Julia Langbein

  • picks October 02, 2015

    John Riddy and James Castle

    In the abstract, it seems merely provocative to pair John Riddy’s recent photographs of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula with drawings by the self-taught American artist James Castle. Riddy is a British photographer of exquisite technical precision, while Castle, deaf and illiterate, worked in almost complete obscurity until his death in 1977, turning found materials such as packing boxes and kitchen twine into sculpture, books, and drawings.

    Castle has been the subject of two major retrospectives since 2008, both of which struggled with the influence of his biography on the reading of his work.

  • interviews October 15, 2014

    Irma Blank

    Irma Blank was born in Germany in 1934 and has lived in Italy since the 1960s. Her latest exhibition, “Irma Blank: To Be,” is a concise retrospective of her major works—from her earliest script-like transmissions in the Eigenschriften (Self Writings), ca. 1965–72, to the most recent hand-drawn chain-mail of fragmented letters in the pencil on paper Global Writings, ca. 2000–14. The show is on view at London’s Alison Jacques Gallery from October 17 to November 15, 2014.

    THE WORD is deceptive. Since the literary critiques of the 1960s, faith in the word has been largely lost. We see it still today:

  • picks August 01, 2014

    Yvonne Rainer

    Curator Catherine Wood takes Yvonne Rainer’s 1966 observation that “Dance is hard to see” as a point of departure in this exhibition, making the polymath’s groundbreaking choreography from 1961 to 1972 visible in a variety of media. Four times daily, dancers who were trained for this occasion by Rainer and her longtime collaborator Pat Catterson file into the heart of the gallery and perform a forty-five-minute program consisting of four of Rainer’s key pieces from the 1960s. These include Trio A, 1966, the most oft-cited piece to emerge from Rainer’s early experiments with neutral, nonexpressive,

  • picks July 21, 2014

    “Progress”

    The eight-plate engraved series of William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, published in 1735 and currently on view at the Foundling Museum, tells the story of Tom Rakewell, a merchant’s son who arrives in London to remake himself as an aristocrat but whose vanity and profligacy land him in debtor’s prison and the madhouse.

    “Progress” brings together responses to Hogarth’s series produced between 1961 and 2014 by four artists, three of whom—David Hockney, Grayson Perry, and Yinka Shonibare—enjoy near-Hogarthian status in Britain. (The museum also commissioned a set of drawings for the

  • picks July 07, 2014

    “A. R. Hopwood: False Memory Archive”

    This installation of “A. R. Hopwood: False Memory Archive” at two sites—the Carroll/Fletcher Project Space and the Freud Museum—is the most recent event in artist Alasdair Hopwood’s ongoing exploration of the malleability of memory. Hopwood has been particularly interested in the research of psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who since the 1970s has conducted experiments showing that with narrative prompting, subjects will testify to memories of events that never occurred.

    In the hands of A. R. Hopwood—Alasdair Hopwood’s alter ego, a dry mischief-maker who operates via faxed contracts—the unreliability

  • picks May 22, 2014

    “Everything falls faster than an anvil”

    In this group of twenty-three works (all but five of which were created in the last five years), cartoon means more than Pop art’s now long-canonized repertoire of damsels and soup cans. Take, for instance, Catharine Ahearn’s Empire of Women, 2014, which looks from a distance like a polished abstraction, with a single and highly reflective rectangular pane of dark, blue-black Plexiglas. When viewed at closer proximity, it reveals a second layer: a pulp sci-fi scene in bright gouache and spray paint on rough linen showing a blonde heroine zapping her male combatant in the gut with a futuristic

  • picks April 07, 2014

    Dieter Roth and Arnulf Rainer

    Dieter Roth, Swiss-born but peripatetic, and Vienna-based Arnulf Rainer collaborated on the eighty-plus works on paper on view for over a decade beginning in 1972— sometimes during brief visits, sometimes via the post. In 2 Wrestlers, 1978, a few quick swipes of gray gouache on a nine-by-twelve-inch board obscure a background drawing in black crayon that just barely suggests a frenetic stick figure. Typical of the works in this show, the two wrestlers—if one can read such figures in these superimposed bursts of mark-making—resist interpretation as two heroic artists in a pitched battle: The

