reviews

  • Hala Elkoussy, Peripheral Landscape #5, Al Warraq, 2004, ink-jet print on vinyl, dimensions variable.

    “Snap Judgments”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    AFRICA AND PHOTOGRAPHY have a tangled history. Can the medium that has depicted Africa for the West since the moment of the camera’s invention, during the colonialism of the nineteenth century, escape this troubled past? The thesis of “Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography” was that this possibility exists not only in theory but in practice among contemporary African artists, who are all too often ignored beyond their homelands. In his impressive introduction to the catalogue, curator Okwui Enwezor states that Western photographic depictions have either aestheticized

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  • Robert Watts

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    Of all the artists associated with the loose Fluxus movement, Robert Watts was perhaps the most “object oriented,” the one who took the most visible pleasure in using his considerable skills at traditional craft (wood carving, finish carpentry, chroming). This is also why his works are so often conceived as comments about art (much more so than those of his peers, even though they all shared the same meta-artistic impulse). The selection of thirty-four Watts works presented in the mini-retrospective “Robert Watts: Art on Art” at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects clearly emphasized this point.

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  • Eva Hesse

    The Jewish Museum/The Drawing Center

    Eva Hesse has (quite rightfully) long been established as one of the most significant artists of her generation, and aside from calling attention to, say, less canonical works or emphasizing previously unplumbed historical correspondences, most recent reviews have taken her “excellence” as a given, often focusing not on Hesse’s oeuvre itself but on the methodologies used by curators and catalogue writers who take the artist’s short, tragic (and thus mythic) career as their subject.

    In this respect, “Eva Hesse” has become as much a signifier as a proper name, sparking ongoing debates around the

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  • Richard Serra

    Gagosian Gallery

    There was a period, beginning with the removal of Tilted Arc, 1981, from Manhattan’s Federal Plaza in 1989, during which critics routinely castigated Richard Serra’s sculptures for being megalomaniacal. Weighing many tons and dominating human bodies with brutal solids of cast or hot-rolled steel, the work seemed to many to be interested only in its own enormity—and, implicitly, in the money, will, and firepower that allowed it to be forged, transported, and installed.

    But over the past five years or so, the worm has turned. In 2005, Serra unveiled a permanent installation of eight sculptures,

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  • “Freeing the Line”

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The freeing of the line to which the title of this elegant show refers is “the departure of the line from the paper surface and its venture into space.” The word paper signals that Catherine de Zegher, former director of New York’s Drawing Center, was thinking, indeed, about drawing in this show of largely three-dimensional art, and the linearity of the work she chose was unmistakable. The first piece viewers came to was Richard Tuttle’s Untitled, 1972, in which lengths of wire stretched between nails in the wall form an obliquely oriented cross. Next came Gego’s hanging column and sphere, from

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  • “Strange Powers”

    Creative Time

    In spite of its current predisposition to secularism, art has always been something of a faith-based enterprise. Its cultural and commercial value relies on the willingness of viewers to believe in things that can’t always be immediately perceived or fully understood—to allow for the possibility that the objects and images they encounter in the gallery might have access to meaning and even power. This outlook—as embodied in a variety of artistic practices, especially ones whose content itself involves the uncanny or the supernatural—formed the basis of Creative Time’s memorable summer group

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  • Tomas Saraceno

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Gardens that fly, aircraft powered by the sun, cities that change and meld like drifting clouds, gravity as a “physical psycho-social relationship.” These are some of the ideas with which Tomas Saraceno, a peripatetic Argentine artist currently based in Frankfurt, has lately been obsessed. Just as Saraceno is a postnational individual, moving freely between continents and cultures, he might also be termed a “postartist,” working as he does on interdisciplinary projects derived largely from architectural—rather than painterly, sculptural, or photographic—practice. A recent show at Tanya Bonakdar

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  • A. R. Penck

    Leo Koenig Inc. | 541 West 23rd

    A. R. Penck was born in Dresden in 1939 and lived there until 1980, when he emigrated to the capitalist side of the Iron Curtain. As a young man, in an environment in which any art outside the socialist realist mold was liable to be dubbed subversive, he made paintings whose abstract imagery was meant to render political and existential realities legible. In 1968, he coined the term Standart to denote “a method of making information products,” as he put it in a 1971 statement. Standart was “a production of the brain, made with the purpose of achieving a total perception of its visual information

