reviews

  • View of “Christopher Wool,” 2013–14. Photo: Kristopher McKay.

    Christopher Wool

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    THE HOME PAGE of Christopher Wool’s website greets visitors, somewhat cryptically, with a black-and-white photograph of a discarded office chair on a dilapidated sidewalk. Taken with a flash at night on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the photograph has a dramatic immediacy, but seems more than a straightforward image of urban decay. With its atmosphere of isolation and estrangement and its invocation of such classic tropes as the destruction of public space and the loss of interiority, it appears to represent a kind of primal scene of expressionist art. Listing languidly on a broken caster, the

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  • Thomas Demand, Daily #11, 2009, ink-jet print, 28 7/8 x 32 1/2". From the series “Dailies,” 2008–12.

    Thomas Demand

    Matthew Marks Gallery | 502 W. 22nd Street

    The title of Thomas Demand’s recent exhibition “Dailies” evokes the cinema—dailies (also known as rushes) being the raw footage of each day’s shooting prepared for viewing the following day by the director and crew. But while Demand has made films in the past (for which he may well have used dailies as part of his working process), this was a show of still photographs. As would be expected by anyone familiar with the work of this photographer, who trained as a sculptor, everything in his new images appears to have been fabricated in the studio from basic materials such as cardboard; as

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  • Ilya Kabakov, Vertical Painting #12, 2012, oil on canvas, 112 x 70 7/8".

    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Born in 1933 to a scarcely tolerated minority, the Russian-Jewish artist Ilya Kabakov was nevertheless accepted as a student at the prestigious Leningrad Institute of Art. Ironically, he has become one of its greatest attendees, if one still regarded askance by official taste.

    It is unlikely that those of us who saw Kabakov’s “Ten Characters,” a suite of dioramas installed at New York’s Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1988 (the artist having immigrated here in 1987), will forget the drab repressions embodied in those inspired installations: the smell of unwashed congestion, of families thrown together

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  • Thomas Struth, Mountain, Anaheim, California, 2013, C-print, 6' 8 5/8“ x 10' 8 1/8”.

    Thomas Struth

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The fourteen photographs that made up this exhibition of recent work by Thomas Struth represent some of the strongest images of his career while also continuing a conversation about the fraught relationships among imagination, technology, place, and culture that the artist has been developing since the late 1970s. Looking at Struth’s photograph Ulsan 2, Lotte Hotel, 2010, depicting a hotel situated—we might say, embedded—in Ulsan, South Korea, one cannot help but note that this city, labyrinthine in its vertical and horizontal sprawl of starkly white buildings, comes to dominate the

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  • Stan Douglas, Luanda-Kinshasa, HD video, color, sound, 361 minutes.

    Stan Douglas

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    In the spring of 1974, a coup d’état in Portugal sent the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar tumbling from power. Salazar himself had died some years earlier, having suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1968, when he reportedly fell from a chair. His colleagues in the Estado Novo party were not only right-wing and repressive but were also increasingly unable to manage Portugal’s far-flung colonies. When the junta finally seized hold of the state, it simply cut those colonies loose. And so, like the dominoes of Arab autocracies in a more recent season of supposed reawakening and rebirth,

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  • Saul Fletcher, Untitled #276 (Spider Web), 2013, gelatin silver print, 6 7/8 x 5 1/2".

    Saul Fletcher

    Anton Kern Gallery

    At a time and in a place where insanely gigantic seems to be the default scale, Saul Fletcher’s quietly stirring show of some two dozen small photographs at Anton Kern acted as a sneakily bracing disruption of the status quo. The most tangible upshot of Chelsea’s current architectural hypertrophy—nothing more, really, than a blunt spatialization of the distended market that gives rise to it—is that even the most self-confident work often seems to strain under the obligation to live up to the sheer cubic feet devoted to it, lending a vague sheen of flop sweat to even good ideas and

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  • Jason Dodge, Electric, n.d. Installation view.

