reviews

  • Dana Schutz, Shaking Out the Bed, 2015, oil on canvas, 9’ 6” × 17’ 9 3/4”.

    Dana Schutz

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    When was the last time you walked into a show of paintings and couldn’t remember your art-history safe word? Dana Schutz’s recent display of twelve canvases and four charcoal drawings overwhelmed. Every work, all but one from 2015, had so much going on in any corner that there was little room for the viewer. I didn’t find these works easy to like. I mean this as a compliment: I liked them very much.

    Schutz does give us some familiar things to hang on to, including her trademark portraiture that makes her the Bruegel of our time. (I’m also reminded that she grew up looking at Diego Rivera’s murals

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  • Trevor Paglen, NSA-Tapped Fiber Optic Cable Landing Site, Morro Bay, California, United States, 2015, C-print, mixed media on navigational chart, 48 × 60".

    Trevor Paglen

    Metro Pictures

    Curious viewers looking for advance information on Trevor Paglen’s recent exhibition at Metro Pictures in the run-up to its opening probably encountered a rather unusual promotional tease created by the artist, an obliquely ominous “trailer” of sorts advertising the show, posted on the gallery’s website and picked up by numerous other online outlets. Clocking in at just over a minute, the video features only the names of the artist and gallery and the dates of the show interspersed among a sequence of loosely related images—a placid seascape, a scuba diver descending through murky water,

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  • Stanley Whitney, james brown sacrifice to apollo, 2008, oil on linen, 72 × 72".

    Stanley Whitney

    Studio Museum in Harlem/Karma

    In a career going back to the early 1970s, Stanley Whitney is having a moment, with simultaneous uptown and downtown shows that drew excited responses in the press. This for abstract paintings that are structurally easy to describe as blocks of color set in stacks and rows, a grid format that Whitney has lately brought to a pitch of refinement but that has been present or foreshadowed in his work for a long time. You might think, What’s the fuss? There are many precedents for this kind of painting, and indeed it’s essentially familiar—which, though, doesn’t mean its position is comfortable.

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  • Albert Oehlen, Selbstportrait mit Einlochtopf (Self-Portrait with One-Hole Vase), 1984, oil on canvas, 67 × 102 3/8".

    Albert Oehlen

    New Museum

    The works in “Home and Garden,” the first major retrospective of Albert Oehlen’s work in New York, explore separate but parallel universes—representation and abstraction, manual dexterity and pixelated matrix—and commonly bring both together at once. Oehlen is a skilled painter, despite the sensation of glum helplessness his work often evokes, an emotional tenor fortuitously coincidental with (and generative of) our moment in art history when the “de-skilling” of painting passes for fiat: Expressionism as “inexpessionist painting . . . a pretext for an analysis of the act of painting

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  • Gordon Matta-Clark, Untitled (Energy Rooms), 1974, ink and marker on paper, 7 7/8 × 11".

    Gordon Matta-Clark

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Gordon Matta-Clark was as accomplished at making drawings with pencils, pens, markers, and crayons as he was at cutting into abandoned warehouses, suburban homes, and dilapidated tenement buildings with a chain saw. And these drawings offer a variety of insights into the American-born artist’s attitudes about nature, movement, and geometry; the themes that interested him; and the times in which he lived. Several dozen works on paper executed between 1969 and 1977, the year before Matta-Clark died of cancer at the age of thirty-five, were recently on view at David Zwirner.

    It’s surprising to

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  • View of “Raymond Roussel,” 2015.

    Raymond Roussel

    Galerie Buchholz | New York

    Difficult author; reclusive aesthete; visionary fabricator of fantastic objects literary, conceptual, and material: The reputation of Raymond Roussel (1877–1933) often precedes him. In photographs he is a pale, impeccably groomed man with a resplendent mustache. A shy smile pairs oddly with the wild energy in his gaze. His writings, allegedly incomprehensible to all but the most committed appreciators of his day, still receive less attention than his biography or, perhaps more accurately, his legend.

    Galerie Buchholz’s recent exhibition was the latest view into the Roussel annals. It also functioned

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  • Justin Adian, Slow Goodbye, 2015, oil enamel on canvas on ester foam, 24 1/2 × 25 1/2 × 4 1/2".

    Justin Adian

    Skarstedt Gallery | West 21st street

    Justin Adian’s show “Fort Worth” presented sixteen works that were made using a technique he has employed since 2007, and that has come to be his signature and calling card: The artist places hunks of foam on shaped wooden stretchers, stretches canvas over the foam, and applies oil enamel paint to the canvas surface. The results—puffy, shiny, asymmetrical—have a crisp, graphic appeal. They stand out from the wall with pleasing aplomb, like pop-surrealist upholstery, or comics come to life.

