Thad Ziolkowski

  • Riding Giants

    THE POPULAR IMAGE OF SURFING—a rider on a large, wind-groomed wave—is, alas, an idealization. Waves are bad more often than good, even (in fact, especially) at world-class breaks like Pipeline. Hence surfers travel when they can, in the hope that the waves will be better elsewhere. Occasionally they are. But even in the elite ranks of globe-trotting professionals, most of one’s time is spent doing various mental and physical finger exercises. Great waves arrive like Rilkean storms of inspiration, and serious surfers are fully the equal of artists in the degree of their commitment and obsessiveness.

  • “The Magic City”

    CURATOR TREVOR SCHOONMAKER titled his six-artist show “The Magic City” after jazz pioneer Sun Ra's 1965 album, which in turn was named for the sobriquet that Ra's hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, has seen fit to bestow on itself. While the work assembled here is on the whole too refined to bear comparison with the eccentric visionary force of Sun Ra's Afrofuturist aesthetic, it does have a Ra-like affinity for fantasy, eclecticism, and humor—unusual qualities in work that addresses the fraught issues of race and power in America.

    Barkley L. Hendricks's life-size portraits argue eloquently for

  • Lucky Debellevue

    LUCKY DEBELLEVUE IS KNOWN FOR HIS MYSTERIOUS, startlingly prismatic pipe-cleaner sculptures. Unapologetically pretty, they have the allure of a signature material, and one can easily imagine DeBellevue staying the course, making installations, even building a kind of pipe-cleaner Merzbau. But to his credit, he explores other, less immediately charming strategies in four of the seven works recently on view, experimenting with other sorts of cheap store-bought materials like plastic, foam, and tape.

    While the Mardi Gras junk aesthetic of his work persists (DeBellevue comes from Louisiana), these

  • Kristin Oppenheim

    Kristin Oppenheim’s confident, Conceptualist sound installations combine an extreme austerity of means and materials with recorded loops of her own wan, hypnotic voice. Minimalism has clearly left its mark on the artist, as, perhaps, has John Giorno’s recorded poetry. In Oppenheim’s most recent piece, The Eyes I Remember, 1999–2000, viewers zigzagged through a maze of white, scrim-covered walls while her voice, sibilant and incantatory as if heard within the mind, issued from unseen speakers. It was difficult to make out exactly what was being said, but as I passed through the labyrinth it

  • Lezley Saar

    The nightmarishly fascinating thing about race is that it’s at once real and unreal, social fact and anthropological nonentity. In the US, of course, the issue of race is everywhere, and yet the art world generally fails to reflect that fact. So it is perhaps natural that Lezley Saar, an artist of both African American and white ancestry, should feel compelled to take on questions of race and history in her mixed-media paintings. Certainly no one would accuse Saar of tiptoeing. Her show is entitled “Africans, Tragic Mulattos, Anomalies, and Rap,” and compared with the sort of subtlety found in

  • L.C. Armstrong

    L.C. Armstrong has recently turned from conceptually based abstraction to large, aggressively breathtaking floral panoramas, most of which bear signs, subtle and otherwise, of eco-trouble in paradise. Her signature, in addition to the shield of resin in which she encases her canvases, is the thorny index left by a spent bomb fuse. Here it is reborn as barbed mossy stems bearing up the many flowers, botanically exact and imaginary, spilling giddily across the picture plane. Although the fuse traces lose their purely gestural aspect, as well as a certain isolate nastiness they had in the abstractions,

  • Peter Doig

    Peter Doig has been lauded for his quietly mysterious, gauzily nostalgic landscapes executed in an eclectic range of styles, sometimes within a single work. Bringing to mind rigorous types like Gerhard Richter and Jeff Wall, as well as softies such as Richard Diebenkorn and David Hockney, Doig’s crowd-pleasing canvases remain resolutely neither here nor there. It’s curious and a little heartwarming that, in this pluralistic but nonetheless sectarian moment, there’s a niche for such an artist (especially a painter). Yet, based solely on this show of four large paintings, in which Doig seems to

  • Marco Brambilla

    When I meet someone at the airport, especially for an international flight, I like to get there early to watch the influx of people at the arrival gate. The intermundial character of air travel, its uncanny evocations of birth and death and limbo, make for a lot of psychic drama, and it’s all so clearly legible, flickering on the faces of travelers: relief, exhaustion, anxiety, bewilderment, joy. Watch enough people emerge into the airport’s cold netherworld and strange things start to happen: Everyone begins to look both identical and like people you know, at once interchangeable and unique.

  • Susanne Kühn

    Habituated to variously ironic, goofy, or studiously slipshod painting, I wasn’t sure what to make of Susanne Kühn’s suite of ten acrylic-on-canvas landscapes with their careful draftsmanship and restricted palette of black, white, and somber greens. At a glance her works resemble children’s-book versions of the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich—or what the Douanier Rousseau might have come up with after a visit to the Black Forest. And these first impressions are actually not far off. Kühn, a native of Leipzig, turns out to be for the most part about as unironic a nature painter as one is

  • Michael Smith and Joshua White

    A site-specific work by Michael Smith and Joshua White, Open House, 1999, is one of the most corrosively funny installations I’ve ever seen. It’s Hans Haacke meets Jerry Seinfeld. This isn’t as unexpected as it might sound: Smith has actually worked as a stand-up comic, though he’s best known for his acerbic videos, performances, and installation art. White, on the other hand, along with being the creator of Fillmore East’s Joshua Light Show, works as a director for television and has in fact written for Seinfeld.

    With a press release that resembles a homemade flyer (the kind with the phone number

  • Miranda Lichtenstein

    When I was eight I would sometimes slip on the Batman suit my mother had made me, steal out into the suburban night, and spy on friends through the windows of their houses. The feeling this gave me was complex: potent detachment from that dull, well-lit life, as well as a longing to be back inside, eating ice cream in the glow of the TV. Looking at Miranda Lichtenstein’s “Danbury Road,” a series of large-scale night photographs of mostly upscale suburban Connecticut dwellings, reminded me of those Bat forays. Lichtenstein’s isolate dream houses elicit an adult version of that same conflicted

  • Spencer Finch

    In his previous work, Spencer Finch has wandered the world quixotically tilting his paintbrush at historically fraught sites and subjects: the ceiling over Freud's couch in Vienna, the patch of sky above Cape Canaveral where the space shuttle Challenger blew up, a Civil War battlefield. In each case, he puts a witty twist on his inevitable failure to depict a scene adequately. The sky above Canaveral is rendered as a small square of blue acrylic on a white sheet of paper, for instance—a tragicomically rigorous depiction of the site as seen from the ground. But Finch seems less concerned with