Nicole Kaack

  • picks July 21, 2017

    Sable Elyse Smith

    A camera scans a dim, panoramic street scene, dogging but never catching the slight figure beyond the screen’s edge. An oscillating, angular elbow marks slowed time, leading us through an obscure landscape in the video How We Tell Stories to Children, 2015—a looping, exaggerated excerpt of a longer piece of a chase that appears to be a game of tag but could be something far more sinister. In poetry filtered through works executed in glaring light boards and neon, Sable Elyse Smith proposes parallels between this playground activity and another kind of hunt with much higher stakes.

    A paragraph

  • picks June 16, 2017

    Ellen Berkenblit

    Animated by frenzied bursts of vibrant color, splashing patterns, and succulent forms, Ellen Berkenblit’s recent paintings capture moments of stillness in broad, energetic strokes. Through her sumptuous canvases, caked with creamy paint stick and occasionally bedecked with quilted calico fragments, we follow a scattered sequence of minutely shifting portraits: a beribboned bay pony moving restlessly between Untitled and Lilac (both 2016); a massive outstretched hand with Kool Aid–hued nails trying to pinch a tulip-like flower (Alef Bet, 2016, and Witching Hour, 2017); and a woman with an almost

  • picks June 02, 2017

    Maren Karlson

    Slitted eyes and jagged flames gleam in lurid magentas and chilly violets, lighting a path both sensual and sinister in Maren Karlson’s crepuscular compositions. Mixing exacting geometries with cartoonish illustration, these drawings, paintings, and ceramic works often follow a bald figure draped in silken robes through swoony, dreamlike landscapes. Charmed with the mysticism of an invented iconography, Karlson’s images suggest occult ritual. In No Longer a Friend, Master, Slave (all works cited, 2017), the central character reenacts what seem to be ancient origin stories—she makes herself over

  • picks March 10, 2017

    A. K. Burns

    Outsiders are not welcome: A forbidding fence obscures the view through the front window of the gallery. Two more like it appear throughout the space, each patterned with barely legible phrases à la Donald Rumsfeld: Known known, known unknown, and unknown unknown. In the exhibition “Fault Lines,” A. K. Burns reflects on the power of language to colonize our physical realities with political polarities. A picture of the Dakota Access Pipeline crawls like a blind, wormy beast through the sunshine landscapes of the show’s press release, while Better Off Without You (all works cited, 2017) is a

  • picks February 24, 2017

    Steve Wolfe

    Love is rarely tender, especially with cherished objects. Sometimes they become so much a part of who we are that they, too, accumulate the scars, scrapes, and burns of affection. Steve Wolfe’s current posthumous exhibition offers up impeccable re-creations of books, book covers, and records from the artist’s personal library, made to look as worn by time and use as the originals. Every tear and scuff is fabricated through oil paint, ink, and graphite; every misaligned spine, intentional.

    Wolfe’s remaking of Voltaire’s satire, in softcover, Untitled (Candide), 1988–89, surprises by its vibrancy.

  • picks January 23, 2017

    Phoenix Lindsey-Hall

    The gallery feels still. Hanging from the ceiling are forty-nine globes, radiant with gently diffused light. Arranged in impossible orbits and strung with fishing wire, the installation is akin to a science-class diorama of an unknown solar system, illuminated by the glare of unknown suns. Little porcelain squares, unglazed and matte white, envelop the surfaces of these imperfect orbs. They are like the mirrored fragments of disco balls but utterly drained of glimmer and sparkle—eyes that once flickered and flashed now overcast, blind.

    In Never Stop Dancing, 2017, artist and activist Phoenix

  • picks January 06, 2017

    “Cathouse FUNeral Harvested”

    On November 20 of last year, the original site of this Brooklyn exhibition space in East Williamsburg, located in a former funeral home, closed its doors for the last time. The artist-run venue had an unquiet rest, however—another version of it currently exists as a projects space in Carroll Gardens, while its first body has been exhumed for a second life in Chelsea. “Cathouse FUNeral Harvested” (an extension of which will open on the Lower East Side on January 8) collects residue from twenty shows of murals and installations via fragments of sheetrock and other architectural excerpts, presented

  • picks November 11, 2016

    David Kramer

    Dave swims in and out of view over a rocking sea of yarn-festooned burlap. Dancing in the double vision of overlaid video, Dave’s face becomes the center of an increasingly tight frame, zooming in on eyes that gaze bleakly below a sweaty forehead. It’s time for Hooking up with Dave, 2016, artist David Kramer’s attic installation.

    On the gallery’s rickety third floor, Kramer’s tableau feels like a crawlspace/derelict boys’ club, complete with a Mad Men–style liquor selection, sans the 1960s ritz. Hanging across from a miniature pool table, a hook-rug tiger skin glows in neon green. And laid directly

  • picks September 22, 2016

    “California: The Art of Water”

    As true today as when it was published in 1977, Joan Didion’s essay “Holy Water” speaks to the Californian’s obsession with water, a fanatic preoccupation sparked by wildfires on the Big Sur coast and years of drought that have compelled the rising of the land itself. The exhibition “California: The Art of Water” traces a centuries-long struggle––a history of mercurial oppositions––over resources bestowed only grudgingly or in excess. The cerulean volume of David Hockney’s Sprungbrett mit Schatten (Paper Pool #14), 1978, acts as mocking foil to the thirsty void that opens beneath Diving Board,

  • picks August 26, 2016

    “The Plant Show”

    Enter the claustrophobia of the greenhouse, complete with the cloying, damp humidity and the clawed, ecstatic growth of tropical plants. In an alternate reality to Martha Stewart’s Container Garden Ideas for Any Household blog, Simran Johnston has curated a show that marries sculpture to function. But this is no IKEA, and it ain’t no country club, either. In operations variable in their complexity, twenty-four artists carry out their tasks dubiously, adding an asterisk to Martha’s assurance that plants will “purify your home.”

    Ryan Oskin’s Amazon Lights (all works cited, 2016) doesn’t elaborate

  • picks July 27, 2016

    Yanyan Huang

    Spectral shapes manifest in light clouds of color through the undulating barrier of Trace Fields (all works 2016), which hangs from a brass rod in the gallery window. Heralded by this luxurious patch of printed silk, Yanyan Huang’s effervescent show, organized with Alex Ross, follows like an exotic garden path. Swimming through colors and amorphic blobs, visitors are immersed in a space tricked out with inscrutable designs.

    Huang’s paintings are as mesmerizing as they are impenetrable, overflowing with hairline strokes and fern-like bursts. Calligraphic characters of vibrant hues pulsate in