Johanna Fateman

  • picks August 26, 2016

    Jimmy DeSana

    Photographer Jimmy DeSana made a career of defamiliarizing the domestic. He troubled suburban interiors with nude models in precarious poses, recasting everyday objects as BDSM props in his spare, elegant tableaux. He also used outlandish color—saturated effects often achieved with gel-covered tungsten lights—to make normal things lurid, clubby, better. “Remainders” is a modestly sized show of small-scale works, images that have not been exhibited for more than two decades, in which the figure is mostly absent and objects are uncannily abstracted. In Spools, 1985–86, the titular threadbare posts

  • picks August 19, 2016

    Kristin Smallwood

    The floor of Kristin Smallwood’s busy multimedia exhibition “IUD” is papered with clippings from straight porn magazines and women ripped from fashion glossies. She sneaks some photographs of herself into the messy X-rated collage, too. These images are decidedly glum—mug shots, not beaver shots. Smallwood merges the genres, sort of, in a video that loops on a small wall-mounted monitor. The Perfect Woman (all works 2016) shows the artist in close-up lip-synching, deadpan, to Whitney Houston’s soaring 1992 ballad “I Will Always Love You,” her face transformed by the ingenious superimposition

  • picks August 05, 2016

    Brandi Twilley

    Two glowing television sets play different channels, illuminating the fluorescent green faces of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed on a bedspread. Rain buckets wait on messy floors beneath water-damaged acoustic ceiling tiles; clothes burst from dresser drawers; and mass-produced art—a scene of fiery fall foliage, a ship in rough seas—hangs on the walls. These are some of the poignant, portentous details captured by Brandi Twilley’s beautiful, moody oil paintings in “The Living Room.” With each medium-size horizontal canvas, she offers a different view of the same titular space, where one (

  • picks July 15, 2016

    Alice Tippit

    Alice Tippit’s boldly graphic, hard-edge paintings are refined and puzzle-like. In these sketchbook-scale works, she offsets a cool, formal harmony with a wry and cryptic language of symbols, arabesques, and geometry. Irregular vases, decontextualized fruit, elongated hands, and weird animals populate her spare compositions, evoking vintage textile design and antique sign painting as well as art history. In Iris (all works 2016), a Victorian crescent moon hangs facing down—like a happy, Cyclopean eyelid—in a velvety-black sky. A canary-yellow banana under it makes a big clownish smile. Flat is

  • picks July 08, 2016

    “I Am Silver”

    The lovely and occasionally creepy figurative paintings by six intriguing artists take shade beneath the curatorial parasol of a Sylvia Plath poem. “I Am Silver,” the show’s title, is borrowed from the first line of “Mirror,” in which the poet assumes the titular object’s dispassionate voice. With sly, mounting despair, she/it narrates the waning of a woman’s desirability. Beauty and its cruel, ridiculous genderedness might be the metasubject here. In Plath’s tradition, the works on view mourn, satirize, cheapen, or resent beauty, or make it horrifying, without utterly eradicating it.


  • picks July 01, 2016

    Xaviera Simmons

    Don’t take the stairs to Xaviera Simmons’s show in the second-floor galleries, as it starts in the elevator. A video titled Islands (all works cited, 2016) plays on a monitor mounted above the doors. One looks up in order to look down at the ocean, a single shot of choppy water. The short loop is a fitting introduction to this transporting multimedia exhibition in which seductive images of water and sun-soaked terrain, their locations never identified, become symbols for an abstract site. Simmons’s “island” is metaphorical and mediated, much as “the body” is, a parallel emphasized by the pronounced

  • picks June 24, 2016

    Nan Goldin

    In a second-floor gallery leading to a dark room where Nan Goldin’s epic slideshow The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1976–96, plays in a dedicated installation, vintage flyers from the artist’s archive highlight its start as an improvised and evolving performance staged in the long-gone clubs and alternative venues of New York’s downtown scene. This canonical masterpiece, shown here in its original 35-mm slide format, comprises nearly seven hundred images: fearlessly intimate snapshot-like documents of Goldin’s chosen family and a devastated demimonde at the height of AIDS. The photos—ordered in

