reviews

  • “Eye to Eye”

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    “I didn’t care much about the print quality,” Cindy Sherman wrote recently of her famous first series, the “Untitled Film Stills” of 1977–80. “The photographs were supposed to look like they cost fifty cents. . . . One reason I was interested in photography was to get away from the preciousness of the art object.” No photographer seems farther from this initial ethos of Sherman’s than the late Robert Mapplethorpe, whose images are impeccably, expensively printed, classically structured, and as comfortable in glossy magazines as in art galleries. And even Sherman’s later work, which has developed

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  • Jessica Stockholder

    Gorney Bravin + Lee

    There’s a lot to be said for the tacky, abject allure of thick paint on fake fur or plush pile carpet. Paint out of bounds almost always looks like a mistake, even when you know it isn’t. Since she began gaining attention for her distressed constructions in the mid-’80s, Jessica Stockholder’s sluggish, amateurish, temperamental interventions with paint have displaced the familiarity that clings to the everyday objects in her three-dimensional compositions and emphasized abstract values instead. With her crude swathes and blobs, she has consistently sabotaged surfaces and forced outlandish

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  • Charline von Heyl

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    It’s been roughly ten years since Charline von Heyl started showing her abstract paintings—first in Germany in the early ’90s and by mid-decade in New York. Even though her oil and mixed-media works on canvas have developed considerably, they retain their tentativeness and, overall, their unevenness. Doubt, it would seem, is an ever-present condition in her art. Is this a virtue, or does it diminish the work? How is the credibility of the better work affected by those paintings that ask how much “ugly” they can take and still remain viable? This exhibition, von Heyl’s best to date, offers

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  • Jason Rhoades

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Supposedly motivated by a drive to “deconstruct” the nonexistent word “Meccatuna,” Jason Rhoades originally intended to journey to Mecca, circle the ancient, holy cuboid structure at its heart—the Kaaba—in the company of a live bluefin tuna, then bring the fish to New York. This plan frustrated, the Los Angeles–based artist hired a Saudi local to drive to the sacred city, buy a case of Geisha-brand canned tuna, and send evidence of its unprecedented proximity to hallowed ritual back to the gallery. Rhoades takes the documentation in question—a few snapshots of the tins on the

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  • Alex Katz

    Pace Wildenstein

    The large-scale landscape and flower paintings in Alex Katz’s recent exhibition are luminous paeans both to painterly gesture and to elementary color and form. A few of the landscapes might even pass for abstractions: Green Shadows, 2001, is mostly a furious scumble of dark brushwork; a handful of diminutive yellow flowers at the bottom of the canvas is the only obviously representational passage. In Road, 2002, an initial uncertainty as to what’s being represented resolves as you’re engulfed by the work: It’s two shafts of dappled sunlight bisecting a dark lane, conjuring depth of field seemingly

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  • Mark Grotjahn

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Mark Grotjahn’s latest works—a series of variously sized jewel-like monochrome canvases that toy with one-point perspective—are flat-out gorgeous. This should be said right off, since discussions of Grotjahn’s work tend to leap quickly into speculation on what lurks (literally and figuratively) behind their surfaces. If there’s a plumb line running through this young artist’s oeuvre, it’s a love for and deft utilization of the opaque. But Grotjahn’s taste for the impermeable is hardly delivered straight from the shoulder; a perverse formalism is his delicious decoy, both an homage to

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  • Samuel Fosso

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    Posed against a stained curtain, a slim young sailor-prince wearing high-waisted bell-bottoms, a cap printed with the Kodak logo, and extra-large sunglasses gazes off into an imaginary distance. The studio lights that illuminate him are visible on either side of the frame, as is the camera’s own reflection in one of the lamps. In another image in this survey of Samuel Fosso’s nearly three-decade-long practice of self-portraiture, the kneeling photographer supplicates his camera with two fistfuls of flowers, like a heartthrob in an old Hollywood romance. Fosso conjures instant glamour and fantastic

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  • John Pilson

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    Times have changed since John Pilson’s last New York exhibition, which had been open a week when the attacks on World Trade Center gave his photographs and videos—shot in the North Tower, where he’d had a studio—an unasked-for mythic quality. In work in that show and elsewhere, Pilson had cast the towers as the ultimate foil for his dadaist scenes of businessmen singing, balls bouncing in stairwells, and children playing in deserted offices. But now that the towers are gone, and with them, perhaps, our ability to see much humor in their negative portrayal, the artist’s subversion of

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  • Miguel Calderón

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Who can blame Mexico City’s artists for making a habit of investigating their hometown in their work? At twenty million people and counting, theirs—as many an exhibition press release has stated—is a megalopolis of extremes, characterized by vast disparities in wealth, the aftereffects of colonialism, and changes wrought by NAFTA.

    In Miguel Calderón’s “Forcing the Forces of Nature,” the hometown connection was less striking than in his earlier work, but it’s visible nonetheless. Calderón’s “Chapultepec” photo series (all works 2003) features picnickers in the eponymous park whom he

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  • Judy Pfaff

    Miles McEnery Gallery | 22nd Street

    Like Judy Pfaff’s gallery-filling 1997 installation Round Hole, Square Peg, which seemed to push the walls of its site out in all directions (circling the square), her latest project, Neither Here nor There, integrated an astonishing variety of materials, motifs, and symbols into a dynamic whole. This time, she put more emphasis on the vertical, using wood-and-steel post-and-lintel joinery and pipes to support a gridwork of wood, steel, aluminum, and string, while an intricate iron latticework snaked from floor to ceiling through a deluge of centrifugal white plaster pendants. The installation

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  • Lothar Baumgarten

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    “Ambivalent.” The word flashes briefly on-screen toward the end of Lothar Baumgarten’s 1973–77 film The Origin of the Night: Amazon Cosmos, a lush, ninety-eight-minute meditation on the rain forest inspired by a Tupi myth about the division of night and day. Although active since the early ’70s, the German-born Baumgarten is best known in the United States for his 1993 Guggenheim exhibition in which a stately procession of names of indigenous North American peoples (Inuit, Iroquois, Huron, Crow . . . ) was printed directly on the inner curves of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous rotunda. As critic

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  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

    The Kitchen

    In the old days, when Alan Suicide played CBGB’s and Nan Goldin showed slides at the Mudd Club and Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane performed at the Kitchen on Broome Street, the downtown dance scene and the art world/music scene were part of the same geography. Visual artists, performers, choreographers, and musicians made up one another’s audiences; each group saw in the others’ work reflections of its own conceptual strategies and found inspiration in the way high art, low culture, and punk music were a part of everyone’s special blend. By the mid-’80s, however, doors slammed shut on

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