reviews

  • View of “Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better,” 2016. Upper tier: “Suddenly This Overview,” 1981–. Photo: David Heald.

    Peter Fischli and David Weiss

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    THE TITLE of Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s current retrospective, “How to Work Better,” is taken from a ten-point list that the pair spotted in a Thai ceramics factory in 1990. Beginning sensibly enough with “Do one thing at a time” and ending with the banal management directive “Smile,” the list has cropped up throughout the Swiss artists’ oeuvre, most imposingly as a mural painted on the side of a non-descript office building in Zurich in 1991. Its slightly wonky font currently looms over the corner of Houston and Mott in New York, courtesy of Public Art Fund. At the Guggenheim, however,

    Read more
  • William Kentridge, More Sweetly Play the Dance, 2015, megaphones, eight-channel HD-video projection (color, sound, 15 minutes). Installation view.

    William Kentridge

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance, 2015, looks both unlike anything you’ve seen and something like a lot of things you’ve seen—both new and hauntingly familiar, it expertly mines both current and ancient forms of art and community as well as both novel and established devices within Kentridge’s practice, producing both wonder and recognition. Recent headlines may come to mind, but so, for me, did Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal, though I wasn’t sure why until, reading the artist’s notes in a catalogue published by Amsterdam’s Eye Film Museum, which co-commissioned

    Read more
  • Judith Bernstein, HOOVER COCK, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 84 × 84".

    Judith Bernstein

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Judith Bernstein doesn’t mince words—or symbols. Her solo exhibition “Dicks of Death” at Mary Boone Gallery, curated by Piper Marshall, featured a wealth of phallic imagery, from scatological cock-faces and engorged missiles to handsomely forbidding screws. Part of an ongoing rediscovery of a prolific and extraordinary artist who was overlooked for decades, this show paired a selection of Bernstein’s early works with recent paintings to focus on her sharp appraisal of US foreign policy. Fueled by a potent mix of castrating ridicule and antiwar rage, her critique is rendered in the most

    Read more
  • Gregory Crewdson, Reclining Woman on Bed, 2013, ink-jet print, 45 × 57 1/2".

    Gregory Crewdson

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    One of Emily Dickinson’s best-known poems begins, “There’s a certain Slant of light, / Winter Afternoons – / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes–.” The winter light Dickinson saw in Amherst, Massachusetts, is the same light that drifts through many photographs in Gregory Crewdson’s new series “Cathedral of the Pines,” 2013–14. Crewdson and Dickinson share not only the landscape of western Massachusetts, but also a sensitivity to the weight of light and what it reveals about the melancholic spaces of human interiority.

    The images comprising the new series are clearly connected to

    Read more
  • Philip Pearlstein, Art Class, 1946–47, tempera on board, 20 × 16".

    “Pearlstein | Warhol | Cantor: From Carnegie Tech to New York”

    Betty Cuningham Gallery

    Admirers of Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein have long been aware of the early, unlikely friendship between the prophet of Pop and the gimlet-eyed observational realist who stripped the human figure of all glamour or narrative implications. As the latter tells it, the acquaintance began in a way that already reflects the Andy we know: On the campus of the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, now Carnegie Mellon University, a fellow student by the name of Warhola approached him because Pearlstein’s work had been published in Life magazine as the result of him winning a contest for

    Read more
  • Shara Hughes, We Windy, 2015, oil, acrylic, Flashe paint, and enamel on canvas, 68 × 60".

    Shara Hughes

    Marlborough Contemporary | New York

    Art, drugs, dreams: The trifecta for seeing new things without going anywhere came together in Shara Hughes’s terrific show “Trips I’ve Never Been On.” Juggling various meanings of trip, the eight roughly five-foot-tall psychedelic landscapes on view (one was even called Mushroom Hunt) were crammed with color and textured vibrations, brought into high relief by various mixes and handlings of oil, acrylic, spray, enamel, caulk, and Flashe vinyl paint on canvas. I found it nearly impossible to fully describe any one painting: Objects became space and sensation mid-scene.

    Along with Mushroom Hunt,

    Read more
  • Jonathan Lasker, The Plus Sign at Golgotha, 2014, oil on linen, 60 × 80".

