Zack Hatfield

  • picks January 26, 2018

    Terry Adkins

    The words “alternate history” evoke hypothetical extremes, such as unfought wars and imagined technologies infused with the possibility of global havoc. But the phrase might also describe subtler narratives forgotten, effaced, or thwarted by the vicious authors of history. Consider Terry Adkins a chronicler of alternate pasts. The late artist’s performances and sculptures, steeped in the power of music and the music of power, send echoes into the chasms of black history—and so, at first, it feels mildly disappointing that for its debut exhibition of Adkins’s work, this gallery has, in lieu of

  • picks December 22, 2017

    Raha Raissnia

    “All a blur”: We describe monotony the same way we describe chaos. Raha Raissnia’s drawings, despite their quiet consistency, have their genesis in revolution. Amid the 1979 uprising in Iran against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the artist, then a child, accompanied her father to the streets of downtown Tehran, where he would photograph demonstrations. She inherited his interest in the medium, and in “Alluvius”—her debut solo museum show—Raissnia reckons with tensions of identity and form by rephotographing and then drawing found archival imagery amassed over time. Rather than contest the notion that

  • picks November 17, 2017

    Arthur Ou

    Arthur Ou’s photographs here were taken during a single day, from sunup to sundown, at the Point Reyes, California, coast last year. After making a sequence of exposures from the same aerial vantage, the artist tinted each nearly identical analog print with waxed pigment, so that gradations bloom across what would otherwise be an unspectacular seascape. Despite such a deliberate technique, there is a narcotic uncertainty to the photographs, a feeling deepened by the press release’s epigraph from Ludwig Wittgenstein, who remarks that the future “moves not in a straight line, but in a curve, and

  • picks October 20, 2017

    Keith Mayerson

    A famous photograph taken in 1970 depicts Elvis Presley—caped in black velvet, his mouth slightly agape—shaking Richard Nixon’s hand: an enduring spectacle of fading Americana clasped with disastrous politics. It’s no wonder Keith Mayerson chose to paint the encounter, Elvis Nixon (all works 2017), for “My American Dream: Mystery Train (in loving memory of Daniel Tinker Knapp),” a show whose nostalgia is menaced by the tensions of an increasingly fractured country. Here, American landscapes often threaten to implode into abstraction, as in the monumental Paso del Norte: the US/Mexico Border,

  • picks August 25, 2017

    Cortney Andrews

    Like the Joan Didion book it’s named after, Cortney Andrews’s exhibition “Play It as It Lays” is a feat of emptiness, alert to the threats posed by fragile things. If Didion’s characters skirted the moral void of Hollywood—an inner blankness represented by white space on the page—the absence in this show is even more overt, manifested in hundreds of unfilled glasses that cover the gallery floor, an installation titled Play It as It Lays, 2017. Chalices and tumblers, flutes and grails—the shadows don’t play on the wall, they just loom. The work is darkened so that viewers are brought to the main

  • picks July 28, 2017

    Myoung Ho Lee

    In 2015, environmentalists rejoiced after a new study estimated that there are three trillion trees on Earth—an unexpectedly immense tally. Meanwhile, the few remaining photography critics learned of a less joyous abundance: By the end of 2017, we will have collectively shot more than one trillion digital photos in one year—a glum statistic to reckon with in the campaign against a bumbling, illiterate image culture where photographs are taken, not made.

    Myoung Ho Lee attends to both of these profusions with deceptive simplicity. For his “Tree Abroad” series, 2011–17, the artist enlisted industrial

  • picks July 21, 2017

    Megan Marrin

    If the art world had to be reduced to a single smell, the pungent fumes of freshly slathered white paint would make a strong candidate. Its redolence plays an unwitting foil to Megan Marrin’s latest show, “Corps,” a septet of Photorealist paintings that take as their muse the Amorphophallus titanum, or corpse flower. Thousands of people descend upon botanical gardens to bask in the flower’s languid bloom—which occurs every seven to ten years—that is celebrated for a rancid fragrance often likened to that of a spoiled carcass.

