reviews

  • Tony Oursler

    New Museum

    It’s a rare body of work that makes the viewer open a mental can of worms, but the broad selection of works in Tony Oursler’s midcareer, almost quarter-century-spanning survey took me in so many directions and so consistently managed to engage, provoke, irritate, entertain, trouble, and seduce me that I’m not sure where to start or how to tidy it all up in words. Babble, a basic element in Oursler’s production, seems the natural reaction to it.

    The exhibition’s title, “Introjection,” is the psychological term for a subconscious process by which images are incorporated into the psyche. What the

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  • “Francis Picabia: Late Paintings”

    Michael Werner | New York

    Way back in the twentieth century, the Lord saw that, in later life, some of the saints of early modern art had begun to commit heresy, and He decreed that at this critical point they were to be desanctified. The fall of rebel angels included, of course, such late-style dropouts as Chagall, de Chirico, and Picabia, and even embraced postwar Picasso. But around 1980, when modernism no longer seemed so modern, one blasphemer after another began to take on the lure of forbidden fruit, challenging us to flick a switch or two and to look again at what once seemed beyond the pale of aesthetic decency.

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  • Muntean/Rosenblum

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Recently I met with a well-scrubbed guyin a bright-blue shirt who had a shiny new pencil, also blue, tucked jauntily behind his ear. Something about him struck me as odd, and later I realized that he was mimicking, albeit in a different color, the pink-shirted and be-penciled Banana Republic model then appearing on bus shelters all over the city. Of course it’s obvious that we’re awash in a sea of images that dictate how we look, act, and think (though most of us don’t take the cues so literally), and it’s equally obvious that these images are mostly shallow, bereft of meaning. Muntean/Rosenblum

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  • Gregory Crewdson

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Gregory Crewdson’s new series of staged photographs, “Twilight” (1998–99, all Untitled), shows a suburbia run amok. People who can’t take the subway to work grow obsessed with the underground, tunneling holes in their living rooms or digging gardens there. Or else they look up at the sky, from whence falls light—whether from the local traffic copter or from a tuneful spaceship out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we are not told. Look out your window in Crewdson’s Lot and you’ll see your pregnant neighbor alone in the street, stripped to her undies to take the cool evening air on her skin.

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  • Catherine Opie

    Gorney Bravin + Lee

    In one of Catherine Opie’s best-known photographs, an unsettling 1993 self-portrait, a scene of two stick-figure women standing next to a little house under a puffy cloud has been scratched into the skin of the artist’s back. The image of the body with its reddish cicatrix suggests a compelling ambivalence between domestic bliss and self-wounding. For her latest series, it is as though Opie blew up the scarified scenario to life size and animated it. Over a three-year period (1995–98), she visited lesbian acquaintances around the country and photographed them at home doing everyday things.

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  • Ugo Rondinone

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Ugo Rondinone’s solo New York debut looked like a group show, and I suspect that’s just how he likes it. There was nothing here to suggest that the Swiss artist wants to define a single identity for himself or a common thread through his multifarious endeavors—not that he needs to. But every group show is liable to betray notable imbalances of quality from work to work, and that’s true even when the “group” happens to be one artist.

    Of the five distinct Rondinones in this exhibition, one contributed three very large tondo paintings (all works 1999–2000 or 2000): concentric bands of color à la

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  • Casey Cook

    Lehmann Maupin | Chelsea

    I like Casey Cook’s paintings, but the professionalism behind them makes me nervous. She seems to take painting as a closed system, an array of readymade elements from which the artist selects in order to cannily recombine them (if possible) into a new constellation of familiar components. Taken singly, every detail of Cook’s canvases recalls something in the work of one of her contemporaries or recent precursors: Kevin Appel’s weightless architectural geometry; Inka Essenhigh’s dispersed composition; John Wesley–style comic-book eroticism; a Rymanesque play with signature and date as formal

