reviews

  • Ranjani Shettar, Seven ponds and a few raindrops, 2017, stainless steel, muslin, tamarind, natural dyes. Installation view, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2018.

    Ranjani Shettar

    Talwar Gallery and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    THE INDIAN ARTIST Ranjani Shettar first exhibited in the United States in 2003, just three years after getting her MFA in Bangalore, and has shown here steadily ever since. Among her New York appearances was a spectacular installation in the exhibition “On Line,” curated by Cornelia Butler and Catherine de Zegher at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. I use the word spectacular, but what was most striking about the piece was its delicacy: A hanging net of small beads of pigmented wax strung on threads dyed in tea, it formed a voluminous but ethereal constellation in the show’s opening space. This

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  • Marlene Dumas, She speaks, 2015–16, ink and metallic acrylic on paper, 11 1⁄8 × 9 1⁄4". From the series “Venus & Adonis,” 2015–16.

    Marlene Dumas

    David Zwirner | 537 West 20th Street

    There was a time in the late sixteenth century when fears of the plague forced theaters all across London to close their doors until the illness passed. This posed something of an employment problem for Shakespeare. To continue working, he turned to poetry. “Venus and Adonis,” a narrative poem from 1593, and perhaps his first published work, took a brief episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and transformed it into a rollicking, ten-thousand-word disputation on the natures of love and lust. In Shakespeare’s text, Venus, the goddess of love, falls for the alluring young hunter Adonis, who couldn’t

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  • Tommy Hartung, R.U.R. Act One: The Viewer, 2017, still from the 8-minute color HD video component of a mixed-media installation additionally comprising two closed-circuit cameras.

    Tommy Hartung

    C24 Gallery

    Science fiction flourishes in the “great whirlpool periods of history,” according to Darko Suvin, a pioneering theorist of that critically disdained genre. The Czech intellectual Karel Čapek wrote during one of those traumatic times—just after the unspeakable devastation of World War I, just before the ascension of the Third Reich, and during the rise of communism (a philosophy he virulently opposed). Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots is a drama about a cheap workforce of manufactured humanoids who murder their human creators. It’s now best remembered for introducing the word

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  • View of “Andreas Slominski,” 2018.* Photo: Genevieve Hanson.

    Andreas Slominski

    Metro Pictures

    High on the list of a novice art lover’s mistakes must surely be wandering into a Chelsea gallery and asking to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, the portable toilets installed by Andreas Slominski in his recent exhibition at Metro Pictures did not function in the conventional sense—unless some gutsy viewer decided to take a tip from Jackson Pollock, who, during the 1943 unveiling of his commissioned painting Mural, notoriously urinated in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace—so a full-bladdered visitor’s needs likely remained unresolved.

    Slominski’s fourth exhibition at the gallery suggested a punchy

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  • RAMMΣLLZΣΣ, Maestro 2 Hyte Risk, 1976–79, pen and marker on cardboard, 9 7⁄8 × 23 5⁄8".

    “RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: Racing for Thunder”

    Red Bull Arts New York

    In the beginning there was The RAMM:ELL:ZEE—not a pseudonym, but an equation that the legendary artist, rapper, philosopher, graffiti writer, and proto-Afrofuturist gave to himself. Why merely name oneself when identity is the result of a mixed-up math, the sum of complex calculations and multidimensional coordinates? God of his own creation myth, the Queens-born Rammellzee waged his first holy war on words, expounding the wild theories he called Gothic Futurism and Ikonoklast Panzerism, dedicated to liberating the alphabet from the corrupting social forces—“the tricknowledgies,” as he once

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  • Maren Hassinger, Our Lives, 2008/2018 newspaper, 72 × 72".

    Maren Hassinger

    Susan Inglett Gallery

    Maren Hassinger’s stunning exhibition “As One” covered more than forty years of the artist’s elegant and unassuming productions, and left me wanting more. (Thankfully, the Studio Museum in Harlem is presenting her sculptures in Marcus Garvey Park through 2019, and a large-scale exhibition organized by Los Angeles’s Art + Practice and the Baltimore Museum of Art opened at the latter this past summer). The eight works on view were spun from everyday materials, such as pink plastic bags (inflated with the breath of the artist and gallery staff) and strips of muslin dyed with tea and coffee to

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  • Justine Kurland, Bathroom, 1997, C-print, 11 × 14".

    Justine Kurland

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    A few years after Justine Kurland started shooting her “Girl Pictures,” 1997–2002, she was dubbed a “girl photographer.” Although the label feels limiting, if not downright misogynistic, Kurland artistically came of age in the 1990s, a decade that celebrated the more renegade aspects of female adolescence. The “Riot Grrrl Manifesto,” published in a zine put out by feminist punk band Bikini Kill in 1991, plainly stated the case for reclaiming the word: “BECAUSE we are angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl = Bad, Girl = Weak.”

    At Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Kurland’s series, exhibited for

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  • Domenico Gnoli, Curl, 1969, acrylic and sand on canvas, 54 3⁄4 × 47 1⁄4".

