Sarah K. Rich

  • Untitled, 1964

    “THE ARTIST SHOULD NOT WANT TO BE RIGHT,” Philip Guston said in 1960, when pressed to comment on Ad Reinhardt’s rules for pure art. With paintings such as Untitled, 1964, Guston put that ethos to work. The composition is mostly conspicuous revisions, a portrait of restless dissatisfaction.

    He began by laying down a few daubs of deep red on the bottom third of the canvas. Then he smeared it with white paint in a procedure he sometimes referred to as “erasing.” Were it truly an erasure, however, no trace of the previous color would remain; but in Untitled, we see the smooth ribbons of pink with

  • 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