reviews

  • Man Ray, Self-Portrait as a Fashion Photographer, 1936, black-and-white photograph, 8 1⁄4 x 6". All works by Man Ray © 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    Man Ray

    Jewish Museum

    ONE COULD SAY of the Jewishness in Man Ray’s work what Theodor Adorno said of it in Gustav Mahler’s: “One can no more put one’s finger on this element than in any other work of art: It shrinks from identification yet to the whole remains indispensable.” Like the Austrian composer, Man Ray—born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia in 1890, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents—lived in a society that, though in many ways progressive, could be intensely anti-Semitic. And like Mahler, Man Ray was Jewish and working-class at a moment when assimilation was not only a frequently practiced route

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  • Philip Guston

    McKee Gallery

    Many of the small oil panels that Philip Guston produced between 1969 and 1973—of which this show featured almost fifty—depict scenes from the artist’s life, and are thus infused with an uncanny sense of the biographical. The cigar in the 1973 work of that title must be his, for instance; and so must the shoe depicted on one untitled and undated canvas. The paintbrushes in an untitled 1972 work are certainly his own, suggesting that the paintings pictured in other works—one hangs on the wall by a nail; another is centered, in effect a painting within a painting; and a third is on an easel—are

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  • Markus Schinwald

    Yvon Lambert

    Elegant, unsettling, and thoroughly persuasive, Markus Schinwald’s New York solo debut provided an overdue introduction to the versatile Austrian-born artist’s uncanny talent for lavishly evocative modes of détournement. Schooled in both theory and fashion design, Schinwald is fascinated with the potential and limitations of bodies, as physical objects and as metaphoric subjects. Despite its slightly bewildering disciplinary heterogeneity (his projects over the last decade, seen almost exclusively in Europe, have involved painting, photography, sculpture, film, video, installation, theater,

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  • Helmut Federle

    Peter Blum

    At the heart of each of the five paintings Helmut Federle showed at Peter Blum is an irregular pentagon, a flat geometry brighter than the rest of the picture, if not always by much. That void is not bare canvas—it shows pigment—but it might almost have gone unpainted, since it has become itself partly by omission: It is defined by the paint around it, applied in overlapping layers of wide straight bands radiating outward over the surface in progressively darker rings. In The Danish Prince; Vilhelm Hammershøi (all works 2009) and occasionally elsewhere, faint pencil lines mark the pentagon’s

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  • Brian Alfred

    Haunch of Venison

    On the evidence of this exhibition, “It’s Already the End of the World,” and of his 2005–2008 series “Millions Now Living Will Never Die!!!,” Brooklyn-based painter and filmmaker Brian Alfred seems to have not only a distinctly apocalyptic bent but also a belief in the continuing power of the individual to steer both art history and history tout court. Picturing an assortment of (for the most part) widely known heroes and villains alongside key sites and signs of sociopolitical flux, Alfred also portrays (albeit at smaller scale) some of his own personal guiding lights—studio mates and other

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  • Anthony McCall

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    Fold an art-world time line so that 1973 touches 2010. Task-based performance in its antimetaphorical directness—as undertaken by an artist in his twenties—will rub against technological spectacle in an elegiac mood, as engineered by an artist now over sixty. Structuralist cinema and post-Minimal sculpture will meet digital video and relational installation; ambient dust and cigarette smoke in a loft where cognoscenti gathered for experimental screenings will turn to vapor puffs emitted by a haze machine in a gallery, where QuickTime projections loop and passersby drop in. Yet key concerns

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  • Annette Lemieux

    Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue

    Annette Lemieux’s equivocal place among those contemporary artists drawn to reminiscence—let’s call them “nostalgics”—is far from commensurate with her prominence in what might be termed Feminist Conceptualism. This obliquity owes something to the fact that she works “off scene,” in Boston (despite her continuing New York presence in galleries of note), and also to her attraction to cryptic, elusive themes. Lemieux’s political sarcasm is masked by sweetness and reductivist abstraction, and her infinite links of insinuation are a deterrent to facile acceptance, unwanted to begin with. Her references

