Zachary Sachs

  • picks June 30, 2017

    “Sites of Knowledge”

    The opaque construction of meaning in art has long posed itself in opposition to more direct performances of verbal language. Both practices can resemble board games, as units of visual or linguistic significance can be reduced to tokens that can be lined up and rearranged. This group exhibition, featuring works from Guy Laramée, Enrico Isamu Ōyama, Michael Rakowitz, Karen Schiff, and Sophie Tottie, among others, surveys the variety of atomic units that make up words, or art, or word art.

    A sequence of Henri Chopin’s works from the late 1970s and early 1980s, which he called “dactylopoems,” are

  • picks April 07, 2017

    “The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin”

    For Walter Benjamin, Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century, not only a center of cultural production but a capital as metaphor—a metonymy for modernity more generally. The contrast between its chaotic street life and the orderly arcade passages that framed its shop windows became the structural concept for his last work, the unfinished Arcades Project, written between 1927 and 1940. This compilation of quotes and original writings is, in turn, the organizing principle for this show combining wall texts by Kenneth Goldsmith and works by Walead Beshty, Andrea Bowers, Nicholas Buffon,

  • picks February 05, 2016

    Klaus Wittkugel and Anton Stankowski

    A column protruding from the gallery’s plate-glass storefront is papered with reproductions of 1930s to 1970s posters and graphic design from East and West Germany. Inside, the varied products of Klaus Wittkugel, a central figure in Eastern European graphic design little documented in Anglophone histories of the subject, are arrayed. Though the exhibition focuses on one designer, it more generally serves as an imagining of the curious nature of the profession in the Eastern Bloc, where the state was the client and propaganda the principal product.

    A vitrine contains artifacts of East German

  • picks March 18, 2014

    Harsh Patel

    Harsh Patel’s New York debut presents a knee-high platform covered edge to edge with monochrome plotter prints, in which graphics interleave bits of signs, photographs, and mysterious symbols into an obscure iconography. One panel, Blix, 2014, is a specimen sheet for an LED font that recalls Mick Haggerty’s digitized silhouettes on the cover of The Police’s 1981 record Ghost in the Machine, which has been overlaid with the shadows of gothic hardware: chains, hooks, and dagger shapes that float over the strict grid-logic of the letterforms. (Each plane suggests a different sort of torture.)


  • picks December 20, 2013

    “Drawing Time, Reading Time”

    “Drawing Time, Reading Time” alternates between the temporal condition of text, which is read in sequence, and that of the image, which is apprehended more or less all at once. Included in this exhibition—which is felicitously paired with “Pencil Sketches,” a parallel and archly titled show of manuscripts by Emily Dickinson and Robert Walser—are works by Carl Andre, Pavel Büchler, Guy de Cointet, Mirtha Dermisache, Sean Landers, Allen Ruppersberg, Nina Papaconstantinou, Deb Sokolow, and Molly Springfield.

    Take Ruppersberg’s and Springfield’s drawings of books, where the writing is often

  • picks April 12, 2013

    Gabrielle Ferrer

    Gabrielle Ferrer’s solo debut, “Transparent Things,” combines three distinct bodies of work interleaved in snaky digressions around the upstairs gallery. Framed pages torn from an exhibition catalogue depicting Navajo weavings—from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1972 show “The Navajo Blanket”—are hung in grids on three of the gallery’s four walls and anchor the exhibition. The artist has applied watercolor over the black-and-white reproductions, partly following the schematic description for each weaving, and a chart listing colors along warp and weft, found in the catalogue. Positioned

  • picks April 12, 2013

    Luigi Ghirri

    Luigi Ghirri was fascinated by the implications of the photograph’s two-dimensionality—its capacity for narrowness and opacity. None of the twenty-five vintage photographs shown here (all part of Ghirri’s self-published Kodachrome, 1978) contain much that could be called reportage, or even a “decisive moment.” Flatness is the focus. In Ile Rousse, 1976, a coastline dotted with sailboats is bisected by a wooden column streaked with shadows captive from another color space. This formal arrangement causes perspective to seem ambiguous, creating two foreign senses of a place—mundane and faintly

  • picks March 26, 2013

    “Paperwork: A Brief History of Artists’ Scrapbooks”

    Art historian Alex Kitnick muses that scrapbooks, like sketchbooks, act as “research and development” for artists: Their pages show a variety of approaches to dealing with a framing device and each demonstrate a range of modes and energies. These thoughts are part of his essay in Paperwork, the catalogue accompanying this exhibition—cocurated by Kitnick and Andrew Roth—which features a breadth of journals and scrapbooks made by an impressive collection of artists, including Brigid Berlin, Richard Prince, and Monika Baer among twenty-some others. Here, twelve tidy vitrines house an

  • picks September 04, 2012

    “Architektonika 2”

