reviews

  • Left: David Smith, Tanktotem IX, 1960, painted steel, 90 x 33 x 24 1/8“. Right: David Smith, Agricola XIII, 1953, steel and stainless steel, 35 1/4 x 42 1/2 x 12”.

    David Smith

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    FOR YEARS—decades, really—when encountering a sculpture by David Smith in a museum or an art gallery, I’ve looked at it long and hard, from up close and far away. I’ve walked all around it and peered at it from every point of view; and then, if it was a piece I found compelling (and no one was watching), I made a loose fist with my right hand and lightly rapped the sculpture in order to hear—I almost wrote “see”—how it sounded. Only then do I ever feel that I know a work by Smith, whatever else knowing it might be taken to mean. So imagine my satisfaction when I read Michael Brenson’s essay “

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  • Jack Pierson

    Cheim & Read

    Jack Pierson has already made salvaged-sign-letter word sculptures spelling out ANGST, GONE, HELL, BETRAYAL, DESIRE/DESPAIR, and LOST, so maybe it was only a matter of time before he got around to MELANCHOLIA. Or perhaps it just took a while for him to name the temperament that saturates his work; melancholy turns, after all, on ambivalence and deferral. In his recent show at Cheim & Read, Pierson filled the gallery with twenty-four works in different media that, the press release claims, meditate on “women’s suffering.” But this dwelling on loss extended out from his feminine subjects to

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  • Fiona Banner

    Tracy Williams, Ltd.

    As if Bouvard and Pécuchet (1881) rewound, Fiona Banner’s work of the past twelve years has generally begun with copying and ended with epistemological inquiry. The profusion of words in earlier projects—which have included voluminous transcriptions of films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Don’t Look Back (1967), and a “totally unedited” thousand-page book, Nam, 1997, chronicling the on-screen action in six Vietnam movies—recalled Gustave Flaubert’s assiduous copyists, who don’t discriminate between “the good and the evil” and “the farcical and the sublime” because, as they conclude, “The

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  • Tim Lee

    Cohan and Leslie

    “Party for Your Right to Fight”—a mocking inversion of the hedonistic Beastie Boys rallying cry “Fight for Your Right to Party”—is the title of a key track on Public Enemy’s peerless 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. In his two-channel video Party for Your Right to Fight, Public Enemy, 1988 (all works 2006), Korean-born, Vancouver-based artist Tim Lee enacts his own, doubled inversion: On each of the two monitors, we see the artist, shot in close-up and spinning like a record on twin decks while reciting the song’s lyrics. The two channels are out of sync, and, adding to

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  • Scott King

    Bortolami Dayan

    ANYWAY, I MUST DASH AS I’M GOING TO SET FIRE TO MY NEIGHBOURS HEDGE NOW. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, AND HOPEFULLY I’LL SEE YOU SOON. I LOVE YOU BOTH VERY MUCH. YOUR SON, SCOTT. X. London-based artist Scott King seems to have a thing about hedges. The above reference in Dear Mum, 2003, a small print reproducing the text of a less-than-reassuring letter home that rounded off “Information,” his recent exhibition at Bortolami Dayan, isn’t the first or the only one of its kind. He also agonizes about the significance of shrubbery in, for example, Self Portrait as a Catholic Pie Chart (4 parts), 2002,

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  • Al Hansen

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    “I am not at all interested in having a retrospective exhibition of my work,” artist Al Hansen (1927–1995) wrote toward the end of his life, adding that such a show “would take up at least an airplane hangar or two.” Putting together an overview of the innumerable assemblages, collages, paintings, and other objects that Hansen produced over the course of his lengthy career would indeed be a daunting task. But poignantly if implicitly absent from Hansen’s imagined hangars are works that challenge curatorial acumen not through unruly profusion but through evanescence. Somehow Hansen’s performative

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  • Sherrie Levine

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street

    Since she came on the scene in the mid-1970s, Sherrie Levine has made art that couldn’t exist without that which came before it. Levine’s insistence on her project’s inherent secondhandness has meant that her work is often understood as illustrating the toppling of “originality” and “authenticity” by the bowling ball of postmodernism. Yet, as much as her infamous reworkings of extant “masterworks” (by Walker Evans, Egon Schiele, Constantin Brancusi, and the like) have operated to critically account for inequities in art’s production and reception, they have succeeded, too, in nudging otherwise

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  • Amy Sillman

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    In her recent exhibition of ten new paintings, Amy Sillman demonstrated that she continues to mine the edges of abstraction, meshing patches of color with bursts of chaotic line and weblike compositional scaffolding. Sillman balances dense passages with barely worked fields washed in pale color and often traversed by fragmented horizon lines that convey a sense of open space. Her paint handling—which may appear ferocious or lyrical, careful or slapdash—is invariably deft. She borrows painterly conventions associated with an experimental visual language that can be traced back to Paul Klee and

