Judith Russi Kirshner

  • Roni Horn

    An extensive iteration of Roni Horn’s encyclopedic project to photograph the Thames, staged at the Art Institute of Chicago, saw the artist partner her own signature fluidity with the solidity of the modernist canon. Curated by James Rondeau, this remarkable exhibition, “Some Thames,” consisted of seventy-seven framed photographs installed throughout twenty-five galleries devoted to the museum’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as in its corridors, stairwells, lobbies, offices, and library.

    The footnotes that Horn employs in her work usually provide textual counterpoints,

  • Gary Simmons

    With the willful impermanence of their blurred chalk marks, Gary Simmons’s monumental “erasure” drawings position themselves somewhere between black and white. His bravura subtractions are perplexing expressions of the politics of difference and the paradox of memory, incorporating what he has called “markmaking as well as a literal ‘unmark’-making”: He executes drawings in white chalk on panels and walls that have been coated with slate paint or schoolroom blackboards on wheels and then smudges the images with his hands, partially wiping them out. Meaning resides in the tension between what is

  • In Between: Art from Poland, 1945-2000

    With a Polish population second only to Warsaw, Chicago is a natural host for this citywide, thirty-nine artist survey of Polish art from the postwar past to the post-Communist present, curated by Susan Snodgrass, Bohdan Gorczynski, and Anda Rottenberg. At the Chicago Cultural Center, one can expect a reconsideration of Poland’s modernist avant-garde—from the utopian abstractions of constructivist Wladyslaw Strzedski to the numerical conceptualism of Roman Opalka and the public work of Krzysztof Wodiczko. Elsewhere commissioned projects offer timely updates, by Pawel Althamer (at the Museum

  • Kerry James Marshall

    Prompted by a souvenir—a fringed, black-felt banner with portraits of Martin Luther King and John and Robert Kennedy reproduced here in a small painting—Kerry James Marshall examined the commemoration of ’60s activism in “Mementos,” a complex installation of paintings, sculptures, video, photographs, and prints. Three works actually bear the title Souvenir: nine-by-thirteen-foot unstretched canvases depicting middle-class living rooms with a kind of charged stillness. Each is watched over by a solitary African-American woman, modeled on a friend or family member of the artist, with glittering

  • Richard Rezac

    Always meticulously crafted, Richard Rezac’s small abstract sculptures just miss being a direct representation of something known from the natural or built environment; the twelve bronze and wooden pieces shown here suggested bones, twigs, and architectural fragments of architecture. For the past ten years, Rezac has depended on intuitive geometries—combinations of curves and squares, planes and volumes, plans and elevations—pitting two and sometimes more systems against each other in dense sculptures heavy with allusions. His sherberty palette of lime green and pale peach sets off another range

  • “About Place: Recent Art of the Americas”

    In 1888, the Art Institute of Chicago inaugurated “The American Exhibition,” an event designed to bring contemporary art to midwestern audiences. If this influential show (for many years a biannual event) has an institutional counterpart, it’s the Whitney Biennial, although in look and conception the 1995 versions of these two exhibitions could not have been more dissimilar.

    The title of the 76th incarnation of “The American Exhibition,” “About Place: Recent Art of the Americas,” signaled not only geographic expansion (artists from Canada and South America were included for the first time) but

  • Dan Peterman

    With a studio located in a Resource Recycling Center, Dan Peterman links material transformations to current environmental politics, pushing them to imaginative and artistic extremes. His grasp of complex economic systems is sophisticated; his materials, such as reused plastics and industrial waste-products, ordinary and plain. Carefully researched, site-specific and conceptually expansive, Peterman’s sculptural installations often look casual and familiar and escape the pieties of much ecological art possibly because they appear playful and peculiarly paradoxical.

    He renamed recycled plastics

  • Street-Level Video

    Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, founder of Street-Level Video (S-L.V.), organized what was a spectacular collaboration, a one-day, video-installation block party called Tele-Vecindario: A Street-Level Video Project, sponsored by Sculpture Chicago. With a complicated coalition, whose very name—Video Neighbors’ Network—emphasizes its delicate, perhaps temporary nature, Manglano-Ovalle brought together more than fifty teenagers who live in Chicago’s largely Latino West Town neighborhood (where the artist has lived for the past two years) to learn video techniques with which to map their community and

  • YOU AND I: THE ART OF KETTY LA ROCCA

    THERE IS A HEARTBREAKING quality to Ketty La Rocca’s images, and it has to do with their unusually direct, sometimes raw mode of communication, their tone of supplication and call for attention and self-affirmation. It also has to do with her premature death (in 1976, at the age of 38), which biographically underscores the work’s poignancy: her career ended before her vocabulary could be appreciated. To its credit, La Rocca’s work speaks to contemporary feminist artists as more than archaeological evidence. Its power lies in the authenticity of its attempts to represent subjectivity and identity.

