reviews

  • Pablo Picasso, Couple, 1970, oil on canvas, 763⁄4 x 511⁄4".

    Pablo Picasso

    Gagosian Gallery

    PABLO PICASSO CAN BE EXHAUSTING to think about. He seems to occupy a slightly unnatural amount of space in the scheme of things. When he died in 1973, he had been the most famous artist in the world for well over half a century, but virtually no one was thinking seriously about what he’d been doing lately. Despite the almost eerie diversity of his output, Picasso’s part in the development of Cubism remained, for many, his most significant contribution (one that he spent the remainder of his life attempting both to own exclusively and to destroy). Many of his midlife innovations and stylistic

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  • Sigmar Polke

    Michael Werner | New York

    These thirty-odd recent paintings continue to chart the problematic fusion of Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol that makes Sigmar Polke the artist of greatest pertinence to the current generation of painters, be they European or American.

    His new works—painted either directly onto a corrugated layer of hardened translucent gel or onto the fabric beneath these striated surfaces—are, despite their tag name “Lens Paintings,” scarcely lenticular at all. The ridging does not appreciably blur the patterns or occlude the visible images or the paint strokes. To insist on a lenslike tightening of focus seems,

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  • Mimmo Rotella

    Knoedler & Company

    To announce its new representation of the estate of Mimmo Rotella (1918–2006), Knoedler & Company mounted a survey focusing on the artist’s paintings of the 1950s and ’60s, a period of intense international avant-garde cross-pollination. Like many Italian painters who came of age at that time, Rotella began as a postwar abstractionist whose work was still marked by a certain late Futurist vigor. Adjuring the Neorealist strand of Italian art that also emerged following the war and inspired by his growing cognizance of contemporary American developments, Rotella sloughed off this
 dutiful mode

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  • Michael Brown

    Yvon Lambert New York

    Michael Brown’s apparently unassuming show looked at first like the contents of your kitchen closet, but on second glance was more corporate than that—you might well own the dustpan and brush, the brooms, or the mop, but you probably wouldn’t do your mopping with so large a bucket, and the desk chairs were strictly office-storeroom. What else? An electric floor fan, smacking of Home Depot; a well- used paintbrush, its handle smeared with white paint . . . nothing handsome or new, everything ostensibly not just store-bought and worn but low-functioning in the first place. Wondering what was

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  • Patty Chang

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Would Walter Benjamin be repulsed to find his corpulence represented on-screen? Would he be put off by the portrayal of his flaccid penis, of his own emasculation, as an actor playing him is directed to gingerly delight in a woman’s supple foot? Would the man who penned “The Task of the Translator” be giddy or contemptuous over his depiction, in a work ostensibly about translation, as an Orientalist horndog? Such questions, which venture the most crude psychologism, are surely irrelevant, but they are ones you know Patty Chang herself entertained while making her latest video, the forty-two-minute

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  • Lara Schnitger

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Spiderwebs of black nylon, made by tensing women’s hosiery over wooden chopsticks into interconnecting spiky snowflake forms, extended from floor to ceiling in Lara Schnitger’s latest show, partitioning the gallery and screening the objects. The look was equal parts Halloween decoration and s/m gear, but both fast proved red herrings; this is her mildest work in years. Instead of the rowdy patchwork sculptures for which Schnitger is best known, the bulk of the exhibition comprised mixed-media textile paintings, and her previous sexual and political frankness has been traded for signs of snug

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  • Trisha Brown

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    This past spring, in celebration of a presentation of the last forty years of the eminent choreographer’s dance works at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as well as of her first solo gallery show ever, a selection of drawings at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Trisha Brown was invited for a conversation on the Leonard Lopate radio show. With the discussion ranging from Brown’s collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg to continued gender discrimination when it comes to fame and funding in the arts, the twenty-minute interview—as the format dictates—presented a radically uneven set of information: introductory

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  • Nigel Cooke

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    He might previously have been considered a cityscape specialist, but British painter Nigel Cooke turned explicitly toward the figure in his third solo exhibition at Andrea Rosen. Still, in five epic canvases, nine tiny ones, and ten shrunken bronze heads, Cooke intensified the ominous mood established by his earlier work, picturing a cast of end- time antiheroes and continuing to narrate some of painting’s many and still-accumulating deaths. Absorbed by the idea that completing an image necessarily implies destroying or absorbing its predecessor, and fascinated by the possibility of enfolding

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  • Jonathan Monk

    Casey Kaplan

    Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, 1986, an immaculate stainless-steel cast of a silver balloon in the form of a stylized bunny, has become an icon of a decade notorious for hyperbole and narcissism. (Not without reason did its perky ears protrude over Artforum’s logo in the first of the special issues the magazine devoted to the 1980s in 2003.) So it would be easy to see an allegory in “The Inflated Deflated,” for which British artist Jonathan Monk took a pin to this pumped-up, mirror-finish homage to the 1980s, reproducing it in a set of flaccid simulacra.