  • picks June 17, 2016

    Larry Walker

    Larry Walker is Kara Walker’s father, and it’s hard to resist reading this career-spanning show of his drawings and mixed-media paintings, curated by his famous daughter, through her work. You look for—and find—ways in which his practice, described by her in the press release as “the background hum of my life from infancy,” may have shaped her sensibility. Larry Walker’s use of silhouette, for example, is striking in its own right, but it’s particularly notable in light of Kara Walker’s brutal and exquisite cut-paper murals of plantation life in the antebellum South. Both artists share a tendency

  • passages June 01, 2016

    Marlene Marder (1955–2016)

    ACCORDING TO LEGEND, in 1978 Marlene Marder quit Nasal Boys—one of just a few bands in Zurich’s tiny punk scene—because the fame-seeking Boys thought the saxophone was uncool. But for Kleenex, her new band, she immediately gave it up to play guitar and sing, which goes to show that her break with them wasn’t really about the sax. She sought freedom generally, in principle, to do whatever. A few other young women from the group’s ever-shifting lineup were responsible, over the next five years, for the controversial instrument’s haywire presence—as a growling texture or startling punctuation—in

  • Lucy McKenzie

    Lucy McKenzie enters the lofty or demoted discourse of oil painting through a little-used side entrance—trompe l’oeil effects. In 2007–2008 she attended a school for decorative painting in Brussels. The educational detour was an unusual one for an already exhibiting artist, and it served her well: The skills she gained brought the allure of vocational virtuosity to her conceptual practice, an air of expert make-believe. But that’s not to say her work is lighthearted. “Inspired by Inspired by,” her show at Galerie Buchholz this past spring, felt like the almost-real scene of a chilling

  • picks May 27, 2016

    Harmony Hammond

    The mixed-media work in Harmony Hammond’s new show has a rare presence, evoking the sides of barges, stucco walls, and flesh. She uses oil paint, layered strips of canvas, and hardware to imbue her irregular reworkings of fraught modernist forms—monochrome painting, the grid—with luminous, repaired, weathered, and weather-proofed qualities. Here, grommets function as both marks and portals to the blank wall behind, punched into her canvases and arranged in rows. In the grand, off-white Witness, 2014, an elegant fold in the canvas suggests a horizon line or a shirt seam. In the upstairs gallery,

  • picks May 20, 2016

    Wayne Thiebaud

    Sunglasses, ice-cream cones, nudes, bolt cutters, and, of course, layer cakes are just a few of our favorite things depicted in this airy, career-spanning sampling of Wayne Thiebaud’s work. The sophisticated whimsy of the painter’s realism is reflected not just in his choice of charming subjects but also in his meticulous renderings of them. Via his multicolored outlining technique, which the artist refers to as “halation,” the works are imbued with a subtle Kodachrome radiance. And up close, one finds a fanciful mini-sunset at the edge of each object. In the magnificent and never-before-exhibited

  • picks May 13, 2016

    Cindy Sherman

    In Cindy Sherman’s eagerly awaited new show, older women—played by the artist, as always—appear in photographs reminiscent of 1920s Hollywood glamour shots or movie posters. Costumed and posed as younger women might be, these bobbed, finger-waving, and stylishly hatted women with precision-painted eyebrows—think Greta Garbo, Louise Brooks, or Lillian Gish—seem to be reliving their heydays, in color. Or, maybe, this evocative psychological premise is simply a fortuitous byproduct of Sherman’s age. She’s sixty-two now and continues to work as she has for decades: alone and as a master of all

