Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

  • picks April 18, 2019

    Patrice Aphrodite Helmar

    The title of Patrice Aphrodite Helmar’s exhibition here, “Feeling Good About Me,” comes from a small volume of Christian propaganda for youngsters, first printed in 1970. (Two copies of it are included in the show as a sculptural element.) Helmar’s take on what it means to “feel good” about oneself is different from the guide’s. Her work retains the optimism of the book’s title but jettisons its cynical supposition that poor and working-class folks can flourish so long as they avoid certain vices, such as drugs, booze, premarital sex, and, unsurprisingly, homosexuality. In Helmar’s starkly

  • picks March 06, 2019

    H. C. Westermann

    H. C. Westermann is beloved for a type of sculpture that’s a potent mix of Dada and old, weird Americana. But this modest yet gripping exhibition also reveals that he was a marvelous draftsman with a sharp, satirical wit. Along one wall is a group of drawings, inspired by a road trip the artist took with his wife, that skewers 1960s fantasies of the Wild West. In Right Straight On, n.d., an old man seems the sole inhabitant of an overbuilt, abandoned desert city; is he a sage brimming with wisdom, or is he just lonely and exhausted, wondering how to go on? The palm tree in Buildings on a Red

  • picks January 15, 2019

    Cara Benedetto

    News outlets frequently cover school shootings with a macabre enthusiasm—we are assaulted with body counts, gruesome testimonies from eyewitnesses, and conjecture by the stupidest passersby. The event cuts you to the bone, until another horror quickly displaces it. Cara Benedetto’s current show pushes against mass media’s spectacle. A master printmaker, she employs the unwieldy technique of stone lithography, which requires care, patience, and a great deal of time. The stone she used for three of the five large prints on display here cracked while she was making them and is now set in the middle

  • picks December 17, 2018

    Ann Pibal

    Ann Pibal’s paintings have all the geometric intensity of Piet Mondrian’s, and yet they feel more interwoven with life than the Dutch modernist’s creations. Like Mondrian, she sets certain rules to guide her patterns. See RBWCMX, 2017, for instance—one of the three acrylic-on-aluminum panel works in her exhibition here. Its chevrons, made up of colorful and seemingly uniform lines, are actually variegated, ever so slightly. Pibal is always willing to lay waste to her systems when necessary. Her electric, razor-sharp lines are too vivacious to illustrate anything except the experience of

  • picks November 09, 2018

    Minoru Yoshida

    In 1970, Minoru Yoshida—already a rising star of the Gutai group—moved to the United States from Kyoto. He originally planned for a quick return but stayed in New York for almost a decade. In three video documentations of performances from 1976, on display here, Yoshida dons his “synthesizer jacket,” a sculptural garment that looks a little like a Plexiglas corset lined with circuits. Responding to the artist’s body and movements, the jacket emitted a variety of electronic drones—sounds that one could characterize as techno-bagpipe.

    In the video Absolute Landscape No. 3 (Psychic Revolution),

  • picks June 22, 2018

    Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin

    At the beginning of Madame de Void: A Melodrama, 2018, the titular lady laments that her notion of identity as a constructed and performative event has become utterly passé. The video, a collaboration between Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin, is the centerpiece of their exhibition here. Bernstein stars as Ms. de Void, a villainess who harvests dogs for the creation of luxurious fur coats, à la Cruella de Vil. Blot, a pup played by Rubin, is this year’s pick of the litter. As time passes, Blot magically picks up critical theory, displaying a remarkable ability to understand such thinkers as Jacques

  • picks March 16, 2018

    Carlos Reyes

    The bathhouse’s conflation of recreation and sex is closer to the raw spirit of 1960s gay liberation than to the slew of tedious apps and websites for hooking up today. The West Side Club in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood bills itself as the city’s “premier social relaxation club for gay and bisexual men.” For his installation here, West Side Club, 2018, Carlos Reyes reclaimed cedar planks from the club’s old sauna, converting the timeworn wood into elegantly austere sculptures. The inscriptions on the vintage planks aren’t completely dirty; only one picture of a dick is immediately visible.

