Joseph Akel

  • Jess, Hyakinthos-Apollon, 1962, oil on canvas, 57 x 30".
    picks January 30, 2014


    Oh, to be gay in San Francisco. With HBO’s seemingly ersatz appropriation of Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City,” it’s easy to forget that, once upon a time, being fey in the City by the Bay was less about fitting in than it was about, well, sticking out. One of two exhibitions currently featuring the work of Jess Collins—or simply, Jess—in New York (the other at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery), “Looking Past Seeing Through” offers a mordant, abbreviated survey of works by the Bay Area magus of all things queer and fantastical.

    Several oil paintings included evince the artist’s

  • Yamini Nayar, Chrysalis, 2013, C-print, 50 x 40".
    picks December 13, 2013

    Yamini Nayar

    Eschewing any media-specific appellation for her practice, Brooklyn-based artist Yamini Nayar constructs intricate, abstract architectural still lifes, photographing the tabletop assemblages from various angles before ultimately discarding them. Questions as to whether the dozen or so photographs exhibited are the final phase of Nayar’s latest project or merely documentation of her process come off a ponderous circumlocution that detracts from the dynamic effect of the images themselves.

    As with the large color photograph Chrysalis, 2013, Nayar deftly plays with the planar distortion and ambiguous

  • Henry Taylor, That Was Then, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 95 x 75".

    Henry Taylor

    History, as we know, repeats itself—a truism Henry Taylor evinces with mordant effect for his recent exhibition at Blum & Poe. Incorporating the grand loose paintings and rough-hewn assemblages for which he has become known, Taylor revisited familiar narratives surrounding the African American social and cultural experience. Installed, the work spread across three rooms, accessed through as many frostedglass- paned institutional doors (specially installed for this show), labeled variously PRINCIPAL, PROBATION, and DETENTION.

    Passing through the first door (PRINCIPAL), the viewer was confronted

  • Anton Kannemeyer, A Black Woman, 2012, lithograph, 43 x 75".
    picks February 12, 2013


    Whether sacred or profane, taboos often focus their proscriptions against perfomativity and the bodies that enact them. “Taboo,” a provocative exhibition of contemporary Australian and international artists, whose works are presented alongside various archival ephemera––newspaper clippings, postcards, and photographs––attempts to lay bare the moral impositions wrought by collective institutional bodies upon individual ones. Of Wiradjuri aboriginal descent, the show’s curator, Melbourne-based artist Brook Andrew, knows firsthand the insidious nature of cultural and moral repression.

    South African

  • Conrad Ruiz, Red bull (G2 Series Pro), 2012, watercolor on canvas, 52 x 77 1/2".
    picks November 25, 2012

    Conrad Ruiz

    Dominant artistic means have changed since the 1960s, when a healthy penchant for all things experimental first drew the art world’s sun-loving dreamers to Southern California to draw inspiration from its beaches and freeform scene. A similar easygoing ethos can be found in Los Angeles-based artist Conrad Ruiz’s latest show “Juice.” Known for his vibrant large-scale and often comical watercolors, in the current exhibition Ruiz dips his toes into the deep end of abstraction.

    In Punch Monster (all works cited, 2012), a flurry of hatch marks in sanguine hues of crimson evokes the dynamism of a

  • Adam Henry, Untitled (cpt #3), 2011, synthetic polymers on linen, 19 x 16”.
    picks May 29, 2012

    Adam Henry

    The first cut, the saying goes, is always the deepest. And for his debut New York solo show, Adam Henry cuts right to the bone. A lambent play between surface and material, the works making up “In Spectral Form” confront the finitudes of the planar field while simultaneously foregrounding the infinite probabilities born of its rupture.

