reviews

  • Justine Kurland

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash

    Behind images always lie other images, and the shadow of the visual archive falls heavily on photographs of the American West—partly because of the region’s role in the formation of America’s sense of itself, partly because Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, and others made not merely national but photographic history (hey! much more important) with the pioneering pictures they began to take there in the mid-nineteenth century. In the late 1970s, Mark Klett and other photographers explicitly recognized this doubleness of present and past through their work on the Rephotographic Survey Project,

    Read more
  • Jack Pierson

    Cheim & Read

    Jack Pierson has been long associated with a particular brand of Dumpster diving, one that produces oddly affecting sculptures—part ransom notes, part concrete poetry—out of winsomely all-American salvaged signage. His is the culled and repurposed stuff of roadside diners and theater marquees, but it also became the source of an altogether different kind of folklore in 2006, when his nostalgic style was appropriated by Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan, who himself employed three-dimensional vintage letters to spell eye-catching and shopper-friendly words like fabulous for store

    Read more
  • Chris Ofili

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    Although Chris Ofili’s recent show, “Afro Margin,” was grandly installed in one of David Zwirner’s soaring galleries, it consisted simply of a modest suite of eight pencil drawings, made between 2004 and 2007. The materials, too, were pared down in comparison with his previous work—no superheated color or reflective resins, no glitter, no elephant dung. This did not preclude the visual syncopation for which Ofili is famous. Still, “Afro Margin” emphasized, or resynthesized, two motifs long of interest to the British artist: the hypertrophic Afro head and the cascade of scintillant dots. Skillful

    Read more
  • Jean-Paul Riopelle

    Acquavella Galleries

    An eight-volume catalogue raisonné currently being published in Canada asserts the country’s claim to this patriarchal figure of modern French painting, who was born in Montreal in 1923. Hometown boy makes good. Yet it was all Jean-Paul Riopelle could do to escape the city and its time-hardened resentments: francophone, Roman Catholic Quebec versus anglophone, Church of England, maple leaf America. Riopelle found refuge from Quebecois revanchism in the alternate AbEx universe of postwar Paris, where he soon became a highly regarded artist, right up there with Pierre Soulages, Georges Mathieu,

    Read more
  • Sally Mann

    Gagosian Gallery

    The male nude that is the subject of the thirty-three photographs in Sally Mann’s “Proud Flesh” series, 2004–2009, on view in Gagosian’s recent exhibition, is about as far from the ideal of ancient sculpture as it is possible to get. There are a few torsos, but their arms and legs are invariably cut off by the edge of the picture. Disturbingly, it’s not clear that the missing limbs are implied. Like certain of Max Ernst’s and René Magritte’s limbless torsos, they are all skin, as if they were depictions of T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men.” In other words, Mann focuses on what psychoanalysts call part

    Read more
  • Barthélémy Toguo

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Born in Cameroon in 1967 and now living in Paris, Barthélémy Toguo deploys various strategies to address the subject of cultural hybridity. Humor, parody, deliberate overdetermination, semantic dexterity, and medium-specific virtuosity are prominent among them, as was evidenced in this recent exhibition of work made over the past ten years. The mainstay of the show was a large installation to the rear of the gallery, which one entered through a curtain of white mosquito netting. Inside, the same material was draped, veil-like, onto a series of wooden cots stacked with clothes, evoking an African

    Read more
  • Paul Chan

    Greene Naftali

    The orgy was already in full swing when I arrived at “Sade for Sade’s sake,” a predictably serious-minded if surprisingly dry survey of recent work by Paul Chan inspired by the eighteenth-century libertine author and philosopher. Elements of Chan’s project—a sprawling exploration, grounded in the Marquis de Sade’s work and routed through contemporary sociopolitics, of sexuality, violence, and liberty; of the relation of the body to language and the individual to the law—have been shown at the Venice Biennale and Chicago’s Renaissance Society. But this show, Chan’s second solo at Greene Naftali,

    Read more
  • Jonathan VanDyke

    Scaramouche

    Scaramouche’s cramped storefront space at 53 Stanton Street is difficult to negotiate at the best of times, but Jonathan VanDyke’s exhibition “The Hole in the Palm of Your Hand” made an easy passage even more challenging than usual. While the five constructions in the show seemed at first well behaved, a closer look at each one—and a quick glance beneath it—revealed a substantially messier side. Asymmetrical Relationship (all works 2009) is typical of the set. It is a large, black, boxlike form resembling a skewed letter I, whose closely woven fabric surface is punctuated by two plastic orifices.

