Sean Carroll

  • picks February 02, 2010

    Dana Frankfort

    With their bright palettes and rough rectangular forms, Dana Frankfort’s latest canvases recall early Rothko. Hovering bodies of vivid colors, applied in jagged brushstrokes, pleasurably shock the system on a gray winter day. As in her previous works, Frankfort seeks to go beyond a formal interpretation of color and form through her incorporation of various words rendered in capital letters. Ubiquitous in her work for more than a decade, they are never straightforward. Filling up the canvas from top to bottom, her words seem the equivalent of screaming at the heavens in our digital age.

    The artist

  • picks February 01, 2010

    Robert Pruitt

    A reference to the first DC Comic to feature a black superhero, Robert Pruitt’s new exhibition, “The Forever People,” attempts to harness the attitudes of the hippie generation. Pruitt shifts conceptual gears significantly with this latest work. Here, deep yet subtle juxtapositions are coupled with heartfelt humanity. The new works’ subjects—rendered in charcoal and conté—hail from some mixed-up time and place, their poses, clothes, and attitudes reflecting fractured identities. A serene iconography sets “The Forever People” apart from the artist’s other drawings, which juxtapose American and

  • picks September 23, 2009

    Dawolu Jabari Anderson

    Dawolu Jabari Anderson’s fifth solo exhibition in four years weaves a tight-knit personal narrative out of a Texan, African-American perspective and marks a departure from his experience as a member of collective Otabenga Jones and Associates, though he remains a member of the group. Following a protagonist named MAM-E on her intergalactic adventures, Anderson reimagines classic comic-book covers as large paintings on paper that chart her exploits FROM GEO’GIA TO GALAXIES, as noted in one drawing. With blaring titles, foreshortened action, snappy dialogue, and teasing asides, he channels Jack

  • picks May 15, 2009

    Lucas Johnson

    The late Lucas Johnson’s ink drawings and delicate silverpoints were lauded by curator Walter Hopps as literary journeys, imagist forays into a juxtaposition of everyday life with fantastic surrealism. The self-taught artist, along with his wife—critic and gallerist Patricia Covo Johnson—traveled extensively to Mexico City in the 1960s, taking full advantage of his contact with artists Leonora Carrington and José Luis Cuevas, as well as filmmaker Luis Buñuel, to expand his growing definition of humanist art. Johnson’s interest in sexuality explodes in lewd sketches like Raining Cats and Dogs,

  • picks April 22, 2009

    “Human Nature”

    It’s a common cliché that technology denotes progress, waxing and waning with empires and cultures, yet perhaps the most interesting moments occur when cultures skip whole epochs of development; or when man distorts nature’s cycles and unintended consequences destroy entire ecosystems. Documenting the breadth of responses to the twenty-first century, the photographers featured in “Human Nature” have traveled from Lapland to Capetown capturing poignant and quirky scenes. Pablo Lopez Luz’s Vista Aerea de la Ciudad Mexico, XIII, 2005, is an engulfing view of Mexico City’s sprawl crawling to the

  • picks March 16, 2009

    “Salt Peanuts”

    Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop romp may give this exhibition its name, but the unified, taciturn works give “Salt Peanuts” its tenor of calm cohesion. Obscured passions and intimate universes are served up in this entertaining and rich show. Shaun O’Dell’s “Untitled,” 2008–2009, a series of gouache drawings, sources a vaguely Egyptian mythology, but its concentration on mesmerizing lines and patterns, which are executed in earthy reds, maroon, and deep blue, creates an interior world. David Dupuis goes even further; his postcard-size drawings are as empathetic as Paul Klee’s mystical ruminations. In

  • picks February 27, 2009

    Danny Rolph

    Dominating the main gallery, London-based artist Danny Rolph’s Accelerator, 2009, is a large, vigorous wall drawing comprising collaged magazines and newspapers, drawings half-filled with runny paint, clear plastic sheets, and literature from the 1960s and ’70s. Using cut vinyl in bright yellow, neon pink, orange, aquamarine, and black, jagged forms and arresting dynamics dominate a mélange of pop-culture references. Rolph’s work threatens to burst forth from the surface. Adding a personal touch to the otherwise abstract assemblage, Rolph blends literary texts and sports images with found drawings

  • picks February 20, 2009

    George Smith

    George Smith values the manual imperfections that mar the joints and surfaces of his sculptures. While resolute in referencing Abstract Expressionism and Dogon anthropomorphic abstraction, the artist has always let his hand shine through in small ways. For this exhibition, Smith shifts from heavy, matte-black steel monoliths and icons to lighter work. Burned with saltires, Labyrinth II, 2009, is a field of wooden chevrons that dominates the room. Unlike the artist’s earlier monumental work, the steel Return to Diankabou, 1999, shown in Houston two years ago, this formation is open and inviting,

  • picks February 20, 2009

    “Gateways: Space, Place, and the Transformative”

    The new Burchfield Penney Art Center, across the street from the venerable Albright-Knox, is a knockout expansion for Buffalo State University. This exhibition focuses on the rich history of artists associated with the college through a diverse collection of art from Buffalo’s past and present. Work by notables Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo are mixed into an eclectic and burly menagerie of sculpture and painting that enlivens the “Gateways” metaphor well beyond Erie Canal sloganeering. Dominating the east gallery, Russell Drisch’s painting Gateway, 1989, depicts a monumental pergola over a