    Domenico Gnoli

    Luxembourg & Dayan | New York

    “A commodity seems at first glance to be a self-evident, trivial thing,” Karl Marx famously wrote in Das Kapital. “The analysis of it yields the insight that it is a very vexatious thing, full of metaphysical subtlety and theological perversities.” “Detail of a Detail,” Luxembourg & Dayan’s second exhibition devoted to the late Italian realist painter Domenico Gnoli, was riddled with superficially innocent, deeply vexing items: the prim knot of a red necktie, a tooled-leather brogue, a starchy white collared shirt, a floral damask duvet. Violently uprooted from their respective milieus and

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  • View of “Peter Roehr,” 2018. From left: Film-Montagen I–III, 1965; Untitled (FO–52), 1965. Photo: Jeremy Lawson.

    Peter Roehr

    Ortuzar Projects

    A fascinating—and, at least as far as the conventional canon goes, mostly missing—link between Pop art and Minimalism, Peter Roehr’s work identified a vein of astringent poetry in the image world of an emergent global consumer culture. An exhibition at Ortuzar Projects provided a bracing overview of the five-year career of the German Conceptualist, who died of cancer in 1968, only weeks before his twenty-fourth birthday. Focused on his rigorously ordered photomontages, and featuring a revelatory suite of film montages, the show presented a practice very much in dialogue with the dominant conceptual

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  • Tyler Coburn, Remote Viewer (animation), 2018, digital video, black-and-white, silent, 7 minutes 42 seconds.

    Tyler Coburn

    Koenig & Clinton

    As surveillance and communications technologies grow ever more sophisticated, so, too, must our expectations of privacy evolve to both answer and anticipate these new forms of digitally enhanced access. And yet, long before the days of search engines and social media streams, there were drug-addled Delphic priestesses, clairvoyants gazing into crystal balls, and salon-parlor spiritualists, spewing ectoplasm or rapping away under their tables. While instances of paranormal prescience are well documented around the globe, mainstream science has kept a careful distance from the subject. Indeed,

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  • Robert Bittenbender, Gethsemane, 2018, mixed media on canvas board, 30 × 32 1⁄2 × 3".

    Robert Bittenbender

    LOMEX

    Looking at Robert Bittenbender’s assemblages and works on paper, you’d almost think that there is still some kind of bohemia in New York, that somewhere out there a few artists are trying to live their lives in the interstices of the market economy, breathing life into its detritus, taking Apollinaire’s famous advice to “paint with whatever material

    you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.” Bittenbender’s exhibition “Cosmo Freak” included six pieces, all dated 2018: two wall-hung, three-dimensional

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  • Julia Philips, Extruder (#1), 2017, partially glazed ceramics, nylon screws, metal struts, metal pipes, concrete tiles, lacquer, 33 7⁄8 × 51 1⁄4 × 68 1⁄8".

    Julia Phillips

    MoMA PS1

    Blinder, Intruder, Distancer, Muter, Aborter: Julia Phillips titles each of her sculptures after its purpose. Who carries out these functions? Ambiguity menaces the German-born, New York-based artist’s work, in which intimacy, race, and power are interrogated—to use one of art criticism’s most trite verbs, but one that aptly captures the spirit of Phillips’s first museum solo exhibition, “Failure Detection,” whose austere rooms conjure both torture chambers and medical facilities.

    Ceramic utensils meant to sunder and separate flesh lie grimly on a hospital trolley with white handle grips in

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  • Ryan Foerster, Universe/Garden, 2018, 12-part suite of unique C-prints, debris, each 14 3⁄4 × 11 3⁄4".

    Ryan Foerster

    C L E A R I N G | Upper East Side

    Ryan Foerster has a penchant for rescuing rejects, courting accidents, and embracing disasters. When Hurricane Sandy flooded the artist’s home in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, ravaging the photographs stored in his basement, he exhibited the buckled, bleeding prints as new works. His recent solo show at C L E A R I N G’s uptown branch delivered similarly resourceful, unabashedly imperfect projects. Among them were twelve pieces made with defective photo paper, nine cast-off aluminum printing plates, and a sculpture composed of flotsam found on the beach: a tangled fishnet, a battered soda-can

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  • View of “Ed Moses,” 2018. From left: Crumel, 2004; Ignon, 2006. Photo: Casey Kelbaugh.

    Ed Moses

    Albertz Benda

    Ed Moses’s miniretrospective at Albertz Benda, which featured a dozen of the artist’s canvases, was also a memorial to his stunning achievements. The earliest, Peeleb, was made in 1998; the most recent, Krak-BLK, 2014, was created only four years before his death this year, at the age of ninety-one. The paintings testified to his versatility and endlessly exploratory creativity. He was an action painter, as he acknowledged—but there were few action painters who were as “open to change,” to quote his friend Frank Gehry. Moses called himself the Mutator, implying that his art was in a constant

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  • Daphne Fitzpatrick, Carson McCullers in a Suit, 2018, Duratrans, 22 × 27".

    Daphne Fitzpatrick

    Gordon Robichaux

    Last year, I slipped on a banana peel while walking down the street. Just a little lurching wobble: I was actually more incredulous than hurt. It’s the stuff of vaudeville, slapstick: the kind of event you think could never actually happen in real life—until it does. Daphne Fitzpatrick’s “3 Dollar Bill,” full of such moments, destabilized the viewer in much the same way. One-liners abounded, with plenty of objects that Acme would have proudly listed in its catalogue: a slice of Swiss cheese (is there any other type in cartoons?) made from beeswax and cantilevered on a rare buffalo nickel, a

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