reviews

  • Merlin James

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    In a solo exhibition last year at the New York Studio School, “Painting to Painting,” Welsh artist Merlin James made plain his process of art historical mining. In the press release, titles of works were annotated with references (“after Delacroix,” “after Corot,” and so on), and a companion website cited the sources—modernism’s gamut, from luminaries to also-rans—of a practice that in the past twenty years has encompassed portraiture, still life, interior, landscape, and abstraction. The allusions in “Paintings of Buildings,” James’s latest show at Sikkema, Jenkins & Co., were less patent but

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  • Adrian Paci

    Peter Blum/Smith-Steward

    As befits an artist whose themes are displacement and memory, Adrian Paci’s recent New York gallery debut spanned two venues. One piece—a video made in 2002—had been seen in the city before. Another—a video from 2007—hinges on a trick that colors subsequent viewings. If one demands surprise, then, there were issues with the shows. But work concerned with the compulsion to revisit a vanished past, or to posit an impossible future, itself implies repetition.

    Shown at Peter Blum, the earlier video is Vajtojca (The Weeper). Paci shot it in Albania, which he left for Milan during the Kosovo war in

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  • Paul McCarthy

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    Paul McCarthy’s work questions success in a culture of inauthenticity, of signature replaced by logo, of simulacrum over original. His recent project, Santa’s Chocolate Factory, 2007, perfectly exemplifies these vexed postmodern tropes. Emerging in the 1960s amidst the work of a grand generation of transgressives that includes Mike Kelley, Charles Ray, and Bruce Nauman, McCarthy’s anal-oriented performances and sculptures, with their manic embrace of bestiality and scat, their references (mayonnaise for sperm, ketchup for blood, chocolate for shit) to blood mysteries, and their unrepentant focus

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  • Pat Steir

    Cheim & Read

    Pat Steir is a prolific painter who remains capable of surprising us with innovative variations on a particular combination of iconography and technique that has been a feature of her work for some time: cascades of liquid—presumably water—rendered by alternating a gradual buildup of paint with more gestural marks and splashes of color. In her recent exhibition at Cheim and Read, Steir showed monumental canvases in which she successfully reconciled a series of dichotomies: complexity and simplicity; dynamism and sensitivity; discipline and chaos.

    The most consistent group of works in the show

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  • Isaac Julien

    Metro Pictures/Brooklyn Academy of Music

    Isaac Julien’s multiscreen film installation WESTERN UNION: Small Boats, 2007, advances his already refined fusion of politics, history, and stunningly lush aesthetics. Julien is utterly sensual in his approach to imagemaking; his films take physical pleasure in both the human body and its natural and created environment. At the same time, this Londoner of Caribbean descent has both shaped and been shaped by the postcolonial thought of recent decades—the exploration of culture and identity, migration and diaspora, that has become so important a legacy of an intellectual generation. Those who

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  • Ross Bleckner

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Ross Bleckner’s six new “Meditation” paintings—one a diptych, all but one involving high-intensity black and red, often enmeshed in gray and auratically luminous, and all representing a kind of abstract naturalism (leaf gestures, sometimes lushly intermingled, abound)—bring to mind Rudolf Arnheim’s analysis of “the power of the center,” Robert Motherwell’s remarks about red, and Wassily Kandinsky’s analysis of the affective significance of color. All of these connections underscore the evocative power and structural intricacy of the work.

    Simultaneously a tour de force of nuance, Bleckner’s new

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  • Eric Anglès and Matt Sheridan Smith

    Cohan and Leslie

    By chance, my initial visit to Eric Anglès and Matt Sheridan Smith’s combined solo debuts at Cohan and Leslie was on a Wednesday. Ordinarily, perhaps, this would be an irrelevant detail, but here my timing meant that I was present for the full implementation of the artists’ one collaborative work, Closed on Wednesdays, 2007.

    Not that it would have been difficult to visualize the effect if one were to arrive on, say, a Friday. The work, comprising a red velvet rope that cordoned off the (empty) back gallery, was simply looped back on its hook on other days. On Wednesdays, the closure was largely

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  • Duane Hanson

    Van de Weghe Fine Art

    Duane Hanson could be considered a victim of his own virtuosity. The deceased American sculptor’s uncannily naturalistic figures are so lifelike that their verisimilitude often subsumes their content. A Hanson sculpture is like a mirage; it’s hard not to marvel at how a simulation can be so like the real thing. In part because of this effect, Hanson provokes art-historical confusion: Is he a Pop artist or a Photorealist? While the American-ness and sheer realism of Hanson’s sculptures make both potential designations reasonable, to experience them in the “flesh” exposes the labels’ insufficiency.

