reviews

  • View of “Gordon Matta-Clark: 'You Are the Measure,'” 2007, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Foreground: Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting: Four Corners, 1974. Photo: Sheldan Collins. All works by Gordon Matta-Clark: © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Gordon Matta-Clark

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    THE ALL-TOO-BRIEF, mercurial career of Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) has attracted increasing interest over the past ten years. Thanks to monographic studies by Pamela M. Lee and Corinne Diserens, published in 2000 and 2003, respectively, and several recent exhibitions in San Diego and New York, Matta-Clark’s ten years of frenetic productivity are becoming known to a larger public. The show currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is, however, the first retrospective of Matta-Clark’s work since that held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1985. The many

    Read more
  • Justine Kurland

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    The celebration of motherhood hasn’t been a favored subject for artists since Impressionism and the early-twentieth-century movements on which its influence is immediately discernible. German Expressionist painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, for example, is renowned for her intimate portraits of mothers and their children (which look back to Renaissance portraits of Mary and the infant Jesus), as well as for her nude self-portraits in nature. What is unique about her art is the visualization of a subjectivity that is decidedly feminine. Indeed, taken at face value, Modersohn-Becker’s oeuvre portrays

    Read more
  • Muntean/Rosenblum

    Team Gallery | Wooster Street

    A young man sleeps, shirtless, beneath a truck. He wakes up—his eyes are a cool blue-green—and strikes out toward a blonde girl slumped in an armchair in the middle of a windswept field: an older man, his face bronzed and wrinkled, emerges from a house and casts a stern gaze over his surroundings. The young man holds his hand above the girl’s face, and she stirs, gets up, and joins him on a walk to a nearby trailer. Inside the vehicle, a white-haired man reclines, Christ-like, his aged body partly covered by a crumpled white sheet. A tear meanders down the girl’s cheek, and a ponderous, melancholic

    Read more
  • Rachel Harrison

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    This February, a resident of President Street in Brooklyn received a number of announcements for the same exhibition. The interior of the mailer—folded and sent sans envelope—offers a close-up detail of a densely textured surface swathed in patches of bright green, red, blue, and purple paint; a fake apple is tucked into its irregular contours. One exterior side of the announcement provides the details of Rachel Harrison’s fifth solo show at Greene Naftali and a blank space where address labels and stamps are affixed. But the other side bears competing information.

    Reproduced there at actual

    Read more
  • Andrea Fraser

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    There’s a storied moment in Andrea Fraser’s 2001 video Little Frank and His Carp: Touring the Guggenheim Bilbao, the artist, exhorted by her audio guide to admire the architecture, proceeds to share an erotic interlude with a wall. Fraser’s twelve-minute video A Visit to the Sistine Chapel, 2005, on view in her recent show at Friedrich Petzel, has a similar premise. It, too, follows the artist on an audio-guided tour, this time through the Vatican Museum. But its humor is less outré, as befits the setting. The laughs derive mainly from Fraser’s deadpan reactions to the inevitable rhetorical

    Read more
  • Claudette Schreuders

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    Deceptively simple, Claudette Schreuders’s painted wooden sculptures have the gravity of a serious child. But their plainness is chosen and careful, arising not out of innocence or ignorance but out of an effort, apt for the reductive process of wood carving, to pare down the complexities of experience to undeniable forms, solid and condensed. Born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1973, Schreuders grew up under apartheid but was surely protected from its true brutalities by being white. (She is of Dutch and Afrikaner descent.) She has lived through its overthrow and through the creation of the new

    Read more
  • Eva and Franco Mattes

    Postmasters

    Eva and Franco Mattes, best known as the collaborative 0100101110101101.org, have engaged in such pranks as launching an ad campaign for a fake movie (United We Stand, 2005) and creating a computer virus as their contribution to the 2001 Venice Biennale. Their “hacktivist” tendencies, already somewhat mild, have been diluted even further in their new series, “13 Most Beautiful Avatars,” 2006. The Matteses, after spending about a year as members of the online community Second Life, selected thirteen of the most “visually dynamic” characters they encountered and created individual portraits—based