  • Jeanne Dunning

    Jeanne Dunning depicts partial objects that are eroticized, but of indeterminate sexual preference and identity: metaphoric equivalents for the appearance of sexuality. With a touch of glamour that injects a dash of perversion into basic fetishism, Dunning, who continues to explore the problematics of the gaze, now photographs anatomical surrogates: fruits and vegetables. In one series of sensational images, moist red globes (tomatoes) almost bulge out of their conventional oval frames to mimic male or female genitalia, and in another Cibachrome, a crimson tomato glistens in the hand of an

  • Gaylen Gerber

    Monochromatic and hermetic, Gaylen Gerber’s barely discernible images renounce the pleasures of iconography. In this exhibition, 25 identical square paintings formed a 79-foot 2-inch horizontal band, which functioned as a single wall, prohibiting entry into most of the gallery and determining the position from which to examine the lineup. The effect of the installation was not unlike that of a Minimalist sculpture, theatrical in its object-hood but lacking any pictorial presence. Viewers familiar with this artist’s work have perhaps detected faint images in his deadpan canvases, but the subject

  • MARTIN PURYEAR IN THE AMERICAN GRAIN

    AS MARTIN PURYEAR’S WORK has evolved, from the ruggedly anthropological to the subtly refined, from the exotic to the erotic and psychological, the artist has adhered to only one style a broadly derived variant of Modernist abstraction. Nevertheless the work is conceptually sophisticated, addressing Western constructions of the “primitive” at the same time that it invokes virtuoso craftsmanship and the poetry of natural materials—ash, ponderosa pine, red cedar. Deftly negotiating between craft and fine art, Puryear’s art conserves distant traditions and reaffirms timeworn values; though his

  • Nancy Bowen

    Given the current political and legal battles being waged over women’s bodies, not to mention recent revisionist histories that flesh out centuries of social and psychological domination, it is not surprising that issues revolving around the representation of the body should be attracting attention in the world of art as well. While studies of gender have informed feminist strategy, these analytical dissections have also supplied fragments and body parts as materials of artistic expression. Picking up the pieces and reassembling them in sexual configurations related to, but different from, the

  • READ READ ROSENS

    BREAKING DOWN GRAMMAR and disfiguring words, Kay Rosen aims to encode meaning, then engender reading. Her paintings of language create a fine tension, holding together visual and verbal, sense and nonsense, in an esthetic stranglehold. At the moment you understand the language, successfully linking syllables into functional words, Rosen disrupts language’s symbolic order. Meaning is consciously liberated, altered, and even exceeded. Metonymic shifts as easy and as fantastic as that of homophobia to homophonia seem logical in a corpus where grass skirts are associated with flesh cuts.

    However

  • THE BENEFIT OF DOUBT OR LOVING MODERNISM TO DEATH

    TONY TASSET’S SCULPTURE REPEATEDLY materializes the differences between his own works and the historical models he has chosen for his inheritance. Hirsch Perlman’s photographs analyze the differences between the visual and the linguistic processes by which we come to understandModernist architecture, invoking “the possibility of an endless manipulation of the grammar and the syntax of architectural signs.”1 Both artists comment on the historical, cultural, and commercial institutions that contain their and their predecessors’ work. Tasset transforms these institutions into ideal containers;

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Among painters working today, Anselm Kiefer is one of the few who have been able to legitimize Modernist surface presence and spectacular effects that would be somewhat suspect in the hands of artists of lesser vision. With more than 70 pieces spanning his entire career, this comprehensive traveling exhibition celebrates an artist whose cultural politics emanate from straw-strewn landscapes, pictures of cavernous interiors, and massive gray combines blistered with lead like scar tissue bearing the legacy of the Third Reich. Today, such an attempt to represent transcendence or to transmute history

  • NON-UMENTS

    I WANT TO POSITION the work of Gordon Matta-Clark at an intersection that brings together not only sculpture and architecture but also space, light, and politics. At this intersection cells of illogical, surreal space are juxtaposed with the conventional containment of the museum; intricate photomontage, the inverse of the slicing process, can reconstitute what has been dismantled; and “nonarchitecture” premised on a critique of performed action can become a blueprint for utopian renewal, reintegrating a vision of architecture on the ruins of disorientation.

    The double-titled Circus or The

  • Barry Flanagan

    Barry Flanagan’s sculptural variations on the theme of the hare are as fecund as the symbolic equivalents this animal has evoked in images and literature since the Middle Ages. Flanagan’s contributions to the artistic dossier on the trickster rabbit run the gamut here from the droopy but statuesque Large Boxing Hare on Anvil, 1984, to the highlight of the show, Baby Elephant, 1984, which combines the speediest hare in the West poised on the head of its polar opposite—the solid, balanced elephant. In medieval imagery, the rabbit is seen as the furry beast of Venus. The animal’s overtly sexual

  • Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon

    Tony Cragg and Richard Deacon are only one generation removed from Flanagan, but the differences between their approaches and his are striking. While Flanagan models clear distinctions in traditional materials with legible symbolism, Cragg and Deacon, members of a current export category of New British Sculpture, use heterogeneous materials to question assumptions of conventional sculpture and to demonstrate that materiality and legibility are at least questionable requirements. This carefully selected exhibition exposed the obvious differences between Cragg and Deacon, but it also allowed

  • Martin Puryear

    One of the contemporary sculptors included in the recent “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art” show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Martin Puryear is unique in his ability to transcend merely morphological primitivism and to achieve the power of those works that beckon to us from beyond the boundaries of Modernism and our ethnocentrism. For Puryear natural materials, natural forms, and abstraction still have meaning which he explores, invents, and endlessly embellishes. Without relying on anthropological appropriations, his objects, which connote ritual function but of course have none,