Ivy Haldeman and Douglas Rieger

Helena Anrather
28 Elizabeth Street
April 26–June 17

Ivy Haldeman, Close Up, Calf Over Thigh, Cream, Index and Middle Finger Forward, 2018, acrylic on linen, 24 x 16 1/2".

Ivy Haldeman’s voyeuristic paintings take a joke—all those pairs of hotdog legs extruded onto Instagram beaches—and pull it even further. Her anthropomorphized hotdogs experiment with “lifestyle” prosthetics. They read a book before falling asleep on it, cradle a bananaphone, and daub cream onto a shapely calf. They’re wearing nude pumps and recline in pillowy buns like a Vienna Beef in furs. When their hands—or, rather, knotted serpentine tangles of arms—aren’t tied, as they are in the piece Long Arm, Loop, Half Knot, Coin (all works cited, 2018), they’re holding the flaccid noodle of a cigarette, long enough to drape over a free finger.

Belts, buckles, chains, and a taxonomy of orifices in Douglas Rieger’s wooden sculptures extend the s/m vibe. Particularly exciting is the rather finely turned Gentleman, which reveals new textures and stretchable gauges from every angle. Its jaw is sculpted, and its pate is polished, while an extended cartoony bulge of a retinal cone suggests it’s enjoying the show. Turn around: He’s holding a dildo stacked with anal beads on one end and a teat on the other. Turn again, and a belly button sighs into a pubic thatch.

If Haldeman’s strict mustard, mayo, and Thousand Island palette provides the condiments, flashes of Pepto-Bismol pink in Rieger’s works bring the postprandial relief. Yet the sculptures (the smaller ones especially, which suggest handheld tools or toys) eschew the elegant languor of Haldeman’s hotdogs, suggesting a tension between a Kegel and a clenched fist.

Rahel Aima

Alan Belcher

LMAKgallery
298 Grand Street
May 4–June 10

Alan Belcher, Oil On Canvas (G), 2018,
oil on tarpaulin, 24 x 24".

As my Instagram feed would attest, I have a thing for stuck-on signs and vehicle wraps. I’m taken with the conflation of utilitarian objects and instrumental images, of public displays and commodity come-ons. For someone whose roots lie in Pop, such amalgamations feel more like accidental art than advertising. Toronto-based artist and East Village legend Alan Belcher seems to share this fascination for photographic transposition and dimensional confusion, which, in his hands, opens the commerce of imagery to pointed usurpation, poetry, and critique. Given that contemporary art increasingly manifests—wittingly or unwittingly, ironically or not—as a catalogue of competing brands, the artist’s decades-long double-dealing in the currency of the product pitch would now seem more relevant than ever.

In a move unquestionably witting and ironic, Belcher here presents a suite of eight small- to medium-size pictures of silhouetted oil derricks, all 2018, finely rendered in pitch-black oil paint on canvases composed of patchworked tarpaulins. In pirating the material of Western art’s execution—oil on canvas (which is also the title of each painting)—and supplanting it with punning displacements, Belcher wraps the age-old support of genteel representation in a set of connotations redolent of more worldly and politicized concerns, namely, those attending the administration of wealth, power, industry, and labor. A prolific artist with a deep history, Belcher is best known for astutely transfigured readymades and brand-conscious presentations that focus and shift attention in illuminating ways. In this instance, and not for the first time, he shines a light on painting itself, reconceived as a materially and interpretively rich image-clad object.

Jeff Gibson

León Ferrari

Galeria Nara Roesler | New York
22 East 69th Street 3R
April 11–June 16

León Ferrari, untitled, 1987, collage, 8 x 8".

In the mid 1960s, the legendary Argentinian artist León Ferrari caused a scandal when he took a life-size statue of Jesus and nailed it to a model of an American fighter jet. It was Ferrari’s way of protesting the Vietnam War. The piece, La Civilización Occidental y Cristiana (Western Christian Civilization), 1965, was made for a specific exhibition but whisked away before anyone could see it. It was included in a major retrospective of Ferrari’s work in 2004, but a local Catholic official denounced it as blasphemous and had the whole thing closed down. At the time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the conservative archbishop of Buenos Aires. He is now, of course, the liberal pope of Rome (aka Francis). He and Ferrari, who passed away five years ago, had a long, tangled history. In particular, the artist had written Bergoglio several letters demanding the abolition of hell, which for him, as a concept, was the main source of injustice in the world.