    Jason Dodge

    Casey Kaplan

    Critics of Jason Dodge’s sparse exhibitions over the past decade have frequently cited and relied upon the “narratives” and “poetry” bodied forth by his unassuming, enigmatically undated objects. Yet these oft-repeated terms have seemed increasingly facile in the face of his expansive output, with its sometimes radical testing of belief, fictions, and facts. Of the works in his recent New York show, take, for example, The mayor is sleeping. The mayor of Nuremberg is sleeping., a pillow the artist asserts has been slept on only by the mayor of Nuremberg. This backstory is fanciful, yes, but serves

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  • Robert Bechtle, Bob’s Sebring, 2011, oil on linen, 41 3/8 x 59 3/8".

    Robert Bechtle

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    By now, the once-provocative innovations of Photorealism are so embedded in contemporary art that they barely register at all. Take a photographic image, paint it faithfully from a projected slide: This method is ubiquitous, deployed in a wide range of ways to a variety of effects. So it is surprising to be reminded just how offensive this practice once was. Promulgated by OK Harris gallery in the late 1960s, Photorealism, for artists such as Richard Estes, Ralph Goings, or John Baeder, was a logical extension of Pop art. But, at that moment of high Minimalism and Conceptualism, its emphasis on

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  • Alex Prager, Crowd #7 (Bob Hope Airport), 2013, ink-jet print, 59 1/2 x 79".

    Alex Prager

    Lehmann Maupin

    Alex Prager’s recent photographic works depict crowds on streets, on a beach, and at the airport, among other locations where humans find themselves in close proximity to other humans, sometimes unwillingly. In fact, the photographs were all shot on sets in Los Angeles, carefully staged to produce an elaborately cinematic atmosphere heightened by costumes, makeup, lighting, and a saturated palette that renders the works intense and alluring. They are scaled large enough to immerse or even overwhelm the viewer and were mostly shot from above, some from almost directly overhead, suggesting the

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  • Thomas Bangsted, SS Coeur d’Alene (Under Refit for Troop Transport), 2012–14, ink-jet print, 63 x 86 3/4".

    Thomas Bangsted

    MARC STRAUS

    At times, Thomas Bangsted’s hypnotic, hypercalculated pictures of boats nearly resemble paintings. The water’s smooth variance in tone looks handmade; its ripples are often intensely gestural. Indeed, the images suggest deadpan hallucinations, as though the boats are toys in a twilight zone.

    In three of the seven images in this show, Bangsted portrays deserted ghost ships, historical relics of the two world wars. These depictions have been digitally altered—Bangsted has added the hard-edge, geometric patterning of dazzle camouflage. The boats are no longer rulers of the sea but vessels

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  • View of “Colby Bird,” 2013–14.

    Colby Bird

    Fitzroy Gallery

    “Rules: consistent dimensions, accurate Kodak Color Control Patch colorways, precise professional framing, careful art handling, correct installation, proper contextualization, sale of work.” Whether the last of these items—listed, along with a set of “mediating actions,” by Colby Bird as critical to his recent exhibition “Clyde Glenn Burns”—was realized may remain forever known only to the artist, his dealer, and their actual or prospective collectors. I can report, however, that every other condition was met. Yet Bird’s second solo outing here was far from the dry classic-Conceptual

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  • View of “Larry Clark,” 2013–14.

    Larry Clark

    Home Alone 2

    More than ten thousand of Larry Clark’s photographs were on view this winter in a small storefront on Forsyth Street in the Lower East Side. Clark—whose early work challenged fantasies of a wholesome postwar America with hard, often graphic images from his personal life—is represented by major galleries in New York, London, and Hong Kong. Yet, turning seventy-one and deciding he wanted to distribute a portion of his archive, he chose to do so not via private dealer-to-collector sale or auction, but on his own terms and in a way that would make it accessible to his friends—namely,

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  • Dotty Attie, Enthusiastic Fans, 2011, twenty-five panels in oil on linen, each 6 x 6".

    Dotty Attie

    P.P.O.W

    Dotty Attie first began to exhibit in the early 1970s, a period often remembered as hostile to painting as a medium of significant art. Indeed, although she began her career as a painter, from 1970 onward Attie worked not in painting but in drawing, and when she started to paint again, around 1985, she leaned on the strategies of Minimal and Conceptual art, the schools that had displaced painting in the art world’s attention. Attie worked and continues to work serially, mostly on canvases of the same size, a small six inches square, and she shows her groups of pictures in grids or rows. In doing

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