reviews

  • Gary Simmons

    New Museum

    With the willful impermanence of their blurred chalk marks, Gary Simmons’s monumental “erasure” drawings position themselves somewhere between black and white. His bravura subtractions are perplexing expressions of the politics of difference and the paradox of memory, incorporating what he has called “markmaking as well as a literal ‘unmark’-making”: He executes drawings in white chalk on panels and walls that have been coated with slate paint or schoolroom blackboards on wheels and then smudges the images with his hands, partially wiping them out. Meaning resides in the tension between what is

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  • Alain Séchas, Enfants Gâtés (Spoiled children) (detail), 1997, wood, plastic, and mirrors, dimensions variable.

    “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art”

    The Jewish Museum

    Despite the barrage of negative criticism that greeted “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art” when it opened in mid-March—from hysterical outrage to self-satisfied dismissals of both the art and the ideas put forward—it is an uncommonly thoughtful if profoundly disturbing show. Like two other important recent exhibitions on the East Coast—the Gerhard Richter retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Barnett Newman retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, both of which in their own manner touched on questions raised in “Mirroring Evil”—the Jewish Museum exhibition

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  • Ellen Gallagher

    Drawing Center

    Blubber lips, hot-dog lips, Sambo lips. They used to call them “nigger lips” in the South (and probably still do)—just writing the words brings back the pain of racism that’s pervasive and in your face. Now, ironically, white people have their lips injected full of collagen to get that big-lip look; think of Angelina Jolie’s “pillow lips.” There’s a whole lot of bite in the difference between “nigger lips” and “pillow lips,” one an epithet of derision, the other of desirability. The defacing racial stereotypes of the Jim Crow South don't stop, of course, with cartoon renderings of bulbous lips,

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  • Elizabeth Murray

    PaceWildenstein 22

    Elizabeth Murray, known for large paintings on shaped and layered canvas-covered plywood, recently showed a group of small paper works framed under glass. None of these is more than eighteen inches or so high or wide, and most are rather less, but despite their bantam scale they have the vivid energy of the big works: Cut and colored, stapled and glued into loosely pictorial scenarios, some quite hard to decipher, the paper seems both fragile and kinetic, a tense equipoise. The ancestry of these intricate compositions must lie in Cubist papier collé, and the many images of tables and cups,

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  • Jockum Nordström

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    According to a recent New York Times article, creative stylists in the lower tiers of the fashion industry are eschewing designer labels and putting together idiosyncratic looks using finds from obscure sources—big news, apparently, in New York, where slaves to fashion far outnumber the truly fashionable. Jockum Nordström performs a similar feat in the city’s art world: His enigmatic, oddly “old-fashioned” drawings and muted mixed-media pieces in watercolor, gouache, and collage stand apart from the visual styles currently in vogue—high-production, knowing, bigger-is-better. And they are likewise

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  • Harun Farocki

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    Harun Farocki has made nearly eighty films for both the big and small screen since he was a graduate student at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin in the mid-’60s. Having emerged during the international student protest movement, he has dedicated his career to unmasking the hidden abuses and blatant hypocrisies of the powers that be. Farocki’s typical format is the film essay: text and narration combined with images lifted from newsreel and industrial footage, a hybrid of political sloganeering and documentary.

    Only recently has Farocki begun to present his films in a gallery and museum

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  • Ugo Rondinone

    Matthew Marks Gallery / Swiss Institute

    I can’t stand clowns. Although their ostensible purpose is to make people laugh, clowns seem to exist for the sake of sheer perversity and torment, functioning as absurd objects of derision, creepy interrupters, or surreal distracters—and often cruel ones at that. Think of the cynical Krusty the Klown of Simpsons fame, or Bruce Nauman’s 1987 video installation Clown Torture, which brilliantly captured the buffoon’s persona: We are nearly driven mad by the chaotic dissonance of multiple tragicomic figures shitting and screaming (“No no no!”). The clowns that appear throughout Ugo Rondinone’s work

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  • Dominic McGill

    Debs & Co.

