reviews

  • Martin Puryear, Dumb Luck, 1990, wire mesh, tar, and wood, 64 x 94 x 36".

    Martin Puryear

    Museum of Modern Art, New York and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

    SCULPTURE HAS LONG PLAYED second fiddle to painting at MoMA (case in point: the Department of Painting and Sculpture), perhaps a consequence of the same giddy moment that gave us high modernism and the urban temple built to exhibit its wall-bound artifacts. This is surely changing, with MoMA’s institutional priorities effecting architectural exigencies: After the museum’s recent renovation, bigger rooms engineered expressly (or at least firstly) for Richard Serra mean bigger rooms left behind for other sculptors. Yet these subsequent installations—in which Martin Puryear’s retrospective,

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  • Christopher Williams

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Looking at a Christopher Williams show can be a nerve-racking activity. For all the pleasure offered by Williams’s stark/lush photographs, there is in every one of his installations the threat of an intellectual aptitude test. Why else would so many of the writings on his work begin with seemingly casual questions that sound nonetheless like riddles? “What relationship is there between a French car from the ’60s, a Japanese student posing for a fashion photo in 1993, papayas (of the Carica papaya Linné sort), and a dishwasher tray filled with brightly colored plates?” asked Jean-Pierre Criqui

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  • Rosy Keyser

    Peter Blum Gallery

    Inside of a three-month span in late 1811 and early 1812, four massive earthquakes—and thousands of aftershocks—convulsed the midwestern and southern United States. Emanating from the New Madrid fault line, they were felt as far away as New York City and Boston. As in an episode from some apocalyptic tract, fissures opened, lakes were drained and re-formed, and, in what seemed the ultimate act of divine intervention, the Mississippi River changed course and appeared to flow backward. On December 15, 1811, Scottish naturalist John Bradbury was docked just upstream from the Chickasaw

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  • John Lees

    Betty Cuningham Gallery

    Claude Lantier, a fictional painter, fated to never complete a work, whom Émile Zola depicts in his novel l’Oeuvre (1886), has long been assumed to be based on Cézanne, a characterization that led to an irreparable break between the supreme artist of the modern era and the great realist writer who was Cézanne’s closest boyhood friend and earliest champion. One cannot help but remember this painful fait divers now that John Lees, one of the grandest eccentrics of modern American painting, is at last having a show.

    Lees, both as painter and draftsman, has ever been unable—is doubtless

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  • Adrian Piper

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    For her first solo show in New York after a seven-year hiatus, influential first-generation Conceptualist Adrian Piper, known for infusing her rigorous practice with the concerns of identity politics, focused on impermanence and loss. Piper presented a selection from a series begun in 2003 titled “Everything,” short for “Everything will be taken away,” a chilling apocalyptic statement that is inscribed on most of the works. The show was thrilling and disturbing but above all confounding; there was nothing here to indicate why she had been quiet for so long. But that, it seemed, was part of the

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  • Jane Simpson

    Sandra Gering Inc

    The title of British artist Jane Simpson’s recent exhibition, “My Inheritance and Other Bloody Tales,” might have been cribbed from one of a recent crop of British books recounting sordid sagas of familial dysfunction. But unlike Edward St. Aubyn or Alexander Waugh, who revel in salacious detail, Simpson relates her narratives in more oblique fashion. Her sculptures—if they were paintings, they’d be called still lifes—combine objects fabricated by the artist with items bought at flea markets or on eBay, or culled from her family’s possessions. Turkish Delight, 2008, for example, is a

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  • Amy Cutler

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    Not so long ago, Amy Cutler’s drawings would have been unlikely to appear in an art gallery, at least one that called itself contemporary; they would have been classified as illustrational and she would have been told to find a good children’s-book publisher. These fine-tuned narrative images of slightly impossible undertakings, quasi-Edwardian in manner, seem to speak out of fairy tale and dream to anyone whose imagination when young was fed by stories of magic, by Edith Nesbit and Kenneth Grahame and perhaps especially Hans Christian Andersen, whose fantasies always seem to clothe or bandage

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  • Michel Gondry

    Why should we have cared about “Be Kind Rewind,” film director Michel Gondry’s second exhibition at Deitch Projects? Were we starved for a marketing tie-in to the nearly simultaneous release of the movie of the same title? Or were we concerned that Gondry was not being taken sufficiently seriously as an artist? Well, neither. Gondry is an inventive, indie neoauteur, who crafted a poignant tale in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). But he is hardly a revolutionary filmmaker, and this charmingly participatory, bricks-and-mortar rearticulation of his new cinematic effort was enjoyable,

