reviews

  •  View of “Louise Bourgeois,” 2008, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Foreground: Spider Couple, 2003; Untitled, 2004; Untitled, 2004.

    View of “Louise Bourgeois,” 2008, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Foreground: Spider Couple, 2003; Untitled, 2004; Untitled, 2004.

    Louise Bourgeois

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    ROBERT PINCUS-WITTEN

    THE LOUISE BOURGEOIS RETROSPECTIVE at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—an exhibition that premiered last year at Tate Modern in London—was a mammoth affair with some 150 works, a hundred of them large sculptures. The show began with the early “Femme Maison” (Woman House) series of the mid-1940s, opening on a modest scale that nevertheless reminded one of Bourgeois’s mythic status in art history. These quirky paintings depict different types of houses set upon female bodies—pedimented facade, clapboard colonial, gambrel barn, apartment tower—in a manner recalling

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  • Tetsumi Kudo

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    This tantalizing introduction to the work of Tetsumi Kudo, via twenty-five of his wildly idiosyncratic and often strenuously lurid multimedia sculptures, constituted the first gallery show in the United States devoted to the late Japanese artist. It was also intended to do some advance work for his major retrospective, which opened last month at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, by demonstrating that Kudo—little known beyond his native country and his adopted home of France, where he lived from the early 1960s until the late 1980s—was, as the Rosen show’s essayist and curator Joshua Mack

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  • John Altoon

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    John Altoon’s short career offers near-perfect fodder for art-historical mythmaking. It contains all the ingredients of a durable fable: a fiery personality (he fought mental illness, often trashing his own work and threatening to destroy that of others); right-time-right-place fortune (late 1950s Los Angeles, coming into its own as an art community); the esteem and affection of fellow travelers (among them Ed Kienholz, Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and others in the Ferus Gallery stable, of which he was a stalwart); and an early death at age forty-three in 1969 (due to a heart attack). True to

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  • Joel Sternfeld

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    In a passage in his journal dated February 5, 1855, Henry David Thoreau asserted, “In a journal it is important in a few words to describe the weather, or characters of the day, as it affects our feelings. That which was so important at the time cannot be unimportant to remember.” The thirteen large-scale color photographs in this exhibition chronicle the weather and the characters of the day in and around a single meadow in Northampton, Massachusetts, from July 29, 2005, to April 20, 2007. The site, famously depicted in a heroic Thomas Cole landscape that was painted in 1836 and is now in the

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  • Roe Ethridge

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    For his recent book Rockaway, NY (2007), Roe Ethridge exploited its namesake place as theme and organizational principle. With customary relish, he slotted images—actually taken in places as far-flung as Mumbai, St. Barts, and Cornwall, England, despite the volume’s doggedly all-American title—of coolly nostalgic boardwalks, surf, and side streets next to a jaunty double vision of Santa Claus, a gamely nautical self-portrait, and an oddly affecting shot of a dead shark. A sort of one-man game of exquisite corpse, the photographs’ interrelations become, literally, more than the sum of their parts

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  • Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor

    Lombard-Fried Projects

    It appeared when one entered Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor’s exhibition (the Romanian artists’ first in the United States) at Lombard-Freid that a lecture had just taken place or would take place very soon. Rows of folding wooden chairs were arranged in neat diagonal rows in front of a stark wooden lectern with a microphone. Yet, though nobody was situated at the podium—and the day I visited I was the only person in the space—a single voice, enunciating crisply with moderated pitch, rang through the room. The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels’s influential 1848 screed, was being read in

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  • “Quiet Politics”

    Zwirner & Wirth

    The terms quiet and politics usually have very little to do with one another, yet this group exhibition attempted to reconcile them, to demonstrate in a sense that still waters can run deep. While the show proposed that even the simplest gesture can be an act of political resistance, the works by twelve artists here were mostly either restrained or offered only loose ties to activism, with standouts by Rosemarie Trockel (one of just four women in this show, a bothersome disparity) and David Hammons. More regrettably, however, it failed to address, either directly or obliquely, the significance

