reviews

  • Jennifer Packer, The Eye Is Not Satisfied with Seeing, 2018, oil on canvas, 18 × 38".

    Jennifer Packer, The Eye Is Not Satisfied with Seeing, 2018, oil on canvas, 18 × 38".

    Jennifer Packer

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

    Jennifer Packer’s paintings come, she has said, from “observation, improvisation, and memory.” That sounds a bit like realism, abstraction, and symbolism all at once—or maybe at different times of day? It’s a tall order, but her recent exhibition “Quality of Life” bore that out. Although what she paints—people, flowers—might sound limited, she can do pretty much anything she wants with her medium of choice (and with charcoal), and she allows herself the freedom to range widely in form and feeling, and sees more in her subjects than others might notice.

    A striking example was Jess, 2018, an

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  • Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975, video, black-and-white, sound, 6 minutes 13 seconds.

    Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975, video, black-and-white, sound, 6 minutes 13 seconds.

    Martha Rosler

    The Jewish Museum

    Martha Rosler doesn’t suffer fools. Pointedly and with blunt humor, the artist has delivered biting critiques of the misogyny, racism, and exploitative economics that characterize American capitalism and its hypocrisies. Yet the sheer volume of works in “Irrespective,” the Jewish Museum’s potent survey covering roughly fifty years of Rosler’s artmaking, resists any attempt to pigeonhole her art as purely “about” feminism or gentrification. The museum’s cramped first-floor galleries—in which photographs, videos, installations, and sculptures had been wrangled into unruly sections—work to reinforce

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  • Rodney Graham, Vacuuming the Gallery, 1949, 2018, quadriptych, painted aluminum light boxes with transmuted chromogenic transparencies, overall 9' 11“ × 24' 6 1/2” × 7".

    Rodney Graham, Vacuuming the Gallery, 1949, 2018, quadriptych, painted aluminum light boxes with transmuted chromogenic transparencies, overall 9' 11“ × 24' 6 1/2” × 7".

    Rodney Graham

    303 Gallery

    One could not help but marvel at the formal and technical mastery required to produce the mammoth four-section light box that dominated Rodney Graham’s latest show at 303 Gallery; nor could one fail to be amused by its subject matter. Measuring roughly ten feet high by twenty-five feet wide, the picture boasted an alluring glow so even, and a resolution so sharp, as to rival the implausibly crisp hyperrealist sheen of the iMac retina screen I’m staring into as I type these words. The highly—yet seamlessly—digitally manipulated image floating atop this triumph of photographic representation

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  • Sergej Jensen, Little Nazi Blush, 2018, acrylic on sequin fabric, 50 × 35".

    Sergej Jensen, Little Nazi Blush, 2018, acrylic on sequin fabric, 50 × 35".

    Sergej Jensen

    Galerie Buchholz | New York

    Like Broadway stars reduced to singing in two-bit saloons, sequins have suffered a fall from grace. Long before they became the provenance of prom queens, musicals on ice, and Las Vegas magicians, they occupied a loftier sphere of the fashion heavens. Tutankhamun sashayed into the afterlife fully spangled. Medieval merchants jangling along the canals of Venice called the precious metal trimming zecchino (“golden coin”), which became sequin in France. There, the tiny ornaments festooned tony waistcoats, opulent ball gowns, and delicate fans. In the United States, Jazz Age dance floors glinted

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  • Robert Morris, BRAINDEAD / SHITMOUTH / PRESIDENT, 2017, fiberglass and epoxy resin, 36 × 71 × 4".

    Robert Morris, BRAINDEAD / SHITMOUTH / PRESIDENT, 2017, fiberglass and epoxy resin, 36 × 71 × 4".

    Robert Morris

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    In her autobiography Feelings Are Facts (2006), Yvonne Rainer recalls visiting Robert Morris’s installation Passageway, 1961, at Yoko Ono’s Chambers Street loft in New York. “I traipsed downtown and up the five flights expecting some kind of performance, only to be met, on opening the door, by a three-foot wide curving corridor with [a] seven-foot high ceiling that ended in a pointed cul-de-sac,” writes Rainer. “I was so outraged that I wrote on the wall ‘Fuck you too, Bob Morris.’” Notice the “too.” For those familiar with the indignities of Rainer’s subsequent relationship with Morris, this

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  • Brian Belott, Untitled (Fan Puff), 2016, mixed media, 83 × 73 × 81⁄2". From the series “Puuuuuuuuuffs, 2014–.

    Brian Belott, Untitled (Fan Puff), 2016, mixed media, 83 × 73 × 81⁄2". From the series “Puuuuuuuuuffs, 2014–.

    Brian Belott

    Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown

    If—or, rather, when—the next ice age comes, it might look a lot like Brian Belott’s exhibition at the Chinatown, New York, space of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. In this show, three industrial freezers—each Untitled, 2018, and parked in a back room of the gallery—housed a number of rectangular assemblages made from materials as disparate as mixing cups (arrayed in a rather vulvar way), hair gel, a hand massager, a weight from a grandfather clock, Jelly Bellies, and an abacus. Because the objects were vertically suspended and encased in ice, form gave way to brightly saturated color. The room was

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  • View of “Hélio Oiticica,” 2018–19.

    View of “Hélio Oiticica,” 2018–19.

    Hélio Oiticica

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    With its no-frills title, the exhibition “Spatial Relief and Drawings, 1955–59,” offset one of the suspended objects made by Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) with two of his early series from the late 1950s. The first, “Metaesquemas,” 1957–58 (loosely translated as “Metaschemes” or “Metastructures”), comprises abstract gouache drawings on cardboard, and the second consists of works produced during his affiliation with Grupo Frente, an artist collective founded by Oiticica’s teacher Ivan Serpa and active in Rio de Janeiro from 1954 to 1956. With members including Aluísio Carvão, Lygia Clark, and Lygia

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  • View of “Ed Ruscha,” 2018–19. From left: Honk [#2], 1964; Securing the Last Letter (Boss), 1964. Photo: Dan Bradica.

