reviews

  • John Waters, Mark #12, 1998, color photograph, 14 x 19 3/4".

    John Waters

    New Museum

    In 1964, John Waters shot his first short film, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, using shoplifted film stock and a Brownie 8 mm movie camera given to him by his grandmother for his seventeenth birthday. Thirty-three years later, while directing Edward Furlong and Christina Ricci in Pecker, he noticed that the tape marks his crew was using to position the actors on set looked a lot like abstract drawings, and decided to photograph and present them as art (Mark #1–Mark #15, 1998). Both Hag and the “Mark” series were included in “Change of Life,” Waters’s exhibition of photographic and sculptural

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  • Kiki Smith, Untitled (Pink Bosoms), 1990–92, 4 screenprints with gouache on paper, each 20 11 /16 x 32 11/16".

    Giuseppe Penone/Kiki Smith

    Various Venues

    Fable I: “Giuseppe Penone: The Imprint of Drawing.” In the anteroom of the Drawing Center, a giant barred the way, buried up to his eyebrows, from which his colossal forehead, its worry lines traced by thorns, emerged aboveground. Never mind the crown of thorns; for me that gargantuan tracery called up Briar Rose’s thicket. For it was hard to see the forehead for the forest of finger-pricking points. Indeed, it wasn’t until later that I knew Penone’s Spine d’acacia (fronte) (Acacia Thorns [Forehead]), 2002, was a forehead at all. Stand to the side, as I did, approaching gingerly, and all you

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  • John Miller

    Metro Pictures

    Scatological humor is probably as old as culture itself—but in art of the ’80s and early ’90s, jokes about excrement proliferated, provoking a lot of nervous laughter. RUN FROM FEAR/FUN FROM REAR—that’s one of the ways Bruce Nauman put it. He also paired clowns and toilets to flush out the complexities of pleasure, pain, and self-consciousness that rim the act of evacuation. Remember Mike Kelley’s 1987 felt banner that blared PANTS SHITTER AND PROUD P.S. JERK OFF TOO, or the video Heidi, 1992, made with Paul McCarthy, that featured sausage turds and a sustained involvement with defecation?

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  • Jim Lambie

    Anton Kern Gallery

    “Too many stripes can finally drive you mad,” Michel Pastoureau, the chief historian of this elemental pattern, has observed. But how many is too many? Glasgow-based artist Jim Lambie seems determined to find out. Since 1999, Lambie has been completely covering gallery floors with vinyl adhesive tape placed edge to edge, creating site-specific paintings that transform ordinary spaces into Saul Bass dream sequences and has garnered comparisons to figures as various as Daniel Buren, Bridget Riley, and, less often but more aptly, Gene Davis. Zobop, 1999–2003, is the best known of these works. First

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  • Glenn Brown

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    As an appropriationist painter whose technique is as close to perfect as one could imagine, the challenge for Glenn Brown has often been simply to choose the most interesting source material. And while he has emphasized the extent to which he manipulates rather than merely reproduces his selections, he has yet to unveil a genuinely radical act of transformation. That this is Brown’s first solo exhibition in New York comes as something of a surprise—after all, he’s been on the YBA list since it was first typed up—but this show ultimately points to an artist happy to remain comfortably within a

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  • Not Vital

    Sperone Westwater

    A minimalist fabulist you might call him: In most of the sculpture here, the Swiss artist Not Vital combines Euclidean geometries with children’s-book contents. Camel, 2004, comprises sixteen sealed silver spheres, each nine inches in diameter, and each, we are told, containing a part of a camel. The animal’s body was laid out to dry in the sun, and shrank; so these sixteen globes hold the whole thing. 50 Snowballs, 2001, is fifty more spheres, this time in clear Murano glass with a frosted-glass core—crystal cases for apparently arctic objects. And the most fairy-tale piece of all, Bremer

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  • Michael Snow

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    Though he’s best known for now-classic experimental films such as Wavelength, 1966–67, and La Région centrale, 1971, Michael Snow’s gallery exhibition “Powers of Two” revealed him to be a hyperprolific artist whose mad-scientist inventiveness has engaged a wide range of media, materials, and techniques over the past forty years. His recent videos, photographs, and photo-based sculptures and installations are brainy, playful performed investigations of the technical and cultural constructedness of modern perception. Snow’s latest work also exposes him as an obsessive archivist who recomposes

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  • Paul Etienne Lincoln

    Alexander and Bonin

    Looking at Paul Etienne Lincoln’s outlandish gadgets, one gets the impression of the artist as gentleman tinkerer: Think of his Equestrian Opulator ©, 1990–2000, a standing aluminum telescope that can peel an orange and set off flares while affording a relaxed viewing of horse races. His less whimsical projects, however, point not to an amusingly anachronistic wizard but to a forward-thinking intellect busy salvaging history from myth.

