reviews

  • Henri Matisse, Young Sailor I, 1906, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 32".

    “Matisse: In Search of True Painting”

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    SOMETIME DURING the summer of 1906, in the French border town of Collioure, a teenager named Camille Calmon sat down to model for Henri Matisse. Matisse completed two paintings of Calmon in sailor’s clothes. Young Sailor I possesses the brilliant color, vigorous handling, and accentuated facial contours, verging on scarification, of the painter’s Fauvist portraits of the previous year; his voluminous green leg and the sweeping crescent line of his arm foretell the grand manner of the famous paintings of bathers and dancers of 1907–1909. Calmon looks to his right. His body is wiry, compact. His

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  • View of “Richard Artschwager!,” 2012–13. Background: Table (Somewhat), 2007. Foreground: Exclamation Point (Chartreuse), 2008. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

    Richard Artschwager

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    FITTINGLY, PERHAPS, for someone who enjoyed his first solo exhibition in 1965 at the age of forty-two, Richard Artschwager often played the roles of both wise guy and wise man in relation to his peers. Though commonly pigeonholed as an odd, idiosyncratic character in post-1960s art histories, Artschwager was, in fact, an adept insider and a wry interlocutor, appearing, for example, in Donald Judd’s landmark essay “Specific Objects” and Kynaston McShine’s watershed exhibition “Primary Structures.” What came across in his recent retrospective, “Richard Artschwager!,” curated by Jennifer Gross,

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  • Luc Tuymans, Jacket, 2011, oil on canvas, 73 7/8 x 54 3/4".

    Luc Tuymans

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Has it ever been summer in Luc Tuymans’s paintings? I doubt it. So by titling his most recent exhibition “The Summer Is Over,” was Tuymans just promising more of what we’ve learned to expect from him? Not quite. Although the saturnine sensibility and “diagnostic gaze” that his work has consistently evoked over the past two decades have hardly lightened, there is a difference. A typical strategy of his has been to paint things that at first glance appear innocuous (although his tersely tremulous, mordantly taciturn touch in and of itself may make you want to look at them suspiciously) while

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  • Tal R, Night Awning, 2012, rabbit-skin glue and pigment on canvas, 67 3/4 x 55 1/8".

    Tal R

    Cheim & Read

    The Copenhagen-based artist Tal R is a catholic sort, having made sculpture, installations, clothing, and more as well as paintings, and having ventured into theater, music, dance, and other fields. His art has appeared in both solo and group shows in New York, but a good deal less often than in Europe, where he has exhibited quite widely. This show, his first one-man outing in New York since 2006, contained a focused group of works made in an unusual medium that he handles particularly well, a mixture of pigment and rabbit-skin glue. Since the glue dries quickly, the artist must work quickly

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  • El Anatsui, They Finally Broke the Pot of Wisdom, 2011, copper wire, found aluminum, 15' 6" x 23'.

    El Anatsui

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    By now the story of El Anatsui is famous: In 1995, a Ghanaian artist in his fifties who lives in Nigeria, in an off-the-beaten-track town called Nsukka, has his first one-man show with a London gallery. Over the next fifteen-plus years, he shows extensively, in galleries, museums, and international exhibitions—New York, Osaka, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Mumbai, Moscow—including a triumphant appearance in the 2007 Venice Biennale. His work comes to hang in public collections running from the British Museum in London to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s something of a fairy tale, and, as

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  • Trisha Baga, The Story of Painting, 2012,
    3-D video slide show (with 3-D glasses), color, sound, 19 minutes 1 second; acrylic-on-canvas painting, computer speaker, lamp, painted bottles, painted foam, dimensions variable.

    Trisha Baga

    Greene Naftali Gallery/Whitney Museum of American Art

    I once considered Trisha Baga a video artist, but the appellation doesn’t really fit any longer. Increasingly over the past two years, Baga has allowed the objects that have always accumulated around her projections—which she composes from off-the-cuff footage, pop-culture samplings, and fleet Final Cut edits—to enter the rarefied space of the moving image. Such dispersion plays a large role in her most recent works. Intervening mirrors, water bottles, and bits of foam, all part of an extended engagement with notions of medium and objecthood, further enables, at the risk of belaboring,

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  • Robin Rhode, Bird on Wires, 2012–13, eight framed C-prints, each 16 3/8 x 24 1/4 x 1 1/2".

    Robin Rhode

    Lehmann Maupin

    The protagonist of Robin Rhode’s photographic works, who is played either by the artist or a stand-in for him, is a fellow in casual street gear—puffer jacket, sneakers, watch cap, sunglasses. His face is almost always turned from the camera, his hands often covered in paint. He is a mysterious presence in these works—an Edward Gorey character in pristine high-tops—but also a bit mystified, caught up, like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, in situations beyond his control.

    Sequences of photographs, which show this character interacting with images stenciled, chalked, or painted

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  • Nick Relph, The Weather, 2013, car wheels, 99 x 57 1/2 x 24".

    Nick Relph

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    In Nick Relph’s recent exhibition, two rhyming rooms recalled a garage, while a pair of framed portraits—showing dealer Gavin Brown by parked cars—hinted at one of the building’s past functions. In the first gallery, twelve upright car wheels stood in two orderly rows, placed in the positions they would occupy on actual automobiles: three vehicles sans bodies. Another set of eight wheels had been sited in the neighboring open office area, with two of them put conspicuously beneath desks. Passing through these demarcated spaces—between and within the groupings—I sensed a subtle

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  • Alicja Kwade, Matter of Opinion, 2012, steel frame, crystal glass, sandstone, two Art Deco lamps, cable, lightbulb, dimensions variable.