    Read more
  • Jason Dodge

    Casey Kaplan Gallery

    From Trisha Donnelly to Jonathan Monk to Simon Starling, Casey Kaplan Gallery represents a number of artists whose conceptually inflected artwork constructs or relies upon narrative scaffolding. So, too, does Jason Dodge’s slow-burn art. His sixth exhibition at this gallery was visually unprepossessing but upon reflection revealed engaging emotional and psychological complexities. Take, for example, in order of imagined altitude / an astronomer, a meteorologist, an ornithologist, a geologist, and a civil engineer, cut pockets from their trousers (all works 2009). One would be hard-pressed to

    Read more
  • Andrea Bowers

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    In a 2003 interview, the Los Angeles–based artist Andrea Bowers noted of her work that “it was just a matter of time before documenting people’s actions turned into documenting people’s activism.” In fact, it was within this same year that she began to incorporate overtly political themes into her drawings and videos, shifting her focus from crowd dynamics and spectatorship to the direct-action protests of the 1970s and ’80s. In recent exhibitions, Bowers has examined abortion activism and the AIDS Memorial Quilt through a feminist lens. For her first solo show in New York since 2004, she took

    Read more
  • Marc Quinn

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    The new body of work Marc Quinn presented in this exhibition is seductive yet disturbing. The show comprised seven paintings from the series “Iris,” 2009–, in which human irises and dark pupils in an outsize dimension become the object of our gaze even as they in turn observe us implacably. They are simultaneously intimate and intrusive, and it quickly becomes uncomfortable to look at these paintings that look back at us, especially given what accurate renderings of human eyes they are (in fact they depict the eyes of real people, painted—from photographs, mostly with an airbrush—in oil on

    Read more
  • Emily Jacir

    Alexander and Bonin

    For her second solo show at Alexander and Bonin, Emily Jacir presented a new film, Lydda Airport, 2007–2009, and documentation of stazione, 2009. In different ways, both works are emblematic of the artist’s manipulation of subjective geographies to reimagine identity, history, and place. Stazione was commissioned as part of Palestine c/o Venice, a collateral event of this past summer’s Venice Biennale. The artist had envisaged the temporary inscription of Arabic translations alongside the Italian names of the vaporetto stops on the legendary route number one along the Grand Canal. A trilingual

    Read more
  • Sharon Horvath

    Lori Bookstein Fine Art

    I’m always happy for an excuse to go back to my Wallace Stevens. So when I noticed that Sharon Horvath titled her recent show “Parts of a World” after the poet’s wartime collection, the book immediately opened. And why not? Horvath is, in fact, a literary painter, though not in the sense of being an illustrator. While there is often a hint of the glorious preciousness of medieval manuscript illumination or the dreamlike intensity of Maurice Sendak in her style, there is no text that guides the making of the paintings. And yet there is a kind of ensuing text, one that coalesces in the mind of

    Read more
  • Tim Roda

    Daniel Cooney Fine Art

    The black in Tim Roda’s black-and-white photographs is inky, saturated, and absolute, and the whites are moony, stark, and often, although not always, provided by intense spotlights. Within these atmospheric extremes Roda stages tableaux reminiscent of myths, fables, fairy tales, and parables, often starring his son Ethan, and using a mixture of inventive props, costumes, and prosthetics to create a whatever’s-at-hand aesthetic—so that his stage is cluttered with bits of wood, wire, string, and wallpaper, a sort of art-studio noir. The images in his recent exhibition “Family Matters” (all titled

    Read more
  • Michael Williams

    CANADA

    Funny art of the late twentieth century can be split, broadly speaking, into two camps: sarcastic art that tactically reveals the illogicality of passively accepted social mores (Mike Kelley, Lee Lozano, Peter Saul), and art deploying a more subjective humor that draws from personal reference points. Apt examples here would be the self-glorification and self-depreciation (depending on the artist’s mood) of Martin Kippenberger, Maurizio Cattelan, and Urs Fischer. More recently, a number of artists have signaled another type of humor in art. If Kelley, Kippenberger, Lozano, and Saul used humor to

    Read more
  • Jack Ferver

    New Museum

    “As the dandy is the nineteenth century’s surrogate for the aristocrat in matters of culture, so Camp is the modern dandyism. Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture,” Susan Sontag wrote in her 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp.’” That a camp sensibility might be argued, in the nearly half a century since the appearance of Sontag’s text, to have ascended (or perhaps descended) to the level of a codified, “subversive” idea (often rendered cynically, and thus no longer camp) does not, however, lessen the force of the effects it can enable. Unrenouncably queer and

    Read more
  • “Hanging Fire”

    Asia Society | New York

    Heralded as the first major American museum exhibition of contemporary art from Pakistan, “Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan” sets out to challenge preconceived notions about the nation and its culture. As has been correctly and repeatedly pointed out in many newspaper articles (including no fewer than three full-length pieces in the New York Times), such an exhibition is long overdue. In its intention to instigate a corrective shift it follows a familiar pattern, but that doesn’t make the process any less important. To have mounted this exhibition is itself a major accomplishment,

    Read more