reviews

  • Luigi Ghirri, Rimini, 1977, color photograph, 5 7/8 x 4". From “La Carte d’après Nature.”

    “La Carte d’après nature”

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    In his preface to the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth announces the necessity for a new kind of poetry. He resolves to “choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect.” More than two centuries later, his then-revolutionary literary objective resonates throughout “La Carte d’après nature,” an expansive group exhibition

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  • Sterling Ruby, Basin Theology/Double Basin, 2011, ceramic, 8 x 37 x 38". From the series “Basin Theology,” 2009–.

    Sterling Ruby and Lucio Fontana

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    In a 2006 article on his work (which earned attention while he was still a student), Sterling Ruby speaks to the author regarding his abiding interest in “the idea of something malleable being stopped.” In Ruby’s terms, this means manipulations in materials that start out molten or flowing and then set, such as bronze and ceramic, urethane and nail polish. Male sexuality is implicated, as is the rhetoric of power: Is it most impressive to be unyielding? Or does potency inhere in a gushiness that morphs rather than shatters? The juxtaposition of Ruby’s sculpture with that of Lucio Fontana (

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  • Leandro Erlich, Stuck Elevator, 2011, mixed media, 109 1/2 x 68 1/4 x 66 1/2".

    Leandro Erlich

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    A friend groused to me after completing the new season’s rounds that Leandro Erlich’s most recent show was simply another in what has been a career-long series of technically adroit one-liners. I suppose that’s fair enough. But it’s also true that they have frequently been charming, memorable one-liners, with surprisingly lingering effects. Rain, 1999, for example, Erlich’s contribution to the 2000 Whitney Biennial, was in practical terms an elementary bit of stage-set F/X (a “thunderstorm” glimpsed through the windows of a domestic space) relocated to a museum setting, but it had a distinctive

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  • Ann Pibal, FLFM, 2011, acrylic on aluminum, 16 1/4 x 12 3/4".

    Ann Pibal

    Meulensteen

    Abstract painters usually give their works titles after the fact, and often quite arbitrarily, so trying to draw out connections between these verbal handles and the real content of the art is a dangerous game. But the way Ann Pibal titles her paintings really does correspond to an important aspect of the paintings, namely a sort of agnosticism about whether abstraction should be strictly nonobjective, a self-contained construct eschewing all reference to the outside world, or should instead evoke aspects of reality but in an indirect way. The titles of paintings in this show, “DRMN’,” are, but

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  • Daniele Tamagni, Willy Covary, 2008, color photograph, 26 x 35 3/8".

    Daniele Tamagni/“Africolor”

    Danziger Gallery

    The man in the pink suit: That sounds like the name of an Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness, and indeed, in suitably English style, to go with his suit the man wears a bowler, though it’s bright red. Accessories include a patterned tie and a perfectly horizontal tie clip over a crisp pale-pink shirt. Yet the effect of the overall ensemble is less neat than fabulously extravagant, the kinks in the costume’s signifiers reinforced by the fact that its wearer is black-skinned, and by the clamp of his teeth around a very fat cigar. He seems more tycoon than British gentry, but is he? He is, in

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  • Miroslav Tichý, untitled, n.d., black- and-white photograph, cardboard, 13 x 8 1/2".

    Miroslav Tichý

    Sean Horton (presents)

    Last April, photographer Miroslav Tichý died at age eighty-four in Kyjov, the same small Czech Republic town where he was born. Despite recent solo exhibitions of his work––at Kunsthaus Zürich in 2005 and at New York’s International Center of Photography in 2010––Tichý is still relatively unknown. The residents of Kyjov largely regarded him as a disheveled eccentric who, for nearly thirty years, could be found lurking around the local pool with his makeshift cameras. More often than not, the subjects of Tichý’s pictures were bikini-clad women, snapped as they lolled in the sun, completely unaware

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  • Lyonel Feininger, In a Village Near Paris (Street in Paris, Pink Sky), 1909, oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 32".

    Lyonel Feininger

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Having lived and worked in Germany for more than half his life, Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956) was something of an unlikely American. This exhibtion—his first major retrospective in the United States in forty-five years—makes a strong case for the importance of his work to the stateside avant-garde, albeit filtered indirectly back across the Atlantic before the artist’s own, eventual return to his native New York. Born to a German father and an American mother, Feininger moved to Berlin as a young man after a sojourn in Hamburg. He returned to the States only in 1937, by which time

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  • View of “Joe Winter,” 2011. Foreground: A Record of Events (II), 2011. Middle ground: The Stars Below, 2011. Back wall: Untitled Model for a History of Light (Void), 2010.

