Robert Pincus-Witten

  • Albert Oehlen

    The works in “Home and Garden,” the first major retrospective of Albert Oehlen’s work in New York, explore separate but parallel universes—representation and abstraction, manual dexterity and pixelated matrix—and commonly bring both together at once. Oehlen is a skilled painter, despite the sensation of glum helplessness his work often evokes, an emotional tenor fortuitously coincidental with (and generative of) our moment in art history when the “de-skilling” of painting passes for fiat: Expressionism as “inexpessionist painting . . . a pretext for an analysis of the act of painting

  • Gilbert & George

    This poignant, down-memory-lane exhibition presented Gilbert & George’s early works: ambitious wall-scale charcoal drawings, numerous little books, announcements, invitations, modest photographs, and letterpress productions. These often-elegant typographic efforts dated from the late 1960s through the mid-’70s, not a long time span when contrasted with the artists’ still ongoing and vaunted careers.

    In 1967, the Italian Gilbert Prousch (born 1943) and George Passmore (born 1942) from Devon, UK, joined forces at London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art. Their student affectations—can there be

  • Robert Motherwell

    “Although he is underrated today, in my opinion he was one of the very best of the Abstract Expressionist painters.” Clement Greenberg’s widely cited assessment of Robert Motherwell’s work from 1991 is generally perceived as high praise, though its careful formulation corresponds to my own sense of restraint about the artist’s work, even when faced with this selection of “Opens,” 1967–74, arguably the painter’s most daring thematic group.

    This ambivalence may owe in part to reasons more biographical than visual. Unlike the majority of his Abstract Expressionist confrères, so marked by first-generation

  • “Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York”

    This comprehensive survey will include more than one hundred works of Surrealist sculpture by some twenty artists based throughout Europe and the US in addition to an unanticipated selection of Man Ray’s rayographs, shots of “La Poupée” by Hans Bellmer, and transgendering photographs by Claude Cahun. So extensive an overview necessarily includes automatic, biomorphic works such as Jean Arp’s Shirt Front and Fork, 1922, and Henry Moore’s Stringed Figure, No. 1, 1937, as well as parallel efforts by Noguchi and Calder. This biomorphism counters Surrealism’s equally marked

  • Peter Saul

    The wonderful exhibition “Peter Saul: From Pop to Punk”—challenging, engrossing, troubling—which consisted of sixteen ambitious paintings and five equally ambitious drawings from the 1960s and ’70s, was woefully mistitled: There was nothing waywardly adolescent about this show, nothing punk, as I understand the meaning of both word and style. Indeed, with the passage of half a century, these paintings seem even more centered and gravely pertinent—prescient, even—given the ghastly world we now live in than they did when they were first championed by Allan Frumkin, the placid

  • “In the Studio: Paintings”/“In the Studio: Photographs”

    Though I am not in perfect sympathy with all of the fifty-one artworks by thirty-six artists and some 150 photographs by fifty-two photographers chosen for this hugely ambitious Gagosian doubleheader, I admit to being awed by many of the loans secured from public collections—always a challenge for a private gallery. Of them, the Picasso classical-period still lifes from the 1920s and Jasper Johns’s paintings took pride of place. Particularly subtle was the way in which the whitish planes of color and rectangular collage-like structure of Picasso’s two 1928 L’Atelier works—brought

  • Keith Sonnier

    A bit of backstory is in order. Leo Castelli’s response to post-Minimalism (notably, to the work of Richard Serra) was to arrange for exhibitions of the new style in a former art shipper’s warehouse located in west Harlem. The raw, garage-like space of Hague Movers perfectly accommodated the vastly expanded scale and the light-infused and propulsively distributed forms of the new dispensation.

    Robert Morris is particularly germane to the present exhibition of Keith Sonnier’s early work; Morris inaugurated the “alternative” Castelli Warehouse space in December 1968, as curator of the exhibition

  • Ray Johnson

    Ray Johnson (1927–1995) has been an artist of compelling interest since the mid-1950s, thanks to two premonitory Pop collages, one depicting Elvis Presley, the other James Dean. Yet for all the acclaim they have received, these pieces stand apart from the larger body of Johnson’s oeuvre, which comprises works that, over time, revealed an intricate tissue of affinities, a network made visible in his diligent Lists of Names, a particular Johnsonian genre. Such is what they are—literal lists of names, mainly those of art-world personalities, each denominated one below the other or punctuated

  • “Man Ray: Human Equations”

    In 1936, Man Ray photographed plaster, wood, string, and papier-mâché models of mathematical formulae housed in the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, creating pictures that André Breton thought of as representing the crisis of the object. Living in Hollywood during the 1940s, Man Ray used these hermetic images for a group of bluntly illusionistic paintings he called “Shakespearean Equations,” titling them after Shakespeare characters. The triangles and T squares of Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings are

  • Judy Pfaff

    A half century ago, the time-honored distinctions between painting and sculpture surrendered to the forces majeures of Minimalism, Conceptualism, and their offspring. Judy Pfaff’s two-gallery exhibition reminded us of that moment in the 1960s when young artists, cued by Eva Hesse, smashed those mutually defining species together to form a single pictorial/sculptural continuum. Some five decades later, Pfaff remains the exemplary figure—the last artist of this type still standing as others (notably Lynda Benglis) have reverted to a sculpture of autonomous objects. Pfaff’s recent installations

  • “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952”

    Compare and contrast—that indelible Art 101 injunction so central to creating meaning between the work of often incongruent and marginalized figures—is the analytical mode that this exhibition, “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952,” invites us to adopt. Lee Krasner (1908–1984), daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and the wife of Jackson Pollock, was long ago reinstated as an Abstract Expressionist notable; Norman Lewis (1909–1979), an African American artist and founding member of the Spiral group, on the other hand, remains relatively underknown.