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  • Joanna Pousette-Dart

    Moti Hasson Gallery

    Much as it comes as a surprise, Joanna Pousette-Dart must now be regarded as a veteran abstract painter—the way we thought of her father, Richard Pousette-Dart, who, finally, has been transported to the higher reaches of Abstract Expressionist heaven. Echoing his slow ascendance, Joanna Pousette-Dart, now in her sixties, has been an underestimated painter for more than half her life. Thus, apart from the actual pleasures of making art, she also knows how singularly ungrateful the practice of abstract painting has become. As a vehicle for artistic expression, it is widely considered to be exhausted,

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  • Philip Guston

    The Morgan Library & Museum

    The supposedly big change in Philip Guston’s art occurred in the late 1960s, when he switched from his refined, “tender-minded” version of “action painting” to a cartoonlike imagery of hooded figures, familiar objects (fruit, shoes, body parts), and social settings. He eschewed gestural expression in favor of quasi-surreal scenes—absurd juxtapositions, of a cyclopean head and an empty liquor bottle, for example, or, more morbidly, of legs and feet with hobnailed shoes, their soles facing us, in a barren room—and clumsily executed illustration. As the artist put it, according to a wall text at

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  • Kehinde Wiley

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Kehinde Wiley’s formula hasn’t changed much since he broke out around the time of his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001–2002), but the impact of his paintings has. Originally, Wiley’s juxtaposition of statuesque black men in the freshest gear mugging in poses lifted from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings and slapped on top of wallpaper-like motifs appeared lurid and forceful, even subversive. Not only were blacks occupying a milieu redolent of European decadence (as evinced by rococo and baroque ornamentation), the sexuality that has flavored portraiture throughout

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  • Charles Burns

    Adam Baumgold Gallery

    Everything in the world of Charles Burns is suffused in an otherworldly glow, as if the only available light were provided by cosmic radiation, nuclear blasts, or the full moon. Through this permanent midnight ranges a freakish cast of characters, sometimes half-human, half-animal, often hideously disfigured or diseased. Even the natural landscape they inhabit is cast in an unsettling hue, the ground underfoot littered with cigarette butts, scraps of clothing, shards of broken glass, and mangled animal remains, the waters fetid and opaque. And when the scene shifts from rural to urban, the city

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  • Anne Daems

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    Focusing on ephemeral minutiae, Anne Daems clearly fancies herself a poet of the everyday. Working in a variety of media, she aims to tease out neglected moments of beauty from her surroundings, whether urban, quasi-rural, or studio-interior. The aim is a laudable one, with endless precedents, but the Belgian artist relies on a level of trust in her particular vision that feels, as yet, unearned. Rather than encouraging viewers to take a fresh look at the world, she might instead leave them with a slight sense of having been condescended to.

    In “Parsley and Pearls,” her recent US solo debut,

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  • Matthew Buckingham

    Murray Guy

    How to become a radical? Find yourself in the midst of a campus anti-war demonstration, mix in some law enforcement violence against your fellow students, and you have a recipe for political transfiguration. In a rather subtle, well-timed gesture of deft historical analogizing (to the issue of student activism and the Iraq war), Matthew Buckingham conscientiously excavated a seldom-recalled episode of ’60s anti-Vietnam activism: On October 18, 1967, a group of University of Wisconsin–Madison students staged a peaceful sit-in against Dow Chemical’s on-campus recruiting, protesting the company

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  • George Maciunas

    Maya Stendhal Gallery

    Between 1957 and 1965, before establishing the downtown artist cooperatives that garnered him the nickname “The Father of SoHo,” Fluxus impresario George Maciunas drafted a set of ambitious building plans for newly constructed apartment complexes and single-unit dwellings. Unrealized in his lifetime, Maciunas’s Prefabricated Building System was intended not only to outdo the khrushchyovka apartment style—a concrete-panel system for multistory complexes that was used in the Soviet Union and throughout the Eastern bloc beginning in the 1950s—but also to promote a rigorously designed, multifunctional

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