reviews

  • Jim Lambie, Sun Orchid, 2011, aluminum, polished steel, wood, full-gloss paint, 8' 2 1/2“ x 24' 10” x 10".

    Jim Lambie

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Spiritualized is the name of an English space-rock band; it was also the title of Jim Lambie’s recent quasi-psychedelic, kiss-me-I’m-so-clever display of painting and sculpture at Anton Kern Gallery. At once obsessive and frivolous—and maybe just a tad too enthralled by rock ’n’ roll culture—the artworks played with conventions of painting and sculpture and referenced the aesthetics of everyday things. The whole enterprise swam in an ether of Pop, containing repurposed items of clothing (zippers, T-shirts, and belts) and allusions to popular music (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones) and

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  • Eija-Liisa Ahtila, The Annunciation, 2010, still from a three-channel video installation, 33 minutes.

    Eija-Liisa Ahtila

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    At one point near the beginning of Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s beautifully measured, characteristically serious-minded video The Annunciation, 2010, a narrating voice-over wonders aloud: “Can something already familiar fulfill the criteria for a miracle? Can one be shaken with surprise by something one knows through and through?” Such questions—spoken over images of a wintry landscape populated by trees and birds and, for one hallucinatory moment, by a strangely familiar bearded gentleman in a red-and-white suit—obviously gesture toward the specific Marian mystery to which the centerpiece of

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  • Robert Graham, Untitled, 1970, mixed media, 11 3/8 x 28 x 20".

    Robert Graham

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    “Imagine a bevy of beach bummerettes,” wrote Robert Pincus-Witten in these pages in 1968, “in sunbleached tresses and wet T-shirts [who] had stumbled into Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 A.M. [1932].” He is describing tabletop sculptures by the Californian artist Robert Graham (1938–2008). Graham’s dioramas, made between 1965 and 1971, are populated by hyperrealist wax figurines, nearly all female and mostly scaled at one inch to one foot. They are housed in Plexiglas boxes reminiscent of Richard Neutra bungalows as decorated by a slapdash Richard Diebenkorn, with interlocking rectilinear daubs of

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  • Francis Picabia, Montparnasse, ca. 1941–42, oil on board, 41 1/2 x 30 1/4".

    Francis Picabia

    Michael Werner | New York

    In 1983, Michael Werner and Mary Boone mounted the first survey of Francis Picabia’s post-Dada work to be seen in New York. The essayist for that occasion was the late Robert Rosenblum, who pointed out that while Picabia had a determinant place alongside Marcel Duchamp in the development of Dada and the picaresque adventures of the Mechanomorphs, his career had more or less petered out around 1924. Thirty years ago, such was the received truth of modern art history. Not only did the bracing shower of Picabia’s midcareer “Transparencies” speak to the artist’s own flight from a curdling Dadaism,

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  • Enrico Castellani, Superficie nera (Black Surface), 2003, acrylic on canvas, 39 3/8 x 47 1/4".

    Enrico Castellani

    Haunch of Venison New York

    Enrico Castellani is nothing if not consistent. He has followed seemingly without deviation the path he broached in 1959 with his first Superficie nera (Black Surface). He has unswervingly striven to lend an undifferentiated, uninflected monochromatic (or achromatic) canvas something of the spatial richness and luminosity of traditional painting purely through the physical manipulation of the canvas itself—typically inserting nails beneath its surface, so that it protrudes and draws back in complex patterns at times reminiscent of those in the Op paintings of his British contemporary Bridget

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  • Byron Kim, Untitled (for E.T.), 2011, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 72".

    Byron Kim

    James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea

    Best known for Synecdoche, 1991—a project comprising a grid of hundreds of monochrome “self-portraits,” the color of each faithfully corresponding to its sitter’s skin tone—Byron Kim has long been associated with contemporary art’s so-called multicultural turn. But of course, the very medium for which his work first gained traction (in the famously polemical 1993 Whitney Biennial, no less) sets him apart from artists such as Janine Antoni, Lorna Simpson, and Gary Simmons, with whom he is often grouped. Instead of shunning abstract painting—once widely deemed inadequate for conveying

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  • View of “Justin Vivian Bond,” 2011.