    Doomsday is nigh, and Dominic McGill is ready. In his first solo show, the English-born, New York–based artist, formerly half of the performance duo Standard & Poor, presented a fascinatingly ambiguous series of sculptural installations that address the nuclear age and the paranoia that has accompanied it. There was of course a generation of artists—from Motherwell, Rothko, and Pollock to the early Robert Morris—whose weightily abstract existentialese made manifest a concern with the bomb and its potentially devastating effects. McGill's work is different in its embrace of pictorial possibility

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  • Frank Nitsche

    Leo Koenig Inc. | 541 West 23rd

    Savvy, sleek, crisp, and flat, Frank Nitsche’s paintings make an honorable, middle-of-the-road style—gestural geometric abstraction—look suddenly like the fast lane. Lately that kind of regenerative feat seems to be a particularly German talent, so it’s no surprise to find that Nitsche was reared in the former GDR and studied at the Dresden Academy alongside painters like Thomas Scheibitz and Eberhard Havekost. Like theirs, Nitsche’s art wears both earnestness and calculation on its sleeve. Everything about the seven big canvases on view in this belated New York debut seemed shrewdly considered:

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  • Elisa Sighicelli

    Cohan Leslie and Browne

    As the gulf between painting and photography is increasingly crossed and recrossed by artists using approaches from digital manipulation to new economies of scale, Elisa Sighicelli bridges the gap with the oldest tricks in the book: luminosity and immanence. On first viewing the works in the London-based artist's US solo debut, one might think they were mounted on stretched canvases. Even after one notices the concealed cords running up from the baseboards and realizes these are light boxes, they hardly read as such. The artist selectively paints the backs of the photographs before mounting them

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  • Sabine Hornig

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    In Germany modernism arguably found its fullest expression in architecture. In a land without a Picasso or a Matisse, a Malevich or a Rodchenko, it was figures like Mies and Gropius who supplied the Teutonic part in the great avant-garde fugue of the twentieth century. This may be one reason that contemporary German artists have consistently trained their cameras (postmodernism's favored tool) on the built environment. Architectural photography has been coming out of Germany steadily for decades now, first from Bernd and Hilla Becher, then from the procession of star graduates from their master

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  • Vik Muniz

    Brent Sikkema

    The extensive literature on ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza includes more than a few revisionist titles devoted to exposing the “real” artists behind these works: extraterrestrials. Such texts can easily be written off as crackpot fantasies. But there’s something fascinating about the impulse to reassign authorship of these constructions. The idea seems to be that humans are more prone to make human-scale figural work like cave paintings or the Venus of Willendorf than enormous, abstractly conceived objects.

    Vik Muniz’s recent photographs of his large earth drawings

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  • Laura Newman

    Bellwether

    Despite the best efforts of abstract painters to establish a surface devoid of any reference to the world, most viewers still tend to look for imagery “hidden” in nonrepresentational canvases. Abstract compositions are often treated as Rorschach blots to be deciphered, even “finished,” by the viewer, rather than as something wholly composed by the painter. Laura Newman is willing to split the difference: Her paintings cater to both image-hungry viewers and connoisseurs of pure abstraction.

    One of the works in Newman’s recent show is a baby blue field bracketed by yellow trapezoids. The blue is

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  • Shirley Tse

    Murray Guy

    “Voluminous changing forms are to be constructed out of some mobile, plastic substance,” declared Lucio Fontana in his Manifesto blanco of 1946, a prognostication that seems to have been fulfilled by Shirley Tse’s proliferating, self-consuming nonpaintings (all works 2002). Bringing together the sensual/antiseptic properties of plastic and the trope of the painting’s surface as a surrogate skin, Tse’s cut-and-sutured sheets of pastel polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) hung on the wall realize painting’s double dream of perfect flatness and sculptural dimensionality. Each forty-eight inches square,

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  • Ferran Martin

    Roger Smith Gallery

    Ferran Martin’s new video, part of his series “Le Modulor” (The module), 2001, is at once amusing and ominous. Donning a hollow mirrored cube that covers his whole head, turning him into a kind of fumbling robot, he makes his way through the labyrinth of rubble behind St. John the Divine cathedral in New York. In photographs also on view in this recent show we see Martin with his cube head exploring other locations in the city: Riverside Church on the Upper West Side; a block of lower Broadway. The complex reflection of his surroundings is not exactly mimetic: We experience the site as an

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  • Wooster Group

    St Ann’s Warehouse

    With the ferocity of kung fu fighters, Theramenes (Scott Shepherd) and Hippolytus (Ari Fliakos) faced off from opposite ends of the low platform that was the stage of To You, The Birdie! (Phèdre), the Wooster Group’s brilliant adaptation of Racine’s seventeenth-century drama of obsessive infatuation, rewritten for the troupe by Paul Schmidt in 1993. But rather than throw kicks at each other’s heads, the men began to play: The shape of their athletic and elegant performance was determined by the powerful thrust it took for each to whip a “birdie” (as in badminton) at lightning speed through the

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