reviews

  • View of “Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga,” 2015, Dallas Museum of Art. From left: Kazuo Shiraga, Kan’uncho, 1984; Kazuo Shiraga, Fuso, 1986; Kazuo Shiraga, Imayo Ranbu, 2000. Photo: Chad Redmon.

    Kazuo Shiraga

    Various Venues

    THE GUTAI GROUP may be the cicadas of postwar art—forever cycling through visibility and obscurity, suddenly bursting into view every ten years or so. Buoyed by the attentions of critic and curator Michel Tapié, the group formed in Ashiya, Japan, in 1954, and made their New York debut at the Martha Jackson Gallery just four years later, only to be summarily dismissed as latecomers to the Abstract Expressionist party. Nearly a decade later, they resurfaced in New York again, in “New Japanese Painting and Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art, but that too proved a short-lived spotlight,

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  • Peter Saul, The Government of California, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 68 × 96".

    Peter Saul

    Venus

    The wonderful exhibition “Peter Saul: From Pop to Punk”—challenging, engrossing, troubling—which consisted of sixteen ambitious paintings and five equally ambitious drawings from the 1960s and ’70s, was woefully mistitled: There was nothing waywardly adolescent about this show, nothing punk, as I understand the meaning of both word and style. Indeed, with the passage of half a century, these paintings seem even more centered and gravely pertinent—prescient, even—given the ghastly world we now live in than they did when they were first championed by Allan Frumkin, the placid

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  • View of “Claudia Comte,” 2015.

    Claudia Comte

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    On a frigid day in March, Claudia Comte’s exhibition “NO MELON NO LEMON” provided a welcome respite from the gray of overcast skies and concrete construction. The yellow-and-white-striped paintings hanging on yellow-and-white-striped walls made the room feel sun blasted, the burnout effect pleasingly tempered by charred plywood panels banded by vertical cuts. Lustrous wood totems à la Jean Arp and Brancusi stood on plinths that seemed to have folded out from the panels, revealing the white wall beneath. These plinths, the strongest component of the exhibition, reinforced the tactility of both

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  • Lutz Bacher, Empire (detail), 2014, Plexiglas, sandbags, two-channel digital video (color, sound, 43 minutes 1 second), dimensions variable. Installation view.

    Lutz Bacher

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    One summer evening in 1964, at the suggestion of his friends, Andy Warhol trained a rented 16-millimeter camera on the Empire State Building, shooting the monolith for hours on end. The resulting film, Empire, 1964, is a study as much in cinematographic looking as it is on the properties of film itself; though the image of the building at night is otherwise fixed, small dramas play out through exposure, the shifting of light over time, and the slight jumpiness of the image as the celluloid passes through the projector.

    The centerpiece of Lutz Bacher’s exhibition “For the People of New York

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  • Lucy Mackenzie, Modern Art, 2010, oil on board, 3 1/2 × 5 1/4".

    Lucy Mackenzie

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Not only does Lucy Mackenzie’s work fall into an age-old genre, the still life, but it is old-style in being resolutely and exactingly realistic, sometimes to the point of trompe l’oeil. These paintings and drawings are small—most of those in this show had dimensions roughly in the three-to-seven-inch range, with the unusual largest scraping up to a bit over ten—and the paintings were made not on canvas but on board, giving them a subtle solidity. Small, subtly solid, and treated with clear and precise color by an extremely careful hand: These are jewel-like little objects, instantly

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  • Peter Alexander, Jefferson, 1992, acrylic on panel, 18 × 20".

    Peter Alexander

    Franklin Parrasch Gallery

    Born in 1939, Peter Alexander came of age in the Los Angeles art world of the 1960s, and is primarily known for his association with the Light and Space movement. Whereas many of his colleagues, including Robert Irwin, James Turrell, and Doug Wheeler, dispensed with the art object in order to fashion ethereal, seemingly immaterial environments, Alexander took an opposite tack, condensing atmospheres into hard chunks of resin and polyester. In works such as Cloud Box, 1966, he pictured the natural environment by injecting cumulus puffs into otherwise pristine plastics. Soon after, he did away

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  • Marsha Cottrell, Old Museum (Interior_7), 2015, laser toner on paper, 9 1/4 × 11 1/2".

    Marsha Cottrell

    Eleven Rivington

    A polestar is something that’s the main attraction. And ancient technology: Visible to the naked eye, it aligns with the vertical axes of the earth’s rotation, burning at due north to guide you home if your compass (or GPS) conks out. Because stars drift and die, and the planet spins and spins, the polestar’s identity changes over time.

    Astronomy came to my mind at Marsha Cottrell’s strong exhibition, and not just because her works, with their gauzy orbs and crepuscular rays, invoke what’s beautiful and abstract about the field, from early-nineteenth-century celestial diagrams to a view of the

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  • Sascha Braunig, Troll, 2014, oil on linen over panel, 15 × 12".

