reviews

  • View of “The Shadows Took Shape,” 2014. Foreground, from left: Derrick Adams, WE><HERE, 2013; Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Interpretation, 2010; Trenton Doyle Hancock, A New Creature #1, 2013; Harold Offeh, Covers. After Betty Davis. They Say I’m Different, 1974, 2013; Harold Offeh, Covers. After Grace Jones. Island Life. 1985, 2008; Harold Offeh, Covers. After Funkadelic. Maggot Brain. 1971, 2013; William Villalongo, Sista Ancesta (E. Kelly/D. R. of Congo, Pende), 2012; Sanford Biggers, Vex, 2013. Photo: Adam Reich.

    “The Shadows Took Shape”

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    THE JAZZ COMPOSER AND VISIONARY The jazz composer and visionary Sun Ra, who claimed to have come from Saturn, authored the poem whose opening line served as the title of this thought-provoking show, which explored the complex network of aesthetics and practices known as Afrofuturism. The show’s curators, Naima J. Keith and Zoé Whitley, define their subject as a “discourse around black cultural production, technology, and speculation on the future” that clearly developed “out of the historical and social conditions that shaped black life in America.” They cite Ra as the model of Afrofuturism

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  • Julian Schnabel, Untitled, 1990, resin and gesso on burlap, 120 x 108".

    Julian Schnabel

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    Julian Schnabel’s “View of Dawn in the Tropics, Paintings, 1989–1990” exhibited twelve large—no, huge—works that reveal yet again that, for this artist, everything is up for grabs. Take, for example, the drop cloths, tarpaulins, and the paint-saturated sailcloths Schnabel used as brushes to spread paint upon his grounds—themselves fashioned from canvas or burlap or what have you—that become, in turn, new grounds or surrogate passages of paint.

    For instance, the deeply impressive Ozymandias, 1990—at thirteen by eighteen feet, rather the star of the show—recontextualizes

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  • Ghada Amer, Amina, 2013, acrylic, watercolor crayons, embroidery, and gel medium on canvas, 50 x 60".

    Ghada Amer

    Cheim & Read

    “Rainbow Girls,” this recent exhibition of Ghada Amer’s new work, tethered a porn-suffused AbEx “allover” to a sculpture of transparent form. Though the influential Egyptian-born artist’s signature nudes still remain as complex linear outline (recalling Tom Wesselmann–like wraiths), gone are the vulvae that added a certain piquancy to Amer’s earlier work. The sculpture Blue Bra Girl, 2012, for example, is a vast ovoid with a prominently displayed face, while in The Heart, 2012, the Rainbow Girls are perhaps a bit more difficult to discern, owing to the somewhat punched-in shape of the heart

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  • Brian O’Doherty, Structural Play: Vowel Grid, 1970, video, color, sound, 15 minutes 43 seconds.

    Brian O’Doherty

    P!/Simone Subal Gallery

    Artist, writer, editor, arts administrator, and more, Brian O’Doherty has been well known in the New York art world since coming to the city, in the late 1950s, from his native Ireland. His book Inside the White Cube, first published in 1976 as a series of essays in this magazine, is a foundational critical text, an analysis not so much of art as of its physical environment—the white-walled modern gallery—and of the sociological and ideological networks invisibly embedded there. This was a context designed to sanctify its content by itself receding from the eye, by going unseen, but

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  • View of “Robert Mangold,” 2014.

    Robert Mangold

    Pace | 510 West 25th Street

    For this commanding exhibition, Robert Mangold presented a group of ten paintings (accompanied by twelve drawings) executed between 2011 and 2014. Characterized, most saliently, by the wide holes cut into their centers, the spare, donut-shaped canvases explicitly recall the artist’s “Ring Paintings,” 2011, and “Frame Paintings,” 1983–85, and find him continuing the exploration of the fundamental elements of composition—of line, shape, and color—that he undertook in those series.

    The works are imposing; the largest, Angled Ring I, 2011, has dimensions exceeding eight by eight feet.

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  • René Daniëls, Kades-Kaden (Quays-Quays), 1987, oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 55 1/8".

    René Daniëls

    Metro Pictures

    Foolish, it seems, to not begin with the bow ties when considering this rare US exhibition of René Daniëls’s paintings, drawings, and watercolors, as that motif is the most complicated (and celebrated) of his “architectures.” Rendered as a cartoony graphic—two receding rectangles joining at a small square, suggesting a perspectival view of a room—the form has nearly become a brand for the artist. Daniëls, who is based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, began painting this icon in 1984 and stopped in 1987, when his career was interrupted by a brain aneurysm that led to a long hiatus from

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  • Robert Rauschenberg, Music Box (Elemental Sculpture), ca. 1955, wood crate, nails, stones, feathers, traces of metallic paint, 11 x 7 1/2 x 9 1/4".

