reviews

  • Robert Motherwell, Open No. 16: In Ultramarine with Charcoal Line, 1968, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 8' 3 1/2“ × 15' 6 1/2”. © Estate of Robert Motherwell/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

    Robert Motherwell

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    “Although he is underrated today, in my opinion he was one of the very best of the Abstract Expressionist painters.” Clement Greenberg’s widely cited assessment of Robert Motherwell’s work from 1991 is generally perceived as high praise, though its careful formulation corresponds to my own sense of restraint about the artist’s work, even when faced with this selection of “Opens,” 1967–74, arguably the painter’s most daring thematic group.

    This ambivalence may owe in part to reasons more biographical than visual. Unlike the majority of his Abstract Expressionist confrères, so marked by first-generation

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  • Alex Katz, Black Brook 18, 2014, oil on linen, 96 × 120".

    Alex Katz

    Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown

    Alex Katz’s glorious exhibition at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise this past spring reminded us why we should just surrender to enjoying the compact range of this artist’s long view. The paintings that were on display, all but one from 2013 or 2014, offer a bourgeois dream of a year in the country: a glowing cabin on the lake, a barn in winter, a house at the edge of a field in summer. (Giving these pastoral scenes an uncanny afterlife, the gallery brought live horses to the same space for its next show, restaging Jannis Kounellis’s Untitled [12 Horses], 1969—a tremendous last hurrah before GBE’s

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  • Simon Hantaï, Meun, 1968, oil on canvas, 100 3/8 × 88 5/8".

    Simon Hantaï

    Mnuchin Gallery

    This posthumous solo show, Simon Hantaï’s first at Mnuchin Gallery, offered a clear indication of the Hungarian-born French painter’s growing status in New York. Cocurated by Alfred Pacquement—the former Musée National d’Art Moderne director who previously helped organize the artist’s 2013 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou—and uniting fourteen large-format paintings, the exhibition tracked Hantaï’s production in the crucial years 1960–71, when he developed his signature practice of pliage: painting variously crumpled or knotted canvases and then subsequently unfolding and stretching

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  • View of “Alexander Calder,” 2015. From left: Red T with Black Flags, 1946; Untitled, ca. 1956; Untitled, 1941.
    Photo: Tom Powel.

    Alexander Calder

    Lévy Gorvy | New York

    Once Alexander Calder’s sculptures began to be sited in Boston; Paris; Spoleto, Italy; Mexico City; and other global destinations, it was apparent that this versatile artist had a knack for thinking big. Now, based on an exhibition at Dominique Lévy, it’s equally clear that, throughout his long, distinguished career, he also had a gift for making small-size stabiles, mobiles, and maquettes.

    Whether his sculptures are only two inches high or just five inches wide, they all have the hallmarks of work by Alexander Calder. You’ll find whimsical biomorphic forms; a palette reduced mostly to red,

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  • Jutta Koether, Caterham Kobayashi Crash Balthus St. Firmin, 2015, oil on canvas, 87 × 67".

    Jutta Koether

    Bortolami Gallery

    The paintings in “Fortune,” Jutta Koether’s cogent show at Bortolami, were hung flush against the gallery walls and lit from above. For audiences familiar with the German artist’s practice, such an arrangement is enough to warrant an exclamation point, or at least a parenthetical gasp. That’s how strongly this relatively conventional hang runs counter to Koether’s installations of the past several years, in which paintings were suspended from the ceiling, placed against glass panels, positioned on angled partitions and columns, and illuminated by whatever natural light the gallery could muster.

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  • View of “Lucas Samaras,” 2015.

    Lucas Samaras

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    There’s Lucas Samaras again and again, showcased in row after row of more or less postcard-size photos—a tour de force of narcissism and inventive art. The astounding 720 pictures that were on view in this show have all been digitally altered and feature the artist at various stages of his life and in different moods, poses, states of undress: They range from images of a fresh-faced, innocent-looking boy to pictures of a bearded, sinister older man. Presiding over this autobiographical album—ostensibly a family album, for it begins with some photographs of Samaras’s Greek family—are

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  • View of “Pieter Schoolwerth,” 2015.

