• Marlene Dumas

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    There is an air of mournful intimacy to Marlene Dumas’s paintings, a sort of muted pathos. The thinly painted figures in this recent exhibition, “Against the Wall,” have a miragelike appearance appropriate to the emotional desert in which they exist. Many of the images are derived from photographs documenting the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dumas’s handling serves to subjectify the photographically objectified figures, to make the prosaic images quasi-poetic, or at least to aestheticize them. In this regard, the presence of a photograph at the emotional and almost literal center

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  • “The Storyteller”

    Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery

    In 1936, Walter Benjamin famously worried that the art of storytelling had been superseded by journalism and mass media. Working under the sign of Benjamin, “Storyteller” curators Claire Gilman and Margaret
    Sundell grouped together fourteen artists who employ the story form as a documentary mode, setting aside Benjamin’s distinction between the subjectivity of oral communication and the assumed veracity of mechanical broadcast in order to investigate the use of narrative across a swath of contemporary art. The show (which opens this month at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto) includes

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  • George Kontos

    Renwick Gallery

    George Kontos’s The Vision (all works 2010) is an elliptical short film in which, as is typical for the Los Angeles–based artist, meaning is only hinted at and resolution perpetually deferred. The protagonist of the four-minute sequence is a bearded young hipster who pilots a motorbike helmetless, while smoking a cigarette. Taking to an empty stretch of highway—an abandoned bridge project in the artist’s native Greece—our hero is portrayed from various flattering angles as he zips along, popping the occasional wheelie. Eventually, he dismounts and strolls to the edge of the road. From this

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  • Oscar Tuazon

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    In addition to works of the kind for which Oscar Tuazon is best known—sculptures made using industrial materials such as concrete, Plexiglas, and corroding rebar—his recent show at Maccarone featured a sound piece that served as the exhibition’s conceptual anchor. Entering a dimly lit room, you could hear, from a speaker mounted to a structural beam, the voice of Vito Acconci reading from a text he had written for his architectural practice in 2004, sketching out the philosophical-poetic dimensions of a planned building at the South Pole: “Come into the dark. . . . Slip inside an Antarctica of

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  • Eileen Quinlan

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Orchard Street

    The fact that nearly all of Eileen Quinlan’s photographs are still lifes has often been obscured by the variety of other interests evident in her work. Critics have, perhaps too often, related her images to the historical precedents set by early modernists such as Edward Weston, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, and Alfred Stieglitz (notably his “Equivalents” series of 1925–34). But Quinlan’s 2004–2007 “Smoke and Mirrors” series, for instance, which documents a large number of arrangements of the titular materials, alludes not only to the legacy of early modern abstraction but also to the Bush

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  • Ann Pibal

    Max Protetch

    The paintings in this exhibition, Ann Pibal’s second at the gallery, feature narrow rivulets of color zipping across and around monochrome backgrounds. They make clear that masking tape, with its chastening, restrictive qualities, is as important to the artist’s practice as are acrylic-laden brushes. Look intently, and these taped-off lines perform various feats of optical magic. They carve space out of the featureless expanse on which they rest, interact playfully with the colors they abut, and, when Pibal has painted the edges of the thin aluminum panels on which she works, appear from certain

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  • Olafur Eliasson

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Olafur Eliasson has long combined aesthetic rigor with an emphasis on subjective experience. While the former is usually based on scientific theories, the latter tends to bring with it a considerable measure of entertainment. Enjoyment certainly seemed key to the play of shadows and colored refractions on the white walls in this recent show, for which the ground-floor exhibition space at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery was entirely given over to Multiple shadow house, 2010. The set was neutral and basic: three empty rooms connected by a hallway, each with a low wooden platform as a floor. This almost

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  • Jessica Jackson Hutchins

    Laurel Gitlen/Derek Eller Gallery

    When certain artists transition from emerging to emerged, the moment is palpable. This spring, it happened for Jessica Jackson Hutchins, with concurrent solo shows at Laurel Gitlen (formerly Small A Projects) and Derek Eller Gallery and her inclusion in the Whitney Biennial, where she was represented with Couch for a Long Time, 2009—a worn sofa from her childhood home, covered in Obama-related newspaper clippings and occupied by ceramics. The artist’s raw early ceramic and papier-mâché works project an artless, punk sensibility, but she has described her recent output as framed by what seems

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  • Sam Durant

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    No one would accuse Sam Durant of restraint when it comes to contesting mainstream, representational narratives of American history. His recent work includes Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions, Washington D.C., 2005, which envisages moving all the memorials to Native Americans killed during colonization to the National Mall in Washington, DC; End White Supremacy, 2008, a sign adapted from a 1963 civil rights protest displayed on the façade of Paula Cooper Gallery during the 2008 presidential election; and a show of former Black Panther Emory Douglas’s posters and prints

