reviews

  • Paul Graham, untitled, 2004, color photograph, 15 x 20". From the six-part suite New Orleans, 2004 (Woman Eating).

    Paul Graham

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    HOW MIGHT WE ACCOUNT FOR the burgeoning interest in the British photographer Paul Graham—who, in addition to his solo debut currently at the Museum of Modern Art, recently had two concurrent commercial-gallery shows in New York? It is partly, no doubt, a consequence of steidlMACK’s publication of a shimmer of possibility, a deluxe, limited-edition, twelve-volume set of books presenting photographs Graham shot between 2004 and 2006 on trips throughout California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These books, which one can look at but not touch, are at the entrance

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  • Robert Barry

    Yvon Lambert New York

    A dash in the title of Robert Barry’s recent exhibition at Yvon Lambert, “RB 62–08,” might more accurately have been an ampersand. With one exception, the show’s paintings, texts, and photographs date from either the 1960s or the past two years (or both: The diptych 62–08 takes its name from the vintages of its component canvases, and a suite of vinyl phrases applied to the wall was conceived in 1969 and only given form now). Although this still institutionally unsung artist is long overdue for a full-dress retrospective, the lack of material from the intervening decades—wire and thread sculptures

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  • Louise Nevelson

    PaceWildenstein 22

    “I always thought, bluntly, that I was a glamorous, goddam exciting woman. I wanted to have a ball on earth.” Tall, turbaned, draped in a caftan, swathed in smoke, her eyes shaded by mink eyelashes, Louise Nevelson—a pioneer American abstractionist whose important work dates back to the 1930s and ’40s—was ever up for the grand entrance and the telegraphed witticism. “I wouldn’t marry God if he asked me!” Such principles are less marked by our institutional critique than by the School of Margo Channing. Nevelson’s theatrical mode underscores a body of work of Diva-like exaggeration, a manner

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  • Michaël Borremans

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    Welling up over and over in the sepulchral chamber carved out for it from David Zwirner’s cavernous Chelsea multiplex, Michaël Borremans’s looped film The Storm, 2006, is poised—like the concise, affecting show it fronted—at the extremities of both visibility and logic. Just over a minute long and projected to cinematic scale on a wall of the blacked-out space, the film is anything but tempestuous. Instead it’s all stillness, pure mood and palette: With a static gaze the camera blinks drowsily between light and darkness, eyeing three men sitting impassively in a corner, their black skin and

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  • Will Cotton

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    It must have seemed a good idea at the time: to symbolize habits of consumption—habits of appetite and its indulgence—with images of candy and confectionery. Will Cotton began doing that over a decade ago, painting increasingly elaborate, increasingly accomplished landscapes made up of sugar products of all kinds, and as the years passed, and the stock market rose, his work felt to some all the more acute. His sweet tooth also attracted him to portraying conventionally beautiful women, usually naked or nearly so, except that they’re often decorated—you can’t really say they wear these things—with

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  • Florian Maier-Aichen

    303 Gallery

    Hailed by Christopher Bollen as the “anti–Ansel Adams” for eschewing straight photography in, among other things, privileging saturated color, Florian Maier-Aichen is also the Düsseldorf school’s prodigal son. As is oft remarked, Maier-Aichen left Germany to study at the University of California, Los Angeles, in part to divorce himself from the documenting of functionalist architecture and the non-sites of modern industrialism advocated by the Bechers and promulgated in the dispassionate formalism of their many disciples. But his stylized images’ looming monumentality—and to be sure, their own,

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  • John Stezaker

    Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    John Stezaker’s methodology—take a found photograph, do something to it, do something else to it—is an audaciously simple one, but it works. Stezaker, a British veteran of first-wave Conceptual art and the New Image group, has been enjoying something of a comeback, and his recent first exhibition at Friedrich Petzel made the revival seem entirely explicable, even overdue. Stezaker is a master of selection and presentation; his vision emerges all the stronger when he keeps evidence of his own hand to a minimum. That Matthew Higgs helped design the show’s crisp installation makes perfect sense,

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  • Susan Rothenberg

    Sperone Westwater

    Nearly impossible, it seems, not to start with the horses, even though they make no appearance in Susan Rothenberg’s latest canvases. Indeed, it is telling how very thoroughly, since first materializing in her work (over three decades ago), Rothenberg’s equine forms have become identified with the artist and how, in a sense, they would seem to shadow every form she has turned to since (to say nothing of the critical discourse attending her oeuvre). Appearing at a moment—the mid-’70s—when newly minted postmodern ideas were putting heat on painting, Rothenberg’s horses seemed at once to reintroduce

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  • Ben Jones

    Deitch Projects

    In Ben Jones’s New Painting and Drawing, a slim book of images published last year by PictureBox, song lyrics by the noise rock band Polvo serve as an epigraph (and the volume’s only text): “Show me something round and I’ll analyze the form / Teaching us the code that makes us crack.” It’s hard to think of a more apt description of Jones’s practice. In his second New York solo show, a smart, energetic installation of drawings, paintings, light boxes, sculptures, and digital videos, Jones makes form—specifically, fundamental geometric shapes—his primary medium; his aim is to reveal the elements

