reviews

  • View of “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s,” 2014–15, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. From left: Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Drum), 1969; Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Satellite), 1969. Photo: David Heald. All Otto Piene works © Otto Piene/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Germany.

    “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    RATHER THAN ARTWORKS, visitors entering the ambitious “ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s” exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York were immediately confronted by a large glowing screen. Mesmerically cycling (and visible from either side), the projection showed a celebratory crowd of mostly young people standing on a nighttime street—cute girls in strange outfits stamped with the number 0, a man swabbing the same 0 onto the pavement with white paint, a group launching an oddly shaped hot-air balloon into the sky. Made for the Hier und heute (Here and Today) television

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  • View of “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World,” 2014–15. Floor, foreground: Paintings by Oscar Murillo, 2012–14. Left wall: Oscar Murillo, 1/2, 2014. Background: Kerstin Brätsch, Sigi’s Erben (Agate Psychics), 2012. Photo: John Wronn.

    “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD—it’s only a click away. And the artists in “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World” immerse themselves in a networked, GIFed-up history that’s as promiscuously accessible as it is screen-deep. Contemporary culture, claims the show’s curator, Laura Hoptman, is defined by the compulsion to synthesize disparate historical tropes. Ergo, for artists today, movements such as AbEx, Minimalism, Constructivism, Fauvism, and De Stijl are no longer landmark steps along modernism’s teleological progression, but tools in a toolbar or colors in a palette. The

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  • R. H. Quaytman, O Tópico, Chapter 27, 2014, encaustic, gouache, oil, silk-screen ink, and gesso on panel, 24 3/4 × 40".

    R. H. Quaytman

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    In Tristes Tropiques, Claude Lévi-Strauss recalls how little he knew of Brazil before he moved there. “In my imagination,” he writes, “I associated Brazil with clumps of twisted palm trees concealing bizarrely designed kiosks and pavilions.” Oddly enough, a painting in R. H. Quaytman’s exhibition “O Tópico, Chapter 27” included a silk screen of just such an image, a Polaroid she took of Hélio Oiticica’s Penetravel Magic Square no. 5 De Luxe, 1977. The work’s stark geometry cuts through the foliage at Inhotim, the vast art park in Minas Gerais. The contents of Quaytman’s show were headed there

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  • Albert York, Landscape with Two Pink Carnations in a Glass Goblet, 1983, oil on wood, 12 7/8 × 12".

    Albert York

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    When Calvin Tomkins profiled Albert York for the New Yorker in 1995, the artist had shown regularly since 1963 and had acquired a quite glamorous collector base. But he was a private man and his work is private, too, even while instantly entrancing (one of its many paradoxes), and he was also a painter of apparently calm figurative scenes, landscapes, and floral still lifes mostly around a foot or so tall and wide—this in the period of Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual art. Despite York’s relative success, then, he was obscure—hence Tomkins’s neat and again paradoxical description of

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  • Keith Sonnier, Ju-Ju, 1970, cheesecloth, black lights, glass, 7' 4“ × 12' 6” × 1' 4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    Keith Sonnier

    Castelli Gallery

    A bit of backstory is in order. Leo Castelli’s response to post-Minimalism (notably, to the work of Richard Serra) was to arrange for exhibitions of the new style in a former art shipper’s warehouse located in west Harlem. The raw, garage-like space of Hague Movers perfectly accommodated the vastly expanded scale and the light-infused and propulsively distributed forms of the new dispensation.

    Robert Morris is particularly germane to the present exhibition of Keith Sonnier’s early work; Morris inaugurated the “alternative” Castelli Warehouse space in December 1968, as curator of the exhibition

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  • View of “Judith Scott,” 2014–15.

    Judith Scott

    Brooklyn Museum

    The effects of an artist’s biography on his or her reception may be uncertain but they are hardly insignificant, and “Bound and Unbound,” the outstanding survey of the work of the sculptor Judith Scott at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, brings crucial questions about the relation of artmaking to language, affect, and intentionality—the very sort of phenomena that underpin the character of our intersubjectivity—into disorienting focus. Organized by the Sackler’s Catherine Morris and White Columns’ Matthew Higgs, the show comprises several dozen of

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  • Jan Schoonhoven, Relief, 1964, wood, cardboard, paper, emulsion paint, 20 1/4 × 10 7/8 × 1 3/4".

    Jan Schoonhoven

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Writing in 1965 about his friend and fellow cofounder of the Dutch Group Nul (Zero), Henk Peeters recalled the words of Jan Schoonhoven’s supervisor at the Dutch postal service, where Schoonhoven was employed from 1946 until his retirement in 1979: “There are no better bureaucrats than Schoonhoven, who pursues his work with such scrupulous precision.” For an artist committed to removing both content and intent from his work, such praise was high indeed. As the selection of handmade reliefs and drawings at David Zwirner made clear, Schoonhoven, who died in 1994, never strove for an aesthetics of

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  • Saira McLaren, Untitled (Bright Brush), 2014, pigment and dye on raw canvas, 64 × 59".

