Michael Wilson

  • diary July 29, 2009

    Flaming Creatures

    Southampton, New York

    IT TAKES GUTS to specify “flaming” as a dress code in the Hamptons, but the annual benefit for Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, a “laboratory for performance” tucked away near Southampton, is a sufficiently established date on the local social calendar (this was the sixteenth installment) that a crowd is assured no matter what the sartorial stipulation. Even so, while many guests at Saturday evening’s “Inferno” shindig made at least a nod toward the too-hot-to-handle theme, a few went to the opposite extreme; The Whitney’s Shamim Momin, Participant Inc.’s Lia Gangitano, and performance-art

  • picks July 15, 2009

    “Structured Simplicity”

    This gallery’s glowering, barnlike space presents its visiting curators with a stiff formal challenge, but Felicity Hogan has grabbed the bull by the horns in assembling a richly tactile five-person group exhibition on the broad theme of extropy, or the gradual distillation of chaos and complexity into fundamental essence. Hogan’s selected artists—all women—employ a catholic range of media and formats but stick resolutely and productively to the abstract in probing the innumerable possibilities of visual and material systems. Emerging from a sea of summer shows teetering on conceptual premises

  • diary July 01, 2009

    Ferry Tale

    New York

    THE FREE FERRY TRIP from Manhattan to Governors Island, a former strategic coastal fortification in New York Harbor that also played host to a 1988 summit meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, may only take a few minutes, but on Saturday it was easy to feel more thoroughly transported, such was the contrast between the grimy city and its verdant neighbor to the immediate south. Indeed, a uniformed tour guide loitering by an official map at the boat’s arrival point seemed to have been lulled into a near stupor: “Plot oh-nine?” he shrugged dreamily in response to a query about

  • picks June 25, 2009

    Stephen Shore

    Any photograph with both Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp in frame can hardly avoid being of interest, and Stephen Shore’s black-and-white study of the pair hanging out at New York’s Cordier Ekstrom Gallery in 1965 is no exception. But while sprinkled liberally with the magic fairy dust of art-historical celebrity, it also happens to be a decent picture in formal and conceptual terms. Warhol, standing close to Shore’s lens and behind a camera of his own, turns quizzically in the photographer’s direction while Duchamp chats to then Philadelphia ICA director Sam Green. Like the rest of this body of

  • picks June 17, 2009

    “Collection of . . .”

    In his habitual deployment of curatorial frameworks derived from instruction-based Conceptual art—frameworks themselves derived from the simple routines and rituals of everyday life—White Columns director and chief curator Matthew Higgs turns mastery of the obvious into a virtue. Making expert use of a jam-packed Rolodex, Higgs specializes in assembling exhibitions and publications in which deceptively straightforward prompts blossom into fascinating composite portraits of art-world communities. Over the past few seasons, the theory and practice of collecting have become regular foci; “Trade”

  • picks June 05, 2009

    Jacob Hashimoto

    To produce his intricate, richly decorative assemblages, Jacob Hashimoto threads together hundreds of small, slender, and similarly shaped bamboo-and-paper elements (the gallery describes them as “kite-like”) into chains. These are then stretched between rows of wooden dowels and layered into large wall-mounted screens suggestive of beaded curtains. Some works feature entirely or primarily monochromatic components; others are distinguished by a dizzying variety of printed patterns. The overall impression created by each piece varies too, sometimes (as in Cutting Stems in the Oxygen Garden [all

  • picks June 02, 2009

    William Lamson

    Few artists would claim total control over what they produce, but in “Work and Trade,” his third solo exhibition at Pierogi, William Lamson assigns chance a leading role. Using simple homemade machines activated by natural forces, and initiating processes that revolve around found or bartered objects, Lamson juxtaposes the systematic with the random, questioning his own role as artist while maintaining an individual aesthetic. Named for a project in which early visitors were encouraged to exchange an object of their choice for a drawing made in the gallery, the show fuses abstract and documentary

  • David Musgrave

    David Musgrave’s art, like Seinfeld, elevates seemingly banal or arbitrary subjects to unexpected heights. In his New York solo debut, the British artist presented an austerely beautiful suite of drawings and objects in which painstakingly flawless technique is brought to bear on motifs that oscillate between the timelessly iconic and the neither-here-nor-there. What the exhibition made indisputable was Musgrave’s ability to reveal the underlying complexity of outwardly trivial images, and to extract a sensual beauty from materials without resort to “expressive” (or even readily perceptible)

  • diary May 30, 2009

    Home of the Brave

    New York

    “THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO DRINK BEER.” “Yeah, they already trashed the place.” As the overheard exchange suggests, the Lower East Side digs of online enterprise e-flux are among the least fussed over in the city. So, already gussied up in “cocktail attire” for MoMA’s annual Party in the Garden, I felt a little overdressed for the Tuesday-evening opening of Raster Noton’s “The Shop.” But since the intimate space was already full to capacity (about sixty souls) when I arrived at a minute past the event’s advertised 7 PM start, fading into the background seemed likely to prove impossible. Trusting

  • picks May 27, 2009

    Glen Baldridge

    THE END’S NOT NEAR IT’S HERE. The doomy announcement is picked out from a glittering blue ground in what look at first like snowflakes or starbursts but turn out on closer inspection to represent bullet holes, their stylized design borrowed from a hot-rod decal. The fusion of dark humor, cheesy glamour, and pop-cultural reference (the slogan comes from an OC episode title) that distinguishes Glen Baldridge’s slick, multilayered print recurs throughout his third solo show at the gallery. More sinister yet is “Lucky Sevens,” 2009, a series of silk-screened image of coffins appropriated from a

