Ronald Jones

  • Phillip Zaiser

    Catch an artist stepping out of the comfort zone of his established, even feted practice, while leaning into nascent work, and the impending split into distinct parts follows the course of cellular division. Biologists call it “binary fission,” and judging from Phillip Zaiser’s new exhibition, it’s what he’s experiencing. Since 1997, Zaiser has been staging droll mise-en-scènes such as a rocker’s trashed hotel suite or the smoking room in a private club—all mockery and pastiche, with artifice as its heart. His latest exhibition, “Expedition,” though also the visible manifestation of an elaborate

  • Martin Kippenberger

    Martin's back! The massive Tate Modern is making room for the colossal Martin Kippenberger in a retrospective of more than two hundred works.

    Martin's back! The massive Tate Modern is making room for the colossal Martin Kippenberger in a retrospective of more than two hundred works. Touchingly, The Happy End of Franz Kafka's “Amerika”, 1994, provides the show's center of gravity; Kafka's epic, like Kippenberger's retrospective, appeared posthumously. Although getting a grip on the artist's dizzying productivity can be like trying to grasp escaping butane, retrospectives decelerate the blur of life, making an oeuvre more legible. You even feel Kippenberger's breath in the catalogue essay his

  • Kristina Jansson

    Two of the thirteen paintings in Kristina Jansson’s captivating exhibition take their titles from Mensch und Sonne, Hans Surén’s 1924 book of photographs that campaigned for the utopist benefits of a nudist life. These monumental paintings are architectural scenes of an interior and an exterior conceivably from the same sanctuary for pleasure-seeking. Both the sun-drenched exterior and the murky indoors show Jansson’s persuasive ability to paint with a mixed bouquet of opulence and decadence. With this conceit of hedonism in full play, Surén helps Jansson with the heavy lifting. A former

  • Jockum Nordström

    Excepting the sex, Jockum Nordström’s tastes run to life’s colorless side. This survey of seven years of work was brimful with caricatures of George Stubbs–like horses, spineless modern architecture, birds that are nothing special, brigantines in fair weather, soulless families, and jazz trios in crew cuts and plaid jackets. Were that not tedium enough, his drawing/ collage style, which an admirer has called “outmoded,” is reminiscent of early David Hockney, with too strong a fellow feeling for outsider art.

    Nordström’s style is indebted to others and his subjects are largely throwbacks to blasé

  • “Here Comes the Sun”

    When is a Konsthall not a Konsthall? When it is Magasin 3 in Stockholm. Guided by an inimitably plucky vision that resists definition, M3 has been staking out its own territory in contemporary art since 1987. Last year, four associate curators—Daniel Birnbaum, Rosa Martínez, Jérôme Sans, and Sarit Shapira—joined the staff, and their inaugural exhibition, “Here Comes the Sun,” materializes in late summer, just as the Scandinavian sun begins its slow disappearing act. Nine international artists, from Israel’s Avital

  • “Whatever Happened to Social Democracy?”

    Leaving its own provocative title unanswered, “Whatever Happened to Social Democracy?” was mostly comprised of works that blandly provided what the curators Pavel Büchler and Charles Esche promised in their text accompanying the show (published as a free newspaper): “independent thinking without a direct political purpose.” The problem is that inciting independent thinking without building consensus toward a direct political purpose is a blank virtue, unmoored from realpolitik in both ambition and effect.

    Where Büchler and Esche got it right was choosing Malmö to stage the exhibition. Sweden’s

  • Kienholz

    Behold the corny soothsayers: Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, who traced the darker fringes of American life with results prophetic and clichéd, have garnered a substantial show at BALTIC. The curatorial team has selected more than eighty works stretching over five decades, including celebrated tableaux like The Non-War Memorial, 1970. The Kienholzes gave us orchestra seats to death, loneliness, furtive sex, and war, but their lesser works have little more impact than a picked-over flea market: curious for sure, but nothing

  • Miriam Bäckström

    Miriam Bäckström’s fine new film Rebecka, 2004, elicits the double entendre: where truth lies. In the film, Bäckström depends on a routine interview style to put forty-two minutes worth of questions and decrees to Rebecka Hemse, a renowned Swedish actress. It is perhaps not so odd that Rebecka calls to mind the first reality-TV show, An American Family, the 1973 cinema verité documentary chronicling seven months of the Louds carrying on their middle-class life. Yet no secret is made of the fact that there is a script for Rebecka; Bäckström met with Hemse several times during its preparation,

  • Efrat Shvily/David Reeb

    This was an exhibition hounded by war, but Efrat Shvily’s folksy video art and David Reeb’s flinty paintings provide stirring examples of the struggle to keep one’s artistic bearings in the face of cyclical violence. This is not to give special dispensation to Israeli (or Palestinian) art, but when you can say, like Goya, “I witnessed this,” you have given up the idea that war waits uncomplainingly outside when you step into a restaurant, a bus, or an art gallery.