  • picks May 06, 2016

    Rashaad Newsome

    “Stop Playing in My Face!”—the title of both Rashaad Newsome’s show and its mesmerizing queer Afrofuturist video centerpiece—is taken from a rebuke/mantra invented by Samantha James Revlon: black trans woman, YouTube luminary, and camera-phone diarist. In Newsome’s four-minute loop, Revlon’s vivid vernacular becomes a springboard and framework for theoretical discussion. Set to an eerie dance beat, the cut-up voices of feminist cultural critics, such as bell hooks and Janet Mock, debate the practical and philosophical potentials (or pitfalls) of sexual self-commodification. Meanwhile, the nearly

  • Cheryl Donegan

    “Cheryl Donegan: Scenes and Commercials,” a condensed retrospective of works spanning twenty-three years, curated by Johanna Burton, was festively immersive, as if a multimedia flowchart and a neo–New Wave lookbook had exploded into an array of chic party decorations on the New Museum’s fifth floor. The visual hubbub of video works on monitors and screens, paintings strung between or clustered around them, had a high-concept/low-budget vibe. Donegan’s entertaining, goofy-yet-aloof videos are mostly performance-based (starring herself) and simply edited, while her paintings exploit the stylishly

  • picks April 29, 2016

    Guðmundur Thoroddsen

    The small earthenware objects arranged on plinths in Guðmundur Thoroddsen’s show “Dismantled Spirits” evoke a garbled ancientness, a mishmash of Paleolithic, Sumerian, and Greco-Roman styles united by a scatological and phallic throughline. Pinocchio noses and double-headed dildo forms emerge from lumpy, daubed-together urns placed next to what look like rough-hewn tools and obelisk-type things. Hot Dog Mask, 2015, is a mini-monument to grossness: an imperfect green-glazed Doric-like column, interrupted by a diarrheaish cloud of Caucasian-colored clay just above its base and topped with a

  • picks April 22, 2016

    Yve Laris Cohen

    At Yve Laris Cohen’s opening, people milled about carefully, minding the edges of the movers’ blankets on the floor. Like protective islands, they marked off space for their storied cargo—the disassembled set for Martha Graham’s 1958 dance Embattled Garden (which is this show’s title, too). The striking biomorphic décor—a floating harlequin-patterned platform and a stylized twelve-foot-tall tree, designed by Isamu Noguchi—was displayed with forensic elegance, like puzzle pieces. Or like wreckage: When the Hudson River flooded the far West Village during Hurricane Sandy, the Martha Graham Dance

  • picks April 15, 2016

    Sara Greenberger Rafferty

    From afar, Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s works look like big glossy Shrinky Dinks pressed against the walls. And up close, too, with their wavy, irregular Plexiglas edges and splotchy colored areas—especially the ones that evoke paper-doll clothes, such as the disembodied form in Dress (all works 2016), with its rainbow popsicle geometry, or Wolford Shapewear and Various Objects, which draws you in with its painterly lingerie curves in “nude” and a picture from a monograph on Chardin. But, unlike Dinks, Rafferty’s objects have an ethereal depth, achieved with layers of ink-jet printing and acrylic

  • picks April 01, 2016

    Mira Schor

    “Are you a feminist artist?” is a dogged refrain, running like an earworm through Mira Schor’s new exhibition of oil paintings and delicate works on paper. Rendered in the artist’s fluid, unfussy script—the hallmark of her painterly conceptualism and long-standing investigations of language as image—the text fills small boxy speech bubbles at eye-level with a repeated figure, ostensibly the feminist artist in question. She’s depicted as a playfully morbid diagram, reduced to a set of signs, a sparsely accessorized stick figure with breasts and a skull. Schor’s distilled figuration is not a dry

  • picks April 01, 2016

    Eileen Quinlan

    The parade of mysterious photographic works on view in Eileen Quinlan’s new show fills both of this gallery’s Lower East Side spaces, but also leaves them feeling strangely empty. The pieces are large but not grand, spaced farther apart than what’s customary, and, altogether, have an unmooring effect. The potential significance or emotional resonance of any individual image—there’s a regal fox, brambly woods, shattered glass, a sexty crotch shot, and many abstractions—is undercut by its puzzling, seemingly random (but clearly calculated) relationship to the others. In the unsettling search for