reviews

  • Hong-Kai Wang, Music While We Work, 2011, multichannel sound and two-channel digital video installation, 39 minutes 17 seconds. Production still. Photo: Chen You-Wei.

    “Soundings”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    THE ENCOUNTER between sound and listener is widely held to be uniquely ephemeral, ineluctably tied to real time and immediate presence. Yet long before anyone heard the first tone in “Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” the Museum of Modern Art’s survey of recent acoustic practices in the arts, the show’s actual content had nearly been drowned out by a din of speculations and pronouncements about the museum’s role in promoting “sound art.” Although many exhibitions garner advance publicity, the proleptic assessments of “Soundings”—including Blake Gopnik’s New York Times preview, the considerable

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  • William Scott, Poem for a Jug, No. 21, 1980, oil on canvas, 32 x 36".

    William Scott

    McCaffrey Fine Art | 23 East 67th Street

    To celebrate the centennial of William Scott’s birth, McCaffrey Fine Art mounted a survey of twenty simply delineated, rather poignant later still lifes dating from between 1976 and 1986. The disarming expressiveness of these oddly meek works—showing an outlined pear, a flat white cup, most measuring roughly twenty by twenty inches, some even smaller—stands in vivid contrast to the imposing role in British painting that Scott played in the 1950s. Indeed, by the time these pieces were made, interest in his work had markedly declined, largely because of the era’s tidal drift away from

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  • Tim Hawkinson, Animal Treasures, 2013, bamboo, steel, urethane foam, cardboard, paper, resin, pinecones, grapefruit, eggshells, 101 1/2 x 105 x 72".

    Tim Hawkinson

    Pace | 537 West 24th Street

    Looking at Tim Hawkinson’s work over the years, I’ve sometimes thought of François Truffaut’s famous book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, published first in 1967, then with an additive revision in 1984. Truffaut begins by asserting that “Hitchcock is universally acknowledged to be the world’s foremost technician; even his detractors willingly concede him this title.” Yet while making this concession, Truffaut complains, American audiences feel the title is empty, since the films have “no substance,” and for Truffaut substance is inseparable from technique—given all that technique,

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  • View of “Matthew Day Jackson,” 2013. From left: Nearside (rust), 2013; Pieta, 2013; August 6, 1945, 2013.

    Matthew Day Jackson

    Hauser & Wirth | West 18th Street

    There’s so much to admire in Matthew Day Jackson’s practice—virtuoso technique in the service of a wide-ranging imagination, richly appealing and evocative production across a range of media, and a meticulous attention to formal minutiae that’s all the more impressive given the increasing physical size of his works. Indeed, attempts to assess Jackson’s deeper conceptual and ideological tendencies often seem to dissolve into airy generalizations when faced with the imposing, persuasive things he produces.

    “Something Ancient, Something New, Something Stolen, Something Blue,” the materially

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  • Charline von Heyl, Big Zipper, 2011, acrylic and oil on canvas, 86 x 78".

    Charline von Heyl

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    A painter’s painter if ever there was one, Charline von Heyl has said so many strange and beautiful things about what it means to look at a work of art that standing in front of her own pictures can feel like a good challenge or a daunting test. This is an artist who considers the act of looking an adventure, who credits art historians for thinking with their eyes, and who says that when a work of art does something different or something new, “you can’t stop looking because there is something you want to find out, that you want to understand.” She adds, “Good paintings have this tantalizing

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  • View of “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” 2013.

    “Punk: Chaos to Couture”

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    I basically have no real relationship with punk because (a) I was too young for its initial moment of truth, and (b) it’s so not my style. I remember buying those albums from the alternative record store when I was in college. I wanted them, but I didn’t want to listen to them. But punk is so transhistorical now; is it possible to pry punk sensibility, which is essentially timeless, from punk as a music lifestyle with material and historical specificity? Now, if I say, “You’re so punk rock,” I am being derisive—it’s like saying you’re so not punk rock; you’re so bourgeois. This doubling of

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  • Leslie Hewitt, Riffs on Real Time (6 of 10), 2013, C-print, 30 x 40".

    Leslie Hewitt

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    Leslie Hewitt’s artwork has remained admirably consistent since she began exhibiting around a decade ago, still strongly exuding intelligence and revealing the artist’s knack for mining the aesthetic possibilities of a given image. Replete with ideas about memory, iconography, representations of race, and models of display, her formally relaxed practice stands as a thought-provoking engagement with pictures en abyme. Typically, Hewitt arranges printed materials, photos, and the occasional object into assemblages, photographs them in her studio, and displays the works both on and leaning against

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  • Jane and Louise Wilson, Atomgrad 7 (Nature Abhors a Vacuum), 2010, C-print, Diasec mounted with aluminum and Perspex, 71 x 89 3/4". From the series “Atomgrad (Nature Abhors a Vacuum).”

