reviews

  • Louise Nevelson, Untitled, 1956, cardboard, foil, paint, and wood on board, 46 × 36".

    Louise Nevelson

    Pace | 537 West 24th Street

    On some basic level, every exhibition is about work. But this commanding display of collages and assemblages by Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), encompassing three decades, made work—as in production and profession, and also difficulty—its backbone. For those, like me, who never witnessed Nevelson’s earliest gallery outings in the mid-twentieth century, and who know her art through the monumental, monochrome wall sculptures (primarily painted black) that are a staple of American museum collections, this show was a revelation.

    Central to Nevelson’s untitled collages and assemblages is a

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  • Tal R, Telephone & Mirror, 2014, oil on canvas, 38 1/4 × 30 3/4".

    Tal R

    Cheim & Read

    “I want to make concrete rooms where the experience is absolutely abstract,” says Tal R. I wonder whether the Israeli-born Danish artist realizes that his aspiration is the reverse of that which was held by the American poet Marianne Moore, who famously desired to create “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Not a fiction, then, “with a place for the genuine” in it, but a genuine place capable of housing the notional and ideal. Still, Tal R also seems to be, in his own way, one of those whom Moore called “literalists of the imagination.”

    The “absolutely abstract” inhabiting the space of

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  • Uche Okeke, Nok Suite – Bornu Woman, 1958, ink on paper, 7 1/2 × 5". From “Nok Suite,” 1958–59.

    Uche Okeke

    Skoto Gallery

    Born in 1933, Uche Okeke is one of the leading figures in Nigerian art. He remains little known in the United States, despite a 2006 exhibition at the Newark Museum. That show was called “Another Modernity,” and while I understand the thinking behind the title—a plea for an expansion of the conventional understanding of modernism, a reminder to stop forgetting to look beyond the familiar terrain of Europe and North America—there’s something misleading about it, too. At least so it seemed to me after visiting this eye-opening survey of Okeke’s works on paper from 1958 through 1993. It’s

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  • Robert Kushner, Midnight in the Huntington Library Cactus Garden, 2014, oil, acrylic, and gold leaf on canvas, 9 × 11'.

    Robert Kushner

    DC Moore Gallery

    Robert Kushner’s last exhibition at this gallery, in the winter of 2012–13, was austere by his standards, leaning heavily on a grisaille palette said to have been inspired by the spare black-and-white paintings of Willem de Kooning, so powerfully grouped in the retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York the previous year. Between finishing those works and conceiving the recent show, Kushner visited a painter friend, respected and senior, who told him, “You’ve been doing the same thing too long. . . . Go more Baroque.” (He tells the story in a talk posted on the gallery’s website.)

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  • Tyson Reeder, Chopper, 2014, mixed media on canvas, 52 × 71".

    Tyson Reeder

    CANADA

    Pierre Bonnard once claimed that he would like to “arrive in front of the young painters of the year 2000 on the wings of a butterfly.” Had he done so, there’s a fair chance he would have presented himself to Tyson Reeder. Chopper (all works 2014), on view in Reeder’s recent show at Canada, is a cheerfully nostalgic painting of a motorcycle with a comically elongated front end, seen against a checkered backdrop of graphite and paint in yellow, mustard, and green over a lilac underpainting that summons the lysergic tiling of Bonnard’s Nude in the Bath, 1936–38. The French artist is one of the

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  • View of “Ryan McNamara,” 2015.

    Ryan McNamara

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    “This guy,” says Ryan McNamara, holding up a small black-and-white photographic cutout, “was a contestant in a dance contest I held in Buenos Aires. The entire dance floor was full of 150 people all melting on top of each other and rolling all over each other.” The fond recollection, and the frenetic clip that follows it, appears in a video on McNamara’s website in which the artist introduces his practice, a singular blend of image- and object making, dance and performance, choreography and participation. McNamara’s recent exhibition “Gently Used” may have seemed like an odd fit for this uptown

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  • Jason Kraus, Untitled Object 1, 2014, KoskiDecor, toy helicopter, binoculars, books, 18 × 28 × 9 1/4".

