John Beeson

  • Nora Schultz, Tripod I and II, 2013, steel and foam, dimensions variable.
    picks December 24, 2013

    Nora Schultz

    Nora Schultz’s exhibition “Stative auf der Flucht / The tripods’ escape” personifies the tripod, weaving it into a gossamer narrative set in an alternate reality. Schultz is dealing in a special brand of speculation––science fiction––as indicated by the show’s accompanying text, a reworking of an interview with an unidentified sci-fi author. But her point of departure should come as no surprise, since it’s formalized in the spindly steel and foam creatures (Tripod I and II, all works 2013) and chunky space-age gear (Moonboots) found in the gallery’s front room. Together, text and object set the

  • Ericka Beckman, You the Better, 1983, digital video transferred from 16 mm film, color, sound, 32 minutes.

    Ericka Beckman

    During the 1970s, while in graduate school at CalArts, Ericka Beckman met several other artists who would become prominent figures of her generation—Mike Kelley, Matt Mullican, James Welling, and James Casebere among them. These interlocutors had a lasting impact on her artistic production, which consists primarily of film and video. For one thing, Beckman’s concern with the ways in which sociocultural norms develop and are maintained often coincided closely with Kelley’s. For another, she has been historicized alongside Mullican and Welling, for example in the exhibition “The Pictures

  • Maria Nordman, Plan for De Ondas (On Waves), 1983, ink and paint on vellum, 21 1/4 x 78 3/4".

    Maria Nordman

    Maria Nordman’s first solo exhibition in Berlin consisted entirely of works that she made in the 1970s and ’80s but which are dated as if extending toward a perpetual present moment, as is always the case in her production. Though born in Germany, Nordman is strongly associated with Los Angeles in those decades, when artists came to emphasize sculpture’s field of installation––especially viewers’ perception of physical form in relation to light, space, and site.

    At Konrad Fischer Galerie in Berlin, De Ondas (Portuguese for “on waves”), 1983–, assumed a deconstructed form that differed from the

  • View of “Clegg & Guttmann,” 2013. From Left: DA, 2013; BT, 1982/1990/2013; Bildtidningen, 1985/1989/2013.

    Clegg & Guttmann

    Power, it’s been said, has been a central theme of Clegg & Guttmann’s portrait photography since the 1980s. The titles or captions of some works openly catalogue the professional stature of their subjects, and symbols of wealth and position abound: power suits, power ties, strings of pearls, bourgeois coiffures. Some of the subjects, in fact, commissioned their portraits. The images, too, as time has come to show, possess a palpable iconic status and historical relevance not unrelated to power.

    First gaining attention in New York and then in the German-speaking art world, where Clegg & Guttmann

  • Marlie Mul, Puddle (Green Tracks), 2013, sand, stones, resin, 3/8 x 33 1/2 x 35 1/2".

    Marlie Mul

    The nature of a site is in the details: the way that this concrete floor maps a shape from white wall to white wall, or the way that the broad walls give way to narrower ones and another mounted with a bookshelf, or the way that the large, ground-floor window looks out onto a particular vista. Banalities like this year’s extralong, snowy winter in Berlin also count among the specifics of a site and might even have come to mind at Marlie Mul’s exhibition “Boneless Banquet for One,” where the mixture of gravel and slush tracked around by pedestrians on the city’s streets and sidewalks seemed

  • Józef Robakowski, Come to Me, 1989, video, color, sound, 5 minutes 19 seconds.

    Józef Robakowski

    Der Linie nach” (Along the Line), a recent exhibition of work by leading Polish avant-garde filmmaker Józef Robakowski, took as its cohesive ingredient a simple formal element: the line. Not in itself a particularly compelling theme, it is nevertheless of great significance for Robakowski, who believes that by training his artistic faculty on such a basic form it is possible to address nonformal, procedural, and personal subject matter.

    Robakowski’s roots are in action-based art production dating back to the 1960s, for example with the Toruń, Poland–based collective Zero-61. Since then, and

  • Gerry Bibby, Candy Says Big Decisions Endless Revisions, 2008, silk screen on paper. Installation view, Mica Moca, Berlin. Photo: Nick Ash.