All of this is useful background to the intimate and uproarious experience of circling through these twenty collages and braille works on paper. Ferrari was singularly obsessed with sex, violence, war, dictatorship, intellectual resistance, and the tyranny of religion. Here, those subjects are refracted through the very fine tension between erotic pleasure and religious prurience. In one untitled collage from 1986, Ferrari has turned a crowd of haloed male figures into an audience for a peep show. In another, from 1987, a figure from Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, 1533–41, is crudely squashed onto an image of Japanese shunga. Through wild appropriation and lively juxtaposition, entire traditions of Western painting are made to appear absurdly grim and mean. Alongside vivid examples of the braille works, connoting gesture and touch, the show adds a sensuous dimension to Ferrari’s legacy.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Hipkiss

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
April 6–August 12

Hipkiss, Bulwark #8 (detail), 2017, graphite, silver ink, silver tape, and metal leaf on paper, 89 x 16".

Each of the art duo Hipkiss’s graphite, ink, and metal-leaf drawings—more than seven feet tall—are composed of seven tondos, stacked. Within each tondo is a section of a magnificent imaginary plant. The rendering is reminiscent of Victorian botanical prints, in which the eye of the scientist dominates that of the aesthete. The line quality is certainly reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley, as well as H. R. Giger and Erté. The elegance contrasts nicely with the ink’s direct presence on the paper. Notations along the edges of the works are diaristic, inscrutable.

The drawings’ spliced geometric forms feel like ants, caterpillars, or multiplying cells. It’s as if H. G. Wells had returned with illustrations from a strange and flourishing planet filled with flora-and-fauna hybrids. It is significant that the title of each drawing begins with the word Bulwark and is followed by a number. Naturalists such as John J. Audubon, Karl Blossfeldt, and Pierre-Joseph Redouté treated their subjects as specimens, which necessitated the death of the object of investigation. Countless living things have been sacrificed for curiosity and representation. Hipkiss, however, use a precise kind of inner observation in the service of creation. Representation, for them, does not involve killing. Every Bulwark is a tower of celebration devoted to the protection of life.

It is always a thrill to discover such fully realized art—Hipkiss’s Alpha and Chris Mason have been making work together since 1983. Bulwark #5, 2017, is an accumulation of doily-shaped tondos. Elegant cascading squiggles safeguard delicate branches within. The branches appear to be releasing pollen or grasping for tiny flecks of life: sustenance against our intrusions.

Matthew Weinstein

Ala Younis

17ESSEX
17 Essex Street
April 21–June 2

Ala Younis, Baghdad Diaries – Bread Tree, 2018, inkjet print, 14 x 11".

Ala Younis walks such a fine line between art and nonart that it is thrilling to follow her, even through piles of meticulous (read: boring) research, to see where she’ll land. Ten years ago, Younis created a memorable installation of discarded sewing machines (and a related video), titled Nefertiti, 2008, delving into the history of manufacturing as a nationalist, notably unfeminist endeavor in Egypt. In 2015, she unveiled Plan for Greater Baghdad, which took a handful of old 35-mm slides, taken by the architect Rifat Chadirji, of a gymnasium—designed by Le Corbusier and named after Saddam Hussein—in the Iraqi capital as the starting point for a multilayered narrative about art, history, power, and form. Then Younis took the whole thing and redid it as a palpably feminist concern.

In Plan (fem.) for Greater Baghdad, 2018, Younis revisits the fraught, often embarrassingly macho story of the Saddam Hussein Gymnasium, which took twenty-five years to realize, and wonders, explicity, where are the women? Through a collection of prints, resin figurines, and plastic models, she presents the experiences of seven possible answers via women whose work figured into the gymnasium saga in one way or another, including the artist Nuha al-Radi and the architect Zaha Hadid. The connections are tenuous, but the process—of discovery and inquiry, rumination and association—is wondrous and critical. Here, the pieces of Plan (fem.) are squeezed into a tiny Chinatown storefront (earlier iterations in London and Dubai had more space). They look like curios or the flotsam of mass manufacturing. Younis’s work for Plan (fem.) would make a great book. The piece already exists as an excellent artist’s talk. But in the tiniest of details—the figure of a woman cradling a pile of books, for example—it holds up as an artwork, too.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Tony Cokes

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street, Ground floor and 8th Floor
April 27–June 9

View of “Tony Cokes: On Non-Visibility,” 2018.

“On Non-Visibility,” Tony Cokes’s first show here, opened just as Kanye West’s Trump tweets turned the internet upside down. Could the gallery have known what was coming? Cokes, who teaches in Brown University’s Modern Culture and Media department, has spent the last thirty years crafting films that examine contemporary Western culture’s multifarious (and often contradictory) manifestations by presenting text appropriated from theory, advertising, the news, and myriad other sources on solid-colored backgrounds. Pop songs from a wide array of genres accompany these PowerPoint-y slides, doubling the linguistic charge. Face Value (Kanye West), 2018, takes stills of one of Cokes’s videos and lays them out on the face of a light box in a blue-and-red checkerboard grid. Each rectangle contains a short quotation from West—such as “I am not a fan of books” and “the media crucify me”—creating a fragmented picture of the celebrity rapper that scarily resembles his Twitter presence.

