reviews

  • Laura Owens, Untitled, 1998, acrylic and oil on canvas, 84 x 96".

    Laura Owens

    New Museum

    There are some very good paintings in MoCA’s Laura Owens survey—particularly the large decorative landscapes painted between 1999 and 2002 that borrow from Chinese scroll and screen painting, the rococo pastorals of Beauvais tapestries, and the peaceable critterdom of children’s-book illustration. Notable in their absence, though, are a couple of the artist’s very strong early works that take pluralism in the museum and a modest and collaborative approach to painting as their relatively explicit subject. It’s a way of working that continues to inform Owens’s output and that has been an especially

    Read more
  • “Matthew Barney: The CREMASTER Cycle”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Other ambitious young artists might have been content go to the studio, tack up a poster of Harry Houdini, a postcard of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, and the famous image of Richard Serra flinging molten lead like Vulcan in his forge, and sublimate. But not Matthew Barney. For better and worse, Barney had to make a multimedia spectacle of himself, his youthful ambitions, infatuations, and oedipal urges, with various heroes, past and present, in attendance.

    As is well known by now, Barney had to write and direct the five increasingly long, complex, and hermetic films of the CREMASTER cycle,

    Read more
  • “Matthew Barney: The CREMASTER Cycle”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Dark Polaris snowmobiles stand dormant in a row, their cinematic image dissolving slowly into crags of glacial ice, so that shimmering silver logos are superimposed, for a moment, on a sublime landscape—as if all of nature’s territories were somehow tamed, enveloped, swallowed whole by the crystalline lettering. This kind of poetic abstraction appears regularly in advertising but, showing up in Matthew Barney’s CREMASTER 2, 1999, becomes all the more evocative for its artistic implications. In the stylized execution of Gary Gilmore that precedes it, Barney restages the legislated death as a

    Read more
  • Douglas Gordon

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Douglas Gordon’s latest video installation, in which an Indian elephant moves silently across two freestanding screens and a monitor installed in the gallery’s cavernous space, has been taken as everything from a comment on man’s relationship with nature to an unlikely instance of abstraction. But Gordon’s Play Dead; Real Time, 2003, is perhaps most effectively read as an allegory of the spectacularization of late-’60s critical practice that has marked the art of the last fifteen years.

    Harking back to the earlier era’s effort to dismantle the artwork’s autonomy by refracting it across multiple

    Read more
  • Donald Moffett

    Marianne Boesky Gallery

    As critics increasingly lament video art’s dependence on the “black box,” many artists have been trying to revise the shopworn standards, technical and formal, for projecting images. Donald Moffett’s tactic has been to allow the distinct representational strategies of painting and video to collide in ways that highlight certain historical preconceptions about each medium. For his latest New York show, Moffett eschewed the kind of relatively direct digital analogy to painting seen recently in the work of artists like Jeremy Blake; instead, he took on painting’s familiar visual field as a support

    Read more
  • Öyvind Fahlström

    Feigen Contemporary

    “Supertotalitarianism to preserve the world for the rich and powerful few . . .”; “Become bourgeois or else (US style)”; “boom for Whom?” It appears that Öyvind Fahlström has been reading the news. But no: The puckish and prolific painter, filmmaker, writer, and documentarian died in 1976 at the age of forty-seven. Born in Brazil and raised there and in Sweden, Fahlström was unabashedly political, exuberantly absurd, and dauntingly prolific. He was at the forefront of the Concrete Poetry movement, something of an expert on Surrealist compositional techniques, and a pioneer in the use of both

    Read more
  • Chloe Piene

    Tanja Grunert Gallery

    Ye olde mix of sex, death, and ungodly powers from beyond infused a recent show by Chloe Piene, and results ranged from excellent to interesting to problematic. With a group of charcoal drawings on vellum and two elaborate videos, Piene explored exhibitionism and violence, the allure of raw Goth-teen personae, and the difficulty of balancing adulation with critique.

