Matthew Bourbon

  • picks April 25, 2018

    Jay DeFeo

    Jay DeFeo’s legacy is usually seen through the lens of her exalted sculptural painting The Rose, 1958–66; it looms over her other artistic efforts. Despite the intense focus that canvas deserves, this handsome gathering of DeFeo’s works on paper encourages a wider contemplation. These forty small drawings and photocopies depicting studio tools—chosen by Paul Galvez—have a journalistic directness that feels surprisingly enigmatic.

    DeFeo’s portrait-like renderings of tripods and compasses appear simple, yet the loosely drawn images have a latent anthropomorphism––spherical bumps become ankles,

  • picks June 09, 2017

    Roni Horn

    Roni Horn’s glass sculptures, at first glance, could be dismissed as a collection of attractive and costly manufactured objects. A home-decor store might sell a smaller-scale, mass-produced version of them. Yet upon careful inspection, they provoke an astonishing range of experiences. Meticulously created from solid cast glass generally used for the sensitive lenses of telescopes, these chest-high cylinders are semitransparent light collectors. Each form is suffused with a singular pale color: one a soft blue, one pastel purple, another faint peach; two are made without color, though ambient

  • picks March 02, 2017

    Carey Young

    We are all painfully aware of the mechanisms, duplicities, and abuses of power omnipresent in our current political climate. Carey Young’s prescient exhibition “The New Architecture” focuses squarely on how human agency directs or is harmed by power. The title is meant to suggest a speculative model of authority, yet much of her intention is tied to actual architectural edifices. In the photographs gathered within the series “Body Techniques,” 2007, we see the artist in a business suit among expansionist construction in Dubai and Sharjah. One photo shows her prone in a concave pile of desert

  • picks February 12, 2017

    Stanley Whitney

    Joy is an uncommon aspiration in contemporary abstraction. The easy gratification found in art exclusively intent on formal pleasure leads many artists to pursue other approaches, such as irony or the suggestion of narrative. At a minimum, a countervailing formal dissonance is usually present—think of the peculiarities of a Charline von Heyl or a Raoul De Keyser. Stanley Whitney’s paintings, however, are unusual in their candor and plainness. They are bold declarations that name color as their principal subject. To his credit, Whitney evades the soppy trap inherent in such an ordinary commitment;

  • picks May 30, 2016

    Rebecca Warren

    Satire, cleverness, and absurdity are at the core of Rebecca Warren’s art. Humorously undercutting platitudes from different sculptural genres, Warren both mocks and participates in the lineage of art-historical standards. In Reclining Figure, 2011, she toys with the monumental sculptures frequently installed in public spaces and outside corporate headquarters. Using steel, she miniaturizes an assembly of geometric forms that, at a colossal scale, would be a bombastic trope of public-art installations. Warren emasculates the sculpture further by including a pom-pom as a kind of ridiculous

  • picks June 25, 2015

    Phyllida Barlow

    While once thought unusual, sculpture constructed from unpretentious, everyday objects is now deeply familiar to art viewers. Sarah Sze, Jessica Stockholder, and Thomas Hirschhorn are just some of the recognizable names of this ubiquitous genre. Phyllida Barlow, as senior stateswoman, belongs at the head of this list. In her playful installation at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Barlow describes her approach as being analogous to a ship in a bottle—the proverbial bottle in this case being Renzo Piano’s graciously elegant architecture. Yet unlike a delicate model ship encased in glass, Barlow’s

  • picks June 09, 2015

    Marjorie Schwarz

    Hazy apparitions pose and grin in Marjorie Schwarz’s beguiling exhibition, curated by Michael Mazurek. Painting with water-based oil on thin hobbyist canvases, Schwarz creates portraits that suggest family snapshots or grade-school yearbook photos. Indeed, the small works portray the artist and her relatives, but the similarity ends there, as these are not formulaic renditions of the ubiquitous family photo. Schwarz gives a full impression of an inner emotional life through multiple paintings of those closest to her. With dexterous but never fussy paint application, her art proves both nostalgic

  • picks June 16, 2014

    Otis Jones and Bret Slater

    Otis Jones and Bret Slater each make spare, nearly monochromatic paintings that are injected with basic shapes of opposing colors. Both artists toy with oddly shaped canvases and an elementary language of marks and forms. Nominally, their work seems primed to elicit a correspondence, which is the occasion for their latest exhibition together, but upon closer inspection Jones and Slater are making very different paintings.

    Slater’s art tends toward the miniature and the raucous. He frequently slathers garish paint on tiny canvases with a comically crude irreverence, which sometimes succeeds with

  • picks March 27, 2014

    Robert Smithson

    Few artists are as universally known for a single work of art as Robert Smithson is for Spiral Jetty, 1970. Yet this art-historical hallmark wouldn’t have existed had Smithson not been commissioned to create a site-specific installation for the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in 1966. With this project at hand, Smithson was inspired to imagine flying in airplanes as the primary vantage to see his proposed sculptural experiments, proving a key turning point in the artist’s conception of monumental works executed with and in the landscape. Except for the posthumously constructed Amarillo Ramp, 1973,

  • picks July 08, 2013

    Katharina Grosse

    Naming her current show at the Nasher Sculpture Center “Wunderblock,” Katharina Grosse harks back to a familiar toy that allows children to write on its surface and then erase their marks with the lift of a cover. By using this gadget as an organizing theme, Grosse intimates that we should view her art as fugitive and ready to be rewritten. Ironically, two of the three works in the show are fixed monumental sculptures resembling giant fragments of animal bones, dragons, or crystal-shaped forms sprayed with a riot of rainbow colors. Perhaps such referents are meant to evoke dynamism or processes

