reviews

  • Bernard Buffet, La plage, 1956, oil on canvas, 44 7/8 × 76 3/4".

    Bernard Buffet

    Venus

    Two admissions are needed to make the case for Bernard Buffet, a painter so long considered minor that his work is—or was—unredeemable even in the realm of camp taste: First, one must accept that painting is a serious vehicle for artistic expression; second, one must admit that anything sufficiently seen eventually comes to sit normatively in the eye. 

    My 1950s triangulated between New York, Chicago, and Paris, so I well remember Buffet as a central figure amid a group of artists called Misérablistes—the now-forgotten Francis Gruber being the other once well-regarded painter of

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  • Mathias Poledna, Substance, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 6 minutes 40 seconds.

    Mathias Poledna

    Galerie Buchholz | New York

    The kernel of Mathias Poledna’s exhibition was Substance, a six-minute, forty-second 35-mm film depicting the movements of a Rolex watch. The 2014 work was first shown at the Renaissance Society in Chicago that year, and in that exhibition, Poledna also removed the trusswork from the institution’s ceiling. Two portions of that metal structure appeared here, suspended by wire, like bits of a miniature railway bridge. Hanging in an otherwise empty white cube, these were the first things one saw before a mix of music and motorized projector noise ushered the viewer into the black box at the gallery’s

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  • Shannon Ebner, The Splay Anthem, 2017, ink-jet print, 10 × 14".

    Shannon Ebner

    Eva Presenhuber | New York

    Since its beginnings, Shannon Ebner’s practice has investigated language’s structures, but where it once sought to make them objective by building words out of cinder blocks (among other things), it has now entered a more poetic, associative phase. Her recent exhibition, “STRAY,” contained an LP with readings by poets Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey as well as photographs of verses of poems that had been wheat-pasted onto the gallery’s walls. If these elements to some extent called to mind her earlier work, other moments—such as a snapshot-size portrait of Grace Dunham, or a flock of

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  • Iván Argote, As Far As We Could Get, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 22 minutes.

    Iván Argote

    Perrotin | New York

    You can tell a lot about a society by how it imagines its opposite. The term antipode derives from the Greek for having one foot facing the wrong direction. Its geographical usage—designating points diametrically opposite one another on the globe—stems from the ancient belief that the other side of the earth held a kind of netherworld, where everything was inverted, causing the men who lived there to walk backwards. 

    Iván Argote tests this theory, surveying a pair of modern-day antipodes for his twenty-two-minute video As Far As We Could Get, 2017. Urban antipodes are rare, with only

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  • Willie Doherty, No Return, 2017, video projection, color, sound, 15 minutes.

    Willie Doherty

    Alexander and Bonin

    Once home to twenty thousand people, the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, now houses around two thousand, having lost 90 percent of its population through the withering of the steel industry. That means empty houses and streets—the visual substance of Willie Doherty’s No Return, which he made for a show of work by Northern Irish artists at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, very near Braddock, in the spring and summer of 2017. Alongside its succession of images, this fifteen-minute video has an aural component: Doherty combines his pictures of the town with a voice-over narrative, an

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  • Ceal Floyer, Plughole, 2017, video projection, color, sound, 3 minutes 53 seconds.

    Ceal Floyer

    303 Gallery

    Ceal Floyer shares with a handful of her contemporaries, such as Martin Creed and Gavin Turk—all three emerged in London during the early 1990s heyday of the YBAs—a wry post-Conceptualist mode that edges consciously ever closer to non-art, to simply merging with the fabric of everyday life. But while Creed has inherited the interest of the original Conceptualist tendency toward systems and ritual, and Turk the movement’s preoccupation with questions of authorship, Floyer leans in a more programmatically minimal direction. In her fourth appearance at this gallery, the artist continued

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  • Sonja Sekula, Ethnique, 1961, gouache on paper, 20 1/8“ × 20 1/8”.

    Sonja Sekula

    Peter Blum Gallery

    “Everyone from the fifties in New York has a Sonja Sekula story,” Brian O’Doherty wrote in 1971, “yet, though she contributed to period mythology, she herself has no myth.” “Sonja Sekula: A Survey,” the first New York solo exhibition of the artist’s work in more than twenty years, begins to construct one after decades of relative obscurity.

    The daughter of a Hungarian philatelist and a Swiss confectionery heiress, Sekula was born into wealth and privilege in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1918, moving to New York when she was eighteen. In the 1940s, she showed with Betty Parsons and Peggy Guggenheim

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  • Anne Neukamp, Memo, 2017, oil, tempera, and acrylic on linen, 39 3/8 × 31 1/2".

