• “East Village USA”

    New Museum

    As I dipped into the foreword of the catalogue for “East Village USA,” the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s survey of the rollicking scene that sprang to life on the mean streets of New York’s Alphabet City circa 1981 and vanished as quickly some half-dozen years later, I experienced a start of recognition. Like the show’s mastermind, New Museum senior curator Dan Cameron, I lived in the East Village as the scene bustled into being and cut my teeth there as a critic. But it was not these biographical details that served as my proverbial madeleine, so much as Cameron’s surprising confession that,

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  • Steve McQueen

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    It was the ultimate curatorial head-scratcher: Assemble a portfolio of images to represent to aliens what life is like on Earth. Addressing an unknowable audience, a team of NASA researchers, chaired by astronomer, educator, and author Carl Sagan, set themselves this unusual brief back in 1977. More recently, their choices—which are still hurtling through space aboard the Voyager II probe—formed the basis of British artist Steve McQueen’s Once upon a Time, 2002. Seventy minutes long, this slow-motion computer-simulated slide dissolve of all 116 well-traveled pictures reveals a fascinating time

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  • Stephen Vitiello

    The Project

    In Stephen Vitiello’s World Trade Center Recordings: Winds After Hurricane Floyd, 1999–2002, developed during a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council residency, the eerie creaks emitted by the twin towers as they swayed in the breeze recall the tortured contractions of a sixteenth-century galleon as much as the constrained flexing of a modern skyscraper. And while the work’s emotional impact has undoubtedly been amplified by the buildings’ fate, it does not depend on that catastrophe for its continued resonance. For if recording sound might be considered a rather passive method of observational

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  • Diana Thater

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Diana Thater’s art is inseparable from the technology used to implement it—LCD projectors, swivel mounts, DVD players, sync devices, plasma screens, and endless electric cords fill her installation spaces and manipulate our movement through them. In environments as wired and controlling as these, imagery itself might appear almost incidental, doubly so when it is, as here, almost purely decorative: Thater has a penchant for pictures of the natural world—flowers, forests, and fires. She allows her camera to sweep across these scenes so that when projected onto walls, ceilings, and floors, the

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  • Keith Sonnier

    PaceWildenstein 22

    Neon is usually thought of as Keith Sonnier’s “signature substance,” but in Arabic Fringe, 2004, for example, it is only one element in what is essentially a three-dimensional drawing. To the left of two horizontal lines of white neon tubing is, in the same medium, an expressionistic squiggle of red. But there are also the conspicuous black wires (another linear element) that connect them, which dangle with all the graceful insouciance of chance, and the bulky transformer to which they are attached. A wire mesh also links them, holding two little starfish as if in a net—the romantic catch of

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  • Bruce Conner

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    One doesn’t have much occasion to refer to Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style these days, but Bruce Conner’s recent show “Punk Photographs” rendered that cultural-studies classic a touchstone once more. And the fact that Subculture was published in 1979 and Conner’s photographs from the Mabuhay Gardens, a Filipino nightclub in the North Beach area of San Francisco, were taken in 1978, is only one reason for its renewed relevance.

    Conner’s photos take in the entire culture of the club, from the bands who performed there (most notably Devo, DOA, and Negative Trend) and fans and scenesters

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  • Marc Quinn

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Marc Quinn is still best known for his deliciously sick “Sensation”-era shock piece Self, 1991, a cast of his head in his own deep-frozen blood. In a suite of recent bronze sculptures exhibited at Mary Boone Gallery—a selection from a series first seen at Dublin’s Irish Museum of Modern Art last summer—Quinn has fine-tuned the balance of pathos and revulsion to which his career has thus far been dedicated.

    Viewers in New York were greeted by Seated Figure (Bull), 2004. Raised on a white plinth and rearing to a height of almost six feet, attenuated limbs spread to expose the yawning void where

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  • T. J. Wilcox

    Metro Pictures

    ACCORDING TO THE SWANS, DECEMBER 16, 2012, IS A DATE TO REMEMBER. So closes one segment of T. J. Wilcox’s Garland #6, 2005, a nine-minute-thirteen-second reel of three silent 16 mm films. Projected from a noisy Eiki Slim Line (the quintessential home-movie model) onto a standard portable screen, the subtitled film is suffused with an enthusiast’s total immersion in his subject. Were it not for the subtitles’ insistence on narrative accompaniment, one might easily read this slow documentation of swans floating on cerulean water as the loving endeavor of a lifelong Audubon Society member. But

