reviews

  • Barbara Kruger

    New Museum

    The problem with mounting a retrospective of Barbara Kruger’s art is that “art” gets misleadingly emphasized. That artist is now just one of several occupations notched on Kruger’s résumé—graphic designer and media critic are among the others—is a fact MOCA has bravely tried to own up to, even though doing so has led to some pretty absurd curatorial moves. For example, standing in one pristine gallery is a Plexiglas vitrine safeguarding a tastefully arrayed sampling of Kruger-designed coffee mugs, notepads, and umbrellas, the very same merchandise stocked in bulk and available for purchase in

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  • Cildo Meireles

    New Museum

    Conceptual art is often associated with a dematerialization of the art object, but, contrary to myth, few of its practitioners sought to eschew materiality altogether. In fact, most engaged in what might be more accurately described as a rematerialization of aesthetics, wherein images composed of paint and canvas were displaced by the different materialities of photographic and textual information. In lieu of discrete artworks conceived and produced according to the model of the commodity, attempts were made to reveal social form by visualizing networks of power or ideology a difficult project

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  • Carroll Dunham

    Metro Pictures

    When critics talk about Carroll Dunham, the artist they usually mention next is Philip Guston, who, in his late style, also employed crude figuration and garish colors. But if critics invoke Guston to signal a precedent shift from abstraction to figuration, what they often fail to note is that the “Klan” paintings of the ’70s refer back to his pre-AbEx career as a young social realist. Thirty-some years later, Guston depicts himself as the man beneath the hood, turning self-righteous idealism into self-loathing realism.

    This sadder-but-wiser routine is the opposite of Dunham’s move, the classic

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  • Naum Gabo

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    In his “Realistic Manifesto” of 1920 (co-signed by his brother Antoine Pevsner), Naum Gabo declared, “We do not measure our works with the yardstick of beauty, we do not weigh them with pounds of tenderness and sentiments.” But the works on view in this recent showmarvelous late-Cubist heads and space constructions that entangle the viewer in their intricacyare in fact beautiful and emotionally evocative. One doesn’t usually associate the attributes haunting, melodramatic, and intimate with the Russian constructivist’s work, but that’s exactly what these sculptures are.

    In his artistic trajectory

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  • Elliott Puckette

    Paul Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue

    The word “decorative” has carried a pejorative connotation in criticism ever since Clement Greenberg. What makes Elliott Puckette’s paintings interesting is that, rather than integrate the decorative in a larger expressive purpose, the artist finds expressive purpose within the decorative itself. Her meandering lines, which at times scroll baroquelyincised with a razor, they recall the elaborate linear fantasies that Albrecht Dürer inscribed in the margins of his unfinished prayer book for Maximilian Icommunicate excitement, perhaps because they lead nowhere in particular, even as their curves

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  • Peter Doig

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    Peter Doig has been lauded for his quietly mysterious, gauzily nostalgic landscapes executed in an eclectic range of styles, sometimes within a single work. Bringing to mind rigorous types like Gerhard Richter and Jeff Wall, as well as softies such as Richard Diebenkorn and David Hockney, Doig’s crowd-pleasing canvases remain resolutely neither here nor there. It’s curious and a little heartwarming that, in this pluralistic but nonetheless sectarian moment, there’s a niche for such an artist (especially a painter). Yet, based solely on this show of four large paintings, in which Doig seems to

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  • Ceal Floyer

    Casey Kaplan

    Ceal Floyer’s work sits on a cusp between Minimalism and Conceptualism. This is a vexed spot where literality and truth to form, pushed to their logical and rhetorical conclusions, metamorphose into something elseneither object nor concept but a hybrid of both. Ink on Paper (video) (all works 1999) consists of a closely cropped shot of the artist’s forearms and hands framing a white piece of paper on a small table. Floyer wears a shirt with white sleeves; in her right hand is a black marking pen, which she holds upright on the center of the white sheet, so that it bleeds a black circle. The hand

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  • Marilou Levin

    Silverstein Gallery

    Is it possible to redo Surrealism after feminism? And if so, is it worth the doing? Marilou Levin, a young Israeli artist having her first major international exposure with a selection of works dating from 1995 to the present, seems to suggest that it is, with works that combine Man Ray’s estrangement of banal objects and Magrittean pictorial displacement. Maybe the reason Breton’s boys’ club has inspired a surprising number of women artists is that they’ve noticed implications in Surrealist imagery that signify differently through female eyes. Take Man Ray’s iconic Cadeau, 1921, for example:

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  • Emma Tapley

    Fischbach Gallery

    Beyond their scale and genre, Emma Tapley’s small, realist landscape paintings, all but two of the fifteen on view from 1999, have little more in common than their surface quality, which is of an almost perfect smoothness and even density. Although photographs may well enter into the preparatory stage of Tapley’s working process, the paintings themselves are not notably photographic in feeling (except insofar as we lazily associate any form of illusionistic realism with the camera), but they resemble photographs in the way the image seems to inhere in a homogeneous surface, as in an emulsion.

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  • Radcliffe Bailey

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    There is a polyphonic aspect to Radcliffe Bailey’s work that results at least in part from the role of music in his life. I felt this effect immediately on encountering his latest series of painted wood panels (each almost seven feet square), whose design and excess of information endow the visual with the spatial and environmental qualities of music. “What I do may not even be called art,” Bailey once remarked. “It may be called music.” The sheer exuberance of his patternswebbed tendrils of paint overlying patchworks of rectilinear shapes only furthers such an analogy. A certain structure

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  • Jim Torok

    Bill Maynes Gallery

    In a 1970 interview, Chuck Close affirmed a statement made by art historian Ernst Gombrich: “The problem of illusionist art is not that of forgetting what we know about the world. It is rather inventing compositions that work.” Close’s tightly controlled early portraits of art-world folk make for an obvious, though ultimately unsatisfying, comparison to Jim Torok’s portraits of art-world folk in his “hi tech lo tech” exhibition. But if we understand “compositions” to include problems of scale, cropping, and markmaking in the context of the realist image, Gombrich’s statement is key to Torok’s

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  • Lily Van Der Stokker

    xxx

    It had to happen: As boomers rack up the birthdays, old age becomes a hot topic. A few months back, the New York Times announced: MODELS, DEFIANTLY GRAY, GIVE AGING A SEXY NEW LOOK. At around the same time, Lily van der Stokker (born at the boom’s peak, 1954, in the Netherlands) offered an artistic counterpart to defiantly gray models: an untitled exhibit that included such works as Old Women and Experimental Art; Spectacular Experimental Art by Older People; and Extremely Experimental Art by Older People (all 1999). She considered calling the show “Old-Fashioned.” Get it?

    Nearly all of this

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  • Jan Lauwers and Needcompany

    Brooklyn Museum

    Morning Song, a 100-minute work directed by Jan Lauwers for his multilingual troupe Needcompany, is a pristine theatrical depiction of the present tense. His aesthetic of “now,” however, does not contain a single reference to virtual reality, nor is there any use of high-tech media; rather, Lauwers’s inherent intelligence is about the nature of the stage itself, which he uses to construct a layered space where everyday late-’90s conversation (sex, food, and politics predominate), music, and movement all circulate and bombard one another like currents of air. But this piece is not abstractly

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