Martha Schwendener

  • Keltie Ferris

    Keltie Ferris—a 2006 Yale MFA who participated in the height-of-the-market, art-department-raiding exhibition “School Days” at Jack Tilton Gallery in 2006—has a lot of good ideas, even if they’re not all fully developed yet. Her debut show in New York coincided with a solo project at the New Art Dealers Alliance fair in Miami and included five medium- to large-scale abstract paintings that employed various techniques. The era of fancy, computer-generated stencils is waning; Ferris, like many of her peers, does things the old-school way, masking areas with tape and then applying pigment with

  • “Hello Meth Lab in the Sun”

    Is it better to have seen—experienced might be more appropriate—the work of Mike Nelson, Christoph Büchel, or Gregor Schneider prior to encountering Hello Meth Lab in the Sun? In one way, yes, since those artists provide a context for this (relatively) new breed of installation art in which galleries and other spaces are transformed into labyrinthine, hyperrealist fun houses. As with Büchel’s and Nelson’s works, Meth Lab looked like an assortment of abandoned spaces, but the chambers were actually constructed from scratch by Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe, and Alexandre Singh (and a bevy of assistants),

  • diary May 09, 2008

    Judd and Jury


    Before his death in 1994, Donald Judd spent two decades buying up land in West Texas and installing his work in the buildings of the old Fort D. A. Russell, now home to the Chinati Foundation. The Am Vets Building in the center of Marfa, site of last weekend’s symposium on Judd’s writings, felt like an installation of an entirely different sort. Handpainted panels with US military insignia hung in the entryway. Metal folding chairs with the names of dead soldiers painted in white letters on their backrests stood in front of a painting at the back of the room that resembled a Neo Rauch rendition

  • Jane Simpson

    The title of British artist Jane Simpson’s recent exhibition, “My Inheritance and Other Bloody Tales,” might have been cribbed from one of a recent crop of British books recounting sordid sagas of familial dysfunction. But unlike Edward St. Aubyn or Alexander Waugh, who revel in salacious detail, Simpson relates her narratives in more oblique fashion. Her sculptures—if they were paintings, they’d be called still lifes—combine objects fabricated by the artist with items bought at flea markets or on eBay, or culled from her family’s possessions. Turkish Delight, 2008, for example, is a

  • Guy Ben-Ner

    Sally Mann, an artist with whom Guy Ben-Ner is frequently compared, despite the vast differences between their practices, has tried to downplay the importance of family in her work, arguing that the significance of her landscape images equals that of the subtly provocative photographs of her prepubescent children that made her famous in the early 1990s. For now, at least, Ben-Ner suffers no similar delusions. His recent show included two videos that—as is by now customary in his work—employed his family. The videos also dig deeper into the history, structure, and power relations within families

  • Portia Munson

    Portia Munson remains best known for Pink Project Table, 1994–96, an installation that appeared in the controversially titled “Bad Girls,” a 1994 exhibition of feminist art curated by the late Marcia Tucker at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and Marcia Tanner at UCLA’s Wight Gallery. Munson’s work, which greeted visitors at the entrance to the New Museum’s portion of the show, took the shape of a table crammed with found objects, most of them plastic, all of them pink: hairbrushes, mirrors, curlers, wigs, toys, toilet brushes, ice cube trays, dolls, and other domestic items, the composition

  • Catherine Yass

    Two projections, both shot on film and transferred to video, face each other across a darkened room. One shows the view, from the bow of a ship, of a concrete-lined waterway leading to a massive canal lock. In the other, the camera looks back from the ship’s stern at a disappearing river. Once the ship enters the lock, tiny figures scurry about on the bow to secure the vessel. Sound is minimal and muted: There is the low rumble of the ship’s engine, the groan of the gates opening and closing, and an announcement made over a public address system. The ship enters the lock. The water rises. The

  • Joe Coleman

    Western art’s cozy relationship with Catholicism ended somewhere in the eighteenth century, but a vestige of it persists in the work of Joe Coleman. The first item in the brief biography on the artist’s website reads, “1953: Jacqueline Hoban marries Joseph Coleman Sr., and is excommunicated” (his mother remarried without the church’s blessing). Subsequent entries include “1963: Draws first pictures of bleeding saints, death by fire and stabbing” and “1967: ‘Confesses’ to committing several murders, to a priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Norwalk, CT.”

    Religious allusions were abundant in

  • Adam McEwen

    In a small booklet published to accompany his recent exhibition at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, Adam McEwen writes: “War. It’s always been all the rage. Bomber Harris, Commando Comics, Sven Hassel and every kid who grew up in Britain of parents who survived the war knew it.” McEwen’s booklet also reproduces a newspaper ad memorializing real estate developer Samuel J. Lefrak (“The Vision to See / The Faith to Believe / The Courage to Do”), images of sidewalks dotted with discarded chewing gum, a view of a landscape pocked with bomb craters, and a news brief about a boy sticking a piece of gum onto

  • Tomas Saraceno

    Gardens that fly, aircraft powered by the sun, cities that change and meld like drifting clouds, gravity as a “physical psycho-social relationship.” These are some of the ideas with which Tomas Saraceno, a peripatetic Argentine artist currently based in Frankfurt, has lately been obsessed. Just as Saraceno is a postnational individual, moving freely between continents and cultures, he might also be termed a “postartist,” working as he does on interdisciplinary projects derived largely from architectural—rather than painterly, sculptural, or photographic—practice. A recent show at Tanya Bonakdar

  • Joe Fig

    Dollhouses are funny things. Introduced in northern Europe in the seventeenth century, they were originally used by rich women to manage their households, providing a virtual view of the premises. Later, they became more akin to little museums or cabinets of curiosities. More recently, they’ve become toys with an edge of macabre kitsch. Joe Fig’s recent sculpture borrows heavily from the dollhouse idiom, co-opting the God’s-eye perspective, the miniaturization, and the implication of a narrative (here, art historical), all played out on a tiny stage in a parallel world that mimics our own.


