Johanna Fateman

  • picks January 22, 2016

    Sara Ludy

    For users of the online virtual-reality platform Second Life, “low prim” signifies an object or room that contains little graphic information. While a strict economy of detail frees up three-dimensional real estate, it also amplifies a pervasive, unsettling quality of virtual spaces and, as Sara Ludy dramatizes in her work, of contemporary life in general—that of the “digital uncanny.” As we kill lots of people in first-person shooter games or make floor plans for new furniture on our phones, we embrace the unheimlich as a necessary discomfort. Ludy provocatively applies the ancient philosophical

  • picks January 15, 2016

    Ray Yoshida

    The goofy and mystical qualities of Ray Yoshida’s works aren’t at odds. In his fastidious, otherworldly works, made primarily between 1969 and 1974, the Chicago Imagist builds both figures and abstract landscapes from wormy stripes, like cartoon veins or brainwaves. His surreal forms resemble two-dimensional renderings of wonky sculptural objects, and there’s a vintage-Marimekko-slash-Flintstones feel to his trippy patterning. Some of his untitled felt-tipped pen drawings, circa 1972, show women with hourglass figures, orderly spaghetti hair, and nominal or distorted faces. In another drawing,

  • Camille Henrot

    There were three distinct, amazing parts to Camille Henrot’s Metro Pictures debut: huge watercolor paintings, 3-D-printed phones, and a motorized zoetrope. The watercolors were hung in the second room, on walls painted lemon yellow, a cheerful hue that set off both the bold pastel marks of her dashed-off vignettes and the dark absurdities of their subject matter. Henrot’s paintings look like oversize New Yorker cartoons—they’re spare like Liza Donnelly’s drawings, and they nod to Saul Steinberg’s wry regurgitation of the symbols and stylistic tics of modern masters—but Henrot is crasser.

  • picks December 31, 2015

    Guo Fengyi

    This holiday season, the art world’s best Father Christmas is feathery and vibrant, roughly vertically symmetrical (wearing a pom-pommed hat at both top and bottom), and Buddhist. Guo Fengyi’s Santa Claus, 2007, looks like a vaporous rust-colored ghost from a distance. Up close, he’s mesmerizing, his airy Chewbacca texture composed of rhythmic, multicolored ink strokes. Santa’s top face has an electric-green muzzle and eyebrows, and there are about five more faces of various sizes and personalities tucked into his elongated form. Some of Guo’s intricate, many-faced drawings are so tall they’re

  • picks December 11, 2015

    Glen Fogel

    Surprising vulnerability and an intriguing backstory animate Glen Fogel’s seductively high-tech new show, “Why Don’t I . . . Pretend to Be Your Dad.” In the middle of the gallery’s narrow room, two black glass screens hang from the ceiling, flanked by what appear to be—in dim light—monochrome paintings or sound-absorbing panels. They are, in fact, taut quilts, each one made from acoustic foam and clothing worn by a man in the artist’s life. The garments identified in the works’ materials, such as the Tommy Hilfiger “mismatched navy checked suit” of Man Quilt #1 (Dad), or the H&M corduroy blazer

  • picks December 04, 2015

    Robert Smithson

    “Pop,” the inaugural exhibition of James Cohan’s new Lower East Side space, brings together seventeen of Robert “Spiral Jetty” Smithson’s surprising deep cuts. These campy mixed-media drawings and assemblages are very weird, but their curious qualities pale in comparison to the curious fact of their existence in the first place. It’s mind-boggling and fun to try and reconcile these early experiments—sort of terrible, sort of great—with the radical writings and Earthworks that came on their heels.

    In the drawings, which resemble meticulous studies for altarpiece panels, nude figures seemingly

  • Johanna Fateman

    1 RIHANNA, “BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY” (Roc Nation) I love Rihanna’s plaintive/murderous singing in “BBHMM” and the designer ensembles she and her associates wear in the video as they attempt to collect a debt. Their insane road trip begins with the abduction of a rich white guy’s white wife and ends with a shot of the pop star’s face splattered with enough inky fake blood to pen a thousand feminist think pieces.

