Michael Wilson

  • Jaya Howey

    Like many (I’d wager most) “professional” artists, Jaya Howey is also a teacher. But while the tendency among his contemporaries is to compartmentalize their paired roles out of an unstated concern that the prosaic realities of the latter will tarnish the mystic aura of the former, Howey used this exhibition to dissolve the barrier between them. Although the past ten years have seen the emergence of art-as-pedagogy as a fully fledged subgenre—think, to pick one historically aware example, of the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s riffs on Beuys’s chalkboards—it hasn’t consistently focused

  • Nancy Shaver

    Though not billed as a group exhibition, “Dress the Form” contained multitudes, featuring contributions from nearly thirty individual artists alongside numerous collaborative and found efforts. In an exuberantly busy installation inspired in part by the catholic formalism of Henry, her antique shop in Hudson, New York, coordinating artist Nancy Shaver endeavored to further collapse the differences between professional and amateur, conceptual and formal, and—especially—functional and decorative. Shaver intended that the show’s objects be considered for their immediately apparent qualities

  • John Akomfrah

    In 1982, Ghana-born, London-based artist John Akomfrah cofounded the Black Audio Film Collective with fellow students at Portsmouth Polytechnic, aiming to kick-start a specifically black culture of politically and theoretically attuned moving-image work in the UK. The group’s landmark 1986 film Handsworth Songs, which Akomfrah directed, employs a characteristic mix of broadcast news footage, still photography, and audio montage to deconstruct the riots that had taken place in Birmingham, UK, and London the previous year. BAFC disbanded in 1998, but Akomfrah has continued to collaborate with

  • Martí Cormand

    In 2010, workers beginning the construction of a new subway station in front of Berlin’s city hall made a series of unexpected discoveries. First, they came across the remains of the city’s original hall, dating back to 1290. Then they found something more recent but equally extraordinary: eleven early-twentieth-century sculptures missing since World War II. All the works, by artists including Otto Freundlich, Naum Slutzky, and Marg Moll, were on the Nazis’ “un-German” blacklist; several had also been included in “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art), the notorious 1937 touring exhibition commissioned

  • diary September 09, 2016

    Begin Again

    SHIFTING FROM THE START of a new school year in the morning to the season’s first round of Chelsea gallery openings in the evening was never going to be an entirely smooth transition, but there was at least a measure of common feeling among those who, on a Thursday evening, flooded the dozen blocks of former taxi garages that so many of us in the biz call home. There was a wholly expected though sometimes still jarring mix of excitement and resignation among the crowds wandering from one space to the next that made for a telling barometer of status and mindset, as the prospect of a new raft of

  • Bernard Frize

    “It is a rather complex thing to arrange situations in which you do nothing and things happen by themselves.” French artist Bernard Frize’s consciously paradoxical statement relates of course specifically to the activity (or nonactivity) of abstract painting, his rigorous approach to which continues to yield a beauty that is at once distanced and engaged. Through processes that, when they avoid gimmickry, tend toward the artless, Frize achieves results that echo the most outwardly expressive of styles, even as they otherwise approach the condition of machine-made permutations. “Dawn comes up so

  • Haris Epaminonda

    Offering in lieu of an expository statement a meandering anecdote about one Mr. Morimoto—an elderly Japanese painter who purportedly graced a 2015 exhibition of hers at intervals “based on a timetable according to a graph depicting a fictional mountain”—Haris Epaminonda prefers to present viewers with the kind of narrative that, like Morimoto’s, “continues in the margins.” Using pedestals, tables, architectural modifications, and other devices to frame her works’ components, Epaminonda engineers displays with an almost pathologically neat-and-tidy look, rescuing them from airlessness

  • diary May 31, 2016

    Bee Season

    TO THE FATHER of a four-year-old embroiled in the scramble for public pre-K slots, the idea of traveling two hours out of the city on a moist but still promising Sunday morning to attend an exhibition opening at a school felt distinctly masochistic. Should I be packing medical forms and trip disclaimers? A lunch box filled with nutritious, peanut-free snacks? The press bus waiting outside Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea, into which we were shepherded by a knot of clipboard-wielding PR peeps, did little to dispel the feeling that this was to be an excursion with a nostalgically pedagogical cast.

  • Maryam Jafri

    Precious few artists, even in the wake of modernism’s varying efforts to demystify and deconstruct originality, would wish to see their work labeled “generic.” Maryam Jafri is a notable exception. Of course, it is not Jafri’s project itself that bears this dour tag, but rather the curious subgenre of consumer good that she depicts and reproduces. In a flawlessly realized installation of small photographs and objects (most purchased, some reconstructed using photographs adhered to boxes), Jafri explored the phenomenon of the unbranded product, prompting a rereading of these minimally packaged

  • Lisa Holzer

    “To be a funny mom was what I wanted above all to be when I became a mom a few years ago. And ‘Be a funny mom’ seemed to be an ideally inept title for this show, my first one in New York. Hey there!” The cheerily self-conscious tone of Lisa Holzer’s statement about her recent exhibition at this small space, squirreled away in a maze of small offices, hews courageously near to the embarrassing; one can imagine her offspring finding it all mortifying in a scant few years, and they wouldn’t be entirely in the wrong. Yet on the evidence of this tight grouping of photographs (with textual and other

