Nick Stillman

  • Hashem el Madani, Ski Lift (Télésiège), circa 1954–58.
    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

  • Gülsen Calik, Encyclopaedia, 2004.
    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,

  • About Marriage III, 2004.
    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

  • John Bock and Bendix Harms, “Which Feeder?” Exhibition view.
    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

  • The Ringmaster, 2004.
    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

  • Malibu Canyon Road, 2002.
    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

  • Esperanza Mayobre,
E$peranza (detail), 2004.
    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

  • Waylon Saul Series, 2004. Installation view.
    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

  • Some woman while she's calling her relatives a bunch of fuckers after they got mad at her because she wore a T-shirt that says I'D RATHER PUSH MY HARLEY THAN DRIVE A HONDA at her niece's wedding reception, 2004.
    picks July 06, 2004

    Jeff Gabel

    Commemorating life’s ephemeral, unexceptional, and forgotten moments, Jeff Gabel’s drawings pair blank, sketchily executed faces with hastily scribbled captions that often introduce his characters as “Some woman,” “Some guy,” or “Depressed fucker.” The texts are banal yet humorous, touching on twenty-first-century social life with poignant accuracy—as when he pegs an anonymous-looking man as someone who tries to cover up his friendless, single-guy status by telling stories using the word “we” instead of “I.” While some of the works (which vary in size from tiny playing cards to giant wall

  • Brian Belott, Melissa Brown, Andy Hershey, Marie Lorenz, Matt Lorenz, and Mike Williams, Rowdy Remix, 2004. Installation view.
    picks June 10, 2004

    “Rowdy Remix”

    This raucous group show lives up to its title, featuring one of the more controversial intra–art world pieces of the year. Tom Sanford’s Tompac/Get Off My Dick, 2004—a self-portrait of the artist as Tupac Shakur, surrounded by gold Vuitton and NBA logos—cops Kehinde Wiley’s signature style. The gesture is less homage than street-war salvo, like spraying over another graffiti artist’s tag. Mie Yim follows up her recent show at Lehmann Maupin with more fluorescent fantasias of bears and bunnies happily swimming and fornicating, while Jules de Balincourt offers paintings of kitschy

  • Blue Noses Group, Untitled, 2004.
    picks June 09, 2004

    “O.K., America!”

    Curator Peter Noever’s small but tight “O.K., America!” avoids addressing America’s current military engagement too directly, focusing instead on the byproducts of post–September 11 geopolitics: surveillance, tightened security, and mistrust of government. Selecting work by eight international artists and one American, Noever suggests that the phrase “civil liberties” is well on its way to becoming an oxymoron. Raymond Pettibon weighs in with a series of ink-wash drawings that expound on his Bucksbaum Award–winning work from the Whitney Biennial. In one particularly acute drawing, a child cries

  • Butt Massage Demonstration, May 12, 2004. Performance view.
    picks May 26, 2004

    AA Bronson

    Although they’re the only objects immediately recognizable as “art” in AA Bronson’s exhibition at John Connelly Presents, the posters advertising his services as a healer and the photographs featuring the artist lounging languidly (and nakedly) in bed don’t begin to convey what the show offers the gallerygoer. A massage table, complete with oils, towels, and scented candles, hints at the exhibition’s conceptual centerpiece: Male visitors are invited to make appointments for “healing sessions” consisting of Tantric massage and what Bronson calls the “infamous AA BRONSON BUTT MASSAGE.” That’s