    2 MEREDITH GRAVES Speaking of feminist think pieces, Meredith Graves ignores or reinvents the form with her lucid and spontaneous cultural commentary. (Google her “CMJ 2015 Diary!”)

  • slant November 23, 2015

    Exploding Plastics Inevitable

    Artist Wynne Greenwood is the creator of electronic art-punk band Tracy + the Plastics, 1999-2006, a video and live-performance hybrid in which she played the parts of all three members. Always working at the outer limits of what one could practically and conceptually pull off in a small rock club, the queer-feminist virtual bandmates presented an alternate world that was in turns abstract, fantastical, and all too real. (I had the pleasure of witnessing many of these legendary performances in the early ’00s while my own band Le Tigre toured with Tracy + the Plastics.) Recently, Greenwood

  • picks November 13, 2015

    “The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World”

    This intriguing five-artist show feels like a séance, with its cosmic geometric imagery, apparition-like figurative sculptures, and magickal overtones. Actually, it’s a six-artist show if you count Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle: Her seventeenth-century text—considered to be the first work of science fiction—provides the exhibition’s title and has been photocopied for visitors. The protofeminist, antique futurism of Cavendish’s strange story prefigures the show’s cyborgian themes and accentuates its time warp-y mise-en-scène.

    Betty Tompkins’s small psychedelic Pop colored-pencil drawings

  • picks November 06, 2015

    Alina Szapocznikow

    While a recent museum retrospective has brought international attention at last to Alina Szapocznikow, this condensed estate show of her figurative sculpture provides a must-see coda. A fascinating artist of the post-WWII avant-garde, Szapocnikow is known for her distressed corporeal forms, but there’s a playful aspect to her oeuvre, too, evident in the group of remarkable lamps that fill the gallery’s second room.

    The lumpy phallic base of Sculpture-Lampe, 1970, holds up an enchanting—and unsettling—cobbled-together head. A breast with a red nipple forms the back; in front, a mouth and chin are

  • picks October 30, 2015

    Abounaddara

    Abounaddara is an anonymous collective of Syrian filmmakers, practitioners of “emergency cinema” who release a new short video via social media every Friday. They’ve maintained this impressive schedule since the start of the Syrian revolution in April 2011, through the initial mass protests and the Assad regime’s brutal crackdowns, the devastating civil war, and the resulting refugee crisis. The radical group’s remarkable, stylistically heterogeneous films—which range in length from about thirty seconds to five minutes—struggle to make visible what is obscured by war as well as by war reporting.

  • picks October 23, 2015

    Jordan Casteel

    Jordan Casteel’s eight new oil paintings collectively titled “Brothers” are double (or triple) portraits of black men and boys—brothers, cousins, fathers and sons, including the artist’s own nephews and twin. Casteel portrays them tenderly, in casual dress, sitting close together, touching. And she gives their surroundings the same attention: The canvases are windows into vibrant, detailed interiors. She achieves their diorama-like magnetism with subtle perspectival distortions and a synergy of textures. Casteel renders the tapestry prints of upholstery fluidly, and high-pile carpet with gummy

  • picks October 16, 2015

    Brigid Berlin

    With charm and concision, “It’s All About Me” captures former Warhol superstar and high-society black sheep Brigid Berlin’s spirit of obsession and excess—as an artist, a documenter, and a personality. A vitrine of archival material in the center of the space situates her as a major figure of Factory lore. In addition to some absorbing typewritten correspondence and a group of her gold-embossed photobooks from 1970 (one is titled DRELLA, and the one beside it is called ROAST BEEF AND BRUSSEL SPROUT), there’s a case of carefully labeled cassette tapes, her recorded conversations with Warhol and