    Each of Piene’s drawings (from 2002 and 2003) depicts a contorted, long-haired maiden with her hands between her legs, floating somewhere between putrefaction and ecstasy. Skeleton and flesh blur; the drawings’ contours are nervous,

    Read more
  • Alexi Worth

    Bill Maynes Gallery

    “Gerberman at Large,” Alexi Worth’s recent short series of paintings, follows the romantic trajectory of a character who, being balding, bespectacled, and middle-aged, looks a little like me, though maybe somewhat more feckless (I would like to think). Gerberman hangs out ungracefully in the art world—in three of the five paintings he is at an opening, strikingly at sea among the little black dresses—and it struck me that the series might be an artist’s ironic self-portrait. So I asked my editor (Worth writes for Artforum in addition to being a painter) whether this was so. Oh no, I was told,

    Read more
  • Meg Cranston

    Leo Koenig Inc. | 541 West 23rd

    “Magical Death,” Meg Cranston’s most recent show, presented five portraits of the artist as a piñata. Papier-mâché mockups of the artist herself, “dressed” in colored-tissue outfits—striped pants, red shorts, shod in boots or adorned with an elaborate headdress—hung from the ceiling in a variety of poses. Fabricated by Cranston with the help of her art students, the pieces represented a semi-sincere attempt to portray her physically, as well as a direct send-up of the cult of the artist.

    With Kippenbergeresque energy and wit, Cranston has been investigating aspects of body and soul for several

    Read more
  • Claudia and Julia Müller

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    In their first New York show, Swiss sisters Claudia and Julia Müller presented three series of ink drawings, an animated video, and two unassuming sculptures (all works 2002) that focus on the complex negotiation of the individual with the constructs that simultaneously facilitate and inhibit self-realization: culture and, more intimately, family. To make the drawings, the Müllers projected images clipped from magazines and newspapers onto paper and traced them in a faux-naive style, isolating the figures in their camera-induced attitudes: shyness, bravado, calculated modesty. Two series here

    Read more
  • John Maeda

    Cristinerose / Josée Bienvenu Gallery

    What does it mean for a digital artwork to be medium-specific? The answer usually involves interactivity, a variously controlled and predictable behavior and response onscreen. But new-media theorists have shown that interactivity is largely a mirage, a mediated reflection of the programmer’s choices and hence not much more radical than the kind of engagement famously identified by Ernst Gombrich in 1959 as the requisite fill-in-the-blank response to illusionistic painting.

    With his recent exhibition of twenty-eight color digital photographs (all 2002), some sandwiched between panels of Plexiglas,

    Read more
  • Yun-Fei Ji

    Pratt Manhattan Gallery

    In eight friezelike ink-and-mineral-pigment drawings on mulberry rice paper, Beijing-born Yun-Fei Ji conjures a world in turmoil that oscillates between the safety of centuries-old tradition and mortal terror concerning the next five minutes. Amid delicate, rolling landscapes rendered in muted greens, blues, and browns, vehicles collide, buildings collapse, and Goyaesque figures in grotesque masks and costumes indulge their every whim with apocalyptic abandon.

    Ji’s technique, which involves staining, erasing, washing, and restaining a layered, handmade ground, exploits the chemical interaction

    Read more
  • “Living Inside the Grid”

    New Museum

    By now, the uses and abuses of the grid are well known and well theorized. That simple network of verticals and horizontals is thoroughly modern in concept and perhaps as far from nature as you can get. It’s as vulnerable to technological metaphors as it is receptive to spiritual ones, which is why Mondrian liked it so much. Having spawned innumerable canvases and reams and reams of artspeak, the grid can be employed to suggest the limitless—or to delineate a structure of tight control.

    In “Living Inside the Grid,” curator Dan Cameron’s thematic emphasis is on the “inhabited grid.” Though this

    Read more
  • Adam Strauss

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    The title of Adam Straus’s recent exhibition of landscape paintings, “Sublimis Interruptus,” suggests that something has gone radically amiss in a moment of great import. What is interrogated in this case is nature at its most magnificent. A dozen works, portraying wide-open spaces and elemental terrains, suggest that, as in Poussin, there’s death even in paradise. In Straus’s landscapes, this implicitly funereal idea is usually personified by a minute human presence. In the witty An Early Spring, 2002, as painterly drips represent thawing ice, a long thin pole with a small red flag marks oil

    Read more
  • Enid Baxter Blader

    Location One

    When a projected image work has multiple screens, or combines images with objects, or is scattered throughout a space, it becomes obvious why it is a film or video installation and not, so to speak, a movie being shown in an art gallery. When it’s a simple single-channel projection in a darkened room, its status as art rather than cinema can be more ambiguous—sometimes provocatively so, as in the case of Letter from the Girl, Mailed at the Gas Station, 2002, by the young Los Angeles–based artist Enid Baxter Blader. This fifteen-minute loop is based on Robert Aldrich’s remarkable 1955 film noir,

    Read more