reviews

  • Lee Friedlander, Tokyo, Japan, 1979, black-and-white photograph.

    Lee Friedlander

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Walking with a friend through the Lee Friedlander retrospective at MOMA, I noticed that the two of us each had a different way of looking at almost every early street photograph on view: One of us saw the photograph a certain way right off the bat and couldn’t easily see it otherwise, while the other noticed everything else in the photo and could only see the “hook” after having it pointed out. What in one viewing looked like Americanized pieces of Cartier-Bresson poetic doubling in another couldn’t be disentangled from a set of densely stratified spatial and perceptual conundrums that at once

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  • Max Ernst

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    This first major museum show of Max Ernst to take place in New York in thirty years stakes a grand claim for his importance to twentieth-century art, and to the development of modern painting in particular. “Only Picasso,” announces a wall text at the exhibition’s entrance, “played as decisive a role in the invention of modern techniques and styles.” Ernst’s technical inventions in the 175 works on view include the “overpainting” of the Dada pictures that are commonly called collages, as well as the semiautomatist frottage, grattage, decalcomania, and “oscillation” processes of his Surrealist

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  • Max Ernst, Sambesiland, 1921, photographic enlargement of photomontage with ink mounted on paperboard, 6 13/16 x 9 1/8".

    Max Ernst

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Locating and mapping the human unconscious was a primary plotline within the braided narratives of modernism, and it fell to the Surrealist painters to represent the inchoate structures and unverbalized agendas of this newly explored dark continent. The texture of the twentieth century is fading in our memory, as the talking cure listens to Prozac and the end of history scrambles not to become the history of the end—but the fortuitously timed Max Ernst retrospective reminded us that conditions of epic urgency surround us and that art is allowed to claim them as its contextual domain.

    If

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  • “Little Boy”

    Japan Society

    Contemporary Japan is still at heart a defeated Japan. That was the central claim of “Little Boy,” the final installment of a series of exhibitions curated by Takashi Murakami around his signature concept, Superflat.

    “Little Boy” was the code name for the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the exhibition aspired, in part, to account for the recurrence of themes relating to nuclear destruction in Japanese visual culture since the end of World War II. To this end, Murakami exhibited a number of clips from relevant live-action and animated science fiction. But the primary aim

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  • Richard Prince

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Richard Prince has been in retrospective mode of late. Last year witnessed “Women” at LA’s Regen Projects and “Man” at Zurich’s Galerie Eva Presenhuber—self-curated surveys of the fashion models and biker chicks, cowboys and rock stars that populate his oeuvre—and his Catskills property Second House will soon open to the public as a Guggenheim-run museum. At Gladstone Gallery, twenty-seven works of painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography from 1984 to the present continued this look back.

    Exhibited in the gallery’s five rooms was a representative sample of the work for which Prince has become

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  • Jack Goldstein

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash/Metro Pictures

    Around the turn of the millennium, as a widespread reappraisal of the art of Jack Goldstein (1945–2003) got underway—perhaps prompted by the 2001 re-creation at New York’s Artists Space of the seminal 1977 show “Pictures,” in which Goldstein appeared alongside Troy Brauntuch, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, and Philip Smith—his work seemed suddenly to be everywhere, but it was rarely all together in one place. For those who didn’t make it to his 2002 retrospective at Le Magasin in Grenoble, a concurrent pair of recent New York shows offered the next best thing—a chance to compare significant

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  • Sophie Calle

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street

    There’s nothing in the world like the pain that accompanies the end of a great love affair. In his Fragments d’un discours amoureux (A Lover’s Discourse, 1977), Roland Barthes isolates the way in which this piercing sorrow greets the spurned subject most cruelly in the blurry, semiconscious moments when he or she is roused from sleep. Making reference to the impotent protagonist of Stendhal’s Armance (1827), Barthes lists various manifestations of this unwelcome, if banal, daily return to suffering: “Modes of waking: sad, wracked (with tenderness), affectless, innocent, panic-stricken (Octave

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  • Neo Rauch

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Neo Rauch’s latest suite of untimely painterly meditations is called “Renegaten,” a word that is similar to the English “renegades” but which also preserves a bit more tenaciously the idea of “reneging” on a promise or commitment. The title aptly expresses a tension in Rauch’s work between a bold iconoclasm that exposes the fallaciousness of figurative painting itself and a broody melancholia that confronts the broken promise of art to represent or transform life, a promise that demands restitution.

    By now, Leipzig’s Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst’s prize pupil’s signature style is well

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  • Malcolm Morley

    Sperone Westwater

    “Jock art,” or art that incorporates sports imagery, is a much-maligned genre—right up there with paintings of wild animals and portraits of Elvis on velvet—but that only makes it ripe for recuperation. Many great moments in American art have taken us into the heat of competition; generally speaking, however, art that references the world of sports finds its niche at the dead center of mainstream culture, churned out by schlock mills, marketed in “starving artist” sales at airport motels, or, worse yet, sold in “theme art” galleries that specialize in ripping off their clientele with dubious

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  • Elger Esser

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Had Elger Esser deliberately set out to produce two apparently opposite bodies of work, he might well have settled on the landscape photographs for which he is best known and the enlarged shots of vintage seaside postcards in his recent show. The former photographs, large-scale in the manner of much current German photo art (Esser is yet another former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher), are beautiful in interesting ways. Some are striking for the flat featurelessness of the expanses they show, often of water and sand; others describe coastal or riverine spots of no self-evident uniqueness, so

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  • Sarah Sze

    Marianne Boesky Gallery

    The charm of miniature landscape is control plus infinitude, the dollhouse promise of replicating everything at an easily manageable size. Both architects and landscape painters rely on this model-maker’s skill of swallowing whole the world’s ten thousand things and enframing them in a perfect spatial fantasy, so it is unsurprising that Sarah Sze counts among her influences an architect father and a collegiate stint in the painting department. She is now, of course, an installation artist whose accumulative mechanisms work by filling a room with five-dollars-a-gross bits of mass-produced ephemera.

