Lynne Cooke

  • Merce Cunningham

    AS DANCE INCREASINGLY ASSUMES CENTER STAGE in today’s cultural landscape, contemporary choreographers have added the art museum to their regular circuit of venues. But Merce Cunningham was, as usual, ahead of the curve. In 1964, at the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts in Vienna, he launched the first of hundreds of what he called Events: unique programs that collaged extracts from his repertory and were devised for a particular setting, and which he would continue to create over the next forty-five years. Cunningham’s pioneering intervention into the museum context was predicated on the strong

  • “Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now”

    The success of Louise Lawler’s highly anticipated first New York museum survey hangs on the question of how this immensely influential artist will negotiate the demands of a retrospective, which all but necessitates the repackaging of the artist’s work into an “authoritative” reading. For principled refusal fuels every aspect of Lawler’s exacting practice, which is marked by the artist’s reservation with respect to doing what’s deemed proper for a successful career, and reticence, if masked by nonchalance, in response to the demand for a signature

  • “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters”

    FINDING A TITLE to anchor a thematic group show is notoriously fraught, as “The Shadow of the Avant-Garde: Rousseau and the Forgotten Masters” demonstrated. German art historian Veit Loers coined the titular phrase to refer to a corpus that is the necessary complement to the art of the historical avant-gardes, the negative or occluded partner in the pairing—namely, the work of those non-Europeans, “folk,” children, and other “primitives” whom the early modernists “discovered.” The show’s subtitle indicated that the exhibition would focus on the renowned Henri Rousseau, the first and still

  • Lynne Cooke

    1 JOAN JONAS (US PAVILION, 56TH VENICE BIENNALE; CURATED BY PAUL C. HA AND UTE META BAUER) The extraordinary richness of Jonas’s imagery has never been more evident or labile in its interweaving of performance and installation. Ghosts of the physically departed yet psychically present mingled with mute species at risk of extinction, and youth was counterpointed with age in hauntingly elliptical pictures and stories—makeshift mnemonic talismans constructed in the face of ineluctable change.

    2 GREER LANKTON (PARTICIPANT INC, NEW YORK) Extensively researched, this landmark show recuperated a

  • “Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions”

    WALKING INTO “Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions” at Tate Liverpool, visitors found themselves poised between Jasper Johns’s 1962 lithograph Painting with Two Balls II and a mid-1970s David Hammons body print in which the artist’s features are framed within an ace of spades. In tandem with that suggestive pairing, the first gallery contained the Cady Noland sculpture Pipes in a Basket, 1989, which comprises handcuffs and a small American flag alongside a handful of pipes; Kelley Walker’s screen-printed painting Black Star Press (Triptych), 2005, based on scanned photographs of civil rights

  • Lynne Cooke

    1 ROBERT GOBER (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY ANN TEMKIN WITH PAULINA POBOCHA) Enormously impressive, this exhibition evidences an exceptional level of commitment on the part of the artist, curator, and institution. Though Gober’s mapping of the American sociocultural landscape by way of themes of sexuality, politics, religion, and domesticity is often trenchant, even bleak, it is leavened by its resilient generosity of spirit.

    2 KARA WALKER, A SUBTLETY (THE FORMER DOMINO SUGAR FACTORY, NEW YORK) This brilliantly sited and contextualized project was that rare thing, a truly public

  • James Benning

    “DECODING FEAR,” a compelling exhibition of James Benning’s work at the Kunsthaus Graz this past spring, was but the latest incarnation of the artist’s Two Cabins Project, an endeavor best understood as a group of interrelated works, shows, and a publication. Installed in Graz in its most expansive form since its 2011 inception, the project established a psychologically charged ambience in which viewers became implicated as they moved through the dark, cavernous gallery. Read literally, the show’s title might refer to Benning’s unpacking of the coded script that Theodore Kaczynski, aka the

  • “British Folk Art”

