Johanna Burton

  • Nashashibi/Skaer

    A number of commentators on recent work by British collaborative duo Nashashibi/Skaer (Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer) use head-scratching as a place to start their ostensible analyses. “What do photos of Margaret Thatcher, a washed-up carcass, footage of an American passenger plane and a painting by Paul Nash have in common?” is the way, for instance, a review published last year in The Independent begins its discussion of Our Magnolia, 2009, a single-channel 16-mm film; the review follows this thread through, reiterating the work’s “obscure” and “incomprehensible” nature, yet (or perhaps

  • Amy Sillman

    Not so many years ago, while teaching the “theory” class at an MFA program in New York, I was told winkingly by the (it so happens: tenured, male) chair of the department that what I offered the students was all well and good, but that at the end of the day, “you don’t need to read to paint.” Though conferred upon me in this case by a proud, self-declared anti-intellectual, the sentiment is hardly rare. Indeed, for all the attention paid to so-called Conceptual painting and its attendant practices over the (at least) past four decades, a kind of inherent allure remains—for better or worse—around

  • Deborah Hay

    For three evenings this past March, Deborah Hay performed her new work, No Time to Fly, 2010, at the fabled St. Mark’s Church in downtown New York. Over the course of fifty minutes, Hay—herself long a fixture of radical dance, now approaching seventy years old—executed a series of movements equally standard and strange: The act of walking, for instance, was rendered prismatic by her continual redistribution of emphasis. Wearing a minimal, graphic uniform (white button-down shirt, short black pants, white socks, black slippers, black beret), Hay circumnavigated her allotted space with ritualistic

  • “Dance with Camera”

    The etymology of choreography tells us that the word, at its most literal, means something like “writing dance” or “dance writing.” Of course, the relation between inscription and dance is now so familiar that while we have come to recognize its mutability and variations (Judson Dance Theater’s testing of the limits of choreography, for instance, so different from, say, classical ballet’s stringent adherence to them), we don’t often enough consider just to whom this “writing” is ultimately addressed. Indeed, if dance is de facto an embodied form, it is also nearly always directed (at least in

  • Joan Jonas

    Joan Jonas did not read The Divine Comedy until 2007, whereupon she began a series of pieces inspired by the epic poem. As with much of her oeuvre, the multiple iterations of the resulting work, Reading Dante, ultimately do not evidence mastery or even legible competency of its ostensible subject; instead, proceeding as a dreamlike, long-term experiment, Jonas’s Dante isn’t bound to readily resemble itself. The core of the project, rather, is the development of a kind of contemporary translation—a giving voice, as it were, to a Dante for our time. Yet Jonas’s Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise

  • Ida Applebroog

    There were many reasons to wonder just how to approach the work presented in Ida Applebroog’s recent exhibition at Hauser & Wirth. First was the practical question of how to get a complete picture of what was there, particularly when it came to the central element, a kind of schematic “house” in the main area of the gallery space. A smallish structure built from two-by-fours, whose “walls” were, in fact, made of tacked-up images, the house—since it offered no entryway—required viewers to peek and strain in order to look inside, not only granting them visual access to further images but also

  • Marlo Pascual

    While so much of today’s common wisdom around appropriation grants that tactic a kind of distanced purview, from which an artist might critique while simultaneously participating in prevailing modes of cultural representation, we all too rarely account for the ways in which a sort of lasciviousness attends the venture—especially, perhaps, as younger generations take up its presumed look and legacy. Walking into Marlo Pascual’s first solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan, one had the feeling that the artist could be some crusty old cinephile: If she were a man, I might think he was a creep. Though the

  • Tere O’Connor

    A few years ago, the choreographer Tere O’Connor issued a kind of challenge to those responding in print to his live pieces: “What would happen to the writing if you brought nothing to it? No pencil, no paper. It would have to be about a second sensation that arises in the critic. Or not. Who knows? I’m just saying, let’s try this together.” Unknowingly, as I had not yet come across these words, I ended up complying with O’Connor’s request when I attended his sixty-minute Wrought Iron Fog, 2009, this past November. But I wouldn’t have had much use for pad and paper anyway, since taking time away

  • Lee Lozano, Untitled, 1961.

    Lee Lozano

    “Smoking remains attractive,” Lee Lozano once noted, “because it is an excuse to make a little fire.”

    “Smoking remains attractive,” Lee Lozano once noted, “because it is an excuse to make a little fire.” And indeed, this artist—who pointedly withdrew from the scene in 1972 and just as pointedly opted to “boycott women”—was known for making sparks fly. In the early 1960s, Lozano portrayed the polymorphously perverse: lewd, surreal cartoons of mouths, pricks, and pussies in various modes of assembly, which soon evolved into harder-edged “tool” paintings, equally rich with metaphoric association. Her later systems-based paintings and text pieces seem better behaved

  • Jack Ferver

    “As the dandy is the nineteenth century’s surrogate for the aristocrat in matters of culture, so Camp is the modern dandyism. Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture,” Susan Sontag wrote in her 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.’” That a camp sensibility might be argued, in the nearly half a century since the appearance of Sontag’s text, to have ascended (or perhaps descended) to the level of a codified, “subversive” idea (often rendered cynically, and thus no longer camp) does not, however, lessen the force of the effects it can enable. Unrenouncably queer and

  • Ree Morton

    As well deserved as the recent attention to the artist Ree Morton is, we should not overlook the critical or curatorial coaxing necessary to bring a neglected figure such as this one back onto the scene. Only a little digging makes it clear that prior to her death in 1977—at the age of forty, in a car crash—Morton had achieved notable success (showing work regularly in both gallery and museum exhibitions) and had fully installed herself within a vibrant artistic community; yet, for as engaged and present a figure as Morton would seem in retrospect, we must remind ourselves that until a few years

  • “The Female Gaze”

    The republication this year of Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (in a second edition of Visual and Other Pleasures) is long overdue: In spite of the article’s canonical status, Mulvey’s fine-tuned concepts have too often been rendered vague, gestured to merely as a way of getting at blurry notions of “pleasure” and “the gaze.” Cheim & Read’s summer show, “The Female Gaze: Women Look at Women,” was a case in point. Assembled here was an extensive array of artworks, all of them executed by women, all of them taking the female form as subject. The show’s purview