reviews

  • John Kelly

    Westbeth Art Gallery

    A reviewer who puffs up an artwork with the claim that the piece is profound will only end up having to prove it, which is a steep hill to climb. Let the artwork be a performance in which a tall guy sings the songs of Joni Mitchell while wearing her clothes, and the hill becomes precipitous. Yet I did find John Kelly’s Paved Paradise profound, or, at the very least, profoundly moving, so that’s the slope we’re skiing.

    Part of the work’s beauty is its lightheartedness: besides its basic premise, it’s full of jokes. Yet it also has an unexpected emotional power, and this uncategorizable tone, of

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  • “New Photography 12”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    It’s back. Every October since 1985, the Museum of Modern Art has opened a “New Photography” exhibition. This annual event has always functioned more successfully as a back-to-school ritual—where the city’s photography community could regroup, air kiss, and reassess its own balance of power—than as a barometer of what was new or interesting in an ever-changing field. Initiated in the final years of John Szarkowski’s reign as director of the museum’s department of photography, the series’ early installments—with press releases trumpeting “the Museum’s tradition of commitment to the work

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  • “Antonin Artaud: Works on Paper”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    “Few graphic expressions in the twentieth century show the power and authentic inner necessity seen in the drawings of Antonin Artaud . . . they show the heightened sensibility and critical lucidity of a mind at odds with society and unable to compromise with its conventions.” That is the standard Artaud defense, put forward by Margit Rowell, curator of the MoMA exhibition. The reason he needs defending is the stark diagnostic probability offered by Rowell: Artaud (1896–1948) “suffered from confabulatory paraphrenia, a delusional psychosis which is not accompanied by intellectual deterioration

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  • Fred Sandback

    Dia Center for the Arts

    Fred Sandback’s exhibition at Dia is titled “Sculpture,” which seems neither definitive nor inaccurate, just less misleading in its specificity than “Painting” or “Drawing,” both of which might as easily have been considered, since the work involves line, plane, and color but not volume. Yet the artist is apparently attached to the sense that what he does is sculpture, and he sometimes uses the term “construction” as well. The reason is presumably that, as ethereal as his materials are—until recently they have been confined to taut strands of acrylic yarn—they are quite literally and materially

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  • Glenn Ligon

    Brooklyn Museum

    The title of Glenn Ligon’s recently exhibited selection of drawings since 1988, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen,” came to him from the New Testament by way of James Baldwin. Its resonances are thus multifarious, but my surmise is that the most vivid among them is the suggestion of a juridical proceeding on the one hand and a diffidence toward (if not thoroughgoing renunciation of) the “visual” on the other.

    Forbidding as that sounds, Ligon’s works on paper are more engaging than I’ve found his paintings to be. The latter are handsome, to be sure, with an aching intensity that belies their cool,

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  • Patrick Faigenbaum

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    The Prague of Patrick Faigenbaum is filled with silent moments of motionless anticipation: a woman on a bus; two girls at the entrance to a dining room; someone not folding napkins. In contrast to his portraits of Italian nobility, the link between the people in this series is mood, not class. Waiting for something to happen—a destination to be reached, an interruption to cease, a guest to appear—these figures caught in Faigenbaum’s grisaille could as easily have been this way for centuries as for seconds, and Prague emerges as a city of sleepwalkers.

    In part this mood is conjured by Faigenbaum’s

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  • Thomas Demand

    Max Protetch

    German artist Thomas Demand’s first solo show in the United States consisted of four huge color photographs, depicting stark architectural interiors and details, with deadpan, generic titles: Corner, 1996, Corridor, 1996, Staircase, 1995, and Archive, 1995. Face-mounted onto Plexiglas, the photographs seemed to float out into the room like projections. The stone-cold visual power and presence of these pictures were so immediately compelling that it took some time to register that something seemed wrong about them. Something was missing. This moment of recognition was visceral, atavistic, and

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  • Markus Lüpertz

    Michael Werner | New York

    Markus Lüpertz made his first “German motif” paintings in 1970 and his last in 1974. As their subtitles indicate, they are part of a series he called “dithyrambic,” in reference to the irregular, wild lyric form that honors Dionysus. (“Dionysius dithyrambos” translates as “Dionysus, who stands before the double door.”) The paintings, which Lüpertz conceives as visual poems, show him standing before the double door of German history. One opens onto the Nazi past—far from remote in 1970—and the other onto the traditional German fascination with southern cultures. Lüpertz’s flashy, expressive, yet

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  • Rudolf Koppitz

    Houk Friedman

    Rudolf Koppitz is famous, justifiably so, for his Movement Study, 1925, a photograph depicting three dark-haired women, dressed in black from neck to ankle, who support the naked body of a fourth woman with eyes closed, head thrown back. Though thoroughly artificial, especially in its chiaroscuro, it is never labored: the naked woman stands as effortlessly on her toes as the chorus of mourners, and the bright aura that frames them seems as natural as the dark robes that serve to disembody them.

