Prudence Peiffer

  • Louise Nevelson, Untitled, 1956, cardboard, foil, paint, and wood on board, 46 × 36".

    Louise Nevelson

    On some basic level, every exhibition is about work. But this commanding display of collages and assemblages by Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), encompassing three decades, made work—as in production and profession, and also difficulty—its backbone. For those, like me, who never witnessed Nevelson’s earliest gallery outings in the mid-twentieth century, and who know her art through the monumental, monochrome wall sculptures (primarily painted black) that are a staple of American museum collections, this show was a revelation.

    Central to Nevelson’s untitled collages and assemblages is a

  • Saira McLaren, Untitled (Bright Brush), 2014, pigment and dye on raw canvas, 64 × 59".

    Saira McLaren

    Saira McLaren’s show saved my sober January. Here were nine bibulous paintings: raw canvas sponges that had absorbed several centuries of landscape tradition and were drunk on garish color but still quick on their feet. (Birds in Spring carries the date of 2015, as if brought into the gallery still wet from the studio; all the other works were from 2014.) Looking like Gilded Age scholars’ rocks, three slumped and shimmering ceramics accompanied the paintings. The overall effect was of a seasonal shift, when buds begin to break through frost and everything seems to be dripping and dazzlingly

  • Janet Biggs, Can’t Find My Way Home, 2015, four-channel HD video installation, color, sound, 8 minutes 35 seconds. Installation view, Blaffer Art Museum.
    interviews February 09, 2015

    Janet Biggs

    The work of Janet Biggs often finds the New York–based artist traveling to the ends of the earth to research and record extreme geographic landscapes and the people who inhabit them. For her latest exhibition, “Echo of the Unknown,” Biggs has created an installation of sculpture, three video works, and a sound piece, all of which explore the relationship between intense conditions found in the exterior world and those in our interior selves. Curated by Janet Phelps, the show runs at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston through March 21, 2015. Biggs will also present a related

  • Vivian Maier, Untitled, 1960–76, C-print, 3 1/8 × 4 3/4".

    Vivian Maier

    The recent exhibition of photographer Vivian Maier’s work was titled “In Her Own Hands”—exactly, at least on the surface, what the show was not. Maier (1926–2009) took tens of thousands of photographs while working as a nanny; she famously left behind a defaulted storage unit that included some prints and many more rolls of film that are now at the center of a debate between two different caretakers. Most of the works in this exhibition (dating from the early 1950s to the ’70s) have never before been shown and were printed last year, under the direction of John Maloof, by master printer

  • Huguette Caland, Bribes de corps (Body Fragments), 1973, oil on linen, 19 × 13 3/4". From the series “Bribes de corps,” 1973.

    Huguette Caland

    Was there a single, absolutely straight line in this wonderfully loopy exhibition of the early works of Huguette Caland? Compositions circle back on themselves, forms wobbled, the corners of squares puckered, bisections meandered ever so slightly like rivers through unsteady topography. Encompassing abstract and figurative painting, drawing, and textiles, this efficient show bracketed fifteen productive years—beginning in 1970, the year that Caland, who was born in Beirut in 1931, moved to Paris, and ending in 1985, just before she left for California (like her compatriot Etel Adnan), where

  • View of “Puddle, pothole, portal,” 2014–15. Floor, from left: Antoine Catala, (::( )::), 2014; Antoine Catala, :), 2014; Antoine Catala, >(///)<, 2014; Antoine Catala, </3, 2014. Wall: Win McCarthy, Long Drain, 2014.

    “Puddle, pothole, portal”

    “Puddle, pothole, portal”: Repeat the title five times fast and you might have some clue as to this exhibition’s exuberant slipups. Not just the tongue trips: You must always watch your step here, a feat still easier said than done around the slow-motion jerks of Antoine Catala’s motorized post-word emoji shapes (part rotisserie, part toy) or Win McCarthy’s delicate glass sculptures surreptitiously installed all over the place, which resemble spurts of gushing water paused in time. (Robert Gober’s shadow stretches from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.)

