reviews

  • Christopher Miner

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    “I still don’t know what to do with myself.” The postcollegiate narrator of Christopher Miner’s seventeen-minute video The Best Decision Ever Made, 2004, is a profoundly dissatisfied soul. Recalling a visit to his grandparents’ house on the occasion of his grandmother’s funeral (grandpa passed on some years previously, we learn), he contrasts their apparently effortless contentment with the frustrating directionlessness of his own life. As the camera drifts around the unassuming home, with its threadbare backyard and bland small-town environs, the dolorous voice-over sketches an overqualified,

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  • Seydou Keïta

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    Seydou Keïta, “the Bresson of Bamako,” died in 2001, leaving a body of work specific to the postcolonial, urban Mali of the 1950s and ’60s. But Keïta’s story—from his experience as a self-taught photographer catering to a regional clientele, to the nonpareil portraits that constitute his legacy, to the bitter struggle now raging for control of his estate—also frames discussion of his oeuvre as a parable about photography itself.

    The prints exhibited recently are posthumous and had not been seen before. But while their exhibition may have been a political move in the estate battle (of which more

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  • de Rijke/de Rooij

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    Dutch artists Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij are best known for their 16- and 35-mm films, which often push the moving image toward stasis in service of the duo’s coolly cerebral, career-long examination of the mechanisms of photographic and filmic representation. If that sounds dust-dry, the work is usually anything but, because de Rijke and de Rooij, collaborators since 1994, have a sneaky wit and a knack for mesmerizing visuals. Their recent film installation Mandarin Ducks, 2005, which debuted at the 2005 Venice Biennale, featured ten characters cryptically interacting in a modish

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  • Alec Soth

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Like many contemporary photographers who have rediscovered the value of the road trip as a route to vernacular culture, Alec Soth encounters out-of-the-way places and people and pushes past documentary investigation into lurid hyperrealism. His new series, “NIAGARA,” 2005, demonstrates not only a knack for convincing strangers to reveal themselves, but also a penchant for channeling personal experience into passive-aggressive pictorial sensationalism. We might empathize with his subjects, but at the same time we can’t stop staring at their naked bodies and impoverished surroundings. This spectacle,

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  • McDermott & McGough

    Cheim & Read

    In their recent exhibition, “A True Story Based on Lies,” McDermott & McGough presented a series of crisply painted, brightly colored canvases that rework lurid comic book and commercial illustrations. Chump into a Champ, 1964, 2005, for example, shows the iconic Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad in which a skinny loser gets shoved in the face by a fairground muscle man, only to buff up and avenge himself, thereby winning the adoration of a girlfriend who had earlier joined in mocking him.

    The background of the Pop-style montage Don’t Be Half a Man, 1964, 2005, depicts the other famous Atlas ad aimed

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  • Christopher Deeton

    ATM Gallery

    It’s not immediately clear how Christopher Deeton achieves the elementary symmetry evident in the three large paintings from his new series that were shown recently at ATM Gallery’s Twenty-seventh Street space. Revealing no brushwork, the ominous black shapes that inhabit these works hover like darkly numinous apparitions against their raw-canvas backgrounds. Formed by the pull of gravity, they are the result of the artist’s manipulation of support as opposed to medium. This method of moving the panels in order to direct the flow of pigment across their surfaces—at the constant risk of indelible

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  • Roxy Paine

    James Cohan | Tribeca

    Roxy Paine’s work tends to fall into two quite different categories: machines that make art, and art that looks very much like nature. In the first category are devices called the “PMU” (painting manufacturing unit) and “Scumaks” (auto sculpture makers). With the aid of computer programs written by the artist, these devices create paintings in various historical styles and objects marked by Oldenburgian floppiness. The second category encompasses meticulously rendered sculptures of flora and fungi presented in pseudolaboratory settings (poison ivy occupying a vitrine; mushrooms growing from a

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  • Carolee Schneeman

    P.P.O.W

    Carolee Schneemann’s recent solo exhibition at P.P.O.W. coincided with Thomas Hirschhorn’s latest at Gladstone Gallery. Both, it scarcely needs pointing out, dealt with the politics of representation and the representation of politics, but a more interesting point of comparison might be semantic. While Schneemann—a pioneering figure in feminism and body art—has sometimes met with accusations of narcissism and shallowness, Hirschhorn today claims superficiality itself as a site de résistance. “The truth and logic of things,” he writes, “are reflected on their own surface. . . . Let’s keep things

