Rachel Churner


    Dada: Art and Anti-Art, by Hans Richter, introduced and annotated by Michael White. London: Thames & Hudson, 2016. 376 pages.

    IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Dada: Art and Anti-Art (1964), a book that fifty years later still frames much of our understanding of the movement, Hans Richter claims that without a few vigilant ants among the “carefree grasshoppers” who constituted most of Dada’s main characters, proof of its uninhibited provocations might not exist. Richter’s allusion to the classic fable suggests at least some respect for the diligent ants, and perhaps even—contra Aesop—a rapprochement

  • Maryam Jafri

    I confess I’ve always secretly lusted after the giant, wall-hung crossword puzzles sold by such estimable purveyors as SkyMall and Hammacher Schlemmer. Measuring seven by seven feet and containing tens of thousands of squares, this is the kind of crossword that would require true commitment and would provide an unrivaled source of procrastination. Imagine my delight, then, upon seeing Maryam Jafri’s crossword installation Where We’re At (all works cited, 2017). Built within a one hundred-inch-square wooden frame in collaboration with New York Times puzzle maker Ben Tausig, Jafri’s thirty-six-clue

  • Anna Conway

    With their brooding tones, stark settings, and elusive narratives, Anna Conway’s paintings are the visual equivalents of spy novels. Like the best works in the genre (books by John le Carré, for example), Conway’s oils on canvas are marked by the abundance and clarity of their details—and by the thrill of trying to decipher which details are significant and which are merely mundane. Every object—from river-rock-paneled trash can to Castiglioni Arco lamp to safety-orange extension cord—is rendered with such precision that it can be difficult to figure out where the meaning resides.

  • Barbara Hammer

    “How are you feeling?” asks the clear, sweet voice, almost certainly from behind a broad smile. I heard the question from across the room just as I was about to touch a silicone model of a breast, my fingers searching for a node that would activate a video on the monitor before me. Barbara Hammer’s question was, of course, not directed at me but at the character in Double Strength, her 1978 film tracing the arc of a relationship. It was nonetheless apposite, seeming to evoke a doctor/patient relationship as I began my figurative search for a cancerous lump. This iteration of 8 in 8, a modified

  • “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017”

    Ja’Tovia Gary’s An Ecstatic Experience, 2015, is modestly tucked in the final room of “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017,” which was organized by the museum’s David Breslin, Jennie Goldstein, and Rujeko Hockley. But even before you see the video screen, you hear the steady beat of its a cappella version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This six-minute video—one of the most genuinely moving artworks I’ve seen in recent years—intercuts footage from the “Slavery” segment of a nine-episode 1965 television miniseries called The History

  • John Williams

    The overhead projector—that forgotten castaway of middle-school math class—assumes center stage in Los Angeles–based artist John Williams’s most recent works. With its bulky frame, clamorous cooling fan, and characteristic distortion of the square of its backlit surface into a top-heavy trapezoid that appears on the wall, the overhead holds little of the nostalgic allure of the 16-mm projector, or even the slide carousel. It’s a little too utilitarian, a little too pedagogic to sustain the sexy sheen of the retro. In this exhibition of five new works, Williams, to his credit, didn’t


    In one of her earliest films, Friedman slowly and systematically trashes a room, shattering plates, smashing chairs, and stomping dresser drawers. The Super 8 footage of Total, 1997, was printed in reverse, however, so what we see instead is a lurching, mystical return to order. As in many of the films to follow, from the two-channel 16-mm Bim Bam, 1999, to the cacophonous multiscreen Dichter (Poet, 2017), Friedman uses structural film techniques—looping, flicker effects, color fields, and asynchronicity of image and sound—to highly emotive ends. Though her films


    The great seduction of Laure Prouvost’s work is rooted in the slippage of language, amid the perils and joys of communication and misunderstanding. Her lush and bewildering films distort conventional narrative to such a degree that they can be hard to follow, but the intensity of her voice-overs and the wit of her directives compel us to keep trying. Take the fictional story of the French artist’s grandfather––an overlooked Conceptual artist and close friend of Kurt Schwitters’s––that has proved to be a golden thread from which she has spun a number

  • Barbara Bloom

    A few days after seeing Barbara Bloom’s exhibition “A Picture, a Thousand Words”—a collection of seven sculptures that tenderly activate her familiar techniques of framing and doubling, of looking and being looked at—I unexpectedly found myself in a sunbaked, middle-of-nowhere town for the burial of my grandmother. It just so happened, of course, that the cool gray of her coffin was the same as that of Bloom’s walls. And it just so happened that I had spent much of the night before staring at old photos, fantasizing about why she had been seated on that porch, on his knee, in those

  • Sarah Charlesworth

    In 1993, Sarah Charlesworth completed “Natural Magic,” her first series of photographs made entirely in the studio. By that time, she had spent almost two decades collaging found images to expose and manipulate the ideological structures that underpinned photography, crafting series such as “Modern History,” 1977–79, for which she excised the text from the front pages of newspapers so that the size and position of the remaining images—of statesmen or a solar eclipse or a masked Sandinista guerrilla—laid bare a visual grammar of power. Likewise, in “Objects of Desire,” 1983–88, Charlesworth

