Michael Wilson

  • diary December 18, 2009

    Sign of the Times

    New York

    BUNDLING UP for the first major round of post-Miami New York gallery openings on a frigid Thursday evening, I half-expected most potential attendees to have decided in favor of a mug of hot chocolate and the televisual company of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. But while the streets of Chelsea were predictably dark and desolate, unbowed dealers had turned up the heat to pull, collectively, a decent crowd. My first port of call though looked unpromising. Anton Kern was showing more of LA painter Brian Calvin’s signature slacker portraits, but the work’s ice-cream colors and laid-back vibe

  • picks December 02, 2009

    “Evidence of the Paranormal”

    Charles and Ray Eames aren’t often associated with the otherworldly; rather, the influential designers are customarily linked to practical—if inspired—rationalism. In curator Chris Sharp’s elegant, teasing group show, however, the famous couple find themselves in unprecedented dialogue with the occult. The Eames’s short film Blacktop, a Story of the Washing of a School Play Yard, 1952, a poetic, formal observation of the flow of soapy water over dark asphalt, is here lent a spooky vibe, swirling bubbles now suggesting the spectral goop of ectoplasm. Similarly, Per Martensson’s small, precise

  • James Turrell

    While its coverage of last year’s presidential election was otherwise undistinguished, CNN scored over its rival networks in one memorable respect: Reporter Jessica Yellin claimed to be following in the tradition of Princess Leia as she was beamed into the studio from her real-world location at Barack Obama’s Chicago victory bash in the form of a life-size hologram. In its lavish pointlessness, the stunt was entirely consistent with the medium’s reputation as an invention in search of a use. While practical applications in fields including information storage and biomedical imaging have gradually

  • Tom Burr

    There was no single work in Tom Burr’s recent exhibition “sentence” that was truly emblematic of the whole, but one pair at least came close. The two sculptures his personal effects (White) and (Natural) (both 2009) demonstrate a bold juxtaposition of randomness and precision and a fascination with the aura of ephemeral objects that united all the pieces here. Enclosing two pairs of worn-out sneakers in Plexiglas cases—one per shoe—and placing them atop wooden pedestals of differing heights colored according to the works’ subtitles, the New York– and Norfolk, Connecticut–based artist seems to

  • Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

    The experience of the “nexus between corporeality, representation and technology” promised by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s recent show began well before visitors entered the galleries in which the Mexican-born, Canada-based artist’s work was installed. In fact it started in earnest about two hundred feet below them, in the brass and marble lobby of the midtown Manhattan office building whose penthouse Haunch of Venison comfortably, if rather anomalously, inhabits.

    Here on the outskirts of Rockefeller Center, as in most big-city skyscrapers these days, one trades the nominal physical autonomy of the

  • Johanna Billing

    Drawn to contexts that might, in lesser hands, prompt lumbering pontification, Johanna Billing happily favors a direct appeal to viewers’ senses and emotions over an overtly pedagogical approach. The videos that the Swedish artist showed here are watchable and well crafted. Filtering understated sociopolitical allusions through accessible meditations on everyday life, Billing distills the scattershot into the essential by marshaling connections among people, places, and processes, conjuring affecting juxtapositions of image, music, and incidental sound en route to a bigger picture.

    Titled after

  • diary October 08, 2009

    An American Tail

    New York

    “YES! SAVE SOME TREES!” A gallery assistant’s response to my offer to share a map at the Thursday-evening preview of the 2009 New York Art Book Fair was unarguably commendable, but her enthusiasm seemed a little incongruous given the amount of paper pushed at this annual event. Now in its fourth installment and relocated from Phillips de Pury in Chelsea to P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Printed Matter’s publishing jamboree was bigger and better then ever. Expanding on last year’s list by some seventy exhibitors to top two hundred, it sprawled throughout the institution and

  • Basil Wolverton

    “Fangs Finkelstein has snappers that are always in demand by meat tenderizer services, but his ambition is to become the world’s greatest orthodontist.” The caption to Basil Wolverton’s 1971 drawing Fangs Finkelstein goes some way toward contextualizing its grotesque extremity, but the image’s comic intent does little to mitigate its capacity to induce profound discomfort. The subject’s upper row of teeth emerges from not only his gum but also from his ears and nostrils, projecting downward like enormous tusks. Cracked, misaligned, and misshapen (though in one instance repaired with an improvised

