reviews

  • Reza Mafi, Untitled, 1973, oil on cardboard, 30 3/4 x 11".

    “Iran Modern”

    Asia Society and Museum

    THE STORY OF MODERNISM is about a time but it is also about a place; even today, curators and art historians struggle to draw an adequate map of the global flows of modernity. “Iran Modern,” on view at the Asia Society, (through January 5) poses one such cartography, charting the distinctive and heterogeneous visual expressions that flourished in Iran during the postwar years.

    The show’s temporal frame falls between the 1953 CIA coup that ousted Iran’s democratically elected government and the 1979 revolution that overthrew the last shah. In the intervening decades, the country became a case

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  • Anna Maria Maiolino, Mother/Father, 1971/1999, india ink and Letraset on paper in wooden box, 19 7/8 x 19 7/8 x 1 3/8". From the series “Mapas Mentais” (Mental Maps), 1971–76. From “Sensible Geometries: Brazil 1950s–1980s.”

    “Sensitive Geometries: Brazil 1950s–1980s”

    Hauser & Wirth | West 18th Street

    Anna Maria Maiolino’s Mother/Father, 1971/1999, offers a concise exercise in the absurdity of genealogical charts. The Italian-born, Brazil-trained artist made the ink-and-Letraset-on-paper work in English, a language she struggled to understand, the same year that she left New York, after a three-year sojourn, for Rio de Janeiro. In the piece, the words MOTHER and FATHER are repeated, rotated, and scattered willy-nilly across the square units of a grid, the randomness of their occurrence and orientation sabotaging the very idea of hereditary flow.

    It is rather ironic that Maiolino’s work (from

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  • Dan Walsh, Cycle VI, 2013, pencil and acrylic on canvas, 70 x 70".

    Dan Walsh

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street

    “My joke early on about how to describe myself was ‘Philip Guston paints an Agnes Martin,’” Dan Walsh told an interviewer recently, and he is an artist who knows both his art history and himself. The early works he was describing are more spare and less colorful than those he makes now, but his analogy from the interview holds: The paintings, drawings, and books in this show all have an underlying severity—some intimation of Martin-like system and rigor and more broadly of an understanding of the ambitions of modernist abstraction—but Walsh’s subtly humorous designs and color schemes

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  • Konrad Lueg, Handtuch (Hand Towel), 1965, casein on canvas, 78 3/4 x 57 1/8".

    Konrad Lueg

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    For some, making art is a second act: Henri Rousseau was a tax collector prior to retiring, at age forty-nine, to paint; Frederick Wiseman taught law before filming his first documentary; Grandma Moses picked up the brush in her seventies. Others, like Maureen Paley and Pat Hearn before her, channeled youthful creative inclinations into different art-world pursuits. In the late 1960s, Konrad Lueg forsook painting to open Berlin’s Konrad Fischer Galerie (he had taken as his artistic nom de guerre his mother’s maiden name). Before becoming a beloved and legendary dealer, however, he was a charter

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  • Constantin Brancusi, La Muse Endormie II (Sleeping Muse II), 1923/2010, polished bronze, 6 5/8 x 11 3/8 x 6 7/8".

    Constantin Brancusi

    Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue

    In the wake of the excitement generated by the Armory Show centennial comes an exhibition of five polished bronzes by Constantin Brancusi that were cast between 1992 and 2006. This show, tasteful to a fault, both reminds and distracts. It reminds us anew of the Armory brouhaha in 1913; of a fracas occasioned by the 1926 arrival on these shores of several Brancusi sculptures (the works were seen by American customs officials as industrial products, hence subject to the import duties from which artworks were exempt); of Brancusi’s connection to the Arensberg circle and the New York beau monde of

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  • View of “Jon Rafman,” 2013.

    Jon Rafman

    Feuer/Messler

    Someone should have told Jon Rafman to restrain himself. His inaugural exhibition at Zach Feuer was packed, and unevenly so: Upon entering, you encountered racks of plastic video-game cases with labels showing Thomas Cole’s early-nineteenth-century Course of Empire landscapes; a granite floor plaque engraved with the names and closing dates of defunct New York State malls; stacks of a newsprint giveaway featuring an essay, oral histories, and a back-page comic strip; two Alienware laptops, one wrapped in fake reptilian skin, the other in fleshy epoxy; three featureless and fluidly warped urethane

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  • Eileen Quinlan, Passing Through, 2013, gelatin silver print, 25 x 20".

