Prudence Peiffer

  • Jane Freilicher, Window, 2011, oil on linen, 32 × 32".

    Jane Freilicher

    “She is not dangerous or rare, / adventure precedes her like a train, / her beauty is general, as sun and air / are secretly near, like Jane.” So wrote Frank O’Hara in an ode to Jane Freilicher that ably describes the art of his friend: Her paintings highlight the simplest subjects of wildflowers stuck in soup cans and pitchers, vast tracks of land on the East End of Long Island, and still lifes set up in her West Village apartment studio, often against a window looking out over the city’s rooftops and water towers. This exhibition, the artist’s twenty-first at Tibor de Nagy, was called “Theme

  • Ryan Mrozowski, Pair (Indeterminate Fruit), 2015, two parts, acrylic on linen, each 23 × 16".

    Ryan Mrozowski

    Vigilant birds flanked the entrance to Ryan Mrozowski’s exhibit, eyeing the ripe goods hanging farther in: canvases covered in citrus-tree flowers, oranges, cherries, and “indeterminate fruit.” This compact exhibit—comprising two drawings (the birds, in thick oil-stick profile on paper) and nine paintings, all made this past summer—had an intractable beauty that promised something compelling beyond its polished perfection.

    From the contrasting colors of lush green, gray, orange, teal, yellow, and red to the delicate, botanic detailing—not unlike Fra Angelico’s background landscapes,

  • View of “Rosemarie Castoro,” 2015.

    Rosemarie Castoro

    On the busy shopping thoroughfare of SoHo’s Spring Street, just beyond tourists queuing for Cronuts, you ring a doorbell and ascend in an old hand-cranked elevator to the sixth floor. The doors open directly into the loft where the artist Rosemarie Castoro lived and worked for over fifty years, and therefore, directly into the exhibit—an extraordinary, swift passage from one cultural iteration of a city’s neighborhood to another.

    It was a fitting entrée to an artist who staged pieces in the streets of Manhattan, and whose studio was a backdrop for performances and architectural interventions.

  • Dana Schutz, Shaking Out the Bed, 2015, oil on canvas, 9’ 6” × 17’ 9 3/4”.

    Dana Schutz

    When was the last time you walked into a show of paintings and couldn’t remember your art-history safe word? Dana Schutz’s recent display of twelve canvases and four charcoal drawings overwhelmed. Every work, all but one from 2015, had so much going on in any corner that there was little room for the viewer. I didn’t find these works easy to like. I mean this as a compliment: I liked them very much.

    Schutz does give us some familiar things to hang on to, including her trademark portraiture that makes her the Bruegel of our time. (I’m also reminded that she grew up looking at Diego Rivera’s murals

  • Ruth Root, Untitled, 2014–15, fabric, Plexiglas, enamel paint, spray paint, 84 1/2 × 67".

    Ruth Root

    What makes an abstract painting interesting today? Ruth Root’s series of seven works, each Untitled and dated 2014–15, each unique and yet sharing vivid formal correspondences with its neighbors on the wall, provided an exhilarating answer. For starters, an interesting painting often has an eccentric shape. Root’s Plexiglas shapes are not symmetrical and are far from the golden mean. They are wonky, sometimes lean, and include bulges and unexpected curves, like maps of contested statehoods. (Not until I drew the outline of each work in my notebook did I notice the points of some corners and the

  • Keltie Ferris, oRiOn, 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas, 72 x 60".
    picks September 18, 2015

    Keltie Ferris

    La Estrella, [P]y[X]i[S], oRiOn: We’re caught up in the jumbled syntax of the heavens in Keltie Ferris’s dazzling show of ten paintings and six body prints, all from 2015. The constellations that lend their name to some of these canvases trace distinct forms but are composed of flickering stars whose boundaries are less clear to us down on Earth. And this is a central aspect of Ferris’s paintings, whose thin airbushed oil layers and dragged acrylic strokes build a rich color space (here, moving beyond the loose neon graffiti of her 2012–13 gallery show into deep purples, reds, ochers) that shifts

  • Alex Katz, Black Brook 18, 2014, oil on linen, 96 × 120".