    In accordance with the model established by the landmark 1932 show “American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America, 1750–1900” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this long-overdue survey will encompass almost two hundred artifacts from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The curators will consider these works from an aesthetic perspective rather than that of an ethnographer or folklorist. As did its forebear, the London exhibition will feature objects that are readily considered under the (fine-art, not folk-art) rubrics of sculpture

  • Lynne Cooke

    1 ROBERT IRWIN (WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY DONNA DE SALVO) With little more than a taut plane of polyester, Irwin’s site-specific Scrim Veil—Black Rectangle—Natural Light vividly animated the Whitney’s fourth floor while highlighting the signature window that pictures the cityscape beyond. Hard to imagine how that peerless space could be better engaged. Hard to imagine why more than thirty-five years were permitted to elapse between the work’s debut in 1977 and its next appearance—just under the wire, so to speak, before the museum quits Marcel Breuer’s

  • Lynne Cooke

    CURATOR MASSIMILIANO GIONI’S choice of Il palazzo enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) as the lodestar for his Biennale exhibition is beguiling and provocative in equal measure. As conceived by Marino Auriti, a self-taught, first-generation Italian-American artist, this imaginary museum was as ambitious as it was unbridled. Aspiring to house the breadth of human knowledge, Auriti designed a thirty-six-story tower that would have risen nearly half a mile into the sky while covering sixteen city blocks in the US capital. But, since he lacked academic or professional credentials of any kind,

  • Lynne Cooke

    1 Merce Cunningham Dance Company (Park Avenue Armory, New York) It was at once deeply poignant and deeply exhilarating to see Cunningham’s dancers return to New York, after a two-year world tour, for a final series of “Events” before the company disbanded forever. Though irreparable, the loss of the troupe is partially offset by the unexpectedly rich and inventive ways in which the legendary choreographer’s legacy is being nurtured—not least by the Merce Cunningham Trust, which is supporting the restoration and revival of neglected works in his repertory. A groundbreaking iPad app released

  • CLOSE-UP: REWORKED

    FACED WITH THE CHALLENGE of creating a “cosmos” that would embody her imaginary, Rosemarie Trockel recently assembled a shape-shifting corpus that encompasses virtually every art form now current—painting, sculpture, object making, video and drawings, artists’ books and design. The combination brings to the fore certain concerns that have long shaped her thought: motifs and subjects from the realms of natural history, the creative expression of animal species as well as that of humans, and the representation and role of women in contemporary culture.¹ The occasion for this challenge was

  • PERFECT FIT: JOHN CHAMBERLAIN REMEMBERED

    SOMETIMES SPIKY AND ANGULAR, sometimes almost molten in their suppleness, the junked-car sculptures of JOHN CHAMBERLAIN are among the most iconic artworks of the postwar period. Yet automobiles were not the only vehicles of Chamberlain’s career-long exploration of color and volume, surface and structure: The artist, who died on December 21, 2011, at the age of eighty-four, wrested the same remarkable pliability from paper, Plexiglas, and foam as from steel plates and shards. As the survey “John Chamberlain: Choices,” curated by Susan Davidson and recently opened at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, demonstrates, Chamberlain deployed all of these materials with an exuberance, acuity, and openness to sculpture’s social valences that was to influence generations of artists. Here, curator LYNNE COOKE and artist LARRY BELL pay tribute to Chamberlain and his extraordinarily elastic oeuvre.

    LYNNE COOKE

    LATE LAST DECEMBER, halfway through the Museum of Modern Art’s de Kooning retrospective, John Chamberlain’s sculpture irresistibly sprang to mind—as if the Dutchman’s extraordinary mid-’50s abstractions (Interchanged, 1955; Gotham News, 1955; The Time of the Fire, 1956) had conjured their three-dimensional counterparts made from the remnants of crushed automobiles. Perhaps no other artist took on de Kooning’s legacy more convincingly and more fluently than Chamberlain. Composed from the hoods and bumpers, fenders and fins, of junked car bodies, Chamberlain’s vividly hued abstractions

  • Lynne Cooke

    SOME WEEKS AGO, whipped by wind and driving rain, I navigated a just-plowed field on the lazy slopes of the Eifel, fifty-odd kilometers southeast of Cologne, in search of the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. This small, cell-like sanctuary, completed in 2007 and dedicated to a fifteenth-century hermit and mystic, offers a telling contrast with Zumthor’s most recent work, a pavilion designed for London’s Hyde Park this year. Whereas the chapel assumes the form of a simple tower, the temporary pavilion, now dismantled, proved unexpectedly severe, almost forbidding.

