Nico Israel

  • Josiah McElheny

    In Jorge Luis Borges’s “Los espejos velados” (Covered mirrors), the narrator (named Borges) tells of a former lover who had to veil all the mirrors in her room because every time she looked for her own face in the glass she would see his “usurping” image. The story resonates powerfully with Josiah McElheny’s conceptually infused blown-glass art, and not only because one of the newer works he showed during his first major museum exhibition in Europe was called Four Veiled Mirrors after a Fiction by Borges, 2001. When McElheny reflects on the objects he breathes into being, fiction intrudes,


    “There’s nothing to see. But if you want to head out there, more power to you,” said Nickie Smith, an employee of the Golden Spike National Historic Site visitor center, as she handed over a poorly photocopied map, her sidelong glance issuing a perceptible warning. This was an inauspicious way to begin the final leg of a ten-day journey.

    Late last summer my friend Andrew Leitch and I drove from New York to Promontory Summit, Utah, in search of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970. I still can’t say exactly why. Maybe it was the way Smithson pronounced “water,” northern New Jersey style, as he

  • the XXV Bienal de São Paulo

    After a nearly four-year hiatus during which infighting and political posturing nearly brought about its demise, the Bienal de São Paulo resurfaced with an exhibition that was a compromise from its inception. In desperation two years ago the Bienal Foundation made the tactical decision to turn to a foreign curator, Alfons Hug, an act of disavowal akin to what academic departments call receivership: the “we can’t do it; you do it” approach to conflict (see News, January 2001). A German national who has held various curatorial and cultural-envoy positions worldwide (mostly with the Goethe Institut;

  • Dominic McGill

    Doomsday is nigh, and Dominic McGill is ready. In his first solo show, the English-born, New York–based artist, formerly half of the performance duo Standard & Poor, presented a fascinatingly ambiguous series of sculptural installations that address the nuclear age and the paranoia that has accompanied it. There was of course a generation of artists—from Motherwell, Rothko, and Pollock to the early Robert Morris—whose weightily abstract existentialese made manifest a concern with the bomb and its potentially devastating effects. McGill's work is different in its embrace of pictorial possibility

  • Richard Serra

    Richard Serra is definitely on a roll—of warped, two-inch-thick weatherproof steel. In his recent New York exhibition, the reigning king of the monumental offered elaborations on his “Torqued Ellipses,” the massive gyrelike shapes, alternately melancholy, soothing, and triumphal, that graced the Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea in 1997. The new work attracted enormous crowds, who patiently waited to enter the disorienting passages of the two giant spirals as though in line at a theme park. Hard to believe that the sculptor of Tilted Arc would prove so wildly popular. But Serra, by

  • Tom Friedman

    I couldn’t find precious amid the blizzard of words that composed the floor sculpture Everything, 1992–95, a piece of paper on which Tom Friedman has supposedly scrawled every word in the dictionary. But that’s the adjective—with its connotations of adorability and slightly excessive fussiness—that sprang to mind as I took in the works at his first museum survey exhibition, organized by Ron Platt of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Friedman belongs to a generation of American artists drawn to the phenomenology of Minimalism who infuse their work with

  • Jörg Sasse

    Jörg Sasse has refined the role of artist as technician. He scans photographs of architectural forms and prosaic landscapes taken by himself and others—friends and strangers—into his computer and manipulates them by reducing and enlarging scale, shifting focus, and playing with tones and hues. In the process, the found photograph is drained of all sentimental, souvenir, in some cases even deictic value, and the final product, a glossy print bluntly titled with a random four-digit number followed by the year of completion, yields only a trace of its ancestor. Yet some formerly muted or

  • the Whitney Biennial

    “So you got the list?” asks Lawrence Rinder, chief curator of the Whitney Museum’s 2002 Biennial, as we settle into his office. I tell him it was faxed to me that morning. “Let me see if you got the right list,” he says, perusing it carefully. “The list” is, of course, the closely guarded roster of contemporary artists included in the mammoth exhibition, whose works will occupy three floors of the museum and spill out into nearby Central Park. “That looks kosher,” he says. “All right then.”

    Given the high stakes of mounting the much anticipated and always controversial Biennial, Rinder, the

  • Kara Walker

    “Dear Cruel and malevolent Master.” read one of the index cards punctuating Kara Walker's recent installation. “What irks me, you know this, is that I am and forever shall be a slave to that which brought (said: 'brung') me here.” In an apparent afterthought, the “brought” and the “said” had been hastily crossed out with a red pen, the logic of the phrase rerouted through an act of self-editing. Both the note and its partial effacement are emblematic of Walker's ongoing project: She records, in her distinctly incendiary way, the trauma attendant on “surviving” the master-slave dialectic and the

  • “Public Offerings”

    Like other hard c and r wordsculture, curator, critic—career, to my ears, has an ugly ring to it. This seems especially the case when the word is conjoined with such adjectives as artistic or academic, which ideally would resist career’s implication of relentless, purposive momentum. There is solace to be had in the knowledge that, in its verb form at least, career is synonymous with its etymological cousin, careen—“to hurtle with an unsteady motion, to sway from side to side, to lurch.” Careering can be perilous, not least of all to careerists.