  • Dara Friedman

    The question of ownership lurks at the edges of Dara Friedman’s new three-channel HD video, Mother Drum, 2016. The work seems to ask: To whom does this land, this neighborhood, this building belong? Having begun the project after the 2014 discovery of an ancient Tequesta Indian village not far from her home in downtown Miami, Friedman traveled to several American Indian reservations in the Northwest to film dancers and drummers. Mother Drum may not explicitly address the connections between its origin (the unearthing of sacred ground at a high-rise construction site) and its screening room (


    Just two months after the widely traveled European retrospective “The Passion According to Carol Rama” closed in Turin, the first New York survey of the late Italian artist’s work opened at the New Museum. While it’s a shame “The Passion” didn’t cross the Atlantic, “Antibodies”—which features 175 works and an accompanying catalogue with essays by Italian writer and curator Lea Vergine and LA-based critic Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer—more than makes up for the loss. Spanning seven decades, the exhibition covers the full range of Rama’s

  • Jenny Perlin

    The Child of the Cavern, or Strange Doings Underground is one of more than fifty novels in Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages series from the late nineteenth century. In the story, a miner discovers a young woman in a pit and takes her to the earth’s surface for the first time. Despite her wonder at the world above, she returns happily to her subterranean home, astutely declaring that darkness is as beautiful as light. Artist Jenny Perlin named Verne’s book as the point of departure for her exhibition “The Long Sleepers,” but it was clearly more than that: Like a spirit guide, the narrative

  • On the Eve of the Future

    MIT PRESS has just published On the Eve of the Future, a collection of essays on film written by scholar Annette Michelson over the course of three decades. Art historian Rachel Churner, the editor of the volume, spoke with Michelson to reflect on the development of this body of writing, from Michelson’s early encounters with avant-garde cinema in Paris in the 1950s and ’60s to her pioneering work establishing film as a subject of criticism and scholarship in America, first at Artforum and then as a founding editor of October.

    RACHEL CHURNER: On the Eve of the Future is a collection of essays

  • Brian O’Doherty

    Nearly twenty years after Barnett Newman’s second exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery—the now-canonical show at which he presented Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950–51; The Wild, 1950; and Here I, 1950, to widespread critical disdain—and only a few months after his death, the Irish artist Brian O’Doherty debuted a series of sculptures in the same space. Six feet tall and under three inches wide and thick, these works were each made from two strips of polished aluminum that had been joined together at angles to form a V- or W-shaped groove and then “framed” by strips of painted wood. On

  • Susan Lipper

    As Susan Lipper laconically tells it, a “series of chance events” led her from New York to Grapevine Branch, West Virginia, in the late 1980s. There, in this tiny Appalachian community at the southwestern tip of the state, she “was immediately adopted by most of the inhabitants and, in particular, by a certain family.” She lived among the residents of Grapevine off and on for several years, taking a series of black-and-white photos whose immediacy and intimacy made it clear that she had, indeed, become part of the fold. The images that form “Grapevine,” 1988–92, are mostly of hard-living

  • Cecily Brown

    Cecily Brown’s exhibition at the Drawing Center, the first devoted exclusively to her works on paper, delivered everything we expect from the artist: sex, violence, prurient gestural marks, and bursts of garish color. Organized by Claire Gilman, the show included nearly eighty drawings, including works based on paintings by Bruegel, prints by Hogarth, photos by nineteenth-century pornographers, and even the cover of a Dover paperback of “copyright-free” animal figures. Brown created the works over twenty-some years using a variety of mediums (ink, colored pencil, watercolor, pastel) and sizes

  • Sara VanDerBeek

    “Pieced Quilts, Wrapped Forms” may have marked the first exhibition Sara VanDerBeek has explicitly devoted to her research on textiles, but the metaphor of weaving has shaped her practice for the past decade. The seductive C-prints that were on view in the show, most often images of objects built specifically for the camera, deftly interlace image and object, analogue and digital technologies, historical precedents and contemporary production, and easily consumed beauty and labored research. Even as the sense of transgression that may have once motivated such combinations has waned—we are,

  • Jennie C. Jones

    Gray dominates Jennie C. Jones’s paintings, seven of which comprised her exhibition “Amplitude.” Cool and crisp, it is the color of the sound-absorbing panel layered atop canvas in Dark Tone, Red Pause, Gray Hush; warm and woolly, it is the color of the rectangular panel that she uses as her base for steely stripes of acrylic in Gray Measure with Muted Tone Burst; light and tinged with blue, it streaks a ground of white in Emanating Hum (all works 2016). But it is never just a color. Gray, Jones has written, is a “non color all color mixed together with a drop of light,” a “reflection of

  • Martha Rosler

    The inescapable feeling of weariness that permeated my visit to Martha Rosler’s packed exhibition was likely intensified by the summer’s political climate, in particular the improbable, disgusting rise of Donald Trump. With row upon row of protest posters, photographs, maps, videos, archival material, and artworks by more than forty-five contributors, “If You Can’t Afford to Live Here, Mo-o-ove!!” comprised an unwieldy exhibition and series of town-hall meetings organized by Rosler and the shadowy Temporary Office of Urban Disturbances. As a reprise of her monumental three-part exhibition “If