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  • Victor Burgin

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    In Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes) (2002), Hal Foster argues that design has taken over every aspect of industrialized society. Yet Victor Burgin’s recent video, The Little House, 2005, points out that even in earlier eras design was linked to everything from natural urges and social constructs to sexual desire to the creation of narrative.

    At Christine Burgin Gallery, a large box functioned as a small theater for viewing Burgin’s work, which is based on a panning shot of the interior and garden of a 1922 Rudolph Schindler house in Los Angeles. The images are accompanied by narration

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  • Pierre Soulages

    Haim Chanin Fine Arts/Robert Miller Gallery

    The moody scumbling, planar layers, and primarily vertical format of Pierre Soulages’s walnut-stain works on paper, a selection of which were exhibited recently at Haim Chanin Fine Arts, signal a strong affinity with the paintings of Mark Rothko. Soulages uses dense black and dark, diffuse brown exclusively, whereas Rothko also deployed luminous colors, and he sometimes introduces sudden “horizons” of piercing white, but the two artists share the same peculiar blend of intimacy and what Roger Fry called “cosmic sensibility”—a somewhat labored sense of the epic, inseparable from a search for

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  • Uta Barth

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    In her latest body of work, Uta Barth has turned away from the peripheral spaces that she spent the last fifteen years photographing: a patch of sun scored by the shadow of a windowpane; the blurred corner of a room; a nondescript fragment of landscape viewed from inside. Here she surprises with deliberate, colorful foci: vases of flowers, each placed near a shaded window on a counter inscribed with the dark outline of a square. The images suggest domesticity yet feel coolly Minimalist, juxtaposing the organic and the geometric, the kitsch associations of still life and the pristine plainness

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  • Michael Rakowitz

    Lombard-Fried Projects

    Architectural modernism is often said to have breathed its last with the dynamiting of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in Saint Louis. Constructed in the 1950s as a monument to shared space and racial integration, Minoru Yamasaki’s Corbusier-like vision of a utopian urban community deteriorated into a vast slum and was knocked down in 1972. This front-page event was attended by a transfixed mob (including many former Pruitt-Igoe residents) that reportedly let out a dull roar as the buildings fell—and it is this spectacle of collective catharsis, more than the simple fact of the buildings’ demise,

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  • Sophie von Hellermann

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    For a show that took its cues from Albert Einstein, German painter Sophie von Hellermann’s first solo exhibition in New York wore its mantle lightly. Staged on the occasion of the hundred-year anniversary of the watershed formulation of E=mc2, “Goddess in the Doorway” exuded a gravity that, for all its pretense to science, was really more about waking dreams and kinesthetic apparitions than postulated equations. In von Hellermann’s large-scale, candy-color acrylics, figures hover unmoored against unprimed canvas, the paint alternately seeping into the weave of the support and threatening to

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  • Miranda Lichtenstein

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    From Siddhartha to John the Baptist, every culture has its spiritual seekers. In her new color photograph The Wave, 2005, Miranda Lichtenstein shows us ours: A well-groomed, thirtysomething white man, seated in a tastefully minimal office, the room’s sole adornment a Hokusai-esque print of a crashing wave by Robert Longo. Gently diffused by white aluminum blinds, light floods through the windows, evenly illuminating the clean lines of a blond wood desk, the sleek contours of an iMac, and the man himself, his eyes closed in meditation. On the desk lies a wristwatch, a reminder both of the

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  • Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester

    The Kitchen

    Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester’s video installation Sandra of the Tuliphouse or How to Live in a Free State, 2001, is a ruminative work inspired by the complex history of Christiania, a famous anarchistic community established in Copenhagen in 1971. Divided between large freestanding screens—each accompanied by its own unidirectional speaker to minimize the discordant buildup of sound—Sandra of the Tuliphouse comprises five independent twelve-to-twenty-minute video loops that may be watched in any order, in part or (by the more determined visitor) from beginning to end. Making its belated

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  • Kay Rosen

    Gray Kapernekas Gallery

    F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that the “test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Kay Rosen’s text-based art requires precisely this kind of doublethink, as almost all of the sly arrangements of words she has been making for the last twenty-five years reward concerted attention by revealing double and triple entendres. The “Aha!” moments often pack an emotional or political punch, but are always leavened by the artist’s sense of humor.

    Trained as a linguist, Rosen has become a kind of visual

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  • Robyn O'Neil

    Clementine

    The landscapes in Robyn O’Neil’s multi-paneled and intricate drawings are vast, barren, and populated by middle-age men in dark sweatsuits who appear very small against their immense and intimidating backdrops. Not much grows in them apart from a few feathery bushes and twisted trees, beyond which ominous mountains rise up out of nothing. One sky is blank, oppressive in its absolute featurelessness; others portend stormy weather. A puff of smoke on the horizon could be a mushroom cloud.

    In this inhospitable environment, O’Neil’s army of anonymous figures act out a contemporary Divine Comedy that

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