reviews

  • Sigmar Polke

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    PERCHED NEAR THE EDGE of the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium throughout this past spring and summer, Sigmar Polke’s Kartoffelhaus (Potato House), 1967, echoed not only the diminutive German garden sheds and rigidly formed Minimalist objects in whose shadow the work was clearly made, but also—and more oddly—the very interior in which the piece itself was installed. For just like MoMA’s expansive exhibition-cum-dinner-party space, Polke’s construction—a five-sided, pitched-roofed wooden lattice held together by an elegant joinery of fresh potatoes—is an ode to right-angled

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  • Robert Longo, After de Kooning (Woman and Bicycle, 1952–1953), 2014, charcoal on mounted paper, 90 × 57 5/8".

    Robert Longo

    Metro Pictures

    Conjuring some of the best-known images in American art through a method both meticulous and transformative, Robert Longo’s Metro Pictures show this past spring comprised a dozen charcoal drawings of classic works of Abstract Expressionism. Copied not exactly 1:1 but in sizes evoking the grand canvases of Jackson Pollock and the rest, the pictures seem instantly and deliciously familiar but at the same time strange, for while they minutely duplicate every detail of their originals, they of course lose all of those works’ color. That’s not so disorienting in the case of Franz Kline’s black-and-white

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  • Kara Walker, A Subtlety, 2014, polystyrene foam blocks, granulated white sugar, water, corn syrup, sugar, molasses, resin. Installation view.

    Kara Walker

    The Former Domino Sugar Factory

    Astringent and overwhelming, like the weird burned-sweet tang that harshed the air inside the decommissioned Domino Sugar Factory warehouse where it hulked, A Subtlety, 2014, Kara Walker’s first large-scale public project, was the uneasy blockbuster of the New York art world’s midsummer. The artist’s crouching, house-size mammy, made from forty gleaming tons of bleach-white sugar molded onto foam blocks, stoically presided over a clutch of baby-faced blackamoors in a vast space literally coated with the auburn residue of a century’s worth of processing the sweet stuff. And she drew huge crowds

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  • Robert De Niro Sr., Woman in Red, 1961, oil on linen, 70 × 54".

    Robert De Niro Sr.

    DC Moore Gallery

    In certain measure, the critical task sheds light on the new as it surveys the old. While the lens and the laptop have inexorably altered our relationship to the brush, must work that reveals a dexterous, evolving hand still be taken for an oddity? The revival of the work of Robert De Niro Sr. (1922–1993) strongly suggests otherwise.

    The twenty-nine paintings and drawings in this show were made between 1948 and 1989. The earliest serve to remind us of a different Greenwich Village, a different Little Italy, and a different Fifty-Seventh Street, one along which the blue-chip galleries were situated

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  • Zilia Sánchez, Amazonas (de la serie Topologías) (Amazons [of the Topologies Series]), 1978, acrylic on stretched canvas, 43 × 70 × 11".

    Zilia Sánchez

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    It’s hard to know whether to be gratified or dismayed by the number of extraordinary women artists who continue to be drawn out of the shadows of art history in their old age—gratified, of course, because they’re finally getting the recognition they’ve long deserved, but dismayed that it’s still taking so long. The latest such “case” is that of Zilia Sánchez, born in Cuba in 1926 but a longtime resident of San Juan, Puerto Rico. A prominent figure on the island—as a teacher as well as an artist—she has rarely exhibited elsewhere. This exhibition, “Heróicas Eróticas en Nueva York

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  • Jay DeFeo, Untitled, 1987, photocopy, 11 × 8 1/2".

    Jay DeFeo

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    This exhibition—which focused on Jay DeFeo’s production following her three-year hiatus from artmaking after her completion of The Rose, 1958–66, her famous, one-ton painting of a burst of white light—gathered forty-nine pieces from the last fifteen years of the artist’s life, several of which were absent from her recent traveling US retrospective. DeFeo, whose early work was animated by jazz and Beat subcultures and by the varied frequencies coursing through the San Francisco Renaissance, was also well known for her round-the-clock, sedulous-yet-playful ingenuity. She worked quickly

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  • Birdie Lusch, Untitled, 1973, collage, marker, ballpoint pen on paper, 18 × 12".

    Birdie Lusch

    Kerry Schuss

    Imagine, for a minute, a history of modern art told only through still lifes of flowers, a subject precariously close to kitsch. (Many of modernism’s central movers and shakers—including Manet, who called the still life a painter’s touchstone—would play a major role. But this thought experiment entails imagining a modernism without inside or outside, or in which outside is literally brought in.) Imagine the basic, daily scenes that would accumulate, bloom, and change over time; imagine a slight easing of gender, socioeconomic, and geographic gaps in art history’s narration; imagine

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  • Vincent Fecteau, Untitled, 2014, resin clay, acrylic paint, 24 × 26 × 8".

