reviews

  • Allan McCollum

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    Allan McCollum once asserted that a typical viewer’s relationship to a work of art is predicated on the desire “to be in on things at the source, to be involved in the Primal Scene, not out in the hall looking through the keyhole.” It is, however, precisely out in the metaphoric hall that McCollum has established an outpost, basing his oeuvre on the ways in which fantasies of immersion play themselves out in the fetishistic production, circulation, and consumption of art and other symbolic objects. His best-known series, the “Surrogate Paintings,” from 1978, and the related “Plaster Surrogates,”

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  • Phoebe Washburn

    LFL Gallery

    Phoebe Washburn’s undulating, room-sized sculptural installation, Nothing’s Cutie, 2004, looks at first like a colorful topographic model of a densely populated futuristic urban metropolis plunked down on a desert island: Rio meets Las Vegas meets Cancun, or maybe Kuala Lumpur. Hundreds of vertically inclined wooden planks of different lengths and dimensions, each briskly handpainted a pastel hue, have been screwed together, forming clusters (or neighborhoods) that open into little clearings of sawdust. Daintily punctuated with unsharpened pencils, packing tape, thumbtacks, and other stuff

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  • Richard Deacon

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    There’s a kind of sculpture that makes some people feel like wusses—an art of resistant materials, mighty force, dangerous tools—but there’s always an audience for it, because it makes other people feel like titans. Of course that’s not the only reason; tough sculpture can have all sorts of formal appeal. But surely a part of its attraction is an excitement about, or an identification with, the brute ability to make such work. There are other kinds of sculpture, naturally, and the post-Minimalists in particular were serious about alternatives, for example in the tactile methods and images of

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  • Daniel Joseph Martinez

    The Project

    Daniel Joseph Martinez’s installation The House America Built, 2004, is spare, quick, and tightly focused. It consists of one oversize, custom-built shack—big enough to house you or me—wedged into the gallery to look as if it had landed there by accident and suffered some damage in the process. Split apart along a seam running from roofline to foundation and no longer standing exactly true, the structure is decidedly out of order. Instead of an open door there are large cracks to peer through. Bobbing up and down and shifting this way and that to get a better view inside is rather like trying

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  • Richard Long

    Sperone Westwater

    Richard Long brings to his gallery installations something of the severity, suppleness, and mystery of the wilderness that is the setting for the large-scale projects for which he is better known. His recent works on plywood, which function both as painting and sculpture, are a minimalist synthesis of contrasting elements. Physically weighty, they are floated off the walls they hang from, their sturdiness a counterpoint to the mortal fragility of their natural surfaces. With elementary monochrome geometrical shapes painted on the raw plywood in gestural strokes of china clay and river mud, these

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  • Robert Ryman

    Peter Blum Gallery

    Robert Ryman was still in his late twenties and early thirties and not quite set in his ways when from 1957 to 1964 he made the twenty-seven works on paper exhibited here. Nevertheless, the now all-too-familiar square format is already in place, and many of the works are at least partially white, another staple of Ryman’s mature identity. The fact that the artist was still in flux—in a state of experimental innocence, as it were—makes these works particularly engaging. It is as though Ryman were testing the possibilities without reaching any conclusions—a welcome relief from the knowingness of

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  • “Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Gratuitous references to the seventeenth-century wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, are a recent curatorial and art-historical touchstone, so Bob Nickas and Steve Lafreniere’s decision to build an exhibition around the idea hardly came from left field, and promised, well, nothing in particular. So it was fortunate that their title, borrowed from a song by English folk balladeer Bridget St. John, was considerably more evocative, augmenting this most open-ended of structural models by suggesting a methodology—formally investigative—and a mood—awestruck—well suited to what emerged as a rangy

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  • Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler

    Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria

    For costuming, see Matthew Barney; for sound, Janet Cardiff; for art direction, Gregory Crewdson. Over the past ten years the art world has witnessed the incremental reinvention of the cinematic wheel, one department at a time, via the movie-besotted mediums of contemporary photography and video. Working together, using their accumulated knowledge of the film industry’s bounces, booms, and production schedules, the aforementioned trio could probably pull off a respectable feature. With Single Wide, 2002, a Möbius-like six-minute, ten-second meditation on memory and narrative, Teresa Hubbard and

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  • Karel Funk

    303 Gallery

    The great recycling bin in which art history, critical theory, and market analysis dispose of their castoffs is crawling with post-ironic ironists scavenging for material not yet reworked. And as anyone who has browsed for high-end vintage clothing knows, “composite neo-retro” can look fabulous. Karel Funk is one such smart ragpicker, assembling an audacious mix of clashing styles and strategies that takes in Ellsworth Kelly, Alex Katz and Andy Warhol, Northern Renaissance altarpieces, photorealism, and the J. Crew catalogue, as well as, of course, “the male gaze.”

