reviews

  • “Action/Abstraction”

    The Jewish Museum

    THE BATTLE OF THE “BERGS”—Clement Greenberg versus Harold Rosenberg—is a scenario that has begged for serious treatment since Tom Wolfe’s crude, witty satire of its more absurd extremes, The Painted Word, in 1975. Together, the critics personified the dialectic behind Abstract Expressionism: matter/spirit, objectivity/ subjectivity, the optical/the textual, abstract/representational, and so forth. What better curatorial drama than one in which Greenberg might play an august Apollo to Rosenberg’s ecstatic Dionysus? The Jewish Museum’s “Action /Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art,

    Read more
  • Joan Mitchell

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    Three decades back Jill Weinberg Adams worked closely with Xavier Fourcade—Joan Mitchell’s dealer at the time—and came to know the painter well. Now, as co-proprietor of her own gallery, she has called upon her long-time associations to assemble an absorbing exhibition that addresses the work Mitchell made between 1973 and 1983. The exhibition, in addition to its sheer aesthetics, opens a Pandora’s box regarding the painter’s interface with the French art scene during that decade.

    In 1955 Mitchell, at the very height of her powers, began to divide her time between New York and Paris, decamping

    Read more
  • “Dalí: Painting and Film”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The Museum of Modern Art was the last stop of a four-city tour for “Dalí: Painting and Film,” a voluminous show that included paintings, drawings, films, and film treatments. Originating in London (at Tate Modern), the exhibition moved on to Los Angeles (to LACMA), a natural setting for the show given that it was in Hollywood that Salvador Dalí worked with Alfred Hitchcock on the filmmaker’s 1945 thriller Spellbound—at MoMA, Gregory Peck’s dream sequence, which features Dalí’s huge smoky backdrop, was projected onto a nearly wall-size screen—and on Walt Disney’s deservedly forgotten Destino (

    Read more
  • “Painting: Now and Forever, Part II”

    Greene Naftali Gallery/Matthew Marks Gallery

    “Du hast keine Chance. Nutze sie!” You have no chance. Use it! So ran the title of an essay in this magazine in 1981, by Wolfgang Max Faust, quoting the then-young Neue Wilde painters of Berlin. To seize the chance you didn’t have, as if it actually was a chance—that was a viable motto for painting back then; for ten or fifteen years the form had been well on the dull side of the cutting edge, and though plenty of painters were working, the breaking news was elsewhere. In the context of the time, too, the slogan rhymed painting with punk, if not visually then intellectually. “You have no talent.

    Read more
  • Alison Elizabeth Taylor

    James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea

    As images, Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s works tell oblique, partial stories of the American Southwest, which they cast as a place where an only ambiguously friendly terrain and local community meet cool young homesteaders who live geodesically, swim and bicycle, and keep peacocks as pets. In Wonder Valley, 2007–2008, a guy in shades and a pickup watches from the other side of a barbed-wire fence as two women chat on the steps of their ecologically fashionable domed home. If there is menace here it is implicit and external, but danger is elsewhere immediate, as when perhaps one of the same women,

    Read more
  • Jack Goldstein

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    Jack Goldstein’s move into painting in the late 1970s was driven, in part, by truly damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t decision making. “I didn’t want to be this guy who did performances and films when all these other guys were painters,” he admitted during a 2001 conversation with Meg Cranston, noting the pressure he felt to adapt not only to the “other guys” (i.e., David Salle, Troy Brauntuch, Robert Longo, et al.) but also to the wave of new commercial galleries and withering of alternative spaces. Yet, he goes on to say in the same breath, “It was a difficult thing to go back to painting.

    Read more
  • Mario Ybarra Jr.

    Lehmann Maupin

    Most of Mario Ybarra Jr.’s art to date mines concepts of invisibility or threat, posed as lost slices of urban history, disappeared architecture, or dog collars studded with spikes, for example. In a recent show at the Art Institute of Chicago, Ybarra dealt with the history of the “other” Wrigley Field—not the celebrated home of the Chicago Cubs but the demolished, largely forgotten (even in baseball circles) Wrigley Field in South Central LA, original home of the Los Angeles Angels. In writing on Ybarra, critics have emphasized his background (of Mexican descent, Ybarra was raised in Los Angeles)

    Read more
  • Liam Gillick

    Casey Kaplan

    “The state itself becomes a super whatnot”—whatever! I so want to believe in Liam Gillick’s post-Fordist cosmology of poeticized socioeconomic rhetoric. Alas, the elegant array of new works grouped here under the aforementioned title phrase merely reconstitutes Gillick’s ongoing project: the instrumentalization of codes of (neo)Minimalism and (neo)Conceptualism, inflected by rather soft, ingratiating contextual/situational tactics. His enterprise engenders a variant of intellectual ventriloquism: Decorative object-structures are deployed to give voice to a broader ideational framework (supplemented

    Read more
  • Robert Baribeau

    Allan Stone Gallery

    What do Robert Baribeau’s paintings show us that we haven’t seen before? They’re full of the painterly Sturm und Drang, the excitement about paint—narcissistic absorption in its fluid pleasures and seductive touch, self-dramatization through dramatizing the medium—that we’ve come to expect from a convincing Abstract Expressionist painting. But aren’t bold brushwork, flamboyant color, and rushing drips—a certain reveling in the medium—old aesthetic and expressive news? Painting may not be dead, even if theorists eager to control the course of art history regularly proclaim its demise, but it

