William Pym

  • diary June 26, 2009

    Whatever Works

    New York

    AN APOCALYPTIC MONSOON SEASON in Manhattan abated briefly on Tuesday, just in time for the apocalyptic opening of “No Soul For Sale,” a five-day “festival” in Chelsea for thirty-eight nonprofit and independent art spaces and publications from all over the world. The participation-by-invitation event was conceived as an ecstatically rudderless convocation—with taped borders on the floor as its only curatorial affect—by X-Initiative, a yearlong not-for-profit exhibition experiment in the old Dia space on Twenty-second Street. It took the hungry crowd thirty minutes to conjure a Bosch-like hell

  • picks March 13, 2009

    Philip-Lorca diCorcia

    With one thousand little Polaroids rested on an aluminum rail that snakes around the gallery’s perimeter and a whorl of temporary walls, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s debut at this gallery is an incredibly slow burn. Preparatory shots and alternative takes from canonical series throughout the artist’s career are jumbled with twenty-five years of often deeply personal snapshots, leftovers from commercial and fashion gigs, trifles, larks, impressions, and mementos. This Thousand, 2009, a discrete work, is as uncontainable as it is vulnerable to itself, accumulating momentum along its diaristic journey

  • picks February 24, 2009

    “Manzoni: A Retrospective”

    The Piero Manzoni retrospective at this gallery surpasses a “definitive” designation in such emphatic fashion that the casual qualifications for “museum-quality” exhibitions in commercial spaces must now be rewritten. If a dealer can uproot and resite the inverted plinth Socle du monde (Base of the World), 1961, from its spiritual and specific home in Denmark, as well as forage successfully for sixteen of the ninety extant cans of the infamous “Merda d’artista” (Artist’s Shit), 1961, then his is a team endowed with limitless power. Curator Germano Celant hits every period of the Italian

  • diary October 27, 2008

    Something About Mary

    New York

    It’s hard to imagine an artist having a busier or fizzier moment after forty active years than Mary Heilmann. In the past twelve months, she’s taken on the Whitney Biennial, concurrent covers of Artforum and Art in America, Matthew Marks and Greene Naftali’s jumbo group show “Painting: Now and Forever, Part II” (of which she was pointedly singled out as the sole holdover from 1998’s “Part I”), and “To Be Someone,” a career survey docking now on two separate floors of the New Museum after stops in California, Texas, and Ohio. In the face of sustained attention that would hobble an artist half

  • picks July 24, 2008

    “Friends and Family”

    With eighty-eight works and a gimmick, “Friends and Family” fulfills the summer group exhibition’s typical requirements. The lion’s share of the gallery’s artists get work carted out of the studio or dusted off from storage, and the curatorial trick, that each artist and gallery employee pick works by a friend and a family member, ensures that people may recall and discuss the show without having spent much time with it.

    Closed-circuit, familial curating is far from new. Klaus Kertess’s memorable and memorably maligned 1995 Whitney Biennial remains a contemporary touchstone of this style. As

  • diary July 21, 2008

    Wiley Style

    New York

    “Kehinde. Wiley. The World. Stage. Africa. Lagos. Dakar,” proclaimed an echoey DJ via all-weather speakers bolted above the entrance to the Studio Museum in Harlem on Wednesday night. Noising up the crowd, another palpitating Afrobeat rhythm unfurled, and despite the onus of July heat waves in Manhattan, nobody wanted to wait to have a good time.

