Nick Stillman

  • Duane Hanson

    Duane Hanson could be considered a victim of his own virtuosity. The deceased American sculptor’s uncannily naturalistic figures are so lifelike that their verisimilitude often subsumes their content. A Hanson sculpture is like a mirage; it’s hard not to marvel at how a simulation can be so like the real thing. In part because of this effect, Hanson provokes art-historical confusion: Is he a Pop artist or a Photorealist? While the American-ness and sheer realism of Hanson’s sculptures make both potential designations reasonable, to experience them in the “flesh” exposes the labels’ insufficiency.

  • Jay Heikes

    Richard Prince’s “Joke” paintings remain the gold standard for the use of dark verbal humor in contemporary art, but in the last few years a younger set of artists has expanded on Prince’s turn to the debased language and iconography of comedy. Its themes appear in Sarah Greenberger-Rafferty’s sculptures of splattered pies, in Sanford Biggers’s theatrical resuscitations of “Negro variety shows,” in Kalup Linzy’s tragicomic soap operas, and in Jay Heikes’s bronze casts of canes—essential props for whisking foundering comedians from onstage misery.

    At the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Heikes showed

  • Cheryl Donegan

    Corporeal black comedies, Cheryl Donegan’s videos of the early 1990s took aim at mythical heroics of male artistic creativity: She dipped her ass in green paint to make shamrock-shaped, Yves Klein–like butt prints in Kiss My Royal Irish Ass (K.M.R.I.A.), 1993, and erotically mouthed a banana stuck into a plastic bottle dangling from a wire in the Naumanesque video Graceful Phatsheba, 1993. Donegan’s recent work remains acidic, but has turned abstract. Lee Lozano’s “Wave” paintings of the late 1960s represented an attempt to undermine the contemporaneous dominance of nonrepresentational and

  • Jonathan Pylypchuk

    Jonathan Pylypchuk’s fourth solo exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery was arguably his most far-reaching to date. Pylypchuk’s previous gallery outings have concentrated on diminutive, puppetlike characters fabricated from old clothes, bits of wood, and other items ticketed for the junk pile. And while these remained prominent at Petzel, the Canadian artist and former Royal Art Lodge member here provided his creatures with a gallery-spanning habitat of rickety wood. Once free-floating entities, Pylypchuk’s characters thereby became actors in a quasi-narrative diorama.

    But despite its expansion

  • Neo Rauch

    “His art is uniquely his own because it springs from his dreams.” So claims the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s introductory wall text for German painter Neo Rauch’s recent exhibition “Neo Rauch at the Met: para,” a show installed in the gallery where the museum has lately begun exhibiting contemporary artists (Rauch’s is the third installment, following Tony Oursler and Kara Walker). Thus Rauch, the most prominent of the Leipzig painters, is implicitly aligned by the Met with the Surrealists whose work hangs just a few rooms away (their imagery was also, notoriously, determined by the subconscious).

  • Charles Steffen

    For today’s bumper crop of degree-toting, ready-made “insider” artists, the outsider artist remains an alluring exotic; his or her apparent distance from the commercial and social responsibilities that are the machinery of the art industry are viewed by many as a badge of credibility. Paul Chan regularly references the art of Henry Darger, the posthumously reigning kingpin of outsider art, while Marcel Dzama’s quietly deranged tableaux would blend seamlessly into New York’s Outsider Art Fair, sharing a sensibility with a host of practitioners who are self-taught, mentally disturbed, or just

  • Valie Export

    Given Valie Export’s undeniable achievement in directing attention toward the status of women within a “culture of male values” since the late 1960s, it is hard to credit her lack of recognition in this country. In 1967, the Austrian artist traded her given name (Waltraud Hollinger) for her current alias, signaling her intent to “export” ideas to the global marketplace. A year later, she performed the iconic Touch Cinema, inviting pedestrians to handle her breasts through a box resembling a primitive television set covering her torso. In the 1969 performance Action Pants: Genital Panic, she

  • Marc Handelman

    Revisiting the aesthetics of American “propaganda painting” since, say, the Hudson River School, it’s striking how little has changed in 150 years. From Thomas Cole and fellow painters of nature, who celebrated America’s virtues via rugged, heroic landscapes bedecked with war-torn American flags, has evolved the synthetic and machine-generated luminescence of the current age—LED screens and TV graphics. Dazzling light plus sparkling vista evidently sells, irrespective of whether it’s an ideology or a product that’s on the block. It’s this disparate lineage of sources reliant on the glitzy treatment

  • Patti Smith

    “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”—it’s the unforgettable first line of “Gloria,” the song that opens Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses (1975). Smith’s best lyrics and poetry lace lucidity with mania, exuding both streetwise cool and incendiary heat, often in consecutive lines. That iconic, warbled salvo that inaugurates the track presciently captures the dueling impulses of guarded doubt and spiritual fervor that have long framed her work. Smith, nonpareil poet of New York City’s first-wave punk heyday, is the South Jersey–bred daughter of a Jehovah’s Witness mother and a religious

  • Ken Price

    In 1960, at the tender age of twenty-five, Ken Price had his first solo show at Los Angeles’s storied Ferus Gallery. In both 1979 and 1981, he appeared in the Whitney Biennial, and he remains a staple of museum shows tracking LA’s contribution to twentieth-century art, most recently last summer’s “Los Angeles 1955–1985: The Birth of an Artistic Capital” at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Yet despite his otherwise impressive track record, Price has been the subject of exactly two museum surveys, in 1992 and 2004, and mention of his name tends to elicit vacant stares or tentative guesses at his

