reviews

  • Fernand Khnopff, I Lock My Door upon Myself, 1891, oil on canvas, 28 5/8 × 55 1/2".

    Robert Pincus-Witten on the Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    MY DOCTORAL DISSERTATION, submitted to the University of Chicago in 1968, was published in 1976 as Occult Symbolism in France: Joséphin Péladan and the Salons de la Rose-Croix. Back then, these salons were all but absent from the accepted narrative of modernist development; half a century later, I am stunned to discover them as the focus of a handsomely grave exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized by the museum’s senior curator, Vivien Greene, who gratifyingly acknowledges my early work. This weird experience sent me back to the memory of copying somniferous citations by hand

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  • Alvin Baltrop, Self-portrait (looking away), 1975–86, gelatin silver print, 3 3/8 × 5".

    Alvin Baltrop

    Galerie Buchholz | New York

    Alvin Baltrop’s photographs of the derelict piers beyond the West Side Highway in Chelsea and of the bodies of the men who cruised the dilapidated architecture for sex and other forms of illicit intimacy during the 1970s and ’80s were rarely exhibited during his lifetime. Over the past decade, thanks in part to the work of art historian and curator Douglas Crimp, who has included the artist in several exhibitions and wrote an essay on Baltrop’s photographs for this magazine in 2008, more attention has been paid to the photographer’s formal, graceful images, which were assembled by Crimp for an

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  • Henrique Oliveira, Devir, 2017, plywood, tree branches, bark. Installation view.

    Henrique Oliveira

    Van de Weghe Fine Art

    Now in his mid-forties, the Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira has a long exhibition history in both Latin America and Europe, not to mention scattered shows in the United States, but his installation Devir (Becoming), 2017, at Van de Weghe Fine Art was his first appearance in New York. As such, it may not have been completely representative: He is capable of very large-scale installations—Transarquitetônica (Transarchitectural), a maze of wood and brick tunnels at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, in 2014, filled a space around 240 feet deep, while another

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  • Devon Dikeou, “Pray for Me”—Pope Francis I, 2014, ten friarleros. Installation view, 2017. Photo: Jason Mandella.

    Devon Dikeou

    James Fuentes

    Before David H. Koch affixed his name to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exterior plaza; before the Rockefellers funded the Museum of Modern Art’s international program during the Cold War; before Solomon R. Guggenheim, J. P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie marshaled their fortunes toward “refining” American culture; before several centuries’ worth of upstanding burghers, upstart aristocrats, and absolutist royals who amassed collections and awarded commissions, there were popes. How different the history of Western art would be without Julius II, who commissioned Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura

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  • John Williams, Untitled, 2017, overhead projector, soccer goal, spray paint, powder-coated steel mesh, PVC board, film gels, metal chain, plastic chain, hooks, speaker mesh. Installation view.

    John Williams

    Brennan & Griffin

    The overhead projector—that forgotten castaway of middle-school math class—assumes center stage in Los Angeles–based artist John Williams’s most recent works. With its bulky frame, clamorous cooling fan, and characteristic distortion of the square of its backlit surface into a top-heavy trapezoid that appears on the wall, the overhead holds little of the nostalgic allure of the 16-mm projector, or even the slide carousel. It’s a little too utilitarian, a little too pedagogic to sustain the sexy sheen of the retro. In this exhibition of five new works, Williams, to his credit, didn’t

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  • Betty Blayton, Souls Transcending, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 40 × 40".

    Betty Blayton

    Elizabeth Dee Gallery

    Ten circular canvases graced Elizabeth Dee’s upstairs annex in a jewel-box exhibition dedicated to Betty Blayton, the late abstract painter whose artistic achievements have been partially eclipsed by her roles as cofounder of New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem and as an advocate for African American artists. Housed at the original address of the museum she helped launch in 1968, and organized by independent curator Souleo, Blayton’s first solo show since her death in 2016 began to mend this imbalance. Works from the 1970s—heady, terrestrial abstractions turned out in spicy oranges, browns,

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  • Helen Pashgian, Untitled, 2010–11, cast epoxy, 12x12"

    Helen Pashgian and Brian Wills

    TOTAH

    A two-person show of Helen Pashgian and Brian Wills, “Transient” modeled the visual volatility characteristic of many 1960s Southland art practices. Despite its moorings in a Los Angeles vernacular of Light and Space—that likewise conjures a very specific horizon of military and commercial development and the coincident artistic appropriation of such technologies—this occasion eschewed historical specificity in favor of a formal, phenomenological dilation of temporality licensed by the same origins. (The press release casts “light” as atemporal, “as old as the universe itself,” and

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  • Tim Youd, Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, 2013, typewriter ink on paper, 17x25".