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  • Lee Mullican

    Grey Art Gallery

    Lee Mullican, who died in 1998, is one of the most important American abstract painters nobody knows—at least nobody on the East Coast (except perhaps some of those familiar with his son, Matt). Born in the “Indian territory” of central Oklahoma in 1919 and educated at the Kansas City Art Institute, he found his way to California in the late ’40s via a stint as an army cartographer. By the mid-’50s he was producing radiantly colored canvases characterized by precision knife work that resulted in shimmering linear striations. His practice as a painter extended into the ’70s and ’80s, by which

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  • “Soutine and Modern Art”

    Cheim & Read

    “The New Landscape / The New Still Life: Soutine and Modern Art” was a strange exhibition, an unexpected testimonial to the influence of Jewish painter Chaim Soutine, one of the so-called peintres maudits. But who was testifying? And in what exactly did Soutine’s influence consist? The show was organized by Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow. Tuchman, senior curator emeritus of twentieth century art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has been a Soutine enthusiast and scholar since he curated a touring retrospective of the artist’s work in 1968, and recently deplored the Museum of Modern Art’s

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  • Alan Scarritt

    Cynthia Broan Gallery

    On seeing Alan Scarritt’s recent exhibition at Cynthia Broan Gallery, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Rosalind Krauss’s landmark essay on ’70s art, “Notes on the Index, Part I” (1977), even though most of the objects on view were made in the last three years. Everywhere in the twenty-seven works of photography, video, sound, sculpture, and installation were those trace markers that function simultaneously as indicators of presence and ciphers of absence: photograms (“that subspecies of photo,” according to Krauss, “which forces the issue of photography’s existence as an index”) showing hands

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  • Jamie Shovlin

    Freight + Volume

    After I inserted the seventy-two-track sampler CD that was issued to accompany the recent exhibition “Lustfaust: A Folk Anthology 1976–1981” at Freight + Volume into my computer, the program that identifies music choices from a master database informed me that “Multiple matches were found online for this CD” and asked me to choose the correct title from the following list: Real Men of Genius—Budweiser Beer; Fcd201—Focus Production Music; The High Calling Volume Two—Howard Butt, Jr.; Kos—111 Dangerous—Kosinus Music. It was quite obvious that the disc was none of these, but neither was it quite

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  • Bozidar Brazda

    Haswellediger

    When producing art for public exhibition, how and to what extent should one reshape the particulars of autobiography into the more widely appreciable generalities of broader human experience? The question was raised by the second solo show at Haswellediger by Canada-born, New York–based artist Bozidar Brazda. The press release, written by the artist, made a superficial concession to universality by supplanting place names with asterisks in a narrative based on events in the lives of Brazda’s family, as if these experiences could happen to anyone, anywhere. Despite this background information,

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  • Ann Craven

    Tanja Grunert Gallery

    A hint of the uncanny shadows the deer that are painter Ann Craven’s constant muses, and not only because the has artist been known to derive her subjects from calendar reproductions, film stills, and paintings by the likes of Gustave Courbet, Franz Marc, and Gerhard Richter. Craven’s exhibitions are something like recurring dreams: On this occasion she presented re-creations of several paintings from her 2004 show at the same gallery, works that were themselves scaled-up doovers of paintings from her previous outing there, in 2002.

    While Craven’s candy-colored canvases have drawn formal comparisons

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  • Philippe Decrauzat

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Having first encountered Swiss artist Philippe Decrauzat through his Komakino, 2006—a Joy Division–inspired “wall decal” installed in “War on 45 / My Mirrors Are Painted Black (For You),” Banks Violette’s recent curatorial endeavor at Bortolami Dayan—I approached his concurrent New York solo debut at the Swiss Institute–Contemporary Art with trepidation. Komakino struck me as balancing precariously between formally interesting and—in the context of a show whose principal enterprise seemed to involve negotiating tensions between masculinity and bourgeois hipness—glibly fashionable, and I wondered

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  • Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev

    Plus Ultra

    “Into the Future,” the title of Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev’s recent exhibition at Plus Ultra (their first solo show in New York) has a specific connotation in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, where the artists live and work. As in all post-Soviet countries, the word future there retains an ideological undertone. Only ever paired with one adjective, glorious, it has traditionally signified an emergent Communist utopia. The first juxtaposition of images in Kasmalieva and Djumaliev’s two-channel video projection, also titled Into the Future (all works 2005), however, paints a

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