    In the long warehouselike Rieckhallen extension at the Hamburger Bahnhof, curator Gabriele Knapstein’s current group show explores how architecture both structures and delimits urban life. A series of bright, high-ceilinged rooms showcase spatial experiments (such as Sol LeWitt’s Modular Cube, 1970) flanked by photographs and architectural drawings. Dan Graham’s “Homes for America” series, 1972, like LeWitt’s cube, interrogates regularity and, in a different way, whiteness. More fervent dissections of homes are undertaken by Gordon Matta-Clark, and, a little surprisingly, they hit a common chord

  • picks August 09, 2012

    “Graphic Design—Now in Production”

    A low-ceilinged space in a former warehouse is an odd place to witness the assembled forces of contemporary graphic design; it’s nonetheless the site of “Now In Production,” a survey on Governor’s Island organized by the Cooper-Hewitt and the Walker Art Center. Inside, ingenious commercial campaigns arrange themselves behind works by a scrappier avant-garde. But since such vanguardists often train their sights on the modes and mind-set of the advertisers, the show has the air of a cease-fire. In a hallway visitors are invited to vote (with poker chip–like counters) on whether they prefer the

  • picks June 17, 2012

    “Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language”

    “Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language” first dances through a largely historical prelude with a short course on playful Conceptual art—“Aesthetic Linguistics 101,” featuring Marcel Duchamp’s “Disks” from 1926 that, like many of the works beside them, suggest a spin into circular illegibility. Experimental Jetset applies the linguistic concept of a snowclone to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1972 “War Is Over” poster, exploding the grammatical kink (If You Want It) with gibberish taken from F. T. Marinetti’s onomatopoeic glamorizing of a bombing in ZANG TUMB TUMB (If You Want It), 2003. The provocative

  • picks June 04, 2012

    “Canceled: Alternative Manifestations and Productive Failures”

    Richard Prince v. Patrick Cariou, a fair-use case currently in appeals, threatens to set a dangerous precedent for the legality of appropriation. The initial ruling against Prince in 2011 included—in a surprisingly draconian injunction—an order that the works be destroyed or never displayed publicly. Cases like this can make an artwork seem considerably less interesting than the machinery of art and institutions that revolve around it. Greg Allen’s YES RASTA, 2011, a deadpan bound volume that reproduces depositions in the case, is one of the sixteen quasi-documentary, quasi-performative works

  • picks April 09, 2012

    Brian Ulrich

    Brian Ulrich’s latest exhibition runs Pop backward through its sausage machine. The ten photographs on view dismantle chunks of advertising—from the fluorescent words that announce discounts to the typologies of chain retailers’ buildings—and reinsert them back into their (often bleak) physical geographies. This juxtaposition highlights the hard times for which there is no suitable expression in ad jargon, wrestling the graphics away from the imperative of sales and back into the entropy of all matter.

    The photographs’ irony is perhaps oversold by the show’s title, “Is This Place Great or What:

  • picks February 05, 2012

    Nick Mauss

    Crumpled aluminum panels silk-screened with obscure photographic imagery litter the floor at Nick Mauss’s solo installation, their rolled and torn surfaces revealing glimpses of partly hidden images on their reverse sides. The twenty-six works are splayed in front of evenly hung glazed ceramic paintings and framed drawings that seem arrested in midcomposition or just as they begin to cohere. The tangles of graphics in those media, too, nimbly approach coherence and then retreat from it; their opacity in the expansive, unlettered gallery space—in which no certain verbal, representational, or

  • picks December 09, 2011

    “We would provide complete darkness”

    The title of this group show is a provocative, if not quite fulfilled, threat. Nowhere in the gallery is darkness complete, but the imagery in the video art in the narrow entryway challenges the limits of obscurity. Heike Baranowsky’s Mondfahrt 2001, a filmed loop of the moon bouncing around on a blank wall like a projected beach ball screen saver, beams over a monitor, and headphones play Carsten Nicolai’s abstract tone-poem video future past perfect pt. 01 (sononda), 2010. The dark passage to the gallery’s back room stages the dazzling patterns of Kitty Kraus’s untitled 2011 site-specific

  • picks June 05, 2011

    “After Hours: Murals on the Bowery”

    As part of May’s Festival of Ideas, the Art Production Fund and the New Museum invited eighteen artists to contribute murals on the metal roll-down gates protecting storefronts on what was once New York’s most notorious skid row, the Bowery. The given parameters––the street’s history, the works’ placement, a limited public engagement––suggest rich site-specific interpretations, and the murals tend to negotiate the resistant intersection of concept and abstraction.

    Near the corridor’s southern extreme, Jacqueline Humphries’s chamfered triptych echoes Decorative Hardware’s awning above with loose,

  • picks May 21, 2011

    Jessica Mein

    “Verso Reverso,” Jessica Mein’s solo debut in New York, has its origins in the outdoor advertising ban enacted in her hometown of São Paulo four years ago. In her collages and animations, the promotional imagery of discarded billboard sheets serves as the basis for a sustained exploration of the paradox of repetition. Approaching Blue Windows, 2011, the viewer passes through a series of teasing discrete resolutions: The collage appears first as muted, high-contrast fragment, showcasing the sharp, unambiguous lines of a commercial photograph depicting a modern building in front of a blue sky.