reviews

  • View of the Whitney Biennial, 2014. From left: Joel Otterson, Camp, 2014; Joel Otterson, Curtains Laced with Diamonds Dear for You, 2014; Sheila Hicks, Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column, 2013–14; Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Notley, 2013. Hanging, from left: Joel Otterson, 187 Bottoms Up, 2013; Joel Otterson, 84 Bottoms Up, 2013. Photo: Chandra Glick.

    the Whitney Biennial

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    I SUSPECT THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE in the art world—whether artists, curators, dealers, or collectors—expect the Whitney Biennial to present an absolute version (or even a vision) of the current state of affairs. Nor do many of us think that any genuine discoveries will be made. (As you can see, like so many others, I am skirting the crucial question of whom these exhibitions are for.) Sure, we might see work by someone we didn’t know, but in today’s hypermediated art scene, no one actually expects to be bowled over by anything “new.” This makes a kind of sour sense, since the new as a

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  • David Wojnarowicz, Magic Box (detail), n.d., wooden box, mixed media, 8 x 17 x 11 1/2". From Julie Ault, Afterlife: A Constellation, 2014.

    the Whitney Biennial

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    ON MY FIRST VISIT to this year’s Whitney Biennial, I entered a gallery and found myself surrounded by materials documenting the history of the journal Semiotext(e) and the small press of the same name. I’d stumbled on what felt like an uncanny physical manifestation of my own past—specifically, a crucial and affectively charged component of my theoretical formation. Ephemera papered the walls, along with displays of books, while special issues of the journal—on Bataille, on Autonomia, on polysexuality—were lined up in a vitrine, doubles of my own personal effects. Part of curator

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  • View of “Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe,” 2014. Four works by Enrico Prampolini. From left: Sketch for Stage Design of The Merchant of Hearts, ca. 1926–27; Costume for Propeller Dance, 1928; Costume for Football Dance, 1928; Simultaneous Self-Portrait, ca. 1923. Photo: Kris McKay.

    “Italian Futurism”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    FROM THE FRONT PAGE of Paris’s Le Figaro in February 1909, the “Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” heralded not only a new cultural movement but, in the same hectoring breath, its own proleptic obsolescence. “When we are forty, others who are younger and stronger will throw us into the wastebasket, like useless manuscripts . . . !” So declared the Futurist poet and impresario F. T. Marinetti, hurling his now-famous paeans to youth, speed, and the sovereignty of the machine. He vowed to demolish celebrated monuments, artworks, and academies—those past glories to which Italy’s cultural

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  • Germaine Richier, L’Eau (Water), 1953–54, dark patinated bronze, 57 1/2 x 24 3/4 x 39 3/4".

    Germaine Richier

    Dominique Lévy/Galerie Perrotin

    Recently, Dominique Lévy and Emmanuel Perrotin gave over their joint gallery spaces to a challenging, taste-transforming exhibition of more than forty sculptures by Germaine Richier (1902–1959), many of them textbook familiar, others complete revelations. It was the first New York exhibition of the French-born artist’s work in more than a half a century.

    In the 1920s, Richier had been a student of Antoine Bourdelle, then the reigning counter-Rodinist, an artist widely admired for a type of “heroic,” quasi-geometric realism that paralleled the monumental platitudes of Aristide Maillol. Richier

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  • Fortunato Depero, Cavalcata fantastica (Fantastical Ride), 1920, wool on burlap backing, 12' 4“ x 7' 9 1/4”.

    Fortunato Depero

    CIMA - Center for Italian Modern Art

    CIMA, the Center for Italian Modern Art, is a research resource that opened this past February in New York City. Its inaugural exhibition, which remains open until June 28, focuses on Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), a second-tier figure within Futurism, a first-tier art movement. Depero is a particularly apt opening choice, since his career is punctuated by two American sojourns, the first between 1928 and 1930, when his stylish fusion of Futurist motifs and Art Deco design seemed to predict a certain success here in skyscraper New York. The stock-market crash dashed those hopes. Following World

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  • Pat Steir, Green, Orange and Mica, 2013, oil on canvas, 11 x 11'.