    Justin Vivian Bond

    Participant Inc.

    It’s by no means a comparison with strict symmetry, but thinking recently about Justin Vivian Bond’s work and person, I was reminded of Adrian Piper. Finding herself the object of various misrecognitions and slights, Piper took to entering all social situations armed with small, printed messages; handing them out, she could expediently address many unfortunate scenarios without having to deliver again and again the time-consuming, awkward clarifications face-to-face. My Calling (Card) #2, 1986, for instance, opens with: “Dear Friend, I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you

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  • Fernando Botero, Crucifixion, 2011, oil on canvas, 81 1/8 x 59".

    Fernando Botero

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    The theme of helpless victim and arrogant victimizer recurs again and again in the art of Colombian-born painter Fernando Botero. From his earliest works, made in the 1980s, which deal with dictatorial power in Latin America, to his brutal 2006 paintings portraying torture at Abu Ghraib, Botero repeatedly addresses the theme of man’s inhumanity to man, the humiliation and violence human beings have perpetuated upon each other since time immemorial. This exhibition took as its theme yet another event charged with cruelty and suffering: the Passion of Christ. Throughout the series of twenty-seven

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  • Paul Sharits, Study A for Location X: “3rd Degree, 1982, mixed media on vellum, 18 x 23".

    Paul Sharits

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    Paul Sharits’s 2009 mini-retrospective at Greene Naftali—a congregation of works on paper and a restored version of the four-projector 16-mm film installation Shutter Interface, 1975—was truly a landmark affair, introducing a new generation to the raw force of the artist’s oeuvre. The film installation in particular, with its gorgeous looped and overlapping frames of solid hues, subjected viewers to aural and visual assault: As the flickering band of “temporal chords of color” raced across the wall, a strident sound track (designed after the alpha rhythm of Sharits’s brain) blared at

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  • Aleksandra Mir, The Seduction of Galileo Galilei, 2011, still from a color video, 16 minutes 33 seconds.

    Aleksandra Mir

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Aleksandra Mir’s video The Seduction of Galileo Galilei, 2011, is based on Galileo’s fabled experiment with falling bodies. The physicist is said to have dropped objects of different weights from the top of Pisa’s famous leaning tower in 1598, in order to demonstrate that they would accelerate at the same speed regardless of mass. In Mir’s version, the tower itself is the object of experimentation: A group of volunteers piles car tires on top of one another until the stack gives in to gravity and crashes to the ground.

    The video—on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in a presentation

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  • Antoni Muntadas, On Translation: Celebracions, 2009, still from a color video, 9 minutes 33 seconds.

    Antoni Muntadas

    The Bronx Musuem of Art

    A few years ago, the New Yorker started a weekly cartoon-caption contest. I can be trusted to draw a complete blank about how to caption each week’s illustration, and yet I am consistently impressed with wits in the general public knocking it out of the park with some seriously funny entries. A work by Antoni Muntadas stages a similar exercise, one whose high stakes reveal themselves only gradually. Part of a showing of seven new and old works organized by guest curator José Roca at the Bronx Museum, this iteration of the piece On Subjectivity, 1978, pre­sents a selection of five historic and

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  • Walton Ford, On the Island, 2011, watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper mounted on aluminum panel, 9 x 12'.

    Walton Ford

    Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue

    Walton Ford made his name in the late 1980s and early ’90s with work that had a political and ecological agenda. From early, folk-art-like paintings of nineteenth-century contacts between white settlers and Native Americans to the work for which he’s best known—large-scale, finely detailed watercolors of animals, derived in style from the prints of the ornithologist John James Audubon and similar naturalist art—Ford found ways to suggest realities hidden by his visual sources. Much as postcolonial scholars have read the novels of Jane Austen, for example, against the slave-trade economy

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