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  • Peter Hujar

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Peter Hujar (1934–1987) is a hard photographer to pin down—to brand, so to speak—which might be one reason why his reputation is still percolating from “insider’s insider” status toward the mainstream. He has been compared aptly to Berenice Abbott and Eugène Atget, to Weegee and Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin. He was a storyteller; he was a formalist; he was a portraitist of artists, performers, and intellectuals; he was a chronicler of life on the margins. His work exudes insouciant verve, serene detachment, gothic creepiness. If he was consistently animated by any single impulse,

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  • Laylah Ali

    303 Gallery

    There are still some “greenheads” in Laylah Ali’s new gouaches. But the artist’s signature creatures—with their spindly limbs, androgynous bodies, orbicular green heads, and brutal group antics—have mostly given way to a new race whose violently pink skins and hieratic placement on the paper seem to speak less about the ghastly comedy of societal cruelty and more about the eerie isolation of individuals.

    Centered on smallish, vertically oriented sheets and pressed against opaque skies, Ali’s people—if that’s the word for them—appear volitionless. Crisp geometry and a pervasive, perhaps telltale

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  • Guy Ben-Ner


    The familiar figure of the camcorder-wielding dad might seem to be the unlikeliest of auteurs, but Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner is one enviably cool father. For his video Moby Dick, 2000, shown at MoMA QNS last year, Ben-Ner enacted Melville’s seafaring epic in his kitchen with the aid of his then-six-year-old daughter, Elia, and an assortment of household props. The resulting silent movie was a brilliant piece of slapstick, linking the crustiest of narratives with the craftiest of cinematic devices. As they swing from the sink and hunt whales under the table, Ben-Ner and his daughter seem to be

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  • Richard Tuttle

    Drawing Center

    In his great antifoundational, pragmatist essay “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” (1878), C. S. Peirce sought to differentiate clarity from veracity. His point in so doing was to show that a workable comprehension of reality was best arrived at through careful attentiveness rather than via any “royal road to logic,” which would at best occlude real thought and at worst offer up hypotheses in the form of false—if ornamental—truths. For Peirce, being in the world and engaging with its material realities was, in fact, the only way to be. And for a conception of an external object to similarly become

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  • Cory Arcangel/Paper Rad

    TEAM Gallery/Deitch Projects

    Cory Arcangel segued rather quickly from the realm of Internet message boards and digital-media festivals to that of contemporary-art galleries and museums, borne aloft by the art world’s embrace of all things adolescent (here video games in particular) and also by his ability to connect with broader themes, including appropriation and reuse, material specificity, and the mastery of technique. Over the past two years he has shown individual works in five major New York art museums, including a star turn in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Two simultaneous solo shows recently offered the first opportunity

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  • Kysa Johnson

    Roebling Hall

    Concerned with the extremities of perception—the telescopic and, especially, the microscopic—Kysa Johnson’s appealing brand of conceptual painting and drawing evokes the structural poetry at the very base of things. Inspired by essential biological forms and processes, the elegant renderings on view in her first New York solo show (in ink, watercolor, and most often chalk on blackboard) operate in a territory somewhere between lyrical abstraction and literal representation. Their focus is that level of observation where the familiar “real” forms of the world begin to resolve into the fantastical,

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  • Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba

    Lehmann Maupin | New York, W 22 Street

    Vietnamese/Japanese artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba first took to the global art stage at the 2001 Yokohama Triennale with Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Toward the Complex—For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards, 2001, a video featuring images of an underwater rickshaw race performed off the coast of Vietnam. As audiences watched the ubiquitous symbol of the Southeast Asian urban economy, the bicycle-taxi, make its way across the languid yet inhibiting dreamworld of the ocean floor, they immediately recognized an ambiguous, lyrical commentary on Vietnam’s historical and economic

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  • Lisa Kereszi

    Yancey Richardson Gallery

    The photographs in Lisa Kereszi’s series “New York Stories” (2000–2004) present a captivating vision of the city’s grand if sordid mystique. Focusing on abandoned and nostalgic settings in Coney Island, Governors Island, and Times Square, they illustrate fantastical, haunted, and fragile aspects of our culture. In Girls, Show World Center, Times Square, NYC, 2000, the seamy glow of strip-joint neon is reflected in the small mirrored tiles that form a concentric-square motif on the club’s dropped ceiling. In this acrid close-up, the chintzy decor is interrupted by electrical wiring and a sprinkler

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