  • picks February 21, 2012

    Mark Manders

    Mark Manders is fascinated by the potential meanings embedded in objects. Displaying a sensitivity to the relationship of objects to one another, and the relationship of forms to their environment, Manders crafts and arranges his ambiguous sculptural aggregates as thought-provoking machines. That’s not to suggest that he is merely combining disparate elements in some empty game of neo-surrealism. Instead, his organizing principle is the notion of a self-portrait as a building. Manders’s individual sculptures are precisely conceived and function as parts in a larger and perpetually expanding

  • picks June 22, 2011

    Matt Connors and Fergus Feehily

    Matt Connors and Fergus Feehily traffic in a reductive and relational mode of painting—each takes a dialogical stance toward a host of modernist tropes and the act of display itself. Of the two artists, Connors’s seemingly nonchalant paintings are the most indebted to famous antecedents, fine-tuning familiar vocabularies and tweaking our expectations within prescribed genres. By attaching vertical slats of different-colored wood on the two sides of his painting You’re Gonna Take a Walk in the Rain and You’re Gonna Get Wet, 2011, Connors cleverly creates a parenthetical device framing and mirroring

  • picks October 07, 2009

    Yigal Ozeri

    Taking a page from Carl Jung’s theories on the feminine “anima,” Yigal Ozeri approaches realism as a means to project his own thoughts into the interior lives of several young women. In a recent interview, he stated that he befriended the women depicted in his works because they live off the grid, and his fascination with the substance of their lives enticed him to portray a “new generation.” As problematic as Ozeri’s psychological transposition into the minds of his subjects may seem, the technical prowess in his intricate paintings occasionally mitigates the overt conceptual faults of his

  • picks March 19, 2009

    Richard Patterson

    Richard Patterson’s art offers a tangled composite of painterly stratagems and snarky sexual gags. Whether painting the Spice Girls naked near a lothario-looking cat-man or rendering himself dressed only in his underwear, Patterson enjoys blending a puckish and motley range of imagery. The overt “subjects” of his art are culled from photographs that are often painfully nostalgic—like the haircut and clothes one had in high school. In an early painting titled Posh and Thomson, 1997, Patterson presents Posh Spice and a sloppily depicted cartoon tiger’s head. Despite a seemingly detached insouciance,

  • picks November 06, 2008

    Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler

    Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler’s captivating exhibition smartly balances an interest in revealing the mechanisms of filmmaking with a seductive fixation on dramatic yet common stories. The cumulative effect of their art is one of mystery and methodical slowness. The measured pace of their crisply produced videos and sharp photographs engenders a heightened awareness that attunes the viewer’s senses to the nuance of action and the subtle shift of affect. In the first room, a series of large photographs depicts movie-theater marquees. Many of the structures are dilapidated and crammed into

  • picks May 27, 2008

    Archie Scott Gobber

    Cleverness seems to be the guiding principle in Archie Scott Gobber’s current exhibition. Employing a cynical and puckish wit, Gobber’s art is a cross between the text-based paintings of Ed Ruscha and the sign collages of Jack Pierson. The difference with Gobber is his consistently ironic point of view—his work feels wickedly snarky as he skewers any subject he can get his hands on. In works like Talentless, 2008, the artist offers the text TALENTLESS IS THE NEW TALENTED—a one-line joke that reads like a fashion catchphrase perhaps found in Vogue or Elle. Gobber’s fastidious rendering of the

  • picks September 20, 2007

    Vernon Fisher

    Vernon Fisher continues his backhanded engagement with cultural material from times past—in this exhibition, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness serves as the key for interpreting seven new large paintings and one expansive wall installation. Adopting Conrad’s idea of colonial “exploration” as an ultimately ill-fated endeavor, Fisher layers together seemingly dissimilar yet loosely related pictorial elements in order to imbue his art with a dark but laughable pathos. Strategically investing his work with an abundance of visual information, Fisher allows one to attach a wide range of ideas and

  • picks July 13, 2007

    Laura Braciale

    Laura Braciale’s paintings whimsically investigate the staid history of Geometric Abstraction. Engaging with modernist tropes and techniques, Braciale commingles painting with everyday objects to reflect on a genre that has traditionally been labeled earnest; unlike that of her forebears, Braciale’s art is flush with irony and moxie. In Box Step (all works 2007), she grafts a cheap wire shelving unit onto a large canvas, which has been painted to replicate and extend the object’s grid. The painting is slightly ridiculous; it’s as if it crept out of the annals of art history as a comical, sculptural

  • picks May 07, 2007

    Barnaby Furnas

    Barnaby Furnas’s paintings are mock depictions of extreme violence. His beautifully rendered images swarm with bullets, which draw arcs of blood and explosions of painted viscera. Redemption through cruelty seems to be his unwavering subject. In fact, nearly every painting features people intertwined with an operatic and orgiastic display of death: Imagine the slow-motion gunplay of a John Woo film crossbred with the woodenness of an '80s-era first-person-shooter video game. Atrocity is made playfully seductive. In his first solo show in a US museum, a mutilated depiction of someone’s back, as

  • picks December 12, 2006

    Janaki Lennie

    Houston artist Janaki Lennie’s latest exhibition of suburban landscapes proves an engrossing portrayal of the sometimes copacetic, sometimes strained relationship between nature and human industry. Lennie paints fragments of trees and buildings, pushing both subjects to the edges of the canvas. The center is occupied by large expanses of subtly gradated sky. Yet this is no ordinary vista of pale blue and puffy clouds. Instead it is blank and appears artificially lit. The unusually detailed renderings of dull browns and dirty greens make the atmosphere feel thick and ominous, as if the air were