Johanna Burton

  • Haim Steinbach, western hills, 2011, plastic-laminated wood shelf, ceramic cookie jar, aluminum garbage can, wooden stacking toy, 41 x 21 1/2 x 62 1/4".

    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, Eindrücke verdauen (Digesting Impressions), 1996, black-and-white spherical monitor, electronics, swimsuit, ribbon. Installation view.

    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, Transformation, 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48".

    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, Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas, 9 7/8 x 14 1/8"

    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, A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss, 2011, found materials, acrylic, raw flax, hand stamps, raw cotton, maple, tea-stained frame, 17 1/4 x 22 1/2 x 4".

    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, Idée Fixe, 2009, wool, polystyrene, dimensions variable.

    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, Recitative (detail), 2009–10, enamel, silk screen, and baked enamel on 372 steel plates, overall 11' 2“ x 158' 3”.

    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, Ilene and Barbie: Close but No Cigar, 1976, archival ink jet on paper, 16 x 11".

    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

  • William Eggleston, Untitled (Back of Black Car in Green Vines) from the “Los Alamos Project”, 1965–1974, dye-transfer print, 16 x 20".

    The Spectacular of Vernacular

    For this show, Alexander explores regionalism and the culturally specific, calling on some thirty artists to consider the ramifications of the “vernacular”—particularly as formulated by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour in Learning from Las Vegas (1972)—in light of our changing relationship to mass culture during the past four decades.

    For this show, Alexander explores regionalism and the culturally specific, calling on some thirty artists to consider the ramifications of the “vernacular”—particularly as formulated by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour in Learning from Las Vegas (1972)—in light of our changing relationship to mass culture during the past four decades. Featuring artists as diverse as Louise Bourgeois, Walker Evans, and William E. Jones, the exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue that includes a substantial essay by Alexander. As the show proposes a

  • Maria Lassnig, Selbst mit Meerschweinchen (Self with Guinea Pig), 2000–2001, oil on canvas, 49 1/4 x 39 3/8".

    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

  • Sue Williams

    “I just figure all women are feminists unless they really hate themselves.” This statement issues from Sue Williams, in a recent interview with fellow artist Nate Lowman, as she accounts for shifts over the past twenty years in both her practice and its context. If Williams—who has all too easily and often been roped into simplified narratives around identity politics and, more specifically, traumatic power dynamics and violent corporeality as played out in sexualized representation—states with ease her belief that feminism can be aligned with self-respect, the real gravity of such a view is

  • Pipilotti Rist

    That the opening of Pipilotti Rist’s “Heroes of Birth”—the artist’s third solo exhibition at Luhring Augustine—coincided with both fashion week and the ninth anniversary of the events of September 11 is perhaps no more than that: coincidence. But given Rist’s attention to the twin towers in her 2004 outing for the gallery (at the time, she described the show, titled “Herbstzeitlose,” as embodying a kind of offering to a New York that still felt to her on its knees), it’s hard not to think of the events of 2001 as forming a kind of backdrop here as well. In fact, the connection verges on being