    Sascha Braunig

    Foxy Production

    One of the drawbacks of having been an art critic for a long time is that you sometimes forget what decade you’re standing in. When I walked into Sascha Braunig’s recent exhibition, her third in New York but the first I’ve seen, I imagined for a moment that I was back in the 1980s—specifically, in that brief interregnum between neo-expressionism and neo-geo, when what was called neo-Surrealism was the rage, and artists such as Will Mentor, Peter Schuyff, and Tishan Hsu seemed ubiquitous. Their work was typically a curiously manneristic amalgam of organicism, geometry, and Op illusion—a

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  • Nancy Lupo, Super Realistic Deluxe Salmon, 2015, Bumbo baby floor seats, Soylent (open-source formula 1.0), Magic-Smooth, imitation sushi, 10 × 42 × 15".

    Nancy Lupo

    Wallspace

    Arresting, disconcerting, and nominally childproof, the centerpiece of Nancy Lupo’s debut exhibition at Wallspace was a suite of sculptures composed of Bumbo-brand baby floor seats (all works 2015). These small, ergonomic plastic chairs were arranged on the floor in short chains of three, four, and five, and sat variously upside down or right-side up. They also looked unnervingly sticky: Lupo covered the seats in Soylent 1.0, the beige, mineral-rich meal-replacement paste invented by a group of impoverished tech entrepreneurs in San Francisco, who released it as an open-source recipe. Each chain

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  • Gaetano Pesce, Foam Table, 2014, urethane foam, metal, PVC, 29 1/2 × 58 1/4 × 102 1/2".

    Gaetano Pesce

    Allouche Gallery

    Few buzzwords encapsulate the totalizing ambitions of the data economy as effectively as customization. Indeed, the idea that any given product could be individually tailored to the desires of a particular consumer seems to describe the inevitable end point of an age already defined by algorithmically targeted advertising and on-demand content. And this fantasy is fast becoming a reality in many branches of product design, in which new technologies such as 3-D-printing and robotic assembly promise to retain the low cost and efficiency of standardized industrial production while generating an

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  • Win McCarthy, Hard Enough, 2015, Plasticine, resin, ink-jet-printed acetate, lag bolts, Hydrocal, 15 1/2 × 61 × 2".

    Win McCarthy

    Off Vendome

    A signal addition amid the recent vogue for neo-Surrealist sculpture, Win McCarthy’s recent show at Off Vendome came across as a kind of queasy, provisional self-portraiture. The relief Hard Enough (all works 2015) introduced the exhibition’s basic formal and material vocabulary: Roughly five feet across and one foot high, it is a shallow Plasticine dish that has been filled with clear resin, oriented vertically, and then bolted to the wall. Transparent acetate strips on its surface display ink-jet-printed designs—the picture of a face, scrawled lettering, and circles containing the words

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  • Walter Darby Bannard, Marriage #3, 1961, alkyd resin on canvas, 66 3/4 × 62 3/4".

    Walter Darby Bannard

    Berry Campbell

    Walter Darby Bannard made a big splash with the abstractions he painted following his graduation from Princeton University in 1956. In the mid-1960s, his work, which featured, in Bannard’s own words, “plain, simple, symmetrical in-your-face color,” was included in historically important group exhibitions such as “Post-Painterly Abstraction” (1964), and “The Responsive Eye” (1965), organized, respectively, by critic Clement Greenberg and curator William C. Seitz.

    A dozen or so canvases from 1958 to 1965 that were on view recently at Berry Campbell made it clear why Bannard, who is now eighty, was

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  • Dusty Boynton, Growing Up, 2014, mixed media on paper, 34 × 26".

    Dusty Boynton

    Denise Bibro Fine Art

    The first, most immediately striking quality of Dusty Boynton’s expressionist paintings is the forcefulness of her line: See, for instance, the pitch-black contours of the ghostly figures in Sunny Daze, 2014, or the clever interplay of rambling black and red lines in Drawing Class, 2015. This deft draftsmanship appears alongside outbursts of bright color, as in the garish red-lipstick smears that form the mouths of the female faces in Headstand, 2014, and Anything’s Possible, 2015, or the red blemishes that strangely spot the face of Potato Head, 2015.

    Of the thirty-three works in this exhibition

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  • View of “Athanasios Argianas,” 2015. From left: Song Machine (A Chair for Your Memory) No. 3, 2015; (Mute) Pause Series No. 1, 2015; Song Machine (A Chair for Your Memory) No. 4, 2015.

    Athanasios Argianas

    On Stellar Rays

    In his sophomore exhibition at this gallery, “Swimmer’s Arms Are Oars,” the Athens-born Athanasios Argianas continued to explore “the space between the senses” in an elegant group of sculptures, photographs, and works on paper that jibe with his dual roles of visual artist and electroacoustic-pop composer. Argianas’s practice combines a fascination with the resonance of fragmented language—the shards of text that he incorporates (often almost invisibly) into his objects evoke snatches of overheard conversation—with a sensitivity to physical proportion and the interaction of built

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