reviews

  • Aernout Mik

    New Museum

    Aernout Mik’s video installation Refraction, 2005, which tracks the aftermath of a bus accident in the Romanian countryside, comes closer to naturalism than any of the Dutch artist’s earlier moving-image odes to disaster, dislocation, and freakish misadventure. Previously, Mik’s works have featured complex arrangements of screens, dizzying camera movements, ambiguously eschatological scenarios, and an almost Melièsian sense of creepy artifice. But Refraction, projected straightforwardly on a long, low, free-standing wall, at first seems to be merely an extended documentation of the type of

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  • Darren Almond

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Inspired by the life and work of Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, Darren Almond’s recent exhibition was a study in strategic contrasts, an orchestrated dialogue between beauty and decay designed to evoke both the lyricism and the melancholy characteristic of the late Nobel Prize–winner’s artistic outlook. Pairing a suite of wildly gorgeous color photographs of the California coast with a series of somber black-and-white shots of a winter landscape in Siberia—where Brodsky spent eighteen months in a labor camp before being exiled in 1972—the show also included a selection of Almond’s painted aluminum

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  • Banks Violette

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    In a single, melancholic afternoon, I recently saw Gus Van Sant’s latest film Last Days, and the Robert Smithson and Banks Violette exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Though unplanned, the itinerary made sense: Each presentation was haunted by the theme of early death, a fate that has long been a trigger for cultish devotion. As Shelley wrote after Keats died at twenty-five: “He is secure, and now can never mourn / A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain.” Or, in the words of Neil Young, quoted memorably by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note: “It’s better to burn out than to

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  • Charles Sandison

    Yvon Lambert New York

    It has always seemed that more artists should have followed Jenny Holzer’s lead, illuminating and animating words in order to address the complex variety of ways in which kinetic texts address us in everyday life. Charles Sandison is one of the few to have done so, and he accomplishes it by unbridling Holzer’s structure and uniformity, unleashing it in installations governed by an abstraction that is both visual and syntactic.

    In earlier installations such as male & female, 2002, words, generated by a computer and projected onto walls, clustered together to form figures. In the works in this

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  • William Eggleston

    Cheim & Read

    “Avoid prettiness—the word looks much like pettiness, and there is but little difference between them.” With these words, Peter Henry Emerson raged against fluffy concoctions of sublimity and romance in his 1889 treatise Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, which made the case that some photography should be accorded artistic (rather than scientific or commercial) status. While there’s now little question as to the medium’s creative viability, one need only reflect on the career of William Eggleston, whose landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976 unmistakably marked

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  • Bill Owens

    James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea

    Add another name to the growing list of 1970s American photographers recently “rediscovered” by the contemporary art world. You could say that this resurgence began with 303 Gallery’s exhibition of Stephen Shore’s photographs in 2000. That show, Shore’s first New York solo exhibition in five years, put his dusty road pictures and poignant slices of rural ennui (abandoned drive-in theaters, expansive skies over desolate byways) in a new, hipper context. The tendency has continued with a reinvigorated market for William Eggleston and the reemergence of other prominent figures from the period,

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  • Max Beckmann and Otto Dix

    Neue Galerie New York

    War is hell. That truism underscores the first-ever pairing of the entirety of two of the most powerful visual records of World War I: “Der Krieg” (War), 1924, a series of fifty etchings by Otto Dix; and “Die Hölle” (Hell), 1919, eleven lithographs by Max Beckmann. Both artists enthusiastically volunteered to fight in the conflict—Dix serving for four years in the trenches and Beckmann for one year as a medic before being discharged following a nervous breakdown. And both cited—albeit in very different ways—a philosophical underpinning. (Dix referred ironically to Friedrich Nietzsche’s dictum

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  • “Post No Bills”

    White Columns

    Since Matthew Higgs joined White Columns as director and chief curator at the end of last year, the venerable not-for-profit’s Higgsification has proceeded apace. Wasting little time (or space), he hit the ground running in February 2005 with six concurrent projects. The most prominent of these was “Trade,” a group exhibition of pairs of artworks that had at some point been exchanged by their makers. The show’s conceit was typical of its organizer’s predilection for collaborative enterprises that forge ahead with domino-effect inevitability or proliferate like benevolent viruses. Higgs’s

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  • Glen Baxter

    Flowers Gallery

    In his most recent novel Millennium People (2003), J. G. Ballard imagines a middle-class insurrection in which the most comfortable members of contemporary London society attempt to destroy the very system they were responsible for creating, transforming their tasteful effects into tools of civil disobedience: “Banners hung from dozens of balconies, sheets of best Egyptian cotton from Peter Jones, gladly sacrificed for the revolution.” Should British cartoonist Glen Baxter ever leave behind the alternative past he prefers to inhabit, Ballard’s alternative present might well be his first port of

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  • Liu Zheng

    Yossi Milo Gallery

    When Swiss émigré Robert Frank set out to document America for his laconic if pathos-laden photographic series “The Americans” in 1955, he encountered a society in the grip of postwar consumption, vitiated by racial inequalities and rampant class division. About as subtle as Tocqueville, Frank rendered ideological his documentation of an American odyssey through bus depots and Woolworth stores, presenting the sad reality of the everyday as a parade of typologies and archetypes. Stripped of pretense and drained of affect, his photographs offered the perfect antidote to Family of Man–style

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  • Mike Bouchet

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    The press release for Mike Bouchet’s The New York Dirty Room (all works 2005) mimics the information sheet for Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room, 1977, that the Dia Foundation, which maintains it, makes available. It’s a brief tract that intones, in the same font, layout, and stately manner, the title of the work and its dimensions, provenance, and pedigree. Of course, with Bouchet’s brand-new work as its subject, much of this information feels cheekily presumptuous, but this is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the project.

    Dirty Room was a rank installation made entirely of dirt:

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  • Kayrock and Wolfy

    Jessica Murray Projects

    If one didn’t get too confounded by the math in its title, “One Sixpack Short of a Hippie Death Cult,” an exhibition of prints and posters by the Williamsburg, Brooklyn–based duo Kayrock and Wolfy, was that rare summer show that’s both concise and engaging. Accompanied by several live musical performances—by, among others, Jah Division, Tiger Mountain, and Ex Models—at Jessica Murray Projects, the Knitting Factory, and the Frying Pan, it was also a really good time.

    Karl LaRocca and Jef Scharf—that their alternate sobriquets Pre-Raphaelite Shaolin and Little Giant Robot come from Wu-Tang Clan’s

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  • “Make It Now”

    SculptureCenter

    SculptureCenter’s “Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York” arrived hot on the heels of two other exhibitions that purported to clue us in about the country’s two big art scenes: P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s bloated “Greater New York 2005” and the UCLA Hammer Museum’s “THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles.” While hardly perfect, “Make It Now” outdid its predecessors in one unexpected way: It plotted clear connections between the substance of local art and the environment in which it’s made. From Ester Partegàs’s tarp-covered, boarded-off Monument to the Truth, 2005, in the center’s yard,

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  • “Coming Home!: Self-Taught Artists, the Bible, and the American South”

    Museum of Biblical Art

    “Coming Home!: Self-Taught Artists, the Bible, and the American South” was a Trojan horse of sorts. Organized by the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, it quietly infiltrated New York via the newly established Museum of Biblical Art. There it challenged the folk/outsider art establishment by unapologetically celebrating Southern culture and evangelical Christianity as the context best suited to facilitate an understanding of the region’s self-taught artists. “Coming Home!” was part of a growing critical/curatorial move toward the reclamation of such artists from both the carnivalesque

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