    This section of Wiley’s ongoing “World Stage” project is also his first solo exhibition at the museum, as well as a homecoming of sorts to the place where, as an artist-in-residence in 2001, the painter honed his current style: gigantic oil-on-canvas

  • picks December 10, 2007

    Steve Powers

    In thirteen years as a downtown New York artist, Steve Powers has defined a graffiti writer’s postgraffiti trajectory. The period of intense urban surveillance and listening to voices on many streets has left him with a dappled, authoritative voice of his own, lyric in gesture as much as in content. This exhibition consists of a sculpted environment of tin signs and several discrete enamel paintings on aluminum; 8 Day Week, 2007, is its clear centerpiece. Describing a typical cycle from MUNDANE to MUNDANE, each of its panels comprise small epigram-pictogram compositions. Day by day, an inevitable

  • picks November 30, 2007

    Sean Duffy

    Los Angeles–based sculptor Sean Duffy’s The Grove, 2006, which makes its East Coast debut in this exhibition, is an installation of several homemade trestle tables, two hundred LPs divided in similarly customized crates, eighteen turntables, and 360 little speakers that appear to have been spray-painted. Viewers change records as they please and choose speed and volume. Each turntable is attached to twenty speakers, which dangle from the rafters at just above head height, their hundreds of yards of cable weighted with plumb lines forming a thick, cloudlike cat’s cradle in the tall gallery eaves.

  • picks October 31, 2007

    Zoe Strauss

    A miniature and charming student-curated space at the Tyler School of Art is an unusual stage for an artist with a widely praised room in the last Whitney Biennial under her belt, but Zoe Strauss relentlessly subverts the commercial demands made on young artists. She is a rare specimen of that creature now spawned daily: the fleet-footed and unflinching documentarian. Strauss does finds pathos in those places favored by many of her adventurous photographer forebears (Diane Arbus, Stephen Shore, Boris Mikhailov, Nan Goldin) and by just about every Flickr neophyte—poetic decay in the built American

  • picks September 28, 2007

    Martin Honert

    There are two new sculptures in this exhibition. Martin Honert is not a prolific artist, so much so that even casual followers of his work will recognize most of the twenty-eight preparatory sketches making up the print portfolio that lines Marks’s space on Twenty-fourth Street, yet it’s more than scarcity that causes the German artist’s output to lodge in the brain. Honert draws from deeply personal sources (his childhood, his Ruhr home) but insists on a delivery so helpfully neutral that it approaches a scientific study of memory, and his works have the universality of dreams. River, 2006, is

  • picks September 25, 2007

    Larry Clark

    Larry Clark’s “Los Angeles 2003–2006”—a body of color photographs and digitally assembled contact-sheet-like polyptychs on view in this exhibition—follows a handsome young man named Jonathan Velasquez through the dramatic transformations in hairstyles and hormones that signpost his journey through adolescence. Alone, with friends, or with Clark’s longtime companion, Tiffany Limos, Velasquez poses gamely at all times, apparently cheerful or, at worst, unstressed by the realities of the world at large. He has one guarded expression at his command—a head dip, pout, and peer from below a straight

  • diary July 27, 2007

    Dirty Harry

    New York

    It is hard to offer more than very qualified praise for the Whitney Museum’s “Summer of Love,” a massive exhibition grappling with the explosive aesthetic and, to a limited extent, cultural discoveries of the late ’60s. Mind-expanding treats do dot the exhibition floor, viz Peter Saul’s grisly Vietnam fever dream and Verner Panton’s plush cave environment, but the show is bundled in unhelpfully approximate packaging and garnished with some unfortunate tat. How is one to respond to Janis Joplin’s daffy tattooed Porsche? Throwaway fun to some, the breezy employment of the hippie era’s broadest

  • diary January 24, 2007

    Free for All


    ICA Philadelphia launched its 2007 program with thunderous and near-comical pomp on Friday night with “Locally Localized Gravity.” It’s a massive project that hopes to replicate the quotidian strategies of artists’ collectives––presenting four from Philly, four from elsewhere, and a lone individual artist––in a mega-exhibition and two-month program of over seventy-five ICA-endorsed events, not only in the institution but in homes, bars, and libraries and on street corners. I say “thunderous” because the scene most resembled the hormonal chaos of a rock club, with smashed beer bottles, prowling

