Nick Stillman

  • picks October 23, 2005

    “If It’s Too Bad to Be True, It Could Be Disinformation”

    From Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech to his cabinet’s grave testimonies that WMDs were doubtlessly stockpiled in Iraq, disinformation-dispersal is this administration’s special brand of evil genius. Curator Mercedes Vicente’s “If It’s Too Bad to Be True, It Could Be Disinformation” brings together work by artists and politically-motivated interventionists that reveals how information control is used by the media, corporations, and governmental bodies to, in Chomsky’s words, “manufacture consent.” Martha Rosler’s 1985 installation—which provides the title for the exhibition—combines

  • picks September 12, 2005

    Jean-Pierre Gauthier

    Jean-Pierre Gauthier might have unwarranted trouble on his hands if the US Department of Homeland Security comes a-knockin’ at Jack Shainman, where the Canadian artist’s overwhelming sound sculpture Rut, 2005, is on view. Its knotty tangles of wires connecting black boxes to microphones, speakers, mixers, and a bevy of scavenged objects make it look like an elaborate homemade bomb hunkering in the gallery’s main space, although the piece is actually a clamorous kinetic sculpture that merges the legacies of Italian Futurism, Jean Tinguely, and John Cage. Microphones amplify the noise of junk

  • picks August 03, 2005

    “No Apology for Breathing”

    “No Apology for Breathing” presents exactly what we didn't see enough of during the crucial summer of 2004—an intelligent group show that considers American political culture without preaching or sinking into half-baked one-liners. Organizer Matthew Lusk (who contributes three pieces) buttresses the installation by importing a model of the façade of McCarren Park Pool (a local WPA project built in 1936), gesturing toward the show's guiding concept—the shift in national consciousness and concepts of governmental responsibility that occurred between the New Deal era and today. Lawrence

  • picks June 26, 2005

    Vitaly Komar

    Vitaly Komar’s first solo exhibition, after decades as half of the celebrated duo Komar and Melamid, elegantly proposes a spiritual truce between members of different faiths and beliefs. The holy day for Muslims is Friday, for Jews, Saturday, and for Christians, Sunday. Thus Komar calls for a more culturally inclusive (and temporally expansive) definition of “weekend,” undermining traditions of work that have most people behind desks or on their feet for forty-plus hours per week. In support of his proposition for a three-day weekend, he shows stained glass, paintings, and several montages. Each

  • picks June 21, 2005

    Sarah Gregg Millman

    The women starring in Sarah Gregg Millman’s videos look plenty Godardian in their striped shirts and heavy eyeliner, yet as they tell their tales of life and leisure (the monologue being a favorite technique of New Wave directors), their Valley-girl vacancy is revealed as a construct, an ironic criticism of what the press release calls New Wave cinema’s use of women as “empty vessels for the directors’ political ideas.” Millman’s work manifests a wry awareness of the fact that, despite the efforts of Cindy Sherman et al., little has changed in how the camera encourages the stereotyping of

  • picks May 17, 2005

    Michael Rakowitz

    Given New York’s current Freedom Tower-related dysfunction, Michael Rakowitz’s architectural propositions seem especially timely. Rakowitz is best known for his paraSITE pieces, portable shelters custom-made for homeless tenants from plastic bags that inflate via the warm air emitted by urban buildings’ HVAC systems. The centerpiece of his current exhibition of inflatable architecture, drawings, and mini-monuments is Dull Roar, 2005, an imposing inflatable scale model of the ‘50s Minoru Yamasaki-designed Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis that was demolished before a cheering crowd in

  • picks May 16, 2005

    Jack Goldstein

    In two current exhibitions of paintings, short videos, and seven-inch sound-effects records from the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘80s, the work of Jack Goldstein (1945–2003) is just as conceptually acute as it is easy on the eyes. At Metro Pictures, Goldstein’s gorgeous yet dissonant paintings seem to be based on photographs capturing nature at its most awe-inspiring (lightning flashes, volcanic eruptions). But does nature really exist in such luscious Technicolor? Uptown at Mitchell-Innes & Nash are several more paintings, nine handsome 7-inch discs, and an exceptional loop of his beautiful, spare

