Critics’ Picks

  • View of Batia Suter’s “Radial Grammar,” 2018.

    Batia Suter

    Le Bal
    6, Impasse de La Défense
    May 25 - August 26

    “Ghost stories for adults.” That was Aby Warburg’s summation of his celebrated atmospheric atlas of found pictures, his “Mnemosyne,” 1924–29, and it’s a label I’ve always loved. But who doesn’t love Warburg? Batia Suter’s photographic work certainly feels like a tribute. For many years, the Amsterdam-based artist has similarly sourced images from diverse reserves—antiquarian bookstores to flea markets. She then constructs an intuitive edit from her vast troves, creating collections loosely based on her discoveries of themes and visual characteristics. Her meticulous bricolage often educes associations and narratives that run from the provocative to the obscure, and her latest solo show, “Radial Grammar,” is a prime example of that scope. The entirely black-and-white large-scale, site-specific installation, which shares its name with the exhibition, can feel like a mixed bag, but there are gems to be found.

    For instance, the place where Suter’s grammar brilliantly speaks is on the lower level of this two-floor show. A video slideshow presents images for a few seconds each, just enough time to leave the viewer befuddled and intrigued. The work is nearly thirty-five minutes long and encompasses some one hundred and fifty pictures, but it feels like infinity. The stark images of microorganisms, antique objects, diagrams, and patterns collide and transform, and though all is silent, a rhythm emerges, a mysterious and mesmerizing tempo. The effect is otherworldly in the Warburgian sense, not something Pinterest searches can provide. It’s also reflective of the beauty and anarchy—post–World Cup victory—that have overtaken Paris this July.

  • Pierrette Bloch, Untitled, 1980, horsehair, 16 x 9".

    Pierrette Bloch

    Galerie Karsten Greve | Paris
    5 rue Debelleyme
    April 28 - July 28

    Pierrette Bloch’s limited palette and gestures are as appealing as they are intransigent. The pieces on display here, dating from the early 1970s through 2014, highlight the late artist’s deep respect for paper and her lasting refusal to waste even the smallest of scraps. Among the most emphatic and arresting works on display is a group of minute drawings on long, thin strips of paper—part of an untitled series from 2009. Some are barely an inch tall, marked with innumerable strokes of ink, ink wash, and pastel. Her compositions belie any simplicity one might associate with line drawing. The deep concentration and intensity Bloch displays make the large-format late works by some of her male contemporaries, such as Pierre Soulages and Daniel Buren, appear decorative and unconvincing.

    Also on view are works that expand the terms of modernist painting. A patch of knitted horsehair (Untitled, 1980) and some inked and faded hemp loosely mounted onto a frame (Untitled, 1972) subtly insist that a picture is not a flat surface but a woven, textured one. While anticipating contemporary work by Channing Hansen and Tauba Auerbach, these objects form part of a canon of work by women artists active in the 1960s and 1970s, including Marisa Merz and Gego, that investigates the corporeal aspects of line.