Martha Schwendener

  • Waxwork, Emperor and Girl in Fornication, Changping, Beijing, 2000.
    picks July 15, 2005

    Liu Zheng

    Zheng’s photos of China during the political and economic upheavals of the last decade are a combination of the over-familiar and the strange. Stylistically, they suggest an amalgam of August Sander, Diane Arbus, and Nan Goldin: Flash-lit, centered subjects and black-and-white prints; alluring yet uncomfortable intimacy; typologies of occupations and phyla of “freaks.” But while Zheng’s style is derivative, the world he uncovers is rich and varied. From the gruesome Waxwork in the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, 2000, to Actors in a Film about the War Against the Japanese, 2000, to the hulking

  • Top Cruise, 2005.
    picks July 15, 2005

    Mike Bouchet

    In true classic-Conceptual style, it’s the information accompanying the objects in this show that “make” the work. The New York Dirty Room (all works 2005) looks an awful lot like Walter De Maria’s famous New York Earth Room, 1977, but this one, according to the press release, “is composed of 50,000 pounds of topsoil from Home Depot and 25,000 pounds of compost from Rikers Island, the world’s largest penal colony.” Top Cruise, 2005, includes “1,000 sculptures” of Tom Cruise’s head (actually closer to one hundred; the rest are on their way) fabricated from “3,520 pounds of clay from Mexico.” And

  • Exhibition view, 2005.
    picks July 15, 2005

    “Life and Limb”

    The parallels between art and life—namely, between artists’ depictions of conflict and contemporary events—are obvious but subtle in this show, running through it like an undercurrent rather than overshadowing it. John Bock’s video of an absurdist boxing match, Joe Andoe’s diptych of two young dudes itching for a brawl, and Karen Yasinsky’s DVD animation of boys punching each other seem oddly muted in a climate overrun with media images of bombings, beheadings, and hasty burials. Curated by David Humphrey, the exhibition showcases the work of older (or deceased) artists to demonstrate

  • Kota Ezawa, On Photography  (detail), 2004.
    picks July 01, 2005

    “This Side Toward Screen”

    The click-chunk sound of slides dropping takes you back to art history class, to the pre-digital age when carousels and projectors (and all the malfunctions that went with them) were the technological filter through which you learned about Giotto, Guernica, and Spiral Jetty. The work that hews most closely to the slide lecture format is Kota Ezawa’s On Photography, 2004, which takes its title from Sontag’s seminal text, paired with digitized versions of iconic photos (Evans, Weegee, Arbus, Sherman, Goldin), creating something new out of the old and familiar. Corey McCorkle’s Selections for

  • Rob Fischer

    Despite the widespread reverence among younger artists for Robert Smithson’s art and writing, it’s rare to encounter someone who wears his mantle as snugly as Rob Fischer. The notion of entropy (technically a measure of the disorder that exists in a system), a Smithson buzzword, is used frequently in descriptions of Fischer’s project. But in this show the artist hewed even closer to another Smithsonian concept, that of excavation.

    Visitors to Cohan and Leslie were greeted by Altar (all works 2004–2005), a twenty-four-foot rusted fabricated dumpster turned on its end to create a threshold or

  • Neue Rollen (New Roles), 2005.
    picks May 17, 2005

    Neo Rauch

    Jamaica Kincaid once said of her native Antigua that it is a place where the past feels like the present and the present often feels like the past. You get the same sense looking at the work of Neo Rauch, whose latest painterly conflations embrace the history of Germany on an even more epic scale than his earlier ones. Using his signature Pop-cum-Social Realist-cum-Surrealist style, he compresses figures representing Old and New Germany, East and West, into spatially irrational compositions. The Romantic brooding of Goethe and Friedrich collides with Communist ennui; the heroic worker is replaced

  • Shaman, 2005.
    picks May 16, 2005

    Miranda Lichtenstein

    Miranda Lichtenstein's new photographs portray young, educated, contemporary Westerners' quest for enlightenment and healing outside traditional avenues (like organized religion). Each photo represents a potential path: meditation, shamanism, sensory-deprivation, yoga/pilates, and so on. Interestingly, the pictures are so stylistically various that it's as if a different photographer had taken each one. In the same way earlier generations ushered in large-scale color prints and unprecedented intimacy, Lichtenstein, along with peers like Roe Ethridge, is bent on breaking the current model and

  • Still from UM, 2004.
    picks May 16, 2005

    Aïda Ruilova

    The newest twist on the old “what is art?” chestnut appears to be: What constitutes an installation as opposed to an exhibition of discrete objects? Aïda Ruilova’s latest show raises the question with five monitors showing thirteen- to nineteen-second snippets of people saying “uh oh” or “um” or “alright,” cut and looped and displayed intermittently on separate monitors, so that the action seems to jump rhythmically around the room. The references to avant-garde editing styles—Steve Reich’s early tape works like It’s Gonna Rain, 1965, or the jump cuts of Godard—and music are overt. More interesting,

  • Still from Sandra of the Tuliphouse or How to Live in a Free State, 2001.
    picks May 04, 2005

    Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester

    As in Matthew Buckingham’s most recent film, which centers on the Hudson River and its “discovery” by European explorers, his collaboration with Joachim Koester, Sandra of the Tuliphouse or How to Live in a Free State, 2001, moves laterally rather than chronologically through history. The subject here is the anarchistic “free city” of Christiania in Copenhagen, colonized in 1971 by squatters who broke into an abandoned seventeenth-century military base. Framed by the perspective of the fictional character Sandra, the city-within-a-city becomes a springboard for meditations on a variety of

  • Exhibition view.
    picks May 04, 2005

    Kelly Kaczynski

    A series of discrete sculptures made of Home Depot-type materials come together to create an installation that mimics Marcel Duchamp’s final opus, Étant donnés (1946–66). Bunched-up plastic simulates the clouds in the background of Duchamp’s tableau; sculpted mounds of cardboard, roofing, wood laminate, and fabric evoke the barren landscape (while also recalling traditional Chinese painting); and a little fragment of fake brick mounted on a wooden structure at the south end of the gallery offers a peephole through which to view the whole installation. Only the nude is missing—or present in

  • Wake, 2002–2004.
    picks May 04, 2005

    Ian Cooper

    The curator of Ian Cooper’s first solo exhibition is Sue de Beer, of angsty-teen-punk-installation fame, and the similarities between the two are obvious. Both are obsessed with the dark side of adolescence and with how the transition from youth to adulthood is acted out in a variety of aesthetic statements, from bedroom décor to black fingernail polish to taste in music. Cooper’s vision is more diffuse and abstract than de Beer’s, however—and even more death-obsessed. The sprawling Wake, 2002–2004, includes photographs of Heather O’Rourke, the young actress who starred in the Poltergeist films

  • Sarah Morris

    The artist-patron relationship has yielded plenty of great art over the centuries, from Michelangelo’s over-the-top Moses on the tomb of Pope Julius II to Velázquez’s dutiful Las Meninas and Goya’s sneering The Family of Charles IV. Given that Sarah Morris’s patrons are the modern Medici of Hollywood, one might have hoped for a similarly trenchant portrait of twenty-first-century elites from her film Los Angeles, 2004—or at least a compelling view of the city after which her fifth work in the medium is named. Instead, she offers viewers a morass of cliché; a montage of tourist-board images