reviews

  • Brice Marden

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    HOW CAN AN ARTIST keep high modernism alive when rumors of its death abound? This is the question Brice Marden repeatedly confronts throughout the Museum of Modern Art’s majestic retrospective, organized by Gary Garrels. From the show’s first galleries on the building’s sixth floor (mostly devoted to paintings) to the works on paper three levels below, Marden’s answers mix pictorial dexterity and doggedness—cool yet assertive responses to a constant challenge.

    Starting in the early 1960s with canvases and drawings that exemplify the lessons of less, the selection ends with two extended

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  • Pablo Picasso, Figure, 1927, oil on plywood, 50 3/4 x 37 1/2". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    “Picasso and American Art”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    “PICASSO AND AMERICAN ART” is an opportunity (not to be) missed. There is no better story in modern art than the struggle of American artists to go through or around Picasso. Jackson Pollock said he wanted to get rid of Picasso and (another time, just to be clear) kill him. Picasso said he wanted to make paintings with “razor blades on all surfaces so no one could touch them without cutting his hands.” Great stuff. And the current exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art manages to drain all the blood out of it.

    Perhaps playing up the oedipal drama would have been too easy. Guest curator

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  • Andy Warhol

    Gagosian Gallery

    Late work is not always great work—a truism that scholarly opinion and auction prices generally bear out. Andy Warhol, who died in 1987 at the age of 58, never really got to his own late period, although we now regard his paintings of the ’80s as such by default. By that time his reputation was already tarnished by his production of art for schlocky galleries, and by a stream of arguably undiscriminating society portraits. Yet while the art establishment may have raised an eyebrow over Warhol’s “slumming” (don’t forget his appearance on The Love Boat), his genius was never really in doubt. His

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  • Lisa Yuskavage

    David Zwirner Gallery/Zwirner&Worth

    If Jan Vermeer shopped at Kmart, or if Pierre Bonnard were interested in what it might feel like to be pregnant, then their paintings might resemble Lisa Yuskavage’s new work. As it is, no one makes pictures like hers. Showing in New York for the first time since 2003, Yuskavage proved several things. First, that she is her generation’s best colorist, and that her toxic-sunset palette serves to highlight rather than obscure her expertise with heaving, tendril-like line. Second, that the narcissistic nymphets and tit-goddesses for which she has been both celebrated and reviled have matured into

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  • Ken Price

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    In 1960, at the tender age of twenty-five, Ken Price had his first solo show at Los Angeles’s storied Ferus Gallery. In both 1979 and 1981, he appeared in the Whitney Biennial, and he remains a staple of museum shows tracking LA’s contribution to twentieth-century art, most recently last summer’s “Los Angeles 1955–1985: The Birth of an Artistic Capital” at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Yet despite his otherwise impressive track record, Price has been the subject of exactly two museum surveys, in 1992 and 2004, and mention of his name tends to elicit vacant stares or tentative guesses at his

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  • Jennifer Steinkamp

    Lehmann Maupin | New York, W 22 Street

    In language so pithy as to be axiomatic, Ed Ruscha suggested in a 1979 drawing that HOLLYWOOD IS A VERB. Something similar is communicated by Los Angeles–based artist Jennifer Steinkamp, a onetime commercial animator (of ads for candy and cockroach spray, among other things), whose works in digital video employ special effects to excess. Utilizing abstract geometries that rival those of M. C. Escher, as well as representational elements like waves, trees, and garlands of flowers, which she stylizes to the point of uncanny hyperreality, Steinkamp through her immersive environments dematerializes

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  • John Bock

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Gradually, the simplest things become exponentially more difficult for the protagonist of John Bock’s film installation Zezziminnegesang (Sissy Songs of Courtly Love) (all works 2006). After opening, with a chisel and mallet, a tin of ravioli, he must then contend with his eating implement: a spoon attached to the leg of an armchair. Eating requires that he turn the chair over, struggle to lower its bulk to the dish, then heft the spoon to his mouth. Small wonder that he takes only two bites before giving up.