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  • Marlo Pascual

    Casey Kaplan

    While so much of today’s common wisdom around appropriation grants that tactic a kind of distanced purview, from which an artist might critique while simultaneously participating in prevailing modes of cultural representation, we all too rarely account for the ways in which a sort of lasciviousness attends the venture—especially, perhaps, as younger generations take up its presumed look and legacy. Walking into Marlo Pascual’s first solo exhibition at Casey Kaplan, one had the feeling that the artist could be some crusty old cinephile: If she were a man, I might think he was a creep. Though the

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  • Christian Holstad

    Daniel Reich Gallery

    An OPEN sign Scotch-taped to Daniel Reich Gallery’s front door was hardly an idle signifer. With all its low-rent connotations, its purpose was evidently to inform passersby that the gallery was taking customers (and to implicate the casual visitor as customer)—even if this intention was undermined by the blunter, contradictory statement implied by the mesh roll-down gate obscuring the gallery’s storefront window.

    Insofar as the gate has always been there, it wasn’t part of the installation per se, though that’s not to say the gesture wasn’t intentional; in fact, the artist, Christian Holstad,

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  • Robert Frank

    Robert Mann Gallery

    Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958) is arguably the twentieth century’s iconic art book. Its photos, taken by Frank during a circuitous cross-country road trip in 1955 and 1956, are voyeuristic records of Americans who had sloughed off depression, won wars, and forged the world’s model consumer society. The Swiss-born artist conveyed an America of bliss and ignorance, hip yet generic, its landscape and psychology both wide open. Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of Frank’s book of eighty-three photographs and—incredibly—the first time the entire suite was shown in New York, at the Metropolitan

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  • Moyra Davey

    Murray Guy

    The objects populating Moyra Davey’s photographs—analog electronics, unplugged and shelved; empty bottles of whiskey, appearing wherever they were finished—are things whose primary use-value has expired, items largely out of exchange, which exist, in curator Helen Molesworth’s words, “at the margins of commodity culture.” Among the works in the artist’s recent show at Murray Guy, titled “My Necropolis,” Davey’s “Copperheads,” 1990, a series of close-ups of Abraham Lincoln’s profile on the face of the US currency with the least worth, perhaps pushes this notion the furthest, while also eloquently

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  • Bruce High Quality Foundation

    Susan Inglett Gallery

    The Bruce High Quality Foundation—an officially anonymous New York–based art collective, which drew attention to itself in 2005 by prankishly attempting to deliver by motorboat a scaled-down version of one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s saffron-colored “gates” to Robert Smithson’s posthumously iterated Floating Island on the Hudson River—is now taking on art education. In September 2009, BHQF established the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, promoted as a free, unaccredited, antihierarchical, and collaborative art school in Tribeca. The declaration on the group’s website speaks to

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  • “1969”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    It wasn’t too long ago that the fortieth anniversary of the Summer of Love held boomers and civilians alike in its onanistic thrall. Yet in a chastened—even anodyne—return, the 1960s now invoked more frequently come at the decade’s end. This exhibition, for one, means to recover the heterodox production of 1969 through a full-floor survey of works made that year. Perhaps it is unsurprising that we find our times reflected in this earlier postdiluvian climate, but that is not really the point. Indeed, in spite of originating in “a period marked with revolution and socio-political tumult,” as the

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  • Mores McWreath

    CUE Art Foundation

    Mores McWreath’s video Remain, 2009, takes place in a monochromatic retail wasteland, a rubble-filled, computer-generated landscape, recalling a Best Buy warehouse after a riot. Announced by an electronic chime, the artist appears in this charmless CGI interior to deliver gnomic and self help–inflected pronouncements. Dressed like a sales associate, in khaki trousers (with the size sticker still attached) and shapeless polo shirt, with his head neatly shaved and a microphone attached to his lapel, he seems perfectly harmless, but the irony quotient of his words is hard to measure: He alternately

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