reviews

  • “High Times, Hard Times”

    National Academy Museum & School

    “I LOOKED ASKANCE at the culture of painting,” admits artist Mary Heilmann in the catalogue accompanying “High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967–1975.” “I chose it as a practice in order to have arguments with people like Robert Smithson.” Heilmann’s feisty, equivocal endorsement of her medium—specifically, of advanced anti-Greenbergian abstraction—epitomizes the era considered in curator Katy Siegel’s show, organized for Independent Curators International with David Reed as adviser. (The exhibition opened at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina, and then traveled to

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  • Gary Hill

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    The most striking component of Gary Hill’s Frustrum (all works 2006), one of two installations commissioned by the Fondation Cartier that were recently presented concurrently in New York and Paris, is a projected video animation of a giant eagle caught in the wiring of an electrical pylon. As the bird flaps its powerful wings in a futile attempt to escape, the loud crack of a bullwhip punctuates the darkness while ripple generators disturb the surface of a large pool of black oil in front of the screen. In the center of the dark liquid sits an impressive twenty-six-pound brick of gold bullion.

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  • Pia Fries

    CRG Gallery

    Pia Fries’s Loschaug suite, 2005–2007—eight paintings, on eleven wood panels in all, that together the artist considers a single work—was inspired by the naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, a German/Dutch woman who at the turn of the eighteenth century made a two-year stay in Suriname, then a Dutch colony, today an independent nation on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. Merian went with a plan in mind: to conduct a study of the insects of the region, eventually published in 1705 under the title Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, full of her meticulous engravings of butterflies and

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  • Tim Hyde

    Max Protetch

    Tim Hyde uses video to examine architecture—a relationship between media that brings to mind Dan Graham’s ongoing investigation of public and private space, as well as Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers, 2007. But Hyde is less interested in contrasting the time-based quality of one with the space-based element of the other than in using these complementary practices to examine the psychological result of inhabiting a body inside a built space.

    These concerns are most profoundly explored in The Keeper, 2006, in which the camera focuses on an elderly woman’s back. Hyde set out to film the repeating concrete

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  • Kevin Zucker

    Van Doren Waxter | 23 East 73rd Street

    Between Kevin Zucker’s May 2001 debut at LFL Gallery and his second solo exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery in September 2003, his finely crafted paintings seemed to be everywhere. The artist created ambitious conceptual frameworks for his canvases, often having to do with the mistranslations inherent in the visual representation of objects, but their ubiquity and easy-to-swallow imagery—banal, derelict institutional interiors; limply decorative parlor rooms; and still lifes, all leached of color—produced a disconnect between the rhetoric surrounding his practice and its visual impact. This

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  • Marc Handelman

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    Revisiting the aesthetics of American “propaganda painting” since, say, the Hudson River School, it’s striking how little has changed in 150 years. From Thomas Cole and fellow painters of nature, who celebrated America’s virtues via rugged, heroic landscapes bedecked with war-torn American flags, has evolved the synthetic and machine-generated luminescence of the current age—LED screens and TV graphics. Dazzling light plus sparkling vista evidently sells, irrespective of whether it’s an ideology or a product that’s on the block. It’s this disparate lineage of sources reliant on the glitzy treatment

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  • Sergio Prego

    Lehmann Maupin | New York, W 22 Street

    In Italo Calvino’s 1967 story “The Chase,” a desperate car pursuit is slowed to a snail’s pace when hunter and quarry become mired in a traffic jam. It’s a scenario that one imagines Spanish artist Sergio Prego might appreciate, his manipulations of time and space reaching for a similarly paradoxical flavor. Prego’s recent exhibition, his first at Lehmann Maupin, comprised two videos and two sculptures, all of which confound—to varying degrees—our tendency to distill a chaotic visual world into manageably consistent images and to simplify patterns of events into linear sequences.

    Prego’s most

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  • Charles LaBelle

    Anna Kustera Gallery

    The 788 watercolor pencil drawings that make up Charles LaBelle’s series “Sugar Hill Suite—BLDGS” (all works 2005–2006) are rendered in a pleasingly unfussy sketchbook style, incorporating just enough detail to give a clear impression of the (mostly unremarkable) buildings that they represent, almost all of which are located in the storied Harlem neighborhood of the title. Each structure floats against the white space of the paper, isolated from its surroundings and objectified like a specimen under a microscope. Uniformly sized at about eleven inches square and pinned around the gallery in a

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  • Frederick Hammersley

    Ameringer Yohe Fine Art

    For all their formalist rigor, and however judiciously proportioned they may be—all the planes are in “measured” relationship to one another—Frederick Hammersley’s paintings offer up contrasts that are generally unresolved. His works may be geometrical—Hammersley is one of the founding fathers of so-called hard-edge painting, which originated in 1950s Los Angeles partly in reaction to the apparently ill-disciplined messiness of New York AbEx, replacing it with something of the clarity of De Stijl—but they are geometrically uncanny. That is, they subvert compositional harmony even as they evoke

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  • Peter Piller

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    A quietly persuasive lesson in how destabilizing—and enriching—the effects of experiments with accumulation and strategic recontextualization can be on the function and meaning of images, the absorbing New York solo debut of German Conceptualist Peter Piller demonstrated once again the almost inexhaustible latent potential for menace, humor, or pathos that resides within even the most colorless visual artifacts.