    Pat Steir

    Cheim & Read

    Since 1989, Pat Steir has been working in more or less the same manner—splashing her paint and turpentine on the top of her canvases and letting it find its own way back home to earth. “I . . . use nature to paint a picture of itself by pouring the paint,” she has said, the echo of Jackson Pollock’s “I am nature” in the vicinity of the act of pouring undoubtedly no accident. I never much cared for the results, though. Either the colors seemed too blatant, or the space too shallow, or whatever—until now, twenty-five years later, when suddenly artistic process and the phenomenology of

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  • View of “Peter Buggenhout,” 2014. Left: The Blind Leading the Blind #67, 2014. Right: The Blind Leading the Blind #66, 2014.

    Peter Buggenhout

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    A remarkably convincing figuring of disorder—of irredeemable, contagious psychomaterial disarray—the solo New York debut of Belgian sculptor Peter Buggenhout coaxed improbably affecting nuance from viscerally brutish form. Functioning both as discrete objects and as elements of a larger installation scenario, the pair of dark heaps set in the ground-floor gallery of Gladstone’s Twenty-First Street space—The Blind Leading the Blind #66 hulking in the middle of the room, The Blind Leading the Blind #67, both 2014, appearing to simultaneously spill forth from and muscle up to a nearby

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  • Kathy Butterly, Wanderer, 2013, clay, glaze, 6 1/8 x 6 1/8 x 6 1/4".

    Kathy Butterly

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    As an artist whose medium is clay, Kathy Butterly works between two histories: the tradition of pots—of objects that may well be refined but as vessels must also be useful—and the tradition of art, of useless objects that are nevertheless valuable to us because of the meanings embedded in them by the complexities of their appearance. This basic binary seems to have led Butterly to other ones. As a student, she majored in painting, but she was pushed into ceramics, she has said, by an encounter with the California sculptor Viola Frey: “She took twenty-five pounds of clay, whomped it

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  • Harvey Quaytman, Voyager, 1991, acrylic and rust on canvas, 60 x 90".

    Harvey Quaytman

    McKee Gallery

    Committed describes the relationship between Harvey Quaytman (who died in 2002) and the McKee Gallery (which has represented the artist since it opened in 1974), as well as the dedication with which the artist approached his career-long exploration of abstraction’s topography. During this show’s opening-night panel, numerous canonical modernist names, from Władysław Strzemiński to Willem de Kooning, were thrown about in historical association, and investigating any number of these affiliations would be productive. And yet this compact survey encouraged us to first consider Quaytman’s work along

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  • View of “Margaret Lee,” 2014.

    Margaret Lee

    Jack Hanley Gallery

    No need to walk in. You could see everything through the window from the street. Atop a platform, before a freestanding wall, several items: a Rietveld chair, a Vitra stool, nesting tables by Superstudio. Hanging from the wall, a painting. Standing to the right, Brancusi’s Endless Column. Also, a dog—or rather, a cutout silhouette of a dog, its two-dimensional head tilted upward. Everything was painted white, with scattered dots. Black, grapefruit-size dots.

    Such was Margaret Lee’s “closer to right than wrong / closer to wrong than right,” an ensemble of facsimiles fabricated out of MDF and

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  • Seymour Lipton, Germinal #2, 1953, nickel silver on steel, 70 x 16 x 16".

    Seymour Lipton

    Driscoll Babcock Galleries

    At the 1958 Venice Biennale, the American pavilion featured installations by exemplary Abstract Expressionists of the time, including two sculptors: David Smith and Seymour Lipton. A comparison of the artists’ oeuvres is instructive. Both Smith and Lipton made vaguely figurative works, but whereas those by Smith tended to be thin and attenuated, Lipton’s had a bulky if oddly hollow presence; whereas Smith’s surfaces were textured, Lipton’s seemed weirdly agitated; and whereas Smith handled his metal gently, Lipton brutally hammered it, as though to shred its skin. Lipton, who died in 1986, didn’t

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  • Julia Rommel, Three Little Babes, 2014, oil on linen, 59 3/4 x 68 1/2".

