reviews

  • View of “Wade Guyton OS,” 2012–13. From left: Untitled, 2006; Untitled, 2005; Untitled, 2010; Untitled, 2006; Untitled, 2006.

    Wade Guyton

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    THE LOGIC OF THE MODERN ERA demands revolutions: decisive ruptures that enable sweeping paradigm shifts and the introduction of new ways of seeing. In hindsight, such ruptures can often be seen as the outcome of periods of transition, those interregnums that are not dominated by a prevailing narrative and thus allow for an atmosphere of indeterminacy and openness, in which antithetical motives and genealogies can suddenly and surprisingly be connected with one another. Jasper Johns, for example, was buoyed by such a historical constellation: The speed with which his institutional breakthrough

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  • Charles Ray, Sleeping Woman, 2012, solid stainless steel, 35 1/2 x 44 1/2 x 50".

    Charles Ray

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    For more than five years now, Charles Ray has been making sculptures based closely on the human figure, somewhat in the manner of his first work of this type, Aluminum Girl, 2003. In his 2007 show at Matthew Marks Gallery, another such piece, The New Beetle, 2007, depicted, if that is the word, a naked young boy seated directly on the ground playing with a small model of a Volkswagen. Since then, Ray has been mining this vein in a number of works, three of which, all dated 2012, made up his recent exhibition in the same gallery.

    The first to be completed, Sleeping Woman, had its origin in more

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  • Cy Twombly, Untitled (Camino Real), 2011, acrylic on plywood, 99 3/8 x 72 7/8".

    Cy Twombly

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    Despite the temptation, I cannot easily say of the eight great untitled paintings in this show—looping ovals of glowing orange, yellow, and red upon bright apple-green fields that were made shortly before the artist’s death in July 2011 at the age of eighty-three—that they represent a life summation. That term, so readily at hand at this valedictorian moment, suggests knowledge of where Twombly was going as well as of from where he was coming. Yet such hyper-privileged information is nowhere to be found; no more greatly revered a contemporary master has blown more dust into the eye of

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  • David Salle

    Lever House Art Collection

    Lever House, the Miesian, midcentury skyscraper designed by Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has become, in recent years, a deluxe site for the exhibition of contemporary art. The installations there are visible through—though often harried by—the building’s broad glass curtain walls that front onto Park Avenue.

    In order to ameliorate the distractions of the sudden shafts of light glancing off the neighboring office buildings and the roaring traffic’s boom, architect Christian Hubert, working with curator Richard Marshall, hung gauzy scrims battened by rectangles of wood

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  • Edward Kienholz, The Cement Store #1 (under 5,000 Pop), 1967, engraved brass on walnut, paper in walnut frame, glass, 22 5/8 x 11 3/4".

    Edward and Nancy Kienholz

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Dense fusions of memory and imagination, Edward Kienholz’s constructions and installations of the late 1950s and ’60s introduced a pungent scent of Americana to the art of the time. In the funky surrealism that they found in commonplace objects, the works shared something with the contemporaneous Combines of Robert Rauschenberg, but showed less of the high-art awareness that Rauschenberg had absorbed from Abstract Expressionism and Black Mountain, and were more deeply embedded in the vernacular American scene that Kienholz knew. The artist as Kienholz reconstructed the role was a close observer

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  • View of “Edgar Arceneaux,” 2012. Foreground: I Told Jesus, Change My Name, 2012. Background: Blind Pig City, Libraries, 2011–12. From the series “Blind Pig City,” 2009–.

    Edgar Arceneaux

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    “I told Jesus, it would be all right, if he changed my name . . .” The soul singer’s voice trembles through the opening notes before swooping confidently down into the lower registers, as she tests out her conviction in varying intonation. Over the verses that follow, Jesus warns his “child” of the grave consequences of a new name: The world will surely turn away from her; even her family won’t know her. The seeker remains resolute, her voice formidable as it reaches the refrain: “It would be all right. . . .”

    The old spiritual lies at the heart of Edgar Arceneaux’s twenty-three-minute film I

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  • View of “The Art of Scent: 1889–2012,” 2012.

    “The Art of Scent: 1889–2012”

    MAD - Museum of Arts and Design

    Baudelaire, whose soul soared “on perfume as other men’s souls soar on music,” devoted a notable portion of his literary genius to the question of how one might translate olfactory experience into language. His 1857 poem “Correspondences,” for example, routes a consideration of the relationships between the physical and the spiritual through a synesthetic inventory of scent and sensation: “So perfumes, colors, sounds may correspond. / Odors there are, fresh as a baby’s skin, / Mellow as oboes, green as meadow grass, / —Others corrupted, rich, triumphant, full, / Having dimensions infinitely

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  • Robert Kushner, Iris Ascendant, 2012, oil, acrylic, and palladium leaf on canvas, 90 x 72".

