Julia Langbein

  • 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

  • picks September 16, 2010

    “Second Hand”

    “Second Hand” brings together works loaned and pulled from the museum’s storage, works made from 1960 to the present by a range of international artists on the theme of copy and imitation. The special dynamism of this show results from the curatorial strategy of “infiltration”: The “Second Hand” works are scattered among the permanent collection, which is a survey of major twentieth-century movements. So, for example, between oil paintings by Pablo Picasso and Robert Delaunay hangs an imposter: Ernest T.’s Le Voleur de femme (The Female Thief), 2002, looks at first glance like a typical naive

  • picks August 10, 2010

    Takeshi Kitano

    Takeshi Kitano, well known as the director of art-house films like Sonatine (1993) and Fireworks (1997), and additionally famous in Japan as actor, writer, and television personality, insisted that his first retrospective be addressed to children. His slapstick aesthetic presides over the top-floor carnival, which includes a giant steam engine whose sole purpose is to power the needle stitching a little band of cloth, and a glass case displaying seventeen machine-animal hybrids, such as a firefly on skis destined for use by the Japanese army. But along with these gags and their deeper digs at

  • picks June 28, 2010

    Charles Avery

    Since 2004, Charles Avery has devoted himself to an ongoing project called “The Islanders”—the elaboration of an invented world via texts, drawings, and objects—now on view in “Onomatopoeia.” The exhibition holds many pleasures, and it may also tempt viewers to try to hold one medium up as a key or a legend for another: Do Avery’s writings included here, excerpts from the 2008 catalogue The Islanders: An Introduction—in which a first-person narrator logs his observations as he wanders the port city of Onomatopoeia for the first time—set the objects on display in motion? Or are the matte,

  • picks May 26, 2010

    Will Cotton

    The five recent paintings in this exhibition are in step with Will Cotton’s ongoing project: portraying landscapes of cake, candy, molasses, fudge, and other confections. Since about 2002, occasionally nude or nearly nude pinup-style models have populated these candy-land scenes. As in the past, the artist focuses intensely on rendering the tactile quality of this fanciful glut. In Apennine, 2009–10, the depicted mountain of scooped ice cream has the dull luster of Elmer’s glue as it liquefies beneath a languid, distracted, dairy-splattered studio-lot babe.

    But whereas Cotton’s previous landscapes