    Much has been written about the echoes, in Bock’s laborious procedures, of Joseph Beuys’s

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  • Nigel Cooke

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Nigel Cooke holds a doctorate in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, London, where he wrote a thesis on the death of painting in the twentieth century. To begin by mentioning this fact might seem to be stacking the deck if a concern with the medium’s various historical demises did not figure so markedly in the British artist’s work—but it does, to the extent that he titled his second solo show at Andrea Rosen Gallery “Dead Painter.” The phrase encompasses art-historical corpses (skulls and bearded old men populated the six oils and two drawings on view) as well as Cooke himself, as one who paints what’s

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  • Catherine Yass

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    Two projections, both shot on film and transferred to video, face each other across a darkened room. One shows the view, from the bow of a ship, of a concrete-lined waterway leading to a massive canal lock. In the other, the camera looks back from the ship’s stern at a disappearing river. Once the ship enters the lock, tiny figures scurry about on the bow to secure the vessel. Sound is minimal and muted: There is the low rumble of the ship’s engine, the groan of the gates opening and closing, and an announcement made over a public address system. The ship enters the lock. The water rises. The

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  • Kay Rosen

    Yvon Lambert New York

    In a career going back to the late 1970s, Kay Rosen has made a medium out of language the way, say, Rachel Lachowicz has made a medium out of lipstick: Words are for her a found material with embedded meanings she can mine and play on, not just changing their context (the basic Duchampian maneuver) but boldly if slyly reshaping them. She has a keen ear—and, importantly, an eye—for puns and homonyms, rhymes and resemblances: a writer’s business. But she works on the wall and on canvas and paper, phrasing her essays as installations, paintings, and drawings, and she has the visual artist’s absorption

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  • Jeff Perrone

    Silo

    Jeff Perrone’s recent works, while not actually paintings, have been in painting format: striped abstractions on canvas, evoking formalist traditions but made eccentrically, in a mix of colored sands and sewn-on found buttons. Earlier on, though, Perrone worked for years in ceramics, to which he has now returned. Once an art critic, he has also returned to the use of language. It would be too much to say that in words he has found his voice—the stripe works were totally articulate—but he has certainly found a way to address political, social, and art-world issues that have clearly been weighing

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  • Mary Miss

    Senior & Shopmaker Gallery

    Rosalind Krauss begins her canonical 1978 essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” by considering an artwork made by Mary Miss earlier that year. Almost invisible from a distance, the piece is nonetheless enormous, its elements spanning four acres and comprised of vast amounts of steel, wood, and soil. Krauss attributes the work’s visual elusiveness to its placement literally below the radar. One of its components is a labyrinthine underground courtyard accessible to viewers only by descending a small wooden ladder. Yet, Perimeters/Pavillions/Decoys can hardly be considered “entirely below

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  • Laurel Nakadate

    Danziger Gallery

    Everyone’s acting in Laurel Nakadate’s recent show, “A Message to Pretty”—the newest in the artist’s combustible adventures in desire and disappointment—but that’s not to say they don’t mean it. Made into a more elaborate installation—the exhibition includes photography, large- and small-scale sculpture, and a pair of single-channel videos— than the artist has previously attempted, the project was trademark Nakadate in conception: smart, shrewd, and more than a little ruthless, an unapologetically manipulative scheme that implicates not just the pitiable men the artist lures into her queasily

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  • Helen Mirra

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    According to the press release for “Break Camp” (Helen Mirra’s second solo exhibition at Peter Freeman, Inc.), the artist’s practice “involves no power tools.” It’s a prosaic statement that nonetheless hints at two important aspects of Mirra’s reticent art, elucidating her devotion to the handmade while also suggesting her political conscience (she’s not one to wield power aggressively). Both of these qualities are often rendered subservient to form in critical interpretations of her exquisitely crafted works.

    For those familiar with the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based artist’s modest oeuvre, this

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  • Mark Grotjahn

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Rendered in colored pencil, Mark Grotjahn’s large drawings approximate human scale—meeting the viewer eye-to-eye, as it were—and feature skewed versions of the perspectival triangle. As in traditional perspective, the shapes’ orthogonals meet at a vanishing point, but in Grotjahn’s work they don’t converge neatly; they’re irrationally “off.” In each image, two triangles have vanishing points that meet their vertical horizons at different places. They look like they’re trying to connect across the divide—which is sometimes large, sometimes narrow—but they don’t, and the effect is one of frustrating

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  • Futoshi Miyagi

    Daniel Reich Gallery

    “Dear stranger,” begins a typical introductory e-mail by Okinawa-born, New York–based artist Futoshi Miyagi. “First of all excuse me for sending this weird message.” If the opening address is both tender and awkward (can a stranger be “dear”?), so is the project to which it relates—an ongoing series of photographs begun in 2005 titled “Strangers,” each of which features Miyagi in an intimate, sexually suggestive scenario with a different man (and one transgender person). Nine of these pictures featured prominently, alongside several sculptures and installations, in “Brief Procedures,” the artist’s

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