reviews

  • View of “Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now,” 2017, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Martin Seck.

    Louise Lawler

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    IN THE VIDEO The Public Life of Art: The Museum, 1988–89, Andrea Fraser guides the viewer through the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wearing a gray business suit, she twirls past paintings by Matisse and Kline as she breathlessly enumerates the benefits museums bring to their home cities, including business talent and tourist dollars. Her script is ironic and incisive, to say the least, but the way she is framed by the camera—beside brochures and under works of art—is also striking. In one shot, a fragment of a Roy Lichtenstein painting and a burnished metal trash can form a tense

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  • Carey Young, Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 17 minutes 58 seconds.

    Carey Young

    Paula Cooper Gallery

    The quiet of Carey Young’s video Palais de Justice, 2017—also the title piece of her recent exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery—is, in fact, an unrelenting roar. Footsteps and murmuring voices bounce off the endless marble surfaces of the eponymous domed, nineteenth-century court building in Brussels, reminding us of its architecture’s fearsome grandeur even in her closer shots. With Young, we spy on people, catching unguarded moments in corridors and peering into closed courtrooms to watch female judges at work. Shown as a large projection in a darkened room, the transfixing, dialogueless

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  • Stanley Whitney, Untitled, 1996, graphite on Japanese rice paper, 12 5/8 × 16 7/8".

    Stanley Whitney

    Lisson Gallery | 138 10th Avenue | New York

    I’d been waiting for a show of Stanley Whitney’s drawings for a long time. Catching sight of them periodically in his studio, or in the back room of a gallery, I’d always been amazed. Whitney is, as should now be apparent, among the supreme colorists of contemporary painting, but what’s amazed me in his drawings has been his mysterious ability to communicate the variable weights and densities of color, as he does in his paintings—without actually using color at all, instead relying on pure line to express, as if through metaphor, chromatic differentiae.

    Conjuring color through its absence

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  • Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #48, 1964, acrylic, collage, and assemblage on board, 48 x 60 x 8". From “Deadeye Dick: Richard Bellamy and His Circle.” © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

    “Deadeye Dick: Richard Bellamy and His Circle”

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    Richard Bellamy (1927–1998), aka Deadeye Dick, was among the significant figures of his generation, credited with identifying and exhibiting both Pop artists and Minimalists early on. Anyone who’s old enough to have visited galleries Bellamy directed, be it the Green Gallery or Oil & Steel, remembers his perspicacity, catholic taste, youthful exuberance, and gift for installing art to maximum effect. After his death almost twenty years ago at the age of seventy, his reputation dropped off the radar of a younger generation.

    With the publication last year of Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and

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  • Tom Sachs, The Cabinet, 2014, mixed media, 8' x 13' x 11 1/2".

    Tom Sachs

    Sperone Westwater

    Predictably winking but at times also unexpectedly personal and even wistful, Tom Sachs’s recent solo show was figured as a kind of material autobiography: a trip down an artistic memory lane paved with a thousand different things, each subsumed within the systematizing logic of his famously relentless, tongue-in-cheek didacticism. The exhibition showcased the ways his artistic persona can both charm and chafe—it was maniacally overstuffed with objects and language, rich in obsessive-compulsive tics, and marked by a cultivated mash-up of gravitas and juvenilia, of amiable self-deprecation

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  • Pat Steir, Morning Moon, 2016–17, oil on canvas, 108 x 108".

    Pat Steir

    Lévy Gorvy | New York

    The ancient Greeks had two words to indicate time: kronos and kairos. While the former refers to sequential time, the latter signifies “a time in between,” a moment when something special occurs. “Kairos,” then, was an appropriate title for this show of twelve new paintings by Pat Steir. In each of them, something momentous occurs at the center of the picture—a vertical caesura that centrally divides the canvas. When I look at this liminal line, I think of the irreconcilable dichotomy of existence, encompassing the separation between spirit and body, essence and appearance. The fissure

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  • Trevor Paglen, A Prison Without Guards (Corpus: Eye-Machines), 2017, dye sublimation print, 32 x 40". From the series “Adversarially Evolved Hallucination,” 2017.

    Trevor Paglen

    Metro Pictures

    Back to school: Trevor Paglen produced his important early work on military black sites and extraordinary rendition while pursuing a doctorate in geography at the University of California, Berkeley. Having already received his MFA, he drew on geography’s analytic tools to develop an artistic practice premised on the hunch that, however “secret,” clandestine government programs would always leave material traces—facilities, flight records, post office boxes—that could be located, documented, and made visible to a broader public. This year, Paglen spent several months as an artist-in-residence

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  • Thomas Eggerer, Moonlight Slowdown, 2017, oil on linen, 65 x 64".

    Thomas Eggerer

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    Thomas Eggerer’s recent exhibition marked a conspicuous shift in the artist’s practice. While architecture and the (almost always male) human figure have long been central to Eggerer’s paintings, both subjects typically appeared with a brushy unfinish that emphasized the paintings’ process. In contrast, Eggerer’s new compositions have a smooth, even-sealed quality to them. But perhaps the defining feature of the painter’s earlier practice was that his bodies almost always appeared in groups—clamoring in the ocean, working in the fields, traveling by bus, or lolling about on a playground.

