Johanna Burton

  • 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

  • Lucky DeBellevue

    While it’s usually considered bad form to begin a review of an exhibition by contemplating something so ostensibly insignificant as the artist’s name, it’s irresistible when that name is Lucky DeBellevue. We all know the common definition of the word, yet, as a noun, “lucky” has, for centuries, if far less usually today, functioned as an affectionate term for an older woman, particularly one of the grandmotherly sort. Given that the artist’s surname translates, loosely, to “of beautiful sight,” we can imagine Lucky DeBellevue as a matriarch with a good eye.

    DeBellevue’s work initially underscores

  • Carolee Schneeman

    Carolee Schneemann’s recent solo exhibition at P.P.O.W. coincided with Thomas Hirschhorn’s latest at Gladstone Gallery. Both, it scarcely needs pointing out, dealt with the politics of representation and the representation of politics, but a more interesting point of comparison might be semantic. While Schneemann—a pioneering figure in feminism and body art—has sometimes met with accusations of narcissism and shallowness, Hirschhorn today claims superficiality itself as a site de résistance. “The truth and logic of things,” he writes, “are reflected on their own surface. . . . Let’s keep things

  • Sharon Hayes

    The title of Sharon Hayes’s new five-channel video installation, After Before, 2005, seems utterly opaque until it suddenly makes sense. Shown at Art in General a full year after the 2004 presidential election but filmed two months prior to George W. Bush’s dubious reelection, it effects a kind of anticipation of a time already long gone. Indeed, the work, which documents the travails of two young microphone-wielding women as they scour the streets of New York City in search of “public opinion,” is charged with a very particular set of anxieties, hopes, and suspicions that feel at once prescient