reviews

  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    Looking at Cindy Sherman’s recent photos, I thought, eventually, of what in the lit-crit practice of my college years used to be called “image clusters”: groups of related metaphors and other verbal figures that run through the works of some writers—Shakespeare, Dickens—embedding a mood and character in the language of each text. Given how fast such authors worked, on the schedules of theaters and journals, I couldn’t imagine they consciously planned these scattered but pervasive linguistic knots; they can’t have had time. But apparently they were so immersed, their minds so fully engaged, that

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  • Lothar Baumgarten

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    A long hallway separated the two primary elements of Lothar Baumgarten’s recent show at Marian Goodman, suggesting the distance between the locales of the projects—one focused on the South American rain forest, the other on the Hudson River Valley north of New York City—as well as the contrast in approaches (soundless imagery for the former, imageless sound for the latter) to what turned out to be congruent conceptual goals, namely an investigation of how “knowledge” of a given place is constructed.

    The exhibition demanded real commitment from viewers, with the works unfolding over hours rather

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  • “Zero in New York”

    Sperone Westwater

    A reductivist abstraction embodying moral purification marked the beliefs of Group Zero (1957–1966) or, as it is often called, plainly, Zero. Whether with its white monochromes or its light works made with simple technology, the group would purge contemporary art of its debilitating expressionist incursions and, arguably, of the whiff of Fascist criminality still attached to Italian and German art a decade after World War II. As Heinz Mack and Otto Piene wrote in 1957: “The main tendency was the purification of color as opposed to the informel and neo-expressionism; the peaceful conquest of the

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  • Stan Douglas

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    According to Max Brod, the first time Kafka read from The Trial, everyone present, including the author himself, was overcome with laughter. In “Humor, Irony, and the Law,” Gilles Deleuze reads this irruption of laughter alongside that occasioned by the death of Socrates at the end of Plato’s Phaedo. The irony of the inappropriate laughter signals defiance to what Deleuze describes as a modern conception of “the law,” which “defines a realm of transgression where one is already guilty, and where one oversteps the bounds without knowing what they are . . . Even guilt and punishment do not tell

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  • Kay Rosen

    Yvon Lambert New York

    Is it possible to communicate with phrases, words, and letters in a postlinguistic way? Is the act of reading, per se, a visual, cognitive, linguistic, or other type of experience? Such are the questions elicited by Kay Rosen’s exquisitely calibrated language-based works. She can be linked to that foundational generation of Conceptualists from the 1960s, including Lawrence Weiner, Robert Barry, and Joseph Kosuth, who utilized linguistic systems (not merely text) as a ground of philosophical and perceptual inquiry and, arguably, the basis of a new aesthetic.

    In “Scareful!,” an exhibition made up

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  • Kelley Walker

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    For his third solo show at Paula Cooper, Kelley Walker presented a number of large-scale “paintings” across which march silk-screened images of scanned bricks and cinder blocks. Quasi-photographic in nature and blushed with unnatural hues, the resulting “stacks” flicker between illusionism and flatness, rendering each composition at once another depiction of a wall (or barricade) and another variation on the theme of minimal, nonreferential grids. On close inspection, however, the “mortar” ostensibly holding steady each of these hybrid feats adds—quite literally—another unexpected layer. Hand-cut,

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  • Joseph Kosuth

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    “Don’t Just Stand There—Read!” declares the headline of a 1970 review in the New York Times bemoaning “the cultural nihilism of Conceptual Art” in spite of its ability to keep “scoring points . . . [in] an art scene poisoned by the market mentality.” Penned by then–staff writer Peter Schjeldahl, the ambivalent article regarding “a movement which demands so much from its audience in return for so little” was writ large in a light box as part of Joseph Kosuth’s Information Room (Special Investigation), a 1970 installation re-created within this exhibition. The reading room is made up of two long

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  • Al Held

    Kasmin | 293 Tenth Avenue

    Except for a fleeting moment during the heyday of New York abstract painting, Al Held never quite fit in. A contrarian by nature, Held was a Bronx hoodlum and perpetual truant who wound up in the Navy at age sixteen because, as he speculated in a 1975 interview, his father was “terribly desperate” to get rid of him. He later embraced leftist politics and took classes at the Art Students League, toiling for years before achieving some repute in the early ’50s. His eureka moment came later that decade, when in painter Sam Francis’s studio he discovered acrylic, better suited than oil to his

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  • Doris Salcedo

    Alexander and Bonin

    The relatively recent international success of Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s, seems to have led her in a reflexive direction: Increasingly embraced by institutions, she has gradually dedicated her work to exploring the repressed violence and power of institutions. The 167-meter-long fissure the artist produced in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2007 is exemplary of the antimonumental conceptual and physical aggressiveness she is capable of conveying. In her recent New York exhibition, though, Salcedo returned to the type of domestic objects that were

