reviews

  • Joan Mitchell, Clearing, 1973, oil on canvas, triptych, 9' 2 1/4“ x 19' 8”.

    Joan Mitchell

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Joan Mitchell dismissed her works on paper—even painting-scale pastels of four-foot dimensions—as “lady paintings.” Keeping faith with her subject, Jane Livingston, the guest curator of the Whitney’s Mitchell exhibition, created a retrospective exclusively composed of works in oil on canvas. The survey features fifty-nine paintings, of which thirty-eight are big and another fifteen are very big. There are only six small, easel-scale works, which is too bad because at least two or three of these are as good as anything else in the show.

    Casual visitors to the Mitchell exhibition were overheard

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  • Neo Rauch

    David Zwirner | 537 West 20th Street

    When Neo Rauch’s parents were killed in a train crash, Rauch was six months old, and his father had just entered art school. Rauch has no idea why they chose his unusual name, but the suspicion that some sort of wry art inflection was intended seems, at least in retrospect, tempting. As a prefix, neo has a double-edged quality, a suggestion of both cynicism and freshness, which Rauch’s artwork exuberantly fulfills. His earlier paintings, with their military hardware and cartoon balloons, read as diffuse satires of the East German regime under which he grew up. Rauch’s second New York exhibition,

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  • “The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910–1934”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    It is tremendously difficult to present a successful exhibition of artists’ books. Reading is a famously intimate activity, and the artist’s book is usually a visual object writ small, meant to be held and perused over time. Add to the task the elucidation of a historical context and a grand ideological design scheme, and the chances of making an uneven or illegible show increase dauntingly. How satisfying, then, to find this richly informative and superbly installed exhibition, which showcased a recently donated collection without sycophancy, explicated a detailed chronology without didacticism,

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  • Barnaby Furnas

    Marianne Boesky Gallery

    For his recent solo debut, Brooklyn-based painter Barnaby Furnas tackled life’s grand themes head-on. Love, death, and war are the subjects of the nine large canvases here, all of which brim with narrative and pictorial action. Yet the real drama lies not so much in the kissing, shooting, and running figures that populate Furnas’s pictures as in the artist’s knowing investigation of painterly form. Revisiting the dichotomies at the heart of modernist painting, Furnas manipulates the boundaries between figure and ground, form and formlessness, and figuration and abstraction, working in an

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  • Stefan Kürten

    Alexander and Bonin

    Looking at Stefan Kürten’s painting Long Time Now, 2002, I suddenly thought of an old children’s-book illustration for a long-unremembered nursery rhyme: “Little Jack Homer sat in a corner, / Eating his Christmas pie”—that one. The artist had imagined a small boy sitting scrunched on the floor in a comer, gazing wonderingly at a pie he held on his lap. Though the child was brightly lit, the room’s walls, towering above him, rose up in shadowy darkness—and they were covered with the wildest wallpaper, a universe of magical symbols and signs. Even now I love that picture: Surrounded by

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  • Adolph Gottlieb

    These paintings from the last twenty years of Adolph Gottlieb's life-beginning with Black, Blue, Red, 1956, supposedly the first of his signature “Bursts” (but in fact a rather messy, hesitant version of the motif), and ending with the deceptively simple Max-Minimal, painted in 1973, a year before his death—raise the question of the late style of a modem artist and more particularly that of an Abstract Expressionist. The cliché is that the modern artist makes an innovative breakthrough in his youth and then lives off the result for the rest of his life, refining it into a brand image. This

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  • Gianni Piacento

    Esso Gallery

    For the Italian Futurists, who celebrated velocity, tumult, and the headlong thrust toward tomorrow, a speeding car was more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. For Turin-based sculptor Gianni Piacentino, the choice between a Ferrari and a classical marble might not be so simple. An automobile racing by assumes an ideal smoothness and formal simplicity not unlike that of a stone figure worn by centuries of weather and the touch of thousands of hands, and such are the forms suggested simultaneously by Piacentino’s elongated carlike (or airplane-like, or motorcycle-like) objects, which escape

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  • Pat Steir

    Cheim & Read

    Earth, water, and air are the principal themes in these eleven paintings by Pat Steir, most of which were begun over the past three years and completed last winter. Their mood is somber: They are meditations on the transience of natural phenomena (Bay of Mumbai, 2001–2002; Sand, 1998–99), the passing of time (Winter Sky, 2000–2002), and the fragility of life (Hungry Ghost, 2000-2002). Steir achieves her abstraction by the strict observance of procedural rules regarding palette, methods of paint application, and so on—something that’s been important to her since her early conceptual period

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  • Diego Perrone

    Casey Kaplan

    From Alberto Burri’s tachiste allusions to blood-soaked bandages to the quasi-alchemical experiments of arte povera, postwar Italy has produced numerous artists captivated by the transformative properties of elemental matter. Diego Perrone’s new series of photographs “I Pensatori di buchi” (The thinkers of holes; all works 2002) depicts solitary figures posed at the edges of yawning pits in the dirt. These pensive loners seem to be pondering their gritty surroundings before merging with the darkness.

    Perrone hails from the Northern Italian town of Asti, not far from Turin, Milan, and Genoa, where

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  • Brice Marden

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Ever since I saw my first Brice Marden show, in Houston in 1991, I have been trying to figure out why I don’t like his paintings more. They are well made and worked out over time, they develop a set of personal concerns and preferences, and they’re often beautiful—many of the things I look for in art. His pair of spring shows, his first in New York in five years, provided an occasion to think about what is going on in his work The exhibitions, at Marks’s two Chelsea venues, encompassed a selection of his work from 1996–2002 and his most recent paintings.

    My problem with Marden isn’t necessarily

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  • Fischerspooner

    Deitch Projects

    Pop music is Fischerspooner’s prime métier. Their song “Emerge” is a club hit; they have signed with Ministry of Sound, a London record label for a reported £2 million (around $2.9 million); and they are being marketed via the music press. So where’s the art connection?

    Perhaps it’s context: Their recent performance was funded by Jeffrey Deitch and mounted in his gallery and—voilà—here’s the review in an art magazine. There is also the issue of pedigree, credentials: Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner met a decade ago at the Art Institute of Chicago. This doesn’t necessarily make them

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  • Wayne White

    Clementine

    Wayne White’s New York debut, “I’m Not Going Around Advertising Surrealism,” is, of course, nothing less than surreal. What else could be invoked by gaudily framed seascapes and woodland glades interrupted by processions of giant words in dropped-out block capitals? In one of the nine canvases here, the phrase HONEST ARTISTS floats like a barge along a river; in another, a row of tall, narrow, rainbow-hued letters reading NASCAR TIT SHIRT bisects an autumnal forest clearing. A third message is less subtle: Cutting across an image of a gently flowing stream amid oak trees is the sentence I’LL

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  • Sarah Oppenheimer

    The Drawing Center

    Sarah Oppenheimer’s installation Hallway, 2002 came across as the hybrid work of an artist, architect, and social scientist. Sixteen floor-to-ceiling cardboard panels like oversize components of build-it-yourself flattened boxes were conjoined seamlessly flush with the walls of the gallery. The white cardboard on white walls made distinguishing between setting and packaging impossible. Parts of the panels were unfolded into the room in various configurations, creating partitions and revealing the beige plywood substratum of the wall. At the end of the room was a white metal office table with a

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