reviews

  • View of “Frank Stella: A Retrospective,” 2015–16. From left: The Grand Armada (IRS-6, 1X), 1989; K.81 combo (K.37 and K.43) large size, 2009; Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation III), 1970. Photo: Chandra Glick. © Frank Stella/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Frank Stella

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    A RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION presupposes an identifiable individual as the author of its contents. The philosopher Mark Johnston, however, cautions that we may place too much weight on this commonsense apperception where the issue of selfhood in any profound sense is concerned: “We do not find much evidence that in tracking objects and persons through time we are actually deploying knowledge of sufficient conditions for cross-time identity.” What permits us to assume on the basis of intermittent exposure to any physical person, he asks, that there is in fact a continuing self that coherently links

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  • View of “Jean Tinguely,” 2015. Photo: David Regan.

    Jean Tinguely

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Jean Tinguely (1925–1991) was a Swiss-born artist of singular though shifting reputation. His special place in American art owes much to his close connection, both stylistic and personal, to our great neo-Dadaists: Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. The elevation of the found object and the devotion to chance, key procedures in the work of both those artists, unexpectedly achieved an apotheosis in the tinkling piano of Tinguely’s own Homage to New York, 1960, a piece that, at its premiere in the gardens of the old Museum of Modern Art, New York, famously collapsed into flames—the

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  • James Welling, 4910, 2015, ink-jet print, 63 × 42".

    James Welling

    David Zwirner | 537 West 20th Street

    The title of James Welling’s show—“Choreograph”—suggests an affinity between the artist’s principal medium, photography, and dance. If the former’s etymology is meant to convey the act of drawing with light (the “pencil of nature,” as William Henry Fox Talbot memorably put it in 1844), choreography, understood as the design of bodily movements, implies a sort of corporeal inscription of space. Welling’s new works, presenting nearly life-size photographs of expressively posed dancers, staged within what appear to be multiple exposures of unnaturally colored wintry landscapes and the

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  • H. C. Westermann, Untitled (Walnut Death Ship in a Chestnut Box), 1974, chestnut, walnut, zebrawood, galvanized sheet metal, copper, ebony, 17 7/8 × 24 7/8 × 8 1/2".

    H. C. Westermann

    Venus

    Lined three deep on a massive table, the H. C. Westermann sculptures in this exhibition were stunning in their craftsmanship, blistering in their satire, and sometimes, as in the case of Walnut Box, 1964—a walnut box filled with walnuts—just plain funny. These small-scale constructions, some of the best that Westermann made, were accompanied here by forty-seven prints and drawings, two paintings, and eleven life-size assemblages.

    Colored by his time as a marine on the USS Enterprise (called the “Grey Ghost” because of Japan’s multiple claims to have sunk it) in World War II, and later

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  • Andrea Crespo, virocrypsis, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 16 minutes 5 seconds.

    Andrea Crespo

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Cynthia and Celinde share a body. They have two heads, three legs, a slightly widened torso, and sixteen amphibian-like toes. Wearing a midriff-exposing tank top and short shorts, the two are rendered simply, as an anime-inspired sketch, and barely animated (they blink). But, though this is how they appear in virocrypsis (all works 2015), the centerpiece of Andrea Crespo’s exhibition at Swiss Institute, we soon learn that the artist’s conjoined protagonists weren’t born this way—or born at all. At the start of the looping video, the vertical bar of a scan head travels across the screen

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  • Jane Freilicher, Window, 2011, oil on linen, 32 × 32".

    Jane Freilicher

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    “She is not dangerous or rare, / adventure precedes her like a train, / her beauty is general, as sun and air / are secretly near, like Jane.” So wrote Frank O’Hara in an ode to Jane Freilicher that ably describes the art of his friend: Her paintings highlight the simplest subjects of wildflowers stuck in soup cans and pitchers, vast tracks of land on the East End of Long Island, and still lifes set up in her West Village apartment studio, often against a window looking out over the city’s rooftops and water towers. This exhibition, the artist’s twenty-first at Tibor de Nagy, was called “Theme

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  • Katy Grannan, Inessa Waits Near South 9th Street, Modesto, CA, 2012, ink-jet print, 46 1/8 × 61 1/4".

    Katy Grannan

    Salon 94 | Bowery

    Times are tough out there, but they look even tougher than in most places in Modesto, California. At least that’s how it appears in the works that made up Katy Grannan’s recent exhibition “Hundreds of Sparrows.” Is this arid, desolate landscape, populated mostly by loners who’ve been hardened by life yet still look tremendously vulnerable, really the same town where George Lucas set his bittersweet but innocent American Graffiti (1973)? The short answer is no. Lucas’s nostalgic reverie on middle-American adolescence is clearly fictional, and probably owes as much to the equally reimagined Rimini

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  • Valerie Jaudon, Barcarolle, 2014, oil on linen, 54 × 90".

