Prudence Peiffer

  • Rosalyn Drexler, Ana Falling (Was She Pushed?), 1989, acrylic and collage on canvas, 80 x 40". © Rosalyn
Drexler/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Rosalyn Drexler

    Portrait of the Artist, 1989, finds Rosalyn Drexler crouched against a black rectangular background in a suit and tie. She wears a wrestling cap and a colorful mask; a toy airplane grazes her head and one manicured hand, in a fingerless glove, covers her mouth. In her other gloved hand she holds a paintbrush the way Holly Golightly held a cigarette. Out of the brush, a cloud of pointillist color flows, surrounding the framed artist like the confetti borders in many of Georges Seurat’s compositions. She is defined by art-historical reference but not contained by it.

    At once revealing and elusive,

  • Hilary Pecis, Dinner Party, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 40 × 30".

    Hilary Pecis

    The capacity to recognize patterns is what sets humans apart from other animals and from machines. Our ability to convert perceived arrangements into habits and inventions drives our looking and imagining, our reading and reasoning. We are hungry to intuit serial sequences everywhere, even where there are none—a condition known as apophenia, which is linked to gambling and conspiracy theories.

    On the brighter side of our brain function, Hilary Pecis’s paintings seem to celebrate the joy of discerning and interpreting patterns in the everyday world. Nine paintings made up her excellent if

  • Běla Kolářová, Five by Four, 1967, wood, paint, metal paper fasteners, 56 x 39 1/2".
    picks May 05, 2017

    “Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction”

    Though it feels like a side gallery, this exhibition is more than a side note of inclusion, thanks to curators Starr Figura and Sarah Meister and assistant Hillary Reder’s thoughtfully pared selection from the museum’s holdings. There are few surprises but some terrific anomalies in these five rooms, grouped roughly by theme (Gestural Abstraction, Geometric Abstraction, Reductive Abstraction, Fiber and Line, and Eccentric Abstraction). To wit: Helen Frankenthaler’s Trojan Gates, 1955, opens the show with a hardened enamel luster and feels like an entranceway to something other than her most

  • Vija Celmins, Untitled (Falling Star), 2016, oil on canvas, 18 × 13 1/8".

    Vija Celmins

    In college, I kept a postcard of a Vija Celmins’s graphite wavescape taped to my door. In part, I missed the ocean, but it was also a reminder that the things you love should be done well, and with a care that might even border on obsession. (It’s no surprise to learn that a copy of painter Ad Reinhardt’s 1953 article “Twelve Rules for a New Academy,” with its disciplined promotion of “pure” painting and disavowal of expression, is pinned to Celmins’s studio wall.) And at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s inaugural downtown exhibition in 2015, Celmins’s stark, realist painting of a heater

  • Dragana Jurisic, Paris Fog I, 2016, ink-jet print, 14 × 14".

    Dragana Jurisic

    In “My Own Unknown,” photographs formed provisionary sketches of elusive subjects. Launching the second iteration of A Process Series, organized by Jessamyn Fiore at Rawson Projects, in which four women artists received two-week solo shows to “reflect on how politics influences their artistic practice,” Dragana Jurisic seemed to play with the exhibition’s abbreviated life-span through material and displays that foregrounded the ephemeral: instant Polaroids, unframed prints tacked to the wall, handwritten scrapbooks with pasted-in photos. But these notes formed a deceptively complex narrative,

  • Mark Rothko, Black in Deep Red, 1957, oil on canvas, 69 3/8 × 53 3/4". © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Mark Rothko

    Mark Rothko

    The story is almost too neat: Mark Rothko states that his paintings are about death, above all, and as he nears the end of his life, cut short in 1970 by his own hand, his palette grows darker and darker. Though part of his powerful narrative, this was not the only factor affecting his choice of color. For one thing, as demonstrated by the recent impressive show up at Pace—expertly lit and designed, with a border on the floor unobtrusively guarding our distance—darkness infused Rothko’s mature canvases from the 1950s on, even if just as ground to push forward his brightest compositions.

  • Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1964, oil on canvas, 108 × 79 5/8".

    Joan Mitchell

    It’s difficult to ever view a Joan Mitchell painting as pure abstraction. Her famously synesthetic approach to landscape and figure gives her works—whether a small drawing or a diptych that fills a wall—a gravity. They are environments.

    This compact show touched on the long arc of Mitchell’s career, from her early, calligraphic slashes in the 1950s, when she was painting in a studio off St. Marks Place in New York and drinking with the AbEx boys, through her time in Paris in the ’60s, and, until her death in 1992, in the French countryside at an estate with an overgrown garden and a

  • Agnes Martin, The Book, 1959, gouache and ink on paper mounted on canvas, 24 × 17 7/8". From “Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip.” © Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    “Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip”

    The ghosts of Herman Melville and Walt Whitman haunt Coenties Slip, an inlet near the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, where for a period of time in the 1950s and ’60s a community of artists, filmmakers, and writers lived—sometimes illegally, without heat or water—and worked in ramshackle warehouses (Ellsworth Kelly would drop in on Agnes Martin to eat her homemade muffins and talk art). The Menil’s compact exhibition of twenty-seven works by Chryssa, Robert Indiana, Kelly, Martin, Lenore Tawney, and Jack Youngerman will reflect the artists’ range—from

  • View of “Karin Schneider,” 2016. Photo: John Berens.

    Karin Schneider

    When will we exhaust the black square? When will it cease to be a beacon of the radical avant-garde or a buoy of perceptual purity or a veiled wink at what came before or the face that launched a thousand quips? In Karin Schneider’s elegant and misleading show—elegant in its sparseness; misleading in that despite this sparseness it was full of material, including paintings, wall diagrams and drawings, film, sculpture, and writing extending over the two floors of Dominique Lévy, the pages of this magazine, a series of related performances, and a dense catalogue—the black square was a

  • William Eggleston, Untitled from The Democratic Forest, ca. 1983–86, pigment print, 65 x 45 x 2''.
    picks November 11, 2016

    William Eggleston

    No other year in recent history has exposed so starkly the complex views of democracy in the United States, in private selfhood and social community. And so this gallery’s inaugural showing of William Eggleston, with selections from The Democratic Forest, ca. 1983–86, his epic project of thousands of photographs taken around the country (and a few overseas), could not be more timely. Last year, Steidl launched the resurgence of this work with an elegant ten-volume anthology, the largest compilation of such images to date (the original book was published in 1989, with an introduction by Eudora

  • Stuart Davis, Fin, 1962–64, casein and masking tape on canvas, 58 7/8 × 39 3/4". © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

    Stuart Davis

    If awards were given for best wall text at an exhibition, this year’s winner would be the placard inscribed for Fin, 1962–64, from “Stuart Davis: In Full Swing” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. (The show, curated by Barbara Haskell and Harry Cooper, was co-organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, where it opens on November 20). As one read along, things swiftly took an unexpected turn: We learned that on June 23, 1964, Davis watched a foreign film that concluded with “Fin,” the French equivalent to “The End,” and decided to add the word to the painting he’d

  • Diane Arbus, Female impersonator holding long gloves, Hempstead, L.I. 1959, gelatin silver print, 9 3/4 × 5 7/8". © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Diane Arbus

    In one of those hard-to-believe-now anecdotes, Diane Arbus had trouble selling an editioned portfolio of her photographs in 1971; Richard Avedon bought two of the four she managed to sell for $1,000 each. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s elegant exhibition of Arbus’s early, mostly unseen work, “In the Beginning,” curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim at the Met Breuer, includes the contents of one of Avedon’s boxes in a side room: a well-trafficked coda to the show’s new discoveries. This is Arbus at the (all-too-soon) end (she would die just a few months later at forty-eight), and demonstrates the