reviews

  • Stephanie Sinclair, Self-Immolation in Afghanistan: A Cry for Help, 2005, one of nine color photographs, each 17 x 22".

    the Whitney Biennial

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    “2010”: THE TITLE OF the latest edition of the Whitney Biennial, curated by Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari, is a literalist marker that establishes both the inexorable passage of the biennial calendar and the impossibility of subjecting any historical moment to a single explanatory theory. The result is an instant monument to the present that also describes a willing-forth of history, inviting us to conceive of a new 1922, perhaps, with its literary triumphs, or a new 1968, with its social and cultural upheavals, or even, maybe, the 2001 we never got. Such a blunt invocation of

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  • Iannis Xenakis

    Drawing Center

    IANNIS XENAKIS, WHO DIED IN 2001 at the age of seventy-eight, was the embodiment of Goethe’s famous quote “I call architecture frozen music.” Trained as a civil engineer, Xenakis went on to study composition with Olivier Messiaen, and his mature work intensified the two forms’ interrelationship: He fashioned musical scores from the notations of advanced mathematics and designed buildings utilizing the geometric shapes incorporated in the scores. While Xenakis’s music is scientific in construction, as Messiaen once observed “the preliminary calculations are completely forgotten at audition. . .

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  • Joan Jonas

    Yvon Lambert New York

    Joan Jonas did not read The Divine Comedy until 2007, whereupon she began a series of pieces inspired by the epic poem. As with much of her oeuvre, the multiple iterations of the resulting work, Reading Dante, ultimately do not evidence mastery or even legible competency of its ostensible subject; instead, proceeding as a dreamlike, long-term experiment, Jonas’s Dante isn’t bound to readily resemble itself. The core of the project, rather, is the development of a kind of contemporary translation—a giving voice, as it were, to a Dante for our time. Yet Jonas’s Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise

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  • Robert Ryman

    PaceWildenstein

    Never one for grandiloquence, Robert Ryman has for some recent exhibitions drafted short statements about the continuous experiment that is his painting. These tend invariably toward the plainspoken, hardware-store procedural, and are thus the perfect complement to work that has long engaged the stuff of the medium without a surplus of theoretical effluvia, despite a patent conceptual orientation. In the text accompanying “Large-small, thick-thin, light reflecting, light absorbing,” which comprised nineteen numbered paintings of the same title on various supports (Tyvek made of spunbonded olefin,

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  • Jamie Isenstein

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    “Live” art is for the living; by extension, it can die. Narratives around performance art have begun to adopt the language of endangered-species programs, with words like re-creation and preservation becoming switch points for whole epistemological struggles. For Jamie Isenstein, whose signature style features sculptures that use parts of her own living body as material, mortality itself is the linchpin. Some of her is always already gone: In Magic Fingers, 2003, for instance, Isenstein sits hidden behind a wall and displays only her hand, shown in a gilded frame, as it assumes various poses

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  • Nicholas Di Genova

    Fredericks & Freiser

    Art built around the repetitive accumulation of objects and images has been around for long enough that it could constitute an extensive collection of its own. From China’s 2,200-year-old Terracotta Army to Antony Gormley’s Field, 1991; from Andy Warhol’s early-1960s soup cans and Coke bottles to Allan McCollum’s “Shapes Project,” 2005–2006, countless artists have exploited the power of sheer number for visual impact and associative effect. And though this compulsive racking and stacking has perhaps most often been linked to Minimalism and its direct descendants—think, to take one iconic example,

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  • Simon Dybbroe Møller

    Harris Lieberman

    In the middle of the gallery, a young man sat casually at a grand piano stacked with old books, holding one and reading from it, silently. As he did this, he used his free hand to pick out individual notes on the keyboard. The gentle sounds resonated in the near-empty room but their sequence fell short of melody—rather, it was slow and disjointed, hesitant, yet not unpleasant despite seeming arbitrary. The man’s black suit jacket hung on a peg nearby, and a small, framed black-and-white photograph of his wire-rimmed glasses leaned against the window. There was no indication of how long he had

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  • Robert Morris

    Castelli Gallery

    To know why Robert Morris loomed so large in the 1960s one need look no further than Untitled (Scatter Piece), 1968–69. For this room-size installation, Morris distributed his materials—steel, lead, zinc, copper, aluminum, brass, and contrasting thick felt sheets—according to an open system of size and weight change, with dozens of individual forms whose bending and folding L-shapes and bullet-nose U-turns were determined by a complex system (as Jeffrey Weiss tells us in his excellent essay accompanying this show) premised on calculations of coin tossings “plus numbers randomly selected from

