Johanna Burton

  • “Project for a Revolution in New York”

    Many galleries have upped the group show ante of late (particularly during the summer months) and, freed from the workaday routine of solo exhibitions, now offer group shows that aspire to the level of museum fare. Take “Project for a Revolution in New York,” which was on view in Matthew Marks’s West Twenty-fourth Street space. Curated by Mitchell Algus, a dealer known for his taste in and privileging of the overlooked and the eccentric, “Project for a Revolution in New York” was named for Alain Robbe-Grillet’s eponymous 1970 novel, and its object was to whet our taste for what Algus calls in

  • Alex Hay

    When we use the phrase “like watching paint dry,” it’s typically to register our impatience with the leisurely unfurling of some event over which we have no control. But recently, as I looked at Alex Hay’s new paintings, the phrase came to mind in the form of a peculiar compliment and, perhaps more to the point, as a way of articulating a methodological paradigm for the artist’s long—if arguably interrupted—oeuvre. By interrupted, I mean that Hay, a fixture of the New York art world in the 1960s and early ’70s, abruptly quit the scene at the moment he seemed to have it made, and it has been

  • Louise Bourgeois

    The Tate’s retrospective (the first in the UK since 1995) brings together more than two hundred drawings, sculptures, installations, and fabric pieces from Bourgeois’s seven-decade-long career.

    “I don’t dream,” Louise Bourgeois once claimed. And although her images, ideas, and objects feel half-submerged in the unconscious, the artist describes her working method as more akin to operating “under a spell” than derived from any somnolent source. The Tate’s retrospective (the first in the UK since 1995), curated by Marie-Laure Bernadac, Frances Morris, and Jonas Storsve, brings together more than two hundred drawings, sculptures, installations, and fabric pieces from Bourgeois’s seven-decade-long career. The accompanying

  • Barbara Bloom

    Tracy Williams operates one of the few New York gallery spaces that could still be described as charming. Visitors must duck into a diminutive, below-ground-level doorway before being escorted into the first of two rambling floors of a Greenwich Village brownstone. To remark that the space still bears a tangible whiff of domesticity simply by virtue of its rooms’ scale and design would be an understatement. Yet this willful lack of neutrality does more than spark nostalgia for a less uniform New York art world. Williams has crafted a program of exhibitions by artists whose practices are well

  • Martin Beck

    The title of Martin Beck’s exhibition at Orchard—“The details are not the details”—is a quotation from Charles Eames, whose thought concludes with the assertion that, indeed, details are hardly mere accoutrements but themselves “make the product. The connections, the connections, the connections.” Beck, who (often in collaboration with Julie Ault) has long been engaged in plumbing the material, historical, and ideological specificities of exhibition practices, structures his own as a kind of hymnal to the detail par excellence: not just connections but literal connectors (system connector joints,

  • Jonathan Monk

    A few years ago, Ken Johnson, reviewing a Jonathan Monk exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery, stated that “Conceptualism can be overbearing but it can also be sweet, wry and poetic.” Such readings—of Monk as the sensitive offspring of a band of drier forebears—abound. The word playful is often used to characterize the artist, who is generally considered to be enacting a kind of spunky homage. Indeed, Monk is most often understood to be nudging viewers into believing that conceptual tenets remain relevant by acknowledging the tendency’s contemporary potential for a “softer” side.

    But Monk’s overarching

  • Liz Deschenes

    In the 1920s, Aleksandr Rodchenko suggested that the camera could and should be used as a tool of Soviet advancement, one capable of encouraging visual awareness in a mass audience. Traditional photography was not up to the task, since photographs mimicking painterly illusion offered no more than a middle vantage, a “belly-button” view, as Rodchenko termed it. Modern photography ought, he argued, to harness perspectives “above down and from below up and their diagonals.” The value of such exercises manifests in viewers who ordinarily “don’t see what [they] look at” being granted—via photographic

  • Rachel Harrison

    This February, a resident of President Street in Brooklyn received a number of announcements for the same exhibition. The interior of the mailer—folded and sent sans envelope—offers a close-up detail of a densely textured surface swathed in patches of bright green, red, blue, and purple paint; a fake apple is tucked into its irregular contours. One exterior side of the announcement provides the details of Rachel Harrison’s fifth solo show at Greene Naftali and a blank space where address labels and stamps are affixed. But the other side bears competing information.

    Reproduced there at actual

  • Annette Messager

    “Art is a secret,” Annette Messager once said, “a secret shared between the individual and the collective.” Indeed, Messager has long been protector and purveyor of many partial disclosures that reflect on both self and society. Along with a new site-specific piece, the Pompidou will offer a meaty sampling of some eighty of the artist’s works, arranged nonchronologically to encourage dialogue between different periods of her production. Early photography-based works, including Voluntary Tortures, 1972, will whisper in the ear of recent installations such as Inflating,

  • “Louise Brooks and the ‘New Woman’ in Weimar Cinema”

    It seems that the Bubikopf is experiencing a kind of Renaissance. The only English words that describe the oh-so-particular haircut (equal parts naughty schoolgirl and punishing schoolmarm) are pageboy and bob, but the connotations aren’t quite right. One had only to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent, breathtaking exhibition “Glitter and Doom” in order to understand just how historically “German” the style is. In canvas after canvas, there was hardly a prostitute or absinthe drinker whose hair wasn’t clipped into a Bubikopf helmet. And while there were certainly other incarnations

