Rachel Churner

  • Melanie Baker

    The smoldering, menacing drawings in Melanie Baker’s “The Optimates,” her first New York solo show in roughly a decade, depicted strategically cropped images of male politicians. The three monumental works on view (the tallest was eight feet high, and the longest was ten feet wide) were rendered with fierce and at times frenzied strokes of charcoal, graphite, and pastel. In Mouthpiece, 2018, Baker leaves the bloviating face of her subject (presumably Donald Trump) out of the frame, focusing instead on the grip of his hands on a lectern emblazoned with a partially obliterated POTUS seal. In Pomp

  • NEVER TOO LATE

    LAST FALL, at the New School in New York, poet Eileen Myles presented an essay they’d written on the acquisition of their archives by Yale University’s Beinecke Library. Having sold 108 linear feet of personal notebooks, drafts, computer files, and trinkets—what the archivists dryly called “mixed materials”—and aware that all would soon be available to the grubby hands of the public, Myles noted, “It was a little like being buried alive.”1 They also described an unexpected self-censorship that arose after they had relegated so much of their past to acid-free boxes. As Myles explained in a

  • Hannah Wilke

    Hannah Wilke (1940–1993) had her first exhibition with Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1972. Feldman—who retired from running his eponymous space last October—represented her for almost fifty years. The depth and familiarity he and his colleagues bring to her work is palpable, as the thirteenth solo exhibition of her art here, “Force of Nature,” demonstrated. With its revealing mix of greatest hits and deep cuts, the show was a tribute not only to Wilke’s singular blend of female pleasure and feminist critique, but also to her defenders, who, particularly since her death, have resisted pigeonholing

  • “An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain”

    Curated by Dan Leers

    For twenty-five years, photographer An-My Lê has used her large-format Deardorff field camera to document landscapes that bear the wounds of wars past and wars imagined. “On Contested Terrain,” the first comprehensive survey of the photographer’s work on North American soil, gathers more than one hundred images from her charged series of military exercises and battle reenactments, such as “29 Palms,” 2003–2004, and “Small Wars,” 1999–2002, as well as evocative ruminations on her homeland, “Viêt Nam,” 1994–98. Organized by curator Dan Leers and accompanied by a catalogue

  • Kristine Woods

    Weaving tends to be a stationary affair. Looms are cumbersome, and the process of threading the weft over and under the warp is tedious. However, the woven sculptures in Kristine Woods’s exuberant show at Geary, “Sparkling or Still,” offered up movement and contingency. Strings dangled, edges frayed, and threads of varying thicknesses were bound together in a tumble of colors that often appeared ready to unravel. Textiles bulged and sagged. Though the works ranged from modest lanate reliefs to a massive installation of felt, they all seemed to have been produced on the move and in haste.

    The

  • Letícia Ramos

    During Letícia Ramos’s first solo exhibition in the US this past summer, smoke from tens of thousands of fires in the Amazon rain forest darkened the city of São Paulo, where the artist lives. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, criticized the Brazilian government’s seeming apathy regarding the devastation; in turn, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, railed against Macron’s outrage, calling his remarks the product of a colonialist mind-set. The ecological disaster and the evocation of European exploitation provided a fitting (if unfortunate) backdrop to “Resiliency and Reverberation,”

  • Polly Apfelbaum and Betsy Kaufman

    Polly Apfelbaum and Betsy Kaufman’s splendid joint exhibition, “Through Thick & Thin,” foregrounded an almost comical number of oppositions between the artists’ works. Apfelbaum’s eight ceramic disks were glossy, loud, and, yes, thick, while Kaufman’s ten square paintings on paper were light, flat, and precise. Apfelbaum doesn’t just layer clay; she heaps up glob after pigmented glob. Kaufman, by contrast, uses the barest washes of acrylic, her paint so thin that the controlled swipes of her brush often expose the white paper beneath. Even the titles offered a lesson in difference that reveled

  • HANS HAACKE

    Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari

    Hans Haacke’s 1986–87 New Museum exhibition, along with the exceptional catalogue that accompanied it, set the terms for our understanding of the artist’s searing critiques of corporate sponsorship, provenance, and the tangled networks of art, business, and politics. Now the pioneering Conceptualist returns to the institution with a long-overdue American retrospective. The show’s curators have gathered together more than thirty of his works, from the early wind-and-water sculptures—among them the famous Condensation Cube, 1963–67, as well

  • Squeak Carnwath

    I walked into Squeak Carnwath’s exhibition just after hearing Carolee Schneemann had died. Raw from the loss of an artist who refused to smooth out her contradictions in the service of easy consumption, I was particularly receptive to the stimulating and unapologetic mixture of fatalism, anger, and humor that characterizes Carnwath’s work, much as it does Schneemann’s. Certainly, I had underestimated the Oakland, California–based artist’s ferocity.

    Carnwath builds her paintings on grounds of milky white, cream, beige, and light gray, layering alkyd oil colors so that the surface becomes a dense

  • Erica Baum

    Via close-ups of found language on partially erased chalkboards, View-Master discs, and newspaper clippings, Erica Baum has established herself as an insightful and nimble poet-photographer. Lists in particular yield an unexpected beauty under her gaze. Take Untitled [Suburban Homes], 1997, a picture of an old-fashioned library card catalogue that cleverly isolates a pair of consecutive tabs marked suburban homes and SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES; or How Long, 2011, which features bits of dialogue along the diagonal fold of a dog-eared page. Even when Baum spotlights an image rather than a text (her

  • Martha Rosler

    Martha Rosler doesn’t suffer fools. Pointedly and with blunt humor, the artist has delivered biting critiques of the misogyny, racism, and exploitative economics that characterize American capitalism and its hypocrisies. Yet the sheer volume of works in “Irrespective,” the Jewish Museum’s potent survey covering roughly fifty years of Rosler’s artmaking, resists any attempt to pigeonhole her art as purely “about” feminism or gentrification. The museum’s cramped first-floor galleries—in which photographs, videos, installations, and sculptures had been wrangled into unruly sections—work to reinforce

  • Hedda Sterne

    In Nina Leen’s iconic photograph The Irascibles, painter Hedda Sterne stands on a table behind a group of fourteen abstract painters, all men, who confront the camera with somber expressions. In her coat and hat, with a shiny purse dangling from folded arms, she towers over Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and the rest. When it was published in the January 1951 issue of Life magazine, the picture bestowed upon the enigmatic Sterne a mythic status. She was posed at a slight remove from the group, her role unclear: Was she a fellow artist or a muse? Despite her extraordinary life