reviews

  • Henry Darger, Sacred Heart, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49“. Henry Darger, Battle of Marcocino, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49”. From “Disasters of War.”

    Henry Darger, Sacred Heart, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49“. Henry Darger, Battle of Marcocino, date unknown, watercolor on paper, 19 x 49”. From “Disasters of War.”

    “Almost Warm and Fuzzy” and “Disasters of War”

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    Child’s play or warfare? Among the recent offerings at MoMA’s Long Island City affiliate for contemporary art was a pair of exhibitions that queried familiar models for understanding where art comes from, what it can represent, and where it might be headed. Despite their very different subjects—childhood and war—the shows shared features emblematic of recent trends in curatorial practice. Avoid historicism, the new supposedly unconventional wisdom goes, eschew difficulty, and steer clear of critical theory; promote jarring visual oppositions, encourage outreach to a wider audience, and tear down

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  • Neil Jenney

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    This retrospective of Neil Jenney’s “bad paintings” makes it clear that they’re anything but bad. The ironic label referred to the fact that they were figurative in the late ’60s, a time when it was de rigueur to be abstract, but “bad” could just as well have pointed to his gestures, which seemed methodical and self-conscious next to such heroic models as Pollock’s and de Kooning’s. Indeed, Jenney’s busy, broad handling appears to mock the Abstract Expressionists: In contrast to their bold displays of spontaneity and nerve, Jenney’s gestures, for all their vigor, seem neatly, even systematically

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  • Rosemarie Trockel

    The Drawing Center / Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    These exhibitions of drawings paired a retrospective look with a contemporary view. “Metamorphoses and Mutations,” at the Drawing Center, featured dozens of knockout works on paper, many from the ’80s, of hybrid, fairy-tale creatures: monkey men; scraggly witches; snouted clowns; a freaky, windblown bird that stands upright; a s/he charmer in fetching Western gear, balls a-poppin’. At the same time, many of Trockel’s portrait drawings are grounded squarely in the real world: She gives us the kid down the block, the woman next door, all the members of the family, somebody’s baby. Trockel swings

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  • Riko Noguchi

    D'Amelio Gallery

    For Americans who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s, it’s hard to think of Japan as anything other than the country that conquered the world—economically, at least. Their cars were better than ours; their yen more powerful than our dollar. But the Japan of those decades has devolved into something else: a country racked by recession, natural disaster, crime, and attacks by genocidal terrorist groups. So while Japan’s most celebrated contemporary artist, Mariko Mori, shows us the country of the postwar economic miracle—a high-tech, cybersavvy, moneyed world power—Rika Noguchi, a

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  • Beverly Semmes

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    For some time now, Beverly Semmes’s sculptural installations have extended bodily forms through an eccentric, winsome Pop abstraction. Recently, her expanded dresses (whose hemlines cascade across the floor into velvety pools or undulating folds) and impossible costumes (without openings for head or limbs) have given way to room-filling forms of stuffed fabric. The centerpiece here was Untitled, 2001, a gorgeous pile of coiled chartreuse soft cylinders or tubular pillows that nearly touched the ceiling. Like most soft sculpture, these bright mils were funny right away and get even funnier with

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  • Larry Poons

    Salander-O’Reilly Galleries

    For many, the name Larry Poons will never signify anything but his classic dot paintings of the early ’60s. For a smaller, more dedicated band, Poons is equally the maker of the rather mad agglomerations of paint and heterogeneous matter that occupied him in the ’80s and ’90s when he was operating somewhere below art-world radar (and perhaps somewhat unwisely leading the informe bandwagon). Members of either group are probably surprised by Poons’s extraordinary new paintings, dominated as they are by what has always been a recessive aspect of both strains of his art, namely, draftsmanship.

    Poons

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  • Moon Beom

    Kim Foster Gallery

    The paintings here were all from the series “slow, same, slow,” which has engaged Moon Beom, a Korean artist in midcareer, since 1998. Or rather they are from a kind of subset of the series: In Moon's large exhibition at the Kukje Gallery in Seoul in 1999, the title “slow, same, slow,” (complete with a final comma) referred to what seemed to be two distinct bodies of work, both versions of the monochrome. A somewhat earlier group, simply “slow, same,” 1996–99, comprised horizontal paintings—more or less double squares—primarily in oilstick on linen; with their matte surfaces and tracts

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  • Rob Pruitt

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    On the heels of an edition of prints for the New Museum, an interview in Time Out New York, a page in the new magazine Gotham, and a glossy spread in a recent oversized issue of Visionaire, this glittery show, “Pandas and Bamboo,” completes Rob Pruitt’s comeback. To recap the well-known story: Back in 1992, Pruitt and his then-collaborator Jack Early earned accusations of racism with their exhibition at Leo Castelli, “Red Black Green Red White and Blue Project,” which included paintings and posters of well-known African Americans. The fallout was ugly, and effected Pruitt’s prompt dismissal from

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  • Julie Heffernan

    P.P.O.W. Gallery / Littlejohn Contemporary

    Julie Heffernan’s imagination looks suspiciously like the gift shop at some tourist-thronged beaux arts museum—the Prado, say, or maybe the Frick. Everywhere in her lavishly rhetorical paintings are passages borrowed from Spanish still lies, Flemish landscapes, English pet portraits, and furtive, nightmarish Goya vignettes. In her foregrounds, pale red-haired figures, all titular self-portraits, flaunt the dark-lipped Hapsburg underbite fixed in our memories by Velázquez (imagine Philip IV played by a naked Tilda Swinton). That underbite, the notorious symptom of royal inbreeding, suggests

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  • Liz Deschenes

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    First developed in the late ’20s, the compositing technique known as “blue screen” still forms the basis of most cinematic special effects. This is how it works: A subject is filmed against a pure blue, green, or red backdrop. A second film, known as the background plate, is shot at a different location. The two negatives are then sandwiched in an elaborate optical printing process. Thanks to the magic of the blue screen, actors can leap off tall buildings or scale rocky cliffs without ever leaving the soundstage. Rendered more accessible by digital technology, the blue screen has become

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  • Phyllis Baldino

    Pierogi

    Video’s ability to highlight the elasticity of time has fascinated artists for over thirty years (consider Bruce Nauman’s Video Corridor of 1968–70 or Nam June Paik’s 1974 TV Buddha). Phyllis Baldino’s two recent video installations (both 2000) further this tradition by exploring the negative consequences of the compression of time. Lie the structuralist filmmakers of the ’60s and ’70s, Baldino imposes strict temporal and conceptual limits on her investigations yet extends her project well beyond a medium-specific critique.

    16 minutes lost is based on science writer James Gleick’s theory, put

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  • Danica Phelps

    LFL Gallery

    While most people’s efforts to track their expenses fizzle after a few weeks, this activity has been the basis of Danica Phelps’s art practice since 1996. Every last dollar gets assiduously recorded with a tiny stroke of color on a small card: green for income, red for expense, and (a relatively new development) gray for credit. Those marks are a constant in a larger, increasingly complex system documenting not only her financial life but also her daily activities and relationships—along with the changing value of her art-making Phelps an obsessive yet whimsical bookkeeper/cataloguer of

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