    Jason Kraus

    Greenspon

    Titled “Finished Objects,” Jason Kraus’s recent exhibition certainly had a degree of polish, in that the show also incorporated mass-produced artifacts that are “finished” insofar as they have already been manufactured, bought, sold, and sometimes used—but these sculptural groupings are hardly an end point. Rather, they represent just the most recent stage in a system of acquisition, combination, and presentation that extends back to previous bodies of work and seems unlikely to stop with this one. The show’s five pieces, all from 2014, were assemblages of consumer goods encased in shelving

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  • View of “Call and Response,” 2015.

    “Call and Response”

    Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown

    To survey painting in 2015 is to take on a seemingly impossible task. How to sort through its stylistic shifts, its post-medium-specific mutability, its disorienting variousness? How to define painting’s boundaries? What could one possibly say? One well-trod approach is to make no claims at all: Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. And that, broadly speaking, was the route followed by “Call and Response,” a show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise that presented some fifty artworks made in the past few years in a cacophonous mishmash of a salon-style hang. Instead of cohering around

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  • Jack Pierson, Hang On to Your Ego No. 3, 1997, acrylic lacquer on canvas, 84 × 112".

    Jack Pierson

    Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street

    Jack Pierson’s recent show, presented in collaboration with Cheim & Read, brought together ten works the artist created between 1997 and 2002. Although the artist calls these pieces “paintings,” they are, in fact, amalgams of painting, photography, and film; Pierson took photos and video stills and enlisted a billboard-production company to print the pictures on canvas using acrylic lacquer. There are grainy renderings of the surface of water, a swarm of jellyfish, brilliantly pink flowers, Courtney Love’s shiny, lipstick-besmirched mouth. Most explicitly erotic is a series of close-ups of the

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  • Erwin Olaf, Keyhole 3, 2011, C-print, 44 1/2 × 33".

    Erwin Olaf

    Hasted Kraeutler

    At once staged and manicured, Erwin Olaf’s photographs put us in a suspenseful space. The key to this exhibition—and, more specifically, to nine of the twenty-two works on view—was a video clip in the multimedia installation Waiting, 2014, which shows a young woman, her clothes stylishly simple, her expression demure and revealing her to be lost in self-absorption, sitting at a table in a chic restaurant. The chair opposite her is empty; she’s waiting for someone—presumably a male companion as handsome as she is beautiful—to join her. We, the spectators, face her, but she’s

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  • Hugh Steers, Morning Terrace, 1992, oil on canvas, 72 × 54".

    Hugh Steers

    Alexander Gray Associates

    New York City’s cramped tenement apartments were the standard setting for painter Hugh Steers (1962–1995). Within these intimate environs, Steers most often depicted male figures—alone or in pairs—in various states of solemn embrace and ailing woe, evoking the emotional carnage of the AIDS crisis, which ravaged the queer community and claimed Steers’s own life when he was thirty-two. For the exhibition “Day Light” at Alexander Gray Associates, these signature interior scenes were paired with a lesser-known group of outdoor pieces Steers made while in residence at the Skowhegan School

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  • Francesco Vezzoli, TRUE COLORS (A Marble Head of the Resting Satyr, circa Late 1st Century A.D.), 2014, painted marble, 7 × 15 3/4 × 7 3/4".

    Francesco Vezzoli

    MoMA PS1

    Francesco Vezzoli is an ambitious artist, to be sure. A case in point is the fraught history of his recent exhibition at MoMA PS1: In 2013, the Milan-based artist sought to purchase the ruins of a nineteenth-century southern Italian church, ship the entire thing to New York City, and rebuild the structure in the museum’s courtyard, where he would exhibit his videos. But the dream was not to be: Italian courts, concerned with cultural preservation, intervened and halted the action. Until then, it seemed Vezzoli was unstoppable in achieving his visions of excess.

    Enter “Teatro Romano”: Staged in

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