reviews

  • Neo Rauch, Heilstätten (Sanatoriums), 2011, oil on canvas, 98 1/2 x 118 1/4".

    Neo Rauch

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Neo Rauch was born in 1960 in Leipzig, once a major artistic center despite the inhibiting strictures—propagandistic and utilitarian—imposed by the USSR on the art of the Eastern Zone. Yet these past two decades have seen Rauch rise from local star to international idol, owing to his virtuoso, ironic reworking of socialist realist tropes—a mode of considerable stylistic fascination especially following the fall of the Wall in 1989. When now seen, whether in the US or in Germany, Rauch’s paintings possess an incongruous punch quite different from that of works by East German artists

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  • View of “Andrea Bowers,” 2011. Collaged posters: The New Woman’s Survival Guide, 2011. Framed, from left: Wanted By the Law, 2011; Angela Davis—You Are Welcome in This House (In Honor of Julian Madyun), 2011.

    Andrea Bowers

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    Published in Berkeley in 1973 and edited by Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie, The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a gazetteer of second-wave feminism, a directory of the era’s woman-run bookstores, law firms, credit unions, health clinics, and more. Andrea Bowers, whose documentary practice consistently considers grassroots activism, takes the Catalog as the context for “The New Woman’s Survival Guide,” her latest project. Or is it the project’s pretext? Or simply its text? That is, does gallery-based art borrowing content from an almost-forty-year-old activist sourcebook produce an independent

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  • Nan Goldin, Sisters, 2010, diptych, color photograph, overall 24 x 59".

    Nan Goldin

    Matthew Marks Gallery | 502 W. 22nd Street

    Scopophilia, according to the press release for Nan Goldin’s recent show at Matthew Marks Gallery (her eighth there since 1992), means “the love of looking.” While such a benign definition is more or less etymologically correct, we know—via legacies of psychoanalytic theory and feminist critique—that it hardly does the word justice. Indeed, as Goldin herself narrates during her twenty-five-minute video projection of that title (dated 2010), scopophilia simultaneously stirs and satisfies desire in the looker, a quite remarkable feat. Yet for its pleasures there is a price: As Laura

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  • Karl Haendel and Petter Ringbom, Questions for My Father, 2011, still from a color video in HD, 11 minutes 17 seconds.

    Karl Haendel

    Harris Lieberman

    Patriarchy shimmers in and out of focus in Karl Haendel’s Questions for My Father, 2011, being alternately constructed and deconstructed while remaining literally invisible. For this emotionally complex video, a collaboration with filmmaker Petter Ringbom (Haendel’s own best-known work takes the form of large-scale drawings), the artist asked a group of male friends to look one by one into the camera and pose questions they would have liked their fathers to answer but that they had never asked. No doubt many sons’ relationships with their fathers are jolly fun, but, as Tolstoy knew, happy families

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  • Joan Mitchell, Trees, 1990–91, diptych, oil on canvas, overall 7' 2 3/4“ x 13' 1 1/2”.

    Joan Mitchell

    Cheim & Read

    The Abstract Expressionists were known for their energy, and in Joan Mitchell’s last paintings—a selection dating from 1985 to 1992 were on view at Cheim & Read—that energy didn’t flag; in fact, it grew ever stronger. In River, 1989, and Trees, 1990–91, for example, Mitchell’s gestures are breezier, more free-spirited and responsive to nature than those in her earlier work. One can sense the sparkling flow of the water and the wind between the branches—the aliveness of nature. (An artist’s late style need not be redundant, as seems to be the case, for instance, with de Kooning.)

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  • Josephine Halvorson, Tregardock, 2011, oil on linen, 19 x 15".

    Josephine Halvorson

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    Josephine Halvorson’s small oils of archaic machines and overlooked domestic and industrial surfaces channel the lost tradition of American still life—a genre ghettoized, even in its late-nineteenth-century heyday, as “novelty art.” Like her precursors John Peto and William Harnett, whose trompe l’oeil confections depicted pistols and hanging game, old books and musical instruments, Halvorson creates tightly cropped registrations of the world at literal arm’s length, mining a tangible, profoundly sensate landscape of material things. An ode to Americana—or better, Americanana, as Katy

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  • David Bates, Still Life with Dogwood IV, 2011, oil on panel, 60 x 36".

    David Bates

    Betty Cuningham Gallery

    When David Bates began to show his paintings nationally, in the early 1980s, he emerged as a regional painter, the region in question being his native Texas. A Chicago reviewer wrote of his work back then, “In their celebration of small-town sights and customs, the paintings confirm all the old Regionalist values.” Indeed, Bates did tend to concentrate on the scenes and people of Texas and the Gulf Coast, and in doing so found a niche. There was a downside, though, expressed by the same Chicago reviewer: “Bates is by no means untutored, yet the way he draws the human figure often is quite

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  • John Ashbery, Promontory, 2010, collage, digitized print, 13 x 7 3/4".

