reviews

  • Jo Baer, Graph-Paper Painting, 1962–63, oil on canvas, 36 x 36".

    “Jo Baer: The Minimalist Years, 1960–1975”

    Dia Center for the Arts

    Viewed in reproduction, the early paintings of Jo Baer can make a misleading first impression. They might appear impassive, even “noncommittal,” to repeat a term used by John Ashbery when he reviewed Baer’s first solo show in 1966. Seen in person at Dia Center for the Arts’s current exhibition of Baer’s “Minimalist Years,” however, those paintings seem quite the opposite. They are grand, open, elegant things, and while these luminescent canvases are often pleasing to the eye, they are just as often satisfying to the intellect.

    Dia showcases some of Baer’s most splendid efforts from the ’60s and

    Read more
  • Adolph Gottlieb

    The Jewish Museum

    There’s supposed to be a moment of conversion in the careers of Abstract Expressionists. For Adolph Gottlieb, it comes in 1957, when he studies his “Imaginary Landscapes” and decides to get rid of everything except the orbs floating above the horizon, thereby arriving at the format of his landmark painting, Burst. Critics like to isolate these moments of conversion because they reduce the messy narrative of an artist’s career to one epochal discovery. In Gottlieb’s case, the great discovery lies in the perfect synthesis of Color Field painting and gestural abstraction in a single canvas.

    Fortunately,

    Read more
  • Jeff Koons

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Jeff Koons did not become the most famous artist to emerge from the milieu of ’80s New York because of his paintings—but they have always been there. He produced works on canvas as early as 1986 in his “Luxury and Degradation” series, which appropriated liquor ads from magazines and reproduced them without alteration in oil ink on canvas. In 1992, an adamant Koons designated the photographs in his notorious “Made in Heaven” series as “paintings.” Consisting of images of Koons and his porn-star wife, Ilona Stahler (aka La Cicciolina), engaged in uninhibited sex, the works were printed with oil

    Read more
  • David Hammons

    Ace Gallery

    By all accounts, the opening for David Hammons’s Concerto in Black and Blue, 2002, was magical. Rather than put objects on display or represent the depth of his artistic practice—which ranges from film and video to performance to works on paper—Hammons chose to present virtually nothing. Not only did he leave the more than twenty-thousand-square-foot space completely empty, he turned out all the lights, creating a deeply immersive environment with the flick of a switch. And rather than provide visitors with something to see, Hammons (who is known for his economy of means) gave them something to

    Read more
  • Robert Ryman

    Pace Wildenstein

    In the catalogue accompanying Robert Ryman’s show of recent paintings is a photograph of the artist’s studio: pristine, with paints, brushes, palette knives, solvents, and tools resting on two small carts and a stool, his signature white paintings hanging salon style on walls that are also painted white. Finished paintings wrapped in plastic stand propped in the corners. White paint, ready for use, waits on carts. Oh, and the floor is white, too.

    On the next page, an essay by art historian Yve-Alain Bois opens with a quotation by Barnett Newman describing art of the first half of the twentieth

    Read more
  • Marina Abramović

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    Marina Abramović’s The House with the Ocean View, 2002, may well be one of the most important live artworks of the decade, but not for obvious reasons. Not only because the artist produced an elegant work that continues themes from a thirty-year career that has included performances of extreme endurance. Nor because she connected with her audience at a time when intimacy between artist and viewer is rare in immaculate Chelsea galleries. But because House is a work of pure theater. Without a single word, and with a minimum of means, Abramović created a deeply existential drama on the nature of

    Read more
  • Rosemarie Trockel

    Dia Center for the Arts

    First encounters with Rosemarie Trockel have often left American viewers puzzled. The many narrative routes into her work, plus the specificity of her German-language references, can appear unfathomable. Yet this didn’t prevent a favorable critical consensus from emerging here in the 1990s. Indeed, the very notion of missed signals is at the heart of her practice, as demonstrated by a sub-installation in her latest appearance in New York. Two cases displayed maquettes for about two dozen unrealized book and catalogue projects conceived between 1983 and 2000. One book, Looking at Idols, 1984,

    Read more
  • Bernar Venet

    Robert Miller Gallery

    In 1973, Bernar Venet wrote an essay in which he disclaimed any connection with “Duchampian style or Nouveau Réalisme” and instead connected his art to the theory of French semiologist Jacques Bertin, which grouped signs into three categories. The first set of signs, called the pansemic, were associated with music and nonfigurative imagery in art; the second, the polysemic, with words and figurative imagery; and the third, the monosemic, with mathematics and graphic imagery. For Venet, there was an overabundance of nonfigurative and figurative imagery in the visual arts. Indeed, he thought that

    Read more
  • Rosie Lee Tompkins

    Peter Blum Gallery

    The decorative arts are noticed more widely now and then in fine-art circles, effectively deflating categorical hierarchies of media and genres—having been brought into the museum context to widen the scope of modernism so that it might be thought more as a history of making. Hierarchy-busting though they may be, the place of craft in non–craft museums is often attributable to how they nudge the internal rules that govern their own making. As an example, just this winter the Whitney Museum featured quilts from the African American community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, showing about sixty examples

    Read more
  • Michael Ashkin

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    “Drive Route 1 and 9 from Metuchen to the Holland Tunnel. Do this from South to North late in the afternoon on a sunny day to catch the full effect of the light on the multi-colored signs and roadside architecture. Make sure that . . . you stay on Truck Route 1 and 9 into Kearny. This last leg takes you over two rusted drawbridges into Jersey City, taking a turn past my favorite carpet store where several mutilated statues of loggers stand outside.” Michael Ashkin’s idea of a picturesque road trip may be a little closer to Tony Soprano’s than most people’s, but at least you could say, based on

    Read more
  • Erwin Redl

    Riva Gallery

    Erwin Redl is a sculptor whose primary material is the light-emitting diode (or LED), deployed at a dominating and theatrical scale. He is best known in New York for having sheathed the Whitney Museum in red and blue curtains of light for the 2002 Biennial, a bravura gesture in spatial disorientation that made the massive building seem to float spaceshiplike. Redl’s recent show featured more modest architectural projects, including two light pieces, several series of drawings, and a digital video presentation of previous installations. The results varied considerably. At its best, Redl’s work

    Read more