    Piller brings a rich set of source materials to his enterprise. During a stint at an advertising agency, where his job was to sort through regional German newspapers to verify that the

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  • Shirley Tse

    Murray Guy

    Like a diligent student of The Graduate, Shirley Tse has made her career in plastics, demarcating with uncommon zeal (and amid sporadic references to Martin Heidegger and Gilles Deleuze) an artistic practice defined less by a particular aesthetic agenda and more by consistent exploitation of her materials. The past few years have seen Tse building sculptures carved with cantilevered reliefs and constructing flat vinyl “paintings” à la Lucio Fontana. “Waiting . . . ,” the artist’s recent solo show at Murray Guy—her fourth there—reasserted her allegiance to Robert Smithson and the legacy of his

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  • Michael Rakowitz

    Lombard-Fried Projects

    Michael Rakowitz is a Duchampian activist and an artist of détournement. In simple but dizzying interventions, he seduces viewers into contemplating global networks, while making space for reverie, rage, and humor. His readymades are often tangible things. But he also reframes received ideas and mistranslations. The work takes longer to explain than it does to absorb in the flesh. Nevertheless, while it does not stint on handmade visual richness, Rakowitz’s art is fundamentally discursive. His recent exhibition, which centered on replicas of vanished Iraqi antiquities and was titled “The invisible

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  • Tommy White

    Harris Lieberman

    Beginning in 1951, Robert Rauschenberg produced a number of so-called black paintings, which, with their thick, cracked surfaces, later prompted Helen Molesworth to suggest their resonance with “fecal matter: the smeared quality of the paint, the varying degrees of viscosity, and the color—shit brown and black.” Her reading takes seriously the twin poles of pleasure and disgust that Rauschenberg so expediently summons. And yet, in his characteristic acts of wiping, pressing, and staining, he errs on the side of tactility—however exquisite—which is to say of desublimation. “Rauschenberg,” as

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  • Bruce Conner

    Susan Inglett Gallery

    In early 1962, Bruce Conner decamped to Mexico, intending, he recalled, to “live cheaply and hide in the mountains when the bomb dropped.” His survivalist outing lasted less than a year. A nuclear attack never came, and the artist had trouble not only selling his work but making it: The junk from which he conjured his assemblages wasn’t cast off as readily in Oaxaca it had been in San Francisco. Conner’s sense of privation comes across in DESIGN FOR A NEW ART MUSEUM, 1962, one of eight early works that comprised a small recent exhibition. A morass of wispy pencil lines, some of which fall just

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  • “Africa Comics”

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Comics have been cropping up in galleries with increasing regularity of late, with Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and others taking up the mantle of ambitious predecessors such as R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman. “Africa Comics” provided the US’s first comprehensive glimpse of the creativity and variety of comics published in sub-Saharan Africa, its European diaspora, and elsewhere. Organized in collaboration with Africa e Mediterraneo in Bologna, Italy—a nonprofit association concerned with promoting intercultural exchange—the Studio Museum show was small but still managed to feature work by thirty-two

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  • “Louise Brooks and the ‘New Woman’ in Weimar Cinema”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    It seems that the Bubikopf is experiencing a kind of Renaissance. The only English words that describe the oh-so-particular haircut (equal parts naughty schoolgirl and punishing schoolmarm) are pageboy and bob, but the connotations aren’t quite right. One had only to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent, breathtaking exhibition “Glitter and Doom” in order to understand just how historically “German” the style is. In canvas after canvas, there was hardly a prostitute or absinthe drinker whose hair wasn’t clipped into a Bubikopf helmet. And while there were certainly other incarnations

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  • Carrie Moyer

    CANADA

    Carrie Moyer’s newest series of paintings builds on her previous works, which combine abstract forms and swathes of color with overt citations of radical social movements. Yet the works here, devoid of raised fists and images of Emma Goldman, also mark a significant departure for the New York–based artist. Moyer has moved further into the realm of free association, allowing her political references to hover suggestively rather than spelling them out. Biomorphic shapes evoke the “central core” imagery of ’70s feminist art at the same time that they resemble simplified Rorschach inkblots onto

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