Meanwhile, Gang of Four’s Marxist post-punk blares from the video Evil 35: Carlin/Owners, 2012. The band recently released a very mediocre and ineffectual single, “Ivanka (Things You Can’t Have),” featuring the first daughter’s smug visage as the cover. Morrissey, who recently engaged in yet another virulently Islamophobic rant, features prominently, juxtaposed with a text from the collective Our Literal Speed in the video Evil.27: Selma, 2011, and with footage of the 1965 riots in Watts, Boston, Detroit, and Newark in Black Celebration, 1988. We all know mass media are morally bankrupt and that images deceive. So what are we to do when our musical heroes fail us? In Cokes’s works, these questions layer like sediment and remain unresolved.

Canada Choate

Christopher Chiappa

Kate Werble Gallery
83 Vandam Street
April 13–June 8

View of “Christopher Chiappa: Compositions,” 2018.

Defamiliarization is the engine that drives Christopher Chiappa’s art. Most of the sculptures here feel like coffee tables and nightstands, but from a realm a bit more fucked up and magical. Wooden legs, slinking up and around in myriad directions, feel poured rather than carved. His pieces are direct descendants of De Stijl, Constructivism, or Suprematism, but funnier—serious angles and reverential lines get tweaked into preposterous, quasi-utilitarian objects with a color palette straight out of a Skittles factory.

In the second room of the gallery, the notion of furniture falls away as the sculptures get stranger. Composition #54 (all works cited, 2018) stands like a Brice Marden in the round, an endlessly charming object that’s really a true feat of craftsmanship. One nesting table, Composition #43, is un-nested to spell out the word “ego,” while Composition #55, a long, curved strip of pink wood, is suspended from the ceiling. It dangles only millimeters above a plinth, as if to recall the tension between the fingers of Michelangelo’s God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel—or Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and Elliott.

Like Morandi with his bottles, Chiappa rejoices in his obsessions. Let’s not forget his 2015 exhibition at this gallery, “Livestrong,” in which he displayed seven thousand hyperreal reproductions of sunny-side-up eggs, or the single Weber Grill sculpture he’s been working on for thirteen years and counting. When all is said and done, the work is quite moving. It exists in that tender spot where you know what you’re looking at but you don’t know why.

Wallace Ludel

Daniel Rich

Peter Blum Gallery
176 Grand Street, 2nd Floor
April 13–May 26

Daniel Rich, View from the Palisades, 2018, acrylic on Dibond, 42 x 32".

One of the newest paintings in Daniel Rich’s show here is based on the prototype by Caddell Construction Co. for Trump’s proposed wall between Mexico and the United States. View from the Palisades, 2018, depicts the bottom half of the design in an almost Op art style—the scintillating pattern of a fence, mountains, and sky—suggesting that the divide is a fractured, and certainly fractious, illusion.

The president’s immigration measure is simplistic and stupid. But Rich’s process for making paintings of imposing manmade edifices is anything but. First, he sources an image, adjusts it for desired scale, prints it in black and white, and then traces it onto an aluminum panel covered with transparent vinyl. He redraws his traced imagery with an X-Acto knife and peels off the cutouts to paint in each section with a squeegee. His ruthlessly graphic eye produces tableaux full of dizzying quadrilaterals. It gives his works a vibrating energy, even though people are nowhere to be found in his pictures. Not one human silhouette is visible throughout the hundreds of windows in the cityscape Beijing, 2014, while only the ghosts of spectators occupy the seats in Stadium, Pyongyang, 2018. The absence renders the artist’s urban environments as impersonal—even terrifying. Only through his titles can we identify the specific places on which these generic-looking scenes are based. Politics materialize quietly but palpably in our built environments.

Valentina Sarmiento Cruz

“Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now)”

The Met Breuer
945 Madison Avenue
March 21–July 22

View of “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300–Now),” 2018.

“Like Life” suggests that lifelikeness is the core business of Western sculpture. The historical platform it puts under contemporary practice makes it a near manifesto of plenty more to come. The 117 deftly chosen items for this exhibition range from gems of naturalism by great names (Donatello’s Bust of Niccolò da Uzzano, ca. 1430, which may have been modeled after the subject’s death mask), to forensic gadgets and philosophical toys by nonartists, such as the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham, 1832 (a life-size effigy of the titular philosopher that contains his skeleton, casually seated in his brand new vitrine, wearing his own clothes, holding his favorite walking stick). That item granddaddies the work of living artists whose hyperlikenesses close the exhibition parentheses: Duane Hanson, Ron Mueck, Elmgreen & Dragset, and Charles Ray among them.

