Maria Porges

  • David Huffman, Katrina, Katrina, Girl You’re on My Mind, 2006, mixed media on panel, 80 × 108".

    David Huffman

    “Terra Incognita” is the first museum show to focus on painter David Huffman’s deeply engaging “Traumanaut” works: a meditative action series—if such a thing were possible—that he began in the early 1990s. This extended walkabout through the artist’s Afrofuturist-inflected narratives features Black men in NASA-style space suits encountering a variety of landscapes and situations. Even Huffman himself makes an appearance in a video, wearing a replica suit and gently hugging trees.

    Born in 1963 and raised in Berkeley, California, Huffman grew up attending Black Panther rallies while simultaneously

  • Helen O’Leary, Cost #18, 2018–21, egg tempera, linen, eggshell chalk, and pigments on wood, 13 × 21 1⁄2 × 5".

    Helen O’Leary

    Helen O’Leary’s painting/sculpture hybrids assert their presence in an ambiguous zone between two and three dimensions, embodying a lyrical yet fierce waste-nothing resourcefulness that appears at first to be the perfect response to pandemic-era isolation. Her bricoleur’s gift for making something out of nothing—for using every tiny scrap available, including bits of older artworks—actually goes back much further. Born and raised in Ireland, O’Leary attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1980s and has been teaching at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, since

  • Alan Rath, Positively, 2021, aluminum, fiberglass, custom electronics, motors, ostrich feathers, 84 × 72 × 60".

    Alan Rath

    Kinetic and/or robotic art has been around for a century, but few of its makers have had Alan Rath’s prodigious gifts as both artist and engineer. Works in this memorial exhibition—Rath died at the age of sixty in 2020—included examples from some of the series for which he is best known: pieces incorporating digital animations of running figures, eyes, mouths, hands, and numbers; speakers that pulse rhythmically like hearts or wheezing lungs; and graceful orchestrations of oscillating feathers.

    A tinkerer since childhood, Rath was interested in circuitry from the beginning, wiring his first switch

  • Donna Ruff, Senate, 2019, burned paper, 10 1⁄2 × 8". From the series “The Federalist Papers Undone,” 2019–.

    Donna Ruff

    America’s founding fathers have been invoked with increasing frequency in recent political debates. In particular, their Federalist Papers—a collection of eighty-five essays that Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison penned in the late 1780s to encourage the ratification of the US Constitution—have been cited by both the right and the left to support wildly divergent readings of the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The eminent statesmen have also played a prominent role in popular culture (in the form of Hamilton, the musical) as well as in the recent impeachment, a process

  • Ira Watkins, Buck Manning, 1998, oil on panel, 48 x 48".
    picks December 06, 2019

    Ira Watkins

    With images drawn alternately from memory and imagination, self-taught artist Ira Watkins has been telling stories about the lives and histories of African Americans for more than four decades. Watkins spent the first sixteen years of his life in Waco, Texas before heading to the Bay Area in 1957. (He was among the six million African Americans who moved to the North or West during the Great Migration to escape poverty and racial oppression in the South.) There, he initially shot billiards for a living. In the ’70s, he began painting, creating intimately scaled pieces that describe community

  • Tammam Azzam, Untitled, 2019, paper on canvas, 63 x 94 1/2".
    picks October 18, 2019

    Tammam Azzam

    The medium of collage seems eerily appropriate for Tammam Azzam’s cryptic, hypnotic images of fragmented cityscapes. Torn pieces of paper—wrinkled tissue, newsprint, even wallpaper—are adhered to canvas or board and combined, at times, with rapid strokes of paint, creating the illusion of crumbling buildings and desolate vistas of rubble. In 2011, Azzam, already a successful painter and graphic designer in his early thirties, was forced to flee Syria with his family, settling eventually in Berlin. Since the start of his exile, his practice has moved from propagandistic digital works featuring

  • Andrea Higgins

    The intricately patterned surfaces of Andrea Higgins’s recent paintings were inspired by literary classics—Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, for example, or Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, or The Confessions of Lady Nijo (a graceful memoir of court life in thirteenth-century Japan). Interpreting these authors’ exquisitely nuanced descriptions of clothing and household objects with the accuracy of a forensic anthropologist, Higgins creates the woven texture of fabrics (and, in some works, delicate details from china) on a vastly enlarged scale. The resulting optical abstractions—in which tiny

  • Jordan Kantor

    How much do we have to know about the backstory of a work of art in order to understand and appreciate it? Jordan Kantor’s enigmatic paintings seem to pose this question explicitly, by challenging viewers’ expectations about the mediation of images. At a moment when eye-candy art has been in the ascendancy for some time, the relative inscrutability of Kantor’s canvases is pleasurable, in a slightly masochistic way. His paintings demand our commitment but give us something in return by requiring us to be actively responsible for interpreting them.

    The larger pictures in the show are based on

  • Walter Robinson

    Exhibition titles are often little more than attention grabbers, but the name of Walter Robinson’s recent show, “Represent,” is actually of some use in pinning down the meaning of the work on view. This word has many definitions (among them “stand for,” as in function as a symbol or metaphor; “act as a representative”; or even as an adjective, “representational,” as in figurative), and these alternate or overlap within individual works as Robinson critiques popular culture, globalization, and the precarious nature of our current political situation.

    The most striking work in the show was a

  • Ulrike Palmbach

    For the past decade, Ulrike Palmbach has been making her own versions of familiar objects, employing, unexpected materials—using surplus army blankets, for instance, to construct a drooping stack of storage crates. She has also used blankets to make woolen telephones (the old-fashioned desk model) and cozy-looking cartons for milk and eggs. These handmade interpretations of machine-made products immediately evoke Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures, while other transformations—a loaf of bread carved out of wood and “sliced” with a saw, or a tabletop littered with wooden apple cores—puckishly

  • Linda Geary

    As evinced by her recent exhibition, Bay Area painter Linda Geary has embarked on an entirely new phase in her ongoing investigation into the language of color. This may sound rather dry, but Geary’s exquisite compositions, constructed from tendrils and pools of watery pigment, are anything but. In each of the thirteen paintings shown (twelve on paper and one on canvas), vaguely eccentric forms—as boldly conceived as they are meticulously rendered—are spread across a field of pristine white.

    With a juggler’s adroitness, Geary uses both color and scale to manipulate the pictorial weight of the

  • Rachel Lachowicz

    These days, the term “signature style” is often applied not only to brushwork, composition, and subject matter, but also to distinctive materials, which tend to become inextricably intertwined with the identity of the individual who uses them first or to most interesting effect. In the early ’90s, Los Angeles–based artist Rachel Lachowicz became known internationally for using red lipstick to create parodic appropriations of famous works by male artists—remaking, among others, Michelangelo’s David, a Carl Andre floor piece, and a group of Richard Serra’s leaning slabs. Lachowicz also made use