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  • O. Winston Link

    Danziger Gallery

    O. Winston Link’s photograph Hotshot Eastbound, Iaeger, WV, 1956, captures an extraordinary confluence of elements that presents a succinct—not to mention spectacular—summation of the changing state of life in the industrialized world at midcentury. In a shot that feels almost Futurist in its fetishization of technology (the bigger, faster, and louder the better), Link crams a plane, a train, and several automobiles into one tightly composed black-and-white shot: In the foreground, a young couple sit in the front seat of their convertible watching a plane fly overhead on a drive-in movie screen,

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  • Alina Szapozcinikow

    BROADWAY 1602 | Uptown

    “Ontological poverty” is a phrase Alina Szapozcnikow once used to describe the immanent instabilities of the human body. A single example of impermanence in the world, for Szapozcnikow, it was nonetheless human composition—flesh, blood, and bone—that was “the most fragile” site. But such delicate constitution, as the artist saw it, allowed for a complex range of emotions and experiences. For while (or better, because) ontologically impoverished, the body was consequently “the only source of all joy, of all pain and of all truth.”

    Szapozcnikow was no stranger to such radical antinomies and body/mind

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  • Kris Martin

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    The work in Belgian artist Kris Martin’s New York solo debut engages quietly but directly with fundamental issues: death, entropy, the ravages of time. In a period characterized by a loss of faith in artists’ ability to communicate fundamental truths, Martin’s unswerving devotion to such grand topics is striking. His ambition also makes the success or failure of individual works relatively easy to quantify: Each tends to either resonate with the clarity of a tuning fork or else miss its mark entirely, ending up seeming garishly sentimental, even trite. Curator Neville Wakefield’s astute, compact

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  • Kristian Kozul

    Goff + Rosenthal

    In his first solo exhibition in the US, Croatian artist Kristian Kozul surrendered completely to the allure of the American cowboy. But rather than fetishizing the dust and drought of the old West, he glams up the cowboy’s grit with sequins and studs. Of course, the cowboy has always been something of a dandy, with his embroidered button-downs, starched Wranglers, ostentatious belt buckles, and heeled boots, and the Marlboro Man’s ruggedness has always been as much a performance as the Rhinestone Cowboy’s glamour. Kozul’s gallery presentation of a pair of boots and a hat, star-spangled in red,

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  • Robert Beck

    CRG Gallery

    Failure can be productive, Robert Beck’s most recent exhibition tells us. The drawings on view constitute the final installment of a body of work that takes as its point of departure “projective psychological testing”—the method of art therapy that requires patients to draw certain items (houses, trees, people) with a view to giving form to their subconsciouses. Beck’s latest works, like their predecessors, contain the artist’s (loose) re-creations of actual patient drawings and snippets of text from their doctors’ assessments, but they are distinguished by one salient detail: Each begins with

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  • “On Being an Exhibition”

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    “On Being an Exhibition” took artist Michael Asher’s formulation of situational aesthetics as its point of departure. In focusing on the contribution made by contextual circumstances to the meaning of an artwork, Asher helped to establish institutional critique as a recognized artistic and curatorial strategy. “On Being an Exhibition,” which included work by artists including Laurel Woodcock, BGL, Isola and Norzi Conrad Bakker, and Valerie Hegarty, featured a number of objects that pointed to the gallery itself as ultimate referent but was arguably an oversimplification or dilution of Asher’s

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  • Jose Alvarez

    The Kitchen

    In 1988, Jose Alvarez toured Australia channeling the spirit of “Carlos,” a 2,000-year-old shaman who held forth on Atlantis, “corrected” the date of Jesus’s birth, reported on the movements of UFOs, and divined other sundry matters before capacity crowds at the Sydney Opera House. In the voluble tradition of fundamentalist televangelists, healers, and cultish gurus of all stripes, Alvarez charismatically staged the visionary with the help of his mentor James Randi, himself a debunker of paranormal phenomena, who also appears in the recent video Dejeuner Sur Le Dish, 2007, playing chess with

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