    Reeb paints in a menagerie of styles. Now fifty-two, he was a teenager during the Six Day War and saw his career begin to blossom at

  • Truls Melin

    At lunch with Truls Melin the week his new exhibition opened, we talked about his seven months in a mental institution, how he got there, and the exhibitions he has made since. This was his twelfth. The figurines were in his familiar ingenuous style; he describes them as “drunken” sailors. Togged up in naval uniforms, each statuette was slotted into a maze of steel conduits, and with all the shutdown valves interspersed throughout the piping, the allusion to the claustrophobic quarters of submarines was obvious. The structures and figures were uniformly painted in that cool green color proven

  • Annika Larsson

    The climactic “penis hanging” scene in Annika Larsson’s video New Gravity, 2003, retraces the dark fringes of her earlier themes: pleasure from pain, erotic ritual, and a taste for sadism’s aftermath. Moreover, failed episodes of autoerotic asphyxia echo Larsson’s narrative style, where ends are left hanging. But while on familiar terms with Larsson’s fictionalized exotica, New Gravity is on its own in confronting the history of lethal sexual behavior and its self-inflicted moral predicaments.

    In Dog, 2000, and Pink Ball, 2003, Larsson pushed off Barbara Kruger’s mocking of male sexual personae

  • “Adorno: The Possibility of the Impossible”

    Frankfurt was Theodor Adorno’s home for most of his life, so it is fitting that the Frankfurter Kunstverein has organized “Adorno: Die Möglichkeit des Unmöglichen” (Adorno: The Possibility of the Impossible) at the end of 2003, the centennial of his birth. Including work by more than thirty artists that spans nearly fifty years, the exhibition acknowledges his momentous contributions to modern philosophy and aesthetic theory but does so in the spirit of his writing, with equal degrees of wonder and doubt. In his own time, Adorno speculated about whether art would be able to endure late capitalism

  • the best books of 2003


    Though photography was first believed to entail the death of painting, early photographs presented viewers with a dead world: Objects could be rendered with clarity only under the conditions of nature morte. Unlike paintings, which were able to depict the fact that, say, horses were in motion, the camera could capture animals only when immobile. Eadweard Muybridge’s achievement in 1872—thirty-three years after photography’s invention—was to bring the new medium abreast of painting by depicting the fact that a live horse was in motion. Muybridge had taken an important


    MARTIN KIPPENBERGER SPAWNED A WEALTH OF ART-WORLD legends in his truncated career. His practice seemed specifically designed to maintain a steady buildup of anecdotes, many of which continue to circulate today, six years after his death. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Kippenberger’s birth, this month sees the opening of a major retrospective of his entire career at the Museum für Neue Kunst ZKM in Karlsruhe, with additional stops in Vienna and Eindhoven. Though his influence in Europe will be debated and discussed for a long time to come, there is no question that he is one of

  • Ronald Jones

    I recall Kippenberger’s second exhibition at Metro Pictures, the “Peter” show, in 1987. It looked like a Kippenberger warehouse; it was completely filled with objects. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him then. When he arrived in New York at that moment, when neo-geo was the marshaled step of the day, he represented something different from its brand of crisp intellectualism, a certain kind of confident casualness and tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the theoretical apparatus that the American work begged for. In a certain way, he was the antithesis of the order of the day. At the Metro

  • Martin Kippenberger

    “Forever young!” Martin Kippenberger often proclaimed. And with his death, in 1997, it sadly came true. The time machine cranks backward as Kippenberger’s first retrospective opens on what would have been the artist’s fiftieth birthday. Given his staggering productivity, tracking his various torrents of ingenuity has always been a bit like herding cats, but curators Rolf Melcher and Andreas Schalhorn have lined up more than 450 works, from paintings to editions, providing the big picture of the bighearted big shot. The lavishly illustrated catalogue, with contributions by Stephen Prina and

  • “Gasthof 2002”

    HOSPITALITY, IF NOT QUITE STANDARD in core curricula, shows up as an academic subject in a mixed bag of contexts: Jacques Derrida devoted numerous seminars to the topic; the University of Nevada at Las Vegas confers Ph.D.s in the business of being hospitable; and Peter Kubelka, while a professor at Frankfurt's Städelschule in the '80s and '90s, celebrated hospitality in his famous cooking classes. “Gasthof 2002,” a weeklong gathering hosted by the Städelschule in late July, took Kubelka's simple menu and turned it into a multicourse banquet, bringing together 250 students, thirty-two visiting

  • Liz Larner

    In 1987, as Liz Larner’s career came into focus, she was making modest but vivid sculptures out of petri dishes chock-full of ingredients fertile with bacteria destined to “bloom” into decay (e.g., Whipped Cream, Heroin, and Salmon Eggs [3 weeks]). Back then it would have been difficult to imagine her work ever getting caught up in an effete debate over the relationship between form and color, the nattering between the likes of Anthony Caro, Michael Fried, and George Sugarman. But it has. In 1988, one flinched at a safe distance from Corner Basher; as ball and chain whipped into ruin the corner


    *Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was fond of quoting Augustine's dictum that “Beauty is the splendor of Truth.” Indeed, a dedication to beauty in truth permitted Mies to see over the heads of his contemporaries and glimpse what modern architecture would become. German artist Thomas Ruff's appreciation of what it means to make photography modern is likewise undiluted—though Ruff's relation to the “truth” of his medium is somewhat more complicated. In fact, the proposition that photography is not the unmediated bearer of truth it was once thought to be but is, on the contrary, conceptual to the core is

  • the Prinzhorn Collection

    It was 1920 when Hans Prinzhorn wrote to asylums in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland informing them that he intended to assemble “drawings, paintings and sculptures by the mentally ill, which are not merely copies or memories of better days, but rather expressions of their own experience of illness.” This last line summarizes how he plotted the reception of the collection that would ultimately bear his name. Under the rubric Bildnerei (image-making) rather than Kunst, the collected works were to be assigned, not to diagnoses, but to “creative urges” that were evinced by the visual output of