reviews

  • “Georges Seurat: The Drawings”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    I DO NOT QUITE KNOW what to make of the Museum of Modern Art’s renewed insistence, ever since it reopened, on revisiting the nineteenth century. Holding onto a security blanket as it dives further into the confusing medley of contemporary art? Preparing for the kind of bold move that Bill Rubin used to advocate in private, when he suggested that the museum’s jurisdiction begin with the advent of modernism and end with that of “postmodernism,” whatever that is? Justifying a posteriori the museum’s definitive recanting, in the early 1950s, of Alfred Barr’s initial precept that works necessarily

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  • “Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    “Decision 2008” is shaping up as a campaign during which, collectively speaking, we are looking for equal parts inspiration and transformation. The sense of “history in the making” is palpable, the race also being played up in the media as an infinity of meaningful moments, ranging from the cataclysmic to the cozy, that may be used to sell a candidate or lobby for a cause. These days, it seems, everybody has a hand in history. When a culture suffers from short-term memory in this way, archives are vital testaments to times past, repositories stuffed with documents, photographs, films, records

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  • Jan De Cock

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Jan De Cock’s first US museum exhibition is a multipart installation featuring a complex display of framed images punctuated by boxlike plywood modules. A larger wooden structure, spotted with recesses and reliefs and evocative of both Minimalist sculpture and De Stijl architecture, sits on the floor as if to obstruct one’s progress through the gallery. The photographs, mostly taken by the artist, depict buildings, landscapes, and artworks (including previous installations and projects by the artist), as well as shots of MoMA’s own architecture, conservation labs, library, cinema, and education

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  • Shirin Neshat

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    In producing a body of work inspired by and named after Shahrnush Parsipur’s experimental novel about five women’s experiences in 1950s Iran, Women Without Men (1989), Shirin Neshat continues in the vein of her series of photographs “Women of Allah,” 1993–97. Using high-production-value film, video, and photography, the artist here makes visual the author’s exploration of the intersection of gender and ideology. But Neshat parts ways with an earlier generation of feminist artists that includes Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman in that her work does not seek to disidentify in the interest of

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  • Nayland Blake

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    The Nayland Blake piece that almost always comes to mind first when I think of him is a video from 2000, Starting Over, in which he struggles to perform a kind of disco scenario while wearing a bulky, heavy white bunny suit. (Blake is a big man; the bunny suit is bigger.) That, and Feeder 2, a walk-in-scale cabin from 1998, made of steel and gingerbread. Both are works of unbalanced heft and mass, dealing with size, appetite, and desire. But there’s another side to Blake’s art, delicate and miniature, and this show of drawings and wall- and floor-based sculptures fell firmly into that second

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  • Dirk Bell

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    That painting might be something like a map of the mind is an old cliché, and the homunculus theory—the notion that art is the product of an anthropomorphized subconscious—is mustier still. But in Dirk Bell’s most recent New York show, “Openeng,” these hoary concepts played to savvy effect. Insisting upon a nonspectacularized yet highly choreographed installation, Bell turned the design into a visual argument in which found paintings—many more than a century old—facilitated a shift from the retrospective to the fantastical. (This passage was also figured through Openeng, 2008, the namesake work,

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  • Al Taylor

    Zwirner & Wirth

    Al Taylor’s recent exhibition at Zwirner & Wirth focused on the creative efflorescence that resulted from the late artist’s decision in 1984 to take a break from painting. The gallery presented a well-edited selection of three-dimensional “constructions” and works on paper made by Taylor between 1985 and 1990, for which the artist employed an improvisational process in an attempt to elide the borders between the two mediums. These wall-based constructions (Taylor disavowed the term sculpture) confront viewers with a diverse array of visual feints, bringing together humble materials to provide

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  • Mai-Thu Perret

    The Kitchen

    For an artist whose work is peopled only by women and thus clearly seems in some way to be “about” gender, Mai-Thu Perret nonetheless confounds attempts to understand its function in her practice. To some critics, Perret’s variations on the theme of “All women, all the time” add up to a clear investment in and contribution to “feminism, as a distinct tradition of self-empowerment.” But such an assessment (this one made by Hamza Walker in 2006) and others like it are just as often refuted. In the pages of this magazine, for instance, in an essay detailing the work of the Geneva-based artist,

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  • Ana Mendieta and Hans Breder

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    A salutary foray into the history of postwar performance art and video, this pairing of work by Ana Mendieta and Hans Breder conjured an informative, if somewhat uneasy, reunion between the late, celebrated Cuban-born artist and her former professor, longtime romantic partner, and frequent collaborator. The work on view—mostly photographs but also films and videos made by the two during the course of a relationship that spanned the 1970s—did share the same central fascination: the female body, specifically Mendieta’s. But the dramatic distinctions between the two artists’ tone and approach, and

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  • Guy Ben-Ner

    Postmasters

    Sally Mann, an artist with whom Guy Ben-Ner is frequently compared, despite the vast differences between their practices, has tried to downplay the importance of family in her work, arguing that the significance of her landscape images equals that of the subtly provocative photographs of her prepubescent children that made her famous in the early 1990s. For now, at least, Ben-Ner suffers no similar delusions. His recent show included two videos that—as is by now customary in his work—employed his family. The videos also dig deeper into the history, structure, and power relations within families