    Valerie Jaudon

    DC Moore Gallery

    “Today it is almost impossible,” Valerie Jaudon told an interviewer in 2001, “for anyone to understand the intolerant conformity of the early ’70s institutional art world, its museums, galleries, and critics. Not only was the ‘mainstream’ narrow, but there were no models, art historical or otherwise, to guide one out of the modernist box.” By those lights Pattern and Decoration—or P&D, the movement through which Jaudon emerged in the period she describes—was a reactive push back against a deadening history, and as such fell into the subversive tradition of earlier avant-gardes. Yet by

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  • Roberto Matta, La Question, 1957, oil on canvas, 78 3/4 × 116". © Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    Roberto Matta

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    “Matta in the 1950s and 1960s” was a curious assortment of Roberto Matta’s works, not all commensurate with each other: eleven drawings, all wax crayon and graphite; six oil paintings; and a figurative bronze sculpture. The sculpture, titled L’Impensable, 1959, portrays a human body stripped bare to metal bones, all spindly and surrealistic like some of Picasso’s earlier works. The drawings and paintings abruptly contrast. The former were full of luminous empty space, at times thinly toned with atmospheric color. A central field of fitful markings might form caricatures of human figures, sometimes

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  • Sadamasa Motonaga, Two in Order, 1985, oil on canvas, 23 7/8 × 19 3/4".

    Sadamasa Motonaga

    Fergus McCaffrey

    One of the coolest pieces of ephemera in the catalogue accompanying this exhibition of Sadamasa Motonaga’s later work is the artist’s “My Abstract Manga Manifesto,” a sequence of four line drawings published in a 1963 edition of Bijutsu techō, a Japanese art journal. Consisting of wordless, biomorphic shapes, the illustrations lay out the knowingly “low” and faintly obscene mode of abstract painting that would become central to the artist’s practice until his death in 2011.

    Born in 1922, Motonaga joined the Gutai group in 1955, parting ways with the avant-garde movement a year before its dissolution

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  • Josh Tonsfeldt, Adrenaline Tattoo, 2015, UV-cured pigment print on Hydrocal, spray paint, epoxy resin, ink, 32 × 48".

    Josh Tonsfeldt

    Simon Preston

    In Josh Tonsfeldt’s recent exhibition “Adrenaline,” images had a curious, often fugitive relationship to their sources, supports, and meanings. The New York–based artist prints photographs onto a variety of fragile-seeming surfaces and employs unusual processes such as hydrography to investigate the visual, conceptual, and emotional arenas of everyday life as mediated by the ubiquitous electronic screen. “Familiarity becomes something slippery in the timespan of making a picture,” he writes, characterizing this mutable relationship as “a machine-body behavior ready to play itself out in situations

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  • View of “Jason Simon,” 2015. On floor: 2LGA5, 2015. On wall, from left: Production, 2015; Nobodys Road, 2015. Photo: Chris Austin.

    Jason Simon

    Callicoon Fine Arts

    In an age when the entire history of recorded music is just a click away, it’s tempting to dismiss radio as a hopelessly antiquated medium. After all, why rely on a DJ when Spotify and iTunes allow you to compile your own playlists? Yet, as is often remarked, the self-curated online/digital experience, for all its potential, can ultimately become isolating. Conventional radio at its best retains the power to establish and strengthen the bonds of community by making a virtue of broadcasters’ idiosyncratic tastes and voices. And local radio can add to that a capacity to respond to specificities

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  • Rodrigo Valenzuela, Hedonic Reversal No. 12, 2014, ink-jet print, 54 × 44".

    Rodrigo Valenzuela

    envoy enterprises

    The photographic works in Rodrigo Valenzuela’s “Hedonic Reversal” (all works 2014) depict ruins, or representations of ruins, which have been constructed from stark white elements—lath, chalk, a crumbling material that might be drywall or polystyrene—and set against a saturated black background. They have the air of abandoned infrastructure projects, neglected social housing, or generic buildings that become visible only as they decay. The destruction seems to be ongoing. They are broken, disintegrating into white dust, worn away altogether, leaving only lines of chalk.

    Valenzuela

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  • Alfred Leslie, Four Panel Green—Big Green, 1956–57, oil on canvas, 12' × 13' 10".

    Alfred Leslie

    Allan Stone Projects

    During the early 1950s, many considered the abstract painters Alfred Leslie and Harry Jackson to be the heirs apparent to Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, though the famous pair’s close friends and colleagues Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, and Joan Mitchell were regarded highly, too. As it was, Hartigan was included in the landmark 1958 show “The New American Painting” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. And Frankenthaler enjoyed a midcareer survey at the Jewish Museum in 1960. But Leslie too earned a plum assignment. He participated in MoMA’s “Sixteen Americans,” which, by

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