    This crowded twenty-year survey of Lincoln’s editions and performance projects included models and relics alongside slick booklets and boxed sheaves providing

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  • Jem Southam

    Robert Mann Gallery

    The simple yet compelling concept behind this quiet show of several series of photographs matched a sense of modesty in the images themselves. Bristol-born photographer Jem Southam visits rural sites, mainly in the south of England, several times over the course of months or years and shoots large-format images from about the same spot to document the natural and man-made changes that have taken place. In “Rivermouths,” 1996–2000, a coastline erodes; in “Rockfalls,” 1994–2000, a cliff face crumbles; and in “Ponds,” 1996–2000, a dew pond fills out. The subdued, rather traditionally composed

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  • Nicole Eisenman

    Leo Koenig Inc. | 541 West 23rd

    Yes, this is a review of that Nicole Eisenman, who, officially dubbed a “bad girl” in 1993, has received far too little critical consideration outside that nomenclature. Though the artist’s numerous virtuosic paintings, drawings, installations, and animations torque elements from high art (Renaissance to modern), low culture (porn to punk), and autobiography (lesbian libido to psychoanalyst dad), her status as bad-attitude dyke, bad-ass feminist, and even “bad” painter has been iterated again and again. And while Eisenman’s work can be read in any of these ways, one thing became clear on seeing

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  • Cheyney Thompson

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    One might not guess that one of Louisiana-born, New York–based artist Cheyney Thompson’s inspirations is Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. But, starting with his 2002 exhibition “1 Scenario + 1 Situation,” also at this gallery, the artist has hoped that viewers might respond to his series of small paintings of building materials as they once did to the contemplative boy building a house of cards. With his carefully realized depictions of bricks and two-by-fours floating alone or in elegant yet uncategorizable combinations, Thompson wants to spur the viewer toward a moment of crystal-clear apprehension

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  • Alec Soth

    Yossi Milo Gallery

    In 1999, photographer Alec Soth left his hometown of Minneapolis to take a voyage down the Mississippi River, and found on its banks a world at once ancient and brand-new. He discovered submerged mattresses in dark sloughs in Arkansas; mustachioed men in soiled jumpsuits in Minnesota; overstuffed easy chairs and old pornography in Iowa—the ingrown evidence, in other words, of a peculiarly American brand of dilapidated romance.

    Soth’s work represents an old-fashioned kind of imagemaking, fitting into a long line of itinerant photographers running from Carleton Watkins to Robert Frank, all of whom

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  • June Leaf

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    If a style can be detected in the half century’s worth of drawings and paintings by June Leaf that were gathered here recently, it might be called abstract surrealism. Lines hastily thrown together with a sort of jittery, automatist flair form more or less absurd “configurations”: sketchy figures, both elegantly drafted and shapeless, in fantastical scenarios. In Pencil Legs, 1980, a woman with pencils for legs is poised awkwardly “en pointe,” as it were. The writing utensils form a wobbly support structure that, together with the tentative lines of the rest of the drawing, suggests a precarious

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  • Michael Mahalchick

    Canada Gallery

    Michael Mahalchick weaves and stitches scraps of scavenged cloth into raggedy wall hangings, lumpy totems, and squat, motley creatures, celebrating both quiet industry and its flip side, sensual languor. One favorite trope is to take properly horizontal forms and give them the primacy, and display value, of the vertical. Quiltlike drapery No. 34 (Let Your Freak Flag Fly), 2003, was inspired by Gee’s Bend; to form the two perfectly titled To Die Dreamings, 2004, which together evoke a pair of slatted swinging doors, the artist wove strips of old clothes onto futon frames. As installed in this

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  • Shellburne Thurber

    Participant Inc.

    As practices, art and psychoanalysis have a few things in common. Both build from and depend on histories (often hidden); both understand images to be powerful and full of elusive meaning. Psychoanalysis, of course, is also a methodology for reading art (for a piquant early example, see Freud’s 1910 psychobiography of Leonardo da Vinci). When, in 1998, Boston-based artist Shellburne Thurber began her ongoing series of photographs of psychoanalysts’ unoccupied offices (first in Buenos Aires and then in Boston), she must have quickly realized she’d struck gold. While superficially similar to, say,

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  • Catherine Sullivan

    Angel Orensanz Foundation/Whitney Museum of American Art

    Catherine Sullivan is in the process of creating an exciting body of work that dissects the meaning of the word “to perform.” Operating separately in both video and live performance, she creates paired installations and theater works that share source material and performers but emphasize the nature of different acting styles within each respective medium in fascinating new ways. That she achieves such a high level of sophistication in both mediums makes her work all the more consequential.

    As a former actor herself, Sullivan is as versed in the methods of directors Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Kazan,

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