  • “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle”

    Having meandered across the country on a five-city tour, “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle,” which originated at the Santa Monica Museum of Contemporary Art in late 2005, found its final destination at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery this January. The loose trajectory from West to East is hardly unrelated to the exhibition, which—while rich in SoCal, Beat-era flavor—highlighted the vehement cross-pollination between coasts as it was manifested particularly within Berman’s wide-ranging group of friends and acquaintances. Indeed, while the quintessential (but never mainstreamed) bohemian was the

  • Jacqueline Humphries

    The title of Jacqueline Humphries’s recent exhibition, “Past Out,” is obviously a play on words, but it’s a pun that—when taken as an edict—delivers a real punch. Over the course of fifteen years or so, Humphries has argued for abstract painting as a piquant site for direct spectatorial experience, at once ephemerally contingent and aggressively present. If critics can’t help but resort to talking about Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Cy Twombly, and even Gerhard Richter when confronted by her canvases, it’s partly because Humphries has, of course, manifested the lessons she’s learned from


    A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS (plus finale) with a cast of sixteen, A Play of Selves was first staged . . . well, never. At least not exactly. Cindy Sherman completed the piece in 1976, when she was an undergraduate studying art at Buffalo State College in upstate New York and living above Hallwalls, the alternative space she had founded in 1974 with Robert Longo, Charlie Clough, and others. Having abandoned painting for photography, a medium that allowed her to enact a variety of private performances entirely for and by way of the camera, Sherman created seventy-two black-and-white tableaux that collectively

  • Mary Miss

    Rosalind Krauss begins her canonical 1978 essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” by considering an artwork made by Mary Miss earlier that year. Almost invisible from a distance, the piece is nonetheless enormous, its elements spanning four acres and comprised of vast amounts of steel, wood, and soil. Krauss attributes the work’s visual elusiveness to its placement literally below the radar. One of its components is a labyrinthine underground courtyard accessible to viewers only by descending a small wooden ladder. Yet, Perimeters/Pavillions/Decoys can hardly be considered “entirely below

  • Karen Kilimnik

    Karen Kilimnik has, since the mid-1980s, been hailed by some for her ability to channel decadence of various degrees—from generic goth to coked-up waifdom à la Kate Moss—with the unabashed, if slightly off-kilter, delight of a true enthusiast. Others locate their love for her work at what would seem the opposite pole, positing that the artist’s Romantic obsessions are served up with a deft critical turn, and that the pleasure principle behind them lies precisely in their maker’s techniques of deflation. Personally, I tend to think of Kilimnik’s subject matter the way I do the tortoise

  • Jessica Stockholder

    A few years ago, Jessica Stockholder described herself in an interview as feeling like “a dinosaur” around her students, whom she characterized as generally more interested in ideas than in the visual per se. While this statement might seem to mark a too-strident divide between then and now when it comes to modes of production over the past twenty years, Stockholder’s self-assessment is certainly correct on this count: Her own work really has started to show its age. As the artist’s recent group exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash revealed, she continues apace with a practice that stubbornly


    IN 1966 JOAN DIDION wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine profiling Joan Baez, who at twenty-five years old was nearly as famous for her activism as for her folksinging (which is to say very). Baez had opened her own school—the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence—in California’s Carmel Valley, and Didion’s piece detailed the legal proceedings initiated by some of that area’s less “liberal” occupants after finding the organization in their immediate vicinity. But, however focused around this local issue, the essay ultimately crafts a subtle portrait of a figure produced by and for a

  • Eva Hesse

    Eva Hesse has (quite rightfully) long been established as one of the most significant artists of her generation, and aside from calling attention to, say, less canonical works or emphasizing previously unplumbed historical correspondences, most recent reviews have taken her “excellence” as a given, often focusing not on Hesse’s oeuvre itself but on the methodologies used by curators and catalogue writers who take the artist’s short, tragic (and thus mythic) career as their subject.

    In this respect, “Eva Hesse” has become as much a signifier as a proper name, sparking ongoing debates around the

  • Michael Sarich

    In 1928, on a train from New York to his hometown of Los Angeles, a young Walt Disney filled the hours by doodling. He was depressed, having just lost the copyright for an unsuccessful cartoon character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, to discontented financial backers. But, unwilling to submit to gloom and doom, Disney busied himself with trying to conceive the ultimate “sympathetic” character. This arrived in the unexpected figure of a mouse with wide-set eyes and red velvet pants. The kindhearted rodent, Disney proclaimed, would be named Mortimer Mouse. (Disney’s wife, Lillian, pronounced the name

  • Sherrie Levine

    Since she came on the scene in the mid-1970s, Sherrie Levine has made art that couldn’t exist without that which came before it. Levine’s insistence on her project’s inherent secondhandness has meant that her work is often understood as illustrating the toppling of “originality” and “authenticity” by the bowling ball of postmodernism. Yet, as much as her infamous reworkings of extant “masterworks” (by Walker Evans, Egon Schiele, Constantin Brancusi, and the like) have operated to critically account for inequities in art’s production and reception, they have succeeded, too, in nudging otherwise