reviews

  • Lucio Fontana

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    THE WORK OF LUCIO FONTANA was last presented monographically in the United States in 1977, when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum mounted a major retrospective of the artist; his most recent prominent appearance here was in 1999 as part of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s “Minimalia: An Italian Vision in 20th-Century Art,” in New York. Thus, the staging of “Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York” at the Guggenheim (after the show opened at the institution’s Venice branch last year) represents not only a welcome rarity for American audiences but takes on something of a magnified importance for his legacy

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  • Sigmar Polke

    Michael Werner | New York

    Sigmar Polke’s long-standing fascination with amber, or Bernstein, was reflected in a recent exhibition of ten double-sided paintings (five new, five dating from 1989) plus two single-sided paintings (both from 1989) that simulate the fossil resin’s look, juxtaposed with three dozen rare Renaissance and Baroque amber objects, including several raw, unworked chunks of the material that are between thirty million and fifty million years old.

    The paintings are built from honey-colored, semitranslucent artificial resin layered on polyester. The tone of the striations varies as a result of the process

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  • Cheyney Thompson

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    Cheyney Thompson’s recent exhibition looked, and was, quite simple—the way an algorithm used to generate a complex system can be simple. Here, the system was “art” or “representation,” and Thompson managed, via slyly restricted means, to involve not only painting, sculpture, printing, photography, and installation, but also a comment on the layout of galleries as showrooms flanked by storage closets. The point of the project was (a) a double entendre on “representation” as both the function of images in relation to the world and the function of galleries in relation to the artist. Or (b) a

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  • Benjamin Edwards

    Van Doren Waxter | 23 East 73rd Street

    Benjamin Edwards’s new paintings depict landscapes of bland contemporary architecture seen from great distances: a convenience store at the end of a landing strip, a mall across a parking lot, a condo several unbuilt lots away. All is surface: The ground is a mosaic of vectors; corporate logos, streams of numbers, letters, and unidentified shapes whoosh through the air as if on their way to complete some other building somewhere else. The architecture feels provisionally assembled rather than solidly built—there is no heft, only planes that happen to pass each other or intersect in virtual space.

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  • Nathan Carter

    Casey Kaplan

    Nathan Carter’s bright, bustling “ALL CITY,” his third solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan Gallery, radiated a joy in formal experimentation that, in its childlike exuberance, paralleled the specifically boyish cast of its familiar thematic preoccupations. Carter World—not unlike the real world—subsists in a cacophony of amateur and pirate radio signals, intersecting vehicular trajectories, multilayered route maps, jargons, codes, and ciphers. In the artist’s last show at the gallery, in 2004, this world was imaged as looping wall reliefs of cheerfully painted wood that resemble elaborate homemade

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  • Jacqueline Humphries

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    The title of Jacqueline Humphries’s recent exhibition, “Past Out,” is obviously a play on words, but it’s a pun that—when taken as an edict—delivers a real punch. Over the course of fifteen years or so, Humphries has argued for abstract painting as a piquant site for direct spectatorial experience, at once ephemerally contingent and aggressively present. If critics can’t help but resort to talking about Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Cy Twombly, and even Gerhard Richter when confronted by her canvases, it’s partly because Humphries has, of course, manifested the lessons she’s learned from

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  • Sue de Beer

    Marianne Boesky Gallery

    Sue de Beer’s latest video, The Quickening, 2006, is a morality tale without a moral, a murder mystery with no solution. It’s set in Puritan New England—though de Beer seems unconcerned with creating the realist mise-en-scène of the conventional period piece. The movie puts incongruity to use as a narrative strategy: When John Denver launches into the second stanza of “The Eagle and the Hawk” following the unceremonious hanging of one of the characters, the music is jarring, but the effect is oddly felicitous.