    Robert Rauschenberg

    Craig F. Starr Gallery

    Nearly twenty-three years ago, Walter Hopps gave life to an overlooked period from Robert Rauschenberg’s oeuvre. At the Menil Collection in Houston, the legendary curator mounted a revelatory exhibition of the artist’s work from the early 1950s, elucidating the rich procedural and conceptual qualities of a body of paintings, collages, and sculptures that had long been overshadowed by the better known and seemingly more systematic Combines and silk screens made over the following ten years. Rauschenberg’s work from the early 1950s does not present an easily quantifiable artistic position; rather,

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  • Charlotte Posenenske, Rasterbild (Grid), 1957, casein on paper, 17 1/4 x 12 1/4".

    Charlotte Posenenske

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    It is somewhat difficult to believe, but until quite recently, Charlotte Posenenske was little more than a footnote, effectively forgotten by the art-historical literature until a modest installation of her reliefs and participatory sculptures at Documenta 12 in 2007 brought her memory roaring to life. Since then, the late German artist has been exhibited widely in Europe and the United States, celebrated as much for the way in which she married a sculptural practice to “the social” as for her work’s coolly industrial mien. But Posenenske’s sculpture is only part of the story. This small show

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  • Ken Okiishi, gesture/data, 2014, oil paint, flat-screen television, VHS transferred to digital video, color, sound, 73 minutes 35 seconds, 36 3/8 x 21 3/8 x 4 3/4".

    Ken Okiishi

    Reena Spaulings Fine Art | New York

    In the eleven paintings that were in this show, all equal in size and in identical thin black frames, densely expressionist or allusively calligraphic brushstrokes bunch or stutter across shimmering color fields. You had to dip your head ninety degrees toward your left shoulder to read the name of the Old Master, stamped in silver and running up each frame’s right-hand edge: SAMSUNG.

    For his first solo show at Reena Spaulings, Ken Okiishi executed a series of oil paintings on the surfaces of upturned flat-screen televisions. (A group of related works hung concurrently in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.)

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  • View of “Dona Nelson,” 2014.

    Dona Nelson

    Thomas Erben Gallery

    In an interview twenty years ago, Dona Nelson praised the messiness of late Picasso, describing it as evidence of a “total confidence” that allowed him to do whatever without self-questioning, without looking back. And then she went on to point out that “[Sigmar] Polke has that kind of confidence.” Even before I’d read that old interview, the affinity between Nelson and Polke, one very American and the other sehr deutsch, was nonetheless patent. Granted, Nelson lacks Polke’s reach, but both artists tend to throw all caution to the wind in a way that can sometimes induce something close to pure

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  • Arnold Mesches, Eternal Return 7, 2013, acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 20 x 21". From the series “Eternal Return,” 2013–14.

    Arnold Mesches

    Life on Mars

    Arnold Mesches had his first solo show in 1947, and according to the Life on Mars Gallery website, he has by now had 124 of them, which perhaps gives a new meaning to this one’s title, “Eternal Return.” The exhibition included selections from three series of paintings, “Coming Attractions,” 2003–2007; “SHOCK AND AWE,” 2011; and “Eternal Return,” 2013–14. As a title, “Coming Attractions” recalls the fact that Mesches, who spent most of his career in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1984, worked in the film industry in the 1940s and ’50s. The first work in the series (not in this show)

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  • Connie Fox, Sammy’s Beach VIII, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 73 x 78".

    Connie Fox

    DANESE/COREY

    The shore of Gardiners Bay on the east end of Long Island is, nominally, the theme of “Sammy’s Beach,” 2007–, a series of acrylic paintings by Connie Fox. Thirteen such works were on view in this exhibition, accompanied by five charcoal drawings from the series “Weeds,” 2010. The two groups comprise gestural abstractions distinguished by compulsiveness and distress, and all are marked by an interplay—invariably dramatic, often violent—of black and white.

    The “Sammy’s Beach” works are large, and typically have a strong central area, usually marked by an emphatic shape or shapes. Diamonds

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  • Sylvan Lionni, Dust, 2014, acrylic and urethane on aluminum, 40 x 30".

    Sylvan Lionni

    KANSAS Gallery

    “I get such pleasure just saying what the subject matters of some of the works are: pieces of paper, rulers, and dust.” So writes B. Wurtz on the art of Sylvan Lionni, whose second solo exhibition at this gallery, “Half Life,” focused precisely on those quotidian things. Continuing his investigation into what he terms “social geometry”—the intersection of physical space with human thought and behavior—Lionni trains his eye on seemingly banal images, objects, and substances, filtering them through a variety of meticulous processes in order to focus our attention on their oft-overlooked

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  • Artie Vierkant, Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33PM, unique UV print on Dibond, 54 x 52". From “What Is a Photograph?”

    “What Is a Photograph?”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    This exhibition was intended to explore experimentation in photography since the 1970s. As is inevitably the case with any such endeavor, particularly one that covers its sprawling subject with only seventy-two works, it is easy to quibble with its inclusions and exclusions. To do so, however, would be to overlook the exhibition’s importance. It smartly investigated the flowering of formal and material experimentation after the advent of digital photography in the 1990s and tracked the dialogues between that field and painting and Conceptual art. Curated by Carol Squiers, the show comprised

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