reviews

  • Mark Rothko, Black in Deep Red, 1957, oil on canvas, 69 3/8 × 53 3/4". © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: The Mark Rothko

    Mark Rothko

    PACE | 32 East 57th Street

    The story is almost too neat: Mark Rothko states that his paintings are about death, above all, and as he nears the end of his life, cut short in 1970 by his own hand, his palette grows darker and darker. Though part of his powerful narrative, this was not the only factor affecting his choice of color. For one thing, as demonstrated by the recent impressive show up at Pace—expertly lit and designed, with a border on the floor unobtrusively guarding our distance—darkness infused Rothko’s mature canvases from the 1950s on, even if just as ground to push forward his brightest compositions.

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  • Katharina Grosse, Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 12' 4 7/8“ × 12' 11 7/8”.

    Katharina Grosse

    Gagosian | 555 West 24th Street

    The acclaimed German painter Katharina Grosse is known for her boundless approach to her chosen medium, spraying with an industrial paint gun not only canvases, but also mounds of soil, uprooted trees, architecture, sculptural elements, and—for the pleasure of beach-goers last summer—an entire one-story building, inside and out. In Rockaway!, 2016, a startling neo-Earthwork, superhuman gestures in wild sunset hues transformed a decaying structure, part of the old Fort Tilden army base on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, that was condemned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.

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  • Philip Guston, San Clemente, 1975, oil on canvas, 68 × 73 1/4". © The Estate of Philip Guston.

    Philip Guston

    Hauser & Wirth | West 22nd Street

    Who would have imagined that it would one day be possible to feel a sort of wistful nostalgia for the Nixon era? Yet that is the pass we have come to, facing an administration that might make his seem almost innocent by comparison. That’s why “Philip Guston: Laughter in the Dark, Drawings from 1971 & 1975”—which was curated by Sally Radic of the Guston Foundation, and Musa Mayer, Guston’s daughter, and followed by a little more than six months Hauser & Wirth’s equally extraordinary and very different exhibition of abstract works, “Philip Guston: Painter, 1957–1967”—was probably the

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  • Matt Johnson, Untitled (Amazon Box), 2016, carved wood and paint, 23 × 23 × 17".

    Matt Johnson

    303 Gallery

    Matt Johnson operates in broadly the same arena as his onetime tutor Charles Ray, producing highly polished work that makes the everyday strange. For his second solo exhibition at this gallery, the New York–born, Los Angeles–based artist presented an array of painted carved-wood sculptures distinguished by a truly extraordinary degree of physical verisimilitude. Reaching rather strenuously for higher meaning, the press release describes without apparent self-consciousness the ways in which “these simple moments of dispossession become the generators of their own poiesis,” but somehow glosses

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  • Carlo Maria Mariani, Un volo di colombi (A Flight of Doves), 2012–16, acrylic, gouache, and graphite on canvas, 73 × 95".

    Carlo Maria Mariani

    Francis M. Naumann Fine Art

    The 1980s were, above all, a period of sharp contradiction. The decade is especially remembered for the emergence of a doctrinaire, pro-Minimalist art criticism. But at the same instant, it also saw the resurgence of painting, particularly that of the wide-reaching genre of neo-expressionism. Much of this work entered into the fray from Europe, with Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, and Georg Baselitz leading the German phalanx. The Italian contingent was headed by the “Three Cs”—Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, and Sandro Chia—accompanied by a number of compatriots, among them the

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  • Ernesto Neto, The Serpent’s energy gave birth to humanity, 2016, cotton voile crochet, cotton voile knot carpet, bamboo, semiprecious stones, wood, leaves, apples, guitar, bongos, maracas, dimensions variable.

    Ernesto Neto

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    “If the sacred serpent had not offer[ed] the fruit of the knowledge tree, the apple love, to Eve, and told her to share it with Adam, they would be till today in the Paradise beautiful, and we, where would we be? There would not be we, you and me, none of us. So, the boa serpent gave birth to humanity.” This handwritten statement, welcoming visitors to Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s immersive take on the Garden of Eden, put forward a novel interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Scrawled on the gallery wall, the text characterized the serpent not as a trickster but as a primordial generative

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  • Elizabeth Murray, For “Flesh Table”, 1986, colored pencil on paper, 7 3/4 × 4 3/4". © The Murray-Holman Family Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Elizabeth Murray

    CANADA

    Remembered deeply fondly by those who knew her for her intelligence and warmth, the late Elizabeth Murray, who died in 2007, was also a heroine for many artists, both as a painter who came up in the 1960s and ’70s, when painting seemed increasingly in crisis, and as a woman in a man’s or boy’s world. Growing out of this embattled place, Murray’s work was as brave as it was funny, as determined as it was adventurous and odd. Her presence in today’s art world—hell, today’s world—is greatly missed.