    Joe Winter

    The Kitchen

    You raise your hand in your intro-to-astronomy class. “Do the galaxies and nebulae really look as psychedelic as the posters on the walls? How do they know, if these are all radio telescope pictures anyway, that galaxies are color-saturated swirls of cotton candy?” The TA shrugs. “They assign colors to the images afterward.” “Arbitrarily?” you ask, choking back the word luridly. He nods. Suddenly you lose major respect for the whole field of astronomy. Who are these people determining colors? Do they have, like, staff colorists at the lab? Do they know about Delacroix, about Cézanne, about Albers

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  • Harun Farocki, Serious Games I: Watson Is Down, 2010, still from a two-channel color video installation, 8 minutes.

    Harun Farocki

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    “Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance),” Farocki’s first museum survey in the United States, features thirty-six films, videos, and installations recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Organized by chief curator of media and performance Sabine Breitwieser, the exhibition offers an illuminating view of the artist’s development over the decades, beginning with his emergence in post-1968 West Germany and moving through his subsequent engagements, over some forty years, with filmmaking, writing, editing, and curating. Consistently in his work, Farocki deploys strategies to foreground

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  • View of “Hilary Lloyd,” 2011. Foreground: Shirt, 2011. Background: Moon, 2011.

    Hilary Lloyd

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Thighs, 2011, by Hilary Lloyd, appeared to have legs, as did nearly all of the works in her exhibition at Artists Space last summer. Pairs of slender silver poles, set close together and running from floor to ceiling, supported monitors, giving the works a somewhat humanoid presence and stature. In Thighs, the effect is particularly pronounced: The two poles are formally echoed in actual thighs shown in close-up on a split-screen monitor set near to the ground; the limbs are mostly still but occasionally slip apart, revealing sunlight streaming between them. And there is another echo as well,

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  • Michelle Lopez, Your Board, 2011, maple plywood, grip tape, 60 x 16 x 4".

    Michelle Lopez

    Simon Preston

    Turning Minimalist form against itself is hardly a new idea—one might even consider it a genre unto itself—but it still offers room for maneuver. In “Vertical Neck,” her second solo exhibition at Simon Preston, Brooklyn-based artist Michelle Lopez presented a strong, clean suite of five new sculptures that capitalize on the movement’s enduring legacy but sidestep parody and polemic to arrive at a more subtly allusive language. Lopez isn’t afraid of explicit critical reference—in 2009’s Portrait of Artist as Special Mission Project/Akira Revisited, for example, she went after

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  • Simon Dinnerstein, The Fulbright Triptych, 1971–74, oil on wood panel, overall 14' x 6' 7 1/2".

    Simon Dinnerstein

    German Consulate General

    Simon Dinnerstein’s The Fulbright Triptych, 1971–74, is the centerpiece of this exhibition of twenty works at the German Consulate. Writing about the painting a year after it was made, critic John Russell called it a “scrupulous representation of a suburb in the sticks” and an “inventory of the kinds of things that in 1975 gave [young] people a sense of their own identity.” In fact, the “suburb” is the small town of Hessich Lichtenau in Germany, where Dinnerstein spent a Fulbright year in 1971. Two windows, both in the painting’s central panel, offer a bird’s-eye view of the village, revealing

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  • Merlin James, Big Landscape Painting, 2011, acrylic on polyester, 40 3/4 x 57 1/4".

    Merlin James

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    Easel-size paintings in historical genres (still lifes, portraits, interiors, and landscapes) that frequently picture domestic architecture (facades, empty rooms, or entire houses), Merlin James’s canvases cannot help but read as passé. Yet soliciting such an interpretation—or even relishing a contrarian stance—does not implicate James any more than the rest of us, for whom his practice serves a perennially heuristic function: Viewers question his motivations. In his writing and artmaking alike, James works through the positions of contemporary discourse, even as his production refuses

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  • Luke Stettner, Three Identical Cubes, 2011, three-channel color video, 5 minutes 20 seconds.

    Luke Stettner

    Kate Werble Gallery

    In Luke Stettner’s almost colorless New York solo debut, one work stood out: a squat column of bright plastic plates—seven small ones stacked atop nine large. It has the look of a toy, though it turns out to be anything but; Stettner has fashioned the cheery 1970s vintage dishes, sourced from his childhood home, into an urn for his father’s ashes. He ground the original funerary vessel, a traditional marble affair, into dust and displayed it here under water and oil in a straight glass vase that resembles a laboratory test tube. Both vessels sit on slender wooden—ash, get it?—pedestals,

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