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  • Willard Boepple

    Lori Bookstein Fine Art

    At Lori Bookstein, Willard Boepple exhibited six recent sculptures, five of them of a type he calls “Looms.” The basic structural idea, as always in his art, is deceptively simple: Within what the press release described as a “box-like frame” linear elements of various lengths run from side to side (also, less emphatically but nevertheless tellingly, between front and back), either horizontally or slanting; some extend slightly beyond the “frame.” Boepple characteristically works in wood, and indeed two of the most beautiful pieces, Burnley and Preston, both 2008, are in poplar, the first painted

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  • Charlotte Posenenske

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    In the May 1968 issue of Art International, the thirty-eight-year-old German artist Charlotte Posenenske published a manifesto lamenting the “regressed” utility of art and, by implication, the larger network of the art world. Her statements convey her concern with the social role of artists, and presage her decision later that year to become, perhaps unsurprisingly, a sociologist. Yet unlike other artists from the late 1960s and early ’70s who employed strategies of rejection or withdrawal—Lee Lozano comes first to mind––Posenenske was not concerned with blurring the boundaries between art and

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  • Cory Arcangel

    Team Gallery

    Cory Arcangel is known for hacking various technologies to produce sophisticated remixes. His works have generally radiated a cheerful aesthetic (Super Landscape #1, 2005, for example, is a tranquil scene created by removing everything but the clouds and sky from the Super Mario Brothers video game), while also examining the information that flies under our radar (for Old Friends, 2005, the artist cleverly reprogrammed a DVD of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1981 concert in Central Park to highlight the duo’s disintegrating relationship). Arcangel’s hacks attest to computer mastery, but they do not

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  • Jacob Feige

    Jane Lombard Gallery

    That Buckminster Fuller’s influence at present—especially on the heels of a recent Whitney Museum retrospective—is as pervasive as it is amorphous perhaps goes without saying (even if citing such exhibitions nonetheless confuses cause and effect). But given Fuller’s omnipresence, the question becomes, In just what ways does Fuller remain functional for practices in determinate media? It seems safe to say that few such evocations are achieved with paint, a rarity that made Jacob Feige’s recent show at Lombard-Freid, “After Dense Fog,” that much more affecting. In the ten exhibited canvases (of

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  • Vincent Desiderio

    Marlborough | Chelsea

    Vincent Desiderio is a painter—militantly so. Many of the paintings in this exhibition are ambitiously large (Sleep, 2008, is a mural, and When I Last Saw Paris, 2007, a triptych) and two, Sumo and Quixote, are still in progress, perhaps exhibited to draw attention to the artist’s painterly process. In fact, Desiderio began his career as a sort of reluctant expressionist, fascinated with “fugitive” gestures, each temporally suggestive—the grandly bloody splotch pictured on the right panel of When I Last Saw Paris reads as a memento mori of this fascination. But he quickly abandoned “straightforward”

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  • Luigi Ghirri

    Aperture Gallery

    This was Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri’s first New York solo exhibition in over seven years, and coincided with Aperture’s publication of the first English-language monograph dedicated to the artist. Ghirri, who worked consistently from the early 1970s until his death in 1992, should be better known in the United States, not only on the merits of his intelligent, subtly mischievous color photographs but also because American audiences will find in these images the traits they cherish in their own canonical figures from the era. They will detect, for instance, similarities to prints by

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  • Kim Keever

    Kinz + Tillou Fine Art

    Kim Keever’s ethereal color photographs of constructed landscape dioramas are undeniably seductive—a gaggle of ladies-who-lunch cooed admiringly over them on my visit to the New Yorker’s recent exhibition—but their purportedly “subversive” edge is blunt indeed. Keever employs a nice balance of the sophisticated and the jury-rigged, and sets up some mildly entertaining confusions of scale, but his images’ hazy visual atmospherics ultimately lack a tempering conceptual lucidity. An adjacent exhibition of paintings by Hudson River School artists such as Alfred Thompson Bricher, John William Casilear,

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  • Kate Gilmore

    Smith Stewart

    Kate Gilmore recently exhibited four single-channel videos, all dated 2008. One of the filmed actions took place in the gallery, and the relevant television monitor was sited in the detritus of that performance; another includes two supporting players. Otherwise, all share the basic parameters she has established for her work. Never rehearsed, each piece is attempted only once, and stars only the artist. A self-imposed physical obstacle is quixotically assaulted—here, panels of drywall are punched and kicked through, and blocks of plaster and other junk are pounded with sledgehammers. In each

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