Nico Israel

  • “The Clubs of Bamako”

    “The Clubs of Bamako” bore witness to the euphoria and optimism that accompanied the emergence of postcolonial Africa, with thirty black-and-white photographs by Malick Sidibé running along all four walls of the main gallery. In the center of the room were fourteen sculptures—inspired by the photographs and commissioned by Jeffrey Deitch—created by African artists Emile Guebehi, Nicolas Damas, Koffi Kouakou, and Coulibaly Siaka Paul. Between 1962 and 1976, Sidibé took as his subject the nightclubs and dance parties in Bamako, capital of Mali, the West African republic that won independence

  • Melissa Gwyn

    Melissa Gwyn’s paintings look like enlarged slides of microscopic organisms whose apparent bloblike simplicity is belied, under closer scrutiny, by their teeming busyness. With titles invoking the body and its peculiar materiality and images suggesting growth, disease, and regeneration, Gwyn reveals the thin membrane separating the beautiful from the abject.

    Gwyn began most of the six works that comprised her recent exhibition by pouring oil paint on horizontal wood panels. The paint formed puddles, which she manipulated by pushing the paint and tipping the panel. After the paintings began to

  • XXIV Bienal de São Paulo

    The recently concluded Bienal de São Paulo was notable both for its frequently stunning work and its elaborate theoretical apparatus. Curator Paulo Herkenhoff, assisted by Adriano Pedrosa, conceived of anthropophagy (a recurring theme of Brazilian aesthetic and cultural theory since the ’20s) as the Bienal’s organizing principle. Herkenhoff suggested that such cannibalism—a model of eating and actively incorporating the other—was a novel way to reassess traditional art historical narratives and approach contemporary global artistic production.

    The Bienal consisted of four overlapping sections.

  • Mike Bidlo

    For almost two decades, Mike Bidlo has engaged in a strict simulation of the work and practices of iconic figures of twentieth-century art. Pollock and Picasso in the ’80s, de Chirico, Léger, and Warhol in the ’90s—these august precursors have served as models for Bidlo to muse about and make mischief with the modernist canon. Far from being mere acts of discipleship, Bidlo’s tactics were self-consciously strategic: The exact copy putatively rendered the notion of the original suspect, thereby (again putatively) undermining the axiological system that makes “great” art great. Sherrie Levine

  • Laura Letinsky

    “Couple”: the word carries a certain ambivalence. Deriving from the Latin copula, meaning “bond” or “link,” it suggests two items of the same kind, but also the thing that joins the two. It can be both a noun and a verb, and, as noun, can be followed by either a singular or plural verb—my dictionary offers the cloying example “The couple are spending their honeymoon (or is spending its honeymoon).” Physics deploys the word in a surprisingly apposite way: “a pair of forces of equal magnitude acting in parallel but opposite directions.”

    Laura Letinsky’s photographs reveal the intimacy and indeterminacy

  • Mona Hatoum

    What is perhaps most striking about this survey of Mona Hatoum’s work is the way it distinguishes her from her slightly younger peers, the “Young British Artists.” Unlike the parochialism of YBA art-school discourse, in which a mix of ad-savvy sensationalism and schadenfreude presents itself as something hard and daring, Hatoum’s delicate but powerful work is cosmopolitan in the best sense of the term, neither espousing universal humanism nor resting easily with preconceived notions of difference. Hatoum is highly cognizant of art-historical traditions, generous to a fault in acknowledging her

  • Josiah McElheny

    In “Non-Decorative Beautiful Objects,” his first solo show in New York, Josiah McElheny carefully placed his astonishingly elegant blown-glass pieces into the rickety frame of art-historical discourse. All too aware of the relegation of his metier to the status of mere craft, McElheny confronts some of the philosophical and historical sources of aesthetic distinction, and, in his modest fashion, blows them away.

    The show comprised five mini-installations or projects, each of which elaborated on a real or invented scenario laid out in an accompanying text. In Verzelini’s Acts of Faith, 1996, for

  • Gillian Wearing

    “I’M DESPERATE,” proclaims a small, handwritten poster held up by a young man in a business suit. A woman with her face covered by bandages makes her way down a crowded London street, attracting the startled reactions of passersby. Two long-haired dudes play furious air guitar to a thrash-metal song. In these previous photographs and video works, Gillian Wearing has explored the flexible contours of “self”-expression and the ambivalent predicament of witnessing and recording it. In this, her first US solo show, she turned her quasi-documentary gaze upon young adolescents, who confess to her some

  • Ernesto Neto

    Piff, Paff, Poff, Puff—these titles of Ernesto Neto’s 1997 sculptures, onomatopoeic renderings of the sound powdered spices make upon hitting the floor, suggest both a certain light ephemerality and a plosive thud of surprise. Indeed, the assemblage of various piquant puff pieces that constituted the Brazilian artist’s recent New York exhibition explored tensions between a number of states: raw and cooked, seductive and repulsive, transitory and permanent, raised and dropped.

    Neto poured different spices into nylon stockings that he stretched into various shapes. Some of these he pulled diagonally

  • Meg Cranston

    Even after poststructuralism’s contestation of subjectivity and conceptualism’s demolition job on the art object, a stubborn residue remains. For lack of a better term, Meg Cranston calls this residue “soul,” and works at its contours with lyrical wit. Two recent sculptural installations illustrated how Cranston continues to push the bodily envelope of the type of conceptual California scheming with which she has been associated for over a decade. Mind, Body, Soul, 1997, consisted of a large rectangular block of wood, some rope, and a handcart. It was as if everything depended on this red-painted

  • Steven Pippin

    Coolly orbiting questions of a technological and existential nature, Steven Pippin’s recent exhibition “Terrestrial TV” charted paths from root to antenna, earth to world, and place to space. The show’s eponymous central installation consisted of an early ’70s color television mounted inside a spherical wooden frame, resting on a tripod-shaped pedestal—a fixture that would normally house a large globe. Instead of a three-dimensional representation, we were shown a flat video image of the earth as seen from space. It was a moving picture, the television itself hooked up to a mechanism that caused

  • Zingaro

    Zingaro’s Chimère (Chimera, 1996) the recent large-scale “equestrian theater” production presented as part of BAM’s “Next Wave Festival,” sought to stage a hybrid cultural form combining circus act, dance, and performance art. Held in a tent erected in Battery Park City at the margins of Manhattan (much as Renaissance London theaters, prisons, and hospitals were built outside the city’s walls), the production immersed itself in the cachet of exclusion, precisely in order to elevate a mass-cultural form to the arena of high culture.

    Distinctions between high and low, center and margin, nature and