    View of “Ed Ruscha,” 2018–19. From left: Honk [#2], 1964; Securing the Last Letter (Boss), 1964. Photo: Dan Bradica.

    Ed Ruscha

    Craig F. Starr Gallery

    Ed Ruscha has been using words as the subjects of his paintings, drawings, and prints since the early 1960s. Remarkably, none of his succinct verbalizations have been identified with the artist the way Ma jolie, 1911–12; L.H.O.O.Q., 1919; and The Treachery of Images, 1928–29, are associated, respectively, with Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and René Magritte. Focused on the years 1961 to 1964 and particularly on the artist’s use of the words ace, radio, honk, and boss, the exhibition at Craig F. Starr Gallery brought New Yorkers back to the Los Angeles–based artist’s origin story. That’s when

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  • View of “Davina Semo,” 2019. Photo: Pierre Le Hors.

    View of “Davina Semo,” 2019. Photo: Pierre Le Hors.

    Davina Semo

    Marlborough | Chelsea

    Davina Semo’s sculptures have an unvarnished quality that can make them tough to love. Of course, she’s well aware of this condition, and based on the evidence of “ALL THE WORLD,” her solo exhibition at Marlborough Contemporary, she’s not much inclined to alter it. The artist’s stated aim is to reflect the present-day urban environment with all its awkward disjunction and waste, so the objects she engineers are supposed to be visually grating. But they come up short—the patina of modish roughness combined with an attempt at a refreshing honesty feels a little too stage-managed for (dis)comfort.

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  • Corentin Grossmann, Jeux de femmes (Women’s Games), 2018, graphite, colored pencil, and airbrush on paper, 41 1⁄2 × 63".

    Corentin Grossmann, Jeux de femmes (Women’s Games), 2018, graphite, colored pencil, and airbrush on paper, 41 1⁄2 × 63".

    Corentin Grossmann

    OSMOS Address

    The graphite drawing The main gate, 2017, welcomed visitors to Corentin Grossmann’s first US exhibition with an architectural fabulation of elephantine columns, ball-shaped ornaments, and massive vaults enclosing depthless shadows. As the title suggested, we were looking at a threshold between two places. Behind the titular structure, the tops of palm trees were silhouetted against the sky, placing us in the tropics. In front was the nebulous gray void of our immediate foreground. The hazy gray scale, flat tonality and grainy surface texture of the drawing unsettled the exoticism of the scenery

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  • Rachel Ostrow, Hope, 2018, oil on panel, 42 × 36".

    Rachel Ostrow, Hope, 2018, oil on panel, 42 × 36".

    Rachel Ostrow

    Planthouse

    Rachel Ostrow’s oil-on-panel paintings—which feature kaleidoscopic abstract forms nearly engulfed by pitch-black grounds—evoke two of the most mysterious, enthralling regions of human fascination: outer space and the oceanic abyss. Imagination compensates for what we don’t know about these places, and Ostrow utilizes this magical territory to initiate dynamic relationships between gelatinous marine shapes, cosmic nebulae, concertinaed ridges, and the yawning expanses they inhabit. Wonder and terror, magnetism and apprehension: These forces were key to the mesmerizing visual impact of the nineteen

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  • Jane Kaplowitz, Announcement Card, An Artist’s Studio, 1993, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 48".

    Jane Kaplowitz, Announcement Card, An Artist’s Studio, 1993, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 48".

    Jane Kaplowitz

    Fortnight Institute

    Embedded in the nebulous and frequently exasperating terrain of emotional labor is the work of keeping up appearances. For the romantic partners of powerful people—often the wives of men—these efforts usually germinate into an alter ego that plays the dual role of host and companion. Jane Kaplowitz’s exhibition “RSVP: Jane Rosenblum (1977–2018)” paid tribute to this performance of self. Kaplowitz was married to the renowned art historian Robert Rosenblum, some twenty years her senior, who died in 2006. Over the course of their relationship, the artist found herself at the center of the art world

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  • Gerald Slota, Untitled (Pegboard), 2018, digital C-print, 44 × 37 1⁄2".

    Gerald Slota, Untitled (Pegboard), 2018, digital C-print, 44 × 37 1⁄2".

    Gerald Slota

    Ricco / Maresca Gallery

    If one didn’t know that the ten digital C-prints in this exhibition were dedicated to Gerald Slota’s dead father, one would have thought they were merely surreal. The eccentric, collage-like compositions featured timeworn items from his late parent’s home (crusty wallpaper, shabby kitchen tiles, a misshapen pegboard) in sensational colors (electric yellows, lurid greens, lambent blues). The pieces were strangely abstract—the pegboard, for instance, became a Color Field painting, the bit of wire dangling from it an expressive gesture. The images had a certain naive and clumsy charm, a quality we

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  • Nat Meade, Breeze, 2018, oil on hemp, 24 × 18".

    Nat Meade, Breeze, 2018, oil on hemp, 24 × 18".

    Nat Meade

    Honey Ramka

    “With my kid on my shoulders I try / Not to hurt anybody I like . . . / I defend my family with my orange umbrella / I’m afraid of everyone.”

    The National’s 2010 song “Afraid of Everyone” evokes the conundrum of being a self-aware male (and a father) in a moment when masculinity, and gender overall, is under a microscope. The theme is one that permeates many of that indie band’s most resonant songs, and it informed the work of Nat Meade in this breakthrough solo show of paintings.

    The men depicted in these fourteen works were simultaneously heroic—the geometric, angular faces of several invoked

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