Martha Schwendener

  • picks August 16, 2004

    Richard Bosman

    Richard Bosman has been exhibiting since 1980, but his paintings look like the work of a much younger man. This isn't to say they're not “mature,” but his subjects are the kind of earnest, hokey Americana that Gen Y artists tend to celebrate. The sentiments are similar, too. Despite their over-the-top embrace of American history, manifested as kitsch, his paintings are almost completely devoid of apparent irony. Melville's Desk (all works 2004) hangs alongside an old-timey roadside furniture stand, a horror-vacui gift shop full of collectibles, and the exterior of an anonymous Lumberman's Museum.

  • picks August 16, 2004

    “Reflecting the Mirror”

    This show corrals a group of works made over a forty-year period in order to reflect, as it were, on the meanings and permutations of the mirror in contemporary art. Richard Artschwager’s mirror is cracked and reconstructed, with a few protruding shards; Robert Smithson’s is a small pyramidal stack; Dan Graham’s is an architectural Pavilion Influenced by Moon Windows, 1989/2001. Jeff Koons’s donkey-shaped looking glass turns the viewer into—what else?—an ass. The notion of the canvas or painting as mirror is addressed by Roy Lichtenstein, by Gerhard Richter’s reflective glass 876-12, 2002, and

  • picks August 12, 2004


    If this show is any indication, more artists should work in wood. The possibilities—from rough-hewn rusticity to polished perfection, a kind of nature/culture dialectic contained in a singular material—were known to the modernists; just look at the Brancusi show at the Guggenheim. Here, contemporary artists take a crack at carpentry, with results as varied as Richard Artschwager’s wonderful confessional constructed out of a plywood shipping crate; Lars Fisk’s Tree Ball, 1998, an uncanny sphere of bark-covered wood; and Matt Johnson’s two-by-four bent into an impossible shape that conjures

  • picks August 12, 2004

    “The Fine Line (Between Something and Nothing)”

    In this group show, line becomes the catalyst for meditating on materiality or the range of possibilities that exist between such stolid categories as “something” and “nothing.” Betsy Kaufman’s subtle watercolors use line to explore the relationship of figure and ground—and the merger of the two. Juan Iribarren’s ink-jet prints contain shadows of images that suggest openings into space, and Valeska Soares’s lines drawn in silver marker on rectangular porcelain plates spill onto the wall or connect stick figures described with just a few marks. Drawings by Fred Sandback and Wolfgang Laib aren’t

  • picks July 27, 2004

    Barry Flanagan, Robert Indiana, Frank Stella, et al.

    The utter lack of a theme makes this show something of a relief in a field strewn with exhibitions devoted to everything from paradise to suicide. The only unifying concept seems to be that most of the works are sculptures (the notable exception being Morris Louis’s solemn vertical canvas, which adds some color to a back gallery otherwise dominated by bronze). The three best works are in the first two rooms: a recent Frank Stella with coiling aluminum and steel sprockets tumbling off the wall; an eight-foot rusted-steel version of Robert Indiana’s Love 1966–98; and Nancy Rubins’s Untitled (

  • picks July 27, 2004

    “Deliver Us from Evil”

    Most of these artists have been accused of delivering people into evil rather than from it: R. Crumb, with his sex- and drug-addled comics; Jake and Dinos Chapman, represented here by a comically grotesque coloring book; even Honoré Daumier, who was jailed for two years in the 1830s for his incendiary caricatures. Add to these Dr. Lakra, a Mexican artist who decorates vintage pinup posters with raucous tattoos and applies his stylus to plastic drinking cups and Tupperware, and Keegan McHargue, a young San Franciscan whose figures look like a psychedelic cross between Art Deco dandies and Aztec

  • picks July 07, 2004

    Scott Hug and Michael Magnan

    Scott Hug and Michael Magnan's “Boys Gone Wild”—which features a sand-covered floor, a blaring boom box, and walls teeming with drawings and collages—at first looks about as serious-minded as MTV Beach House. But this is the season of political reengagement, as artists of all stripes wage war against the Bush administration and its Middle East adventures. While George W & Co. aren’t singled out in the press release or the mass-media photo-montages, it’s difficult to miss the intent of a handpainted “God Bless America” pizza box sitting on a stack of New York Posts headlined “Liberty for

  • picks July 07, 2004


    Cleanliness is one of those seemingly benign concepts that are actually kind of scary—it’s only a few short steps from “godliness,” after all, into the realm of obsessive-compulsive disorder and eugenics. This group show touches lightly on these extreme associations, offering works that tug the central concept in a variety of directions. With Down on Your Knees, 1999—a porcelain commode covered with Delftware-like images in blue glaze—Roger Andersson has managed to create a toilet you actually want to stick your head down. Orit Raff’s photographs of soiled rubber gloves read like

  • picks June 16, 2004

    “She's Come Undone”

    Riffing off the Guess Who song (or perhaps the Wally Lamb novel), “She’s Come Undone” devotes itself to contemporary figurative art, though not necessarily to women. Instead, curator Augusto Arbizo has put together a who’s who of painters known for giving the human figure a new spin. Glenn Brown, Lisa Yuskavage, and John Currin are among the extra-high-profile artists here (a small, sketchy ink-on-paper study for Currin’s Thanksgiving, 2003, the celebrated painting that appeared in his recent Whitney retrospective, provides an interesting glimpse of his process). Ann Craven’s eleven-by-fourteen-inch

  • Shellburne Thurber

    As practices, art and psychoanalysis have a few things in common. Both build from and depend on histories (often hidden); both understand images to be powerful and full of elusive meaning. Psychoanalysis, of course, is also a methodology for reading art (for a piquant early example, see Freud’s 1910 psychobiography of Leonardo da Vinci). When, in 1998, Boston-based artist Shellburne Thurber began her ongoing series of photographs of psychoanalysts’ unoccupied offices (first in Buenos Aires and then in Boston), she must have quickly realized she’d struck gold. While superficially similar to, say,