    Saira McLaren

    Sargent's Daughters

    Saira McLaren’s show saved my sober January. Here were nine bibulous paintings: raw canvas sponges that had absorbed several centuries of landscape tradition and were drunk on garish color but still quick on their feet. (Birds in Spring carries the date of 2015, as if brought into the gallery still wet from the studio; all the other works were from 2014.) Looking like Gilded Age scholars’ rocks, three slumped and shimmering ceramics accompanied the paintings. The overall effect was of a seasonal shift, when buds begin to break through frost and everything seems to be dripping and dazzlingly

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  • Michael Wang, NKEADDYY, 2013, certificate, powder-coated aluminum, knit athletic shoes, 5 1/4“ × 14' 2 3/4” × 5 1/4".

    Michael Wang

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    If Rite-Aid had ever taken a chance on Donald Judd, Carl Andre, or Haim Steinbach as shelf stockers, your local drugstore might have looked something like “Rivals,” Michael Wang’s recent exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery’s compact annex space. Ranged around the walls were five immaculate powder-coated aluminum display units tailored to the containment of selected consumer goods—cigarettes, sneakers, painkillers, bottled water, and nail polish, respectively. Each extended row of objects consists of multiple identical examples of equivalent products manufactured by a pair of rival corporations,

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  • Yael Bartana, True Finn, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 50 minutes.

    Yael Bartana

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    At once persuasive and complex, Yael Bartana’s films and videos come off as more than mere intellectual exercises. Seeking to directly effect social change, Bartana enlists the services of actors and nonactors alike, whether for documentaries, as in her recent analysis of Finnish identity, True Finn, 2014, or for works that collapse fact and fiction, as in Inferno, 2013. Her latest New York exhibition featured both these videos, which allude, like her previous output, to the various “demographic threats” ongoing in the world; the thorny question of citizenship, of being a body that matters, has

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  • Jiří Georg Dokoupil, Plukasibo, 2014, soap lye and pigment on canvas, 78 3/4 × 57 1/8".

    Jiří Georg Dokoupil

    Kasmin Gallery | 515 27th Street

    It’s hard to believe that the abstract Plukasibo, 2014 (which was on view in this show), and the cartoonish Der Leser (The Reader), 1981 (which was not), were made by the same painter—the Czech-born German artist Jiří Georg Dokoupil. One of the six artists in the Mülheimer Freiheit group and a leader of the aggressive Junge Wilde, Dokoupil made his reputation as a figurative painter, rendering the human form sometimes as a quasi-surrealist comic monster, sometimes in the manner of realist kitsch. Generally, his paintings were designed to provoke, their targets ranging from the art world (

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  • David Weiss, Untitled, 1979, ink and gouache on paper, 36 1/2 × 52 3/4".

    David Weiss

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Before there was Fischli & Weiss, there were Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Fischli was still only in his twenties when they began collaborating in 1979, so presumably his solo oeuvre was as yet rather small. Weiss, on the other hand, was already thirty-three. And, as it turns out, he had already been quite prolific, if only on paper, despite the fact that, as Stephan Kunz writes in the catalogue for “David Weiss: Works, 1968–1979”—which was previously shown at the Bündner Kunstmuseum in Chur, Switzerland, where Kunz is the director—his “entry into the world of art did not follow a

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  • Mike Nelson, Gang of Seven, 2013, mixed media. Installation view.

    Mike Nelson

    303 Gallery

    Though perhaps not beautiful in the classic SoCal sense of surfably blue waters and dazzling sunsets, nor, for that matter, in the East Coast manner of the beach-plum and sand-dune William Merritt Chase picturesque, the shoreline running from Oregon to Canada—that of the Pacific Northwest—is nevertheless marked by an arrestingly despondent strangeness. It is a place of gloom and doom and endless drizzle, of creeping moss, decay, and rot. It is home to primordially large crabs and ironlike mist, and to survivalist ecotopias and motorcycle gangs. Littered with hunks of bone-white driftwood

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  • Mary Lum, Villa La Roche, 2014, mixed media on paper, 9 × 12".

    Mary Lum

    Yancey Richardson Gallery

    The sixteen works created by Mary Lum for her latest exhibition are part collage, part (often the larger part) painting. Angular blocks of flatly applied acrylic surround photographs and strips cut from comic books that portray fragments of the urban environment: anonymous intersections and a ribbon of paint-spattered wall, precariously tilted buildings and a concrete staircase turned dizzyingly on its head. The artist’s preferred haunts—New York, Paris, and London (Detroit also makes a brief appearance)—are identified only by the works’ titles, for Lum rigorously avoids recognizable

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  • Anna K.E., Unfinished Smile, 2014, varnished tiles, Lycra, wood, video projection, ink-jet print. Installation view. From “No entrance, no exit.”

    “No entrance, no exit”

    The Kitchen

    Today the membrane that screens private space from public has disintegrated to almost nothing. You could say it’s as thin as a layer of liquid crystal. Still, slight as it might be, it’s in this diminished borderland that “No entrance, no exit,” an exhibition of works at the Kitchen by Anna K.E., Alina Tenser, and Viola Yeşiltaç, was set. Each artist responded to the pervasive atmosphere of publicity in our present moment: one in which we have begun to accept that much of our activity is captured, distributed, and analyzed and in which we are virtually powerless to the fact that our every move

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