    “CANDY SAYS, ‘I’ve come to hate my body and all that it requires in this world.’” Against a sugar-sweet melody, Lou Reed opens the first track of the Velvet Underground’s 1969 self-titled album by quoting Warhol’s beloved superstar Candy Darling, who resolutely revised her body as well as her gender identity via hormone injections and drag. One could say that such a state of exhausted subjectivity and fractured self-image is a pervasive contemporary condition; this is, in fact, a central premise of Gerry Bibby’s performative encounters with a wide range of media. In chorus with sources of cultural

  • Vincent Fecteau, Untitled, 2011, gypsum cement, resin clay, acrylic paint, 16 x 24 x 23 5/8".

    Vincent Fecteau

    Among the new abstract sculptures in Vincent Fecteau’s exhibition in Berlin were the largest that the artist has made until now. They are even bigger than his wall-mounted works exhibited at greengrassi in London in 2010, but all of these new painted sculptures sat on pedestals––three smaller-scale ones (all Untitled, 2011, and previously shown at last year’s Whitney Biennial) on standard rectangular plinths and four larger ones (all Untitled, 2012) on tabletops. The materials—such as foamcore and cardboard—and manageable scale of Fecteau’s previous, similarly displayed works led them

  • Richard Kern and Nick Zedd, The Manhattan Love Suicides: Thrust in Me, 1985, 35 mm, black-and-white, 35 minutes.
    slant December 12, 2012

    John Beeson

    FROM THE DRONING CHORDS of Sonic Youth’s 1984 “Death Valley ’69” that echoed down the pitch-black entry hall to the sinking feeling in my stomach brought on by Richard Kern’s Fingered, 1986, KW’s “You Killed Me First” kept a firm hold on me. My hesitations about the exhibition’s dutifully spray-painted walls aside, the eighteen films on view told a brilliantly fucked-up story of twentysomethings on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1980s and their spite for their parents’ generation’s counterculture-turned–dominant culture. The filmmakers’ assaults on their own bodies––complemented by plenty of

  • View of “Franz Erhard Walther,” 2012.

    Franz Erhard Walther

    In recent years, the story of Franz Erhard Walther, when told, has been of his influence. A classmate of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and Blinky Palermo at the art academy in Düsseldorf, later the teacher of Martin Kippenberger, Christian Jankowski, and Jonathan Meese, among others, in Hamburg, Walther occupies a pivotal position in postwar German art history. This narrative of influence, however, threatens to obscure the importance of his own work, with its material sophistication and conceptual acuity—as evidenced by the four dynamic pieces that constituted this very thoughtfully

  • Roger Fritz, Fassbinder’s “Querelle” Nr. 082, 1982/2011, color photograph, 29 1/2 x 19 3/4".

    “Querelle—Photographed by Roger Fritz”

    In 1982, the year in which Rainer Werner Fassbinder made his film Querelle, one of the actors, Roger Fritz, took several hundred photographs on the set. On the film’s release, a book was published with reproductions of 119 of the images. Depicting the actors in still, dramatized poses that embody each character’s attitude as well as narrative episodes, Fritz’s photos distill Querelle’s wild, colorful, indoor set into iconic images. Fassbinder is noted for having brought some of the theatricality and the directness of the stage into the cinema, in part through his attention to the dynamic among

  • FORT, Lou, 2012, color HD video projection (19 minutes 15 seconds), electric vertical jalousie in carpeted room, twenty handmade one-legged stools, light sign, musical intermission score. Installation view.


    Near the end of Wong Kar-wai’s 1990 film, Days of Being Wild, the character Yuddy invokes the legend of the bird with no legs for a second time: “I used to think there was a kind of bird that, once born, would keep flying until death. The fact is that the bird hasn’t gone anywhere. . . .” Meanwhile, the camera peers out over lush Philippine jungle, from the same vantage as during the film’s opening credits. The legend of the bird without legs was not invoked by the artist collective FORT in their recent exhibition “Lou,” yet the show’s stylized, meandering approach seemed to invite such a