reviews

  • Alvin Baltrop, Untitled, 1969–72, black-and-white photograph.

    Alvin Baltrop

    Third Streaming

    Alvin Baltrop is that unsurprising wonder: an unsupported artist fully in touch with the preoccupations of his time. When he died of cancer at age fifty-five, in 2004, he had shown sporadically, at such places as the gay arts nonprofit the Glines, and the Bar, a dive on the Lower East Side. In a brief piece after his death, the New York Times profiled him as a neighborhood character, referring to his photographs of sunbathers, cruisers, and homeless kids on the West Side piers—but the paper did not, of course, reproduce riskier images of pulchritudinous booty, sex acts in progress, or

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  • Anna Betbeze, Marble, 2011, wool, acid dyes, watercolor, 108 x 65". From “Unpainted Paintings.

    “Unpainted Paintings”

    Luxembourg & Dayan | New York

    Writing in Art News in 1958, Allan Kaprow eulogized Jackson Pollock, arguing that his “near destruction” of customary painting obliged its reevaluation, less as a medium than as a framework for conveying a multiplicity of sensory experiences. In a rightly famous passage near the text’s conclusion, Kaprow insisted that Pollock “left us at the point where we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life. . . . Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilize the specific substances of light, sound, movements, people,

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  • Rachel Whiteread, Threshold II, 2010, resin, 77 1/8 x 29 7/8 x 3".

    Rachel Whiteread

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Rachel Whiteread’s basic project—to give substance to the void and endurance to the transitory, to fill in the blank—is both realized and contradicted by the main group of works in this show, which put clarity and color to ethereal effect. Whiteread’s well-known earlier sculptural casts of anonymous spaces and objects (the little volume between the legs of a chair, the three-story interior of a nondescript house on a London street) materialized, even monumentalized, the unconsidered and unseen, but didn’t always beautify them. That house, for example, installed in 1993 in Mile End,

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  • Kenneth Noland, Morning Span, 1964, acrylic on canvas, 8' 7“ x 12' 10”.

    Kenneth Noland

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Uptown

    Once upon a time we accepted the dialectical “begats” of modernism on simple faith: how Abstract Expressionism emerged from the academic regionalism (both urban and Midwestern) of the 1930s; how the gestural Abstract Expressionism of the ’40s was replaced by the Color Fields and stains of the ’50s and ’60s; how, quickly enough, these developments led to a figurative Pop art, which, in turn, forced Minimalism and Conceptualism into bloom. By our present moment, we have come full cycle, churning out new representationalisms as if those fifty years of American abstraction had never happened. This

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  • Joan Semmel, Transformation, 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48".

    Joan Semmel

    Alexander Gray Associates

    I first encountered works by Joan Semmel during my undergraduate education, in an introductory contemporary art class. The slides I was shown were of those canvases for which the artist is best known, produced in the mid-1970s, that portray sexual scenes from the perspective of one of the participants, Semmel herself. Incorporating a Polaroid aesthetic and rude, raw washes of color, Semmel’s approach—I think of a canonical piece like Intimacy/Autonomy, 1974—gave rise to an unlikely effect both piquantly pornographic and uncannily clinical. That I was confronting these pictures during

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  • James Siena, Two Scrambled Combs, 2008, enamel on aluminum, 19 1/4 x 15 1/8".

    James Siena

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    For his third solo show at the Pace Gallery, James Siena assembled graphic paintings, prints, and drawings made in the past three years. Executing premeditated compositional directives freehand and using the slick combination of sign painter’s enamel on aluminum, Siena creates jiving geometric patterns whose careful craftsmanship marks them with durational depth and attractive immediacy. While the underlying structures of his compositions afford them a measured integrity, the unruliness of the lines’ behavior makes them come alive.

    A step-by-step sequence of engravings, Non-Slice: Ten Progressive

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  • Sonia Delaunay, Design B53, 1924, gouache on paper, 39 3/8 x 29 1/2".

    Sonia Delaunay

    Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

    In the first decade of the twentieth century, Robert and Sonia Delaunay together developed what their friend Apollinaire would baptize “Orphism” and what the couple named “Simultaneism”—the infusing of Cubism’s fractured planes with side-by-side, contrasting colors to effect the sensation of movement that the Futurists were concurrently pursuing. Their subsequent output, however, as if a parable of one of modern abstraction’s hardiest paradoxes, diverged on the road to the real. He took the idealist fork—believing his “Fenêtres” (Windows), 1912–13, paintings to be transparent to pure

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  • Thornton Dial, We All Live Under the Same Old Flag, 2010, cloth, found wood, bones, iron wire, found doll, paint on canvas on wood, 54 1/4 x 74 x 9".