  • picks May 20, 2004

    Spencer Tunick

    Spencer Tunick is often seen as a kind of one-trick pony, traveling the globe photographing crowds of naked people in public spaces. But when you look at this exhibition of recent work, created in cities from São Paulo to Helsinki, it’s hard not to be drawn into his world. Like Vanessa Beecroft with her armies of women (or just plain armies), Tunick thrives on pattern and repetition: a pose repeated by a few thousand bodies; a virtually unbroken sea of flesh; row after row of dark heads in South America. Each photo has its own conceit, from the all-women conclave in Grand Central to the bowed

  • picks May 20, 2004

    Harrell Fletcher

    Tracking down Harrell Fletcher’s contribution to the Whitney Biennial—several collaborative mini-exhibits appearing in, among other places, a West Village pharmacy, a Queens furniture market, and an Astoria senior citizens’ center—is more arduous than visiting a single gallery. But with one stop at Christine Burgin you get a range of projects that demonstrate Fletcher’s antielitist, antiexclusionary ethos. A 'zinelike handout asks, “What if the art world (and the world in general) were based on a socialist system instead of a capitalist one? What if the goals we were shooting for were sharing,

  • picks May 03, 2004

    Martin Parr

    British photographer Martin Parr’s view of his native land isn’t quite as jaundiced as the Sex Pistols', but it’s close. In this series he’s gone right to the source of aristocratic mystique, photographing people at Ascot and Henley (the royal racetrack and regatta sites, respectively). Parr deflates the myth of haute English taste with close-ups of tacky petty gentry wearing socks with sandals and an almost-bald man’s comb-over flying in the wind. Other images proffer the pride of the Commonwealth in such guises as seagulls fighting over a container of “chips” (the Union Jack flying behind

  • picks April 27, 2004

    Les Krims

    Like his idol Diane Arbus, Les Krims turned his camera on some outré subjects—notably, women in a variety of compromising positions. (The series titled “The Incredible Case of the Stack O’Wheat Murders," 1972, with its simulations of sex-crime scenes, is particularly egregious, while Krims’s early-'70s photos of his mother posed nude or with guns in her bra push the Freudian envelope well beyond most viewers’ comfort zones.) And like Arbus, Krims was a master of what Roland Barthes called the punctum—the psychological “prick”—and creating, in a single photographic moment, an experience of

  • Sharon Core

    Photography has long been the helpmate of painting. Thomas Eakins secretly painted from photographs; Richter and Warhol transformed the practice for the second half of the twentieth century. But could the tide be shifting? For her photographic series “Thiebauds,” 2003–2004, photographer (and trained pastry chef) Sharon Core painstakingly baked the components of eleven of Wayne Thiebaud’s food paintings, the majority from the early ’60s, and then proceeded to photograph the results.

    It’s interesting to note that Thiebaud reportedly painted his works from memory; by baking, decorating, and setting

  • picks April 21, 2004

    Jeff Wall

    This is a transitional show for Jeff Wall. These recent works (all 2003), find him moving away from the constructed tableaux he's been doing since the late '70s and toward something closer to straight documentary photography. “Straight” is a relative term, though—Wall still revels in eerie narratives that seem just on the verge of revealing themselves. One picture captures (real) archaeologists working on a dig; two staged photos show, respectively, a woman carrying a covered catering tray and a pair of boys cutting through a hedge. A series of smaller photographs of objects “encountered

  • picks April 08, 2004

    Peter Friedl

    It may be difficult to look at Peter Friedl’s animal costumes and images of playgrounds without thinking of pedophiles or “plushies” (fetishists with a thing for stuffed toys). But the Berlin-based artist somehow manages to fly under the radar of obscenity and present a show that charms rather than disturbs. The furry suits displayed on a dais are remnants of a 1998 project at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where Friedl asked employees to choose an animal they had once wanted to be and then fabricated costumes based on their requests. A DVD projection presents a series of photographs of

  • picks April 08, 2004

    Joe Andoe

    The shadow of Larry Clark looms large over this exhibition of Joe Andoe’s recent paintings. Clark’s seminal photographs are echoed in Andoe’s wall text describing his own upbringing on the east side of Tulsa, where the kids would hang out in cars near the highway to “get high, talk shit or have sex.” This kind of mythologizing might, under different circumstances, undermine the work itself. But Andoe’s monochrome oil paintings of girls, cars, and road-creased horizons are complemented by his affectless tough-guy prose (“We all took pride in our cars and motorcycles. . . . But our predators were

  • Ward Shelley

    For his recent project here, Ward Shelley took the mouse as metaphor, built a gallery inside the gallery, and took up residence in the gap between the two. But while most rodents do their best to remain out of sight, Shelley had rigged a complex of cameras, peepholes, and monitors—eight of which were mounted on a wooden post in the center of the inner gallery—so that viewers could witness him scurrying, sleeping, or making art in his new habitat, and he in turn could watch them watching him.

    Shelley had made a series of pencil drawings on canvas that scrolled through a hole cut in the inner wall

  • picks March 25, 2004

    Amy Pleasant

    Amy Pleasant’s paintings are laid out in grids which collectively hint at angst-ridden narratives. Uncoiling, 2002, is a nocturnal-gray canvas whose abstract vignettes involve light-filled doorways and people lying curled up in the dark. Waiting, 2003, is even more pared down; figures separated by inches of beige canvas stare out windows into blank space. And In the Back of a Car, 2003, features shapes and weird blobs that hover between entangled couples, like physical manifestations of blotted-out memories (all that embarrassed backseat fumbling you so want to forget). The gallery statement