reviews

  • Walid Raad, Footnote II, 2015, wallpaper, ink-jet prints, cast-urethane resin, paint. Installation view. Photo: Thomas Griesel.

    Walid Raad

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    WALID RAAD’S PROJECT Scratching on things I could disavow, 2007–, puts the artist’s docufictional sensibility into the service of a distinctive brand of institutional critique. As he puts it, with telling scare quotes, in the artist’s statement accompanying his current retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Scratching investigates “the history of art in the ‘Arab world’” and the recent proliferation of “new cultural foundations, art galleries, art schools, art magazines, art prizes, art fairs, and large Western-brand and local museums” across the region. “These material developments,” he

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  • Walid Raad, Scratching on things I could disavow: Walkthrough, 2007–. Performance view, Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 5, 2015. Photo: Julieta Cervantes.

    Walid Raad

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    SINCE THE LATE 1990s, Lebanese artist Walid Raad has embarked on two major long-term projects, each generating a wealth of videos, installations, performances, sculptural objects, and photographic prints. The first, known as the Atlas Group, concerns the recent history of Lebanon, including the country’s devastating fifteen-year-long civil war and the stalled and controversial reconstruction of its capital, Beirut. The second, titled Scratching on things I could disavow, 2007–, considers the fraught processes by which institutions are shaping the categories of modern and contemporary Arab

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  • View of Greater New York, 2015–16. From left: Judith Shea, Easy Does It, 2014; Jeffrey Gibson, Burn for You, 2014; Red Grooms, Mr. Universe, 1990; Mary Beth Edelson, Kali Bobbit, 1994; Ignacio Gonzalez-Lang, Kueens, 2009; John Ahearn, Maria and Her Mother, 1987. Photo: Pablo Enriquez.

    Greater New York

    MoMA PS1

    AFTER BECOMING a part of the Museum of Modern Art in 2000, MoMA PS1 began presenting a big-tent, building-wide exhibition called Greater New York, which surveys artistic practices in the city every five years. Though ostensibly referring to its reach across the five boroughs, the title has always struck me as rather triumphalist in tone. I mean, New York is the greatest city in the world, right? And Greater New York’s function has typically seemed to be one of rounding up the best and the brightest from the city’s MFA programs and priming their goods for the market. With the exhibition’s fourth

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  • Ron Nagle, Boston Scrambler, 2015, ceramic, glaze, catalyzed polyurethane, epoxy resin, 2 × 4 1/2 × 3".

    Ron Nagle

    Matthew Marks Gallery | 502 W. 22nd Street

    Ron Nagle is something of a legend—a sculptor working in clay, an alumnus of the celebrated “pot shop” of Peter Voulkos, and as such a significant figure in the development of modern art in California. He is also a rock musician who has moved in the world of Jefferson Airplane, Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, and others, and if you ever wondered who created the sound effects for William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist, now you know. Strange that he’s had enough time to make art, and to make it so well.

    This show included mostly work from the last year or so, with drawings relating to it or from

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  • Camille Henrot, Killing Time, 2015, watercolor on paper, 76 3/8 × 59 3/8".

    Camille Henrot

    Metro Pictures

    There were three distinct, amazing parts to Camille Henrot’s Metro Pictures debut: huge watercolor paintings, 3-D-printed phones, and a motorized zoetrope. The watercolors were hung in the second room, on walls painted lemon yellow, a cheerful hue that set off both the bold pastel marks of her dashed-off vignettes and the dark absurdities of their subject matter. Henrot’s paintings look like oversize New Yorker cartoons—they’re spare like Liza Donnelly’s drawings, and they nod to Saul Steinberg’s wry regurgitation of the symbols and stylistic tics of modern masters—but Henrot is crasser.

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  • View of “The Wolfpack Show,” 2015. Photo: Adam Reich.

    “The Wolfpack Show”

    Deitch Projects

    Across the more than forty years of his art-world career, Jeffrey Deitch has rarely been shy, and has always been canny, about liberally leavening the blue-chip with the offbeat. And the shows he’s mounted at his old Grand Street space since returning to New York following his stint running the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles—the first featuring the outré midcentury LA artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron, and now a second, devoted to the Angulo brothers, six charismatic young isolates whose years-long confinement in their Manhattan apartment was documented in Crystal Moselle’s

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  • Adrián Villar Rojas, Two Suns (II), 2015, mixed media. Installation view.

    Adrián Villar Rojas

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The Argentinean artist Adrián Villar Rojas offers his audience a mash-up of the adolescent iconographies that have fascinated him since he was a teenager: that of sci-fi, with its robots and spaceships; that of the postapocalyptic, derived from graphic novels and video games; and that of the prehistoric, with its dinosaurs and primitive tools. “Two Suns,” his first solo exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York, might be understood as an endpoint of his long-term exploration of these surreal pre- and post-human universes.

    To explain, it is necessary to return to Villar Rojas’s 2008 solo

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  • Martine Syms, Notes on Gesture, 2015, video, color, sound, 10 minutes 33 seconds.

    Martine Syms

    Bridget Donahue

    Martine Syms has lectured in venues as varied as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, and, this past September, in a field on the outskirts of Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York. There, seated at a table with a makeshift AV setup, she played a recording of James Taylor’s 1968 ballad “Something in the Way She Moves.” The wistful vocals momentarily heightened the easy romance of a countryside evening, but then Syms began speaking of how she grew up studying her aunt—in effect transposing Taylor’s admiration of a nameless lover onto a

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  • Walter Pach, Sunday Night (St. Patrick’s at Night), 1916, oil on canvas, 18 × 23 3/4".