    Read more
  • Wendy White

    Koenig & Clinton

    For a show of just four paintings, Wendy White’s “Autokennel”—her first solo exhibition at this gallery—proved exceedingly ambitious despite its modest selection of large-scale offerings, each cobbled together from several panels. That a selection of artworks can make an implicit case for the virtues of editing might customarily go without mention, but it felt like an exceedingly rare and even quixotic thing in our bloated, garishly more-is-more (but still not enough) moment. And, anyhow, White’s work seems to be precisely about the gambit of expression—painterly and otherwise—as somehow

    Read more
  • Burt Barr

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    There’s not much to see in Burt Barr’s videos. His work’s visual terseness, along with its frequently droll content, can come off as a dead- pan sight gag. (Dolly Shot Twice, 2000, for example, runs with a double pun, comprising two dolly-shot pans across a character, presumably named “Dolly”—played by the artist Jessica Craig-Martin— who has been made up to appear as though she has been shot twice in the head.) In light of this, one is tempted to approach his work with an eye toward “getting” the essential joke, though such attempts to interpret the five laconic black-and-white videos that made

    Read more
  • Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    For their second New York show, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn exhibited four videos, three dated 2008. This year’s Whitney Biennial saw them widely praised as well, making for an annus pretty mirabilis. Industriousness is apparently their M.O. In key ways, it’s also their subject. The duo continues to develop visions of citizenship and cooperation set in wastelands where concrete and curtain-wall, car batteries and plastic jugs remain, while the lifestyle of which such things are symptoms has collapsed. Far from marking nature/culture oppositions, civilization’s random leftovers—power cables,

    Read more
  • Danica Phelps

    Feuer/Messler

    Danica Phelps’s fifth solo show at this gallery marked a watershed moment in her career. Although Phelps has blended art and autobiography for the past decade, her new work is more ambiguous, selective, and, at times, abstract. Take her previous two exhibitions here as points of departure: For 2003’s “Integrating Sex into Everyday Life,” the artist recounted her sexual awakening as a lesbian; in 2005’s “Wake,” she detailed her daily routine of waking up in the morning. Both of these shows featured works on paper that—bearing handwritten itemized lists and painted stripes, which represent dollars

    Read more
  • Frederick Kiesler

    The Drawing Center

    Having contributed to Dada, Surrealism, and later De Stijl, Ukraine-born, Viennese-American architect Frederick Kiesler offered a biomorphic conception of space that became a counterpoint to the rectilinear forms of architectural high modernism. Kiesler is perhaps best known for his interest in the “correlations” between artwork, individual, and environment, a theory he termed “Correalism,” and for his oft-revisited, yet never-built, Endless House, 1947–61. To look at this work now is not only to encounter a playful psychedelic consideration of architecture’s bearing on perception but also to

    Read more
  • Fia Backström

    White Columns

    The prodding began before you entered Swedish artist Fia Backström’s most extensive New York show to date, “That social space between speaking and meaning”; primary-colored vinyl lettering adorned the gallery’s front door, spelling out multiple directives, including STAY AHEAD OF THE IMAGES, placed directly below the open sign—both an impossible task and a playful gesture. According to the press release, such a tactic was central to the gallery-size installation, its somewhat iffy premise being that it was “an environment without any ‘images’ that takes the form of a discussion club: a space to

    Read more
  • Sarah Braman

    Museum 52

    Museum 52’s boast that Sarah Braman “appears to work without inhibition, second-guessing, or self-consciousness” is a dangerous one, even for sculptures as seemingly thrown together as those on display in her recent exhibition at this newish Lower East Side space. Yes, Braman’s modified found-object assemblages seem to flaunt a willful disregard for finish, but take a few steps back and it isn’t hard to discern conventional formalist concerns nestled amid the grunge.

    The centerpiece in Museum 52’s upper gallery (the larger of two levels; local veterans will remember the space as the former home

    Read more
  • Jamisen Ogg

    Hudson Franklin

    The installation of Jamisen Ogg’s New York solo debut, titled “Conscientious Objectifier,” was not exactly bilaterally symmetrical, but each object installed on one side of the gallery had its corollary on the other. A quick glance suggested that the objects perfectly mirrored each other; a closer inspection revealed the tension between division and reconciliation that gave the show what conceptual force it possessed.

    The reconciliation on offer was between two historically distinct utopian visions: on one hand, the sanitary spaces and clean lines of modernist architecture and design and, on the

    Read more
  • Robert Hawkins

    Half Gallery @ 16 Morton Street

    Robert Hawkins’s first solo exhibition in New York in a decade marked the welcome return of a native of the 1980s and early ’90s East Village art scene. The five paintings displayed are at once brooding and celebratory, a triumph of a kind of “outsider” aesthetic that refuses to be pinned down to one attitude, whether cynical, fantastical, or satirical. If Hawkins’s art expresses all of these in gratifying, protean proportions, it is also deeply lyrical, and infused with a devotion to the painterly that transforms the work into delirious and lurid achievements of formidable artistic magnitude.

    Read more