  • Anissa Mack

    Flitting restlessly from reference to reference, Anissa Mack’s work can be confounding in its seeming impatience with any given format, period, or place; it is almost as if the New York–based sculptor is anxious about the possible limitations of a too-intimate association with the themes she addresses. “Your Past A Star,” her first exhibition at Small A’s diminutive Lower East Side space (the gallery was formerly a Portland, Oregon, fixture) was suitably compact, but also diverse enough that it practically did the job of a summer group show. The ten recent works assembled did share some common

  • diary September 27, 2009

    Net Wirth

    New York

    TWO BEEFY BOUNCERS manned the front door of 32 East Sixty-ninth Street on a recent Wednesday evening, as a slow-moving line wound its way down the block. The Upper East Side town house was last home to secondary-market gallery Zwirner & Wirth, a partnership between high-rolling dealers David Zwirner and Iwan Wirth. Zwirner will now go it alone, adding another gallery to his existing empire in Chelsea, while the uptown pile becomes the American headquarters of European supergallery Hauser & Wirth. The latter firm chose to inaugurate its new digs by recalling another former occupant, Martha Jackson

  • diary September 23, 2009

    Sugar and Spice

    Lyon, France

    “HOW DO I DO IT?” Asked how he could possibly have a major exhibition opening in San Francisco a mere fortnight after overseeing the Tenth Biennale de Lyon, Hou Hanru paused for the briefest of reflections before continuing, with a smile and a shrug, “I just do it, you know?” Lunching with the tireless Chinese curator, drafted to organize this year’s show after original choice Catherine David walked out over “time-management” issues, I got the impression that not only could he ill afford to spend long pondering such questions, he wasn’t especially interested in the answers. Not only prolific,

  • John Miller

    John Miller’s continual reinvention of his practice over the past three decades has been so thoroughgoing that he still tends to fly under the critical radar.

    John Miller’s continual reinvention of his practice over the past three decades has been so thoroughgoing that he still tends to fly under the critical radar. This overview of his output since the mid-’80s seeks to redress that neglect. Featuring nearly fifty installations, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and videos, the show includes the entire “Middle of the Day” photographic archive, 1996–, and a new installation, Ruin, from the “Gold” series. A catalogue will feature texts by Alexander Alberro, Nora M. Alter, Branden W. Joseph, Jutta Koether, and Miller himself,

  • Nigel Cooke

    He might previously have been considered a cityscape specialist, but British painter Nigel Cooke turned explicitly toward the figure in his third solo exhibition at Andrea Rosen. Still, in five epic canvases, nine tiny ones, and ten shrunken bronze heads, Cooke intensified the ominous mood established by his earlier work, picturing a cast of end- time antiheroes and continuing to narrate some of painting’s many and still-accumulating deaths. Absorbed by the idea that completing an image necessarily implies destroying or absorbing its predecessor, and fascinated by the possibility of enfolding

  • Jonathan Monk

    Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, 1986, an immaculate stainless-steel cast of a silver balloon in the form of a stylized bunny, has become an icon of a decade notorious for hyperbole and narcissism. (Not without reason did its perky ears protrude over Artforum’s logo in the first of the special issues the magazine devoted to the 1980s in 2003.) So it would be easy to see an allegory in “The Inflated Deflated,” for which British artist Jonathan Monk took a pin to this pumped-up, mirror-finish homage to the 1980s, reproducing it in a set of flaccid simulacra.

    Monk has made a career out of appropriating material

  • picks August 06, 2009

    “Glitz & Grime: Photographs of Times Square”

    According to a recent study based on images uploaded to Flickr, the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York is now the twenty-eighth-most-photographed place on earth. But even this site of contemporary pilgrimage is easily beaten out as a popular pictorial subject by Times Square. The notorious intersection is apparently still an irresistible draw for those not trying to avoid it at all costs. The appealing shots in this exhibition depict it from a variety of angles and attitudes over the course of the past sixty-odd years, while the midtown epicenter emerges, even in its darker phases, as a

  • diary August 06, 2009

    Behind the Music

    New York

    “THESE SOUNDS ARE MADE by Curtis Rhodes’s granular application, which was modeled after the way I patched the Buchla Box.” “To get the ‘pingy-y’ tones, I frequency-modulated the pitch of the oscillator from zero to maximum.” If Morton Subotnick’s explanations of his innovations in computer-generated sound occasionally resembled a geeky version of Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnell’s immortal claim, “These go to eleven,” his Friday-night performance at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room confirmed him as an altogether more serious artist than his mock-rock counterpart. That said, the cherubic

  • 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