Rosetta Brooks

  • Alison Saar

    At the entrance to the museum, viewers were greeted to the exhibition by a sculpture of a larger-than-life black male figure hanging upside down. Executed in bronze and attached to the ceiling by a chain, Alison Saar’s Traveling Light, 1999, functions on one level as a bell, emitting a deep-toned chime when visitors pull a cord at the center of its back. But it is also a representation of a lynching, the violence of the act held at bay while the dignity of the figure shines through. The funereal yet heroic sculpture possesses a determined quality, a resistance to violation that seems to cast a

  • James Drake

    Somewhere around 423 BC, Socrates said, “If we had neither voice nor tongue, and yet wished to manifest things to one another, should we not . . . endeavor to signify our meaning by the hands, head, and other parts of the body?” “Tongue-Cut Spanows,” a suite of works by James Drake simultaneously on view at ArtPace in San Antonio and the Pamela Auchincloss Projects space in New York City, was a powerful and elegant expression of that observation. The impetus for the project came from a daily event that occurs in the artist’s home of El Paso: groups of women gather outside the county jail for

  • Nan Goldin

    Nothing redeems like beauty. It redeems even Nan Goldin’s subject matter. The experience of confronting her recent show in Los Angeles, which gathered older photos together with some newer ones, was like being trapped in the combustion chamber of an engine: instead of air and fuel igniting under pressure,. the volatile mixture was the repulsion of intimate lives on quasi-voyeuristic display and the attraction of the awesome beauty with which Goldin captured them.

    The most powerful of the artist’s diaristic pictures—of guys and girls drinking beer at an impromptu party, zoned out in the Bowery

  • Larry Johnson

    Critics have described Larry Johnson’s work as ironic, witty, and cool, seeing it as “a deliberate provocation, a mocking . . . perpetuation of (coy, cruel, twisted) defense mechanisms” or “user-friendly, if slightly bitchy art—bereft of interiority . . . and custom tailored to intensify those pleasures of the text that Roland Barthes extols.” These quotes are from writers I like and admire, and they get at the heart of some of Johnson’s earlier efforts. But what I saw in the artist’s new works, all from 1998, was only an attitude of cool, a facade of bitchy wit, and an appearance of impersonal,

  • Sarah Perry

    In the desert where I live, rusty junk—spent bullet cartridges, empty beer cans, abandoned cars and trucks, decrepit appliances—is as much a part of the environment as cacti and Joshua trees. I don’t know why, but all that junk scattered around is strangely reasoning, comforting almost. Perhaps that is because it represents a trace of humanity in a landscape that can seem immeasurably hostile. Or perhaps there’s something else: a feeling that these things falling apart in the sun have their own spirits, afterlives of their usefulness waiting to be revealed.

    Viewing Sarah Perry’s exhibition “Seeing

  • William Kentridge

    The story of South Africa in the twentieth century is the story of apartheid. The political turmoil and tragic consequences of that oppressive system haunt the work of South African artist William Kentridge. “I have never tried,” the artist has said, “to make illustrations of apartheid, but the drawings and films are certainly spawned by and feed off the brutalized society left in its wake.” Kentridge’s art entails submitting a handful of his sensuous, black-and-white charcoal drawings (usually twenty or so) to a succession of erasures and additions, altering and transforming each work multiple

  • Peter Shelton

    A reverent stillness permeates Peter Shelton’s recent sculptural installation Sixtyslippers, 1997. The work consists of sixty cast-iron cones of varying diameters suspended from the ceiling with wire cable, hovering roughly a quarter-inch above the floor in no particular pattern. The cones fill the gallery space while allowing the viewer to move around and through them.

    Like many of his peers who began making sculptural installations in the ’80s, Shelton’s work combines Minimalism’s geometric reductions with post-Minimalism’s allusions to human and organic forms. There has also been a marked

  • Wallace Berman

    Many artists and critics continue to identify Wallace Berman as the leading luminary of the assemblage movement that swept California four decades back. Though it’s difficult to distinguish myth from fact in this respect—Bruce Conner, Edward Kienholz, Jess, and George Herms have all at one time or another disputed this characterization of Berman—his impact on the era remains clear. During his time spent living in LA, his home in Topanga Canyon became a haven for artists, musicians, and poets alike, providing them with a sense of community as well as a place to exchange ideas and information

  • Michael Zwack

    Michael Zwack’s paintings, which originate in photographs, render the familiar uncanny. Zwack sometimes projects a slide onto canvas then rubs, wipes away, and builds up layers of paint to blur the outlines of the image and alter the colors so that the whole seems to have been culled from the depths of the imagination. Though the landscapes and buildings he depicts look as if they ought to be identifiable, they have a timeless, almost universal quality about them.

