Critics’ Picks

  • Günther Uecker, Lichtbogen (Arc of Light), 2020, watercolor and tempera on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

    Günther Uecker, Lichtbogen (Arc of Light), 2020, watercolor and tempera on canvas, 118 x 78 3/4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

    Paris

    Günther Uecker

    Lévy Gorvy | Paris
    4 Passage Sainte-Avoye
    October 22, 2020–January 9, 2021

    For the first exhibition at their new Parisian location, Lévy Gorvy has adorned the large gallery with a series of six monumental and lyrical minimalist paintings by Group Zero’s Günther Uecker—mural-like in their consistent scale and limited blue and white palette—along with an array of small watercolors. Presented here, in Uecker’s first Parisian solo show since 1968, they mark a decisive departure from the opulent, nail-studded works that have largely delineated his career. Its title, “Lichtbogen” (Arc of Light), abstractly suggests current struggles to flatten the curve during the bulging fall wave of the coronavirus. Though disappointingly disconnected from our pandemic period’s concupiscent insolence, Uecker’s soothing paintings are achingly stunning, poetically embodying a sense of cool fluidity and light that bends sore sensations toward the Mediterranean Matissean “kinda blue” tradition of voluptuous beauty.

    Stained on raw canvas with a mop-like brush, Uecker’s slow curves are based on the simple watercolors he sketched after visiting the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz earlier this year. The artist describes these relaxing paintings as attempts to magically “overcome an affliction”—a statement reminiscent of Trump’s mythical assertion that we are “rounding the corner” on Covid-19. Yet given the venomous context of the coronavirus, I read his buckling stripes as paunchy modernist zips whose sad slackness strains to rise to the heights of Barnett Newman’s spiritual transcendence. Rather, this group of assiduous arches—which may also present bird’s-eye views of the Minab River—suggests a confluence between the settled past, the flowing, precarious present, and the placid but pointless future proposed by airy spiritualists. 

     

  • Zuzanna Czebatul, The Virgin, 2020, carpet, resin, 14 × 21 × 35".

    Zuzanna Czebatul, The Virgin, 2020, carpet, resin, 14 × 21 × 35".

    Paris

    Zuzanna Czebatul

    Sans titre (2016)
    33, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
    October 17–December 4, 2020

    At the end of October, following a ruling that made abortion due to fetal defects unconstitutional, women across Poland took to the streets and disrupted religious services in protest. The slogan “women’s hell,” displayed on banners hung on church walls in Warsaw, mirrors the defiant energy present in Polish artist Zuzanna Czebatul’s exhibition “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Dick Scorned.” Prominently featured is a suite of drawings of revered spaces, copied by Czebatual from Renaissance paintings in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. Situated between architectural blueprints and sculptural objects, the works are encased in red and brown resin that suggests a womb. Titled after some of the men who constructed humanist ideals of precision and order—Bartolomeo, Domenico, and Vincenzo among them (all works 2020)—the drawings are hung over hand-written quotations from Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud’s text Studies on Hysteria (1895), which argued that hysteria was grounded in trauma, often sexual in nature. Through a stylistically warped font and its partial concealment, Czebatul asserts herself over a mode of patriarchal thinking that sought to tame female behavior deemed disordered.

    Accompanying the wall works are two sculptures of Oriental carpets, Madonna with Child and The Virgin. Rather than adorn floors or stairs as in the Renaissance paintings they were inspired by, Czebatul’s renditions seem to levitate and create their own pathways. They offer a route out of the hell that is rational, male-dominated systems of scientific, political, and religious thought. While the final destination is unknown, the carpets’ status as magical, floating objects encourages marvel at that which is not wholly understood rather than containment and control.