reviews

  • “In & Out of Amsterdam”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    GLOBALISM AND CONCEPTUALISM: It has become increasingly apparent that these two notions are indissolubly linked, but how? “In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960–1976” is only the most recent curatorial effort to examine this association, first proposed by the exhibition “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s,” overseen by Jane Farver at New York’s Queens Museum of Art in 1999. The Queens show tracked seemingly independent eruptions of a Conceptual tendency in discrete locales across the globe, contesting the Western orientation of previous surveys. Galleries were

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  • Roger Ballen

    Gagosian Gallery

    No photographic, or even artistic, category quite encompasses the complicated, engrossing, and at times unsettling images in South Africa–based artist Roger Ballen’s new series “Boarding House,” 2003–2008, several dozen images from which made up this large exhibition. Though the artworks are consistently square-format black-and-white photographic prints, they represent a combination of photography, theatrical performance, drawing, and sculpture. The images were made in collaboration with the residents of a Johannesburg warehouse that, from Ballen’s description, seems like a miniature shantytown—a

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  • Dan Flavin

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    Somehow, no matter how many times I see Dan Flavin’s work, I always seem to harbor the exact same misconceived expectation, namely that I’m going to encounter things of striking perceptual luxury—light mobilized within spatial scenarios à la James Turrell or Olafur Eliasson, say, in which the physical apparatus of the lamp is simply a vehicle for producing the radiant focus of the show, a nonphysical (even metaphysical) form of illumination that envelops and swallows the viewer in its lyrical maw.

    Of course, this is for the most part misremembered bunk: Flavin was no mystic and his work—as this

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  • Peter Sacks

    Paul Rodgers / 9W

    Collage seems consigned to barely more than miniature. Its size would be a function of the width of newspaper columns, of the decorative patterns of wallpaper, of bus tickets and candy wrappers. Only Guernica broke with this scale of bits and scraps. It achieved mural dimensions by resorting to imitation: “newsprint” scattered over large planes through broken lines of black. Disdaining imitation, Peter Sacks achieves triptychs nearly fifteen feet wide by typing texts onto long rolls of linens of various kinds—winding sheets, shrouds, strips of prison shirts.

    These textual scrolls overlie a mixture

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  • Gerhard Richter

    Marian Goodman Gallery | Paris

    Gerhard Richter’s indebtedness to a range of photographic practices has been the taproot of his intensely admired achievements. The incipient force of this approach first emerged in the painter’s adaptations of Andy Warhol in the early 1960s (modifications he worked out concurrently with Sigmar Polke). As Richter’s work developed, its representational and abstract polarities became ever more marked—distinctly separate but equal options. After all, the aesthetic equivalence between abstraction and representation is hardly an abstruse notion; postmodern sensibility cherishes stylistic discontinuity

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  • Michael Joo

    Anton Kern Gallery

    It stands to reason that pretty much everybody knows what a zebra looks like, either from photographs or the zoo, a tourist safari or Animal Planet. This was obviously not always the case, as for instance when George Stubbs painted the zebra that had been imported to England in 1762 by Sir Thomas Adams as a gift to Queen Charlotte, who kept a collection of exotic animals in the park of Buckingham House (as the palace was then known). In his most recent exhibition, Michael Joo took Stubbs’s 1763 painting of this zebra as the inspiration for three sculptures. The artist makes direct reference to

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  • Walid Raad

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    The fifteen years of war that began in Lebanon in the mid-1970s, when Walid Raad was growing up there, and the enduring threat of violence in that country have been a steady presence in the artist’s work, though in devious ways. Instead of bluntly claiming a place for Lebanon’s tragedies in our attention, Raad has clothed himself in fictions, signing his work “The Atlas Group” and presenting it as a body of collective scholarship, academic, indeed picayune, to a fault. In combining a loaded subject with a recondite form, Raad has escaped the “didactic” label so often applied to heart-on-sleeve

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  • Sister Mary Corita

    Feuer/Messler

    The cover of Newsweek of April 12, 1965, shows a Vietnamese man, wearing only a pair of shorts, being pushed through a field by a helmeted American soldier. “Profile of the Viet Cong,” the caption reads. The man looks angry and desperate; the soldier’s face is turned away. The picture is included in news of the week, a 1969 serigraph by Sister Mary Corita, where it is washed in blood red. The poster’s lower third is tinted mint green, the contrasting colors buzzing urgently. At right in this green section, a Life magazine cover shows soldiers supporting a wounded comrade. In the center is stamped

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  • Kaari Upson

    Maccarone

    “I am bound to have some anxiety about this so please if I say stop, don’t stop.” The run-on title of Kaari Upson’s recent show at Maccarone served as fair warning of the quality and quantity of neurosis concentrated therein, while the gallery’s statement detailed its convoluted narrative so thoroughly that there seemed at first precious little room for imaginative maneuver. “There is a man at the center of a story,” it began. “He is a character created from real information and forensic methods traced and described by a narrator, a woman, who is a persona of a self, playing the role of his

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  • “Besides, With, Against, and Yet”