  • Lynne Cooke

    1 Rosemarie Trockel (Kunsthalle Zürich; curated by Beatrix Ruf) Light-fingered and light-footed, Trockel’s work has long evaded easy categorization. Resisting surveys that might freeze-frame her practice, the German artist addresses retrospective exhibitions in the most glancing way. Twice in this great show, she inserted a large vitrine through a wall that divided adjoining galleries: One exhibition case contained a medley of early works with a feminist valence; the second was more anthropological in orientation. Elsewhere, among the recent works, were several majestic knit pieces that deftly

  • Louise Bourgeois

    CLAD IN A LUXURIOUS MONKEY-FUR COAT, a sculpture tucked firmly under her arm, Louise Bourgeois boldly confronts the camera with a mischievous grin. Shot in 1982, Robert Mapplethorpe’s image has become iconic. Perhaps lesser known is its checkered history. The portrait, commissioned by Robert Miller (whose gallery represented both artists), would become the frontispiece to the catalogue for Bourgeois’s first retrospective, scheduled to open at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in November of that year. Feeling anxious about the photo shoot, Bourgeois decided to wear one of her favorite pieces of

  • Lynne Cooke

    A POLEMIC UNDERPIN the conventional title of this extraordinary exhibition featuring some three hundred works spanning James Castle’s career. Born deaf in 1899, the largely unschooled, illiterate artist spent his life in obscurity in rural Idaho. Drawing daily for some seventy years, he created a vast body of work that includes intimate tonal drawings of the farmland and homestead where he grew up; sculptures of human figures, animals, and objects made by stitching together pieces of paper and cardboard; hand-sewn books containing alphabets, syllabaries, calendrical schemes, and other data laid

  • Lynne Cooke

    A SIMPLE WHITE PORTICO flanked by a pair of tall palms frames a picture-perfect view of the ocean. With its pristine, stripped-down classicism, more deco than totalitarian, the facade of what was once the Padiglione Italia (newly dubbed the Palazzo delle Esposizioni), as beguilingly made over by John Baldessari, instantly conjures Venice—Venice Beach, that is. Since notions of displacement, projection, figuration, and absorption take priority in Daniel Birnbaum’s exhibition over modernism’s once-dominant paradigms—critical participation, presentness, literalness, and self-reflection—the veteran

  • Hanne Darboven

    ONE AFTERNOON, SOMETIME in the mid-1980s, I paid a visit to Leo Castelli’s gallery on West Broadway to see a Hanne Darboven show. The only other person in the room at that moment was the artist herself, whom I instantly recognized from photographs. After some minutes, I approached—whether to introduce myself or to comment on the work, I hadn’t quite decided. As if suddenly sensing my presence, she turned and blurted out: “No questions.” Then, without giving me time to parley, she left. So began what would develop into, despite this unpromising debut, a close professional and personal

  • Lynne Cooke

    LYNNE COOKE

    1 Jorge Pardo (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) Pardo’s visually stunning, conceptually provocative reinstallation of LACMA’s collection of the art of the ancient Americas proved, predictably, a lightning rod for debate. Taking archaeological excavation as his leitmotif, Pardo embedded these artifacts in a bravura display: Richly hued vitrines seem to morph in response to visitors’ movements through the three galleries, luring them into a closer engagement. Overhead, lamps with forms reminiscent of feathered headdresses or luxuriant tropical plants gently illuminate the space. A vast