    The story of The Quickening is fairly simple, beginning and ending with the unexplained

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  • Fiona Rae

    PaceWildenstein 22

    It’s hard not to see Fiona Rae’s paintings as pastiches of the work of Sigmar Polke and David Salle, with some burly Schnabelesque gestures and lavish Pollock-like splashes thrown in. Hers is a sort of Punch-and-Judy act that tries hard to be ironic theater but ends up an ersatz Fantasia. There’s also a discrepancy between the titles and the works themselves: The former promise a big thrill, the latter offer only mild titillation—coy allusions to aesthetic bliss that never reach a climax. It’s like a simulated sex act, a ritualized performance. Theodor Adorno once wrote that in a false world

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  • Enrique Metinides

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Visitors to Enrique Metinides’s recent show at Anton Kern Gallery were greeted by a sign warning, “Due to gruesome content parental discretion is advised.” The admonition was something of an oddity—not just because of its unexpected deployment amid the array of “inappropriate” things on view in Chelsea at any given time, but because it seemed to have more to do with the reputation of the artist’s lurid métier than with the carefully considered, generally restrained work actually shown here.

    Metinides was Mexico’s most famous and finest crime photographer, a man who spent fifty years documenting

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  • Patti Smith

    Robert Miller Gallery

    “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”—it’s the unforgettable first line of “Gloria,” the song that opens Patti Smith’s debut album, Horses (1975). Smith’s best lyrics and poetry lace lucidity with mania, exuding both streetwise cool and incendiary heat, often in consecutive lines. That iconic, warbled salvo that inaugurates the track presciently captures the dueling impulses of guarded doubt and spiritual fervor that have long framed her work. Smith, nonpareil poet of New York City’s first-wave punk heyday, is the South Jersey–bred daughter of a Jehovah’s Witness mother and a religious

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  • Slater Bradley

    Team Gallery | Wooster Street

    In 1999, after noticing his doppelganger in passing at various clubs, artist Slater Bradley formally met Benjamin Brock. For seven years the two have gazed at each other through the opposite ends of various cameras, and the videos and photographs made by Bradley during this collaboration chart the myriad complexities of identity and identification. In his last New York show, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2005, Bradley exhibited “The Doppelganger Trilogy”—a set of videos in which Brock plays Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. These works triangulate the relationship

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  • Trevor Paglen

    Bellwether

    Trevor Paglen’s “Black World” broaches the deadly extremities of our neoauthoritarian state, which since the inception of perpetual war half a decade ago has been pursuing its announced goal of “global military supremacy.” Paglen employs techniques borrowed from astronomy to photograph, at times from miles away, some of the military industrial complex’s most secret installations. These include a CIA torture prison in Afghanistan (shown in Salt Pit, Shomali Plains Northeast of Kabul . . . , 2006) and the infamous Area 51 of conspiracy lore: a Connecticut-size covert research facility in the south

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  • Adam Bartos

    Yossi Milo Gallery

    Adam Bartos’s recent first exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery—comprised of a dozen large-format photographs of Los Angeles—was a long time in the making. The New York–born Bartos moved to Ocean Park in 1978 and began taking pictures as a way of habituating himself to his new environs. Inspired by William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, Bartos shot in color (although his blanched, elemental palette was significantly muted relative to Eggleston’s garish saturation). In any case, Bartos only returned to his California images two years ago, publishing them alongside contemporary scenes from Paris in his

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  • Chris Hammerlein

    Derek Eller Gallery

    In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the character Edward Casaubon famously devotes his life to deducing “the key to all mythologies”—a sort of ur-fable underlying and explaining all others—only to realize that there is no such thing. He dies a beaten man, leaving behind a mountain of disorganized notes. Brooklyn-based artist Chris Hammerlein seems to have something in common with Casaubon: For the past eight years, he has been making drawings that delve into the mythic iconography of various locales and epochs, including that of modern pop culture. But instead of evincing a desire to unify the field,

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  • Ryan Weideman and Sarah Stolfa

    Silverstein Gallery

    The first part of the definition of patron in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) is innocuous enough: “one who countenances, supports or protects.” It is in the second sentence that Johnson gets in a dig at his fickle sponsor, Lord Chesterfield: “commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.” The provider-client relationships on view in “Patrons” are less fraught than those to which Johnson alludes, but are tangled in their own way. Photographers Ryan Weideman and Sarah Stolfa crystallize the transactional nature of the relationship between

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