    Alicja Kwade

    Harris Lieberman

    Alicja Kwade’s exhibition “The Heavy Weight of Light” had a laboratorial cleanliness appropriate to its outward focus on scientific phenomena. In a precision-tooled array of sculptural-sensorial tableaux, the Berlin-based artist tested a variety of ideas about our understanding of the innate qualities of materials and our interaction with objects in time and space. But if walking through the gallery felt at times like flipping through a physics textbook, there were enough moments of magic in the exhibition that even the less rational, more instinctual viewer would have found something worth

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  • Giorgio Griffa, Obliquo giallo (Diagonal Yellow), 1971, acrylic on canvas, 69 3/4 x 89".

    Giorgio Griffa

    Casey Kaplan

    “Fragments 1968–2012” was the first solo exhibition of Giorgio Griffa’s work in New York since 1970, and the first time since 1973 that the artist’s paintings have been shown anywhere in the city at all. Sadly, it got off to a rocky start. Just four days after the show opened last October, a five-foot storm surge flooded West Twenty-First Street, destroying Casey Kaplan Gallery’s walls and basement storage area and seriously damaging sixteen of the artist’s works then on view. But all was not lost. The exhibition reopened in early January with two cleaned and restored canvases from the original

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  • Thomas Barrow, Sexual Ecology, ca. 1990, spray paint on gelatin silver print, Polaroid prints, 28 x 25".

    Thomas Barrow

    Derek Eller Gallery

    This exhibition surveyed more than thirty-five years of photographer Thomas Barrow’s art, from the early series “Cancellations,” 1974–81, for which he first became widely known, to a recent body of work, “Detritus Bags,” 2009–, made by placing objects and images into small plastic pouches. At first, little seems to unite the work at the two ends of this time span. The “Cancellations” are small black-and-white prints of banal landscape photographs taken in the American West, each of which is interrupted by an X made by incising the negative with an ice pick. Among the objects tightly packed into

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  • Letha Wilson, Photogram New York (Colorado), 2012, gelatin silver print, C-print, 24 x 17 x 1/2".

    Letha Wilson

    Higher Pictures

    How does an artist become both modish and quaint? Both timely and anachronistic? Such is the predicament of Letha Wilson. In photography circles, the conversation seesaws between ontology and social function—that is, between a modernist concern with medium specificity and a contextualist inquiry into photography’s various “discursive spaces.” Of late, a generation of young American photographers has tipped the scales toward the former topic, insisting on photography’s status as an artistic medium by lavishing attention on its material support. Following the lead of Liz Deschenes, artists

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  • Esteban Vicente, Untitled, 1999, oil on canvas, 52 x 42".

    Esteban Vicente

    Miles McEnery Gallery | 22nd Street

    Esteban Vicente died in 2001, having lived to the ripe age of ninety-seven and worked to the end. It was not a bitter end, as his last paintings—thirteen of which were on view in this exhibition—indicate. Made between 1998 and 2000, these bright, colorful abstractions were inspired by the artist’s garden in Bridgehampton, New York, where he lived and worked. Among the flowers he planted were phlox, helianthus, foxgloves, daisies, and morning glories, all apparently in great abundance and carefully cultivated. Registering the effect of sunlight hitting the blossoms, the paintings are

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  • Marie Karlberg, Woman for Sale, 2013. Performance view, January 5, 2013. From “All the Best People,” 2013.

    “All the Best People”

    1:1

    One year ago, artists Jarrett Earnest, Leigha Mason, Alex Sloane, and Whitney Vangrin opened a small space on the second floor of 121 Essex Street. Called 1:1, it served, variously, as exhibition space, film set, studio, dining room, guest apartment, office, tattoo parlor, stage, and likely more. The gallery officially closed as this issue went to press, its last day being Valentine’s Day, which, at the time of this writing, the directors intended to mark with a banquet called BLOOD (the third installment of Vangrin’s 2012–13 trilogy that also includes SWEAT and TEARS). According to the plan,

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  • Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, The Gilded Summer Palace of Czarina Tatlina, 1969–70/2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt

    MoMA PS1

    Pick any single work by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, and chances are it glows. Or sparkles, or shimmers, or, at the very least, reflects light, thanks to some medley of the glitter, foil, theatrical gel, tinsel, cellophane, neon tape, floor shine, and vinyl with which the artist forges collages, sculptural objects, and installations. The effect of encountering 160 such works, packed in vitrines and jamming the walls and columns of a single gallery at MoMA PS1, was quite literally dazzling; the lights were dim, one imagined, since the art was coruscating enough on its own. And because many of the

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  • Lin Tianmiao, The Golden Mean, 2012, gold silk on panel, synthetic resin bones wrapped in gold thread, 15' 5 3/4“ x 6' 6 3/4”.

    Lin Tianmiao

    Asia Society | New York

    Lin Tianmiao’s works, gathered here in her first retrospective, flesh out her evolving relationship with organic fibers while revealing that the sophisticated and collective processes by which she produces her sculptures and installations has remained a relative constant. Curated by Melissa Chiu, the exhibition of fifteen pieces begins with the China-based artist’s earliest major pieces from the mid-1990s, which feature cotton threads inspired by memories of her childhood, and concludes with newer works in silks connoting luxury and wealth. Her practice revels in the various textures these

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