reviews

  • FORT, Lou, 2012, color HD video projection (19 minutes 15 seconds), electric vertical jalousie in carpeted room, twenty handmade one-legged stools, light sign, musical intermission score. Installation view.

    FORT

    EXILE@ONETWENTYEIGHT

    Near the end of Wong Kar-wai’s 1990 film, Days of Being Wild, the character Yuddy invokes the legend of the bird with no legs for a second time: “I used to think there was a kind of bird that, once born, would keep flying until death. The fact is that the bird hasn’t gone anywhere. . . .” Meanwhile, the camera peers out over lush Philippine jungle, from the same vantage as during the film’s opening credits. The legend of the bird without legs was not invoked by the artist collective FORT in their recent exhibition “Lou,” yet the show’s stylized, meandering approach seemed to invite such a

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  • Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-Part Mikado Construction), ca. 1991/2011, acrylic yarn, dimensions variable.

    Fred Sandback

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    An elegantly daunting obstacle course for oafs and claustrophobes alike, this spare, cerebral selection of works drawn from more than four decades of the late Fred Sandback’s career served to burnish the artist’s already substantial reputation as a master of subtle spatial drama. It will, of course, be no mystery to anyone who’s encountered Sandback’s work why klutzes would do well to steer clear: His delicate strands of colored yarn—magically anchored to various points on the floor, ceiling, or wall and cutting across the intervening air like fuzzy laser beams crisscrossing a high-security

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  • Per-Oskar Leu, Crisis and Critique (detail), 2012, still from the twenty-seven-minute black-and-white video component of a mixed- media installation.

    Per-Oskar Leu

    Triple Canopy

    If the history of the twentieth-century could be distilled to just a few key episodes, one of them might be Bertolt Brecht’s appearance before a US House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) panel in 1947. Speaking with great deliberation in his thick German accent, Brecht point by point dismantled his interrogators’ claims about the danger of his works and of “political” poetry more generally. Employing Brechtian-inspired Verfremdungseffekte, or distancing effects, Norwegian artist Per-Oskar Leu weaves a fabric of real voices and fictional characters to stage an innovative reimagining of

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  • Jonathan Lasker, Pre-Fab View, 1981, oil on canvas, 30 x 40".

    Jonathan Lasker

    Cheim & Read

    Beleaguered in the last decades of the twentieth century, painting nonetheless was granted provisional life, even by an intellectual elite determined to undermine its centuries-honored prestige. This eleventh-hour reprieve was achieved by attributing to painting’s few tolerated exemplars a significant trope—the monochrome, say, or the grid, or the simulacrum, or a methodology that paralleled photographic practice (other than that of verisimilitude, to be sure). Jonathan Lasker survived these decades of Inquisition by fetishizing an unexpected element, that of “midcentury moderne” (let’s

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  • Claes Oldenburg, Nekropolis II, 1962. Performance view, Ray Gun Manufacturing Company, New York, March 1962. Photo: Robert R. McElroy. From “Happenings: New York, 1958–1963.”

    “Happenings: New York, 1958–1963”

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    The organizer of this exhibition, Mildred L. Glimcher, does not define “Happenings.” That is, she does not attempt to distinguish them from, say, poets’ theater, Fluxus events, or other types of experimental performance of the time or after. That decision is probably wise. But it’s interesting to remark that she took 1963 as the project’s terminal date, because by the fall of that year, “numerous artists, musicians, and even critics”—even!—“began to create performances that became part of global exhibitions, demonstrations and festivals; the originating moment had come to an end.”

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  • Mary Kelly, Mimus: Act I, 2012, compressed lint, 83 1/2 x 61 x 2".

    Mary Kelly

    Postmasters

    Mary Kelly’s first solo show in New York since 2005 was an occasion, though the work deviated not a jot from the Conceptualist-feminist trajectory established by the artist in the 1970s. Visually, the affect was cool, perfect—a mood contrasting, deliberately, with the works’ approach to issues of violence, memory, and the power of the voice. This conundrum of clinical austerity enframing messy intergenerational feeling hinges on what Kelly calls “the political primal scene.” How and when do we develop historical desire? What trauma exposes our sociopolitical origins?

    Four items were on view.

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  • Stephen Prina, Blind No. 15, Fifteen-foot ceiling or lower, (Primary Magenta/Phthalo Blue [Red Shade]/Hansa Yellow Opaque/Primary Yellow), 2011, triptych, acrylic on linen, window-blind mechanism, each panel 15' 3 7/8“ x 3' 4 7/8”.

    Stephen Prina

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    One might reasonably wonder whether or not the review you are now reading is warranted. Though the press release accompanying Stephen Prina’s seventh exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery announced the presentation of “new paintings,” the exhibition nonetheless closely mirrored one staged at Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, in 2009.

    It’s a fair question. In Boston, as in New York, the paintings were gestural monochromes, executed on the surface of commercial blinds—the bland, single-piece-of-fabric type that rolls up and out of sight when not in use. The double meaning of “blind paintings”

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  • Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets: Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and the Thai Villagers, 2008, still from a color video, 16 minutes.

    Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook

    Tyler Rollins Fine Art

    In 2008 and again in 2011, the Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook took copies of famous European paintings, including examples by Édouard Manet, Jean-François Millet, and Artemisia Gentileschi, and of a couple of works by Jeff Koons out into the towns and countryside of Thailand to see what people there might make of them. I know of rare, similar projects undertaken not by artists but by scholars; after the 1980s debates over the influence of tribal art on early modernism, for example, the art historian Robert Farris Thompson brought images of Cubist works to Africa to see how they’d be understood

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  • Arch Connelly, Culture and Landscape, 1985, acrylic, faux pearls, and chain on silk,
    42 x 42".

    Arch Connelly

    La MaMa Galleria

    This small show of works by Arch Connelly was uplifting in the spirit sensible all through it and at the same time tremendously sad. I don’t think you had to have known Connelly, who died in 1993, to have that second response, though it might have helped to have lived in New York in the 1970s and ’80s, when the gay culture that held him and that he helped to shape went through first a dramatic, ecstatic flowering and then the brutal reduction imposed by the AIDS crisis. The show immediately summoned that history for those who lived through it, and also the shorter moment when Manhattan’s East

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  • Willie Doherty

    Alexander and Bonin

    Every city is a palimpsest of its own history, each urban territory an accumulation of linguistic and visual signs that constitute the representation of place. Since the 1980s, Willie Doherty’s practice has addressed the complex significations of Derry, a city in Northern Ireland that was at the nexus of the social unrest and violence associated with the “Troubles”—the conflict between Protestant unionist and the Catholic nationalist communities between the ’60s and the ’90s. This included the infamous Bloody Sunday incident of 1972—which the artist witnessed firsthand as a twelve-year-old

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  • Lucy Skaer, Harlequin’s Ingots (detail), 2012, copper, twenty-four parts, dimensions variable.

    Lucy Skaer

    Murray Guy

    The jesterlike Harlequin has been a favorite subject for artists since his creation in sixteenth-century Italy. An ungovernable character often responsible for derailing the drama’s plot, the Harlequin sports a multicolored geometric uniform that also makes him an attractively graphic visual icon. But the character’s role changed over time; originally a cowardly fool whose patchwork outfit signified poverty, he became, by the late-eighteenth century, a cunning prankster, the same outfit now a symbol of physical agility and a mercurial nature. Something of this shifting emphasis can be traced

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  • Lutz Bacher, The Book of Sand, 2010–12, twenty-five tons of sand, dimensions variable.

    Lutz Bacher

    Alex Zachary Peter Currie

    This March, the Upper East Side belonged to Lutz Bacher. Standout work by the Berkeley, California–based neo-Conceptualist appeared in three exhibitions uptown: In the Whitney Biennial, throughout, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s survey “Spies in the House of Art: Photography, Film, and Video,” and in a solo show at Alex Zachary Peter Currie. The pieces presented were mostly new, and struck a different, more subdued chord than much of Bacher’s previous output, neither directly confronting questions of gender, violence, or power, nor foregrounding a punk élan (as in her well-known series “

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  • Ellen Harvey, The Nudist Museum Gift Shop (detail), 2012, oil on wood panel, dimensions variable.

    Ellen Harvey

    Dodge Gallery

    Ellen Harvey’s “The Nudist Museum Gift Shop” included installations evoking both a museum and a gift shop, as well as works situated in a bathroom and a stairwell. This is all to the point: Harvey’s practice engages not just with art history, but with the spaces in which we experience art. For New York Beautification Project, 1999–2001, she painted small, classical landscapes on buildings and Dumpsters, allowing for unexpected encounters at public sites already claimed by graffiti. Arcadia, 2011, created for the inaugural show at Turner Contemporary, in Margate, UK, furnished a scale model of

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  • Jan Groover, Untitled, 1988, color photograph, 30 x 40".

    Jan Groover

    Janet Borden, Inc.

    This long-planned exhibition, titled “Formalism Is Everything,” became a memorial to Jan Groover after she died on New Year’s weekend, at the age of sixty-eight. Trained as a painter, Groover turned to photography in the early 1970s and created an engrossing body of street scenes, portraits, landscape views, and, above all, still lifes. This last genre rightfully predominated in this career-spanning survey, which encompassed more than three dozen small and medium-size images. Groover has consistently been described as a postmodern photographer, but her pictures have never derived their value

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  • Zak Prekop, Two Colors, 2012, oil and paper on canvas, 72 x 48".

    Zak Prekop

    Harris Lieberman

    The works in Zak Prekop’s second show at Harris Lieberman—sixteen canvases limited to a range of white, black, cobalt, tan, and yellow—may at first register as positively anodyne, yet they instantiate surprisingly nuanced optical and material effects. Operating within parameters he sets for himself (and through which, by extension, he seems to allegorize the notion of possibility as manifested therein), Prekop works with limited implements and strategies. Many of the paintings employ collage: namely, brown paper bags, dismembered and splayed across a support, or heavy paper, affixed

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  • View of “Darren Bader,” 2012.

    Darren Bader

    MoMA PS1

    The self-penned introductory wall text for “Images,” Darren Bader’s first museum exhibition, opens with a trio of epigrams. While two are easily attributable (to Groucho Marx and Leonard Cohen), the third, courtesy of “Ford” (Tom, perhaps?), is less so. However, of the bunch, it offers viewers the closest thing that Bader’s absurdist practice has to a guiding principle. “Stuff: the precise affinity between the generic and the specific,” it decrees. Accordingly, throughout the exhibition’s gallery space, where one would expect to find the products of artistic labor, stuff appears instead, and,

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