  • picks April 26, 2005

    Meredith Allen

    Why do people collect things? Does ownership result in empowerment? Is collecting just a way to focus on a specific task, to pass the time, to make a buck on a hunch, or to unleash Walter Benjamin's “spring tide of memories”? Meredith Allen's series of photos at Sarah Bowen Gallery depict her mother's ample collection of a coveted early '90s plaything: Beanie Babies. Shot against bright monochromatic backdrops that appear to be close-ups of rugs, Ma Allen's sad sacks are stored in Ziploc bags, and the suffocating enclosures become as much the protagonists of her daughter's photographs as the

  • picks April 09, 2005

    Eliot Shepard

    In the fleeting seconds when most people are thinking, “Man, I wish I had a camera right now,” Eliot Shepard, it seems, has already left the scene with a Canon-ful of great shots. His photos epitomize the photo blogger aesthetic-candid snapshots, often laced with humor—so it's appropriate that Shepard maintains Slower.net, one of the more revered sites in the photo blogosphere. The best shots in “Slower” expose excruciating moments of urban tension, like the aftermath of a high-heeled reveler's sidewalk wipe-out or a black flower salesman hawking white roses to an all-white crowd on the

  • picks February 24, 2005

    Peter Caine

    In the film Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo tells Jean Seberg, “You Americans love the stupidest French.” According to Peter Caine, we Americans also love the stupidest Americans. Caine’s thirty-nine animatronic mannequins, many of them life-sized, gleefully lampoon some very visible figures from recent and distant American history. A slim sampler of what “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” has to offer: Michael Jackson dangling a prepubescent boy upside down by his ankles (both Jackson and boy sport erections); an NYPD officer with a grotesque pig’s head, protectively cradling a box of donuts; Levar

  • picks February 18, 2005

    Goran Tomcic

    Employing store-bought objects as raw material for art has become a common enough strategy to be considered hackneyed, yet Goran Tomcic’s installations of twine, cotton balls, and various crafty doodads achieve a modest beauty because of their economy—both gestural and financial. Tomcic’s two installations at Participant betray an affinity for dollar-store trawling and prove him to be a thrifty artist capable of turning cheap materials into serene and gorgeous works of art. A Shimmering Heart (Silver), 2005, a rectangular heap of one million little Mylar hearts, more than hints at the influence

  • picks January 20, 2005

    Cory Arcangel

    Overheard from one of the few over-thirty attendees at the opening of Cory Arcangel’s first solo at Team: “This is way too fun.” Bleeps and bloops from the hilariously underwhelming Nipod v.2 (all works 2004) and the absurd video Cat Rave provide the show’s soundtrack, and the majority of the imagery is generated from hacked vintage Nintendo cartridges, Arcangel’s primary source. Nipod v.2 is a projection of a crudely animated iPod that viewers can scroll through with NES controllers to bump a selection of Arcangel-programmed party jamz derived from tinny Nintendo sound effects (his version of

  • picks January 20, 2005

    “Mapping Sitting”

    What do average Americans know about Arab culture? Probably only as much as they can glean from news reports, those inevitable spin zones where images of destruction, violence, degradation, chaos, and poverty are now unfortunately commonplace. Curated by Walid Raad (of Atlas Group renown) and Beirut-based artist Akram Zaatari, “Mapping Sitting” turns the media’s sensationalized treatment of Arab imagery on its head. Featuring hundreds of snapshots dated from the 1920s through the 1970s that the curators culled from the archives of Beirut’s Arab Image Foundation, the show illuminates the photograph’s

  • picks January 06, 2005

    “The Book as Object and Performance”