    Monk has made a career out of appropriating material

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  • John Chamberlain

    L&M Arts | New York

    In spite of fashioning his sculptures from the twisted steel of junked cars, John Chamberlain has long distanced himself from the spectacular American history of the car crash: Gatsby, General Patton, James Dean, and, of course, Pollock. He has insisted that his works “are not car crashes” or even evocations of violence. Notwithstanding the Pop flair of his literal mash-ups of auto refuse, he has usually been linked instead to the Abstract Expressionists, a connection he has bolstered with musings like, “I prefer not to think about [car crashes and violence] as much as I think about the poetics

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  • Hilary Harnischfeger

    Rachel Uffner Gallery

    Writing about the fallout from Frank Stella’s seminal “Black Paintings,” Michael Fried charged that he and Carl Andre had been “fighting for [Stella’s] soul.” For Fried, Stella’s paintings were an apotheosis of Greenbergian modernism; for Andre, harbingers of Minimalist object production. In effect, however, the contest (more camp than metaphysics) unwittingly rendered Stella’s nonrepresentational surfaces—which protruded off the wall so as to insistently occupy, even swallow up space—mere heuristic props. If such art-historical prehistory seems, at best, tangential to Hilary Harnischfeger’s

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  • Cheyney Thompson

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    At first glance, the paintings in “Robert Macaire Chromachromes,” Cheyney Thompson’s fourth solo show at Andrew Kreps Gallery, seemed a stock conceptual prank: thirteen linen canvases offering the painstakingly hand-rendered image, in color, of an enlarged section of their underlying fabric. A second look, however, expanded this seemingly superficial tautology. Having divided the gallery into three rooms in a way that brought to mind the spatial logic of a museum, Thompson presented a succession of historical canvas formats, each painting or diptych taking the shape and dimensions of a different

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  • Alex Hubbard

    Gallery-C at Team

    Alex Hubbard has described the action that takes place in several short videos he has made over the past few years as “Buster Keaton on a tabletop.” To make these works, the artist employs an overhead view onto a table to document the assembly, rearrangement, and subsequent destruction of objects—recalling the welter of bodily harm that awaits Keaton whenever he appears on-screen. Casting the materiality of art in the leading role as he captures this flurry of activity, Hubbard adeptly rifles through a catalogue of modernist references that extends to the flatbed effects, scatter strategies,

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  • Anne Eastman

    ATM Gallery

    Anne Eastman’s first solo exhibition in New York used mobiles made of wood, mirrors, and fishing line to ardently sample a range of early-twentieth-century art, from Russian Constructivism and Surrealism to the kinetic sculptures of Duchamp and Calder. She seemed particularly fixated on Moholy-Nagy: One work carried the lubricious title Oh! László, suggesting excitement or titillation. Its small Plexiglas mirrors, suspended within a black wooden frame, primarily offered fleeting reflections of gallery visitors. As in the rest of the show, Eastman’s modestly articulated take on abstraction and

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  • Ranbir Kaleka

    Bose Pacia

    After a decade of working primarily in video art (albeit often projected onto canvases), Indian artist Ranbir Kaleka turned the bulk of his attention back to his home medium of painting for this exhibition, titled “Reading Man.” The show, conceived as a follow up to “Fables from the House of Ibaan: Stage 1,” Kaleka’s 2008 exhibition of video installations (also held at Bose Pacia), included several installations incorporating his pictures, and thus posed a set of questions about the relevance of painting today and the implications of experimentally working between media.

    Kaleka, who was trained

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  • Laurel Nakadate

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    For viewers who have struggled to untangle the wicked snarl of contradictions that animate Laurel Nakadate’s provocative and polarizing oeuvre, the artist’s recent show—her debut at Tonkonow and her first solo exhibition in New York since 2006—suggested one possible solution. A number of the works in “Fever Dreams at the Crystal Motel” are meant, according to their titles, to be thought of as “exorcisms.” Incongruous ecclesiastical overtones aside, this notion of a battle with tormenting spirits, taking place along a continuum from the ecstatic to the psychotic, does provide a useful way to

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  • Florian Slotawa

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Since 1996, German artist Florian Slotawa has created “Besitzarbeiten” (Property Works), a series of sculptural installations comprising various functional objects removed from his Berlin apartment and meticulously arranged in a gallery setting. The newest, Besitzarbeit XII, 2009, is the sole artwork in this exhibition, Slotawa’s first solo outing in New York. Created at a rate of about one per year, the “Besitzarbeiten” can be seen as a baseline, or control group, for his artistic practice, in which the primary gestures—designation, reorganization, juxtaposition, contextualization—are immaterial

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  • The University of Trash

    SculptureCenter

    Envisaged as a site of alternative pedagogy, The University of Trash, 2009, was a collaborative project that took place over three months this past summer. Organized by New York–based artist Michael Cataldi and British artist-activist Nils Norman, it posited DIY design and urban social activism (e.g., squatting) as factors influencing the emergence—and, increasingly, the adoption as policy—of progressive urban and environmental politics. Against the backdrop of hyper-development and gentrification, Cataldi and Norman invoked a countercultural ethos to develop an authentically public (i.e., free

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