    This richly

  • Rene Ricard

    This past February, Rene Ricard, the hard-living art-world personality, died at the age of sixty-seven. He was too many things to pigeonhole solely as a poet, though the poems in Rene Ricard, 1979–1980, a slim volume of confessional free verse bound in glossy turquoise like a Tiffany catalogue, leave little doubt as to what his true vocation was.

    Flying the colors of the maudit adolescent aesthete (Arthur Rimbaud meets Raymond Radiguet), the Boston-born Ricard arrived in New York City in 1964 and was quickly absorbed into the world of Warhol’s Silver Factory, where—unsurprisingly—he

  • “Bloodflames Revisited”

    “Bloodflames Revisited” commemorated the swan song of late Surrealism in exile. Despite much that was praiseworthy in the show, its major failing was that the work of its twenty-five artists—complexly installed in the two Kasmin venues—ignored the mad swish and sheer bliss of the original event. What intrigued, after all, was the promised revival of a feckless gay sensibility of theatricalized femininity, worlds away from gay pride, ACT UP, and queer theory.

    The first “Bloodflames” was organized in 1947 by the young Alexander Iolas, a well-heeled balletomane (and former dancer) of Greek

  • Robert De Niro Sr.

    In certain measure, the critical task sheds light on the new as it surveys the old. While the lens and the laptop have inexorably altered our relationship to the brush, must work that reveals a dexterous, evolving hand still be taken for an oddity? The revival of the work of Robert De Niro Sr. (1922–1993) strongly suggests otherwise.

    The twenty-nine paintings and drawings in this show were made between 1948 and 1989. The earliest serve to remind us of a different Greenwich Village, a different Little Italy, and a different Fifty-Seventh Street, one along which the blue-chip galleries were situated

  • “Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso”

    A dual retrospective comparing the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí—wildly disparate artists who incarnate Spain’s Loyalist/Falangist divide—is a counterintuitive but brilliant notion. The young and foppish Dalí met Picasso in 1926 (a crystallizing moment for Surrealism), when the latter’s classicism and aestheticized Cubism were all that Dalí’s sublime handpainted dream photographs and “paranoiac-Critical” method sought to replace. With the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Picasso remained

  • Julian Schnabel

    Julian Schnabel’s “View of Dawn in the Tropics, Paintings, 1989–1990” exhibited twelve large—no, huge—works that reveal yet again that, for this artist, everything is up for grabs. Take, for example, the drop cloths, tarpaulins, and the paint-saturated sailcloths Schnabel used as brushes to spread paint upon his grounds—themselves fashioned from canvas or burlap or what have you—that become, in turn, new grounds or surrogate passages of paint.

    For instance, the deeply impressive Ozymandias, 1990—at thirteen by eighteen feet, rather the star of the show—recontextualizes

  • Ghada Amer

    “Rainbow Girls,” this recent exhibition of Ghada Amer’s new work, tethered a porn-suffused AbEx “allover” to a sculpture of transparent form. Though the influential Egyptian-born artist’s signature nudes still remain as complex linear outline (recalling Tom Wesselmann–like wraiths), gone are the vulvae that added a certain piquancy to Amer’s earlier work. The sculpture Blue Bra Girl, 2012, for example, is a vast ovoid with a prominently displayed face, while in The Heart, 2012, the Rainbow Girls are perhaps a bit more difficult to discern, owing to the somewhat punched-in shape of the heart

  • Germaine Richier

    Recently, Dominique Lévy and Emmanuel Perrotin gave over their joint gallery spaces to a challenging, taste-transforming exhibition of more than forty sculptures by Germaine Richier (1902–1959), many of them textbook familiar, others complete revelations. It was the first New York exhibition of the French-born artist’s work in more than a half a century.

    In the 1920s, Richier had been a student of Antoine Bourdelle, then the reigning counter-Rodinist, an artist widely admired for a type of “heroic,” quasi-geometric realism that paralleled the monumental platitudes of Aristide Maillol. Richier

  • Fortunato Depero

    CIMA, the Center for Italian Modern Art, is a research resource that opened this past February in New York City. Its inaugural exhibition, which remains open until June 28, focuses on Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), a second-tier figure within Futurism, a first-tier art movement. Depero is a particularly apt opening choice, since his career is punctuated by two American sojourns, the first between 1928 and 1930, when his stylish fusion of Futurist motifs and Art Deco design seemed to predict a certain success here in skyscraper New York. The stock-market crash dashed those hopes. Following World

  • Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

    Born in 1933 to a scarcely tolerated minority, the Russian-Jewish artist Ilya Kabakov was nevertheless accepted as a student at the prestigious Leningrad Institute of Art. Ironically, he has become one of its greatest attendees, if one still regarded askance by official taste.

    It is unlikely that those of us who saw Kabakov’s “Ten Characters,” a suite of dioramas installed at New York’s Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1988 (the artist having immigrated here in 1987), will forget the drab repressions embodied in those inspired installations: the smell of unwashed congestion, of families thrown together