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  • Saul Fletcher

    Anton Kern Gallery

    “But what does the painter think about his work—which in itself appears to be unresolved—being framed, enclosed, placed in an interior?,” a journalist wrote in 1920, after visiting Piet Mondrian’s Paris studio. “His studio answers for him. The walls of the room . . . are hung with painted or unpainted canvases, so that each wall is actually a kind of larger-scale painting with rectangular fields.” Saul Fletcher’s photograph, Untitled (Fog and Rain), 2005, which shows a loose pattern of black vertical lines on a roughly painted surface, recalls Mondrian’s 1915 Pier and Ocean, but a comparison

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  • Luisa Lambri

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    For her New York solo debut, Italian photographer Luisa Lambri presented a four-year minisurvey consisting of just seventeen photographs, and the restrained selection underscored the importance of editing to her practice. Lambri spends considerable time in each of the modernist buildings—primarily private residences—that she photographs, taking hundreds of pictures. Yet only a few of these are ever printed and exhibited, and they are not conventional architectural photographs in the vein of, say, Julius Shulman’s glamorous images of Case Study Houses or Candida Höfer’s typological surveys of

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  • Jennifer and Kevin McCoy

    Postmasters

    Two kinds of time—cinematic and oneiric—pass in Jennifer and Kevin McCoy’s recent exhibition, “Directed Dreaming.” In the show’s centerpiece, the multimedia installation Dream Sequence, 2006, two rotating platforms each contain a series of dreamlike scenarios built using tiny figures and train-set-style buildings and trees. As the platforms turn, a series of cameras and mirrors project images of the miniscule film sets on to the gallery wall, to the accompaniment of a whooshing oceanic (or possibly uterine) sound track. Each projection has one element that remains unchanging as the shots of the

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  • “Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964–1980”

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    At first glance, this show appears to be a simple survey of the dominant modes of postwar abstraction. In one corner hangs Melvin Edwards’s Cotton Hangup, 1965, an expressionist sculpture of black steel, tools, and rebar; in another stretches Joe Overstreet’s Saint Expedite A, 1971, a post-Minimalist rigging of green-, black-, and redpainted canvases. Barbara Chase-Riboud similarly reimports reference into Minimal forms: Her Bathers, 1972, consists of a field of low rectilinear aluminum volumes that ripples like a bed of wave-polished rocks, with green-gray silk splays suggesting seaweed exposed

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  • Frank Auerbach

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    There’s not much left of mimesis in Frank Auerbach’s new paintings and drawings. Where previously there was a balance—however uneasy—between the picture (usually a portrait or a London street scene) and the gestural handling that gave it dramatic substance, the new work tilts—almost, it seems, irreversibly—toward gesture. The medium—and its handling—seems to be the message here. The particularity of the people and places identified by the pictures’ titles seems to have been sacrificed to the particularity of touch. But the paint has personality—Auerbach’s personality. One recalls Dostoyevsky’s

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  • Marco Neri

    Lucas Schoormans

    Marco Neri’s cityscapes and architectures are simultaneously spare and lush. Rendered in tempera, the pictures’ matte black surfaces look plain but act rich—the paint is thin and flat but profoundly light-absorbent, dark with an unshowy completeness that makes the pâte of oil seem grandiose by comparison. Arranged in largely rectilinear systems across these opaque expanses are white markings geometric enough to remain bars and rectangles, stripes and circles, even while they coalesce into nighttime views of the modern city. For the most part regular, hard-edged, and dense, these whites can also

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  • Daniel Johnston

    Clementine

    Daniel Johnston first emerged in the mid-1980s with a series of self-distributed lo-fi audiocassettes filled with songs that sounded like a cross between vintage blues, music made for children, and Bob Dylan as interpreted by Edith Bunker. He quickly became a celebrated figure in the indie-music world; Kurt Cobain once called him “the greatest living songwriter,” and performers from Tom Waits to Wilco to Beck have covered his songs. Johnston was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the mid-’80s, an illness traced in the recent documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which compares him to

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  • Andrew Sexton

    Oliver Kamm 5BE Gallery

    A series of wry inside jokes instantiated via improbable materials and processes, Andrew Sexton’s recent solo debut was built around what at first seemed a similarly unlikely organizing principle: His drawings and multimedia conglomerations were devised as “portraits” of friends and family members. Although its symbolic vocabulary occasionally suggested a familiar brand of neo-Gothic kitsch, Sexton’s bricolage nevertheless managed to avoid the self-conscious seriousness that often plagues work in the idiom, forgoing moody introspection for genuine exuberance. And the artist was comfortable enough

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  • Philadelphia Wireman

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    For the past decade and a half, the small, wire-trussed assemblages made by an anonymous artist known only as the Philadelphia Wireman have circulated busily within the folk/outsider art world, but the mystery of their origin has remained unsolved. Over a thousand of these enigmatic objects were found on a Philadelphia street corner by a student and brought to the attention of local outsider art dealer John Ollman, who has worked diligently to preserve and exhibit them at different venues, Matthew Marks Gallery’s minuscule Twenty-first Street annex being the latest.

    It is widely assumed, due to

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