Keynote catalogue essays insist that lifelikeness requires color, and accuse the historical critics who imposed the white monochrome of excavated statuary as the one color of high art. The exhibition contents rather unmake that thesis. Clearly, artists (the ancients included) couldn’t ever keep their hands off the weirdest realness they could get, and color was only one tool in the box. The spellbound work of verisimilitude, although often tedious, never paused and has perhaps never been busier than today.

From color to technology—will it bring us yet-undreamed-of queasiness? The latest in hypericons, Goshka Macuga’s To the Son of Man Who Ate the Scroll, 2016, is a life-size seated figure that wakes, blinks, gestures, and talks. Yet some of the far less “real” things here move us with not so much reality; it’s often only a very slight coup de théâtre that accosts us. Rodin’s glass-paste Mask of Hanako, Type E, 1911, weakly pigmented and lying back in a modest vitrine (Rodin kept it on a pillow), is a fair example. Just a little lifelikeness may be enough.

Brandt Junceau

“Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient”

Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, Columbia GSAPP
1172 Amsterdam Avenue,, Buell Hall
March 30–June 16

View of “Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient,” 2018.

The poet-philosopher Madeline Gins and the artist known as Arakawa began collaborating in the 1960s and, over the next half century, left virtually no creative discipline untouched. In the 1980s, the duo launched an architecture practice that radically upended pervasive architectural values rooted in modernist principles of efficiency and standardization. Believing that architecture should actively challenge the body rather than reinforce habitual movement, they reimagined the most taken-for-granted building staples, such as flat floors and walls. Their goal was to recondition the body to the point that the user could literally “learn not to die.” As they wrote in 1988, “[We are] taking evolution into our own hands / With a built-in mistake.”

Gins and Arakawa’s exhibition here displays the couple’s production at the very moment they began to translate their philosophy of “reversible destiny” into spatial design. One series of never-before-exhibited drawings, “Screen-Valves,” 1985–87, studies for an impossible-looking geometric enclosure, suggest an iterative process of developing a visual vocabulary feasible in three dimensions. Other sketches, such as Drawing for Ubiquitous Site X, 1990, are halfway between surrealist composition and blueprint. Artifacts from their archive—unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, Polaroids—are arranged and framed within a gridded metal structure by design firm Norman Kelley. The smart exhibition architecture references both the drawings and an exquisite wire model for an unrealized project titled The Process in Question/Bridge of Reversible Destiny, 1987–90.

Although they did not, ultimately, live forever—Arakawa died in 2010 and Gins in 2014—their proposal for an architecture of immortality was, at heart, a confrontation with foregone conclusions about what a life should be. “Eternal Gradient” offers an (oddly shaped) window into a practice ready to be revivified.

Elvia Wilk

Zoe Leonard

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
March 2–June 10

Zoe Leonard, You see I am here after all (detail), 2008, 3,851 vintage postcards, 11 x 10 1/2 x 47'.

Part of the elegance of Zoe Leonard’s work lies in its straightforward concepts: For instance, in 1961, 2002–, one blue suitcase for each year of the artist’s life is arranged into an undulating line. Over one thousand copies of Kodak’s instructional guide to photography are stacked up by year of publication in How to Take Good Pictures, 2018. And for You see I am here after all, 2008, thousands of postcards of Niagara Falls are organized by the vantage point of the photographer. These premises entail laborious processes, and the resulting visual accumulations relish those tacky fingerprints of human production and intervention—the latter work takes its title from a message written on one of the postcards.

Many of the subjects in Leonard’s exhibition “Survey” engage specifically with social and material exchanges, or possession: images and objects for sale, museum collections, intimate connections, personal archives, absorptions of one material by another. Every element feels distinctly processed or handled, evoking other lives and histories. Leonard’s own hand is also evident throughout the show—in the hooks and eyes, zippers, sinew, and wires holding together decomposing husks of fruit in Strange Fruit (for David), 1992–97; in her reflections in the shopwindows of her Analogue suite, 1998–2009; and in the stilted handwriting on a snapshot of an imagined queer black actress (The Fae Richards Photo Archive, 1993–96).

Her hand and lens function like a finger pressed against the glass. Leonard points to the tensions of appearance and narrative, as subtle and palpable as bark pushing through a chain-link fence. Just behind the glass are those objects of desire, or desires gone by.

Mira Dayal