    Co-organized by SculptureCenter curator

  • Judy Chicago, Rainbow Pickett, 1965/2004, latex paint on canvas-covered plywood, 10' 6“ × 10' 6” × 9' 10".

    Judy Chicago

    There we were, a contemporary Bruegel tableau in Prospect Park, waiting for Judy Chicago’s A Butterfly for Brooklyn fireworks display to begin: We had shimmied up trees for a better view or were madly waving glow sticks as if light begot light. The park at the end of April was already an explosion of pink, and when Butterfly spluttered into action in all its kitschy splendor, and the fuchsia smoke from the flares on the ground that outlined the giant wings started drifting over us and through the cherry blossoms, it was a transporting spectacle. Then the sky cleared into night, and our painting

  • Billy Al Bengston, Gold Hill Dracula, 1969, oil on canvas, 14 × 14".

    Billy Al Bengston

    “We’d surf, play Ping-Pong and work, smoke and drink black coffee. That’s it. That was what we did for three or four years. That’s all we could afford to do,” Billy Al Bengston recently said, recounting his time sharing a studio with fellow painter and ceramicist Ken Price in the early 1960s. I don’t surf, but those close to me who do have often noted the degree to which it’s a transfixing waiting game in which natural rhythms take over any sense of structured temporality, and doing the same thing over and over again is never the same thing. And so it’s a smart conceit that this small exhibition

  • Birdie Lusch, Untitled, 1973, collage, marker, ballpoint pen on paper, 18 × 12".

    Birdie Lusch

    Imagine, for a minute, a history of modern art told only through still lifes of flowers, a subject precariously close to kitsch. (Many of modernism’s central movers and shakers—including Manet, who called the still life a painter’s touchstone—would play a major role. But this thought experiment entails imagining a modernism without inside or outside, or in which outside is literally brought in.) Imagine the basic, daily scenes that would accumulate, bloom, and change over time; imagine a slight easing of gender, socioeconomic, and geographic gaps in art history’s narration; imagine

  • “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals”

    Art, science, collaborative innovation, the risks and responsibilities of patronage—you couldn’t invent subject matter more fitting for the inaugural exhibition of the Harvard Art Museums this fall following Renzo Piano’s extensive renovation. “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals” will present a set of paintings commissioned by the university for its Holyoke Center penthouse dining room. In 1962, Rothko made six abstract panels, each almost nine feet high; five were hung. Reflecting his interest in creating a space rather than its decoration, he also consulted on

  • Harvey Quaytman, Voyager, 1991, acrylic and rust on canvas, 60 x 90".

    Harvey Quaytman

    Committed describes the relationship between Harvey Quaytman (who died in 2002) and the McKee Gallery (which has represented the artist since it opened in 1974), as well as the dedication with which the artist approached his career-long exploration of abstraction’s topography. During this show’s opening-night panel, numerous canonical modernist names, from Władysław Strzemiński to Willem de Kooning, were thrown about in historical association, and investigating any number of these affiliations would be productive. And yet this compact survey encouraged us to first consider Quaytman’s work along

  • Dale Henry, Red Clouds, 1966, oil on linen, 14 3/8 x 9 1/4".

    Dale Henry

    There’s a fine line between enigma and aggrandizement. A piece of wood placed on the wall can become an object of fascination or a facile object—it’s all in the position of the thing. In poetry, meter makes the difference. Similarly, in the oeuvre of the artist Dale Henry, it’s where emphasis is placed while handling material. If anyone knew what to make of fine lines, it was Henry.

    “Dale Henry: The Artist Who Left New York,” curated by Alanna Heiss, Richard Nonas, and Dustin Yellin, was a remarkable exhibition. (First realized downtown at the Clocktower Gallery last fall, the show moved to