Johanna Burton

  • T. J. Wilcox

    ACCORDING TO THE SWANS, DECEMBER 16, 2012, IS A DATE TO REMEMBER. So closes one segment of T. J. Wilcox’s Garland #6, 2005, a nine-minute-thirteen-second reel of three silent 16 mm films. Projected from a noisy Eiki Slim Line (the quintessential home-movie model) onto a standard portable screen, the subtitled film is suffused with an enthusiast’s total immersion in his subject. Were it not for the subtitles’ insistence on narrative accompaniment, one might easily read this slow documentation of swans floating on cerulean water as the loving endeavor of a lifelong Audubon Society member. But

  • Peter Campus

    Strictly speaking, one needed just eighteen minutes to see all of Peter Campus’s recent exhibition at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, which contained six looped digital videos lasting less than three minutes each. Yet such a straightforward approach was both irrelevant and impossible, since the single events that each video depicts have no obvious beginnings or ends. As the title of the show, “time’s friction,” suggested, Campus was less interested in tracking durational time than in revealing and elaborating on the poetic pushes and pulls within it.

    This is not to say that Campus hasn’t

  • John Baldessari

    When, in 1971, John Baldessari made a video titled I will not make any more boring art, he wasn’t kidding. Sure, he was delivering a cheeky one-off that poked fun at Conceptual strategies even while deploying them, but he was also making a promise to himself and his audience to keep things interesting. A case in point some three decades later: the artist’s recent exhibition of new work, which bears the bona fide Baldessarian stamp of pointed humor and unwavering formal invention.

    Baldessari’s oeuvre has been continuously fueled by words and images that catch the artist’s roving eye for an extra

  • Edgar Arcenaux, Failed Attempt at Crystallization, 2002, glass case, sugar, crystals, wood, mirror, and textbook, 55 3/4 x 18 x 20". From “Double Consciousness.”

    Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970

    This exhibition of some thirty artists—Renée Greene, Senga Nengudi, Adrian Piper, and Nari Ward among them—explores the ways Conceptualism has been recast to reflect and subvert deep-set social inequities.

    In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois described the African-American experience as one of “double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others.” A century later, his term continues to resonate, and CAM curator Valerie Cassel Oliver has appropriated its connotations of invisibility and displacement as means to reevaluate conceptual strategies taken up by African-American artists over the past three decades. This exhibition of some thirty artists—Renée Greene, Senga Nengudi, Adrian Piper, and Nari Ward among

  • Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Projection 4 (Plize/Mushrooms), 1997, 35 mm slide. From “SlideShow.”

    “SlideShow”

    Art has long deployed the slide, not only for Wölfflinian compare-and-contrast art history lessons and worka- day documentation, but also as a medium in and of itself. Yet just last year, Kodak discontinued its Ekta-graphic slide projector, forecasting its obsolescence in the face of digital technology. The BMA, however, is putting on its own slide show, in which nineteen artists from the last forty years commemorate the seemingly unassuming slide in all its vicissitudes. Projects by artists as disparate as Nan Goldin, Ana Mendieta, and Marcel Broodthaers are gathered

  • Paul Chan

    Act I. A country road. A tree. Evening. Act II. Next day. Same time. Same place.

    Anyone familiar with the sparse setting of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (his 1948 “tragicomedy in two acts”) likely recognized it as the skeleton upon which Paul Chan hung cacophonous skin for his debut solo show. Yet Chan—who previously has paired such seemingly incongruous aesthetics and philosophies as those of Charles Fourier and Henry Darger—here added a blast of hellfire from the book of Leviticus and peopled his Beckettian stage with, among others, the digital likenesses of the late rapper Biggie Smalls

  • Allan McCollum

    Allan McCollum once asserted that a typical viewer’s relationship to a work of art is predicated on the desire “to be in on things at the source, to be involved in the Primal Scene, not out in the hall looking through the keyhole.” It is, however, precisely out in the metaphoric hall that McCollum has established an outpost, basing his oeuvre on the ways in which fantasies of immersion play themselves out in the fetishistic production, circulation, and consumption of art and other symbolic objects. His best-known series, the “Surrogate Paintings,” from 1978, and the related “Plaster Surrogates,”

  • Subject to Revision

    Amid dozens of artworks stridently addressing the politics of identity at the infamously “PC” 1993 Whitney Biennial, Glenn Ligon’s Notes on the Margin of the Black Book took a more elliptical and ambiguous approach. This elegantly conceived structural amendment to Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book consisted of two rows of individually framed images, appropriated directly from the photographer’s controversial series of black male nudes. In the newly expanded “margin” between the photographs, Ligon inserted all manner of uniformly typed texts on race and sexuality, appropriated from heretofore

  • La Folie I & II, 2001, Handprinting and printed collage on paper, 53.2 x 23.5 x 1.8 in (135.1 x 59.7 x 4.6 cm)

    Nancy Spero

    For more than five decades, Nancy Spero has paired an array of fragmented, totemic figures with fragmented, coded language. This show includes both new work and highlights from Spero’s oeuvre, such as selections from the “War Series 1966–70” and Hours of the Night II, 2001.

    For more than five decades, Nancy Spero has paired an array of fragmented, totemic figures (from serpent-tongued harpies to sperm-engorged bombs) with fragmented, coded language (from writings by Artaud to descriptions of torture techniques). This show includes both new work and highlights from Spero’s oeuvre, such as selections from the “War Series 1966–70” and Hours of the Night II, 2001. The accompanying catalogue comprises essays by independent curator Susan Harris as well as Juan Vicente Aliaga, Jo Anna Isaak, and Diana Nemiroff. The artist’s life-long feminist project of plumbing the depths

  • Yves Klein, Leap Into the Void, 1960.

    Yves Klein

    Though Yves Klein is most frequently recalled for his Leap into the Void, 1960, the self-proclaimed descendant of Delacroix was also a stunning colorist, prescient performance artist, cunning conceptualist, sly sculptor, and skilled judoka—all within the course of an eight-year career cut short by his death in 1962 at thirty-four.

    Though Yves Klein is most frequently recalled for his Leap into the Void, 1960, the self-proclaimed descendant of Delacroix was also a stunning colorist, prescient performance artist, cunning conceptualist, sly sculptor, and skilled judoka—all within the course of an eight-year career cut short by his death in 1962 at thirty-four. This comprehensive retrospective, accompanied by a sizable catalogue, offers meaty samplings from all periods of Klein’s work. In addition to famous monochromes, including those in International Klein Blue, are sponge reliefs, sculptures, “Anthropometries” (in which

  • Rodney Graham

    In his three-act play La machine à écrire (The Typewriter, 1941), Jean Cocteau presents a female protagonist indistinguishable from the eponymous tool of her modern trade. This mysterious character’s deep-seated aggressiveness is borne out in typewritten letters signed “The Typewriter” whose alarming anonymity propels an entire community into a state of sustained anxiety. Recognizing the metaphoric implications of the perpetrator’s activities, the detective bent on cracking “the typewriter’s” case likens her use of the mechanical writing tool to that of a machine gun (unsurprising, perhaps,

  • Nicole Eisenman

    Yes, this is a review of that Nicole Eisenman, who, officially dubbed a “bad girl” in 1993, has received far too little critical consideration outside that nomenclature. Though the artist’s numerous virtuosic paintings, drawings, installations, and animations torque elements from high art (Renaissance to modern), low culture (porn to punk), and autobiography (lesbian libido to psychoanalyst dad), her status as bad-attitude dyke, bad-ass feminist, and even “bad” painter has been iterated again and again. And while Eisenman’s work can be read in any of these ways, one thing became clear on seeing