    Part of a generation of artists in the early ’80s who appropriated mass media imagery, Zwack reconsiders the impact of the photographic

  • Lynn Foulkes

    The recent retrospective exhibition of Llyn Foulkes’ work, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” demonstrated that though the form and subject matter of his work have varied widely over the years—from semiabstract assemblages, to the rocky landscapes of the ’60s, to the bloodied self-portraits of the ’70s, to the satirical paintings of the last two decades—the complexity and passion of Foulkes’ vision has scarcely faltered. Occupying a territory somewhere between the horrific, hallucinatory world of Philip K. Dick and the cartoons of Walt Disney, his art constantly grapples with what has infected

  • “Narcissistic Disturbances”

    America has become a society obsessed with its obsessions; a tribe of people for whom 12-Step Programs are themselves the addiction. Any predilection for altered states automatically makes you a substance abuser in denial about your dependency. Slowly but inexorably, we are sanitizing our minds and bodies, transforming them into hollow sanctuaries dedicated to “normalcy.” A recent exhibition “Narcissistic Disturbances,” curated by Michael Cohen, takes our self-obsession and reinvests it with its neurotic edge. In the curator’s eyes, the work of the 16 artists shown here challenges the notion

  • David Levinthal

    David Levinthal’s strange, ambiguous narrative scenes—photographs of miniature dolls (toy soldiers, female pinups, cowboys, Roman gladiators, etc.) arranged in suggestive tableaux-hover somewhere between fact and fiction. In his series of photographs entitled “Modern Romance,” 1984–86—miniature scenes of city streets, hotels, and seedy characters in questionable environments—Edward Hopper meets film noir. Blurred and deliberately out of focus, these images seem almost real, as if they had been captured on a surveillance camera.

    In his most recent show, he presented two bodies of work whose subject

  • George Herms

    George Herms is one of America’s major practitioners of assemblage art; his is an art that celebrates junk and that views salvaging it as a path to salvation. Rusty old objects are his favorite material. For his recent exhibition entitled “Project X (An Instant Elation),” he created a host of sculptural assemblages from the scraps of daily life and displayed them in the upper gallery, recreating his studio environment.

    One of the most distinctive features of his art is its totemic, incantatory nature. The works often invoke devotional spaces, displaying the detritus of urban life as an assembly

  • “Love in the Ruins”

    To most people, Los Angeles is a city of perpetual sunshine and eternal optimism. Historically, artists and the art business have stuck to the East Coast and West Coast art has always enjoyed a strangely tangential relationship to this “center” of the art world. Embracing a refreshing sense of the absurd that contrasts with the high-seriousness of the New York art world, and framed by a culture of unreality (the film business), art in California has often seemed like an antidote to the high-art ideals of the mainstream art world.

    Artists like Edward Ruscha, John Baldessari, Alexis Smith, Llyn

  • Sabina Ott

    There is a domestic wildness, a rhythm-as-layered-energy to Sabina Ott’s new paintings. Pigmented encaustic, poured and manipulated onto rich mahogany panels, evolves into forms that oscillate between uneven grids and tangled, intertwined lines, alternatingly suggesting roses and arteries.

    Roses have been the focus of Ott’s attention for the past several years. Of course, the rose is an ancient poetic symbol, an icon of male and female, beauty and pain, love and death. But Ott’s new series of paintings, “the sub rosa series,” 1993–94, does not evoke the roses in Dante, Robert Burns, or even

  • FROM THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: TERRY ALLEN'S BADLANDS

    The American/Mexican border has been described as “una herida abierta [an open wound] where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms, it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture.”1

    Borders are usually formed in the aftermath of war to differentiate safe places from dangerous ones, in a distinction of us from them. They are often unsettled and unsettling wastelands: spaces informed by the emotional residue of imposing unnatural boundaries. The towns that spring up around these zones, homes for the human

  • SOUL CITY: AN INTERVIEW WITH ALAN RUDOLPH

    ALAN RUDOLPH'S TERRAIN is the shadowland of the psyche, the place where our pathologies find a home—where our obsessions, paranoias, fears, and fetishes ferment and fertilize one another. On the surface, Rudolph's movies can look like simple melodramas, but the story lines are merely the skeletons on which the flesh of his movies hangs—supports for the primary drama, which is played out between the characters and within them. Whether the subject matter is urban disaffection, love and marriage, or an act of revenge, the main event is the inner turmoil through which his characters pass.

    On

  • Moira Dryer's Dream Catchers

    For Native American tribes of the Southwest, dreams are the guardians of the soul; a region where the pathologies of the spirit, rather than those of the body or of the world, are enacted.

    In the Southwest, particularly in places near Indian reservations, you can buy Indian artifacts from vendors on any street corner. One such object is called a dream-catcher. Made of wood and animal gut, the dream-catcher is shaped like a spider’s web and is to be hung above you when you sleep, or set at the door to your home. The Indians believe that when you dream at night (or just daydream, for that matter),

  • VIOLENCE AND THE SACRED: TERRY ALLEN

    As some spake of the temple, . . . he said, . . . the days will come, in which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

    Luke 21:5–6

    AS I WRITE, the walls of Jerusalem are being torn apart and its stones thrown down on worshipers. Palestinians and Jews are being martyred in their own holy temples. Saddam Hussein is posing as defender of the holy cities. Holy war is on everyone’s tongues.

    The vision of bullet-ridden columns and ancient stones in Jerusalem seems as shocking as the actual images of cobblestoned streets strewn with injured and dying human beings.

  • SOUL SEARCHING: LYN FOULKES

    THERE'S AN OLD TRIBAL belief that you can lose your soul. Unable to connect with either the outside world or the inner, you’re out of yourself. Your links to family, nature, and religion are gone. Nothing means anything anymore. There seems little sense in thinking, feeling, or even praying. Loss of soul is akin to loss of self, and without self you are no longer human. You are simply not there. Because you have no will, you don’t even have the desire to die—though I believe you can die from the utter abjection of being no longer part of the same equation with life.

    Llyn Foulkes’ Pop, 1985–90,