  • picks October 09, 2015

    Peggy Ahwesh and Jennifer Montgomery

    The exhibition “Two Serious Ladies” is a film program that plays on repeat. Short works by experimental filmmakers Peggy Ahwesh and Jennifer Montgomery are shown on opposite walls. (Not at the same time, though. There are two comfortable couches to move back and forth between when the projectors switch.) The show’s title, taken from Jane Bowles’s 1943 novel of the same name—a work as remarkable for its terse, hallucinatory dialogue as for the sexual adventures of its female protagonists—underscores the distinct but cross-pollinating practices of the two artists, who are also old friends. From

  • picks October 02, 2015

    Martine Syms

    The color purple is a motif in artist and “conceptual entrepreneur” Martine Syms’s work. It’s the background of both her spare, utilitarian website and her video Notes on Gesture, 2015, the arresting centerpiece of “Vertical Elevated Oblique,” her first solo gallery show. Of course, you can’t say or write “the color purple” without invoking The Color Purple—Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of it, and the cultural omnipresence of Oprah Winfrey ever since. Syms uses this rich chain of associations to orient her concerns, such as pop culture’s production of blackness

  • Jackie 60

    ON JUNE 26, 2015—that hot Friday when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, kicking off a joyful and extra-legit Pride weekend in NYC—I sat in an air-conditioned gallery on the seventh floor of the Museum of Arts and Design with a small group of people, young queers and some familiar faces from a very particular, very gracefully aging demimonde. Debbie Harry was there; so were the photographer Alice O’Malley and the performer and DJ Michael Cavadias (aka Lily of the Valley). Each with our own pair of padded headphones, we gazed down at the traffic crawling north from Columbus Circle

  • picks September 25, 2015

    Maureen Gallace

    With each new show of small gorgeous landscapes by Maureen Gallace, it’s natural to look for what is different from last time, noting incremental shifts in technique or subject matter. (For example, there are more paintings of the sea in this group.) But the more important point seems to be that, after more than two decades, her paintings remain very much the same. In her vistas of usually rural New England, bluntly elegant, or maybe confidently awkward, brushstrokes make up sand, snow, flowers, foliage, and sky. Often, there’s a house, shack, or barn at the picture’s dead center, and often she

  • NOTES ON VAMP: JOAN JONAS’S ORGANIC HONEY’S VISUAL TELEPATHY

    “ORGANIC HONEY” “Organic Honey” would be a cool drag name today. And in the early 1970s, Joan Jonas’s performance alias must have been gratifying to her peers—an inspired jab at countercultural pretensions and gender roles, a sardonic and playful recasting of the narcissistic hippie chick as Porta-Pak Conceptualist. Jonas’s description of Organic Honey as an “electronic erotic seductress” captures the character’s archetypal and shape-shifting qualities. She’s stylized, campy, mythical, and mediated. In conceiving her, Jonas was influenced by the conventionalized movements and expressions

  • WOMEN ON THE VERGE

    “WHENEVER YOU PUT YOUR BODY ONLINE, in some way you are in conversation with porn.” The large-type epigraph on the landing page of the online exhibition “Body Anxiety” was culled from an interview with artist Ann Hirsch, whose frustrated musings in ☆ミ, or Starwave, an invitation-only Facebook group for “Internet-savvy” women artists, curators, and writers, spurred Jennifer Chan and Leah Schrager to organize the show. But the tensions percolating in “Body Anxiety” are long-standing. This unruly collection of work from mostly little-known artists, many from overlapping feminist subsets of the

  • Björk

    Talk of the Björk retrospective always raises eyebrows. Yes, it’s a risky crossover thing, but even if it goes a little astray, it’ll be cool—promiscuously collaborative, fashiony, and strange. The visionary Icelandic pop star has for more than two decades brought experimental aesthetics to stadium stages and dance charts, always matching her prolific and innovative musical output with striking, otherworldly visual material and an evolving persona. Appropriately, this exhibition will present a complex narrative of her career, blending biography and fiction in an