    They are also possessed of a zany, cartoonlike expressivity; Adian can coax quite a bit of energy

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  • Rita McBride, Middle East, 2015, water-jet-cut brass plate with silver nitrate patina and Renaissance wax, three parts, overall 20 1/2 × 29 × 1/4".

    Rita McBride

    Alexander and Bonin

    Rita McBride’s recent exhibition “Access” displayed a number of new sculptures in the shape of keys, keyholes, knockers, and locks, as well as a variety of large metal sheets out of which at least some of the works in the show had been cut. McBride individually designed each work on a computer and then sent her drawings out to a shop where they were sliced out of a variety of metals. The surprise is that the results do not betray the somewhat high-tech process by which these works were made. Rather, they look crude and basic, almost handmade and certainly aged, their various edges displaying

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  • View of “Ulrich Rückriem,” 2015.

    Ulrich Rückriem

    Koenig & Clinton

    For his first solo exhibition in New York in almost twenty years, Ulrich Rückriem quietly confounded the expectations of those familiar with his monumental sculptures. After all, it would not have been unreasonable to expect a spectacle like the one Michael Heizer presented at Gagosian earlier this year, that of an aging artist (now in his late seventies, Rückriem has been working consistently since the early 1960s) going bigger and brasher than ever before. But though Rückriem, like Heizer, is known for massive stone blocks, permutative methods, and an uncompromising, even contrarian personality

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  • Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (Splatter Painting), 2011, acrylic on canvas and cotton shirts, wood, 17' 8 1/2“ × 13' 1 1/2” × 3'.

    Hermann Nitsch

    MARC STRAUS

    In the decades following World War II, Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch and his contemporaries pursued an approach to artmaking that—like those of so many artists around the globe at midcentury—attempted to deal with the underlying psychological depths of human existence. The particular avant-garde methods of the Viennese Actionists emphasized the body as a challenge to pictorial traditions and conservative cultural and political systems (specifically, Austria’s Second Republic in the early 1960s). Their work was raw, materially driven, scatological, performative, and ceremonial, at

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  • Sue de Beer, Untitled (Still from The Blue Lenses), 2014, digital metallic C-print, 14 1/2 × 20 3/4".

    Sue de Beer

    Boesky East

    “He never talked about where he was from. At the funeral, that was the most I ever heard about his life.” So begins the spoken narrative of Sue de Beer’s new two-channel video The Blue Lenses, 2014, which tells the story of Daniel, a con artist, in part through the account of a young Arab woman. Borrowing the title of a 1959 short story by the British author Daphne du Maurier in which a woman’s eye surgery mysteriously causes her to see people with fearsome animal heads in place of their own, de Beer’s beguiling tale also deals in confused appearances and assumed roles.

    The work’s abutted

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  • Fiona Connor, On What Remains (fountain), 2015, concrete, expanded polystyrene foam, antique brass hardware, plumbing supplies, steel, plywood, paint, coatings, car battery, pump, water, 36 × 24 × 36".

    Fiona Connor

    Lisa Cooley

    The fountain has a storied and—given its outwardly prosaic nature—oddly auspicious history in modern and contemporary art: from Duchamp’s foundational icon (actually a urinal, of course) to more recent examples including Bruce Nauman’s gushing self portrait of 1966–67; Helen Chadwick’s excremental chocolate-lover’s dream/nightmare Cacao, 1994; and the spouting-nippled Christ that formed the centerpiece of Robert Gober’s solo exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2005. Something about this technically simple bit of plumbing—perhaps owing to its sometimes-awkward fusion of humble

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  • Vera Neumann, Occasional Stripe, n.d., watercolor on paper, 24 × 24". From the series “Abstracts,” ca. 1960–90.

    Vera Neumann

    Alexander Gray Associates

    Sonia Delaunay’s textile designs are seen as art these days, but that may be because she began and ended her career as a painter. In the 1970s, the feminist-inspired Pattern and Decoration movement claimed to undermine the hierarchical distinction between fine and decorative art, and yet the practitioners of P&D always identified themselves as artists, never as designers—the dichotomy was still in force. In exhibiting Vera Neumann (1907–1993)—best known by her first name alone—as an artist rather than as the textile designer who became what this show’s press release calls “a

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  • Tom Phillips, A Humument, Page 71, Version 2, 2010, pen, pencil, and watercolor on paper, 8 × 5 1/4".

    Tom Phillips

    Flowers | New York

    In 1966, at age twenty-nine, Tom Phillips began his Humument project, the “treatment” of the 1892 novel A Human Document, by the Victorian author William Hurrell Mallock. The first artist’s book that resulted was initially published in 1973 and has now gone through five editions; Phillips began a second version in 1980 and continues to work on it to this day. To create these treatments, the artist removed each page from Mallock’s novel and subjected it to playful editing, surgically removing blocks of text to form an Apollinaire-like shaped poem—or, rather, a Mallarmé-like throw of the

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