    Bearing the marks of excision and accumulation, several pieces in the show reference Henry’s background in collage. As with Untitled (cpt #3), 2011, and Untitled (cpt #4), 2012, looped and woven segments of canvas irrupt the surface image while exposing the gallery

  • Left: Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Andre, November 16, 2010, color photograph, 18 x 24”. Right: Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Victor, November 21, 2010, color photograph, 18 x 24”.
    interviews May 15, 2012

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya

    Paul Mpagi Sepuya is a Brooklyn-based artist. His forthcoming publication Studio Work documents the art he made during his residency last year at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the book will be available through D.A.P. starting this fall. Select pieces from that residency are featured in the group exhibition “Surface Tension” at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, which is on view until June 24.

    I HAD BEEN READING Brian O’Doherty’s book Studio and Cube, and was influenced by his concept of time, for instance how elements of perception and so on can be very different in the studio, as opposed

  • Stan Douglas, Exodus, 1975, 2012, color photograph mounted on aluminum, 71 x 101 1/2".
    picks April 17, 2012

    Stan Douglas

    “I feel the same way about disco,” Hunter S. Thompson once quipped, “as I do about herpes.” Indeed, the decade of jive is often relegated to a less than Periclean position within our cultural history. However, time, as the maxim goes, is what you make of it, and for artist Stan Douglas’s latest show, “Disco Angola,” the halcyon age of disco proves to be golden.

    The suite of meticulous tableaux vivants that make up this exhibition—eight large-scale color photographs in all—invite parallels with his Vancouver School cohort Jeff Wall. As with his 2011 exhibition, “Midcentury Studio,” Douglas here

  • Bill Jenkins, Pass, 2012, vent cover, rocks, 23 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 2".
    picks March 26, 2012

    Bill Jenkins

    Our knowledge of the past is founded, quite directly, upon the trash heaps of history. And while archaeologists are content to dig for the cast-offs of bygone epochs to better comprehend man’s past, there are those, artist Bill Jenkins among them, who find revelation in the refuse of more contemporary origin. Though the maxim about one man’s trash may seem clichéd, the spoils of Jenkins’s first New York solo exhibition are nothing short of treasure.

    In Long Ending, 2011—a piece that shares its title with the exhibition—a discarded air filter transforms a density of captured air pollutants imbedded

  • Ron Athey, Foot Washing Set w/ Blonde Hair Towel, 1996, wigs, wool, metal pipe, stone, wood, crystals, blood, 50 x 23 x 10”.
    picks February 02, 2012

    “The Displaced Person”

    Alienation, it would seem, can be a creative force for inclusion. And, as each of the artists in “The Displaced Person” proves, one is rarely found without the other. Freud viewed alienation as the by-product of a cultural divorce between man and his natural impulses. For the artists exhibited, it’s in the very gaps between body and ideology that one finds reconciliation between the two.

    Performance artist Ron Athey’s installation Foot Washing Set w/ Blonde Hair Towel, 1996, typifies the artist’s melding of religious and BDSM rituals. A nod to the Christian practices of foot washing (see Luke

  • View of “Scopophilia,” 2011.
    picks November 20, 2011

    Nan Goldin

    “Scopophilia,” a term borrowed from the psychoanalytic set to denote a desire rooted in observation, is a fitting title for an exhibition by an artist well known for her voyeuristic proclivities: Nan Goldin’s latest show is a penetrating, self-critical look at a career spent depicting others. Blending photographs from her archives with a series of studies commissioned last year by the Louvre, the exhibition evinces her complicity in the act of voyeurism and her acknowledgment of its persistence throughout the Western art-historical canon.

    Central to the show, Scopophilia, 2010, a twenty-five-minute

  • View of “Abandoned Sleep,” 2011.
    picks September 28, 2011

    Ari Marcopoulos

    Time, they say, is of the essence. Or is it fleeting? Either way, for his first solo exhibition with this gallery, Ari Marcopoulos continues his prolific documentation of time’s ebbs and flows. Most well known for his vérité depictions of skateboard culture and unknown hordes of bright young things, in “Abandoned Sleep” Marcopoulos conducts a more sedate, though no less profound, reflection on the mercurial relationship between chance and repetition. And, with the thirty-four small black-and-white Xeroxed renditions of various abstract images, crude line drawings, and straight snapshots that