    The drawings in this welcome exhibition dated from the 1980s to the early 2000s and ranged

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  • Heji Shin, Baby 1, 2016, ink-jet print, 23 × 30".

    Heji Shin

    Real Fine Arts

    The genre of portraiture has different looks and different functions, ranging from the high finish of heads of state to the languor of lovers lying in bed. Both deliver the sense of a person with some inner life, some history and position in the world, assembling some image of him- or herself in front of the gaze of another. So can one make a portrait of what we might call the “just almost born,” a thing whose head is jutting out into the world, but whose body is still in the womb, its sex unrevealed, its language a far ways away? (My feeling is probably not, that such an image would be something

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  • Marianna Simnett, The Needle and the Larynx, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 15 minutes 17 seconds.

    Marianna Simnett

    Seventeen | New York

    Among the various forms of affectual experience typically available to gallerygoers—from dead boredom to rapt fascination and many more between—genuine fear remains a rarity. Part of the reason for this is that it’s actually pretty difficult to induce the emotion amid the anodyne precincts of the white cube, an environment that tends to disrupt the usual mechanisms and thwart the requisite level of empathy necessary to generate true dread. If the work of the British artist Marianna Simnett doesn’t entirely sidestep certain familiar sorts of scare tactics, it does vividly recast them,

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  • View of “Brian O’Doherty,” 2017. From left: Meribah, 1970; Minus Yellow, 1970; Places, 1969. Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle.

    Brian O’Doherty

    Simone Subal Gallery

    Nearly twenty years after Barnett Newman’s second exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery—the now-canonical show at which he presented Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950–51; The Wild, 1950; and Here I, 1950, to widespread critical disdain—and only a few months after his death, the Irish artist Brian O’Doherty debuted a series of sculptures in the same space. Six feet tall and under three inches wide and thick, these works were each made from two strips of polished aluminum that had been joined together at angles to form a V- or W-shaped groove and then “framed” by strips of painted wood. On

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  • Beatrice Marchi, Summer in the North, 2016, pastel and acrylic on wood, 40 1/4 × 55".

    Beatrice Marchi

    Hester

    For those suffering from the most standard form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the lack of sunlight in the winter months causes depression. Italian artist Beatrice Marchi’s “Summer in the North with Loredana” opened in the middle of a New York winter that was darker than most. Yet in Marchi’s show, malaise was rooted as much in cultural and technological shifts as it was in seasonal change. That is to say that each passing season simply introduced a different flavor of depression.

    In Loredana Across the Seasons, 2017, an animation of pastel-drawn images, a female figure with auburn hair

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  • Sid Grossman, Union Square, NYC, ca. 1938, gelatin silver print, 7 3/4 × 13 1/4".

    Sid Grossman

    Howard Greenberg Gallery

    This exhibition of forty photographs by the left-leaning, Depression-era photographer Sid Grossman—a cofounder of the influential Photo League cooperative and school—felt oddly timely. Grossman, who died in 1955 at the age of forty-two, was a pioneer of street photography in the United States, creating all-too-human images that focused on ostensibly anonymous individuals—the nameless folks we might encounter in the course of everyday life. In Grossman’s hands, each of these people is a hauntingly specific presence, each unique, each radiant with character. Consider, for example,

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  • View of “Sondra Perry,” 2016. Foreground: Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Workstation, 2016. Couch: Historic Jamestowne: Share in the Discovery and Take Several Seats, 2016. Background: Resident Evil, 2016. Photo: Jason Mandella.

    Sondra Perry

    The Kitchen

    Data, and its attendant devices, ostensibly exist to help us live “better”: Eat cleaner, work harder, exercise more. But who has the ability to “be good” in the first place, and at what cost? Saturated in postproduction blue, Sondra Perry’s first institutional solo exhibition, which was organized by Lumi Tan and titled “Resident Evil,” foregrounded the following paradox: While the law circumscribes the banal, everyday motions of black Americans as evil, law enforcement’s fatal policing has itself become banal, commonplace. As Perry’s montaged videos and interactive, found object installations

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