reviews

  • View of “Isa Genzken: Retrospective,” 2013–14. Foreground, from left: Dan, 1999; Andy, 1999; Wolfgang, 1998; Isa, 2000; Soziale Fassade, 2002; Soziale Fassade, 2002.

    Isa Genzken

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    THE ISA GENZKEN RETROSPECTIVE currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York reveals both the range and the ambition of this influential artist, and the Modern has given her the large galleries that she deserves; this is all the more important in the United States, where her work is still not well known.* In this light, responses to the exhibition have proved more problematic than usual: Though often positive in tone, many reviewers have positioned Genzken in relation to the men in her life, both older (Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, her onetime partner, and Gerhard Richter, her former husband) and

    Read more
  • 69th Regiment Armory during the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York. Walt Kuhn, Walt Kuhn Family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

    “The Armory Show at 100”

    The New York Historical Society

    A PHOTO OF BOXY AUTOMOBILES parked on Lexington Avenue in front of the 69th Regiment Armory in New York reveals the excitement that greeted the beyond-famous, dramatically transformative Armory Show. The day of the exhibition’s opening, February 17, 1913, some four thousand visitors turned out for an overview of international developments in contemporary art; by show’s end, some eighty thousand visitors had seen it. Though intended to promote American art, the Armory Show also embraced the radical avant-garde in Europe—at the time, still largely unseen in the United States—and ultimately

    Read more
  • View of “Ad Reinhardt,” 2013.

    Ad Reinhardt

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    The front room of David Zwirner on Twentieth Street was giddy with Ad Reinhardt’s drawings and collages. Staggered frames across the wall presented meticulous drawings of smirking fat cats, slumbering politicians, union laborers, and other characters too quirky to classify. Among the cartoons produced between 1946 and 1961, a vertical flowchart plotted, across dotted lines and sprightly abbreviations of bureaucratic architecture, the path of a bottle of whiskey from a Scotland distillery to a New York liquor store (and, more important, from 97¢ to $7.84). In a drawing two inches tall, a man

    Read more
  • Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXIX, 1983, oil on canvas, 77 x 88".

    Willem de Kooning

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    I feel like a fool for having asked to review Willem de Kooning—like, what could I possibly say, how could I say something new? All I can do for starters is reminisce. When I was fifteen years old I went with my mother to a de Kooning exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and I asked her to buy me the catalogue. It was the first contemporary-art catalogue I ever got; I had plenty of modern art–type books (on Picasso, Dalí, Mondrian, Ernst, etc.), but this was the first living-artist one. This was the book that set me off on contemporary art.

    De Kooning has this effect.

    Read more
  • Peter Voulkos, Iron Head, 1990, ceramic, 35 1/2 x 19 x 19".

    Peter Voulkos

    Franklin Parrasch Gallery | 22nd Street

    This concise exhibition of ten ceramic pieces formed a rare survey of the work of Peter Voulkos, an artist whose production merits far broader examination. This signal potter/sculptor drastically ruptured the tropes that assign craftworks to a lesser status than art. There are, of course, many preconceptions that play into this conventional demotion—mostly, the association of clay-based crafts with utilitarian vessels and the belief that clay itself is of lesser status than paint (or wood or marble or bronze). Of course, other notables aspired to break this prejudice, but few did so as

    Read more
  • Martin Creed, Work No. 1674, Anouchka, 2013, pencil and watercolor on paper, 11 1/8 x 8 1/8".

    Martin Creed

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    What becomes of a Conceptual artist when he runs out of ideas? He becomes, with luck, an artist—without adjectives. Martin Creed has had some pretty great ideas in his day, enough to show that he knows implicitly what some artists never quite get around to learning: that a great art idea is one whose execution makes possible something that you’d never have imagined from its formulation. Case in point: his Work No. 202: Half the air in a given space, 1998, whose Robert Barry–esque ineffability (compare that artist’s designation as works, in 1969, of quantities of inert gases released into

    Read more
  • View of “Rosemarie Trockel,” 2013.

    Rosemarie Trockel

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Rosemarie Trockel’s exhibition at Gladstone Gallery appeared to encompass three distinct bodies of work: twenty-eight striped or monochrome “wool paintings”; six wall-based sculptures of meat cast in Acrystal and mounted on pieces of Perspex; and two pieces of furniture, including a long, modernist sofa made, cushions and all, from cast steel. Yet in spite of their apparent heterogeneity, these pieces were, in fact, closely interconnected: All engaged a slippery dialectic of aspiration and deprivation.

    Copy Me, 2013, the steel sofa, was draped with a thin plastic sheet, which both framed the

    Read more
  • Bruce Nauman, Pencil Lift/Mr. Rogers, 2013, two asynchronous video projections, color, sound, continuous loop.

    Bruce Nauman

    Sperone Westwater

    If one had to imagine a sound track for this exhibition, it could be only the music of John Cage. The leitmotifs in Bruce Nauman’s new videos and drawings are chance and instability—themes central to Cage’s practice.

    In both of the paired, asynchronous videos of Pencil Lift/Mr. Rogers, 2013, Nauman manipulates three yellow pencils that have been sharpened on both ends. He presses them together, lead to lead, lifts them into the air, and holds them there in a state of suspension; after a moment, he sets the pencils back down. In the nearly four-minute video on the left, Nauman performs this

    Read more
  • Helmut Federle, Ferner G, 2012, vegetable oil on canvas, 19 5/8 x 15 3/4".