    Tim Youd

    Christin Tierney

    In Stanley Kubrick’s much-deconstructed ur-horror film The Shining (1980), conclusive evidence of protagonist Jack Torrance’s psychopathy appears tucked into the wayward winter caretaker’s typewriter. Upon finding it, his long-suffering wife, Wendy, begins to page through a stack of similar typewritten pages nearby. To her despair, she finds the sheaf of papers previously assumed to contain Torrance’s novel in progress to contain endless repetitions of the same self-mocking maxim: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The phrase is typed in a variety of decorative configurations, as if

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  • Liz Glynn, Open House, 2017, cast concrete. Installation view. Photo: James Ewing.

    Liz Glynn

    Public Art Fund | Doris C. Freedman Plaza

    The William C. Whitney House used to stand at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sixty-Eighth Street, but like a lot of things in New York, it was torn down to make way for the future. (A large apartment complex occupies the site today.) For her project some ten blocks south, at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Los Angeles–based artist Liz Glynn has re-created portions of the lost building’s Stanford White–designed interiors out of concrete. Using photographic documentation as a kind of negative, Glynn cast a suite of armchairs and settees and sofas, as well as entryways and porticos, which gave the project

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  • Travis Boyer, Astrodome Hustle, 2017, cotton, wool, natural dyes, faux pearls, rhinestones, and sequins handwoven in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, with master dyer and weaver Mariano Sosa Martinez at the Biidaüü Weaving Collective, 96 x 42 x 42".

    Travis Boyer

    SIGNAL

    A fan who became a friend and an employee—and then an obsessed, disgruntled ex-employee—shot and killed the singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (known as Selena) in 1995, at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas, when the beloved “Queen of Tejano” was just twenty-three, and the Texas-born artist Travis Boyer was sixteen. He was a fan, too. For his exhibition at Signal Gallery in Brooklyn this summer, titled “Ahora y Nunca” (Now and Never), Boyer mined a long-standing daydream to present an array of Selena memorabilia, including an only partially visible treasure trove of Selena-related

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  • Bruce Conner, Booji Boy: Devo, May 1978, 2011, ink-jet print, 28 x 21". From “Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia.”

    Mark Mothersbaugh

    Grey Art Gallery

    Best known as cofounder, singer, and keyboardist of archetypal art band Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh has cut a singular path through the intersecting margins of art and popular culture. Born (1950) and raised in Akron, Ohio, the artist spent his formative years, which were marked by creative inclination, subjected to the kind of banal cruelties routinely administered by boomer jocks to nerdy, bespectacled kids. (Mothersbaugh has severe myopia.) In a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron, recorded on the occasion of this exhibition, Mothersbaugh describes his experience of kindergarten through

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  • Willa Nasatir, Conductor, 2017, C-print mounted on wood, 75 x 61 3/8".

    Willa Nasatir

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Camp, as Susan Sontag once described it, is expressed as a love of artifice and hyperbole, of “things-being-what-they-are-not.” Willa Nasatir makes pictures in this spirit; she coaxes both illusion and its failure from abstracted still-life photographs. Nasatir’s exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art—her first major institutional show in New York—includes ten large-scale C-prints and seven more modest gelatin silver prints (all works 2017). Glossy, a little melancholic, and very cinematic, each features illusion functioning variously. Though the images appear to have been

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  • Lynn McCarty, Changing Perception, 2017, oil on aluminum, 30 x 32".

    Lynn McCarty

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Curator Mark Rosenthal’s magisterial essay “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century”—a text written to accompany an exhibition he organized for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1996—notes the “forbidding appearance” of abstract art. Abstraction, he writes, is peculiarly inaccessible, even intimidating—often “self-contained, and too often hermetic. ” Lynn McCarty’s work serves as a powerful riposte to this statement. Splendidly colorful and intricately formed, her paintings—twenty-one examples of which were on display in this excellent show—are sensuously

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  • Vivan Suter, Untitled, 2017, oil and pigment on canvas. Installation view. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

    Hudinilson Jr., Jessica Mein, Vivian Suter

    Simon Preston

    The original 1938 Xerox machine transferred images from one surface to another using a six-step electrographic process that required fixing a negatively charged powder to a positively charged piece of paper. That powder, today known as toner, is adhered with heat and was originally made of moss spores.

    Like that of photography, the advent of xerography (“dry writing”) had far-reaching repercussions, unsurprisingly facilitating office productivity but also precipitating government leaks and aids activism. Advertisers soon took up the technique, as did artists. In America, Pati Hill was perhaps

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