    John Ashbery

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    Collage, by its nature a hybrid art, reveals that a whole is always composed of a series of conflicting, complementary parts. For this reason, it might come as no surprise that John Ashbery, arguably the most influential poet in America, is also a collage artist, for his poetry has always been a conflation of various discourses and modes. The experimental and the traditional have long maintained an uneasy but generative truce in his work. For instance, Ashbery might use the sestina, a form dating to the twelfth century, to relate the misadventures of Popeye.

    Ashbery’s recent collages, presented

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  • Rancourt/Yatsuk, Black Diamond, 2011. Performance view, October 27, 2011. Buddy Budansky (Justin Rancourt).

    Rancourt/Yatsuk

    Kate Werble Gallery

    The commodity promises so very much. It beats a drum of necessity—fulfilling real requirements for food, housing, and clothing—yet it sings a cloying song of desires beyond need, converting ineffable longings into cold, hard cash on the barrelhead. Justin Rancourt and Chuck Yatsuk’s recent performances, including the ninety-minute live action Black Diamond, 2011, explore the commodity’s interpellation of subjects as buyers, probing the gap between its claims of pleasure and contentment and the struggle to find an identity outside of consumption. The show is about a pyramid scheme and

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  • Sarah Braman, Good Morning (November), 2011, camper chunk, Plexiglas, steel, paint, 109 x 85 x 94 3/4".

    Sarah Braman

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Uptown

    In 1969, Shasta Trailer Industries—then the best-selling mobile-home manufacturer in the United States—introduced a new product: the Loflyte. Sporting better amenities than the classic silver toaster-on-wheels, this leaner, more compact trailer allowed itinerant Americans to take on the country’s mushrooming interstate system in hitherto unheard-of comfort. Now fast-forward forty years: The once-prominent Shasta Industries has collapsed, its innovative vehicles nearly gone from memory. For her first solo show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Sarah Braman dissected and transformed a Loflyte

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  • Manfred Mohr, P-197pz, 1977–87, ink on paper, 29 x 29".

    Manfred Mohr

    bitforms gallery

    Though he is one of the pioneers of digital art, Manfred Mohr has remained on the margins of its histories. This compact exhibition—a retrospective in nuce—goes some way in bringing him to the fore. Roughly forty years have passed since “Une esthétique programmée” (A Programmed Aesthetic),” 1971, Mohr’s landmark exhibition of computer-generated art. Held at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the show featured a magnetic tape drive and computer plotter machine—programmed by Mohr—that executed algorithmically determined drawings in real time. Long before the computer

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  • Charles Andresen, Frozen Jesters, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 44 x 38".

    Charles Andresen

    Guided By Invoices

    This selection of works by Charles Andresen, curated by Chris Byrne, was subtitled “Paintings 2001–2011,” though seven of the eight were dated between 2007 and 2011, with just one from 2001. But the dates hardly seemed to matter; in this oeuvre, consistency trumps development, so if all the dates were scrambled, you’d never notice the difference. And I suspect this would have been true even if the chronological scope of the exhibition had been greater. The work on hand was made according to a procedure Andresen has been using since at least 1996, when Richmond Burton described it in a text

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  • Simon Norfolk, At a Music School in Kabul, Boys Are Taught the Traditional Afghan Instrument, the Rubab, 2010, black-and-white photograph, 20 x 24". From the series “Burke + Norfolk,” 2010–11.

    Simon Norfolk

    Benrubi Gallery

    Simon Norfolk might be called a war-landscape photographer. He focuses on not only battles and resultant refugee crises but also the technological infrastructure that underpins conflict and the arenas in which those conflicts play out. Among his many subjects are the beaches where Allied soldiers landed on D-day in 1944; the electronic-spying equipment on Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic; Beirut during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah; and the material detritus produced during the early years of the current war in Iraq. This exhibition, his third at Bonni Benrubi Gallery, included

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  • Yamini Nayar, Cascading Attica, 2011, color photograph, 40 x 50".

    Yamini Nayar

    Thomas Erben Gallery

    The overwhelming experience of looking at Yamini Nayar’s photographs is that of mystification: One can look and look and still be puzzled. The photographs invite us to view them as representations of three-dimensional space, but they complicate or even do away with the tools we use, largely without realizing it, for interpreting volume: perspective, vanishing point, background, and foreground. It is difficult to describe, much less understand, what one sees.

    To create these beguiling images, Nayar built ephemeral sculptural tableaux from little bits of this and that, paper, foil, and string, and

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