    Eileen Quinlan

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Orchard Street

    The mostly color work that Eileen Quinlan showed in the “New Photography 2013” show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York this past fall is evidently abstraction yet just as clearly consists of pictures “of” something or other, though what that might be is not readily identifiable. In those photographs, Quinlan—like Cubist painters a century ago—leaves just enough pictorial space to preserve the idea of the image as depiction. By contrast, the twenty-four black-and-white prints (all but one unframed) in her one-person exhibition “Curtains” at Miguel Abreu Gallery suggest that even

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  • Eric Aho, Wilderness Studio, 2013, oil on linen, 62 x 80".

    Eric Aho

    DC Moore Gallery

    In 1963, art historian Max J. Friedländer argued that “in a world from which the gods have vanished, the miracle and enigma of landscape remains.” Are Eric Aho’s landscapes—such oil paintings as Trail (Third Approach to the Mountain), Hemlock Ravine, and The Straw Field (all works cited, 2013)—enigmatic and miraculous? Yes, to the extent that they constitute an attempt “to get closer to nature” while “avoid[ing] the banality of the objective” (as Friedländer put it, writing about Monet). Aho’s forests, mountains, ravines, and straw fields recall Impressionist and Post-Impressionist

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  • View of “Massimo Grimaldi,” 2013.

    Massimo Grimaldi

    Team Gallery | Grand Street

    “Okay, now, to the music this time—both groups do your dinosaur heads.” As part of “Chorus Lines,” his second solo appearance at Team, Italian artist Massimo Grimaldi transformed the room into a functional dance studio, partly cladding it in mirrors and allowing troupes to use it for rehearsals. On my visit, Holly Heidt’s company was in residence, six young women hashing out physical responses to outwardly impenetrable directions such as those above—and doing so without much concern for gawking passersby.

    In Grimaldi’s formulation, the dancers were acting as “agents,” inflecting viewers’

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  • Robin Bruch, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36".

    Robin Bruch

    Leslie Fritz

    Over the past forty years, Robin Bruch’s facture has remained constant—unwavering, even—while the simple shapes she sets in non-illusionistic space have been anything but. Her quivering and shivering forms refuse to be pinned down; some of her best paintings have a biomorphic quality that recalls cells mutating under a microscope’s lens. This recent, fifteen-work show consisted mostly of canvases made in 2012 and 2013, with a handful of works on paper from the 1970s and a single painting from the mid-’80s.

    A motif Bruch returns to again and again is the triangle. Take, for instance,

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  • Scott Reeder, Post Good, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16".

    Scott Reeder

    Lisa Cooley

    A row of thirty two-word text paintings ran the length of Scott Reeder’s recent inaugural show at Lisa Cooley. The variously twee and anarchic pronouncements were painted Ed Ruscha style in acrylic on small panels of stretched canvas (all works 2013), and began with COPS KISS, POST CATS, and FAKE RICH, continued with IFFY IDOL, REAL EVIL, and JPEG LIFE, and finally delivered the viewer to the rear of the gallery with JUST INFO, DARK MATH, and COOL SHIT. Across the room, and filling out the other walls of the main gallery space, luxuriously sized oil and enamel paintings radiated a pleasing

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  • Patricia Treib, Accoutrements, 2013, oil on canvas, 66 x 50".

    Patricia Treib

    Wallspace

    The open, airy abstractions in Patricia Treib’s recent exhibition at Wallspace—her first at this gallery—are marked by patches of color and a delicate, decorative line. Executed with a wide brush, the strokes are playful and improvisatory, appearing at times as patterned squiggles, zigzags, or loops, and sometimes resolutely defining a shape. Yet the abstractness of the compositions is undermined by vague intimations of representation—the suggestion of a head, or of a domestic interior. The peculiar indeterminacy of these images results from the fact that the works derive explicitly

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  • Wynne Greenwood, More Heads, Belgrade, 2013, video, color, sound, 2 minutes 43 seconds.

    Wynne Greenwood

    Soloway

    If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see a Tracy + the Plastics show, you know that Tracy as well as the two Plastics are all played by Wynne Greenwood and that a show is not only about music but also these three characters, with Tracy appearing live and the Plastics—named Nikki and Cola—as video projections. The three chat, theorize, complain, and stand around in what critic and curator Johanna Burton called, in Artforum in 2005, a “split-personality hallucination,” or perhaps a kind of ventriloquism performed with the artist’s own body.

    For her recent exhibition at Soloway, Greenwood

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