Michelle Grabner

  • Vision of Progress 4), 2007, unique archival digital print and charred wood frame, 34 x 22".
    picks October 01, 2007

    Jimmy and Jill Baker

    For this project, artist Jimmy Baker and architect Jill Baker sorted through recondite bits of Internet data detailing the building of what is to be the largest and most structurally complex US embassy in the world. This American fortress just happens to be located on a 104-acre parcel of Baghdad’s Green Zone. According to their research, the project’s $592 million budget is being squeezed from US emergency funding. Their investigation also reveals that the embassy will have its own electrical and water-treatment plants.

    With information from their furtive archive, the Bakers built a modestly

  • UP!, 2005, still from a color digital video with sound, 19 minutes.
    picks September 04, 2007

    Erik van Lieshout

    “She’s a fuck, fuck, fucking cow, me mum,” rants Dutch artist Erik van Lieshout in his video UP!, 2005. A distressing albeit humorous chronicle of van Lieshout’s emotional life, this piece documents his real-life struggles with sex, anger, work, family, and love. In a tender moment, the camera shows him having “a good cry” after an argument with his mother. At another point, he confesses to the camera that the best sex he has ever experienced was with a man; another juncture shows him in a fit of rage recklessly swinging a fan around by its electrical cord. The most laughable moment in the video

  • View of “Pedagogical Factory,” 2007.
    picks September 03, 2007

    “Pedagogical Factory”

    Proposing radical pedagogies is at the heart of Chicago artist and educator Jim Duignan’s practice. Ten years ago, he founded the Stockyard Institute in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Since that time, Duignan and his program have offered alternative concepts for shaping the learning experiences of youths living in the shadowed zones of Chicagoland. The venerable Hyde Park Art Center—still getting comfortable within the new walls of its retrofitted factory building—has a long-standing commitment to arts education, making it a smart amplifier of Duignan’s efforts. “Pedagogical Factory,”

  • Alexander Laner, Tontauben (Clay Pigeons), 2007, traces of clay pigeons on wall, dimensions variable.
    picks August 15, 2007

    “Made in Germany”

    “Made in Germany” does not seek to illuminate “Germanness.” Thirty-eight of the show’s fifty-two artists live and work in Berlin, which is now a hodgepodge of expats seeking cheap rent; indeed, twenty-two included here are not German-born. The exhibition is an equivalent to the Whitney Biennial, albeit with fewer artists and more real estate for each contribution. And because it is in context with the conceptually weighty and thematic Skulptur Projekte Münster and Documenta 12, the pressure to be all things to all people is lessened, resulting in a rare survey show that is just that: an exhibition

  • David Lieske

    “As a term, pluralism signifies no art specifically. Rather, it is a situation that grants a kind of equivalence; art of many sorts is made to seem more or less equal—equally (un)important. Art becomes an arena not of dialectical dialogue but of vested interests.” In his 1985 essay “Against Pluralism,” Hal Foster aligned the ideology of pluralism with the function of market forces. Today, that correspondence is an all-pervasive reality, clearly evident—colored by varying degrees of self-awareness—in the work of such artists as the young German David Lieske.

    Lieske recently enjoyed his first US

  • Andrew Guenther

    Primitive motifs have seeped back into painting of late as a method of denoting, if not embodying, “pure” subjectivity: Katherine Bernhardt’s Neue Wilde–esque figures and Mark Grotjahn’s cardboard mask constructions are two examples among many. This revival should come as no surprise—the impulse to establish and communicate sovereign selfhood remains fundamental, and the currently fatted marketplace only encourages its indulgence, since the fear of commercial failure still often trumps the desire to avoid played-out tropes.

    In the paintings of Andrew Guenther, the primitive reappears in signifiers

  • Cecilia Edefalk

    Seven years ago, Swedish artist Cecilia Edefalk visited London and embarked on a quasi-mystical journey that began at Tate Britain. Purchasing a drink in the museum’s cafeteria, she noticed that it was stamped with an unusually precise expiration date and time—May 6, 2000, 15:33—which led her to wonder what she would be doing at that very moment. It so happened that she found herself back in London on the date in question. Having retraced her steps and revisited the museum, she attended a dinner in a private garden in Chelsea, where she saw a dazzling blue flash and a mysterious silhouette.

  • Ashley Macomber

    Ashley Macomber uses paint to suggest the contours of skin and fur with a precision of line more commonly associated with engraving. Her portraits of human-animal hybrids have a stiffness reminiscent of early New England portraiture, and her muted palette is accentuated by the choice of gouache and acrylic in preference to oil. Macomber proves herself technically proficient—she’s particularly adept at balancing warm and cool colors—but falls down when it comes to her work’s conceptual underpinnings. Though her application is seductive in its exactitude, the work’s raison d’être is on shakier

  • “Cut: Film as Found Object in Contemporary Video”

    In 1919–20, Hannah Höch juxtaposed figures and text sourced from popular print media to critique the male-dominated culture of Weimar Germany in her photomontage Schnitt mit dem Kuchenmesser Dada durch die letze weimarer Bierbauchkulturepoche Deutschlands (Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany). Half a century later, Conceptual artists adapted cut-and-paste techniques to the deconstruction of authorship and authenticity. And in the ’80s, appropriations from mass media by Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and others became associated with a