Nick Stillman

  • John Chamberlain

    In spite of fashioning his sculptures from the twisted steel of junked cars, John Chamberlain has long distanced himself from the spectacular American history of the car crash: Gatsby, General Patton, James Dean, and, of course, Pollock. He has insisted that his works “are not car crashes” or even evocations of violence. Notwithstanding the Pop flair of his literal mash-ups of auto refuse, he has usually been linked instead to the Abstract Expressionists, a connection he has bolstered with musings like, “I prefer not to think about [car crashes and violence] as much as I think about the poetics

  • Matt Saunders

    Had Warhol dropped the irony that made him who he was and embraced the romanticism that undeniably coursed through his work (and life), his art might have looked a lot like Matt Saunders’s. Like the King of Pop, Saunders makes serial, photo-derived images of celebrity icons and manipulates their surfaces with washes of paint. In his 2006 exhibition at Harris Lieberman, he showed works depicting the faces of male screen stars from generations past (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Buster Keaton), painted on Mylar and frosted with a lush sheen of oil paint and metallic silver ink. The effect is gorgeous and

  • Henry Taylor

    Henry Taylor’s touch is heavy. His acrylic buildups are sludgy, pasty, and crusty. Characters’ irises bleed into their sclerae, and canvases are flecked with sloppy stains of wayward drips. Landscapes are dense color fields: the milky blue of a daytime sky, the hard emerald of a pastoral field, the deadened gray of concrete. Taylor’s paintings communicate an overall feeling of laboriousness—of Faulknerian weight and burden. His figuration is cartoonish, a loose take on South Park’s illustrative style, although his characters couldn’t be more different from that show’s lightweight windbags.

  • R. H. Quaytman

    Most twentieth-century art dismissed by modernist gatekeepers—late Picabia, the most flagrantly commercial of Picasso’s and Warhol’s works, even Pattern and Decoration—has proven assimilable by now. Op, not so much. The movement made iconic by Bridget Riley’s trippily pulsating paintings was vilified in the Swinging ’60s as capricious flower-child art lite. The swirls and whorls of Op were not only suspected drug references, they ended up emblazoning miniskirts too; in the end, Pop posed the more formidable challenge to the presumption that art should be indifferent to pop culture. Despite

  • Nick Cave

    Pioneers of Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and Conceptualism all braved the establishment’s most elementary and con- founding query: “Why is this art?” Nick Cave’s “Soundsuits,” 1991– , his primary body of work (this isn’t the Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds), summon the same line of inquiry. Dazzling and bejeweled, sequined and beaded, the costumes conflate brilliant African robes or the fanciful plumage of Mardi Gras attire with a thrift-store aesthetic both grandmotherly and evocative of the Providence look associated most closely with the artist Jim Drain. The “Soundsuits” have in

  • Al Held

    Except for a fleeting moment during the heyday of New York abstract painting, Al Held never quite fit in. A contrarian by nature, Held was a Bronx hoodlum and perpetual truant who wound up in the Navy at age sixteen because, as he speculated in a 1975 interview, his father was “terribly desperate” to get rid of him. He later embraced leftist politics and took classes at the Art Students League, toiling for years before achieving some repute in the early ’50s. His eureka moment came later that decade, when in painter Sam Francis’s studio he discovered acrylic, better suited than oil to his

  • Ryan Trecartin, (Tommy Chat Just E-mailed Me.), 2006, still from a color video, 7 minutes 21 seconds. Tammy (Ryan Trecartin)

    the New Museum Triennial

    OSCAR WILDE QUIPPED LONG AGO that “in America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.” By now, his joke has perhaps worn a little thin, as the young of today roll their eyes at confused baby boomers fumbling hopelessly with “the e-mail.” But it has also been corroborated by the ascendance of youth culture over the course of the past century—and perhaps nowhere more so than in the art world of the past decade, in which dealers competed ferociously to trump one another by debuting the next new thing. Now, however, as

  • Joe Bradley

    There has never been much evidence of work in Joe Bradley’s art, and therein resides much of its signification. The individual units of Bradley’s paintings have always been literally blank and, more significantly, militantly haphazard. With his works’ scabrous, cheap surfaces; his “casualness” concerning proper leveling and hanging; and his ambivalent (if not antagonistic) attitude toward the conventionally stretched canvas, Bradley falls somewhere between a heroic practitioner of “grunge art” and a loafer.

    His breakout body of work consisted of pieces he has called “guys”: several rectangular

  • Diana Al-Hadid

    Diana Al-Hadid’s sculptures read as folkloric, narrative, even literary. Deftly handmade amalgamations of materials (including polystyrene, steel, cardboard, and wax), these hulking, unfinished-looking towers masquerade equally as medium-scale models for monumental contemporary buildings and as timeless, placeless ruins. While always sufficiently finessed, Al-Hadid’s work is curiously antiaesthetic. Learning that her impressively menacing sculptures are intended as references (to the Tower of Babel, for example, or the Chartres Cathedral) saps a little of their magic; it would be astounding if

  • Kehinde Wiley

    Kehinde Wiley’s formula hasn’t changed much since he broke out around the time of his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001–2002), but the impact of his paintings has. Originally, Wiley’s juxtaposition of statuesque black men in the freshest gear mugging in poses lifted from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings and slapped on top of wallpaper-like motifs appeared lurid and forceful, even subversive. Not only were blacks occupying a milieu redolent of European decadence (as evinced by rococo and baroque ornamentation), the sexuality that has flavored portraiture throughout

  • Mario Ybarra Jr.

    Most of Mario Ybarra Jr.’s art to date mines concepts of invisibility or threat, posed as lost slices of urban history, disappeared architecture, or dog collars studded with spikes, for example. In a recent show at the Art Institute of Chicago, Ybarra dealt with the history of the “other” Wrigley Field—not the celebrated home of the Chicago Cubs but the demolished, largely forgotten (even in baseball circles) Wrigley Field in South Central LA, original home of the Los Angeles Angels. In writing on Ybarra, critics have emphasized his background (of Mexican descent, Ybarra was raised in Los Angeles)

  • Gedi Sibony

    Neo-psychedelia had a fleeting moment a few years back, but for the better part of this decade Western contemporary art has lacked “movements.” Have critics become too skittish to proclaim a movement when they see one? Has the teeming art world simply achieved total heterogeneity? Both may be true, but, as the New Museum’s recent “Unmonumental” exhibition suggested, some of today’s sculptural work does have a somewhat unified sensibility (if not yet an umbrella term): anti-epic, reverent of the scavenged item, and concerned more with object arrangement than with object creation. Gedi Sibony may