reviews

  • Tom of Finland, Untitled, 1977, graphite on paper, 17 1/2 × 21 1/4". © Tom of Finland Foundation.

    Tom of Finland

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    THE ARTISTS SPACE SHOW “Tom of Finland: The Pleasure of Play” presented more than half a century of the artist’s drawings, gouaches, paper dolls, and photocollages made from advertising imagery; together, they set up a narrative described as existing in “dialectical relationship” to a mainstream culture in which both pornography and homosexuality were illegal. And indeed, throughout his career as an advertising executive in Helsinki, Touko Laaksonen (1920–1991) contributed to the ever-expanding lexicon of images representing straight family life in postwar Europe. But after hours, he cut up and

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  • Niele Toroni, 25 Paintings, 1987, acrylic on twenty-five canvases. Installation view, Swiss Institute, 2015.

    Niele Toroni

    Swiss Institute/Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

    CHUTES, 2000, a little-known work by legendary Swiss artist Niele Toroni, consists of four pennant-like fragments of blue, red, pink, and black paper marked according to the method he adopted in 1966: by pressing the bristles of a no. 50 brush—first one side, then the other—to a given support to produce squarish daubs of color (in this case, orange) at regular thirty-centimeter intervals. In the original French, the title suggests the shapes are the material scraps or cast-off bits of something else, but in the hands of a painter famously prone to puns, it also begs for other, less

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  • Ida Applebroog, The Ethics of Desire, 2013, six parts, ink-jet print on Mylar, overall 9' 9 3/4“ × 21' 5”.

    Ida Applebroog

    Hauser & Wirth | West 18th Street

    Ida Applebroog’s imagery has always been forthright, direct, unequivocal: blunt in its protest against life’s absurdity and the abuse of power. Nothing smoothed over, no lulling nuances. Its force lies in its apparent simplicity, the almost cartoonlike reduction of what Max Kozloff once called the “little butcheries” of life to their fewest essential distinguishing features. And yet this simplicity or pictorial minimalism also renders her work ambiguous, filled with unarticulated resonances beyond what’s immediately apparent.

    A few years ago, Applebroog described her work as “situated structures

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  • Gilbert & George, The Tuileries, 1974, charcoal on paper, charcoal on paper mounted on wood, dimensions variable.

    Gilbert & George

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    This poignant, down-memory-lane exhibition presented Gilbert & George’s early works: ambitious wall-scale charcoal drawings, numerous little books, announcements, invitations, modest photographs, and letterpress productions. These often-elegant typographic efforts dated from the late 1960s through the mid-’70s, not a long time span when contrasted with the artists’ still ongoing and vaunted careers.

    In 1967, the Italian Gilbert Prousch (born 1943) and George Passmore (born 1942) from Devon, UK, joined forces at London’s Saint Martin’s School of Art. Their student affectations—can there be

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  • View of “Philippe Parreno,” 2015.

    Philippe Parreno

    Park Avenue Armory

    “I wonder which is worse. To feel too busy or not busy enough.” This wistfully introspective not-quite question—included in a monologue delivered by a series of child actresses as part of Tino Seghal’s contribution to Philippe Parreno’s H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS, 2015, a two-hour-plus-long multimedia scenario that was on view at the Park Avenue Armory this summer—had a very specific contextual function in the show’s overall scheme, but it also stood out for the way it cut to the heart of the conceptual and structural ambivalences that shadowed the project, and Parreno’s practice in general.

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  • Maria Nordman, FILMROOM EAT, 1967–PRESENT, two 16-mm black-and-white films transferred to digital video, table, table-cloth. Installation view.

    Maria Nordman

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Present. It’s a keyword in Maria Nordman’s oeuvre and a cipher in much of her work. Beginning in the late 1960s, Nordman has designated her works as continuous, signaling the way they are always ongoing; user-driven; focused toward a public, a task, or an “outside of itself,” as Heidegger might have formulated it. A case in point is FILMROOM EAT 1967–PRESENT, the heart of this brisk retrospective-like show (though retrospective seems like the wrong word, and too confining, since each work has a “co-authorial role”—think relational aesthetics avant la lettre).

    For this iteration of the work,

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  • Malcolm Morley, Aircraft on a Yellow Plane, 2014, oil on linen, 50 × 40".

    Malcolm Morley

    Sperone Westwater

    The fifteen paintings in Malcolm Morley’s latest show at Sperone Westwater, like all of his finest works, snap, crackle, and pop. In this instance, the British-born, American-based artist activates these sensations from a mix of bold, vivid colors, rambunctious compositions, and themes that refer to aerial dogfights during World War II, cannon fire during the Battle of Waterloo, medieval warfare, and even Viking exploration. All told, Morley, at age eighty-four, has become one of our preeminent history painters.

    Though he had a brief period when he painted abstract pictures—they were in his

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  • Beverly Buchanan, Moonshine Man’s House, 2009, wood, 12 × 16 3/4 × 18 1/2".

