann's latest curatorial endeavor aims to examine those pesky wrinkles inevitably woven into any “utopian” fabric.

    Harald Szeemann’s latest curatorial endeavor aims to examine those pesky wrinkles inevitably woven into any “utopian” fabric. His exhibition constellates a far-ranging group of artists from the nineteenth century to the present—including Henry Fuseli, Margarethe Fellerer, Bruce Nauman, and Thomas Hirschhorn—whose diverse practices and media reveal the fault line between solipsistic, phantasmic utopia and an overpopulated, politically volatile planet. Szeemann (who, along with Ralf Beil, Roger Fornoff, and others, contributes to the show’s trilingual catalogue) makes

  • Amelia von Wulffen

    It’s been argued that thirty-eight-year-old Berlin-based artist Amelie von Wulffen is working in something like a “new German Romantic” vein, and, in her first solo show in New York, any number of her photo-and-paint collages hinted at an urge to recycle the well-known aesthetic strategies of the early nineteenth century. Swapping Sturm und Drang for more recent cultural imperatives, Untitled (Sunset/ Fax Machine/Schiele) (all works 2003) shows a Friedrich-meets-Monet seaside sunset casting its inspissated rays over an unexpected range of subjects including, as the title suggests, a fax machine

  • Right: Joan Jonas, Revolted by the thought of known 
places . . . , 1992. Performance view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1994.

    Joan Jonas

    In her widely influential 1974 Speculum of the Other Woman, the French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray condensed a number of badly behaved and highly contested ideologies into one neologism: la mystérique. The term exposed mysticism, hysteria, mystery, and femininity to be deeply entwined bedfellows in numerous representations of “woman” appearing in canonical texts from Plato to Lacan. Yet rather than conjuring the figure of the mystérique in order to dispute or exorcise her, Irigaray took her as figure par excellence of potentially subversive feminine productivity. If, Irigaray argued,

  • Marlene McCarty

    If it’s possible for an artist to synthesize muse and doppelgänger, Marlene McCarty seems to have found her girl. Some ten years ago, McCarty—who originally garnered interest for her in-your-face text paintings (like Bend Over I’ll Drive, 1990)—received a copy of Bad Blood: A Family Murder in Marin as a gift from a friend. A true-crime tale written in 1982 by Richard M. Levine and regarded by connoisseurs as one of the genre’s meatiest and most disquieting (if titillatingly so) titles, the volume traces the otherwise standard adolescent rebellion (sex, drugs, and angst-driven interest in the

  • Glenn Ligon

    Since the days when Max Ernst’s La Femme 100 têtes spoke in psychoanalytic tongues, artists have actively pursued the implications of identification, projection, transference, and desire, unveiling in the process just how unstable and contingent any cohesive notion of the “self” really is. The unruly unconscious supplied a language—if cacophonous—with which to question conventions of subjectivity while proposing a plethora of “difference.” From the early ’70s on, then, psychoanalysis’s most adamant advocates came from the margins, using methods culled from the couch to engage the politics of

  • Nancy Spero

    The timely resurrection of Nancy Spero’s passionate antiwar imagery—produced nearly four decades ago against the backdrop of the conflict in Vietnam—seemed a thinly veiled reminder that history repeats itself. To view Spero’s “War Series 1966–70” without simultaneously considering the current political climate simply wasn’t possible; and the remarkable fact that these vibrant, scatological gouache-and-ink paintings on paper had never been shown in the United States raised larger questions about artistic production and censorship during political crises past and present.

    These works were designed

  • Chris Ofili, Dead Monkey—Sex, Money and Drugs, 2001.


    Including meaty samplings of recent works by Carroll Dunham, Ellen Gallagher, Chris Ofili, Neo Rauch, and Matthew Ritchie, “Fabulism” reveals just how complicated the vocabulary of fantasy has become.

    It’s fitting that curator Klaus Kertess has coined a snappy neologism to title this group show, which highlights contemporary explorations of and expansions on myth, allegory, and fable. The five painters brought together here are, by all accounts, some of the most accomplished dream weavers and yarn spinners today. Including meaty samplings of recent works by Carroll Dunham, Ellen Gallagher, Chris Ofili, Neo Rauch, and Matthew Ritchie, “Fabulism” reveals just how complicated the vocabulary of fantasy has become—infused with questions of national identity, politics of

  • Kelley Walker

    For artists from Francisco de Goya to Cady Noland, images of disaster and systemic social brutality have served as conduits for writing history and for soothsaying—at once reminders of what has passed and forecasts of the future. Perhaps it’s no surprise that a media-savvy über-company like Benetton also attempted, beginning with its notorious ’80s advertisements, to harness and cash in on this power of the abject and the horrible (not to mention the taboo).

    The company describes its controversial campaigns as a “means of communication” and as “expressions of our time.” In his first solo show,

  • Mark Grotjahn

    Mark Grotjahn’s latest works—a series of variously sized jewel-like monochrome canvases that toy with one-point perspective—are flat-out gorgeous. This should be said right off, since discussions of Grotjahn’s work tend to leap quickly into speculation on what lurks (literally and figuratively) behind their surfaces. If there’s a plumb line running through this young artist’s oeuvre, it’s a love for and deft utilization of the opaque. But Grotjahn’s taste for the impermeable is hardly delivered straight from the shoulder; a perverse formalism is his delicious decoy, both an homage to

  • Carol Rama

    “Nobody in the world has ever been more pissed off than me,” Carol Rama said in an interview six years before she won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Indeed, fury plays a role in nearly every image and object the eighty-five-year-old artist has produced over the past six decades. A vibrant, nasty, eccentric, erotic, corporeal, and irrefutably feminine (one might say feminist) wrath is everywhere visible in Rama’s oeuvre, yet hers is hardly piss without pleasure. She probably couldn’t fathom a life without heavy doses of both, preferably delivered simultaneously.

  • Michael Raedecker

    Since he first attracted notice some five years ago, Michael Raedecker has rightfully been admired for his distinctive coupling of homespun materials and the “high” practice of painting. Often he has used thread and yarn to “sketch” the contours of the generic modern landscape—say, an empty driveway bordered with well-spaced, overly pruned trees—consistently revealing the formal qualities inherent, if rarely considered, in string (known, of course, to the Renaissance painters who regularly employed it for perspective studies). Layered onto a thick application of paint, Raedecker’s strands—thin

  • Vomit, 2003.
    picks September 15, 2003

    Marilyn Minter

    Marilyn Minter’s art exposes the seamy side of beauty and femininity, but her ambivalent approach yields something more complicated, and more seductive, than didactic critique. Her current exhibition includes several slick-to-the-point-of-sticky large-scale photographs and two hyperrealist paintings on metal. As she has in the past, Minter commandeers the visual vocabulary of fashion, then rearranges its syntax to create uncanny anti-advertisements: One richly colored
    photograph (Vomit, 2003) homes in on a drooling mouth painted red and stuffed with pearls; another highlights the thick peach