Thad Ziolkowski

  • James Casebere

    As if attempting to keep up with the current boom in prison construction, James Casebere has gradually turned from building and photographing scale models of suburban row houses, ranches, and Venetian ghetto-dwellings to constructing and photographing scale models of various structures of imprisonment—Sing Sing, the now-defunct Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary, and the mobile “jail cages” once used in Georgia. But looking to Casebere’s large, atmospheric Cibachromes for an explanation of what drives our increasingly carceral society is unlikely to get you very far.

    First of all, there are

  • David Reed

    David Reed’s churning ribbons of futuristic color undulate across the surface with cool voluptuousness, as if the paint had been applied with a large serpentine tongue rather than a palette knife. Given such painterly erotics, it makes sense that Reed would come to think himself a “bedroom painter”—a “school” first suggested to him by the way owners of John McLaughlin’s paintings would regularly move them from the living room to the bedroom in order to live with the work most intimately. When someone asked Reed which bedroom he wanted his own painting to occupy, he thought immediately of the

  • Jonathan Hammer

    Pushing the livre deluxe to its luxurious limit, Jonathan Hammer collaborates with artists and writers to create tomes swollen with the uniqueness challenged by the artists’ books of the ’60s and ’70s that, motivated by specific political agendas, were often produced in relatively large quantities as inexpensive alternatives to the limited edition.

    Hammer, a kind of bibliophilic Warhol, gives himself over fully to the role of middleman—spine, hinge—to become artisan and patron saint of volumes so precious they are fittingly, albeit tellingly, encased in vitrines: you could look but neither touch

  • Wes Mills

    Though filament and filiation may not be etymological cousins, in Wes Mills’ work they’re almost twins. Each line in his drawings is a hairlike fracture made faintly incandescent by the passage of a psychic current generated by the line that traces patriarchy’s traumatic contour. Small without being miniature, the drawings nevertheless convey the impression of an extreme reduction—the minimum area in which recollection and reflection can occur—the content kept, by the scale, at a distance that is the opposite of intimacy.

    So while the awkward, childlike gesturality recalls Cy Twombly, the tonalities

  • Sue Coe

    Though loudly protesting the conditions they depict (the hell of an underfunded AIDS clinic, homeless foraging for edible trash, our burlesque of a justice system), Sue Coe’s dreary images also mourn their own powerlessness. As with much socially concerned art, these works badly want to be political action itself, but achieve little more than a gloomy didacticism.

    It’s laudable that Coe produces illustrations of her experiences mainly for mass-circulation periodicals like the New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker. The considerable amount of tribute this means of disseminating her

  • Robert Walser and Joan Nelson

    Both the young American painter Joan Nelson and the Modernist Swiss writer Robert Walser seem drawn to the miniature as if to the vanishing point in a composition: to the idea that a sign or a mark gains in significance the closer it comes to disappearing.

    A novelist, poet, and author of myriad short-prose pieces, Walser early on in his career met the exacting standards of such fellow writers as Robert Musil and Franz Kafka. In the decade prior to committing himself to an asylum, he composed his drafts in pencil on found pieces of paper—receipts, business cards, envelopes, postcards—in


    To discover a conspiracy—

    Is almost a creation.

    It’s a novel whose dénouement I determine.

    The Empire’s at my disposal.

    One alternative: hesitation.

    Why save the Empire?

    Why destroy it?

    Therefore, heads or tails.

    —Charles Baudelaire

    FUSING THE POLITICAL WIT of the Situationists with a conceptual acuity reminiscent of Hans Haacke, Cop Sculpture, 1993, an installation by Ted Byfield and Lincoln Tobier, investigated large themes: conspiracy, exchange value, and the political subject. At the center of the project were the police, or rather a genre of photographs—Cops with Contraband—familiar to

  • Tomas Schmit

    The distance between a line and a line of words is vast, yet the semiotic flames of language regularly overleap that gulf to singe purely visual marks. Even when relatively well integrated, as in paintings by Edward Ruscha, or Jean-Michel Basquiat, words can menace the composition of which they should be but a feature among features. Or consider the best work of Jenny Holzer or Maya Lin, in which, the pictorial having been abandoned altogether, text is essentially wall-to-wall and respect for the consuming power of language amounts to ceding to it entirely.

    A founding member of the Fluxus movement,

  • Walton Ford

    If his own outraged historical innocence is what reopens the vista of early American painting for Walton Ford, it neither quite compensates for the glum maladroitness of that genre, nor for the tendency of lost innocence to avenge itself with caricatures of corruption. A comparable logic haunts Komar & Melamid’s revision of Soviet Realism. Ford, in this sense, is their American counterpart, even as, through his struggle to dissolve the limits of this approach in his recent work, he reveals a relatively precocious awareness of them.

    In Martha, 1993, a mural-sized, oil-on-wood triptych, crowds of

  • Willie Cole

    “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it” was Jasper Johns’ characteristically poker-faced suggestion to young artists. If Willie Cole has taken this advice, he has also taken it to another level, fusing formal repetition with a critique of the repetitious drudgery that has too often remained the province of African-Americans since their forced immigration here almost four hundred years ago.

    In these terms, the best works in the show are the 12 ironing boards Cole has seared with a variety of irons and leaned against the gallery wall. Entitled “Domestic Shield I-XII,” 1992,

  • J. S. G. Boggs

    Post-Modern celebrations aside, money remains the art world’s premiere scandal and original sin. Money puts the “world” in the “art world” and makes it circulate in time with the real world. But references to this fact in artworks, when not overly obvious, tend merely to stimulate palates with a soupçon of toxicity.

    J. S. G. Boggs’ deep fascination not only with the artisanal beauty of currency, but with the very foundations of value, sidesteps the dilemma. In what he calls “transactions,” Boggs “spends” his painstakingly rendered, exact-size drawings of paper currency, offering them in exchange

  • Stuart Davis

    “Stuart Davis, American Painter”—the title of his first retrospective since 1966—begs the question of just how heavily Davis’ success has leaned on nationalistically biased evaluation. But then doubts of this sort have haunted Davis’ career since he was first exposed to European Modernism at the fateful Armory Show in 1913, a contact that ended his previous commitment to the drab but gutsy Ashcan School realism he had so precociously mastered. Though Davis would go on to produce brash, in-your-face illustrations for The Masses during the teens, his painting of the same period breaks out in a