  • picks January 20, 2009

    “Thunderbolt Special: The Great Electric Show and Dance"

    Blues legend Lightnin’ Hopkins spent much of his life in the Third Ward of Houston, playing in clubs and on the street and recording nearly a thousand songs. Artist Terry Adkins’s curatorial project “Thunderbolt Special: The Great Electric Show and Dance—Commemorating Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins” pays homage to the King of Dowling Street. Each collection of sculptures, arranged and grouped by Adkins in three traditional shotgun homes, pinpoints the symbolic importance of a different phase of the musician’s life. Upperville (all works 2008), which represents Hopkins's early years in Texas small towns,

  • picks January 06, 2009

    “Photography and Depression”

    Millions of lives were captured on film in the twentieth century, and as darkness and pain became larger than life, photographs depicted war, poverty, and illness like never before. Some images have become part of the cultural fabric of America, constructing a shared conception of hardship and toil that balances the unwieldy optimism of advertising and politics. Dorothea Lange’s four-year documentation of Depression-era migrant laborers in California yielded her iconic portrait of Florence Owens Thompson, as well as many other indelible images, including Drought Refugees from Abilene, Texas,

  • picks December 13, 2008

    Max Ernst

    The centerpiece of this exhibition, an abridged history of Max Ernst’s career, is the mural Pétales et jardin de la nymphe Ancolie (Petals in the Garden of the Nymph Ancolie), 1934. The work exemplifies Ernst’s fascination with the nymph, and here the lounging spirit presides over a tidy collection of his art with a calm vision. In the main gallery, a rock garden studded with Ernst’s stone sculpture rests between the nymph and The Tree of Life, 1927. In the mural, the nymph is depicted as an amorphous yellow body, lounging on a gray background among green leaves and red flower petals. Her limbs

  • picks December 02, 2008

    “Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970”

    This exhibition blasts the viewer with over forty works of contemporary video art and film seen through the prism of black female identity. With no shortage of notable artists, the backbone of “Cinema Remixed” is to be found in the intricacies of autobiographical video art developed by pioneers like Adrian Piper and Howardena Pindell. Several motifs run through the show, not the least of which is sampling and juxtaposition. Some of the artists adopt nefarious images from history and turn the tables on formerly oppressive cultural symbols. A keen grasp of the reconcilable elements of American

  • picks October 22, 2008

    “The Mystique of the Archive” and “A Cabinet of Drawings”

    Sixty boxes of John Fowles’s texts, drafts, letters, notes, and ideas may not be as exciting to the average visitor as to the Harry Ransom Center’s resident archivists and conservators, until the stored contents yield a hidden weapon: brass knuckles kept close at hand in the author’s writing desk. Billed as memory trails, these two complementary exhibitions—“The Mystique of the Archive” and “A Cabinet of Drawings”—offer magic buried in opacity. Glancing at watercolors by Henry Miller and hand-corrected Tom Stoppard plots may not universally inspire visual rapture, but all will agree that the

  • picks October 13, 2008

    Anders Oinonen

    Bewilderment and tension give way to calm and understanding when looking at Toronto-based painter Anders Oinonen’s canvases. With an advanced understanding of composition and movement, he delicately places simple, recognizable elements into his paintings like time-release capsules. Oinonen provides a comfortable balance of color that's dominated by pastel violets and greens, but with punches of hot pink, neon red, and aqua. Having as much to do with Abstract Expressionism as the interplay of characters in a Raphael fresco, the artist uses the edges of the picture plane and his center of attention

  • picks September 30, 2008

    “Mechanical Perception”

    In the gallery’s darkened entrance, a projector plays Eileen Maxson’s Untitled +++, 2008—repeating shots of disembodied hands and the murder of a hapless young man in a witness box. Weighty concrete pillars flank the screen, as sensationally banal broadcasting meets a sound track of über-Melvins drone metal. Maxson’s video builds tension through repetition, splicing lo-fi advertisements and ominous noise into the narrative. As the channels flip and the footage wobbles like a well-worn VHS tape, the astonishing grief of the protagonist providing testimony makes him sickening bait for scorn and

  • picks July 30, 2008

    “Defending Democracy”

    “Defending Democracy,” while not actually defending democracy, examines its subject through three lenses: subversive action and the left-wing artistic tradition in Mexico, propaganda and local community development in the Bay Area, and a mythological reading of twentieth-century century history by Houston’s fictional figurehead Otabenga Jones. ASARO, the Assembly of Revolutionary Artists in Oaxaca, is a practicing social menace and wonderful artists’ collective. The group conjoins stencil graffiti reminiscent of Banksy with more traditional woodblock prints of a type made famous by José Posada.

  • picks July 14, 2008

    “NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith”

    Delving deeply into the mystical roots of the Americas, “NeoHooDoo” uncovers an African soul in the hybrid lineage of various remarkable cultures. The exhibition contextualizes some of the Menil Collection’s Conceptual-art masterworks with strong African-American, Hispanic-American, and Central and South American sculpture and video made in recent years. Visitors to the exhibition are greeted at once by the giant metal edifice of Nari Ward’s LiquorsouL, 2007, in which repurposed corner-store neon signage, decorated with plastic flowers woven with sneaker tips, heralds rebirth from urban neglect.