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  • Amy Sillman

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    The first thing you noticed on entering Amy Sillman’s show of new paintings was The Umbrian Line, 1999–2000, a group of twenty bright gouaches on paper. Mostly small and arranged in a slightly uneven row, they contain elements of Italian landscapes and architecture and conjure a trecento fresco cycle like those seen in the churches of Umbria, where Sillman completed the series. Umbria doesn’t exactly fit into the romantic category of the sublime-but-neglected place, but it’s still a little hard to get there, and patience is required to uncover the region’s rewards—not an inaccurate metaphor for

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  • Yoshihiro Suda

    D'Amelio Gallery

    When art mimics nature, a tension between perfection and impermanence is usually somewhere in the mix. The artist, copying natural forms with all the loyalty and hubris he or she can muster, makes an image—representing, say, a flower—that has neither life nor fragrance but is not subject to death. So is the mimetic artist a god or an obsessive fool? Both, of course, but, ultimately, that’s not the point: As the Japanese sculptor Yoshihiro Suda reminded us in his first solo show in the United States, the real point of preternatural illusion is simply the wonder of the achievement, the totality

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  • Lee Boroson

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Plotting public space consists of figuring out how to get people from here to there; any pause along the way tends to be carefully orchestrated. As a specialist in large-scale, site-specific sculpture, Lee Boroson draws on the city planner’s concepts of flow, pattern, confluence, and vantage point to both contradict and reveal the built environment. With their pliant contours and wafting bulk, his signature inflated nylon works are meant to stimulate awareness of spatial relations, to articulate felt yet unseen qualities of air and unused portions of social space—but also simply to provide

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  • Ross Braught

    Hirschl & Adler Galleries

    “Ross Braught (1898–1983): A Visual Diary” reintroduced a little-known yet remarkable figure in the history of American art. The paintings, drawings, and lithographs on view charted the development of a highly original and thoroughly modern talent. Called by his friend Thomas Hart Benton “the greatest living American draftsman,” Braught owed more to Van Gogh than to nineteenth-century American painting. Gestural landscapes and boldly colored, sharply angular depictions of organic forms make up much of the work from the ’20s and ’30s. From 1936 to 1946 the artist lived in the British Virgin

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  • Frank Gerritz

    Stark Gallery

    There’s something delirious about Frank Gerritz’s new drawings: What at first looks like a uniform, impassive, metallic panel divided into rectangles with machine-made precision is discovered on closer inspection to be a finely grained, handmade, multilayered surface. The drawings require time to be truly seen, and the more time we give them the more startling they become. Each has a subtly different structure and its own magical force, even inner life. The dense graphite sheen refracts natural light (and the viewer’s reflection) into a subtle, transcendentally “shady” radiance that is constantly

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  • Nora Speyer

    Denise Bibro Fine Art

    Freud wrote in 1905, “Seeing is ultimately derived from touching,” which is sexually “indispensable,” “a source of pleasure.” The most “touching” textures in paint are subliminally sexual, that is, poignantly suggestive of tactile sensations abstracted from an object. Freud’s insight comes to mind when faced with Nora Speyer’s canvases and their richly evocative, peculiarly impacted primordial texture, notto mention her vision of basic sexual objects—bodies (mostly naked and female) orgiastically entangled at times but more often falling in abysmal space, like souls in traditional images of

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  • Meg Stuart

    Judson Church

    In her latest solo performance, choreographer Meg Stuart gives new meaning to the phrase “body language.” Not the leg-crossing, tie-straightening, behavioral kind that we might find in Pina Bausch’s dramatically staged battles of the sexes in the ’80s, nor even the speeded-up eloquence of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s brutally beautiful body phrasing of ’90s Gen Xers in Europe. Rather, Stuart’s Soft Wear [first draft], 2000, only fourteen minutes long, is body language for the Internet crowd, for those who prefer morphing to metaphor, multitasking to single-channel vision, and flickering pictures

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