Michael Wilson

  • THOMAS HIRSCHHORN: CAVES OF NEW YORK

    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

  • Mathieu Mercier

    Mathieu Mercier’s AAA, 2002, a backlit wall-mounted sign in which the title’s three letters become smaller from left to right, looks like the scream of a cartoon character plunging off a cliff. The text’s off-kilter font is a superimposition of two opposing styles: the hard-edged geometry characteristic of Theo van Doesburg and a flowing, fanciful script developed by New York typographer Edward Benguiat in the ’70s. A strategically contrived hybrid of design philosophies, AAA is a succinct introduction to this young Parisian’s practice and an appropriate piece to kick off his first solo show in

  • picks December 03, 2002

    David Hammons

    Doing justice to the vast, echoing Ace Gallery is a substantial challenge to even the most megalomaniacal of artists, so it is to David Hammons’s credit that he manages it with nothing more than the contents of a container at the reception desk. The gallery itself is completely empty and pitch-dark. In the container is a giveaway supply of coin-size flashlights that, although tiny, emit a blue beam powerful enough to illuminate the user’s immediate surroundings, and which used collectively can transform the space into an eerily beautiful chamber of silhouettes and shadows. Throughout the '90s

  • Russell Crotty

    Living in a city shrouded by the squalid yellow haze of light pollution, one easily forgets how confoundingly beautiful a clear night sky can be. Russell Crotty, a documentarian for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (a body of amateur astronomers who assist the pros), experiences no such dilemma. Couched in the Solstice Peak Observatory, which he built himself, high in the Santa Monica mountains, he spends hours gazing into space through a ten-inch f/8 Newtonian reflector telescope and sketching what he sees. Yet while he is obviously transported by the transcendent grandeur of

  • picks November 26, 2002

    “Video Acts”

    Amid the increasing ubiquity of high-production-value, multiscreen, multichannel video work, this exhibition constitutes a salient reminder of the medium’s raw beginnings. While the inclusion of the likes of Steve McQueen and Pipilotti Rist bring the story almost up to date, it is the pioneering efforts of Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Joan Jonas, and Marina Abramovic that here take center stage. Screened continuously, simultaneously, and, for the most part, on monitors placed on wheeled archival benches, they retain much of their original urgency and wit. And even with one hundred–plus titles

  • Robert Storr

    LATE SUMMER brought the announcement that Robert Storr would curate SlTE Santa Fe’s Fifth International Biennial-following in the footsteps of Bruce Ferguson, Francesco Bonami, Rosa Martinez, and, most recently, Dave Hickey. Hickey’s iconoclastic, pan-generational “Beau Monde: Towards a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism” vastly upped the profile of both venue and event, leaving SlTE Santa Fe—and its newly appointed curator—with a challenge on their hands.

    In landing Storr, until recently senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the New Mexico art space has surely met the challenge.

  • Yoshitaka Amano

    Battle of the Planets, the sci-fi anime that Yoshitaka Amano created at Tokyo’s Tatsunako Productions, was a staple of my after-school TV-watching schedule in late-’70s England. With costumes that placed them somewhere between trapeze artists and prog rockers, the cartoon’s five young heroes, collectively known as G-Force, regularly saved the galaxy with an acrobatic grace that made their American counterparts look sluggish. A couple of these stars returned in Ammo’s first New York gallery exhibition, but their presence added up to more than unreconstructed nostalgia. Amano originally developed

  • picks October 16, 2002

    “Time is Free”

    Jan Hoet and Ann Demeester’s meditation on life and leisure finds them reaching for alternatives to organized entertainment, proposing the nonplace between productive activities as the natural home of artistic imagination, and boredom as a vital component of the creative urge. The work assembled here uses domestic and institutional space to suggest that our physical surroundings are merely a veneer on a universe of half-formed, free-floating notions. A 1981 semi-fresco monochrome panel by Ettore Spalletti, equal parts ancient architectural relic and modern industrial cast-off, sets the tone

  • picks September 24, 2002

    Jim Shaw

    If Kenneth Noland had ever sat down with Brigham Young, together they might have arrived at something like Jim Shaw’s puritanical doctrine of “O-ism.” Centered around an anonymous female deity and a ban on representational painting, this absurdist fictitious religion provides Shaw with a new angle from which to approach the mythology of the Great American Artist. His installation at the Swiss Institute visualizes the dilemma of forgotten O-ist painter Adam O. Goodman, a man of abstraction forced, in violation of his aesthetic and spiritual convictions, to work as an illustrator. “The Goodman

