reviews

  • Cynthia Daignault, White Columns Bulletin Board: ‘There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of Fact it’s all dark,’ 2011, oil on linen. Installation view.

    Cynthia Daignault

    White Columns

    Like a conceptual puzzle with too easy a solution, Cynthia Daignault’s project has a transparency that hews perilously close to the counterproductive. But while her art seems at first to refuse any possibility of mystery or “expression,” instead dealing explicitly with the mechanisms of visual display and institutional context, it is more than just an arid joke. Unusually for a display of oil-on-linen paintings, Daignault’s exhibition at White Columns was designed specifically for and in response to the existing features and proportions of the gallery’s main space and lobby. Yet while unequivocally

    Read more
  • Richard Tuttle, System 2, Winter, 2011, 2 x 4“ fir lumber, 4 x 4” fir lumber, acrylic, asphaltum, balsa wood, beet juice, bolts, bubble wrap, cotton string, enamel, fabrics, feathers, fir plywood, galvanized metal, glass beads, leather, metal, pine, vinyl-coated steel cable, powder-coated iron, straight pins, Styrofoam, wing nuts, wire, 96 x 96 x 96".

    Richard Tuttle

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    “What’s the Wind” was a little startling coming from Richard Tuttle, an artist famous for artmaking delicate enough to spark the story that people have walked in and out of a roomful of his work believing the space was empty. The critic Robert Storr once titled an essay on Tuttle “Touching Down Lightly”; in this show, the artist touched down pretty heavily, making six large, awkward conglomerations of bright-colored, often scrappy-looking components, all set solidly on the floor, all around eight or nine feet square, the tallest reaching to sixteen feet high. Tuttle is actually quite comfortable

    Read more
  • View of “Matthew Ronay,” 2011.

    Matthew Ronay

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Whether framed as a strictly secular technical achievement or as the apotheosis of a kind of mystico-spiritual transference, the question of how one goes about successfully imbuing objects with meaning and power persists as a central challenge of artmaking. Matthew Ronay’s recent show at Andrea Rosen was quite explicitly aligned with the latter of these two conceptions, putting its bet down firmly on the side of creative magic. Dubbed “Between the Worlds,” it consisted of roughly thirty-eight individual works, nearly all of which were enlisted in the service of a single immersive, walk-in

    Read more
  • B. Wurtz, Unpleasant Private Thoughts and Secret Words, 1973, mixed media, each box 2 x 4 x 3".

    B. Wurtz

    Metro Pictures

    “How have I never heard of him?” This eavesdropped question, asked with equal measures of surprise and embarrassment by a tapped-in critic, likely typified the response to this wonder of a show. B. Wurtz—born in Pasadena, California, in 1948; educated at University of California, Berkeley, and CalArts; working in New York since the mid-’80s—has largely avoided detection by art-world radar. This solo exhibition, curated by Matthew Higgs and mounted in collaboration with Feature Inc., Wurtz’s longtime gallery, went some way toward rectifying the artist’s too-little-known status even as

    Read more
  • Dara Birnbaum, Chaired Anxieties: Abandoned, 1975, still from a black-and-white video, 5 minutes 15 seconds.

    Dara Birnbaum

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    How often has one sat on a subway next to a man sitting with legs spread wide enough to occupy two seats? He commands space by physical gesture alone—and women rarely adopt a similarly dominating pose. In Dara Birnbaum’s mid-1970s video explorations of social conventions surrounding women’s postures and self-presentation, she tests the long-accepted custom of “being a good girl and keeping your legs crossed.” Demure Birnbaum is not, in Chaired Anxieties: Abandoned, 1975, as she performs a sequence of movements in a simple wooden folding chair. With a fixed camera setup, the five-plus-minute

    Read more
  • Peter Nadin, The Raft, 2011, honey, terra-cotta, wood, twine, bank run, wax, and ham, 24' x 24' x 9 1/2".

    Peter Nadin

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    Before he stopped exhibiting in 1992, Peter Nadin was associated with many of the leading protagonists in the New York art world of the time. He ran a studio/exhibition space whose first show was with Christopher D’Arcangelo, collaborated with Jenny Holzer, and showed at Richard Prince’s short-lived gallery Spiritual America. But then he spent more than a decade “unlearn[ing] how to make art,” during which time he worked as a farmer in upstate New York, and also taught a course at Cooper Union about biological theories of consciousness and their relationship to art-making.

    Nadin’s recent exhibition

    Read more
  • Trisha Baga, Peacock, 2011, video installation with mixed media, 14 minutes. From “Hasta Mañana.”