    Helmut Federle

    Peter Blum Gallery

    Once again working in series, as he did for his last show at this gallery, in 2009–10, the Swiss artist Helmut Federle has produced a still more refined and concentrated group of paintings than he did then. As in those earlier works, whose overlapping planes admit a pentagonal shape toward the center of each picture, Federle is working with a single geometric form, this time a circle. But he has eliminated almost all color, and in fact has largely eliminated paint: The medium of most of the new works is no more than vegetable oil applied to unprimed canvas. To the extent that there is color, it

    Read more
  • Jack Beal, Envy, Self-Portrait with Hat, 1977, oil on canvas, 26 x 22".

    Jack Beal

    George Adams Gallery

    “Imitation is natural to man from childhood,” Aristotle wrote in Poetics, which is why it is “natural for all to delight in works of imitation.” This remains true even for objects that are “painful to see,” such as “the forms . . . of the lowest animals and of dead bodies.” There are no dead bodies in Jack Beal’s imitations—unless one counts the memento-mori skull in Self-Portrait with Anatomy No. 3, 1986–87—but there is an animal, if not the lowest, in Still Life with Cat, 1999. Indeed, the subjects of most of Beal’s paintings are conventionally delightful, such as the flowers in

    Read more
  • Malerie Marder, #25 from the Anatomy series, 2010, ink-jet print, 13 7/8 x 20".

    Malerie Marder

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    Fifteen years ago this spring, a group show opened at a little uptown gallery with a very long name. “Another Girl, Another Planet,” at Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, featured the work of thirteen photographers—twelve of them young women—who were disregarding the documentary functions of photography to create more cinematic constructions exploring drama, seduction, and sexual desire. Organized by Gregory Crewdson and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and accompanied by a short story from the novelist A. M. Homes, it was a lightning bolt of an exhibition, one that struck something

    Read more
  • View of “Franz Erhard Walther,” 2013.

    Franz Erhard Walther

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    The first thing to greet viewers in this exhibition was an imposing gallery wall, appended to which was Franz Erhard Walther’s Vier Körperformen (Four Body Shapes), 1963, made when he was still a student at Kunst-akademie Düsseldorf and had just begun to work with fabric. Each of the work’s four parts, which are crafted from sewed and stuffed canvas and resemble sea creatures’ limbs, was mounted to one of the wall’s four corners, with plenty of space between them. Walther intended for viewers to hold these objects or attach them, like prosthetic pillows, somewhere on their bodies; they could

    Read more
  • Gary Kuehn, Saw Horse Piece, 1967, fiberglass, wood, 24 1/2 x 120 x 26".

    Gary Kuehn

    Joe Sheftel Gallery

    Despite their well-documented fascination with architecture, most Minimalists seem to have been surprisingly squeamish about what could literally be described as the nuts and bolts of construction. Even the most detail-minded viewer of the early-1960s sculptures of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, or Carl Andre would be hard-pressed to find evidence of nails or screws; everything is loose stacks or mitered corners and polished metal. Repudiating the Abstract Expressionist legacy of emphatically subjective formal composition, these artists emphasized the cohesiveness of their simple, straightforward

    Read more
  • Ryan McLaughlin, Wetter (Weather), 2013, oil on linen on MDF, 35 1/2 x 25 3/4".

    Ryan McLaughlin

    Laurel Gitlen

    “Raisins,” the title of young Berlin-based American painter Ryan McLaughlin’s first US solo exhibition, hints at something dense, dark, and sugary. Yet the show’s eight works are much lighter and looser than the moniker suggests. Having become known over the past few years for a stylized, slightly cartoonish take on the classical still life, McLaughlin here worked with fragments of signs, logos, and other graphics and texts to produce a series of semifigurative compositions in dusty colors that float just free of definitive association. Realized in oil on MDF or in oil on linen or canvas stretched

    Read more
  • Larry Poons, Jessica’s Hartford, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 120".

    Larry Poons

    Loretta Howard Gallery

    The strangest item in this small exhibition of early work by Larry Poons was a brief, grainy audio recording of a short-lived rock ’n’ roll group called the Druds. Formed by Andy Warhol in 1963, the Druds released no records and never once performed live, yet they are remembered today for a lineup that is almost comically auspicious: Walter De Maria on drums, La Monte Young on saxophone, Poons on guitar, and Jasper Johns, Patty Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, and Warhol himself singing. A star-studded cast, indeed, but even illustriousness can fall flat. The track, “No More Apologies,” is a case study

    Read more
  • Jill Magid, The Shadows of the Eucalyptus Trees at El Bebedero, 2013, 16 mm, black-and-white, silent, 9 minutes.

    Jill Magid

    Art in General

    “I roamed the lobbies of hotels in the city looking for a man in an expensive vintage suit,” writes Jill Magid in her book Failed States (2012), “a discreet, older, subtle man who knew things, who was looking for me too.” Magid keeps searching for the right partner. Those who have followed her career over the past decade have met security-camera operators in Liverpool, UK, agents of the Dutch secret service, and an officer of the NYPD. With these (mostly male) members of government authorities, Magid has cultivated chaste but intimate relationships, and then turned the ensuing rapport into raw

    Read more