  • picks September 12, 2002

    Michael Joo

    Perched atop a series of plinths that occupy the center of Anton Kern Gallery’s barnlike interior, the vaguely threatening figures of fifty plasticine coyotes announce the departure of Michael Joo’s latest expedition to the land of weird science. Their collective title, The Pack, a nod to Beuys, is consistent with Joo’s interest in shamanism and suggests the intersection of spirituality and anthropology with more formal concerns. The combination of prosthetic teeth and tongues with the animals’ more patently unnatural fur pulls us in two directions at once, clearing a space for interpretation

  • 1000 WORDS: OLIVER PAYNE AND NICK RELPH

    Short-listed for this year’s Beck’s Futures award, British filmmaking duo Oliver Payne and Nick Relph put their prize money straight to work. The result is Mixtape, 2002, twenty minutes of “wild, trance-inducing loops” designed to infect viewers with humor and headaches alike. Structured around Terry Riley’s mesmerizing Motown cutup “You’re No Good,” the film weaves a set of tangentially related vignettes into footage of a teenage hardcore band’s spasmodic writhing. As the title suggests, it is an idiosyncratic compilation of perfect moments or, as Relph offers with a chuckle, “a really good

  • picks August 09, 2002

    “Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values”

    “Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values”

    Just as contemporary Mexican society is characterized by extreme economic polarization, so its art is colored by a heightened awareness of status and overshadowed by the threat of its violent transgression. In this context, Daniela Rossell’s photographs of her conspicuously well-heeled family friends may be asking for trouble. Miguel Calderón and Yoshua Okon’s video of themselves breaking into parked cars ushers the viewer into similarly ambiguous moral territory. Exactly who is the criminal here, and who is the victim? it seems, is the question. Ivan Edeza may have fuzzed up his black-market

  • picks June 27, 2002

    “Sunday Afternoon”

    “Sunday Afternoon”

    The noise is mechanical yet human, familiar yet difficult to place: a regular, hypnotic metallic rattle that turns out to be the sound of a stick being dragged along a fence in Francis Alÿs’s two-track video loop Time is a Trick of the Mind, 1998. Like many of the actions performed, recorded, or alluded to in this exhibition, it is simple yet unending—a modest, semiprivate gesture writ unavoidably large. Alluding to personal and religious ritual, to the routines of work and the working-through of ideas, Patricia Martin’s cross-generational assembly of the art of repetition bears multiple viewings.

  • picks June 27, 2002

    “Remarks on Color”

    “Remarks on Color”

    This elegantly staged exhibition takes its title from Gary Hill’s 1994 video, which is in turn named for Wittgenstein’s classic investigative text. As Hill’s young daughter reads the philosopher’s words out loud, struggling valiantly with their elliptical complexities, we are reminded that color may be both a subject of serious study and joyously beyond reason, at once hermetic and seductive. Joseph Kosuth plays on the conceptual end of the subject in his neon text No Number #16 (On Color/Red), 1989, which reads “IF I EXPECT TO SEE RED, THEN I PREPARE MYSELF FOR RED.” Callum Innes and Dan Flavin

  • picks May 24, 2002

    Maurizio Cattelan

    Maurizio Cattelan

    Today, to function as a kind of neorealist working in a geographically and culturally specific context but thriving in a global art world takes some luck—but, more importantly, it takes an understanding of what is geographically topical. Maurizio Cattelan possesses both. Where his installation of Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteorite, La Nona Ora (The ninth hour), 2000, seemed quaintly Old World (or Italian) a couple of years ago, it seems presciently American in today’s climate, with the Catholic church embroiled in a major sex scandal. Cattelan’s latest piece, Frank & Jamie, 2002, a

  • picks May 09, 2002

    Roe Ethridge

    Roe Ethridge

    Roe Ethridge compares the structure of his new series of photographs, “The Bow‚” 2002, to that of a monthly magazine with a list of regular sections, a unifying theme, and a lead story. It certainly seems like a decent working model for a show, suggesting both a consciously and clearly designed arrangement and a casual mode of looking. The cover, of course, is graced by the artist himself, pictured with a very real yet perfectly black eye suffered while rock-climbing at Montauk Point. The rest is a hodgepodge of pigeons in flight, bucolic country landscapes, and an oceangoing cargo ship subjected