  • Aaron Young

    Acknowledging the inflated percentage of America’s income banked by its economic elite, Aaron Young’s recent show was titled “1%.” Young’s choice of materials and his penchant for hiring craftspeople and conspiratorial performers further signal his interest in class struggle. This concern was apparent at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, where he showed LOCALS ONLY! (Bayonne, New Jersey) (all works 2006), a boulder cast in bronze and painted by hired hands to closely resemble its source, then finally tagged by Young in spray paint with the eponymous territorial slogan. A couple of years before, he had

  • Basim Magdy

    In an obtuse tribute saturated with irony, Russian novelist Victor Pelevin dedicated his 1992 novella Omon Ra to the “Heroes of the Soviet Cosmos.” It was, after all, the Soviet Union that launched Yuri Gagarin into space in April 1961, trumping America’s Alan Shepard by nearly a month. But despite the USSR’s pioneering legacy, America grandly upstaged it by landing men on the moon in 1969, making eternal heroes of the Armstrong-Aldrin duo and a trivia question of Gagarin. In Pelevin’s sci-fi satire of the Soviets’ insufficient technology and unrelenting ambition during the Space Race, cosmonaut-hero

  • Ann Craven

    A hint of the uncanny shadows the deer that are painter Ann Craven’s constant muses, and not only because the has artist been known to derive her subjects from calendar reproductions, film stills, and paintings by the likes of Gustave Courbet, Franz Marc, and Gerhard Richter. Craven’s exhibitions are something like recurring dreams: On this occasion she presented re-creations of several paintings from her 2004 show at the same gallery, works that were themselves scaled-up doovers of paintings from her previous outing there, in 2002.

    While Craven’s candy-colored canvases have drawn formal comparisons

  • picks May 22, 2006

    “Artists Against the State: Perestroika Revisited”

    Is the use of irony in the service of “political art” a weapon or a trap? This is a central question for many of today’s young American artists, but it also pertained to a generation of Russian artists making work under far more fraught conditions. The so-called nonconformists of the ’70s and ’80s in Russia protested, both publicly and privately, the state-sanctioned vision of art, always risking persecution for subversive artmaking activities. This show continues the gallery’s tradition of showing the work of this underexhibited scene (Feldman first exhibited Komar & Melamid in 1976) with a

  • picks March 22, 2006

    “The Dimes of March”

    Coming at a moment when the New York art world is hypnotized by spectacles of speculation (art fairs) and a star-making blockbuster (the Whitney Biennial), “The Dimes of March” is a welcome breath of fresh air. Showcasing art that focuses on its own production, “Dimes” includes several pieces by artist teams, such as Lee Williams (actually Jutta Koether and Emily Sundblad, attempting to add another female Lee to the troika of Lozano, Bontecou, and Krasner) or Josh Smith and Christopher Wool. Ei Arakawa’s four-day-long performance, for which he enlisted the assistance of many collaborators,

  • picks February 22, 2006

    Matt Saunders

    Using the iconography of male movie stars to engage issues of desire and cultural deification of the celebrity, Berlin-based artist Matt Saunders has woven together three distinct bodies of work in this exhibition. Most exceptional is a group of eleven paintings on Mylar depicting film legends whose handsome visages seem made for the silver screen. Whereas Warhol’s icons floated on the surface of his paintings, Saunders paints portraits on the reverse side of Mylar sheets before bathing the front side of the composition in a thin wash of silver oil paint. The effect is as alienating as it is

  • picks January 24, 2006

    David Hammons

    “Can they do this?” Those words were on many lips as word spread about David Hammons’s “unauthorized” retrospective at this non-profit in Harlem, the artist’s longtime home base. Apparently they can. Hammons allegedly eschewed an offer to exhibit in the space so the gallery simply lined their ample walls with photocopies and Internet printouts of this hermetic and revered artist’s work. The wall text, which labels Hammons as an “art world trickster,” is sure to create controversy, both because it implicitly needles the artist for refusing to show work in a grassroots venue on his own turf and

  • picks January 17, 2006

    Brian Dewan and Leon Dewan

    Pierogi’s wall-bound, department store–esque presentation of Brian and Leon Dewan’s “hand-crafted semiautomatic musical instruments” is without doubt the early favorite for the Best Interactive Show of 2006. Merging the homemade synth tones of NYC’s late-’60s techno-hippies The Silver Apples with a double shot of Sun Ra’s reverent otherworldliness, the cousins have created seventeen effusive sculpture-instruments, most of which look like the offspring of a grandfather clock and a robot. Given titles like The Administrator, 2005, or Speaker of the House, 2005, these devices (many made from handsome

  • picks November 17, 2005

    Nancy Spero

    Cri du Coeur, 2005, the only new work in Nancy Spero's show of the same title, is a ground-level frieze of paper panels snaking throughout Galerie Lelong's hushed main space. Spero has handprinted the paper with a repeated motif of Egyptian women mourners from Ramos of Thebes' tomb and saturated it with dramatic washes of alternately moody, gloomy, and shimmering color. The mourners raise their arms and crane their necks skyward, as if pleading with unseen gods or dreadfully awaiting an unknown fate. Spero has fearlessly produced representations of innocent victims of violent wars since the

  • picks November 15, 2005

    Glenn Kaino

    Adding to a current minitrend of artists creating chess sets (see also Luhring Augustine's “The Art of Chess,” on view until December 23), Glenn Kaino's Learn to win, or you’ll take losing for granted, 2005, pits bronze hands cast in iconic shapes like a thumbs-up, a thumb-and-pinky “hang loose,” and similar gestures of goofy fraternity against ones frozen in gang symbols, claws, and other signifiers of impending menace. On a scrappy battleground constructed from the remnants of industrial food crates and ammo cartridges, a collision of cultures—yes-men and cultish nerds versus havoc-wreakers