    Anne Neukamp

    Marlborough Contemporary | New York

    Friedrich Kittler launched his lifelong investigation into how “media determine our situation” with a simple insight: that Michel Foucault, for all his brilliance, never reckoned with data storage systems other than the written word. The whole rich field of “German media theory” has emerged out of this blind spot. Kittler’s methods not only have transformed our understanding of analog and digital technologies, but also have alerted us to the technicity of writing itself. Typographic “operators,” like commas, quotation marks, and footnotes, all have their own complicated histories that Foucault

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  • Barbara Bloom, Vanity, 2017, vanity mirror and lighting, mirrored vanity table, photo-etched vanity mirror, digital ink-jet print, movie scripts. Installation view. Photo: Max Yawney.

    Barbara Bloom

    David Lewis

    A few days after seeing Barbara Bloom’s exhibition “A Picture, a Thousand Words”—a collection of seven sculptures that tenderly activate her familiar techniques of framing and doubling, of looking and being looked at—I unexpectedly found myself in a sunbaked, middle-of-nowhere town for the burial of my grandmother. It just so happened, of course, that the cool gray of her coffin was the same as that of Bloom’s walls. And it just so happened that I had spent much of the night before staring at old photos, fantasizing about why she had been seated on that porch, on his knee, in those

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  • Allan D’Arcangelo, Landscape, 1976–77, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 54 1/8 × 60 1/4".

    Allan D’Arcangelo

    Garth Greenan Gallery

    It’s no great trick to locate signs of American culture in Allan D’Arcangelo’s work. The paintings on which he made his reputation in the 1960s and ’70s are, of course, filled with them: road signs sleekly abstracted into directional tangles, advertising logos floating with uncanny serenity along the dark edges of empty highways. But even as D’Arcangelo, who died in 1998 at the age of sixty-eight, began to move away from these early signature motifs, he continued to conjure a kind of echt American landscape, producing enigmatic environments populated with elegantly stripped-down infrastructural

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  • Sam Contis, Eggs, 2015, gelatin silver print, 37 1/2 × 30".

    Sam Contis

    Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

    If you happened to be a guy who scored well on your SATs and had a slight yen for paths less taken, then you probably wondered for at least a minute: What would it be like to go to Deep Springs College? Deep Springs, as you might know even if you don’t fit that demographic, is the country’s smallest college, and possibly its most geographically isolated; its seven or eight faculty members offer thirty or fewer male students a rigorous two-year education from which most go on to complete their BAs at one of the Ivies. And it’s all free, but each student is required to work twenty hours a week on

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  • Larry Zox, Cordova Diamond Drill, 1967, acrylic on canvas, 66 × 48".

    Larry Zox

    Berry Campbell

    It’s hard to categorize Larry Zox’s painting, though many have tried. In 1965, his work appeared in the exhibition “Shape and Structure,” organized by Frank Stella and Henry Geldzahler, which positioned the artist’s work amid hard-edge Color Field painting and Minimalism. A year later, Lawrence Alloway included Zox’s art in the show “Systemic Painting,” implying the work is best understood as an example of repetition and systemization, then supposedly the new “in” thing. This exhibition at Berry Campbell, however, demonstrated that Zox’s work betrays these categories. The eighteen pieces displayed

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  • Jef Geys, Drawing—Greta Meert, 2017, framed print, bubble wrap, tape, paper, marker, paint, 17 1/2 × 13 1/2 × 1".

    Jef Geys

    Essex Street

    For a number of years, Jef Geys has made new works out of his past. “Bubble Paintings” was an exhibition of earlier works shrouded in bubble wrap and dated new. The decision to keep the paintings covered is something Geys came to naturally, perhaps even accidentally, as paintings came home in bubble wrap and traveled back out the same. T. S. Eliot spoke of making “quasi-musical decisions.” That’s how I’d put it, too. Some faced out. Others were turned around, wrong-way facing, full of their own out-of-view lives. The images we do see are simple, nothing out of the ordinary: a melodious violet,

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  • Quintessa Matranga, Sleeping in My Dreams, 2017, oil on canvas, 18 × 24".

    Quintessa Matranga

    Queer Thoughts

    The recurrent motif in “Me at 3AM,” Quintessa Matranga’s recent show of seven small, anxious oil paintings, was a thick quilted comforter, which acts as a barrier between a human figure and the ominous, threatening world that she inhabits. Painted on the New York–based artist’s bedroom floor, these small, deliberately impoverished works of teen surreality summon a youthful, sequestered world. In Sleeping in My Dreams (all works 2017), a bed is hoisted into a black night sky; sandwiched between the mattress and a comforter is a young woman, secured in place by a chain. She is elongated and

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  • Maureen Gallace, Clear Day, 2011–12, oil on panel, 14 × 18".

    Maureen Gallace

    MoMA PS1

    “Clear Day,” Maureen Gallace’s serene and dazzling retrospective at MoMA PS1, spans twenty-five years and includes more than seventy small oil paintings, though it seems there might be more like seven hundred of them, winding through the exhibition’s second floor in an airy parade. As you wander from room to room, the succession of white walls dramatizes not just the light-flooded intensity of Gallace’s canvases and their compact proportions (which hover around the intimate, sketch-book scale of nine by twelve inches), but the inexhaustibility and expansiveness of her narrow project. The artist

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