    What appears to be an allegorical tableau depicts, in fact, a group of dancers at the defining moment

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  • Luc Tuymans

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    No one would call Luc Tuymans’ paintings exciting. Their palette is drab, visual effects and narrative details are minimal, painterly flourishes virtually nonexistent. But for all their studied reluctance to call attention to themselves, these paintings hardly qualify as wallflowers. They plunge, albeit surreptitiously, to the heart of the long-standing debate over the viability of painting in an age of commodification. In the ’90s, painting has carved several niches for itself, one of which may be described as “smartly insipid,” a term under which can be grouped artists as diverse as Michael

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  • Alix Pearlstein

    Postmasters

    In her recent solo show, Alix Pearlstein subjected the old white cube to some serious interior decorating. A black video monitor and white chair resting on a square of white carpet occupied the center of the gallery; uniformly framed collages hung on the walls. The pictures all showed the same room plan, but in each a different decorating scheme reigned—a unique artwork with matching carpet, furniture, and figure. From contempo to natural, the “look” of these plans was very ’70s. In representing the bourgeois tastes of the period, Pearlstein also invokes a particular art historical moment. With

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  • Ragna Berlin and Michelle Segre

    Lauren Wittels

    It’s rare to find a two-person gallery show that seems more like a collaboration than a pair of solo exhibitions. This show of works by Swedish artist Ragna Berlin and New Yorker Michelle Segre was such an exception. Not only did the pieces fit together visually, almost becoming a single large installation, but seeing them in this context supplied a narrative dimension to their work that might have been lacking otherwise. Berlin’s installation was in two parts— Spot, 1996, an enormous brown dot painted on much of the gallery floor and two walls, and Mlob, 1996, an accompanying audio piece that

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  • “NY NY: City of Ambition”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Someone forgot to tell the curators that this exhibition’s subject was twentieth-century New York, not Belle Époque Paris, and that it was to be installed at the Whitney Museum, not the New York Historical Society. The city of ambition never looked so cute. Ultimately, I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing: “NY NY: City of Ambition” or the critics who ooohed and aaahed over its daring juxtaposition of painting and photography. For me, that juxtaposition was the only redeeming aspect—not for the works themselves but for raising the important question of which cultural medium is privileged

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  • Simon Grennan & Christopher Sperandio

    American Fine Arts

    While Simon Grennan & Christopher Sperandio’s latest New York show may not have been the first time the collaborative team invited the public to articulate its experiences through artmaking, it did mark the pair’s foray into the phantasmagorical, quasi-mystical aspects of contemporary American life. To produce this project, Manchester, UK–based Grennan and New Yorker Sperandio placed ads in the local newspapers of New York, Glasgow, and Bordeaux (Fantastic Sh*t was also presented at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts and Bordeaux’s Musée d’art contemporain) soliciting written testimonies of

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  • Dawn Ladd

    Bridges + Bodell

    This impressive solo show of recent work by New York–based Dawn Ladd revealed an artist with a singular flair for turning industrial materials into richly suggestive forms. Ladd’s metal assemblages comprise a variety of agricultural implements including blades, pipes, axles, and chains, which are illuminated from within so that rays of light emanate from cracks and joints as if these sculpted pieces were animated by their own life force.

    Whether they take the form of hanging metal shields or lit wall pieces that could almost double as lamps, these works not only transform familiar objects but

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  • Fiona Templeton

    The Kitchen

    Fiona Templeton’s most recent performance, Recognition, is both an elegiac tribute to her longtime collaborator, Michael Ratomski, as well as a continuation of her interest in how “real life” is both amplified and obfuscated when re-presented as theater. The oddly cryptic text began as a collaborative examination by Templeton and Ratomski (who died of AIDS in 1994) “of how to understand or represent another’s experience.” Of course, “another’s experience” loses its casualness here, as the experience represented on stage is Ratomski’s own life. (We are also given videotaped glimpses into his

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  • Trisha Brown

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    Trisha Brown opened her company’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations with the remarkable solo Accumulation, which she first performed in 1971. Wearing a white top above loose-fitting trousers and standing barefoot with knees very slightly bent on the apron of the stage, she extended one balled hand toward the audience (thumb turned down), rotated it, and then replayed the sequence with her other hand. She then used this movement as the opening bar to a series of repeated motions, piled one upon the other. A seminal and iconic work, Accumulation became a blueprint for qualities that would be

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