  • Daniel Johnston

    Daniel Johnston first emerged in the mid-1980s with a series of self-distributed lo-fi audiocassettes filled with songs that sounded like a cross between vintage blues, music made for children, and Bob Dylan as interpreted by Edith Bunker. He quickly became a celebrated figure in the indie-music world; Kurt Cobain once called him “the greatest living songwriter,” and performers from Tom Waits to Wilco to Beck have covered his songs. Johnston was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the mid-’80s, an illness traced in the recent documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which compares him to

  • picks May 30, 2006

    “Grey Flags”

    Seth Price’s “Grey Flags,” a short, free-associative, vaguely millennial text, has appeared in several places in the past year (last summer Friedrich Petzel mounted its own “Grey Flags” exhibition), but it’s been recycled here to positive effect by curators Paul Pfeiffer and Anthony Huberman. In keeping with Price’s genre-bending prose, the show isn’t confined merely to sculpture, and it unfolds in both space and time. Film works by Tacita Dean and Walid Raad flicker in the basement; Liam Gillick’s glitter-covered floor and Allan Ruppersberg’s funny, acerbic photo-and-Post-it installation Honey

  • James Brown

    The 120 objects on display here encompass a quarter century of production and expand on the survey exhibition organized by Bernd Klüsen that toured France and Germany from 1999 to 2001. For the current show, Katz, curator at the Fisher Landau Center, has added to the European-exhibition checklist a substantial selection of pieces made by Brown since 1999.

    The itinerant painter and sculptor James Brown—not to be confused with the godfather of soul—makes art not only in various media but in many locations. His works on paper, which for Brown can mean anything from an envelope to fine Japanese fiber paper, were created in sites as far flung as New York, Tokyo, Paris, Tangiers, Oaxaca, and Naples. The 120 objects on display here encompass a quarter century of production and expand on the survey exhibition organized by Bernd Klüsen that toured France and Germany from 1999 to 2001. For the current show,

  • Kara Walker

    Narrative, as Toni Morrison pointed out at the height of pomo metafiction, might be an exhausted concept for white male writers who regard formal experimentation as a higher calling. But the unmediated African-American female voice is a newer entity both in fiction and in contemporary art, and one for whom narrative is still far from used up. There’s a narrative somewhere in Kara Walker’s second film, Eight Possible Beginnings Or: The Creation of African-America, Parts 1–8, A Moving Picture By: Kara E. Walker, 2005, though it’s resolutely nonlinear, continually wandering off and fetching up at

  • Lina Bertucci

    Lina Bertucci’s photographs of contemporary artists are an irresistible prospect for fans: Who wouldn’t be curious to see his or her favorite painter or sculptor submit to the aesthetic of another? Nevertheless, the images do resonate beyond the recognition factor, since photographic artist portraiture dates back to the dawn of the medium. And the tradition of artist portraiture in the nineteenth century arose concurrently with the nascent mass media, itself facilitated by the invention of photography. As exemplified in the oeuvre of, say, Félix Nadar (who photographed Eugène Delacroix and

  • Mary Mattingly

    In a statement posted on the wall in her recent exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery, Mary Mattingly voiced a few concerns driving her new body of work. “I think about technology,” she writes, “the constant mediator between you and me. . . . As technology expands exponentially, we will reach a point where we exist as wanderers in our own worlds, participants in simulated communities.” She goes on: “I think about mobility—how it will become necessary for us to be able to move freely with no ties to a permanent home, due to environmental changes and the necessity to participate in a global economy.”

  • picks February 21, 2006

    Alfredo Jaar

    The trick for an outsider depicting Africa is to not boil it down to a sum of clichés: poverty, violence, the well-rehearsed fallout of colonial rule. Jaar avoids this in his thirty-six minute film about Angola, a former Portuguese colony, by entering through the portal of the region’s music. Muxima, 2005, takes its name from an Angolan folksong whose title means “heart” in Kimbundu. Six different versions of the song help structure the film, which is divided into ten cantos. Moving like a written epic, the film opens with a poem by Agostinho Neto, a poet and first president of Angola (1975–79).

  • Gelitin

    At 10 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2005, Leo Koenig confined four members of the Viennese art collective Gelitin (Ali Janka, Florian Reither, Tobias Urban, and Wolfgang Gantner), American artist Naomi Fisher, and psychiatrist Gabriel Loebell inside a large, double-insulated plywood box constructed in his Chelsea gallery. Tantamounter 24/7 was outfitted with a kitchen, shower, toilet, and beds fabricated by the artists, as well as three truckloads of art supplies: fabric, stuffed animals, modeling clay, paint, a sewing machine, and magazines (including lots of pornography). Cut off from all

  • Rainer Ganahl

    Rainer Ganahl’s “Seminars/Lectures” is an ongoing series of photographs, begun in 1995, which depicts an august roster of intellectuals—rock stars of academia from Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and Cornel West to Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, and Jacques Rancière—delivering their ideas to audiences across the country. A sampling of images from “S/L” (the title invokes Roland Barthes’s S/Z [1970]) were included in a recent retrospective at Columbia University’s Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery (a very appropriate venue). Also on view were recent photos focusing on the often jarring juxtapositions