    Thornton Dial

    Andrew Edlin Gallery

    A former bricklayer, carpenter, and welder, Thornton Dial is an Alabama-based, self-taught artist known for his masterful assemblages and paintings—and his paintings are, in effect, wall-mounted assemblages. Featuring scavenged debris organized “formally” to aesthetic effect, his work derives from “yard art” or “yard shows”—groupings of junk, the leftovers of life, displayed on the front lawn. This exhibition, the artist’s first in New York in more than ten years, coincides with “Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial,” a traveling presentation of his work that debuted at the Indianapolis

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  • Andrea Bowers, Nonviolent Protest Training, Abalone Alliance Camp, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and San Louis Obispo County Telegraph-Tribune, September 14, 1981 (detail), 2004, graphite pencil on paper, 38 x 49 3/4". From “Drawn from Photography.”

    Drawn from Photography

    Drawing Center

    In 1927, critic Siegfried Kracauer wrote, “Never before has an age been so informed about itself, if being informed means having an image of objects that resembles them in a photographic sense.” He didn’t mean it as a compliment. To him, the seemingly infinite archive of world events produced by photography conflates surface appearance with psychological depth, iconicity with memory, publicity with history. For the artists assembled in Claire Gilman’s kickoff exhibition as curator of the Drawing Center, the superficial mapping Kracauer warned of can be arrested only by a seemingly paradoxical

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  • Betty Woodman, Aztec Vase #7, 2007, glazed earthenware, epoxy resin, lacquer, paint, 38 x 32 x 24". From the series “Aztec Vase,” 2004–.

    Betty Woodman

    Salon 94 | Bowery

    Installations of Betty Woodman’s works often have an element of theatricality, and in this exhibition, “Front/Back,” her ceramic vase sculptures sang together like characters in an opera. Brilliantly united by their chromatic relationships, they evoked a coloratura worthy of Rossini.

    Though Woodman’s ceramic vases always maintain their function as containers, she positions them on the edge between painting and sculpture, challenging categories of utility, craft, and art. Most sport two planes or fins, which jut out from the vessels’ sides; on these surfaces, Woodman paints images inspired by a

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  • Max Kozloff, New York Under Glass, 1981, color photograph, 20 x 16".

    Max Kozloff

    Higher Pictures

    Max Kozloff, once the executive editor of this magazine, is best known for his writings on modern art. Much of this work has explicitly focused on photography, a subject upon which he has trained his formidable intellect almost exclusively since the mid-1970s, publishing three collections of essays, organizing museum exhibitions, and contributing to numerous artists’ monographs. In that time, he has also been an active photographer, using the camera to capture first the environment and then the citizens of his adopted hometown. This show, wryly titled “New York Means Business,” collected

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  • Talia Chetrit, Hand/Sculpture, 2010, silver gelatin print, 24 x 20".

    Talia Chetrit

    Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

    There was nothing outwardly difficult about Talia Chetrit’s second New York solo show; eight modestly scaled, soberly framed black-and-white photographs—all but one made this year—ranged evenly around the walls of a small gallery. The prints themselves look simple, too, or at least pared-down. But in her crisp, elegant shots, Chetrit makes everything count, bringing sculptural concerns to bear on a two-dimensional form and referring to historical precedents even as she launches an inquiry into the future of the image. There’s no apparent digital manipulation here, and most compositions

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  • Benjamin Patterson, Ants (detail), 1960–62, ink on paper, two black-and-white photographs, 11 x 29.

    Benjamin Patterson

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    Near the end of the 1960s, the artist, composer, and musician Benjamin Patterson began a twenty-year hiatus from making art, during which time he would live an “ordinary life”—but this in fact entailed several unusual careers: He was a the deputy director of the New York Department of Cultural Affairs, a reference librarian at the New York Public Library, an organizer of experimental music events, an activist, and the founder of a music management company. Patterson’s ordinary life was not a rejection of the art world, and it had nothing to do with failure. It was also not motivated by any

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  • View of “Hope Ginsburg,” 2011.

    Hope Ginsburg

    CUE Art Foundation

    Hope Ginsburg’s ongoing work Sponge takes its title not from the cellulose rectangles found on supermarket shelves but from the marine animal, which, with its porosity, adaptability (its cells can repurpose themselves), and ability to attach itself to a variety of hosts, embodies many of the qualities of her enterprise. Headquartered at Virginia Commonwealth University (where Ginsburg teaches), Sponge knits together aesthetics and pedagogy, taking the form of workshops, classes, performances, and more, on subjects ranging from felt making to oceanographic robotics, and drawing influence from

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  • Mario Garcia Torres, In a new work, Cover Letter, 2011, 35-mm slide installation, dimensions variable.

    Mario Garcia Torres

    Orchard

    In May at 45 Orchard Street—a vacant storefront on the Lower East Side serving as a temporary exhibition space for “Itinerant,” a series of curatorial ventures orchestrated by Marian Goodman Gallery’s Rose Lord and 303 Gallery’s Mari Spirito—Mario Garcia Torres presented two slide shows. The first, titled In a new work, Cover Letter, 2011, takes the form of a job application précis: In a sequence of subtitles, which accompany images of flowers being arranged in a vase, Garcia Torres politely addresses a Findungskommission (finding commission), and puts forth his candidacy for a position

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