Sarah K. Rich

  • Laura Owens

    AS THE CULMINATION of Laura Owens’s midcareer retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, her masterful five-canvas frolic Untitled, 2015, stood upright on the otherwise pretty empty eighth floor, topping the exhibition like the bouncy ponytail of a debate-team captain full of ambition and Fruit Roll-Ups. With Untitled’s monumental emblems of store-bought cuteness, Owens pulled viewers into surprisingly heavy semiotic traffic, first by playing with categories of the literal and the virtual: She heaped up some brushstrokes in thick dollops of paint, and rendered others as cartoonish,

  • PORTFOLIO: CARMEN HERRERA

    CARMEN HERRERA is finally, at the age of 101, gaining the attention she deserves. With a major survey of her paintings, sculptures, and drawings now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and having inaugurated Lisson Gallery’s New York space in May with her most recent work, key examples from her seven decades of extraordinary output are available as never before.

    To understand what makes Herrera’s art significant, it helps to consider two major influences on her early artistic life: her friendship with Barnett Newman and her exposure to debates regarding abstraction in

  • BROUGHT TO LIGHT: THE NEW WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

    FOR THE MOST PART, American artists have been denizens of the dark. Sure, there have been jaunts en plein air and epic engagements with The Land, but for much of the past century the American avant-garde has lurked in places where vitamin D is scarce: the smoky bar and the speakeasy, the boxing hall and the factory floor, midnight piers, Lower East Side squats, and other enjoyably unwholesome spots. Many paradigmatically modern sites for entertainment have scorned natural light as well, for ambience and discretion (the nightclub) or out of a vampiric incapacity to survive in the sun (the cinema).

  • “Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust”

    Joseph Cornell was famously bound to his tiny home in Queens, a caregiver for his family. As it turns out, many of his assembled boxes haven’t done much traveling either, since they’ve remained for the most part in American collections. But this summer, Cornell’s work will venture abroad to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where the curators will showcase the myriad ways in which Cornell’s intimate assemblages explored the world by way of imagery. Eighty-odd works will be shown—including box constructions,

  • “Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015”

    “ADVENTURES OF THE BLACK SQUARE” begins with a rectangle: Kazimir Malevich’s undated little quadrilateral from the Costakis Collection. The painting is small and squat, and its lateral format pulls it dangerously close to representational traditions of landscape, but the piece nevertheless encapsulates some of the most vital features of Malevich’s earliest excursions into Suprematism. Multiple brushstrokes build the shape, as if to show that the artist arrived at the composition only as the result of minute, painstaking deliberations reminiscent of Cézanne. In spite of this meticulous building-up

  • Hervé Télémaque

    Born in Haiti but active in France for most of his career, Hervé Télémaque has for five decades made works that parse the pictorial vocabularies of consumer culture and that are inflected by transatlantic dialects of race and power. Stenciled letters and cartoonish figures may make a painting like My Darling Clementine, 1963, legibly Pop, but the artist’s ferocious dissections of forms and bodies, as well as his references to loaded stereotypes (a rubber mammy doll is installed next to this canvas), describe American consumerism in a language far more confrontational

  • Sarah K. Rich

    WHEN PEOPLE THINK of Morris Louis’s Veils, they often think of the popular painting Tet, 1958, and for good reason. Tet, which resides in the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, is a gorgeous thing. Its delicate rivulets of paint recall Hellenistic drapery. Its exuberant gush of blues traffics in pleasures akin to those of Niagara. But this exhibition at Mnuchin Gallery, in which Tet joins eight other Veils taken from private collections, reveals the Whitney’s painting to be more exception than rule. As it should: In general, the Veils are dark, weird, and more interesting

  • passages November 12, 2014

    Marjorie Strider (1931–2014)

    It took me several viewings (and getting over my aversion to reading wall text) before I realized that it wasn’t a cherry in the mouth of Marjorie Strider’s 1963 Girl with Radish—that’s how indoctrinated I was in the fine visual tradition of Hot Chicks Mouthing Fruit. But when the radish finally broke through my colonized vision, everything about it—from the puny phallus of its root extension to the promised violence of its crunch—disrupted the flat femininity on which so much contemporaneous Pop art had relied. In the work of her male contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and

  • “Pop Departures”

    Mapping the impact of Pop art over the past fifty years, the Seattle Art Museum zeros in on two key moments in which artists have updated Pop proper’s concerns: the 1980s and the past decade. The exhibition (offering some hundred works dating from 1961 to 2014) will cover familiar territory at the outset, charting distances between landmarks such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, but it will quickly head into more adventurous terrain. Vocho (Yellow), 2004, Margarita Cabrera’s stitched rendition of the once-ubiquitous Volkswagen Bug—for which the artist refashioned

  • Richard Tuttle

    What happens when you commission Richard Tuttle—a sculptor and poet whose famously understated work welcomes pensive admiration for loose string and lightly wrinkled cloth—to fill one of the most spectacular spaces for contemporary art on Earth? See for yourself this fall, when Tuttle’s enormous I Don’t Know, or The Weave of Textile Language takes pride of place in the Tate’s Turbine Hall. Meanwhile, the Whitechapel’s full-career retrospective of the American artist’s work, which emphasizes the function of textiles in his five-decade

  • Ad Reinhardt

    The front room of David Zwirner on Twentieth Street was giddy with Ad Reinhardt’s drawings and collages. Staggered frames across the wall presented meticulous drawings of smirking fat cats, slumbering politicians, union laborers, and other characters too quirky to classify. Among the cartoons produced between 1946 and 1961, a vertical flowchart plotted, across dotted lines and sprightly abbreviations of bureaucratic architecture, the path of a bottle of whiskey from a Scotland distillery to a New York liquor store (and, more important, from 97¢ to $7.84). In a drawing two inches tall, a man