    Vincent Fecteau

    Matthew Marks Gallery | 502 W. 22nd Street

    “My continuing struggle is that I want to express this cheesy emotion that I know isn’t cheesy,” said Vincent Fecteau in 1995. “And I don’t know how to do it.” Such a mission is difficult, but if the solution is elusive, the struggle has been generative. Almost twenty years later, he’s still going at it. In the press release for this recent show, Fecteau states: “I feel like I’m always trying to figure out the same thing. . . . I can’t define what that thing is. It’s a feeling or a sound or a song. Maybe it’s a kind of mood.”

    At Matthew Marks, Fecteau’s attempts to home in on the nameless emotion

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  • Sze Tsung Leong, Doel, Oost Vlaanderen, Belgium, 2009, C-print, 28 × 48". From the series “Horizons,” 2001–12.

    Sze Tsung Leong

    Yossi Milo Gallery

    In landscape photography, the horizon line—that inevitable meeting place of earth and sky—is inexorable. Consider early panoramic daguerreotypes by figures such as Friedrich von Martens and William Southgate Porter, the former of the Seine in Paris, 1845, the latter of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, 1848. But while the horizon line may always appear in such images, it is rare to find cases in which it is a work’s explicit focus, the photo’s raison d’être. This is in no small part what makes Sze Tsung Leong’s images so striking. The twenty-nine color works that were on display

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  • View of “Ellie Ga,” 2014.

    Ellie Ga

    Bureau

    What to call it? A preface? A primer? An afterimage? In the corridor leading into, or out of, Ellie Ga’s three-channel video installation Four Thousand Blocks, 2013–14, hung a single white sheet bearing the impress of a text, faintly legible in raking light. It told the story of Thoth, the ibis-headed god who offers an Egyptian king the technology of writing, which, he promises, “will make humans wiser and improve their memories.” The king quickly corrects him. “What you have discovered is not the recipe for memory, but the drug of reminding,” he pronounces. “With your invention, they will be

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  • View of “Jayson Musson,” 2014.

    Jayson Musson

    Salon 94 | Bowery

    If the title of Jayson Musson’s second solo exhibition at this gallery, “Exhibit of Abstract Art,” seems oddly generic, it’s not through any lack of sophistication on the part of its maker; the consciously bland moniker refers to the work of another artist—albeit not one generally considered part of the fine-art canon. Ernie Bushmiller was an American illustrator who created the Nancy newspaper comic strip, a long-running classic of the genre that first appeared in 1938 (and which has also been referred to by other artists—most notably Joe Brainard—with the same affectionate

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  • Peter Dreher, Tag um Tag Guter Tag Nr. 0 (Day) (Day by Day, Good Day Nr. 0 [Day]), 1972, oil on linen, 10 1/2 × 8 3/8".

    Peter Dreher

    Koenig & Clinton

    In her recent collection of essays and interviews, Lynne Tillman filed her interview with German artist Peter Dreher in a chapter titled “U for Unheimlich.” This categorization rather marvelously signals the artist’s main achievement: his transformation of a perfectly ordinary object into something eerie. Dreher has painted the same glass on the same table in his studio every day since 1974, and in so doing, he has made this simple thing deeply unsimple; the recent installation of 134 of these paintings at Koenig & Clinton was nearly vertiginous in its suggestiveness.

    The premise of “Tag um Tag

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  • Sam Pulitzer, Non-Ludic Induction Site, 2014, assorted nineteenth- and twentieth-century antiques, bespoke canvas mattress ticks filled with locally sourced straw, tactical laser, single-suction camera mount, plastic ear gauge, beeswax candle, reclaimed wood, museum-board wall label, hardware, dimensions variable.

    Sam Pulitzer

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    The number of parts that Sam Pulitzer piled into his first US institutional exhibition, “A Colony for ‘Them,’” is so massive that it might take a book to account for them all, never mind the vast amount of text that appeared across the show’s walls. One might go so far as to say, in fact, that this glut of signifiers could be read as a demand that the exhibition not be reviewed, that it would prefer, to borrow a phrase from the critic Dick Hebdige, to continue “hiding in the light.” Hebdige has long written about various subcultures, from mods to punks to skinheads, and Pulitzer himself trades

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  • George Schneeman and Anne Waldman, Imaginary Relish, 2005, mixed media on paper, 19 1/2 × 26".

    George Schneeman

    Poets House

    I HEARD THE VOICE OF THE PORK CHOP SAY, COME UNTO ME AND REST. This block-lettered gospel fills two opposite corners of Pork Chop, 1970–73, a collaborative collage by the painter George Schneeman and the poet Larry Fagin. An upside-down, ochre-colored sofa sectional hovers in the bottom-left corner, while in the top right, a cartoon-strip cel captions a high-speed car crash: WHUMMP!

    A fixture on the scene at St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery, Schneeman (1934–2009) thrived on these kinds of freewheeling collaborations, churning out myriad collages, book covers, and paintings of and alongside

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