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  • “The Painted World”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    As much as curator Bob Nickas structured “The Painted World” mainly around color schemes (orchestrating rooms of black, red, green, and blue paintings, with strategic chromatic anomalies only intensifying the effect and, perhaps, signifying potential) and in terms of the way in which—as the wall text put it—“abstract painting continues to be explored and reexamined by successive generations of artists, reflecting the times in which it is made, with an awareness of, and building on, its history,” this show was really centered around Wayne Gonzales’s brilliant White House, 2003, whose eponymous

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  • Mika Rottenberg

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    The blood-chilling term efficiency expert was coined in the early twentieth century by mechanical engineer and management consultant Frederick Taylor, who famously timed factory employees to encourage them to work faster. Mika Rottenberg’s videos of women performing mindless, repetitive tasks might do Taylor proud if they didn’t also reveal his system’s utter lack of humanity. In Rottenberg’s latest video, Dough, 2005–2006, a six-minute loop, the eponymous product is manufactured via an obscure and complicated process that requires the use of a fluorescent lamp and an inhaler, as well as an

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  • Lina Bertucci

    Perry Rubenstein Gallery

    Lina Bertucci’s photographs of contemporary artists are an irresistible prospect for fans: Who wouldn’t be curious to see his or her favorite painter or sculptor submit to the aesthetic of another? Nevertheless, the images do resonate beyond the recognition factor, since photographic artist portraiture dates back to the dawn of the medium. And the tradition of artist portraiture in the nineteenth century arose concurrently with the nascent mass media, itself facilitated by the invention of photography. As exemplified in the oeuvre of, say, Félix Nadar (who photographed Eugène Delacroix and

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  • Matt Mullican

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    In 1925, reflecting in “An Autobiographical Study” on the hypnotic treatment that he had abandoned in his clinical practice years before, Sigmund Freud wrote that the method had nonetheless proved to be an “immense help,” in select cases, “by widening the field of the patient’s consciousness and putting within his reach knowledge which he did not possess in his waking life.” The persona conjured in Matt Mullican’s recent installation at Christine Burgin Gallery, Five Suitcases of Love, Truth, Work and Beauty, 2005—a figure whose emergence was precipitated by Mullican’s performances while under

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  • Joe Zucker

    Paul Kasmin Gallery and Nolan/Eckman Gallery

    At first glance, the “Open Storage” series from 2005, that Joe Zucker exhibited recently at Paul Kasmin Gallery and the “Container Ships” series from 2004–2005 shown concurrently at Nolan/Eckman Gallery both seem to display the verve that has marked the course of a lengthy career, but one show bears the impression out more satisfactorily than the other.

    The works in both groups are geometrically structured, though the pictorial scales on which they depend are macro and micro, respectively. In the former series, Zucker “stores” everyday objects by rendering them as life-size illustrational outlines

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  • Bertien van Manen

    Yancey Richardson Gallery

    In On Photography (1977), Susan Sontag characterizes photographs as melancholy objects that “state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction.” Implying Sigmund Freud’s idea of melancholia as unresolved mourning, photography here enacts an analogous drive toward death. But in partaking of nostalgia, even if peremptorily, the fascination with death that photographs exercise is, as Sontag cautions, “also an invitation to sentimentality.” No one knew this better than Roland Barthes, who found the premonitory suggestion of an open wound in every indexical mechanical

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  • Kirsten Stoltmann

    Wallspace

    In her New York solo debut, Los Angeles–based artist Kirsten Stoltmann used materials and techniques familiar from junior high art class to access the absurd heights and maudlin depths of teenage fantasy. The arrangement of collages, sculpture, and video that she exhibited at Wallspace blended desire and shame, offering an adolescent take on sexual fantasy, racial politics, and materialistic envy. Regression to a teenage mind-set might seem counterintuitive when examining such complex topics, but Stoltmann manages to inject at least some nuance. The reflexive implications of the show’s title,

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