    Pieter Schoolwerth

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Orchard Street

    Pieter Schoolwerth knows how to paint. In recent years, he turned his hand to no less daunting a task than the subjective reinvention of old-master iconography, which he deftly reconstituted via digital and analog overlays and abstractions—a contemporary remastering, if you will, of the compositional mainstays of Western figuration. Yet for his latest show, Schoolwerth put his considerable skills in the service of a throwaway gag: The press release informed us that while using a cheap, ineffectual vacuum cleaner, the artist blurted out, “This vacuum sucks!” and was so amused by the unintended

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  • Yuji Agematsu, 01-01-2014 ~12-31-2014 (detail), 2014, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Yuji Agematsu

    Real Fine Arts

    Ideas are “in the air,” one typically hears, and yet today many artists find them beneath their feet. Nowhere is this truer than in the practice of the New York artist Yuji Agematsu, whose work comprises an almost unimaginably minor roster of materials, from half-sucked candies to balls of hair, which the artist finds on his daily wanderings through the city. For his second exhibition at Real Fine Arts, Agematsu presented a calendar year’s worth of his tiny sculptures—365 of them, each a quasi-organic amalgam of refuse and schmutz—which have been potted in the cellophane used to wrap

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  • Janine Antoni, to channel, 2015, polyurethane resin, 27 × 15 × 15".

    Janine Antoni

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Janine Antoni’s spring exhibition at Luhring Augustine featured a striking group of seven cast-resin sculptures: quasi-surrealist amalgams of bones, body parts, and everyday objects (a flowerpot, a stool, branches, and so on). Inspired by the tradition of milagros, the votive offerings that are hung in Latin American Catholic churches to invoke protection and healing, Antoni’s new work continues her decades-long exploration of the body and its psychological and spiritual dimensions.

    In to channel, 2015, one of the show’s most visceral pieces, an overturned flowerpot acts as a pedestal for the

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  • John Wesley, Radcliffe Tennis Team, 1963, Duco and oil on canvas, 68 × 60".

    John Wesley

    Fredericks & Freiser

    John Wesley’s flat, reductive, figurative paintings from the early 1960s represent an alternate Pop vision that not only emphasizes the slick surfaces of postwar consumer culture but also filters the esoteric visual iconography of WASP tribalism through the artist’s own odd psychology. Titled “Important Works from 1961 to 1966,” the sixteen pieces—painting, sculpture, and drawing—that made up this exhibition underscore Wesley’s importance during an early period in his career, namely the years immediately following his move from Los Angeles to New York, when he started exhibiting. As Wesley has

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  • Julia Wachtel, Time and Again, 2014, oil and screenprint on canvas, 60 × 93 1/2".

    Julia Wachtel

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    In Stripe, 2014, the friezelike centerpiece of her recent exhibition “Empowerment,” Julia Wachtel pairs silk-screened images of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un with painted cartoons of South Korean pop star Psy, singer of the once ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.” The juxtaposition is cemented visually by the gray band that gives the work its title. In comparing these figures, the artist prompts us to ask where real power lies—totalitarian military might or Web-age celebrity—and how the mass media work to reinforce or undermine its status. It’s an area that Wachtel, influenced by the

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  • Foldout from ringl+pit’s artist’s book Ringlpitis, 1931, closed: 7 7/8 × 7 7/8". From “Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola.” Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires © Estate of Horacio Coppola.

    Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola are not household names in photo history, but an exhibition of their work from the 1920s through the ’50s at the Museum of Modern Art, on view through October 4, demonstrates that they should be. Curators Roxana Marcoci, Sarah Meister, and Drew Sawyer have drawn deeply from archives on three continents to assemble “From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola,” a magnificent exhibition of more than three hundred images, both still and moving, of breathtaking scope and quality, including vintage photographs and photomontages, advertisements, and

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  • Natalie Frank, All Fur III, 2011–14, gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 30 × 22".

    Natalie Frank

    The Drawing Center

    At the Venice Biennale this year, contemplating Joan Jonas’s extraordinary video installation They Come to Us Without a Word, 2015, I began thinking about the great turn that took place in the artist’s work in 1976. That year, Jonas used a Brothers Grimm tale as the basis for The Juniper Tree, a move that signaled a turn from such reflexive, almost tautological pieces as Mirror Check, 1970, to a way of working in which reflexivity enters an expanded field encompassing narrative structures derived from fairy tales, legends, sagas, and other forms of traditional (often oral) storytelling. Nearly

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  • Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1953–54, oil on paperboard, 35 3/4 × 24 3/8". From “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics.” © The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics”

    Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

    “There is a train track in the history of art that goes way back to Mesopotamia,” Willem de Kooning once said. “Duchamp is on it. Cézanne is on it. Picasso and the Cubists are on it; Giacometti, Mondrian and so many, many more,” including, one might add, the organizers of this small, studious, remarkably concise exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. “From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics” took that train running the opposite way, following archaeological objects from Mesopotamia to the present day. The show featured two lush, powerful,

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