reviews

  • Lucie Stahl, Shroom Cloud Hands (Purple), 2014, polyurethane, acrylic, 10 1/2 × 6 × 3 1/2".

    Lucie Stahl

    Queer Thoughts

    Lucie Stahl’s exhibition at the venerated apartment gallery Queer Thoughts in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood was a fitting last project before the gallery relocates to downtown Manhattan. Known for featuring work that embraces the shape-shifting properties associated with the concept of “postidentity,” Queer Thoughts reaffirmed its agenda with a corporeally charged installation punctuated by several cast-polyurethane molds of hands and faces and three of Stahl’s characteristic polymer-coated ink-jet prints of body parts submerged in gel. Stahl ferreted into the private domain of the third-floor

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  • View of “Chris Ofili: Night and Day,” 2014–15. From left: No Woman, No Cry, 1998; The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996. Photo: Maris Hutchinson/EPW.

    Chris Ofili

    New Museum

    CHRIS OFILI is one of a tiny handful of living artists whose work has, however briefly, entered what passes in this country for “political discourse.” In the more than fifteen years since the tempest in a teapot initiated by Rudolph Giuliani’s “outrage” at the inclusion of Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996, in the 1999 exhibition “Sensation” at the Brooklyn Museum, no other artist has been framed for such blasphemy. Meanwhile, Ofili’s approach to painting and his philosophical agenda have been quietly evolving, encompassing both more personal and more historical areas of association.

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  • View of “Sturtevant: Double Trouble,” 2014–15. From left: Finite Infinite, 2010; Johns Target with Four Faces (study), 1986; Warhol Cow Paper, 1996. © Estate Sturtevant, Paris.

    Sturtevant

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    WHAT BECOMES A LEGEND MOST? For years, the artwork, actions, and life of Sturtevant operated like a trade secret, quietly scrambling preconceived notions of the origin of appropriation. Having been one of the first postwar artists to create paintings and sculptures that other artists had already created, she now appears to be the matriarch of a postmodern brand of screwing around with Serious Things. Like the recently revived work of pseudonymous artist Vern Blosum, Sturtevant’s “deliberate imitations” (as described by Lil Picard in a 1965 review) have increasingly been adopted by those seeking

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  • Ray Johnson, Untitled (Campbell’s Soup with Cut-Out Circles), 1973–88, collage on illustration board, 19 × 17".

    Ray Johnson

    Richard L. Feigen & Co

    Ray Johnson (1927–1995) has been an artist of compelling interest since the mid-1950s, thanks to two premonitory Pop collages, one depicting Elvis Presley, the other James Dean. Yet for all the acclaim they have received, these pieces stand apart from the larger body of Johnson’s oeuvre, which comprises works that, over time, revealed an intricate tissue of affinities, a network made visible in his diligent Lists of Names, a particular Johnsonian genre. Such is what they are—literal lists of names, mainly those of art-world personalities, each denominated one below the other or punctuated

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  • Ha Chonghyun, Conjunction 77–17, 1977, oil on canvas, 63 × 47 1/4".

    Ha Chonghyun

    Blum & Poe | New York

    This selection of nine paintings made between 1977 and 2009 was the first North American exhibition of the work of Ha Chonghyun, a Korean painter born in 1935. As such, it could hardly claim to offer an overview of the artist’s career, but it made a convincing case that he is an artist of the first rank, whose Western peers would include the likes of Giorgio Griffa and Robert Ryman: artists who have put the ways and means of painting to the test but never coolly, always with ardor. Like many Korean abstractionists, Ha expresses the steadfastness of his intention—his ongoing project rising

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  • View of “Marina Abramović,” 2014.

    Marina Abramović

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    The two trajectories that perhaps best describe the last half decade or so of Marina Abramović’s career converged almost too tidily in Generator, the artist’s recent installation/performance at Sean Kelly and her first solo show in the city since her blockbuster 2010 retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. There’s no question that that exhibition transformed the estimable performance pioneer into arguably the art world’s biggest pop-culture celebrity. Yet the emergence of her new identity as crossover diva/consciousness-raising guru—complete with an OMA-designed “institute” and

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  • Vivian Maier, Untitled, 1960–76, C-print, 3 1/8 × 4 3/4".

    Vivian Maier

    Howard Greenberg Gallery

    The recent exhibition of photographer Vivian Maier’s work was titled “In Her Own Hands”—exactly, at least on the surface, what the show was not. Maier (1926–2009) took tens of thousands of photographs while working as a nanny; she famously left behind a defaulted storage unit that included some prints and many more rolls of film that are now at the center of a debate between two different caretakers. Most of the works in this exhibition (dating from the early 1950s to the ’70s) have never before been shown and were printed last year, under the direction of John Maloof, by master printer

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  • Steve Gianakos, It Was Hard to Tell What She Was Thinking, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 36".

    Steve Gianakos

    Fredericks & Freiser

    The cartoonlike paintings that Steve Gianakos has been making since the early 1970s have long been perverse, and this particular group seems to me no more or less so than earlier ones. But it ranks with the best of his work in its formal intelligence, and in the friction that quality creates with its decidedly sordid content. Like those Hitchcock films so artfully constructed that you find yourself rooting for the criminal, the paintings are utterly involving, but the viewer who enjoys them may end up feeling queasy about himself. The issues Gianakos is raising, though, are never far from the

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  • View of “Greer Lankton,” 2014.