    “Public Offerings,” an exhibition of “breakthrough

  • Rita McBride

    RITA MCBRIDE'S ART DEFLATES the bloated tenets of high-modernist city planning and design and exposes the culs-de-sac of once-nigh-sacred art and architectural presumptions. With Duchampian verve, McBride strips bare modernism's “bachelor”-hood, even, revealing its complicity with the spatial isolation, regimentation, and domestication of the body—particularly the female body. The real trick of her canny and droll work is that it undertakes these trenchant critiques and still manages to look spare, elegant, and appealing—which is to say, modernist.

    As the title of her latest show, “White Elephant

  • Refuse Salon

    “THE PURE PRODUCTS OF AMERICA,” according to William Carlos Williams, “go crazy.” The impure ones, he might have added, get thrown away. What happens to American products after they are “consumed” is a question of pressing concern not only for trash haulers, city planners, and environmentalists; it is (or ought to be) for artists and art viewers as well.

    This is the premise of “Fresh Kills: The Art of Waste,” an eighteen-artist exhibition opening this month. Its focus is the delightfully named “Fresh Kills” landfill in the New York City borough of Staten Island, which, until its closing in March,

  • Martin Kersels

    THOSE CRASHING, RHYTHMIC thuds you heard on entering Martin Kersels's latest show were the sounds of a little world being turned upside down. Literally. This world was the nascently putrescent, nascently pubescent milieu of a middle-class American miss—a room full of stuffed animals, boy-band posters, pink things of all sorts—methodically spinning around and around on a circular track like a giant automatic dryer, letting gravity slam its ersatz, picket-fenced-in contents down to earth, again and again, until they were ground to smithereens. Welcome to Tumble Room, 2001.

    Kersels is a

  • “Almost Warm and Fuzzy” and “Disasters of War”

    Child’s play or warfare? Among the recent offerings at MoMA’s Long Island City affiliate for contemporary art was a pair of exhibitions that queried familiar models for understanding where art comes from, what it can represent, and where it might be headed. Despite their very different subjects—childhood and war—the shows shared features emblematic of recent trends in curatorial practice. Avoid historicism, the new supposedly unconventional wisdom goes, eschew difficulty, and steer clear of critical theory; promote jarring visual oppositions, encourage outreach to a wider audience, and tear down

  • Jan Dibbets

    Overheard at the opening for Jan Dibbets’s recent exhibition of late-’60s and ’70s work: “Old? Yes, they’re old. Maybe old enough for people to actually see them.” That the speaker was Dibbets himself doesn’t make the remark any less perceptive. This museum-quality miniretrospective succeeded not just in resituating Dibbets’s photography within so-called Dutch Conceptualism but also in helping us reconsider the broader Conceptualist break from art’s reliance on the object. What the exhibition demonstrated is that Dibbets’s compositions, for all their austerity and almost exaggerated rigor, are

  • Aziz + Cucher

    FOR ALMOST A DECADE, Anthony Aziz and Sammy Cucher have explored the materiality and frangibility of the human (or humanoid) body. In their most recent photographic installations, the duo denaturalizes and reconfirm res human skin—complete with freckles, spots, pores, and hair follicles—to form deep, dark architectural spaces, twisted sculptural shapes like pieces of odd furniture, and mutant scientific specimens to be analyzed. These hybrid agglutinations are alternately clinical and fantastic, inviting and disgusting.

    “Interiors,” 1998-2000, the most effective series in Aziz + Cucher's

  • VII Bienal de La Habana

    Since its inception in 1983, the Bienal de La Habana has tenaciously promoted itself as an alternative biennial—less cookie-cutter-commercial and more genuinely representative of the art of the developing world. And yet as Cuba’s economic situation has changed—dramatically even in the three years since the last biennial—so have the aspirations of Cuban artists and the ambitions of the exhibition’s curators. The discreet charms (and harms) of globalization, it seems, are hard to resist. The theme of the seventh installment, “Más ma uno del otro” (“Closer to the other”), was designed to allow “a

  • Sarah Sze

    As if painting in space with everyday objects, Sarah Sze endows her elaborately theatrical installations with a delicately humorous poignancy that counteracts all the gee-whiz grandiosity. In their logic of clutter and accumulation, the artist’s earlier Venice-Carnegie-Whitney projects earned comparisons to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink installations of Judy Pfaff, Jessica Stockholder, and Jason Rhoades. In this show, her first solo gallery exhibition, the work was more reminiscent of the sculpture of Cornelia Parker or Tom Friedman, if one could imagine their obsessive Minimalism maximalized;

  • Joseph Kosuth

    In an interview a couple of years ago, Joseph Kosuth lamented that although his work is “in the collections of all the major museums,” he has “never had the support of collectors.” Instead, he said, his art had become “dissertation fodder,” more frequently studied than bought. Despite his concern about this “predicament” (a situation many artists would envy), Kosuth’s new work somehow manages to be more pedantic than ever. The Conceptualist recently presented his “Essays” series, 2000, large color photographs of his own earlier works, to which he had added snippets of text by some of the more

  • Rachel Berwick

    Rachel Berwick’s art is haunted by extinction. For previous exhibitions she has cast animal death masks in amber and taught parrots a defunct Amazonian language. In her most recent show, “Hovering Close to Zero,” Berwick focused on the Tasmanian tiger, a creature that survives only in a few bones and in a sixty-second film made in the ’20s documenting the disappearing beast. The exhibition consisted of stills from the film, a series of computer-aided forensic re-creations of the tiger in resin, and a group of crystal models cast from tigers’ skulls.

    Berwick approaches questions of loss, collection,