    It’s said that one should never throw a book away. The Sara Reisman-curated “Book as Object and Performance”—which includes artists like Matthew Buckingham and Olu Oguibe, as well as collaborative works by Raymond Pettibon and Ed Ruscha—examines the book’s role as historical transmitter of culture as well as its potential obsolescence in the face of the inexorable march of technology. There are several variations on good ol’ artist books here, as well as installations, photos, videos, and drawings concerning the politics of language. Sebastian Romo’s installation Manhattan Drawing, 2002,

  • picks December 16, 2004

    Carlos Vega

    Superimposing found documents—notes to self, algebraic equations, French vocab lists—onto painted images, Carlos Vega’s small canvases imply a context he never quite provides. Three shabby boots dominate one, moose stare sleepily toward the viewer in others, and still others depict people schlepping large objects or heaps of junk. Sometimes the stuff of fantasy (a humungous elderly couple sitting atop snowy mountains in an otherwise empty landscape) but just as often illustrations of the utterly mundane (highway overpasses), “Fábulas/Fables” reads like a lovingly compiled travelogue

  • picks November 04, 2004

    John Bock and Bendix Harms

    In the latest wild addition to an already respectably neurotic oeuvre, John Bock shows confounding sculpture and video in this collaborative show with German painter Bendix Harms. Harms’s large, brushy paintings are engagingly Gustonian, all sloppy execution and flabby, distorted renderings of the human form, though seemingly without Guston’s political preoccupations (no phlebotic heads of state here, alas). But Bock’s work is the main attraction. The centerpiece of the show is a large freestanding metal structure: Visitors can climb in and explore its small, dark anterooms, which seem designed

  • picks October 12, 2004

    Melanie Baker

    To create her enigmatic drawings, Melanie Baker takes newspaper photos and stills from television news programs and—in a logical leap—reconfigures them as creepy propaganda. Baker situates her appropriated imagery in various ways, but it always remains legible. It’s unmistakably the fleshy lower half of a pontificating Dick Cheney’s face against the backdrop of the Stars and Stripes in The Ringmaster (all works 2004), and an aggressively cropped Alan Greenspan gesturing to an unseen audience in the aptly titled Abracadabra. Also on display are several long, vertical drawings of presidential

  • picks September 15, 2004

    Larry Sultan

    Like an X-rated backstage pass, Larry Sultan’s photos offer a look at the porn stars, crew members, and straight-to-cable movie sets that discreetly dot the San Fernando Valley. While Sultan occasionally focuses his lens on orgiastic tangles of bodies, the behind-the-scenes iconography of location shoots is most often his subject. A black glove, rolls of paper towels, rumpled pillows—given their context, these objects become almost as sexualized as the sweaty stars themselves. The lava lamps, finely manicured grass, and discarded piles of clothes illustrate a depressingly codified construct of

  • picks August 24, 2004

    “Republican Like Me”

    Featuring performances and screenings as well as a gallery exhibition, “Republican Like Me” is the latest of a number of summer group shows with unsubtle political overtones. This one sets itself apart by virtue of the sheer quality of the work and an eclectic, generation-spanning roster that includes Martha Wilson, Gran Fury, Bernadette Corporation, and Nicolás Dumit Estévez. Many of the contributions use humor to critique the policies of past and present Republican administrations. William Pope.L is bitingly funny as usual; here, he offers Cult Object, 2002–2004, a depiction in vinyl adhesive

  • picks July 19, 2004

    Steve Powers

    Nostalgia for the colorful psychedelia of the '60s counterculture has become a well-worn art-world theme, but Steve Powers’s brand of nostalgia reaches back a decade further, conjuring the billboards and magazine advertisements of '50s Americana. His current show, “My List of Demands,” includes several cartoony “Emotional Response Icons”—visual one-liners depicting a range of timeless human sentiments (insecurity, jealousy, etc.) that are executed with a graphic élan recalling Warhol’s early drawings for magazine ads. Not to be missed is the video starring Jeffrey Deitch as a hilariously