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  • Matthew Buckingham

    Murray Guy

    “Someone with historical sense sees reality differently: in four dimensions,” notes historian Gordon S. Wood. “If it is self-identity that we want, then history deepens and complicates that identity by showing us how it has developed through time.” Artist Matthew Buckingham clearly possesses this historical sense, and his nuanced understanding of time has informed a decade’s worth of installations that use time-based media (film, video, and slide projection) to imaginatively conflate past and present. Buckingham’s alignments of story and image, whether anchored in dry historical fact or conjured

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  • Marc Swanson

    Bellwether

    Marc Swanson is not a colorist. Like his contemporary Terence Koh, Swanson prefers the absoluteness of white and black when crafting his sylvan-themed sculptures and strange mixed-media panels. When he does dabble with nonabsolutes, he does so with reticence, employing natural, lower-luminance hues: gold, the sepia of faded celluloid, or the amber blond of shellac. When he wants impact, he uses texture, making his work shimmer, sparkle, or reflect. Like other young artists (David Altmejd, Cristina Lei Rodriguez, and Kristian Kozul, to name a few), Swanson borrows from the tool kit of kitsch,

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  • Catherine Sullivan

    One can’t summarize Catherine Sullivan’s video Triangle of Need, 2007, but particulars can be given: The work was produced during residencies at the Walker Art Center and at Vizcaya, an opulent estate built in 1916 on Florida’s Bay of Biscayne by International Harvester magnate James Deering. Additional shooting was carried out in an abandoned apartment in Chicago (the city once home to the original factory of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company [International Harvester’s parent company]). Sullivan collaborated, as she typically does, with an ensemble of actors and dancers, and with the

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  • Ohad Meromi

    Harris Lieberman

    Ease of retrospection has become a defining quality of our era. The Internet facilitates the unearthing of impossibly obscure curiosities, enabling equally obscure referencing. For current artists, the reference points of modernism cast especially long shadows; artists like Carol Bove and Mai-Thu Perret have constructed their practices on a dialogue with modernist design, dance, architecture, and art-historical movements, and on the strains of utopian thought embedded in all of them. Ohad Meromi is another artist preoccupied with modernism’s persistent influence. In an interview published to

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  • Lutz Bacher

    Taxter & Spengemann

    THIS IS BIEN HOA LOOKING AT IT FROM THE AIR BASE. THIS IS A PRETTY GOOD PICTURE. NOW DO YOU THINK THAT’S BEAUTIFUL? These sentences, written in blue ink by a man named Walter (presumably a US Air Force serviceman during the Vietnam War), accompany a black-and-white picture of a cluster of ramshackle buildings in one work from Lutz Bacher’s series “Bien Hoa,” 2006–2007, one of this exhibition’s two focuses. In each Bien Hoa, Bacher displays the often-annotated back of one of Walter’s original photographs, a cache of which she purchased from a thrift store, below her own larger photograph of its

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  • Albrecht Fuchs

    Albrecht Fuchs often works as a commercial (editorial) photographer, a capacity in which he is valued for his deadpan but meticulously lit and tightly composed images. In “Portraits,” Fuchs, who is based in Cologne, presented thirty-seven color photographs shot between 1995 and 2007. The exhibition coincided with the release of his eponymous monograph, but while the book contains a selection of figures, mostly recognizable (Iggy Pop), though at times less so (industrial designer Dieter Rams), the exhibition included only portraits of contemporary artists—and of those, only the most established

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  • Paul Housley

    Sean Horton (presents)

    The title of London-based painter Paul Housley’s recent New York solo debut, “Night Paintings,” seems, at first, merely a disarmingly prosaic reference to the fact that the small, quiet pictures therein were made after dark. But there is more to the outwardly straightforward designation than that. Registering Housley’s deceptively childlike handling and apparently affectless subject choices, one might, for a start, trace a connection to Night Studio, Musa Mayer’s 1988 memoir of her father, Philip Guston. An association between the two artists has been made before: Writer and curator Andreas

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  • Alex Dodge

    Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

    Like the freshly severed head of Ash, the treacherous corporate android in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), the disembodied silicon-rubber face that forms part of Alex Dodge’s sculpture Study for Intelligent Design (all works 2008) looks ready to open its eyes and spill its guts. Surrounded by shredded documents and wreathed in Christmas lights, the ghoulishly lifelike visage (a self-portrait) suggests the aftermath of a grisly murder, until we notice the bundled wires protruding from its underside. The robotic simulation is, however, deliberately imperfect; woven into its artificial viscera is an

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  • Ramak Fazel

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    The story of “49 State Capitols,” Milan-based photographer Ramak Fazel’s first exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, begins with a suggestion from his mother. Fazel’s childhood stamp collection was stored in the attic of her home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, she reminded him while he was there visiting in 2006—why not do something with it? He retrieved the collection and, struck by a page of American state flag stamps, conceived of the odyssey that would take him 17,345 miles over seventy-eight days in the summer and fall of that year.

    Born in Iran but raised in the Midwest,

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