Michael Wilson

  • diary February 02, 2009

    Spin City

    New York

    AS THE NATION’S Joe Sixpacks stockpiled brewskis for Super Bowl Sunday, Nyehaus got behind an arguably more delicate sport: table tennis. Seizing on the serendipitous congruence of an exhibition featuring an artist-designed ping-pong table and the incipient launch of Spin (“part ping-pong club, part urban social club, part off-Broadway ping-pong theater”), Wednesday evening’s event at the Gramercy Park gallery promised a heady concentration of geeky pursuits. The exhibition in question was Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “Reflection,” but in the absence of the celebrity chef himself, attention centered on

  • Kim Keever

    Kim Keever’s ethereal color photographs of constructed landscape dioramas are undeniably seductive—a gaggle of ladies-who-lunch cooed admiringly over them on my visit to the New Yorker’s recent exhibition—but their purportedly “subversive” edge is blunt indeed. Keever employs a nice balance of the sophisticated and the jury-rigged, and sets up some mildly entertaining confusions of scale, but his images’ hazy visual atmospherics ultimately lack a tempering conceptual lucidity. An adjacent exhibition of paintings by Hudson River School artists such as Alfred Thompson Bricher, John William Casilear,

  • picks January 29, 2009

    Jane South

    In earlier shows at this gallery, Jane South immersed viewers in her elaborate cut-paper architectures by wrapping them around the gallery’s walls. These days, she’s taken to building vertically, and here she constructs a tower reaching some fifteen feet from floor to ceiling. It’s even possible to step inside this eccentric monument and peer out through a crisscrossing latticework of delicately rendered girders, beams, and struts. Employing the flimsiest of materials (though bolstering the paper with a slender wooden armature), South conjures the rusting heft of aged iron in this micro-city.

  • picks January 23, 2009

    Debo Eilers

    Debo Eilers’s New York solo debut appears to herald the return of squat art—a home-brewed 1980s phenomenon that feels entirely appropriate to an economy, freshly ruined, that heralds the return of abandoned real estate. Partly cooked up in an unfurnished East Berlin apartment, Eilers’s exhibition “I’ve got $3,000 in my wallet” is an acid-colored mélange of digital prints and very-mixed-media assemblages that overwhelms the clean, well-lighted space of this gallery with all the dissonant charisma of a rave at a board meeting.

    Occupying much of the upstairs gallery are four scaffoldlike sculptures

  • picks January 07, 2009

    Martin Mull

    Exploiting found vintage family snapshots as creative source material is hardly an original gambit, so the success or failure of Martin Mull’s new canvases rests to a large extent on their individual quirks and subtleties––as well as their maker’s technical sophistication––rather than on wholesale innovation. Focusing on anonymous images of American suburbia from the 1950s and ’60s, engineering the odd visual recombination, and applying titles that skew the viewer’s reading of each scene, Los Angeles–based Mull offers a gentle but skilled critique of the traditional nuclear family, the world of

  • picks January 06, 2009

    Lisa Young

    Marshaling the standard tools of the contemporary post-Conceptual artist––video, photography, print, and, of course, the Web––Lisa Young teases out hidden connections between the quotidian and the sublime via a series of meditative exercises in visual repetition. Describing her project in terms more evocative of curatorial than artistic practice (“A key activity in all my work is collecting, analyzing, and repositioning image and text,” she writes), Young brings a facility with organizational systems to bear on highly disparate source material: In this show, curated by the editors of Cabinet

  • Jonathan Horowitz

    Jonathan Horowitz’s first solo New York museum outing—into which curator Klaus Biesenbach corrals more than fifteen years’ worth of video, sculpture, photography, and sound installations—promises the return of the statuette Hillary Clinton Is a Person Too, 2008, along with many other sardonic delights.

    Taking artistic opportunism to its logical, tongue-in-cheek extreme, Jonathan Horowitz’s most recent show was titled “Obama ’08” and featured a kitschy, Koons-y bronze of a certain Democratic senator from New York. The artist’s first solo New York museum outing—into which curator Klaus Biesenbach corrals more than fifteen years’ worth of video, sculpture, photography, and sound installations—promises the return of that statuette, Hillary Clinton Is a Person Too, 2008, along with many other sardonic delights. Check, for example, the dubious politicization—by insertion

  • Edith Dekyndt

    Like a gothic remake of the mysterious globular security drones that were the bane of Patrick McGoohan’s existence in the 1960s TV classic The Prisoner, Edith Dekyndt’s Ground Control (all works 2008) hovers a little too close and a little too large for comfort. An inky black, helium-filled polypropylene balloon, this ominous airborne sculpture laid claim, in distinctly intimidating fashion, to the front of Parker’s Box’s Brooklyn space during the Belgian artist’s recent New York solo debut, easily the most assertive work in an otherwise gentle exhibition.

    While Ground Control might recall Fiona

  • James White

    Surveying the flotsam and jetsam of his own daily life, British painter James White catalogues objects that occupy interstitial space, the remnants of activity or the harbingers of things to come. In the painting cycle “The Rough with the Smooth” (all works 2008) and the series “Relationships,” White demonstrates sensitivity to the ways in which functional artifacts assume a fuzzy symbolism when looked at with a certain rigor (his rendering is close to Photorealist) and with a certain intensity (in this case, cool but exacting).

