Johanna Fateman

  • Johanna Fateman’s top ten highlights of 2020

    Johanna Fateman is a writer, an art crtic, and a co-owner of Seagull Salon in New York. She is a contributing editor of Artforum.



    While the “Best of 2020” sounds like a grim joke (the ten best catastrophes?), the year wasn’t without absurdist bright spots, such as Hardy’s ten-foot-long pigment-soaked maxi pad (her show’s sole work). Which is not to say the “canvas”—an old-fashioned Color Field painting in a sour-power palette—was played for laughs. For me, it was the indelible gesture of the New York fall openings. Greedily absorbent, radiant with

  • Lisa Alvarado

    Lisa Alvarado’s series titled “Thalweg (Traditional Object)” features brightly inscrutable two-sided paintings on fabric or canvas, edged with metallic passementerie or floral embroidered trim—delicate finishing touches for bold abstractions. There were nine such exacting works (all 2020) suspended from the ceiling at various angles in “Thalweg,” her airy solo exhibition this past summer at Bridget Donahue. Some, bearing graphic stepped shapes, prismatic compositions, snaking or zigzagging patterns, and glyph-like forms in electric palettes, seemed informed by Mayan textiles; others, built from

  • Chloë Bass

    I’ve gotten to know Wayfinding well. Every day I walk by some, if not all, of the twenty-four signs that compose Chloë Bass’s meditative, ever-unfolding, treasure hunt–like installation in Harlem’s St. Nicholas Park. (It has taken months for me to spot them all.) The project, commissioned by the Studio Museum in Harlem and curated by Legacy Russell, appeared last fall as part of the institution’s series of off-site community programming, which continues while its new building is under construction.

    The Conceptual artist, who grew up in New York City, has placed most of her messages along a

  • Juanita McNeely

    The wailing wreckage of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, the necrotic wrist stump in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Self-Portrait as a Soldier, 1915, and the hellscapes of Otto Dix’s series “Der Krieg” (The War), 1924, all echo in Juanita McNeely’s pained visions. For her exhibition at James Fuentes, presented in collaboration with Mitchell Algus Gallery, the eighty-four-year-old artist showed two epic multipanel paintings from previous decades of her career, rendered in a sui generis expressionist style. The shell-shocked tricks of European modernism find new life in these complex works, depicting the


    NOTHING CAPTURES the imagination quite like a period room. At the Museum of Modern Art, you can’t hope to stumble on anything with the transporting, cinematic force and decorative ferocity of, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Bedroom from the Sagredo Palace, of course. But it’s a heart-quickening surprise to encounter, in the refreshed and reshuffled fifth-floor collection galleries, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky’s Frankfurt Kitchen. The alluring time capsule appears as a freestanding lemon-chiffon bunker, its neatly drab, graphite-gray interior beckoning through a sliding-door aperture. You

  • Johanna Fateman

    Johanna Fateman is a writer, a musician, and a co-owner of Seagull Salon in New York. She writes art criticism regularly for 4Columns and the New Yorker and is a Contributing Editor of Artforum. She is a 2019 Creative Capital Awardee and is currently at work on a novel.


    Rosler’s unmatched ability to wield consumer culture’s opulence against itself made for a visually festive retrospective. But sober critique unites the Semiotics of the Kitchen star’s half century of uninhibited Conceptualism; her early

  • Hannah Black

    The five large screens of Hannah Black’s video installation Beginning, End, None—a new iteration of a work from 2017—were suspended from the ceiling of the long, darkened gallery. They formed an austere procession of loosely edited montages, assembled from images of motes, slowly churning like stardust: ghostly computer-generated architectural renderings, scientific illustrations, a scorpion illuminated by a UV flashlight, and other found or casually shot material. While the configuration lent the space a hallowed ambience and gave the fragmented work a sense of order, it also had a disquieting


    Curated by Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta

    THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL, always a flash point for controversy, is front-loaded with it this year. As we witness the rapid consolidation of America’s oligarchy, art institutions flush with its cash have become subject to fresh activist scrutiny. Whitney-board vice chair Warren B. Kanders’s ownership of Safariland—the maker of tear-gas canisters used by border agents against migrants this past November—is a high-profile, hard-to-swallow fact, even if it is only the tip of the iceberg. But the show must go on, and fortunately, among the seventy-five artists


    ONE MORNING IN FEBRUARY, Nicole Eisenman introduces me to the enormous plaster guys in her studio. Guys is her word; she clarifies right away that she means it in a gender-neutral sense. The first one we look at sits sideways, legs crossed at the ankle, on the back of another who’s on all fours, head down, hands and knees planted resolutely to form a stable seat. The sitting guy’s big palms are outstretched in a beatific pose; they (singular) have a diamond-shaped thatch of wormlike hair growing from their flat chest, and nothing definitive at their crotch. But the uneventful meeting place of

  • Johanna Fateman

    1 GARY INDIANA, VILE DAYS: THE VILLAGE VOICE ART COLUMNS, 1985–1988 (SEMIOTEXT[E]; EDITED BY BRUCE HAINLEY) Intellectually generous and casually eviscerating, Gary Indiana, in his three years as an art columnist, embraced the pretension and debasement inherent to the weekly gig. This demi-doorstop of uncensored observations, high compliments, and serious shade reads like Bleak House as much as it does a collection of criticism—it’d make a great Christmas gift for someone who loves the former and wishes they could make it through the latter, as well as for those mourning the Voice (may it

  • Ree Morton

    Ree Morton’s first large-scale US museum exhibition since 1980, “The Plant That Heals May Also Poison,” at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, captures the unparalleled, heartbreaking hot streak, from 1971 to 1977, that constitutes her brief career. She got a late start: She was married with three kids by age twenty-five, and her subsequent pursuit of an art education was as arduous as it was anomalous. And then she died tragically, in a car accident, when she was just forty. So all of her work is early work, and in this show curated by Kate Kraczon, we see her in flux, forging her

  • “Cheryl Donegan: GRLZ + VEILS” 

    Gingham is both motif and material in Cheryl Donegan’s boundless multimedia oeuvre, which since the 1990s has famously included performance and video as well as object making. In her paintings—the focus of this exhibition—the workaday checked print conjures the modernist grid as well as a pixelated expanse. untitled⎽jade green⎽neon red, 2016, one of the forty or so canvases that will be on view, is representative of Donegan’s sensibility (and sense of humor): It takes the name of a digital file but, with its appealingly