    Read more
  • Kristian Burford

    I-20 Gallery

    In his first solo exhibition at I-20, Kristian Burford remained committed to a methodology inspired by elements of the work of Hans Bellmer and Marcel Duchamp. The most direct precedent for Rebecca . . . , 2006–2007 (the full title is rather longer), as with every previous piece this young artist has shown, is Duchamp’s Etant donnés . . . , 1946–66, which sets a figurative sculpture within an environmental mise-en-scène that can only be viewed from a fixed, restricted perspective. Likewise, Burford demonstrates an interest in the process of reducing the concrete materiality of sculpture to a

    Read more
  • José Bedia

    George Adams Gallery

    José Bedia titled his 2005 painting of a giant aircraft carrier—one of a series of warship paintings—El futuro promisorio (Promising Future), and the image is haunting and charged with menace. There it was, greeting visitors to his recent show, looming out of the darkness, bearing down on and threatening to drown the viewer. The carrier’s oddly surreal form puts one in mind of a bird of prey and represents an intimidating icon of American military power at its most relentless. Bedia’s painting blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality, giving the image an uncanny power, a hallucinatory

    Read more
  • Ian Davis

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    It’s possible to describe Ian Davis’s paintings in just a few words: tidy, faux-naive compositions populated by near-identical men who, in enacting futile rituals in unison, become elements of notation more than agents of narrative. Or so it would seem to judge by the twelve paintings and one collage on view in Davis’s first New York solo show. Here, the primary impulse was the methodical (or is it empty?) act of painting itself, the artist harnessing rudiments of modernist abstraction to figurative ends. Thus the grid is recast as a brick facade in Ceremony, 2007, while the monochrome turns

    Read more
  • Courtney Smith

    Roebling Hall

    The double-edged title of Courtney Smith’s recent exhibition, “Build Up,” signals that we are entering a realm of multiple functions, of things seen as both themselves and something else. Smith’s primary material is furniture—sometimes she transforms vintage pieces into something new; sometimes she builds new pieces with something besides their traditional function in mind.

    The show was dominated by a room-size floor-based work, Paraparquetry, 2007, consisting of twelve hundred brick-size “furniture fragments” (per the checklist) arranged in the intricate tessellating design of a parquet floor.

    Read more
  • Agnes Denes

    BravinLee Programs

    Agnes Denes is perhaps best known for planting a two-acre wheat field at the southern tip of Manhattan in 1982, prior to the development of Battery Park City. An iconic photograph of the artist—waist-deep in golden sheaves, skyscrapers looming nearby—appears in several surveys of her career. But this work, of seemingly simple generosity (Denes harvested one thousand pounds of the crop that August and planted it around the globe), was pointedly titled Wheatfield—A Confrontation and can be understood as one of the first occasions on which Denes worked on a scale large enough and in a location

    Read more
  • Valie Export

    Tanja Grunert Gallery

    Given Valie Export’s undeniable achievement in directing attention toward the status of women within a “culture of male values” since the late 1960s, it is hard to credit her lack of recognition in this country. In 1967, the Austrian artist traded her given name (Waltraud Hollinger) for her current alias, signaling her intent to “export” ideas to the global marketplace. A year later, she performed the iconic Touch Cinema, inviting pedestrians to handle her breasts through a box resembling a primitive television set covering her torso. In the 1969 performance Action Pants: Genital Panic, she

    Read more
  • Matt Stokes

    ZieherSmith

    Matt Stokes’s six-minute forty-five-second Super-16 film Long After Tonight, 2005, may have won him the now-defunct Beck’s Futures Prize last year in Britain, but it doesn’t follow any of the current trends in American contemporary art. There’s no conceptual code to crack, no extreme or particularly innovative formal gestures, no wry political critique. And as if to evince the artist’s own sincere unselfconsciousness, there’s even a shirtless man with a braided ponytail, whirling to music like a dervish.

    All reason enough, perhaps, to like the work, which was shown at Stokes’s recent New York

    Read more
  • Martín Ramírez

    American Folk Art Museum

    This is the second large-scale survey of the work of Martín Ramírez; the first took place in Philadelphia in 1985. Twenty-two years ago, however, the artist’s name was spelled without accents. A small change, seemingly, but much depends on it. The difference between this Ramírez and the one we knew before is that identity politics have become part of the way we look at art. The old Ramírez was an American outsider whose works possessed, arguably, such autonomous strength that one could simply call him an artist, without further qualification, or perhaps with only the one qualification then still

    Read more