    Alex Katz

    Alex Katz’s glorious exhibition at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise this past spring reminded us why we should just surrender to enjoying the compact range of this artist’s long view. The paintings that were on display, all but one from 2013 or 2014, offer a bourgeois dream of a year in the country: a glowing cabin on the lake, a barn in winter, a house at the edge of a field in summer. (Giving these pastoral scenes an uncanny afterlife, the gallery brought live horses to the same space for its next show, restaging Jannis Kounellis’s Untitled [12 Horses], 1969—a tremendous last hurrah before GBE’s

  • Prudence Peiffer

    DESCRIBING AGNES MARTIN’S PAINTINGS in these pages in 1967, Annette Michelson wrote of their “ultimate ineffability.” That same year, Martin herself seemed to act out this escape from language: Following the sudden death of her friend Ad Reinhardt, the loss of her studio and apartment, and her traumatic admittance to Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward for a schizophrenic episode, Martin gave away her art supplies and left New York, camping out in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest before settling in remote New Mexico. She also gave up words, announcing that she would try not to speak for

  • Marsha Cottrell, Old Museum (Interior_7), 2015, laser toner on paper, 9 1/4 × 11 1/2".

    Marsha Cottrell

    A polestar is something that’s the main attraction. And ancient technology: Visible to the naked eye, it aligns with the vertical axes of the earth’s rotation, burning at due north to guide you home if your compass (or GPS) conks out. Because stars drift and die, and the planet spins and spins, the polestar’s identity changes over time.

    Astronomy came to my mind at Marsha Cottrell’s strong exhibition, and not just because her works, with their gauzy orbs and crepuscular rays, invoke what’s beautiful and abstract about the field, from early-nineteenth-century celestial diagrams to a view of the

  • Eva Zeisel, Frame for a Folding Chair, 1949, chrome-plated tubular steel; 28 1/2 x 26 x 26 1/2".
    picks May 08, 2015

    “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today"

    Countering Richard Serra’s famous Verb List of 1967–68, Anne Wilson’s To Weave, to Wind, to Knot, to Twist, to Push, to Pack, to Press, 2010—a light box of tools used for “women’s work” and reconfigured in glass—stresses the action embedded in this exhibition’s title. “Pathmakers” assembles more than one hundred objects by forty-two artists in a broad survey of historical and current practice. The show is divided into two floors: The “midcentury” galleries open with a cluster of Ruth Asawa’s dangling wire sculptures, ca. 1950–72, dramatically lit so that their shadows appear like the transparent

  • Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1978, gelatin silver print, 4 1/2 × 4 1/2".

    Francesca Woodman

    Among the reasons the photographs of Francesca Woodman entrance me is the insouciant grace with which she and her collaborators occupy their frames. Wearing a long dress, striped stockings, or nothing at all, hair in a sloppy bun or set loose, Woodman presented a distinct style, evident even in her earliest self-portraits as a teenager. Her presentation’s declarative (often humorously hedged) ambition at times became a literal aspect of the work, as in a handwritten note in red pen on a photograph she sent to her parents in 1977: I'M TRYING MY HAND AT FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY. In the black-and-white

  • Joan Mitchell

    You can’t overlook a Joan Mitchell painting once in its range. This sprawling survey promises continual reckoning before the artist’s bold abstract canvases, made in New York, Paris, and Vétheuil, France, just a short drive from Monet’s garden. During her lifetime (1925–1992), Mitchell supported a legion of young painters; fittingly, the catalogue includes contributions by such artists as Jutta Koether, Amy Sillman, and Ken Okiishi, as well as new scholarship by Dziewior, Isabelle Graw, and Suzanne Hudson. And in keeping with current interest in