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  • Maira Kalman, It was a unique eggbeater, 2004, gouache on paper, 11 1/8 x 7 7/8".

    Maira Kalman

    Julie Saul Gallery

    Despite its bone-deep elegance, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (1919/1959), familiar to many of America’s editors and authors but demonstrably not to enough of either, seems an unpromising text for visual illustration, being, as it is, a brief guide to words and how to combine them. (That is, how to write.) Short of a series of rebuses, what could its images be? You would need a Maira Kalman to imagine and draw them, which in fact Kalman did, producing a celebrated edition of the book in 2005. This show offered a chance to see the original gouaches, along with a new set from this year, “

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  • Ja’Tovia Gary, An Ecstatic Experience, 2015, 16 mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound, 6 minutes. From “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017.”

    “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Ja’Tovia Gary’s An Ecstatic Experience, 2015, is modestly tucked in the final room of “An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017,” which was organized by the museum’s David Breslin, Jennie Goldstein, and Rujeko Hockley. But even before you see the video screen, you hear the steady beat of its a cappella version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This six-minute video—one of the most genuinely moving artworks I’ve seen in recent years—intercuts footage from the “Slavery” segment of a nine-episode 1965 television miniseries called The History

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  • Cheyney Thompson, Biometrically Secure Punch Clock, 2017, custom electronics, ABS plastic, 6 7/8 x 10 x 3 1/4".

    Cheyney Thompson

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    In the unforgiving hands of Cheyney Thompson, painting is subject to a deconstruction so thoroughgoing and severe that it might better be termed a disembowelment. Having broken the medium down into its constituent parts, Thompson doesn’t so much reassemble it as transport it into other realms entirely, to fields governed by systems and routines more often associated with such divergent realms as mathematics, economics, and manual labor. “Somewhere Some Pictures Sometimes,” the deliberately nebulous title of the artist’s seventh solo exhibition at this gallery, was consistent with the teasingly

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  • Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea E. Manning, Probably Chelsea, 2017, thirty 3-D printed masks, dimensions variable. Photo: Paola Abreu Pita.

    Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea E. Manning

    Fridman Gallery

    It’s difficult to gauge the merits of “A Becoming Resemblance” with anything resembling critical objectivity. The incendiary politics surrounding Dewey-Hagborg’s collaborator and muse, the US military intelligence officer turned hacktivist Chelsea E. Manning, and the controversial nature of the show’s subject matter (the diagnostically and morally murky territory of DNA-based profiling) overshadowed one’s reading of the project from the outset. This was not a conventional collaboration—not least because half of the partnership remained incarcerated, periodically in solitary confinement and

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  • Julie Speidel, Otemma Glacier, 2016, stainless steel, overall 3' 8“ x 10' 3 1/2” x 4' 1".

    Julie Speidel

    Winston Wächter Fine Art

    Seen out of context—within the gallery’s whitewashed walls rather than on the lush green grounds of Vashon Island, Washington, where they were made—Julie Speidel’s twelve sculptures became exquisitely intricate abstractions and, with that, lost something of their larger meaning and purpose, if not their aesthetic magic. They were meant to be seats or resting places, according to the local Chamber of Commerce website, on “the little piece of paradise”—a sort of hortus conclusus—that is Vashon Island. The three boulder-like geometric objects in Otemma Glacier, 2016, were the

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  • Ellie Ga, Strophe, a Turning, 2017, two-channel video projection, color, sound, 37 minutes 33 seconds.

    Ellie Ga

    Bureau

    In the opening lines of narration in Ellie Ga’s two-channel video installation Strophe, a Turning, 2017, the artist discusses Russian poet Osip Mandelstam’s comparison, in a 1912 essay, between writing a poem and lobbing a bottled message into the sea. Both acts, Ga suggests, level distance between the self and some unknown receiver—but to what end? Ga’s discussion of Mandelstam, who was persecuted by the Communists for his nonconformity, exiled, and later left to die in a Soviet work camp, is characteristically dexterous. It economically introduces the work’s ostensible subject—the

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  • Jess Johnson and Simon Ward, Whilst in Genuflect, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 31 seconds.

    Jess Johnson

    Jack Hanley Gallery

    “What is being described here is in fact a machine,” Roland Barthes wrote of the Marquis de Sade’s pornographic scenarios, “ . . . a meticulous clockwork, whose function is to connect the sexual discharges.” While there is little if any, sex in Jess Johnson’s meticulous drawings, rendered in pen, marker, and gouache on paper, there’s more than a hint of the structuralist Sade in her unindividuated, compliant nudes, which function as fungible units in a fabulous and brutal visual grammar. Divested of sexual or psychological characteristics, they are arranged in esoteric diagrams in complex,

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