Michael Wilson

  • Open House: Working in Brooklyn

    Pop-cultural tastemakers may pride Williamsburg as contemporary Brooklyn’s heart and soul, but there’s more to New York’s most populous borough than trucker hats and electroclash.

    Pop-cultural tastemakers may pride Williamsburg as contemporary Brooklyn’s heart and soul, but there’s more to New York’s most populous borough than trucker hats and electroclash. From Greenpoint to Red Hook, Fort Greene to DUMBO, there’s a lot going on. Touted as the first substantial overview of Brooklyn’s sprawling art scene, “Open House” details both its historical significance and current vitality. This show comprises more than 250 pieces by over 180 artists and positions work by longtime residents such as Vito Acconci and Martha Rosler alongside

  • Rodney Graham

    The subtitle of this retrospective, “A Little Thought,” suggests an intellectual approach leavened by modesty and self-deprecating wit. It is well chosen.

    The subtitle of this retrospective, “A Little Thought,” suggests an intellectual approach leavened by modesty and self-deprecating wit. It is well chosen. Rodney Graham is a connoisseur of the fragment, an inveterate snapper-up of trifles from literature and music, technology and psychology. Flitting between research and daydreaming, he employs film, video, and sound to construct teasing referential loops (and some great tunes). This show charts Graham’s development from 1976 to the present and across some two dozen works, including a new projection piece and a wealth

  • “No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mount Wilson Observatory”

    GENTLEMEN. ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SEPARATING VALUABLE CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS FROM THE SUNSHINE RAY? WORTH BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. APPRECIATE AN AIRMAIL REPLY. Labeled “CAT. #0021: Telegram from Charles V. Carrol to the Observers at Mount Wilson,” this unusual appeal is one of the more direct examples of a curious subgenre of correspondence to which the pioneering astronomers of the early twentieth century must have become oddly accustomed. This modest but fascinating selection of letters on loan from the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the maverick Los Angeles Wunderkammer that David Wilson has stocked

  • Jason Rhoades

    Supposedly motivated by a drive to “deconstruct” the nonexistent word “Meccatuna,” Jason Rhoades originally intended to journey to Mecca, circle the ancient, holy cuboid structure at its heart—the Kaaba—in the company of a live bluefin tuna, then bring the fish to New York. This plan frustrated, the Los Angeles–based artist hired a Saudi local to drive to the sacred city, buy a case of Geisha-brand canned tuna, and send evidence of its unprecedented proximity to hallowed ritual back to the gallery. Rhoades takes the documentation in question—a few snapshots of the tins on the

  • Ian Kiaer

    Art that springs from an immersion in historical research tends to reward the viewer in inverse proportion to the depth and reliability of the findings themselves. It is as if, in championing some highly specialized or unjustly neglected cultural figure, the artist forgets his or her own responsibility to pose questions and becomes instead an amateur biographer who digs for the truth but is unable to communicate it in a form that is also art. On paper, British sculptor Ian Kiaer threatens to fall into this category, so it is a pleasant surprise when he emerges from the library with his own


    A shiny stainless-steel cylinder, roughly the size and proportions of a kitchen trash can, stands on an area of floor covered with tessellating, multicolored, triangular rubber mats, each of which is embossed with the artist’s signature, and some of which are piled into short stacks. Around and above the cylinder, attached by curving poles, are a number of similar but smaller forms. Two brass rods run up one side of the cylinder, then project out at differing angles. The result looks like a half-finished candelabrum. An irregularly shaped sheet of clear Perspex, with smaller pieces of fluorescent

  • Assume Vivid Astro Focus

    It’s easy to imagine Assume Vivid Astro Focus (aka thirtysomething Eli Sudbrack) submitting the winning bid to design the bar at the local student union. But as an artist whose practice aims to represent, according to the breathless press release, a “record of everything that is a part of someone’s life and everything that’s added to that person’s life every day,” his output is somewhat less convincing. An overripe blend of psychedelia and glam, pop kitsch and kitsch pop, AVAF’s attempt at sensory overload is fun for the first five minutes and a drag thereafter.