    The arrangements of “The Rough with the Smooth” look convincingly

  • diary December 25, 2008

    Secret Santos

    New York

    WHILE MANY OF THIS YEAR’S holiday parties have been shadowed by a dour mood in step with the economic nosedive, leave it to Deitch Projects to demonstrate that it’s possible to whip up a jovial atmosphere without breaking what’s left of the bank. The downtown stalwart’s “Weird Holiday” kicked off at Santos’ Party House in Chinatown Tuesday night in a spirit of do-it-yourself good cheer, presenting a roster of campy amateur acts curated by Kansas City collective Whoop Dee Doo Productions and hosted by scenester Aaron Bondaroff (who insists on being known as either “A-Ron,” which I can just about

  • picks December 25, 2008

    Børre Sæthre

    Conjuring a convincing alternative world, especially in an institution as familiar as P.S. 1, is no easy task. Yet Børre Sæthre manages the feat with just a few key props and some bold interior design. In an interconnected suite of rooms, Sæthre constructs a series of cryptic tableaux in which, psychologically speaking, it’s surprisingly easy to lose oneself. Inspired in large part by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the Norwegian artist uses sound and light to generate an eerie, futuristic atmosphere in which established rules seem to have been suspended. Suggesting a link between

  • Keith Tyson

    “Fractal Dice,” British artist Keith Tyson’s recent exhibition at PaceWildenstein, was the result of a game—one that, like any game, came with a set of rules. Reproduced for visitors on sheets of graph paper, these rules indexed a system by which rolls of a die determined the sizes, shapes, and colors of sculptures. Following in the footsteps of Jean Arp, John Cage, and Luke Rhinehart (author of the 1971 cult novel The Dice Man), Tyson allowed chance to steer the decisions made en route to his works’ final appearances. And, as befit the hands-off approach, he played no part in the making of the

  • diary November 05, 2008

    Elective Affinities

    New York

    WHILE THE ART WORLD likes to boast of a nuanced relationship to politics—albeit one that often bears a suspicious resemblance to apathy when it comes time to take a stand—it’s also loath to pass up the opportunity for a good party. And for all the studied ambivalence and ambiguity in which artists and their associates indulge, sometimes you just have to go with the flow. So it was that on Tuesday’s night of decision, a clutch of Manhattan galleries transformed themselves into oversize TV lounges for the benefit of those without plasma screens and cheap wine at home.

    Invitations abounded, including

  • Charles Burns

    Everything in the world of Charles Burns is suffused in an otherworldly glow, as if the only available light were provided by cosmic radiation, nuclear blasts, or the full moon. Through this permanent midnight ranges a freakish cast of characters, sometimes half-human, half-animal, often hideously disfigured or diseased. Even the natural landscape they inhabit is cast in an unsettling hue, the ground underfoot littered with cigarette butts, scraps of clothing, shards of broken glass, and mangled animal remains, the waters fetid and opaque. And when the scene shifts from rural to urban, the city

  • Anne Daems

    Focusing on ephemeral minutiae, Anne Daems clearly fancies herself a poet of the everyday. Working in a variety of media, she aims to tease out neglected moments of beauty from her surroundings, whether urban, quasi-rural, or studio-interior. The aim is a laudable one, with endless precedents, but the Belgian artist relies on a level of trust in her particular vision that feels, as yet, unearned. Rather than encouraging viewers to take a fresh look at the world, she might instead leave them with a slight sense of having been condescended to.

    In “Parsley and Pearls,” her recent US solo debut,

  • diary October 10, 2008

    Comfort and Joy

    New York

    Unquestionably one of the more unfortunate fashion innovations of the past year was New Balance’s “Joy Division” sneaker, designed by artist Dylan Adair and supposedly still awaiting commercial release. Initial reports of the shoe, which borrows from the cover of the band’s classic debut album, Unknown Pleasures, met with widespread disapproval from fans—though perhaps more for the bizarre equation of soul-searching postpunk with a pleasant jog around the park than for its appropriation of Peter Saville’s instantly recognizable graphic. Last Thursday evening, Saville again found himself

  • Sarah Braman

    Museum 52’s boast that Sarah Braman “appears to work without inhibition, second-guessing, or self-consciousness” is a dangerous one, even for sculptures as seemingly thrown together as those on display in her recent exhibition at this newish Lower East Side space. Yes, Braman’s modified found-object assemblages seem to flaunt a willful disregard for finish, but take a few steps back and it isn’t hard to discern conventional formalist concerns nestled amid the grunge.

    The centerpiece in Museum 52’s upper gallery (the larger of two levels; local veterans will remember the space as the former home

  • Seth Cluett

    Diapason is relatively obscure, owing to its location on the tenth floor of a large, nondescript building on the wrong side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, its being open strictly on Saturday afternoons, and its particular focus: contemporary sound art. Despite a history stretching back to the cacophonous experiments of Futurism and Dada, and periodic peaks of recognition—sometimes, as with video, attendant on technological developments—sound art remains a niche concern. The reasons for this are legion: To many, sound art remains profoundly confusing in its consistently ill-defined intersection

  • Christopher Orr

    Christopher Orr’s dark, diminutive oil paintings seem at first glance to have been salvaged from some alternate past. Employing an earthy palette of browns, reds, and ochers, and building surfaces on which areas of dry, scraped-back pigment are juxtaposed with richer, fresher-looking passages, the Scottish artist conjures a dramatic lost world in which characters, scenes, and objects culled from popular midcentury print media seem to have strayed into the sublime landscape visions of a nineteenth-century Romantic. But though united on the same canvases, these incongruous pairings tend to remain

  • film August 14, 2008

    Loser Wins

    “A BUNCH OF US used to hang out in this little storefront on the Lower East Side that, y’know, we called it a ‘gallery’ but it wasn’t really a gallery, it was more of, like, a party spot.” Investing unashamedly in the romantic narrative of misfits-made-good, and leaning perhaps a little too hard on a tirelessly youthful, borderline counter-intellectual ethic (“a culture that’s made for kids by kids”; “It was really just a bunch of kids, a bunch of dumb, bored kids”; “geniusly [sic] dumb”), director Aaron Rose’s Beautiful Losers, an account of the rise and partial fall of the scene around his