Nord Wennerstrom

  • picks July 31, 2006

    Anselm Kiefer

    “Velimir Chlebnikov,” Anselm Kiefer’s thirty-painting epic, is a remarkable achievement, a fresh, relevant, and exhilarating treatment of a subject the artist has long mined: mass destruction and tentative resurrection. All of Kiefer’s hallmarks are present: history and folly inevitably and vexingly repeating themselves; mysticism, numerology, and other esoterica; and lots of burned, charred, desolate gray landscapes . . . or, in this case, seascapes. The exhibition’s title refers to an early-twentieth-century Russian poet/mystic who postulated a convulsive global sea battle every 317 years.

  • picks July 27, 2006

    “Translucence”

    “Translucence: Southern California Art from the 1960s and 1970s” offers a taut and compelling exploration of light and optics by members of LA’s Light and Space, or Glass and Plastic, movement. The efficiently installed exhibition features twenty-three works manufactured from various combinations of plastic, resin, glass, pigment, and other industrial materials, all of which meld a fetishistic attention to surface with mystical, buoyant Southern California light. The period when these objects were created coincided with the high-water mark for California’s aerospace industry, which employed

  • picks July 12, 2006

    Renate Aller

    Renate Aller’s “Fixed Coordinate,” a suite of eight digital color-pigment prints and a forty-five-minute video of the sea-sky horizon, revisits a single point in the Atlantic Ocean during different times of year. There are obvious similarities to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs and Mark Rothko’s horizontal division of space, but Aller manages to avoid being derivative with hypnotically beautiful combinations of light and texture that meld abstraction with representation in arresting yet simple compositions. March 10, 2005 records a remarkable moment of turbulence in both sea and sky, with painterly,

  • Frank DiPerna

    Frank DiPerna’s recent exhibition, “In the Studio: Frank DiPerna,” included fourteen photographs notable for their deceptively simple composition and saturated colors. The shots—mostly still lifes and tableaux—border on the surreal, a significant departure from the empiricist landscape photography for which the artist is best known. Moreover, they demonstrate in subtle ways his ability to intertwine irony and wit with an acute sense of texture and a resourceful use of found objects. DiPerna, a professor at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, created this new body of work in order to acknowledge

  • picks May 31, 2006

    Avish Khebrehzadeh

    Born in Iran and based in Washington, DC, Avish Khebrehzadeh stood out from the crowd at the 2004 “Mediterraneans” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome with her hypnotic and transportive In the Horizon I, 2004, a video animation of softly drawn, nearly featureless figures perambulating, floating, and swirling through indeterminate space. The animation and a group of olive-oil-and-graphite-on-paper drawings subsequently shown at Susan Inglett Gallery in New York continued to reveal the artist’s intriguing ability to engage the viewer with ambiguity.

    The artist’s new work, a series

  • Anne Rowland

    Anne Rowland grew up in an unassuming modernist house commissioned by her parents in 1963. The building was located in then-rural northern Virginia, and remained in the family until 2000. To the new owners it was a “tear down,” and the surrounding forest, now in the hands of developers, was similarly ill-fated. For Rowland, house and land were inextricably linked and fraught with meaning, and in her elegiac body of work “Private Property” (2000–), they become quietly iconic. Across thirteen photographs (executed as archival pigment prints), Rowland chronicles her home’s demolition, meditating

  • Dean Kessmann

    The translucent, quasi-organic, saclike forms that are the subjects of Dean Kessmann’s recent color digital prints are curious and inviting, but also a little disturbing. They appear to be embryonic forms so brilliantly backlit that their innards are visible, and their crumpled surfaces suggest impending desiccation. But these things are no longer organic at all. Hundreds of millions of years ago they were plant and animal life, but they subsequently turned into oil that was pumped out of the ground and made into cheap carryalls emblazoned with smiley faces. Yes, they’re plastic bags.

    Kessmann’s

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Anselm Kiefer’s work is so well known, and has been so extensively written about and exhibited, one wondered what “Anselm Kiefer: Heaven and Earth,” a traveling survey recently at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, could possibly add to the dialogue. The answer: both not much and a whole lot.