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  • Otto Dix

    Neue Galerie New York

    OTTO DIX IS A KEY FIGURE, but he has never been held in as high regard in America as his contemporaries, such as Max Beckmann and George Grosz. The German artist played no part in the fertilization of the New York art world by European refugees during World War II (Dix was in a French POW camp at the time), nor have we ever seen enough of his work here to understand his role in his own day. In 2006–2007, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York mounted its incredible “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” which did much to contextualize Dix, suggesting he was a deeper and more

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  • Catherine Opie

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Catherine Opie began her “public” artistic career in 1991 with a series of thirteen photographs titled “Being and Having.” The title was a seeming allusion to Jacques Lacan’s contentious psychoanalytic system that posits women as “being” the phallus, and men as “having” it. Rejecting outright such heterosexist structuralism, Opie’s staged “documentary” portraits depicted (and thereby demarcated) a community organized around its members’ identifications with butch-dyke, queer, trans, and s/m politics. But the photos never seemed to represent “identity politics” proper, which, at least in its most

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  • “Your History Is Not Our History”

    Haunch of Venison New York

    This selection of work by twenty-two artists working in New York in the 1980s, organized by painters David Salle and Richard Phillips, was filled with many fine things. No surprise there: The artists in the show are all so well known that their names might almost stand in for their art. Still, the charge of clubbiness that inevitably hung over this basically good-natured exhibition was countered by the defensive edge of its Jenny Holzer–ish title, set, to be sure, in the Suprematist sans-serif bold font preferred by Barbara Kruger. Neither of these hectoring Conceptualists was, in fact, involved

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  • Ursula von Rydingsvard

    Galerie Lelong & Co.

    Ursula von Rydingsvard’s Blackened Word, 2008, an enormous, rippling accumulation of cedar and graphite, brings to mind the ruins of Angkor Wat as they appear in the final scene of Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 film, In the Mood for Love, which finds the heartbroken hero whispering something into a crack in a decaying wall, seeming almost to want to hide in it. Blackened Word unfolds as one walks around it, a hulking shape irregularly darkened with graphite and cleft with creases, dips, and fjords, some roomy enough to accommodate an arm or a small torso, some just big enough for a probing finger, or

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  • Barbara Kruger

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Barbara Kruger’s art has been confrontational at least since her landmark works of the 1980s, in which found photographs and sharp phrases addressed viewers directly, especially those viewers who thought the word you meant them. And it seemed that many did, for Kruger became a flash point, one of the artists old-school critics had in mind when they complained about the hectoring, lecturing turn they felt that art was taking. But Kruger was always far smarter and subtler than that critique claimed, and later, when she moved into video installations—such as The Globe Shrinks, 2010, the single

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  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Janet Cardiff first became known for works that she calls walks, in which her recorded voice guides headphone-wearing visitors through a site—a park, a museum—and modulates their experience of it through scraps of description and information, fragmented stories, and 360-degree environmental sound. Part of the charge of these pieces lies in the friction between their intricately realized auditory landscapes, which seem to put us and Cardiff inside one another’s heads, and the landscape through which we walk—the same, unaltered scene we usually perceive out of no one’s body but our own. In these

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  • Ken Price

    NYEHAUS/Matthew Marks Gallery/Brooke Alexander Gallery

    Ken Price’s output has consistently opposed contemporary art traffic—whether, in the early 1960s, simply by having been made in Los Angeles or, lately, in its unabashed courting of pleasure (“joy,” he says, is the feeling he’s after), to say nothing of the perennial marginalization of ceramics and its cognates, craft and the decorative. Price figures as often in histories of pottery as in those of art, as demonstrated by the catalogues on view in a recent show of ephemera and design projects at Franklin Parrasch Gallery. It was Price’s moment in New York this spring; that exhibition, together

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  • Tatiana Trouvé

    Gagosian | 980 Madison Avenue

    In a text accompanying her long-overdue US debut, at Gagosian uptown, Tatiana Trouvé remarks that “the body is simply of no use” when encountering her sculptures. Though referring to her tendency to play with scale, her comment also offered a potential theoretical frame for the entire show. Staging interventions throughout the space (graphic embellishments on the floors and walls, rogue scraps of building systems, and irruptions such as portals, blockages, and cuts punctuating the spatial logic of the rooms), Trouvé intended to disorient viewers—to put them out of their comfort zone, literally

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  • Deborah Hay

    Danspace Project

    For three evenings this past March, Deborah Hay performed her new work, No Time to Fly, 2010, at the fabled St. Mark’s Church in downtown New York. Over the course of fifty minutes, Hay—herself long a fixture of radical dance, now approaching seventy years old—executed a series of movements equally standard and strange: The act of walking, for instance, was rendered prismatic by her continual redistribution of emphasis. Wearing a minimal, graphic uniform (white button-down shirt, short black pants, white socks, black slippers, black beret), Hay circumnavigated her allotted space with ritualistic

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