    Key to this eclecticism is

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  • Fred Wilson

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Already in the early ’90s, certain critics were balking at Fred Wilson’s museum interventions and his peculiar brand of materialist historicism, levying charges that the artist’s finger-pointing politics were not only too overt but, worse still, passé. While some argued that Wilson preached to a choir of self-congratulatory art world impresarios who surely knew better than to champion whitewashed narratives of art, or to revel in the power of institutions apart from that bestowed in inverse relation to the sanctimoniousness of their critique, Wilson’s work nevertheless raised discomfiting

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  • Amedeo Modigliani

    The Jewish Museum

    After decades of revisionist art history, with its accompanying tendency to downplay the significance of biography, it’s hard to believe that the oeuvre of Amedeo Modigliani remains colored by accounts of personal tragedy. Perhaps the most famous of the Montparnasse peintres maudits, Modigliani’s life story is familiar enough: Impoverished, itinerant, tubercular but handsome, the artist was frequently under the influence of alcohol and drugs, sketched café clients for money, and died at the age of thirty-five (an event immediately followed by the suicide of his pregnant girlfriend and last muse,

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  • Rachel Harrison

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    Unlike Rachel Harrison’s previous exhibitions, this one didn’t evade the fact that it was a showroom full of sculptures, autonomous things, standing there in plain view, whether openly embarrassed or glamorously opaque about their status as aesthetic commodities. Harrison’s best works seem to sculpturize an ambivalence about the job a work is meant to do: I show myself, you see me, value is in question, now what?

    Two works used video, one, Gray or Roan Colt, shot at a swanky horse auction in Saratoga Springs, New York, the other, Hail to Reason, at a backwoods auction of scarcely desirable junk

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  • An-My Lê

    Murray Guy

    War photographers have to a certain extent always staged their shots. Even the earliest known examples of the genre were contrived; American Civil War lensmen like Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner weren’t above scattering a few cannonballs or moving bodies to more dramatic settings. As Susan Sontag tells it in Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that we could be reasonably certain that photographs from the front weren’t setups: Images like the famous shot of children fleeing a napalm attack were simply too horrific to have been engineered, and the horrors

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  • Jonah Freeman

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    The Franklin Abraham, 2004—the creepy, darkly satirical video that was the centerpiece of Jonah Freeman’s recent show—is set in an indeterminate “parallel present” and concerns a building that is two miles long and houses two million people. A sort of Time Warner Center run amok, the eponymous Franklin Abraham takes the concept of mixed-use development to decadent extremes, comprising apartments, offices, casinos, theme restaurants, upscale lounges, dingy demimonde salons, retail operations both licit and illicit, and a “Sky Park.” Its inhabitants, who converse in a quasi-absurdist mixture of

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  • Elaine Reichek

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    Writing in the 1880s, William Morris lamented that what he called the intellectual arts had been separated by “the sharpest lines of demarcation” from the decorative arts, and he exhorted craftsmen to create a “noble, popular art” guided by nature and history. Elaine Reichek has been working for over two decades in one such discipline: embroidery. But where her earlier output was a highly charged feminist appropriation of “women’s work,” she recently seems more closely guided by Morris’s exhortation.

    One reason for this may be that Reichek has directed her gaze back to the nineteenth century.

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  • Andrea Loefke

    PH Gallery

    An adept young bricoleur with a light touch and a flair for playroom fantasy, Andrea Loefke made her first New York solo show a candy-colored zone of purposefully preadolescent ebullience. Her modest set-piece arrangements—featuring tiny barnyard animals emitting speech bubble baas and brays; small groves of flora made from string, wire, plastic sheeting and pipe-cleaners; nursery-school wallpaper; and puffy white clouds more suggestive of cotton candy than cumulonimbus—were temperamentally sweet enough to set the average visitor’s teeth on edge. Even the show’s preposterously saccharine title,

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