    Positing the artist’s inquiry into spirituality—a Sisyphean search for heaven in particular—as a key to understanding his symbolically rich, historically layered oeuvre, curator Michael Auping organized a deeply engrossing, thematically focused survey. One way to begin considering this exhibition is to

  • picks February 08, 2006

    Simon Gouverneur

    The genius that enabled abstract symbolist Simon Gouverneur to create a spellbinding oeuvre also may have been a curse that led to his suicide in 1990. “Mystic Logic,” an aptly titled exhibition organized by Andrea Pollan features four egg-tempera-and-acrylic-on-canvas paintings and twenty-four never-before-exhibited pages from his notebooks, persuasively argues for a broader examination of this underknown artist. Gouverneur obsessively examined systems of logic, mysticism, and philosophy, and his compositions feature heavily encoded visual matrices of numbers, patterns, colors, and icons—what

  • Sean Scully

    In the tradition of Giorgio Morandi and Mark Rothko, Sean Scully’s abstract paintings ply a narrow course that is both emotionally dense and intellectually engaging. Since 1998, Scully has been gradually refining his focus with a group of thematically linked paintings titled “Wall of Light,” inspired by his observation of Mayan ruins. Several dozen oils, watercolors, and pastels from the series, in addition to some earlier works, were recently exhibited at the Phillips Collection, where they revealed a singular achievement, one all the more impressive for its concision. The Irish-born artist,

  • picks January 17, 2006

    Robert Ryman

    This smart survey of Robert Ryman’s oeuvre, the most extensive since MoMA’s 1993 retrospective, features four never before exhibited works from Ryman’s own collection and reveals an unexplored side to this endlessly inquisitive artist. Curator Charles Wylie coaxed Ryman into loaning the four untitled five-foot-square acrylic on aluminum panels, made in 1963 and 1964, and gives them prominent placement in the museum’s cavernous Barrel Vault Gallery. Each features Ryman’s signature dense passages of wriggling white squiggles, but his buffing and sanding of the portions of the exposed aluminum

  • Sam Gilliam

    Sam Gilliam, an innovative abstract painter and éminence grise of Washington, DC’s artistic community, is currently the subject of a stimulating retrospective at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Gilliam is known principally for his giant “draped” paintings and as an African-American artist who gained fame during a period of enormous racial tension. But as Jonathan P. Binstock, the organizer of the exhibtion, demonstrates, the artist has spent more than forty years experimenting with color, shape, and texture, breaking down numerous barriers between painting and sculpture in the process.

    Gilliam’s

  • Julee Holcombe

    Bill Viola, Cindy Sherman, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others, have successfully refreshed the genre of Old Master portraiture via distinct contemporary approaches that retain the haunting, timeless quality of their historical inspiration. Julee Holcombe’s “Homo Bulla” (Man Is a Bubble), her debut solo show at Conner Contemporary Art, ventured fearlessly into this realm with seven portrait photographs that range from utterly intoxicating to largely resistible. In this bifurcated show, three group portraits stood out for their confidence and authority; the others seemed experimental, tenuous, or

  • picks November 16, 2005

    Yuriko Yamaguchi

    Virginia-based, Japan-born artist Yuriko Yamaguchi has a distinct and subtly unsettlingly way of expressing vulnerability. Like Kiki Smith and Do-Ho Suh, she creates objects and installations that hint at impending physical and psychological collapse. Return, 2005, the sculpture from which the show takes its title, is vaguely protective yet also carceral—a fragile, igloo-shaped open mesh of wires studded with sandwiched translucent, honey colored resin discs that resemble tiny finger cymbals or nipples. A motion detector embedded in the ceiling registers one’s presence via spasms of tinny

  • picks November 07, 2005

    Linn Meyers

    Washington, DC-based artist Linn Meyers recently (and courageously) started anew with a simple premise: what is the consequence of a single drawn line? The result is “Current,” a transfixing selection of drawings best described as the visual equivalent of the childhood game "Telephone.” Meyers draws a single line, and then another as close as possible to the first, and so on, with the innate imperfections of the first line heightened and altered by each subsequent mark. Her images suggest sonograms, topographic maps, and diaphanous fabric. Meyers's technical skill and facility with color is

  • Nicola López

    The engagingly chaotic drawings exhibited recently by Nicola López pose a disturbing question: What happens if technology supplants nature and develops the ability to evolve? López is one of the scores of New York–based artists currently getting a career boost from their inclusion in P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s expansive “Greater New York 2005.” Her first show at Irvine Contemporary Art featured five ink, gouache, and graphite drawings and one somber print in which she ponders the possible consequences of a contemporary urban addiction to new technology. Devoid of human presence, the