  • picks February 20, 2014

    Stephen Willats

    Stephen Willats produced the work in his latest exhibition over just seven years, between 1962 (when he was nineteen) and 1969. During this time, Willats wanted to rediscover art’s social role and mistrusted modernism’s self-referentiality, but these forty-five works on paper—pencil armatures flooded with bright gouache and oils—have a striking visual language unusual for an artist primarily known as a Conceptualist. Most, like the two gum-pink conjoined polygons that encase the irregularly spaced, multicolored rectangles in Architectural Exercise in Color and Form No. 3, 1962, seem like exuberant

  • picks January 31, 2014

    “Matter & Memory”

    Though the exhibition takes its title from a text by Henri Bergson, in the gallery one is also apt to think of E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. The show brings together work by seven artists of disparate origins, among them Czechoslovakia, the United States, Brazil, and Germany. In White’s story, the usually unobserved web transforms into a floating sign of a mysterious, laboring consciousness. In “Matter & Memory,” humble materials such as twine, plaster, and paper, through various transformations, become articulate, witty, or deceptive witnesses of human experience. Spiders seem to have been at

  • picks June 07, 2013

    William Pope.L

    The day that “Forlesen” opened, the shiny black helium balloons of Ellipsis (all works 2013) bobbed in the rafters, moored to washers. A few weeks later, they had sunk to the ground and the worst of them looked like rotten grapes, molding with static dander. “Forlesen” rewards repeat viewings: William Pope.L’s riddle-like assortment of objects inhabits the space differently as the show ages. For instance, Curtain is composed of a pressboard wall facing the entrance and is covered in an orange-brown ketchup compound, buckling and cracking as it festers. Its acid waft, like some mysterious breath,

  • picks October 07, 2012

    “Afterimage”

    It is a testament to the generative richness of the Chicago Imagists, who coalesced around the Art Institute of Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center in the 1960s, that a show about their influence on artists working today is so void of anxiety and full of exuberance. In a small separate gallery at the museum’s entrance, a concise sample of fourteen Imagist prints, drawings, and paintings by James Nutt, Christina Ramberg, and Ed Paschke, among others from the 1960s and ’70s, reminds viewers of the original movement’s loosely associated idiosyncrasies: figural forms, often with a combination of

  • picks May 15, 2012

    Sreshta Rit Premnath and Matthew Metzger

    A property developer in Bangalore named M. S. Ramaiah purportedly believed that he could stave off death with endless site construction, a conceit that, along with the figure of Ramaiah himself, haunts Sreshta Rit Premnath’s solo exhibition “The Last Image.” The silhouette of a bronze bust of the magnate undergoes a layered process of construction and destruction in a series of three-and-a-half-by-four-foot C-prints on view, also titled “The Last Image.” The Last Image #4, 2012, is a photograph of a photographic print into which the contours of the bust have been slashed, revealing slivers of

  • picks April 20, 2012

    “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Art”

    “Feast” greets its visitors with a photograph by Laura Letinsky: Untitled #8, Rome, 2009, which shows the aftermath of a sumptuous banquet: a lace table cloth, scattered ornate dishes, a stack of empty cockleshells so crisply in focus one can almost hear them clink. It’s a smart appetizer for an exhibition that considers the shared meal as medium, because viewers will find they are often early or late to the feast and must imaginatively reconstitute it through documented projections or aftermath. The show displays instructions for meals such as Filippo Marinetti’s 1932 Futurist Cookbook and