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  • Carolee Schneemann

    P.P.O.W./Carolina Nitsch Project Room

    Carolee Schneemann is an original, and a nexus. Lissome banshee-progenitrix of Body Art and downtown doyenne whose influences span the New York School, the Judson Dance Theater, and contemporary performance, she can connect, say, Joseph Cornell (she met him when she was around twenty) and Matthew Barney (see Up To And Including Her Limits, 1971–76, her drawing-in-a-harness performance). After fifty years and counting of exhibiting, she remains “Carolee, naked and maenadian,” as Lucy Lippard apostrophized her in 1979. “Painting, What It Became” at P.P.O.W., curated by Maura Reilly, surveyed the

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  • Philippe Decrauzat

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    The so-called neo-geo artists of the 1980s—New York painters Peter Halley, Ashley Bickerton, Philip Taaffe, and a few others—promoted an ironic distance from the often doctrinaire history of abstract painting, arguing that various art styles and effects be understood as nothing more than a series of ready-mades borrowed and brought together. Seeking to reveal complicity between the maker, viewer, and consumer in appreciating its own clearly simulated results and slick synthetic finish, this work, so the rhetoric went, could maintain its critical stance toward painting as an overt commodity fetish

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  • Xylor Jane

    CANADA

    Xylor Jane’s third solo exhibition at Canada, titled “NDE,” as in “near-death experience,” did not on first impression look to be about death. Products of a conceptual, task-based approach that Jane began developing in the mid-1990s, these new works, more explicitly than their predecessors, depict patterns through dabs of brightly colored oil paint. Some of these patterns have their origins in printouts of numbers from the Internet. Others are based in a system Jane has generated that links the seven colors of the rainbow to the seven days of the week. If their palettes were more consistently

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  • Lisa Kirk

    INVISIBLE-EXPORTS

    Inspired by the theatricality of street and media activism, Lisa Kirk’s projects—or, as she sometimes calls them, “social occasions”—are marked by a winning combination of wit, nerve, charm, and aggression. For “The Greatest Show on Earth,” her exhibition at Participant Inc. in 2003, she had an effigy of the Whitney Museum fashioned from cake, and then blown up. For her project Revolution, 2006–, she created a customized fragrance memorializing the persistent smell—or, rather, the stench—of street violence, bottled in pipe-bomb vials and “marketed” with a bandanna face-mask accessory and a DVD

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  • “Regift”

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Lewis Hyde asserts, in the introduction to his book The Gift (1983), that “works of art exist simultaneously in two ‘economies,’ a market economy and a gift economy.” Recent contemporary art can be accused of focusing on the former to the detriment of the latter. Hyde’s subsequent insistence that “a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art” appears to ignore or be at odds with the realities of a commercial market flying high, as it was recently, or laid low, as it seems to be now. Yet his counsel is a welcome reminder that, no matter our commercial

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  • Henry Taylor

    RENTAL Gallery

    Henry Taylor’s touch is heavy. His acrylic buildups are sludgy, pasty, and crusty. Characters’ irises bleed into their sclerae, and canvases are flecked with sloppy stains of wayward drips. Landscapes are dense color fields: the milky blue of a daytime sky, the hard emerald of a pastoral field, the deadened gray of concrete. Taylor’s paintings communicate an overall feeling of laboriousness—of Faulknerian weight and burden. His figuration is cartoonish, a loose take on South Park’s illustrative style, although his characters couldn’t be more different from that show’s lightweight windbags.

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  • Richard Foreman and John Zorn

    Ontological-Hysteric Theater

    I first became aware of the work of Richard Foreman and his Ontological-Hysteric Theater thanks to a review of Rhoda in Potatoland in 1975. My recollection is misty but I think it was an assertion to the effect that Foreman was to Heidegger as Brecht to Marx that caught my fancy—not that I’d read Heidegger or even Marx then, but the names meant something to me. My first direct contact was with Book of Splendors, Part Two, two years later—though in the meantime I had seen the production of Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera that Foreman directed for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1976. By

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  • Erica Baum

    DISPATCH

    For about a decade Erica Baum has quietly been making work, intimate black-and-white photographs that, in their selective focus and cropping, isolate uncanny textual coincidences in card-catalogue drawers and book indexes. The result is a kind of found concrete poetry, as in her “Index” series from 2000, one piece in which reads: NIAGARA FALLS, 207 / NICOTINE, 260 / NIGHT AIR, 302 / NIGHTMARES, 298 / NINETY-NINE, 379.

    In the recent body of work she exhibited at Dispatch, a small storefront gallery on Henry Street, Baum continues to frame strategically. The photographs’ titles, such as Shampoo,

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