    Walter Pach

    Francis M. Naumann Fine Art

    During the first years of the twentieth century, Walter Pach (1883–1958)—painter and polyglot scholar—was in Paris, world center of the thrilling shifts then occurring in art. Pach, already liberated by the American Impressionist William Merritt Chase (with whom he studied), was equally responsive to the “Art Spirit” that animated Robert Henri’s students, the Ashcan School painters. This attractive, counter-academic blend of influences would inform the urban views, still lifes, and portraits that Pach would paint for a lifetime. A range of this work was on view in this presentation of

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  • View of “Lucy Dodd,” 2015. From left: Pastoral Peacock, 2015; Not Yet Titled, 2015. Photo: Jenny Kim.

    Lucy Dodd

    David Lewis

    An educational website I checked to make sure I was getting my mathematical terms straight tells me, “A trapezium is defined by the properties it does not have. It has no parallel sides.” Bingo: That’s the shape of most of the paintings in Lucy Dodd’s show “Wuv Shop.” Dating from 2014 and 2015—some made from such exotic ingredients as “Yerba mate, hematite, iron oxide, tetley’s and pigments on canvas” (Mantice, 2015)—they were installed as if by chance, leaning against the gallery walls and one another, surrounding a couple of beat-up old couches, an old-fashioned sound system with a

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  • Ryan Mrozowski, Pair (Indeterminate Fruit), 2015, two parts, acrylic on linen, each 23 × 16".

    Ryan Mrozowski

    On Stellar Rays

    Vigilant birds flanked the entrance to Ryan Mrozowski’s exhibit, eyeing the ripe goods hanging farther in: canvases covered in citrus-tree flowers, oranges, cherries, and “indeterminate fruit.” This compact exhibit—comprising two drawings (the birds, in thick oil-stick profile on paper) and nine paintings, all made this past summer—had an intractable beauty that promised something compelling beyond its polished perfection.

    From the contrasting colors of lush green, gray, orange, teal, yellow, and red to the delicate, botanic detailing—not unlike Fra Angelico’s background landscapes,

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  • Brigid Berlin, Untitled (Self-Portrait with Wig II), ca. 1971–73, Polaroid, 3 3/8 × 4 1/4".

    Brigid Berlin

    INVISIBLE-EXPORTS

    “Everyone, absolutely everyone, was tape-recording everyone else,” Andy Warhol noted about the Factory days. Everyone, perhaps, but no one as avidly as Brigid Berlin. From the 1960s through the ’70s, Berlin made thousands of tapes, recording everything from her morning calls with Warhol to the late-night local news. The droning audio of these tapes formed the backdrop to Berlin’s remarkable exhibition “It’s All About Me,” a collection of twenty-three Polaroids, more than forty “Tit Prints,” 1966–96, and a selection of journals and albums. The barely audible snippets of banal conversation seemed

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  • Ettore Sottsass, Libreria (Library), 1965, lacquered wood walnut, brass, ceramic vessels, 102 3/8 × 96 1/8 × 12 3/4".

    Ettore Sottsass

    Friedman Benda Gallery

    In a letter from 1987, no less a towering figure of twentieth-century design than Aldo Rossi credited his compatriot Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007) with “the destruction of established architecture.” The establishment that Rossi was referring to was modernism, or what Sottsass himself once described as the Bauhaus legacy of “functionalism, functionalism, functionalism,” that still lingered decades into the postwar era. And there is no question that throughout the course of his career, spanning well over half a century, Sottsass cemented a reputation as one of the most famous—even

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  • Avinash Chandra, Untitled, 1963, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, and marker on paper, 47 3/4 × 71 1/2 ".

    Avinash Chandra

    DAG Modern | New York

    The work of Avinash Chandra (1931–1991) went through four periods, more or less coordinate with the places in which he lived. Arranged chronologically, this show—billed as a retrospective of the Simla, India–born painter’s art—surveyed these stages via sixty-two works made between the 1950s and 1980s. First, there was the New Delhi period. During this time, Chandra made relatively sober, often gloomy landscapes, typically showing houses in forests. These works were thickly painted and tightly composed, suggesting an insular world and claustrophobic space from which there is no escape.

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  • Rachel Rossin, After GTA V, 2015, oil on canvas, 60 × 78".

    Rachel Rossin

    ZieherSmith

    Themes from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass loom large throughout William Gibson’s 2003 novel Pattern Recognition, which characterizes an American protagonist’s trip to the UK as a disorienting encounter with a “mirror-world.” But while Carroll framed his chiral universe as the product of minds and dreams, Gibson found alterity in machines and devices. Both these modes seemed alive in “Lossy,” Rachel Rossin’s recent solo show, whose nine paintings and a piece experienced via an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset—titled I Came and Went as a Ghost Hand, 2015—bore unmistakeable

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  • Paul McMahon, Spoonbill, 1995, mixed media, 30 × 19 1/2 × 2".

    Paul McMahon

    321 Gallery

    Paul McMahon’s wonderfully strange “soft” retrospective at the artist-run 321 Gallery in Brooklyn this past fall was, for a figure so doggedly unclassifiable, sympathetically out of joint. Nestled cozily into the non-rectilinear garden level of a brownstone home in Clinton Hill, the forty-four mostly framed two-dimensional works in the show—collages, paintings, pastel drawings on newsprint, tiled postcard pieces, videos (looped together on a single monitor), posters, and mixed-media sculpture—spanned the past forty-four years of the artist’s production. On the numerically related

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