  • picks February 09, 2018

    Anna K.E.

    Anna K.E. is a former dancer, and her installation here suggests a kind of choreography, inviting the viewer to slip through and around, weave in and out. Many of her pipelike steel sculptures feature lightbulbs much like the orbs that illuminate New York City subway entrances. One descends from the ceiling, while others jut out at angles, creating an intricate web of architectural armatures for the viewer to navigate.

    Appended to these structures are small speakers, each emitting a distinct sound, from crying babies to adults speaking various languages. You feel as though you’ve stepped into a

  • picks November 17, 2017

    Andrew Cannon

    When a beaver makes its lodge, it’s an instinctual operation. The final structure is awkward, jutting, but has a peculiar beauty all its own. In the bottom left corner of Andrew Cannon’s Beaver, Real Estate, John Astor (all works 2017)—one of the wall-mounted, relief-like works in the current show, his first solo in New York—we see a profile of the titular creature (the beaver, not Astor), likely working on its house. Cannon’s gripping pieces take the beaver’s process as a model through which to think about artmaking: an unwieldy accretion of gestures and synaptic firings that are totally animal

  • picks October 06, 2017

    “Near & Dear”

    In this group exhibition curated by painter Carrie Moyer, the artist puts her multigenerational community on display, an assortment of makers who share a love of formal kinkiness and ingenuity. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt presents delicate, ancient-looking works, several of which were created in the 1960s and 1970s: One is a small foil-and-rhinestone ode to a gay physique mag hero (Untitled, ca. 1970s). The artist’s florid materials have taken on a subtle patina with age, yet they manage to retain their camp vitality. In 2016P-17 (Wave), 2016, Anoka Faruqee applies layers of acrylic paint onto her

  • picks August 25, 2017

    Charlotte Greene and Lionel Maunz

    Imagine Alice falling through the rabbit hole into a cyberpunk dystopia, and you might have something like Charlotte Greene and Lionel Maunz’s current exhibition, “Lamerica.” It is housed in a subterranean, bunker-like gallery space, a fitting arena for posing questions about living in an age when humanity’s destructive traces can be felt everywhere. Gathering materials that include fake leaves and real butterfly wings, Greene’s diminutive works call to mind Bruce Conner’s assemblages yet feel largely their own, evoking a fascinating range of ecologies. The oddly appealing Cyborg (all works

  • picks August 18, 2017

    Karl Salzmann

    “I’ve been looking for freedom, I've been looking so long,” croons David Hasselhoff in his 1989 single “Looking for Freedom,” which the actor once sang before the Berlin Wall. Decades later, the Baywatch star’s desire for a happy world and personal autonomy remains unsatisfied, lending the cheesily infectious ballad some pathos. A few lines of the chorus are played on a short, booming loop as a part of Karl Salzmann’s exhibition here. The loop inevitably recalls the weaponization of pop at Guantanamo Bay, where music—especially anthems interpreted as jingoistic, like Bruce Springsteen’s hooky

  • picks June 02, 2017

    Pooh Kaye

    Sometimes you just want to shimmy up a pole. Jump on a bed. Fold yourself into a small space. Writhe naked atop a table. Or bury yourself. Don’t you?

    In the private performances she staged for the camera from 1975 to 1980, Pooh Kaye did all of the above. The five digitized Super 8 films gathered for this exhibition, curated by Josephine Graf, are documents of post-Judson dance (for several years, the artist worked with seminal choreographer Simone Forti) and contributions to experimental cinema. A jumpy frame rate renders them almost like stop-motion animation—Kaye’s moving body, the clay—or