    “Hasta Mañana”

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    “Hasta Mañana,” ABBA’s 1974 Swedish hit, barely cracked the charts overseas. But the sappy tune’s tale of a summer fling that never fully blossomed—and the attendant pain of losing, pleasure of forgetting, and indifference one needs to move on—remains universal. Though the organizers of “Hasta Mañana,” a group show at Greene Naftali, may not have had this song in mind, the doleful dirge is nonetheless a fitting anthem for the contemplative yet spirited exhibition. Employing current modes of art production and an up-to-the-moment perspective, the five artists on view use the past to

    Read more
  • Robert Filliou, Man Carrying His Own Sun on a String, 1973, cardboard box, black-and-white photograph, pastel, 17 5/8 x 25 x 2 3/8".

    Robert Filliou

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    A notable Fluxus figure, the polymath Robert Filliou died in 1987; this presentation, Filliou’s first overview in New York in more than a decade, is culled from his estate. My soft spot for Fluxus admitted, I nevertheless propose that much of his work fails to stir at this late date. Take, as but a single example, Man Carrying His Own Sun on a String, 1973. On the interior lid of a shallow, corrugated cardboard box—a preferred format of the artist—the artist’s arrestingly homely bespectacled face peers out from a photograph; on the box’s bottom, which here is positioned to the left of

    Read more
  • Kimber Smith, Egyptian Rose Garden, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 68 x 65".

    Kimber Smith

    James Graham & Sons

    Kimber Smith might not be a household name, but his paintings from the 1960s and ’70s are knockouts, some of the most formidable to be on view in our moment of near-ubiquitous abstraction. A second-generation Abstract Expressionist better known for his friendships with Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell than for his own work, Smith spent more than a decade in Paris, where he encountered Annette Michelson in 1964, who called him the “most serious and consequential” of his community of expats. Smith returned to the United States the following year. A few years earlier he had switched from oil

    Read more
  • Phoebe Washburn, Nunderwater Nort Lab, 2011, mixed media. Installation view.

    Phoebe Washburn

    Mary Boone Gallery/Zach Feuer Gallery

    Phoebe Washburn’s Nunderwater Nort Lab, 2011, an installation that filled the main space at Zach Feuer, looks a good deal like a fort. The wide, cylindrical structure is ragged and slipshod, built from piled-up two-by-fours that appear to have been scavenged from other, previous incarnations. Holes, placed at regular intervals, offer glimpses of the walled-off interior, but those views are blinkered by cylindrical tunnels on the interior side. What can be seen within suggests the aesthetic of a hardware store or bodega: an assemblage of extension cords in bright colors, bits of colored paint,

    Read more
  • Willem de Rooij, Black to Black, 2011, cotton thread, acrylic thread, 53 1/8 x 110 1⁄4 x 2".

    Willem de Rooij

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    Although sociopolitical subtext typically lingers beneath Willem de Rooij’s works, the five weavings in “Crazy Repelled Firelight,” Friedrich Petzel’s summer show, initially invoke Frank Stella’s famous maxim, “what you see is what you see.” Monochrome or subtley gradated in color, the textiles are stretched, like canvas, over wooden frames, and thereby rehearse postwar abstract painting. But immersive transcendence is hardly their aim—rather, they dazzle, with metallic or acrylic threads that shimmer, twinkle, and flash. Such scintillations, nevertheless, are restrained, tipping the effect

    Read more
  • Gego, Untitled, 1970, ink and silk screen on paper, 13 x 19".

    Gego

    Frederico Seve Gallery

    The maverick modernist Gego was born Gertrud Goldschmidt in 1912, into a Jewish banking family in Hamburg. She trained as an architect, then fled in 1939 to Venezuela, where she taught and made art for the rest of her life. At the time of her death in 1994, Gego was respected as a sculptor in Latin America but uncelebrated elsewhere, despite a stint in the early ’60s when she was represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York and hobnobbed with Naum Gabo and Josef and Anni Albers. Important fine-art presses (including Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles) produced her prints, and

    Read more
  • John Storrs, Stone Panel with Black Marble Inlay, 1920–21, cast stone and black marble on wooden base, 60 1/2 x 15 1/4 x 1 3/4".

    John Storrs

    Grey Art Gallery

    In 1913, John Storrs studied with Rodin in Paris—and the human form would always influence his work. But over the next decade or so, his figures became less and less natural-looking and more and more abstract. Finally, in the early 1920s, Storrs began producing vertical constructions explicitly modeled on the early American skyscraper. One of these, Architectural Form No. 3, ca. 1923, seems like a model for a skyscraper—it’s a vertical, rectangular column, reaching upward, a euphoric celebration of those soaring industrial constructions, and very timely in an upwardly mobile America.

    Read more