  • the 2013 Carnegie International

    PHYLLIDA BARLOW’S MASSIVE SCULPTURE TIP, 2013, looks like a cortege of festooned tank barriers trudging in a Carnival parade. At once celebratory and grim, Barlow’s colorful Maginot Line squeezes up to the front entrance of the Carnegie Museum of Art and its International as if queuing for admission. But Barlow’s bright wrapping and muscular buildup almost overwhelm the foyer on the other side of the threshold: Here, emptiness echoes. To the left sits Paulina Olowska’s melancholy display of borrowed antique puppets, accompanied by a wrought-iron epigram reading PUPPETRY IN AMERICA IS TRULY A

  • “Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds”

    “The little pencil is a magic box,” Lee Bontecou has said. For proof, just consult the Menil Collection’s retrospective of more than seventy of the artist’s works on paper from the past five and a half decades. Bontecou’s drawings (made not just with pencil but with soot and pastel, too) conjure all manner of super- and subnatural forms. Some are preparatory, detailing the fine seams, eerie contours, or affecting shadows with which her sculptures in metal and muslin cast their spells; other works stand on their own as pure vehicles of imagination, through which the artist

  • Jo Baer

    In the 1960s, Jo Baer brought painting to the edge. With perimeters of black paint around white squares, she framed painting’s repressed material support, and with stripes wrapping around stretcher bars, she lured viewers away from painting’s ceremonial frontality. The Museum Ludwig survey will feature roughly a dozen such works but also some 150 lesser-known pieces in which Baer developed and exceeded her earlier concerns: richly colored gouaches of provocative symmetries and patterns, small rectangular studies (with creased edges and notched corners that allowed her

  • Trisha Donnelly at MoMA

    TAKE ALFRED H. BARR JR.’S famous flowchart of Cubist and abstract art, ca. 1936, and bend it back so that it makes a long cylinder. Make sure the edges overlap a bit so Redon (that hermetic sensualist whom Barr shoved over to the sinister side of his graph, and whose influence he reduced to a dotted line) and Rousseau (the outsider whose hard edges somehow qualified him for positioning on the right-hand side, above the hyperrational Constructivists) lie one atop the other. Take a long pin (ideally an Art Nouveau hatpin from 1900 that was made of a new metal alloy later essential for the production

  • “Giosetta Fioroni: L'Argento”

    One would think that with the recent upswing of interest in Pop art made by women, Giosetta Fioroni’s delicate distillations of visual culture would have become familiar to American audiences, yet somehow her glimmering quotations of movie-star glamour shots and wistful reiterations of family photos remain obscure. Perhaps Fioroni’s broad range is to blame: Her early drawings—playful investigations of the “graphic”—as well as her paintings, book projects, and films defy easy categorization. Luckily, this first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in North America

  • La Triennale: “Intense Proximities”

    “INTENSE PROXIMITY” is a sexy name for an exhibition showcasing art produced for a postcolonial era. It intimates a situation in which distinct cultures, thanks to new technologies and economies, are brought within kissing distance of one another, even if they ultimately end up coming to blows. And by privileging proximity over, say, mixture, an exhibition can explore the differences that persist despite the homogenization that rhetorics of Western globalism often favor. Such was the accomplished goal of La Triennale 2012, which opened at the newly renovated and expanded (though still tastefully

  • “Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture”

    In the past forty-five years Per Kirkeby has moved from lush and brooding oil landscapes to fragile chalk-on-blackboard drawings, from chunky bronzes that recall mined ore to short films.

    Though he is a superstar in his homeland of Denmark, Per Kirkeby is still a relative unknown in the United States. The Phillips Collection will attempt to remedy this situation, challenging though the task may be with an artist as prolific and adventurous as Kirkeby, who in the past forty-five years has moved from lush and brooding oil landscapes to fragile chalk-on-blackboard drawings, from chunky bronzes that recall mined ore to short films. But curators Dorothy Kosinski and Klaus Ottmann have selected nearly forty key works dating from 1967 to 2009

  • “Beyond Pop: Tom Wesselmann”

    When Pop artist Tom Wesselmann ghostwrote his own monograph in 1980 (his nom de plume: Slim Stealingworth), it wasn’t so much a postmodernist gesture of institutional masquerade as it was an attempt to slip himself into the canon; until that point, scholars simply hadn’t given him the attention he felt he deserved.

    When Pop artist Tom Wesselmann ghostwrote his own monograph in 1980 (his nom de plume: Slim Stealingworth), it wasn’t so much a postmodernist gesture of institutional masquerade as it was an attempt to slip himself into the canon; until that point, scholars simply hadn’t given him the attention he felt he deserved. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will argue for Wesselmann’s canonization by more conventional means, hosting his first North American retrospective, including 150 paintings, drawings, collages, and models (plus archival material) dating

  • Willem de Kooning

    THE LAST TIME a major American museum attempted a retrospective of Willem de Kooning’s work, it did not, by most accounts, go well. Critics were fatigued by the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1983 behemoth, which brought together more than 250 works by the Abstract Expressionist, with the paintings crammed next to one another in small rooms, and the drawings and sculpture inexplicably quarantined in separate spaces. The show was top-heavy with recent paintings, many complained (with work from the 1960s to the early ’80s in mind), and major examples of the artist’s earlier and more influential