  • Penelope Umbrico

    Like words repeated over and over until they sound like the utterances of an alien tongue, Penelope Umbrico’s images are fascinating for their exploration of the differences between multiple photographs of the “same” subject—for the fact that no two shots can ever accurately be described as identical. Her true subject is thus not that which is pictured in her appropriated snaps, but the personal-social circumstances and technological-commercial processes through which they were arrived at. Pre-Internet, hers would have been a much tougher, perhaps impossible, undertaking. Now, the very

  • Josh Tonsfeldt

    In Josh Tonsfeldt’s recent exhibition “Adrenaline,” images had a curious, often fugitive relationship to their sources, supports, and meanings. The New York–based artist prints photographs onto a variety of fragile-seeming surfaces and employs unusual processes such as hydrography to investigate the visual, conceptual, and emotional arenas of everyday life as mediated by the ubiquitous electronic screen. “Familiarity becomes something slippery in the timespan of making a picture,” he writes, characterizing this mutable relationship as “a machine-body behavior ready to play itself out in situations

  • Jason Simon

    In an age when the entire history of recorded music is just a click away, it’s tempting to dismiss radio as a hopelessly antiquated medium. After all, why rely on a DJ when Spotify and iTunes allow you to compile your own playlists? Yet, as is often remarked, the self-curated online/digital experience, for all its potential, can ultimately become isolating. Conventional radio at its best retains the power to establish and strengthen the bonds of community by making a virtue of broadcasters’ idiosyncratic tastes and voices. And local radio can add to that a capacity to respond to specificities

  • diary January 24, 2016

    Quiet Riot

    “DID ANYONE TEACH YOU or did you just...know?”

    “Oh, he just knew.”

    The subject of this admiring if ultimately rather uncomfortable exchange was artist Kenya Hanley, whose funny and engaging drawings were on display in the LAND Gallery booth at the Outsider Art Fair’s Thursday evening vernissage. Hanley, seated rifling through some papers between his two fans, didn’t seem especially taken aback by being discussed in this way, but nor did he feel the need to chime in. Was this perhaps outsider art’s elusive delimiting factor—not a lack of formal training, a sidestepping of irony and fashion, or a

  • diary January 05, 2016

    Dog Days of Winter

    “MAN MOLDED THE DOMESTIC DOG in his own worst image...self-righteous as a lynch mob, servile and vicious, replete with the vilest coprophagic perversions...and what other animal tries to fuck your leg? Canine claims to our affection reek of contrived and fraudulent sentimentality.” So writes a characteristically unforgiving William S. Burroughs in The Cat Inside, his late-career paean to the Internet’s favorite critter. I generally consider myself a cat person too (hi Lyle!), but when my first assignment of the new year saw me huddled in Times Square on a bitterly (if, at last, seasonably) cold

  • Jessica Sanders

    A longtime fan of beeswax owing to its gooey organic mutability, Jessica Sanders exercised admirable restraint with the potentially messy material in her recent exhibition “Ambiguous Warmth.” Her first solo appearance at this relocated gallery, the show featured just two entries from the Brooklyn artist’s ongoing “Saturation” series, 2013–, of wax-infused linen works, and in neither case was the material’s identity immediately apparent. Hung close together side by side, the pair of large, painterly works faced off against eight small wall-mounted white porcelain sculptures. The first impression

  • Sue de Beer

    “He never talked about where he was from. At the funeral, that was the most I ever heard about his life.” So begins the spoken narrative of Sue de Beer’s new two-channel video The Blue Lenses, 2014, which tells the story of Daniel, a con artist, in part through the account of a young Arab woman. Borrowing the title of a 1959 short story by the British author Daphne du Maurier in which a woman’s eye surgery mysteriously causes her to see people with fearsome animal heads in place of their own, de Beer’s beguiling tale also deals in confused appearances and assumed roles.

    The work’s abutted

  • Fiona Connor

    The fountain has a storied and—given its outwardly prosaic nature—oddly auspicious history in modern and contemporary art: from Duchamp’s foundational icon (actually a urinal, of course) to more recent examples including Bruce Nauman’s gushing self portrait of 1966–67; Helen Chadwick’s excremental chocolate-lover’s dream/nightmare Cacao, 1994; and the spouting-nippled Christ that formed the centerpiece of Robert Gober’s solo exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2005. Something about this technically simple bit of plumbing—perhaps owing to its sometimes-awkward fusion of humble

  • Rosa Aiello

    “Just walk in a straight line. . . . Go ahead, forward. . . . Proceed straight ahead, go on, go on. . . .” Though sometimes indistinct, at one point dropping to an intimate but distorted whisper, the voice-over in Rosa Aiello’s video A River in It, 2015, doesn’t let up for more than a few seconds of the work’s nearly ten-minute duration. Directing its unseen subject (the viewer?) ever onward, it varies in tone from reassuring (“Whoops, careful. . . . It’s OK, go ahead”) to official (“At this time, keep going straight”) to impatient (“Don’t stop! Why are you stopping?”) to bullying (“You have no

  • Julia Wachtel

    In Stripe, 2014, the friezelike centerpiece of her recent exhibition “Empowerment,” Julia Wachtel pairs silk-screened images of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un with painted cartoons of South Korean pop star Psy, singer of the once ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.” The juxtaposition is cemented visually by the gray band that gives the work its title. In comparing these figures, the artist prompts us to ask where real power lies—totalitarian military might or Web-age celebrity—and how the mass media work to reinforce or undermine its status. It’s an area that Wachtel, influenced by the