    Jonathan Lasker

    Cheim & Read

    When visual invention becomes an afterthought in favor of ever-more-prolix theoretical justifications, even the most lauded examples of conceptual painting can eventually outlive their novelty, becoming at best inflexible demonstrations of a theme or motif. Not so for Jonathan Lasker’s work, which is always evolving. Indeed, in the past few years, he has introduced a new element to his work: the grid. This structure is the lodestar of the avant-garde and alternately its bête noire—Rosalind Krauss accused it of ghettoizing modern painting. In several paintings on view in this show, a

    Read more
  • Brassaï, Nocturne, 1968, flat-weave wool tapestry, 54 × 110".

    Brassaï

    Higher Pictures

    Sometime in the early 1930s, Brassaï began making photographs of Parisian graffiti. He had already shot a lot of pictures of classical Parisian scenes—long, hedgerowed passages of the Tuileries; the Eiffel Tower at night—but this was something different, on the level of both subject and scale. The photographs, focusing on the iconography left by the city’s inhabitants, offer close-ups of crumbling walls—most of them found in working-class districts of the city. There are carved faces and dug-out hearts in addition to crude animals and skulls and crossbones rendered with paint and

    Read more
  • Lauren Silva, Sling, 2015, ink-jet print on silk charmeuse with paper, acrylic, ink, gouache, and spray paint, 38 × 46".

    Lauren Silva

    ZieherSmith

    There’s something not quite right about the paintings in Lauren Silva’s second show at Zieher Smith & Horton. At first glance, they appear not so much off, as overly on. The best ones register immediately as implausibly charming, working a confectioner’s palette to recall such feel-good pop-cultural genres as vintage and contemporary comics and children’s-book illustration. Yet there’s something else. The paintings’ surfaces shimmer slightly, and as you draw near you’ll see that the softly hued, blurry grounds extend around the sides of the stretcher frames. You might then notice that the

    Read more
  • Janet Fish, Windex Bottles, 1971–72, oil on linen, 49 3/4 × 29 3/4". ©Janet Fish/Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY.

    Janet Fish

    DC Moore Gallery

    “The light would be through everything and energy through everything,” Janet Fish declared in 1988, and this is indeed what we find in her wondrous works: Light suffuses each of the nineteen still lifes that were on view in this exhibition, all made over the ten-year period between 1968 and 1978, which proved to be formative for the artist. The illumination is rapturous, immersive, mystical: It suffuses the transparent glass jars in Stuffed Peppers, 1970, and penetrates the wrapped transparent plastic in Box of Peaches, 1972. Energized by light, these everyday things are brought to dramatic

    Read more
  • Billboard by Julia Weist, Queens, New York, 2015.

    Julia Weist

    83 Pitt Street

    Parbunkells: two ropes bound together, with a loop on both ends. In June 2015, Julia Weist placed this single word on a billboard above a busy thoroughfare in Forest Hills, Queens. Any curious onlooker who plugged it into Google—and there were many—would have discovered just a single result, Weist’s own web page. Prior to her plucking it from a seventeenth-century sailor’s manual, parbunkells appeared nowhere on the Internet. That changed quickly. Parbunkells became a thread on Reddit; someone started a parbunkells Instagram account; on eBay, the domain name parbunkells.org went on

    Read more
  • Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, day-old newspaper, wood, 2 1/4 × 20 1/2 × 17 1/4".

    “Looking Back: The 10th White Columns Annual”

    White Columns

    Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, by Dave McKenzie, is just what its title announces: a folded issue of a day-old local paper resting on a low wooden platform. The piece provides a pause, a reminder of the headlines that earned our brief attention, one step out of sync with the nonstop twenty-four-hour news cycle. But it also repeats the pitiable fate of those above-the-fold stories: discarded one day past relevance, the paper on the pedestal must continually give way to time: another day, another yesterday. McKenzie’s piece, which appeared at the forefront of the White Columns Annual, also served

    Read more
  • View of “Mika Tajima,” 2016. From left: Meridian 7, 2016; Meridian 6, 2016; Furniture Art (Possession Island), 2015; Furniture Art (Annobón), 2015. Photo: Charles Benton.

    Mika Tajima

    11R

    If cyberspace is, as novelist William Gibson once described it, a “consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators,” then Mika Tajima translates the side effects of this collective trip into impractical biotechnical objects. The three series that were on view in the artist’s second exhibition at 11R continued her project of cannibalizing the cool rationalism of modernist design in order to reflect the precariousness of subjects in the networked, performance-driven, and speculative world of late capitalism. In past works, Tajima revealed the ways in which the utopian

    Read more