  • picks February 28, 2012

    André Butzer

    In his first solo exhibition in Chicago, the prolific German painter André Butzer provides a concise and gripping recapitulation of his recent work with six canvases painted between 2008 and 2011, ranging from about three by five feet to five by eight feet, interspersed with six smaller works on paper. The show offers those new to Butzer a chance to experience the work for which he is best known: cartoonish knots and circuits of surface color, figural motifs that echo across multiple canvases––flesh-toned, carcasslike masses weigh heavily at the center of both La Chasse (Mis en bouteille au

  • picks September 29, 2011

    Joe Zucker

    Though Joe Zucker has spent most of his forty-plus-year career in New York, this intimate retrospective homes in on the seminal work the artist produced in his hometown of Chicago, including pieces he made as a graduate student the Art Institute in the 1960s. For the “Joe’s Painting” series, 1963–66, Zucker covered variously sized cotton canvases in interwoven bands of color that represent the warp and weft of the support itself. This relationship between motif and materiality remains essential throughout his output, as does an embrace of the grid as primary structure. In ways similar to the

  • picks May 14, 2011

    Theaster Gates

    In the past, Theaster Gates has couched his work in historical narratives—a 2010 show at the Milwaukee Art Museum, for example, found the artist reimagining himself as David Drake, the nineteenth-century “slave potter” of Edgefield, South Carolina. Since 2009, in his ongoing Dorchester Project, Gates has literally made history a source, specifically the neglected history of Chicago’s predominantly Black South Side. There, the artist, who is trained in both urban planning and fine arts, has been purchasing abandoned homes on a block of Dorchester Avenue, gutting them, and using what he digs out

  • picks December 11, 2010

    La Carte d’Après Nature

    At the entrance to the belle epoque Villa Paloma, newly christened the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, a vinyl seven-inch record twirls, emitting sounds recorded on site by Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson—fragile, chaotic birdsong, occasionally drowned out by the engine of a distant sports car: After all, it’s Monaco. The leisure kingdom of less than a mile square provides contextualizing dualities—artifice and nature, luxury and humility—for this major, four-story inaugural exhibition curated by photographer Thomas Demand. Demand’s own large-scale C-prints cloak the artificial in the

  • picks December 03, 2010

    Takashi Murakami

    French historical institutions have proved willing to experiment with contemporary art installations (a few standouts this year include Miquel Barceló at the Palace of the Popes in Avignon and Mark Dion at the Musée Départemental Arles Antique). But Jean-Jacques Aillagon, president of the Château de Versailles and the force behind three consecutive annual contemporary installations at Versailles, has had to put himself on the defensive. In a series of videos on the official Versailles website, Aillagon sits behind his desk and responds to visitor comments about Takashi Murakami (“Remember your

  • picks November 29, 2010

    La Carte d’Après Nature,” “Second Hand,” Elina Brotherus

    Surprise is a legitimate reaction to finding one of the year’s best contemporary exhibitions in Monaco. The inaugural show at the Nouveau Musée Nationale de Monaco’s Villa Paloma, La carte d’après Nature (The Map After Nature),” curated by photographer Thomas Demand, acknowledges that surprise. The show plays on the deep strangeness of the one-mile-squared leisure kingdom, on its heights of both nature and artifice, in works like Chris Garofalo’s intricate ceramic models of impossible sea creatures and Saâdane Afif’s absurd topographical map of a wave (Strategie de l’inqiétude [Strategy of

  • picks October 27, 2010

    Miquel Barceló

    In a temporary installation in Avignon’s fourteenth-century Palace of the Popes, Miquel Barceló’s unglazed clay masks dot the denuded stone walls of the gothic Grand Chapel, but the humility of the Spanish artist’s material in this context translates as merely trivial. Better to see his oeuvre where its earthiness can also register elegance, at the nearby Collection Lambert, Yvon Lambert’s eighteenth-century hotel particulier devoted to contemporary art. In “Terra-mare” (Land-Sea), over three hundred of Barceló’s paintings; sculptures in clay, plaster, and bronze; and works on paper made in the