  • diary December 04, 2006

    Common Thread


    The holiday do at the Fabric Workshop and Museum is an unmissable Philadelphia perennial, and this year promised extra buzz and pomp. Thanks to the inexorable expansion of the Convention Center, now leading a third cycle of downtown demolition, the workshop has been evicted from its home of eleven years and must tear down its incomparable archives and production facilities. Twenty-four-thousand square feet have been secured just barely a block away, though, and while there are “nasty little logistics” (a rank understatement from new director Lorie Mertes), Friday evening was greeted as an

  • picks December 01, 2006

    “Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art: Part I”

    In the first segment of this two-part exhibition—geared to probe the relationship between technology and the human senses—I. M. Pei’s generously mutable architecture and Bill Arning, Jane Farver, Yuko Hasegawa, and Marjory Jacobson’s gift for scaled-up institutional curation combine for a spectacular installation, even if one or two of the pieces come out a bit wonky. In a large, dark room extensively kit out with speakers, a booming “opera” of music and effects gives powerful, convincing texture to Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s human-scaled diorama in the center: a dusty shack swinging

  • diary October 24, 2006

    “Untitled” (Book Party)

    New York

    “Oh no, it’s empty,” exhaled the ringleader of a quorum of petite, pointy-shoe-clad young dynamos outside the labyrinthine Park restaurant in Chelsea. The posse then discussed killing an hour at Barneys or abandoning the affair altogether—before the reveal: “Is this the Andrea Rosen party?” Well, it was and it wasn’t. Last Wednesday’s public do in the Park’s back bar was dubbed “A Celebration of Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” and the special, cosmic gist of the whole affair, honored nobly and surprisingly selflessly, was that the artist, tonight, was more than just cause for celebration. He was the

  • diary September 08, 2006

    Full House


    With the scent of five hundred sticks of Nag Champa floating down the wide pavements of Society Hill, the Philadelphia art season got off to a weird but ultimately heartening start on Wednesday evening. An unusual assembly of forces old and new had come together with the noble ambition of presenting a weeklong event with surprise and a bit of heat as the city cools. Sponsorship came from Philagrafika, a new umbrella organization engaged exclusively in the promotion of printed matter with enough brains and funding to merit international ambitions. The art, a video and sculpture installation

  • picks September 05, 2006

    “Pay to Play”

    The guiding conceit of “Pay to Play,” that artists might curry curatorial favor through bribery, is as acute as it is persistently amusing. Kenneth Lay’s dramatic passing came only days before the opening, and the gallery handouts are thick with evidence of the syrup of corruption in American politics. Powerful national matters aside, the idea that an artist could secure an exhibition spot through greasing a palm seems ridiculous and surreal for a show at one of Philadelphia’s newest, and most punky, communal venues. The fifteen young international artists work with the dominant tone of witty

  • diary July 07, 2006

    Independents' Day

    New York

    It’s hard to know how an opening party will pan out when it’s scheduled for the Fourth of July, just as it’s hard to know how a show will pan out when its checklist runs to nineteen tightly spaced pages, but the novelty of both inspired me to give up on firecrackers, Budweiser, and hot dogs to make my way to Chelsea’s Elizabeth Dee Gallery. Early invitations for “Bring the War Home,” curated by artist, bar owner, and former gallery impresario Drew Heitzler, promised a political sampler heavy on scrappy ephemera, text, and time-based work, all in a gallery that (between you and me) only pipes

  • diary April 25, 2006

    Rhine Shrine


    At the Friday night opening of “Make Your Own Life: Artists In and Out of Cologne,” one room of the Philadelphia ICA had been transformed into a plush listening lounge and was pumping out the sounds of the city. In the early going Linda, long-serving matriarch of the gallery’s guards, put on a hot slab of techno (“my favorite,” she said) and strutted with me. Curator Bennett Simpson conceived the record-lined room, and the show as a whole, in 2004, a few months before he hopped ICAs—Philadelphia to Boston. But despite the pull of the music, there was a fair amount of elbow room at the