    This pageantry is transformed into sexual farce on Marrin’s large oil,

  • picks June 23, 2017

    Wendy Red Star

    In previous photographs, Wendy Red Star has posed amid inflatable elk, creased mountain backdrops, and AstroTurf to lampoon the manufactured authenticity of indigenous culture evident in, say, an Edward S. Curtis postcard. That ironic approach is traded for a more genuine one in Um-basax-bilua, “Where They Make the Noise” 1904–2016, 2017, a photographic timeline of Montana’s yearly Crow Fair—a parade originally installed by the US government in 1904 to assimilate the Apsáalooke into white culture—that spans two rooms and a century in its depiction of Crow customs. A cavalcade of tribe members

  • interviews June 12, 2017

    Teju Cole

    Teju Cole is a novelist, photographer, art historian, and critic whose work often addresses the disjunctures between what is seen and what is known. His latest book, Blind Spot (Random House, 2017), weds the fragmentary essay form with photography, incorporating history, myth, and memoir to limn the connections and contradictions within images made during years of global travel. As discussed here, selections from the book, along with a second project begun in response to the recent US presidential election, will appear in the exhibition “Blind Spot and Black Paper” at Steven Kasher Gallery,

  • picks May 19, 2017

    Cameron Jamie

    Documentary footage of violence that is dramatized or frivolous risks feeling naive at best and at worst like an ominous rehearsal. Fortunately, these pitfalls are evaded in the current exhibition of three films by Cameron Jamie, portraying ceremonies within different masculine subcultures. Perhaps that is because the artist’s interests tend toward the ethnographic. Each work captures rituals that privilege brutality over piety, though the difference is often hard to tell.

    In Kranky Klaus, 2002–2003, male participants costumed as the furred, horned Krampus—the devilish cryptid of pagan lore—enact

  • picks April 21, 2017

    Leslie Hewitt

    Memories continually recalled take on a bleary specificity. A similar kind of dissonance suffuses Leslie Hewitt’s current exhibition, in which photographic still lifes of single objects betray the nuances and slippages needed to make meaning of both personal and social histories. On one wall, artifacts on top of hardwood and photographed from above build up subtle narratives through association and texture. Topologies (Fanon mildly out of focus), 2017, takes the dog-eared cover of the titular writer’s provocative anticolonial manifesto The Wretched of the Earth (1961) as its subject: “The handbook

  • picks March 24, 2017

    “Speech”

    A brutal truth: Images have long maintained an unyielding tyranny over words. The notion is relayed at the entrance to this show, where a colorful heap of anti-Trump protest signage is quietly arranged. It’s a curatorial ploy apt for this photography ensemble concerned with depictions of speech, a theme vague enough to let a stark image of a young, sinewy Congolese refugee cradling a radio (Jim Goldberg’s Prized Possession, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008) hang near Irving Penn’s swankily gothic portrait of Carson McCullers, whose own devastating possession is a luxe cigarette holder (Carson

  • picks February 17, 2017

    Anne Ryan

    In 1948, six years before her death at the age of sixty-five, the poet Anne Ryan discovered the collages of Kurt Schwitters and likened the artistic technique to a visual sonnet. One can see why; both modes often scrape together disparate materials—haptic or not—to evoke a highly compressed self-expression. Ryan soon became an ardent collagist, creating hundreds of works. Unlike Matisse, who approached the same medium in his own final years, Ryan kept her compositions small. Confected from textiles as well as scavenged objects such as twine, paper, mesh, and feathers, the twenty abstract

  • picks January 27, 2017

    Sergei Eisenstein

    The vulgar doodle is a genre seldom given the chance to blossom outside of adolescence. Yet some, such as Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, carry the lickerish art well into adulthood, even becoming consumed by it. This exhibition offers a trove of the Battleship Potemkin director’s “pornographic” drawings, made during trips to Mexico and the US in the 1930s until his death in Moscow in 1948, and marks the first time they’ve been shown in the Americas.

    Divided into small islands by theme or technique along the gallery walls, this erotica, enthusiastically unsexy, parades various styles. Manic,

  • picks December 19, 2016

    Roe Ethridge

    One might contend that art exhibitions, perennially hawking some ideology or creative vision, have more in common with the late-night infomercial—that most unseemly of genres—than we care to admit. Roe Ethridge makes that argument in “Nearest Neighbor,” a two-floor retrospective of sixty large-format photographs from 1999 to 2016. Aesthetically, these images hover above a Bermuda Triangle, one whose vertices are the ambience of luxury magazines, the innocent nostalgia of a family snapshot, and the corporatized, euphoric limbo of stock photography.

    Pigeons midflight; empty Coke bottles; women in