    The Kitchen

    This past winter, ’twas the season of nonfigurative painting in New York, what with specters of abstraction past (Wassily Kandinsky at the Guggenheim, Georgia O’Keeffe at the Whitney) and harbingers of things to come (for instance, Bob Nickas’s “Cave Painting II” at Gresham’s Ghost). Even so, the Kitchen’s “Besides, With, Against, and Yet: Abstraction and the Ready-Made Gesture,” curated by the institution’s director, Debra Singer, staked out important ground. Exemplifying a set of practical-cum-theoretical tendencies—the two are now inextricably linked, which is part of the story—without forcing

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  • Agnes Denes

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    What do you want out of life? Why not more? Which do you think will prove ultimately more important to humanity—science or love? What is love? These were some of the questions that Agnes Denes asked students in the late 1970s, their answers forming part of the second iteration of her 1968 piece Rice/Tree/Burial, 1977–79. The responses were then buried in a time capsule, as the “burial” component of the tripartite project. These kinds of questions—the “big ones”—are the ones that Denes’s art implicitly asks. Ever since she arose alongside (though distinct from) Land art in the ’60s, Denes’s

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  • Alan Gussow

    Babcock Galleries

    In 1953, a twenty-two-year-old Alan Gussow arrived at the American Academy in Rome, thanks to a Prix de Rome fellowship he had received while a student of painting at the Cooper Union—as, at the time, the youngest American to date. He had impressed Stuart Davis and others with his work, especially with Untitled, 1953, an abstract painting he called, simply, “The Big Yellow Thing.” Already the following year, however, he wrote: “I am shaking off a dependence on popular abstract idioms. . . . I have begun a great deal of drawing from life and landscape, making a strong and valid response to the

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  • Tony Feher

    D’Amelio Terras

    Five bright pink fan-shaped pieces of polystyrene, each four feet high, a foot deep, and eight feet wide, were laid out on the gallery floor for Tony Feher’s recent exhibition. Taking literally the appellation of construction company Owens Corning’s Fanfold insulation—plainly printed on the verso of each object—Feher simply partially unfolded the pink sheets around a central pivot to make them appear like fans resting on the ground. Each was titled Blossom, 2009, as was the exhibition itself.

    A selection of Minimalist tropes are here present and correct: monochromatic color, the emphasis on scale,

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  • Spencer Finch

    Postmasters

    In a darkish room you focus on the outline of a window, cast on a wall by a street lamp outside. Every so often a brighter light sweeps through the space, from the headlights of a car driving past, briefly lifting the room from darkness to a kind of twilight and then disappearing. There is nothing else to see.

    This is Spencer Finch’s Paper Moon (Studio Wall at Night), 2009. But there is no street lamp, no window, no car; the work is an effect, or series of effects, laboriously re-created with various media, including a model train on a track, to bring to viewers this particular artifact from the

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  • Sopheap Pich

    Tyler Rollins Fine Art

    Sopheap Pich is one of very few Cambodian artists exhibiting internationally at present, having appeared in exhibitions in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Norway, and in triennials in Japan and Australia. At the end of Pol Pot’s devastating rule, an eight-year-old Pich together with his family ended up in relocation camps in Thailand, where they lived for several years before making their way to the United States. Pich received an American university education and attended graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Cambodia, at age thirty-two, in 2002.

    Though Pich had studied to

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  • White Columns Annual

    White Columns

    For the opening only, a video made in conjunction with this past summer’s exhibition “Mirror Me” at Dispatch in New York’s Chinatown was the lodestar of the fourth iteration of “Looking Back: The White Columns Annual,” curated by James Hoff and Miriam Katzeff of the publishing collective Primary Information. The fugacious video, which selectively documented a night of performances organized by Kai Althoff and Brandon Stosuy on July 30, 2009, offered a compact metaphor for the analeptic angle that constitutes the exhibition’s premise: Works for the annual are chosen by guest curators based on

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  • Tere O’Connor

    Dance Theater Workshop

    A few years ago, the choreographer Tere O’Connor issued a kind of challenge to those responding in print to his live pieces: “What would happen to the writing if you brought nothing to it? No pencil, no paper. It would have to be about a second sensation that arises in the critic. Or not. Who knows? I’m just saying, let’s try this together.” Unknowingly, as I had not yet come across these words, I ended up complying with O’Connor’s request when I attended his sixty-minute Wrought Iron Fog, 2009, this past November. But I wouldn’t have had much use for pad and paper anyway, since taking time away

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  • Stuart Sherman

    80WSE Gallery

    The influence of Stuart Sherman, although he was largely forgotten after his death from AIDS in 2001, runs deep and wide. The first comprehensive exhibition of his work, curated by John Hagan, Yolanda Hawkins, and John Matturri at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery, was at once an archive and a memorial, but most of all a celebration of an important artist who, thanks to those who knew him personally and others attracted to his practice, never drifted into total obscurity.

    Sherman’s best-known pieces are his outstanding short performances, which he initially showed to small audiences in his

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