  • picks May 15, 2009

    Matthew McCaslin

    In Bite the Bullet and I’m Late (all works 2009), the two sculpturally embellished photographs that bookend this exhibition, Matthew McCaslin fixes his gaze on the stars but does so with a distinctly earthbound humor that might have appealed to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Both shots depict pink-tinged nebulae swirling in the depths of space but leaven their subject’s extraterrestrial grandeur with, respectively, gobbets of orange-pink chewing gum (arranged in a neat grid) and several embedded pairs of functioning clock hands. The droll pairings are typical of Brooklyn-based

  • diary May 07, 2009

    Kiwi Club


    “WE’RE NUMBER FOUR NOW; soon we’ll be number one!” Bullish Auckland mayor John Banks’s reference, in his opening address at the Auckland Art Fair’s Thursday evening vernissage, to a recent survey ranking the New Zealand capital behind only Vienna, Zurich, and Geneva—and tying with Vancouver—as Most Livable City went down predictably well. And a jab at a perennial rival—“To the Australians: I know I’ve been speaking a bit fast”—drew some unseemly cheers. Fair director Jennifer Buckley followed up with a more diplomatic introduction (“I feel like a wedding planner with a hundred brides, but aren’t

  • picks May 04, 2009

    Matt Henry

    Making elegant use of two adjacent mirror-image rooms, Matt Henry’s “Doppelgänger” presents a tidy cluster of new paintings and objects that riff on the visual similarity of contemporary high-tech product design and Judd-era sculptural Minimalism. In his first solo exhibition at the K Road staple, the native New Zealander blurs function into form, abstracting home-cinema gear to produce a set of mute postmodern totems with the hermetic gleam of John McCracken slabs. Placing three small MDF and Formica-veneer boxes on the floor of one room and a larger black block in the other, the young artist

  • picks May 04, 2009

    Murray Green

    “Hook, Line and Sinker,” the title of Murray Green’s exhibition in the uppermost of Two Rooms’s two rooms, suggests that the Auckland-based painter might be out to deceive. But while the abstract panels here are physically multilayered, nothing in them is hidden or disguised so much as subtly veiled. Green sandwiches fields and strokes of bold pigment between translucent sheets of polyurethane and polyester resin, extending the plastic beyond its backing to give the work a satisfying thickness and preserving the signifiers of painterly process like bugs in amber. Each work is a kind of time

  • John Stezaker

    John Stezaker’s methodology—take a found photograph, do something to it, do something else to it—is an audaciously simple one, but it works. Stezaker, a British veteran of first-wave Conceptual art and the New Image group, has been enjoying something of a comeback, and his recent first exhibition at Friedrich Petzel made the revival seem entirely explicable, even overdue. Stezaker is a master of selection and presentation; his vision emerges all the stronger when he keeps evidence of his own hand to a minimum. That Matthew Higgs helped design the show’s crisp installation makes perfect sense,

  • Trenton Duerksen and Aaron King

    Every so often, an exhibition comes along that displays a real exuberance, a delight in the act of making or transforming before which ideals of formal resolution seem irrelevant. Trenton Duerksen and Aaron King’s recent appearance at the late lamented Guild & Greyshkul (this was the much-admired gallery’s penultimate project, preceding a last multiartist hurrah) was one such show. In this heterogeneous array of likably rough-and-ready sculptures, the identities and imagined agendas of the young artists ultimately mattered less than an overall atmosphere of energetic experiment. The room fizzed

  • picks March 23, 2009

    Mark Woods

    Inspired in part by regular sessions with a shrink, Mark Woods’s “After Analysis” represents the New York–based photographer’s attempt at free-associating his way to a more improvisational approach. Ditching the compositional rules and regs on which he has relied previously, Woods here adopts a more snapshotlike aesthetic. Training his camera on a ragtag parade of crumbling storefronts and decrepit street furniture, he locates instances of visual tension that also seem to embody a range of conceptual schisms. But while derived in part from the idea of a talking cure, the show’s title also suggests

  • diary March 09, 2009


    New York

    PERHAPS THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN has prompted a revival of community spirit in the New York art world (is there anything we can’t blame Wall Street for?), but this year’s Armory season—away from the main fair at least—seemed a little funkier than usual. On Thursday evening, having made the obligatory trek around the piers (and office buildings, if you include Volta), I began a long weekend of events both associated and parasitic by dropping into Location One’s tenth-anniversary benefit gala. A prompt arrival at the nonprofit’s Greene Street digs allowed ample time for a look and listen to audiovisual

  • Richard Aldrich

    To judge from the meandering short story, fragmented catalogue essay, and two press releases (both with a distinctly self-penned feel) that accompanied Richard Aldrich’s first solo exhibition at Bortolami, his is the kind of art that tends to attract not explication exactly, but rather a variety of more or less experimental attempts at verbal equivalency. Just as Aldrich’s work veers from oil-on-canvas painting to mixed-media collage, and from hermetic abstraction to quirky part-figuration (with occasional textual and objet trouvé interjections), so the interpretive efforts that shadow it run

  • Pam Lins

    The awkwardness involved in physically negotiating Pam Lins’s exhibition “Owl” was surely no accident, but whether knowing this made the viewing experience more fulfilling is debatable. By arranging her sculptures in a tight but multidirectional cluster, Lins made a case for active engagement but repaid the effort with an assortment of rather clumsily worked-out ideas. Shoehorning several concerns—each of them independently complex—into one basic formal unit (repeated, with variations, in close quarters), the Brooklyn-based artist communicated wide-ranging interests but did not match them with