    Beverly Buchanan

    Andrew Edlin Gallery

    Beverly Buchanan’s tabletop cabins and shacks evoke rural life, and a passing glance at these seemingly cobbled-together structures might typecast them as some interesting kind of folk art. But Buchanan studied in New York with the Abstract Expressionist Norman Lewis and was close to Romare Bearden, and she arrived at these sculptures after a period, begun in the 1970s, of working with blocks of cast concrete, which she piled and leaned in ways relating to post-Minimalism and Land art. Eventually, though, as she wrote in an artist’s statement, her “vision and interest shifted to the reality of

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  • Ruth Root, Untitled, 2014–15, fabric, Plexiglas, enamel paint, spray paint, 84 1/2 × 67".

    Ruth Root

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    What makes an abstract painting interesting today? Ruth Root’s series of seven works, each Untitled and dated 2014–15, each unique and yet sharing vivid formal correspondences with its neighbors on the wall, provided an exhilarating answer. For starters, an interesting painting often has an eccentric shape. Root’s Plexiglas shapes are not symmetrical and are far from the golden mean. They are wonky, sometimes lean, and include bulges and unexpected curves, like maps of contested statehoods. (Not until I drew the outline of each work in my notebook did I notice the points of some corners and the

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  • Aaron Flint Jamison, Breathers, 2015, multiple sheets of black paper, each 40 1/8 × 26 1/8".

    Aaron Flint Jamison

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Orchard Street

    Aaron Flint Jamison’s first exhibition at Miguel Abreu opened in July—an off time in the art world—and much else about the exhibition was also “wrong.” There was no opening, for example; in fact, when I visited the show, which was located at the gallery’s Orchard Street space, I had difficulty even opening the door because there was a motion sensor controlling the lock that I managed, unintentionally, not to trip. Inside, conventions were similarly askew: There was no checklist, and though a press release appeared online, the gallery website had an intentional glitch in it, making this

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  • Tina Barney, The Reception, 1985, C-print, 48 × 60".

    Tina Barney

    Kasmin Gallery | 515 27th Street

    Money, I’ve heard, cannot buy happiness. And through the 1980s, Tina Barney’s darkly witty pictures of her insular upper-class milieu gave a diabolically cheerful endorsement of that tried-and-true claim. These now-classic half-staged, half-spontaneous shots are a visual tone poem of WASP privilege and icy repression—a hot mess of sunburned boredom, simpering awkwardness, and vacant stares. This show, the artist’s first at Paul Kasmin Gallery, included eleven works that span forty years and that range from the iconic (Mark, Amy and Tara, 1983) to the newer and lesser known.

    Among the earliest

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  • Piotr Uklański, Untitled (Skull), 2000, platinum print, 21 5/8 × 17 5/8 × 1 1/2".

    Piotr Uklański

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The best of Piotr Uklański’s pictures are marked by an ironic morbidity: Untitled (Skull), 2000—one of thirty-one works in this Doug Eklund–curated survey of the Polish Conceptual artist’s photography—makes this clear. It is a striking photo, featuring naked male and female bodies arranged to form a skull, such that life and death, Eros and Thanatos, are inseparable, even interchangeable—impossible to distinguish. And if the work looks familiar, that is certainly no mistake. The picture is a near-exact copy of Salvador Dalí’s 1951 photograph In Voluptas Mors, but with an important

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  • Harry Dodge, Love Streams, 2015, video, color, sound, 14 minutes 8 seconds.

    Harry Dodge

    Wallspace

    When Harry Dodge speaks, he does so profusely: Why, his artworks suggest, let one example serve when six will make the point more vibrantly? Thus the superlative video Love Streams, 2015, a four-part, fourteen-minute riff on quantum physics, object relations, automatons, and “an extra-long extender-thing for the tray that holds your keyboard,” a device that spreads as fancifully as its prolix description. Dodge’s staggering, stuttering descriptions are accumulative rather than taxonomic; examples are amassed and oppositions, images, and narratives are stacked atop one another rather than used

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  • Rosa Aiello, A River In It, 2015, video, color, sound, 9 minutes 41 seconds.

    Rosa Aiello

    Eli Ping Frances Perkins

    “Just walk in a straight line. . . . Go ahead, forward. . . . Proceed straight ahead, go on, go on. . . .” Though sometimes indistinct, at one point dropping to an intimate but distorted whisper, the voice-over in Rosa Aiello’s video A River in It, 2015, doesn’t let up for more than a few seconds of the work’s nearly ten-minute duration. Directing its unseen subject (the viewer?) ever onward, it varies in tone from reassuring (“Whoops, careful. . . . It’s OK, go ahead”) to official (“At this time, keep going straight”) to impatient (“Don’t stop! Why are you stopping?”) to bullying (“You have no

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  • View of “Michael Mandiberg,” 2015.

    Michael Mandiberg

    Denny Dimin Gallery

    For Michael Mandiberg’s “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!” at Denny Gallery, the artist displayed a limited run of his Print Wikipedia project, 2015, which makes the online encyclopedia available in proprietary print-on-demand form. Several individual print copies and volumes titled Table of Contents and Contributor Appendix were shelved against a monochromatic wallpaper, these were accompanied by the real-time projection of file conversion and upload to the self-publishing distribution platform Lulu.com. The space had the feel of a leasing office for modish apartments or the generic-brands aisle of a

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