    Greer Lankton

    PARTICIPANT INC

    Greer Lankton created a world that she wanted to live in. The often life-size dolls that peopled this exhibition, which was high on many people’s favorites lists for 2014, have a psychic charge that speaks of needs and ambitions not only aesthetic but immediate and personal, as if in making these sculptures she’d been making beings to give herself company and support. Should the thought arise that this turns them into something other than art—therapy, perhaps—I would quickly dismiss it: The feeling of entering a previously unimagined dimension that its maker has realized and worked

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  • View of “Francesco Clemente,” 2014. From left: Angels’ Tent, 2013–14; Devil’s Tent, 2013–14.

    Francesco Clemente

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Two tents stood alongside each other at Mary Boone Gallery’s Chelsea space, facing off like opposing armies. Recalling the tents in Mogul gardens (if not the camouflage tents still in use by the Indian military), these richly evocative cloth structures were masterfully crafted. To produce them, Francesco Clemente collaborated with artisans from Jodhpur, India, using techniques such as block printing and embroidery. Then he painted sprawling, multipaneled mural-like pictures on the interior walls. These designs, drawing from a globe-spanning range of references (Christian religious tradition,

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  • Nicolás Guagnini, David, 2014, vitrified glazed ceramic, book, 8 1/2 × 7 1/2 × 6".

    Nicolás Guagnini

    Bortolami Gallery

    “Who’s screwing whom?” I wondered as I observed the slightly oversize ceramic conversation pieces that occupied the main space of Nicolás Guagnini’s recent exhibition at Bortolami. Formed from an inventory of feet, noses, ears, and penises, these maudlin assemblages of appendages invert Deleuze’s euphoric idea of a body without organs, offering heaps of organs without bodies instead. Handcrafted and doused in a series of variegated vitrified glazes—molten lava reds and drippy ectoplasmic greens—these works, like so much artwork today, insist on a deep interest in a kind of lo-fi

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  • Aki Sasamoto, Wrong Happy Hour, 2014. Performance view, November 2, 2014.

    Aki Sasamoto

    JTT

    With its Emeralite-green pendant lamps overhead and its chalkboard sidewalk sign, the mise-en-scène at Aki Sasamoto’s recent performances at JTT’s living-room-size space held the promise of a particularly cozy strain of relational art: the gallery as site for a libation-fueled, slightly sweaty gathering meant to foster conviviality. That impression only grew as the artist—before launching into her signature mix of monologue, febrile live drawing, and interactions with everyday objects—began by serving fresh-brewed espresso while a Stan Getz and João Gilberto track played in the

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  • James Hoff, Skywiper No. 7, 2014, ChromaLuxe transfer on aluminum, 30 × 24".

    James Hoff

    Callicoon Fine Arts

    Clement Greenberg, 1960: “The first mark made on a canvas destroys its literal and utter flatness, and the result of the marks made on it by an artist like Mondrian is still a kind of illusion that suggests a kind of third dimension. Only now it is a strictly pictorial, strictly optical third dimension.” Here Greenberg fastidiously refined his earlier pronouncements on painting’s intrinsic qualities. The picture plane’s “heightened sensitivity,” he explained, was such that even the taut weaves of Mondrian’s last compositions still induced the pleasant vertigo of illusory depth—albeit a “

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  • Peter Blume, Poppies #1, 1964, ink and chalk on colored paper, 9 3/4 × 13".

    Peter Blume

    ACA Galleries

    The most surprising works in this exhibition of Peter Blume’s art were the drawings, which were made with an exquisitely fine-tuned hand, an ingeniously variable touch—sometimes delicate, sometimes firm. Intense and self-dramatizing, these pieces seem to incubate a grand gesture even as they evince a keen command of nuanced observation. Blume is conventionally thought of as a social realist, but it is clear from such drawings as Untitled (Town and Woods), 1937, and Allegheny Range, 1938, that he was also a descriptive realist.

    The pencil-on-paper work Man with Camera, ca. 1938, shows just

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  • Derrick Alexis Coard, Let My Hair Grow, 2013, graphite and pastel on paper, 18 × 24".

    Derrick Alexis Coard

    White Columns

    “My work is a form of testimonial where black men can be seen in a more positive and righteous light.” So says Derrick Alexis Coard, a Brooklyn artist who since 2006 has been affiliated with Healing Arts Initiative (HAI), a New York–based agency that works with artists who suffer from mental illness or developmental disability, or who are of advanced age. Coard’s use of the word righteous reveals his spiritual leanings, as does his account of discovering that “the bearded look is the image God favored when speaking through Moses.” The artist began making drawings of imaginary bearded black men

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  • View of “Learn to Read Art: A Surviving History of Printed Matter,” 2014–15.

    “Learn to Read Art: A Surviving History of Printed Matter”

    80WSE Gallery, NYU Steinhardt School

    “We had this dream that artists’ books would be in drugstores and airports,” said Lucy R. Lippard a few years ago when I asked her about the early days of Printed Matter, Inc. A founder of the venerable institution in 1976—along with Carl Andre, Edit deAk, Sol LeWitt, Walter Robinson, Pat Steir, Mimi Wheeler, Robin White, and Irena von Zahn—Lippard noted that she hadn’t anticipated back then how these “scribbled little things, misspelled texts, Xeroxes, and so forth” would go on to find their markets. But every format eventually does. If the crowds at the Printed Matter NY Art Book

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