    Under a name forged from two

  • Timothy Hutchings

    It’s neither plaudit nor put-down but straightforward observation to say that this exhibition had the ability to leave even the most tolerant visitor with a pounding headache. Timothy Hutchings’s predilection for swirling pattern and distorted sound made “Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm,” his second solo outing here, a lot less amiable than its title might suggest. Just the memory of 4-Way Polka Riot (all works 2003) begins to summon, as Richard E. Grant’s Withnail would have it, a “bastard behind the eyes.”

    Hutchings’s assault on the senses began quietly with a suite of diminutive gouaches depicting,

  • picks July 22, 2003

    Phillip Allen

    The title of British newcomer Phillip Allen’s series of paintings “Beezerspline,” 2002, conjoins references to a classic Scottish comic book (The Beezer) and a small but essential engine part (a spline, for those not versed in popular mechanics, is a ridge that allows the effective interaction of moving components). The neologism hints that Allen’s apparently spontaneous, lighthearted pictures are actually thought out with great care. Against backgrounds assembled from the most basic signifiers of landscape—horizontal bands corresponding to earth and sky—Allen choreographs a dance of

  • Annika Ström

    I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY. This wry anti-statement, with its overtones of Cagean Zen, is brushed in shades of dilute blue acrylic on an oversize sheet of white paper by Swedish artist and musician Annika Ström, forming the disingenuous introduction to a modest but far from weightless exhibition, “Everything in this show could be used against me.” Centered on a new video, 16 minutes (all works 2003), the show further demonstrates Ström’s talent for making something out of nothing. Aligning the dreamy, introverted nature of individual studio practice with the glimpsed views and half-remembered

  • Allan Sekula

    Anglers love a tall tale, so it’s entirely appropriate that Allan Sekula’s monumental photo cycle “Fish Story” has been a talking point since its appearance at last summer’s Documenta 11.

    Anglers love a tall tale, so it’s entirely appropriate that Allan Sekula’s monumental photo cycle “Fish Story” has been a talking point since its appearance at last summer’s Documenta 11. This first full-scale retrospective, curated by Sabine Breitwieser with the assistance of Hemma Schmutz, covers the LA-based artist’s entire career, from the antiwar performances of the late ’60s and early ’70s to the brand-new Black Tide, Marea Negra, 2003, concerning the oil catastrophe in Galicia, Spain. Along the way there’s space for Sekula’s best-known dissections of the influence of global economic shifts

  • Yun-Fei Ji

    In eight friezelike ink-and-mineral-pigment drawings on mulberry rice paper, Beijing-born Yun-Fei Ji conjures a world in turmoil that oscillates between the safety of centuries-old tradition and mortal terror concerning the next five minutes. Amid delicate, rolling landscapes rendered in muted greens, blues, and browns, vehicles collide, buildings collapse, and Goyaesque figures in grotesque masks and costumes indulge their every whim with apocalyptic abandon.

    Ji’s technique, which involves staining, erasing, washing, and restaining a layered, handmade ground, exploits the chemical interaction

  • picks April 28, 2003

    Luc Tuymans

    The sense that disaster might be lurking around the corner—very much in the air these days—is as prevalent as ever in Luc Tuymans’s starkly beautiful new work. The Belgian painter’s fusion of the banal and dingy with the unspoken threat of violence may have become familiar, but it retains the power to unsettle. Ambiguities of scale and perspective turn a patterned carpet into a distant military installation and an SUV driver into a boxed-in, cringing prisoner, while what appears at first to be a rendering of an obscure board game reveals itself as a paintball battle. Tuymans’s hovering viewpoints,

  • picks March 11, 2003

    “Back Grounds: Impressions Photographiques”

    “Elegant” and “restrained” are perhaps not the first words that come to mind when one thinks of exhibitions at Andrew Kreps, so it comes as no surprise to learn that “Back Grounds: Impressions Photographiques” was curated by Olivier Renaud-Clement and shipped in from Galerie Nelson in Paris. Using images from the medium’s earliest days to provide a context for two contemporary artists’ divergent takes, Renaud-Clement orchestrates a quiet but fascinating conversation between methodology and intention.