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  • Mark Bradford

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    The titles of Mark Bradford’s recent exhibition, “Nobody Jones,” and of featured works such as the collage painting Ghost Money (all works 2007), hint that the show’s abstraction of urban topography might find an echo in the notion of hauntology. The term, originally coined by Jacques Derrida in 1993 and recently revived by a clutch of popular-music critics to describe recordings that conjure a retro-futuristic vision, refers to the suggestion that society is increasingly in thrall to ideas and aesthetics that are picturesquely obsolete. Cultural dead ends and blind alleys. Specters. That Bradford

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  • William S. Burroughs

    Stellan Holm Gallery

    “Cut word lines—Cut music lines—Smash the control images—Smash the control machine—Burn the books—Kill the priests—Kill! Kill! Kill!” The abundance of such quotable quotes in the oeuvre of William S. Burroughs—this example is from his 1961 novel The Soft Machine—might lead some to expect that the late Beat prophet’s visual output should be as innovative and incendiary as his writing. Unfortunately, despite the unequivocal assurance of Stellan Holm Gallery’s press release that Uncle Bill, who died in 1997, was “a brilliant artist,” who spent “hours each day painting, drawing, and shooting,” the

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  • Luis Gispert

    Mary Boone Gallery/Zach Feuer Gallery

    A hand with pink painted nails reaches across a cluttered nightstand, pops open a pill bottle, then latches onto a glass of bourbon. And so we meet Nora, the overbearing mother of Waylon, an eleven-year-old who wets his pants (“four times this week”). Nora and Waylon are the main characters in Luis Gispert’s video Smother, 2006–2007, the centerpiece of the artist’s recent two-part exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery and Zach Feuer Gallery. In the film, which is set in 1980s Miami, mother and son inhabit a pastel palace decorated with etched mirrors, Art Deco sconces, and Patrick Nagel prints.

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  • Marjetica Potrč

    Max Protetch

    It’s an irony that should be lost on no one: Ljubljana-based artist Marjetica Potrč, best known for community-driven interventions in urban and rural areas within the developing world, has recently turned her attention to a US city: New Orleans. “Future Talk Now: The Great Republic of New Orleans,” Potrč’s third exhibition at Max Protetch Gallery, indexed her recent engagement with this traumatized place as she continues to apply her deft fusion of architectural and sculptural language to the project of finding solutions to problems afflicting territories in economic and ecological crisis and

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  • Alex Hubbard

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    In his seminal 1956 essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Allan Kaprow praises Pollock’s use of everyday materials, noting that his “so-called dance of dripping” is ultimately more interesting and influential than his canvases themselves. “Pollock, as I see him,” writes Kaprow, “left us at the point where we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life. . . . Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilize the specific substances of sight, sound, movements, people, odors, touch.” More than fifty years later,

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  • Jorge Tacla

    Ramis Barquet

    Jorge Tacla paints a political wasteland: The pathos in his series “Rubble” is rooted in a sense of political betrayal. Tacla, who is Chilean, bore witness to the overthrow of Salvador Allende’s social democratic government, Allende’s subsequent murder, and his replacement by General Augusto Pinochet, whose military dictatorship was supported by the United States. For Tacla, the events were a repeat of the Spanish Civil War—the catastrophic return of barbarism in the name of fascist dogma. The oppressive regime left Chile in ruins, morally and physically. The situation finally proved too much

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  • Leemour Pelli

    Daneyal Mahmood Gallery

    To paint an X-rayed body, as Leemour Pelli does in the works in her first solo exhibition at Daneyal Mahmood Gallery, is to confront several of the same formal problems that Wilhelm Röntgen’s 1895 discovery posed to early-twentieth-century artists. How does such an affirmation of the inadequacy of human perception hypostatize, and up the ante on, the task of picturing the unseen? What relationships of solid/void, surface/depth, and transparency/opacity does X-ray imagery occasion? Beyond issues of form, rendering skulls and bones engages the weightiest of weighty matters, that realization had

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  • Judith Bernstein

    Mitchell Algus Gallery

    Those familiar with Judith Bernstein’s work tend to know it for only one reason—its role in a fiasco. Horizontal, 1973, her charcoal drawing of a screwlike penis (or a penile screw?), was infamously withheld from a Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center exhibition titled “Women’s Work: American Art 1974,” sparking protests from fellow artists and reducing Bernstein to the status of a lightning rod. Whether because of this incident or not, she has skirted the art world’s fringes ever since, showing mostly in group exhibitions. Her last solo effort in New York was in 1984 at women’s collective

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  • Harry Partch

    Japan Society

    Harry Partch’s musical drama Delusion of the Fury premiered at the UCLA Playhouse in 1969, but despite the show’s rapturous critical reception, the California composer was disappointed. Though he had made copious notes for the work’s staging, choreography, and set design, the limited rehearsal schedule obliged Partch to concentrate exclusively on the music. Two months later, weary and having spent a great deal of his own money on the transportation and repair of his instruments, Partch vowed, “I won’t do this again.” A recent restaging of Delusion (the show’s first revival) at the Japan Society

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