    Jane and Louise Wilson

    303 Gallery

    A yardstick lies beneath a desk in a destroyed schoolroom. Windows are blown out, notebooks are scattered, and rubble streams among the desks as though deposited by a glacier. The ceiling is pockmarked, the walls are crumbling, and paint peels away in great strips.

    This photograph, from the series “Atomgrad (Nature Abhors a Vacuum),” 2010, was taken in Pripyat, Ukraine, a town built for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and abandoned after the disaster there in 1986. Another work from the series shows a sort of amphitheater, austere in the Soviet fashion, with most of its light filtering

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  • Phil Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us (detail), 2011, production still from a 60-minute color video component of a mixed-media installation.

    Phil Collins

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    In 1998, an influential article in the Harvard Business Review introduced the phrase “experience economy”; in the years since, billing a product or service as an “event” of “memorable” or “transformative” effect has become the pervasive rhetoric of marketing. In 2011, Phil Collins created the idiosyncratic home-shopping channel TUTBU.TV, offering television viewers an opportunity to purchase and then star in selected experiences as though they were exchangeable commodities. Yet these experiences, when mediated through the hyperbolic theater of TV sales, delivered not only “memories” but perverse

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  • Mary Mattingly, Flock, 2012, C-print, 30 x 30".

    Mary Mattingly

    Robert Mann Gallery

    Flock, 2012, the first of fifteen photographs in Mary Mattingly’s exhibition “House and Universe,” shows two geodesic domes set atop a raft adrift in the ocean. Like Mattingly’s Waterpod Project, 2009, and her current Triple Island, 2013, these domes, part of Flock House Project, 2012, have functioned as temporary, self-sufficient shelters in New York’s parks and plazas. Variously outfitted with hydroponic gardens, water-filtration systems, and buoys, they are public-art prototypes for the small-scale floating communities that Mattingly predicts will become our collective dystopian norm should

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  • View of “Daniel Subkoff,” 2013. From left: Bygone Began Begin, 2013; Dire Displacement, 2013.

    Daniel Subkoff

    James Fuentes

    What unifies the work in Daniel Subkoff’s solo debut is an interest in physical deconstruction, in stripping the familiar painterly format back to its bare bones and observing what has been laid bare. This is hardly an original focus—the artist openly acknowledges a debt to Arte Povera—but, as Subkoff demonstrates, it’s one that can still yield revelations. It’s also a good test of an artist’s ability to do a lot with a little; there is not much more than wood, canvas, primer, and drywall in these constructions, but the condition they describe feels expansive.

    In Bygone Began Begin (

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  • Shuji Terayama, The Cage, 1964, 16 mm, black-and-white with color tint, sound, 10 minutes 48 seconds. Installation view. From “La Poussière de Soleils.”

    “La Poussière de soleils”

    Real Fine Arts

    Borrowing its title, which translates as “the dust of suns,” from a 1926 play by Raymond Roussel, the influential beau ideal of the Surrealists, Olivia Shao’s curatorial venture at Real Fine Arts this past summer was a tone poem on myth: from the myth of time as vast continuity to the myths that often surround obscure artists. The carefully planned installation of tight corridors and intimate galleries in some ways recalled a line from a 1963 study of Roussel by Michel Foucault: “La Poussière de soleils is constructed like steps descending down a well to the treasure.” Yet the dominant feeling

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  • Oscar de Las Flores, Gloriae Americanae (American Glory), 2012, pen and ink on kozo paper, 15 x 20".

    Oscar de Las Flores

    Mulherin + Pollard

    In 1989, historian John McClelland described Edward Gibbon’s cool disdain for mobs. Gibbon, wrote McClelland, felt crowds should be regarded with “enlightened patrician contempt.” Oscar de Las Flores does not precisely share this scorn—on the evidence of the ink-on-paper drawings that were on view here, he views crowds with something more like enraged disgust.

    Violent mobs fill de Las Flores’s drawings, as if combating horror vacui. Gloriae Americanae (American Glory), 2012, for example, is a mess of ravaged and raving figures. It, like all of de Las Flores’s drawings (most of those shown

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  • View of “Erika Vogt,” 2013.

    Erika Vogt

    New Museum

    At the New Museum this past summer, Erika Vogt presented Stranger Debris Roll Roll Roll, 2013, a project at once austere and enigmatic. Related to her 2012 installations The Engraved Plane and Grounds and Airs, shown last year at Simone Subal Gallery in New York and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, respectively, the work was framed in the exhibition wall text as an extension of the artist’s interest in the subject of exchange. Yet in actuality, this theme felt sidelined here, subsumed within a more wide-ranging, albeit oblique, poetic reflection on the transformative nature of the studio.

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