    Dating from the mid-1800s, Baron Adolphe Humbert de Molard’s paper negatives of William the

  • the New Museum of Contemporary Art

    At a time when long-established organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have been forced to shelve expansion plans in line with austere budgets, the New Museum of Contemporary Art has announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art $35 million facility at 235 Bowery, just a few blocks east of its current base at 583 Broadway.

    The Bowery site, at present an eight-thousand-square-foot parking lot, is located between Stanton and Rivington Streets at the beginning of Prince Street. Plans call for a sixty-thousand-square-foot building, twice the size of


    On the heels of his sprawling Bataille Monument, realized for Documenta 11, THOMAS HIRSCHHORN made his Manhattan gallery debut last fall with Cavemanman. MICHAEL WILSON paid a visit to the site as the Swiss artist’s modern-day cardboard-and-packing-tape Lascaux took shape.

    THE PROPOSAL SEEMS, AT FIRST, LUDICROUSLY AMBITIOUS. Put forth in a fax headed PRE-PROJECT <>, it outlines, in a childlike but unambiguous hand, Thomas Hirschhorn’s intention to transform Barbara Gladstone Gallery into a network of caves. On second read, certain material aspects—the use of timber, cardboard, and packing tape, for example—assert themselves. The idea is at least economically feasible, if still a vast undertaking. And although Hirschhorn’s plan omits illustrations and solid technical details, it does establish a narrative context: The caves have been home to a reclusive

  • Michael Ashkin

    “Drive Route 1 and 9 from Metuchen to the Holland Tunnel. Do this from South to North late in the afternoon on a sunny day to catch the full effect of the light on the multi-colored signs and roadside architecture. Make sure that . . . you stay on Truck Route 1 and 9 into Kearny. This last leg takes you over two rusted drawbridges into Jersey City, taking a turn past my favorite carpet store where several mutilated statues of loggers stand outside.” Michael Ashkin’s idea of a picturesque road trip may be a little closer to Tony Soprano’s than most people’s, but at least you could say, based on

  • picks January 23, 2003

    Matthew Higgs

    “Art isn’t Easy.” British expat critic, curator, and sometime artist Matthew Higgs may be stating the obvious in the title of his second solo show at Murray Guy, but it’s a truism that bears repeating. Possessed of a well-nigh infallible internal compass when it comes to navigating the highways and byways of contemporary practice, Higgs sensibly elects to keep his own output modest. Collecting and framing the yellowing title pages of such edifying volumes as I Married an Artist‚ Ink on Paper and Queer Thing Painting‚ he reveals a forgotten undercurrent of pulp novels, beginners’ guides, and

  • Living Inside the Grid

    Is there any setting more appropriate than Manhattan for a look at how artists newly enchanted by the intersection of their own practice and that of the urban planner are reconsidering that ubiquitous modernist template, the grid? This exhibition, organized by senior curator Dan Cameron, ropes in painting, sculpture, video, digital work, and newly commissioned installations by twenty-three international artists, including Paul Noble, Tomoko Takahashi, Danica Phelps, the Danish collective N55, and the late Mark Lombardi. The grid has long been symbolic shorthand for both the possibilities and

  • Michael Wilson

    THE TROUBLE WITH OUTER SPACE IS THAT EVERYBODY wants a piece. The recent Hollywood remake of Solaris provided further evidence of the subject’s enduring pancultural appeal but also an alarming reminder of the heavy traffic plying that terrain. It’s a brave artist indeed who’s willing to go where so many have gone before, but having been raised in the shadow of NASA’s Houston base, Rafael Vargas-Suarez (aka Vargas-Suarez Universal) isn’t held back by such earthbound concerns. Space Station Dystopia: 1939/1964/2001, a mural made for the Queens Museum of Art’s “Crossing the Line” in 2001, saw him