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  • Willie Cole

    Alexander and Bonin

    For many US residents, the term post-black may describe a nation in which an African American can become president; citizens of the New York art world may also remember the Studio Museum in Harlem’s “Freestyle” show of 2001, and curator Thelma Golden’s use of that phrase to name what she thought was a new attitude toward the role of “black artist.” The title of Willie Cole’s recent exhibition, “Post Black and Blue,” seemed to touch on both references, and also reminded me of Fats Waller’s great song “(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue,” written in 1929 and still startling in its take on

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  • Franz Erhard Walther

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    While living in Germany and New York during the 1960s, Franz Erhard Walther produced a series of fifty-eight sculptural objects designed for viewer interaction and direct handling, which were collectively titled “1. Werksatz” (First Set of Works). The earliest of these, Stirnstück (Forehead Piece), 1963, involved using the front of the head to slide a strip of maroon velvet down a wall. The final work in the project, Zeit Stelle Dauer Richtung Bezug (Time Place Duration Direction Relation), 1969, consists of two bedlike structures made with stretched canvas—again dyed maroon—covering wooden

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  • Kiki Smith

    Brooklyn Museum

    Kiki Smith’s “Sojourn” is an ongoing site-specific installation, brought to Brooklyn in its fourth iteration (following stints at the Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld, Germany; the Kunsthalle Nürnberg, also in Germany; and the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona). Overflowing the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, this adaptation intervened in two adjacent period rooms, all part of the museum’s Major Henry Trippe House, built in Maryland circa 1730. This was apropos in that “Sojourn”—a meditation on mortality, inspiration, and cooperation in women’s lives—emerged from Smith’s encounter with

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  • Nari Ward

    Lehmann Maupin | New York, W 24 Street

    Over the course of the past decade, Nari Ward’s large-scale sculptures and installations have often been invested in the local. At the 2008 Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans, for instance, his installation of a diamond-shaped structure made with damaged gym equipment seemed an appropriate reflection on the city’s powerlessness in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Ward’s exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 2002 responded to the institution by exploring the staff’s role as caretakers; and in 2000, during a residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the artist held

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  • George Condo

    Skarstedt Gallery | New York

    This exhibition of George Condo’s work consisted of only three paintings—all masterly, all large, all 2010. Part of a series titled “Drawing Paintings,” 2009–, they depict standing figures—some “interlocking,” some “spatial,” as the titles of two of the pieces tell us, and some in Washington Square Park, per the title of the third. The canvases are noteworthy not only for their mix of acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastel, almost indistinguishably integrated, but for their fusion of styles, resulting in what might be called an expressionistic surrealism or, per- haps more pointedly, an expressionistically

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  • Duncan Campbell

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Less than two years after starting production of the DMC-12 luxury car, the DeLorean Motor Company abruptly closed in 1982, leaving thousands of workers unemployed. Supported by generous subsidies from the UK government, the factory had been set up in a working-class district of Northern Ireland by the can-do American entrepreneur John DeLorean, who would after its demise be charged with involvement in smuggling cocaine in a last-ditch attempt to raise money to save the company. (He was eventually acquitted.) The appeal of the DeLorean car survived these travails, however, and it arguably found

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  • Elisabeth Subrin

    Sue Scott Gallery

    Today, some fifty years removed from Andy Warhol’s deployment of fashion and shoe advertisements and thirty years since the flowering of the Pictures generation, the sheer quantity of images circulating in the world has normalized appropriation, and the dispersion of its intent has largely depoliticized it. Remaking (or outright stealing) doesn’t register as the challenge to the status quo it used to.

    These shifts notwithstanding, Elisabeth Subrin has done her part to uphold appropriation’s politicized, feminist legacy. Since the late 1980s, her films and videos have used appropriative strategies

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  • Alan B. Stone

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    We’re drawn to the past for countless reasons and revisit it in myriad ways, but analytic, interrogative approaches to what has come before us predominate in today’s art world. Even nostalgia itself is codified and anatomized: Witness, for example, how the phenomenon of “Ostalgie,” or nostalgia for life in the former East Germany, has been cross-examined in exhibitions and essays. In this context, “Alan B. Stone and the Senses of Place” is refreshing for the ways in which guest curator David Deitcher has woven his own biography and hometown memories into a sophisticated appreciation of his

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