  • picks May 05, 2017

    Daniele Milvio

    Daniele Milvio’s recent works feel like an unholy amalgamation of Cy Twombly’s beautifully loopy imagery and Anselme Bellegarrigue’s Anarchist Manifesto (1850). A number of Milvio’s smaller pieces, dark and ethereal things, are covered with swirling, barely legible script on linden wood supports. A snippet of text in Mastro Titta (all works cited, 2017)—the nickname for Giovanni Battista Bugatti, the Papal States’ head executioner from 1796 to 1865—reveals that they are menus for a spezzatino, or stew, of neoliberals, among other sorts of folk. Nearby, two larger paintings (Teresa! Senti Quanto

  • picks April 28, 2017

    Bryson Rand

    The history of twentieth-century straight photography is sprinkled with the work of queer makers—think of Herbert List, or Peter Hujar. But if the tradition has grown to look a bit staid by its black-and-white aesthetics and formal idealism, an undercurrent of transgression, Bryson Rand suggests, can revitalize it. The artist expands upon this notion in his current exhibition, which consists of images ranging from a portrait of a handsome, wounded man (Vincent [Brooklyn], 2016) to a semiabstracted shot of dead flowers in front of his husband’s parents’ house (Untitled [Rumson, NJ], 2016).

    Behind

  • picks March 28, 2017

    Aidan Koch

    In Helen Macdonald’s 2014 memoir H Is for Hawk, the author recounts a period of mourning punctuated by her training of a predatory bird, describing how their new bond tempers her grief. The relationship with this hawk, though, is underpinned by violence as much as affection, and frustration more than familiarity. Such an unsentimental attitude toward animal-human interactions characterizes the drawings and objects by Aidan Koch gathered here, which range from small ceramic sculptures of cats and monkeys to drawings of women arranging their bodies into the shapes of letters. An installation neatly

  • picks February 24, 2017

    Henry Chapman

    Henry Chapman’s carefully gessoed canvases, smooth as polished stone, are adorned with pigments that bleed, à la Helen Frankenthaler, into their white grounds. Between his spare, painterly passages, which range from assiduously prim to flagrantly scatological, Chapman adds screen-printed texts: Some are taken from a European travelogue; others rehash moments from the artist’s daily life or are just made up. If Enlightenment gentlemen traveled the Continent for enlightenment (think Goethe in Italy), Chapman’s wanderings through some of the same terrain—Berlin, Rome—are pure indulgence, pleasure:

  • picks January 23, 2017

    Lenore Malen

    Lenore Malen’s current exhibition, “Scenes from Paradise,” is an eco-Gesamtkunstwerk, connecting our environmental crisis with the Bible’s declaration that man should have dominion over all nature. Countering this destructive injunction, the artist creates videos, photographs, and objects to present a vision of interspecies communion. In one video, Reversal (all works 2016), a woman with rein-like ropes dangling over her face addresses the camera with utter conviction. She speaks of humanity’s rule over the earth as barbaric: “It is a challenge using your language, but the real challenge for me

  • picks December 02, 2016

    “Zombie Formalism, 1970–2016”

    “Zombie Formalism, 1970–2016” is a group exhibition that switches out Clement Greenberg for Roger Corman and skewers the work of all those (mostly) hot young dudes of recent vintage who’ve made process-based abstraction so insufferable. Mark Prent’s morbidly hilarious sculptures of desiccated, flesh-hungry creatures, His Final Statement and Five Stuffed Crows (both 1970), reimagine aesthetics as a horror show and artistic production as brain-eating. They also broaden the much-maligned term under which these pieces are being shown, helpfully putrefying notions of fashion and market cool.

    Nods to

  • picks November 17, 2016

    Whitney Claflin

    Whitney Claflin’s storefront feels more like an eye exam than a department-store display. Where artists such as Andy Warhol interwove art and commerce by putting their paintings in shop windows, Claflin renders the small, collaged objects she places behind glass almost inscrutable. Instead of jettisoning spectacle, though, she suggests it with bright lights that turn the window into a luminous frame, lit 24/7 and visible to passersby. That bright glow stands in tension with the artworks within, where three silver trays hang in a row, each adorned with cut-up typewritten text evoking zine