    Julia Rommel

    Bureau

    The seven new paintings in Julia Rommel’s “The Little Match Stick,” her second solo exhibition at this gallery, presented the viewer with a series of false endings—or, rather, false edges, as the physical boundaries of her subtly layered abstractions seem to shift before one’s eyes. The works’ lively titles—alongside Punkin Chunkin and Eraserhead, both 2014, are two canvases named for former Baltimore Orioles shortstop and third baseman Cal Ripken Jr.—might lead one to expect a practice with more explicit references to the wider world, yet Rommel is concerned primarily with

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  • Michelle Segre, Porous, Porous, 2014, metal, foam, wire, wood, plaster, modeling clay, yarn, thread, plastic lace, bread, 109 x 50 1/2 x 22".

    Michelle Segre

    Derek Eller Gallery

    Michelle Segre’s sculptures have the feel of totemic objects assembled to ward off bad luck—or perhaps to draw in a thing intensely desired. Indeed, their spiritual and formal antecedents may be the God’s-eye and the dream catcher, two objects drained of much of their original power thanks to their appropriation by New Age culture and kitschy tourist shops. Segre’s works, however, suggest action, impulse, pulse—energy flowing first one way, then the other, intensities announced in the title of the largest work that was on view here, Self-Reflexive Narcissistic Supernova, 2013. The

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  • View of “Anna-Sophie Berger,” 2014. Left: Hardax, 2014. Right: hard (blue), 2014.

    Anna-Sophie Berger

    JTT

    Ruins can be preserved, or they can offer debris from which to build. It is with such wreckage that Vienna-based artist and fashion designer Anna-Sophie Berger creates work: Her practice is not fashion or art but a bricolage built upon collisions of the two—a product of a time when these industries seek to establish market-driven “synergy” but remain discrete. Bringing fashion and art together may be problematic, but Berger’s vision is guided by unique optimism: She is less interested in critique than in infiltration, in finding ways in which to invade and occupy her two adopted disciplines,

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  • Heidi Bucher, Untitled (Herrenzimmer), ca. 1978, latex, cotton, 102 1/4 x 71 x 7 1/2".

    Heidi Bucher

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    At first, it is almost impossible to understand Heidi Bucher’s work as anything other than an utter dematerialization of the buildings that provided the literal framework for her practice. The Swiss artist was best known during her lifetime (1926–1993) for the pieces she described as “skinnings” (Häutungs): sheer, milky casts of walls, floors, and ceilings, made from latex and gauze or other fabric. Untitled (Herrenzimmer), for example, the undated work likely made between 1977 and 1979 that is the focal point of Bucher’s current show at the Swiss Institute, is a cast of the study of her parents’

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  • Muriel Cooper, Self-portrait with Polaroid SX-70, ca. 1982, large-format Polaroid, 32 1/2 x 21 1/2".

    Muriel Cooper

    Muriel Cooper Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, Columbia University

    “I have a profound disdain for answers,” Muriel Cooper once said. For her, there were only challenges—solutions were more like mistakes. A small gallery at Columbia University recently hosted an exhibition on Cooper’s influential life and work; the show will travel to the MIT Media Lab this fall, where it is not to be missed. Dubbed an unsung heroine, Cooper began her career as a graphic designer and ended it as a professor of interactive media design. Successes, and, as this show revealed, consistency marked her trajectory: She continually worked to collapse distinctions between design

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  • Carissa Rodriguez, It’s Symptomatic/What Would Edith Say?, 2013, permanent ink marker on ink-jet print mounted on Plexiglas, wood brace, 60 x 35 1/2". From “Looking Back: The 8th White Columns Annual.”

    “Looking Back: The 8th White Columns Annual”

    White Columns

    In the eight years since its inception, the White Columns Annual has emerged as one of the more anticipated events of the New York art calendar. The premise—a curator’s selection of artworks on view in the city in the year preceding the show’s opening—reliably yields a specific kind of exhibition, one that tends to be vaguely nostalgic and introspective, less a presentation of art objects than a display of semipersonal keepsakes or aide-mémoire. This year’s edition was organized by Pati Hertling, a lawyer and curator known for, among other endeavors, the now defunct but fondly remembered

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