Johanna Fateman

  • picks February 19, 2016

    Miriam Schapiro

    “The California Years: 1967–1975” documents a momentous shift in Miriam Schapiro’s practice, from the wry, abstract feminist-futurism of her hard-edge paintings to the busy decadence of her mixed-media “femmages.” For her handsomely mod paintings in the former category, she used computer software to model and manipulate three-dimensional geometric structures. While the exhibition’s press release notes that these images are often “coded depictions of yonic forms,” we’re not talking about seashells and split melons here. In the pristinely painted Keyhole, 1971, a fiery red-orange and rose-colored

  • picks February 05, 2016

    Jürgen Klauke

    In these sassy, severe works from the 1970s, Jürgen Klauke transforms his body through low-tech effects. In the first photo of his black-and-white triptych Illusion, 1972, he uses a mirror to produce a bilaterally symmetrical image of himself without a penis. In the next two, he’s wearing pantyhose, and the angled mirror turns his crotch into a diamond-shaped void. It’s a great use of nude nylons—at once exploiting their functional properties (to constrain flesh and efface detail), their potency as a symbol of feminine conformity, and their fetishy charge. Ich & Ich (I & I), 1970, depicts an

  • Andrea Crespo

    Cynthia and Celinde share a body. They have two heads, three legs, a slightly widened torso, and sixteen amphibian-like toes. Wearing a midriff-exposing tank top and short shorts, the two are rendered simply, as an anime-inspired sketch, and barely animated (they blink). But, though this is how they appear in virocrypsis (all works 2015), the centerpiece of Andrea Crespo’s exhibition at Swiss Institute, we soon learn that the artist’s conjoined protagonists weren’t born this way—or born at all. At the start of the looping video, the vertical bar of a scan head travels across the screen

  • picks January 29, 2016

    Catherine Opie

    The exhibition “700 Nimes Road” is named for the address of Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air home, which Catherine Opie—who shared an accountant with the star—gained access to in November of 2010 and photographed over a six-month period beginning that December. The project took on new significance when Taylor, who had fallen ill, died: Opie’s fifty-print portfolio shows the contours and eccentricities of a life she never directly observed. The works also subtly chart the transition of the house from a home to something else—a memorial, an archive, or a complicated asset—as, for example, Taylor’s

  • picks January 22, 2016

    Robert Melee

    There are a lot of works in Robert Melee’s show, and various kinds of it are mounted on the walls, or, it almost seems, pushed against them by the explosion of Bower Pool, 2016, an overturned above-ground swimming pool that hangs from the gallery’s ceiling, hemorrhaging decorations. The glittery trappings of Christmas, Mardi Gras, birthdays, graduations, and Pride cascade from the backyard tub like a piñata frozen in time at its climax. Or, as per the title, it’s a nest: Bowerbirds decorate with natural baubles and bright garbage to attract mates.

    In hotels, restaurants, and sometimes homes,

  • 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 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