    Robert Kushner

    DC Moore Gallery

    Since the 1980s, Robert Kushner has used flowers as his signature motif, rendering leaves and blossoms in outrageously lush colors and against complex, geometric backgrounds. Recently, he has apparently grown more assertive in his application of the theme. In this new body of work from 2012, inspired by Willem de Kooning’s black-and-white paintings (seen in the latter’s 2011–12 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York), Kushner explores new techniques and meanings, abandoning the warm colors of his earlier works for a colder, floral world where grays and blacks prevail. It is riskier

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  • Rupert Deese, Kern River/10 (blue grey), 2008, oil on wood, 35 x 61".

    Rupert Deese

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Rupert Deese’s self-described “painted structures”—there were a dozen in this exhibition—could be regarded as versions of what Lawrence Alloway termed “systemic painting,” or, as it has sometimes been called, “pattern painting.” Yet the appearance of a pattern is only an illusion. To create each work, Deese made a mold based on the elevations represented in a topographical map. Then he arranged triangular tiles on top of the mold, building a structure whose surface approximates features of the landscape, its peaks and valleys. This faceted ground is painted a single, unmodulated color,

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  • Gina Beavers, Food Porn! (Chicken & Waffles), 2012, acrylic and pumice on canvas, 16 1/4 x 16".

    Gina Beavers

    Clifton Benevento

    The paintings in Gina Beavers’s solo exhibition “Palate,” we are told, were based on images of food found online, mostly through social media. Sounds ho-hum, no? Why must a painter so strenuously declare the jpeg provenance of her reference points? What gave rise to the trending sentiment that Google Image Search serves up a more convincing representation of the world than anything encountered en plein air? What genre—if that term even applies—of online photography could be more gratingly anodyne than the compulsively shared cataloging of last night’s dinner? Is this some flailing

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  • Tom Fairs, untitled, 2004, pencil on paper, 5 1/2 x 4 1/8".

    Tom Fairs

    Kerry Schuss

    If you’re looking for someone who maintained the supposedly old-fashioned ideal—a cynic would call it the myth—of the pure artist who is focused solely on the work itself, without a thought of fame, fashion, or money, you could do worse than to check out Tom Fairs. When Fairs died in 2007, he was essentially unknown. A lifelong Londoner born in 1925, he studied stained-glass design and then became a teacher of drawing and theater design. Only after his retirement in 1987, apparently, did he begin to focus on painting. His ideal was Pierre Bonnard. He never had a one-person show,

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  • Daphne Fitzpatrick

    American Contemporary

    To judge from her works’ titles, Daphne Fitzpatrick has a thing for vintage knockabout comedy—Abbott, Costello, Huey, Dewey, and Louie all got shout-outs in her recent exhibition “Whistle and Flute” (all works 2012). Formally, too, her art evokes a kind of cartoon surrealism, suggesting the contents of one of Wile E. Coyote’s shopping list for a visit to Acme—there was a wedge of plastic cheese on a handsaw, a giant key in a phony fireplace. And if we take at face value the non-sequitur list of names, facts, one-liners, and anecdotes issued in lieu of a press release, Fitzpatrick seems

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  • Claudia Joskowicz, Sympathy for the Devil, 2011, two-channel HD video projection, color, sound, 8 minutes.

    Claudia Joskowicz

    Forever & Today, Inc.

    Feuding with one’s neighbor will undoubtedly pressurize the already delicate politics of apartment life. Now imagine the amplified tensions that would arise if that neighbor were former Nazi Klaus Barbie, the so-called Butcher of Lyon, who is estimated to have been directly responsible for the deaths of approximately 4,000 people during the German occupation of France.

    Claudia Joskowicz’s eight-minute two-channel video Sympathy for the Devil, 2011, re-creates just such a scenario, revealing something of the nature of the ideological jumble that resulted from South America’s post–World War II

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  • Barb Choit, Untitled Faded Beauty (Asian Cinema), 2012, digital C-print, 40 x 30".

    Barb Choit

    Rachel Uffner Gallery

    Memories fade, so we invented a chemical process by which we can affix images of our world to paper. Yet photographs also fade, so we place them behind protective glass or store them away from the very light that brings them into being. By making fading the theme of her second solo exhibition at this gallery, New York– and Vancouver-based artist Barb Choit devised a novel way to frame the impulses behind, as well as the fundamental facts of, the medium. (In doing so, she acknowledges but adroitly sidesteps the pervasive arguments about photography and death.) The twelve pictures she exhibited

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  • Xavier Cha, Untitled, 2012, four-channel HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 15 seconds.

    Xavier Cha

    47 Canal | Grand Street

    “Room tone,” or “presence,” in filmic parlance, is shorthand for ambient “silence,” the specific quality of background noise at an actor’s position, recorded to convincingly render his or her voice. A sound inspired by room tone—and amplified to an intense, dissonant whine—is the foundation of Xavier Cha’s Untitled, 2012, a four-channel video work installed on large flat screens that recently filled the constricted space of 47 Canal.

    Moving across the screens, eighteen slightly larger-than-life-size portraits (showing the front and then the back of each individual’s head) linger for

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