reviews

  • Mel Bochner, Exasperations, Column A, 2017–19, four panels, oil on velvet, overall 15' 3 5⁄8“ × 7' 5 1⁄2”.

    Mel Bochner, Exasperations, Column A, 2017–19, four panels, oil on velvet, overall 15' 3 5⁄8“ × 7' 5 1⁄2”.

    Mel Bochner

    Peter Freeman, Inc.

    Many of the paintings in this exhibition were emblazoned with phrases that Mel Bochner calls “exasperations” (which was also the title of the show): Among these were LOOK WHO’S TALKING and I’VE HAD IT UP TO HERE, along with the familiar Bochnerian BLAH BLAH BLAH. In the press release, Bochner invoked the “politics of language.” His chosen expressions are meant to reflect, alternately, the rage and the disingenuousness of public speech in these dire times. The artist has a gift for identifying platitudes or expostulations that, in being isolated, become transformed—ambiguous or strange. For

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  • Monica Majoli, Blueboy (Roger), 2018, watercolor woodcut transfer on paper, 52 × 74 3⁄4".

    Monica Majoli, Blueboy (Roger), 2018, watercolor woodcut transfer on paper, 52 × 74 3⁄4".

    Monica Majoli

    Galerie Buchholz | New York

    No matter the medium, Monica Majoli’s portrayals of men are heavy as hell—emotionally, conceptually—while, oddly, appearing utterly weightless, even angelic. In her crepuscular and modestly sized oil paintings from the 1990s, we see her subjects fuck, suck, choke, and lick—queer and carnal creatures who enjoy one another’s bodies, be they limp with pain or taut from ecstasy. In a later series, rendered in luminous watercolor and gouache, they are clad in rubber from head to toe and placed in bucolic settings. Sometimes they are lashed to a tree, or suspended high in the air from an elaborate

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  • Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, This is Heaven, 2019, 4K video stop-motion animation, color, sound, 6 minutes, 36 seconds.

    Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, This is Heaven, 2019, 4K video stop-motion animation, color, sound, 6 minutes, 36 seconds.

    Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery was dominated by four macabre stop-motion animations. In This Is Heaven (all works 2019), a hairy, goblin-faced man wakes up inside his own fantasy of wealth and power. The video is reminiscent of Eugène Delacroix’s La mort de Sardanapale (The Death of Sardanapalus), 1827, a canvas depicting a scene from the story of an Assyrian monarch who orders the destruction of his slaves, horses, and other possessions after his army has been routed so that his property doesn’t get usurped by his enemies. Like Sardanapalus, Djurberg and

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  • Philip Taaffe, Altarpiece (detail), 2018, mixed media on canvas, 102 × 75 5⁄8".

    Philip Taaffe, Altarpiece (detail), 2018, mixed media on canvas, 102 × 75 5⁄8".

    Philip Taaffe

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Philip Taaffe is a human search engine, an old-school “image scavenger” hoovering up an encyclopedic array of abstract, symbolic, and representational material to populate the transcultural painterly pastiches for which he is famous. No Google sourcing or pixelation here: The library and the bookstore conspire with the entire catalogue of analog mark-making and a variety of increasingly quaint or nostalgic printmaking and image-transfer techniques—e.g., decoupage, frottage, mono- and screen-printing—to produce visual fields of varying pictorial and affective intensity. This show, Taaffe’s third

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  • Andra Ursuţa, Succubustin’ Loose (detail), 2019, lead crystal, 46 × 18 × 13".

    Andra Ursuţa, Succubustin’ Loose (detail), 2019, lead crystal, 46 × 18 × 13".

    Andra Ursuta

    Ramiken #7

    Victims of pleasure, vehicles for pain: Human bodies tend to be at the mercy of violent desires—their own and those of others—in the work of Andra Ursuta. The artist has created X-ray-esque images of bound figures being sodomized by carrots, and once exhibited a blackened cast of her naked self, gaunt and collapsed like a peat-bog mummy, and splattered with suggestive white silicone. Sometimes her targets are implied: Stoner, 2013, involves a batting-cage pitching machine hurling rocks at a tiled wall with long hair emerging from the cracks. But if Ursuta has been dredging dark streams of

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  • Suzanne McClelland, Mute W, 2018–19, mixed media on canvas, 40 × 30". From the series “MUTE,” 2018–19.

    Suzanne McClelland, Mute W, 2018–19, mixed media on canvas, 40 × 30". From the series “MUTE,” 2018–19.

    Suzanne McClelland

    Team Gallery | Grand Street

    A painter known for her exuberant and restless style of gestural abstraction, Suzanne McClelland orchestrated a major sea change with “MUTE,” a series of twenty-six paintings (all works 2018–19) that made up her show at Team. The radiating centripetal force that frequently propels her field effects were sucked in and reconfigured here, presented as forms against relatively empty monochromatic grounds. No extravagant inventory of paint-mushed marks, numbers, and lists of things—which have appeared in previous bodies of work—kept us busy reading, counting, and navigating her nonobjective surfaces.

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  • Rosson Crow, After the Rapture (Border Town), 2019, acrylic, spray paint, oil, enamel, and photo transfer on canvas, 8 × 12'.

    Rosson Crow, After the Rapture (Border Town), 2019, acrylic, spray paint, oil, enamel, and photo transfer on canvas, 8 × 12'.

    Rosson Crow

    The Hole

    Hard to believe, but sixteen years have passed since Rosson Crow’s debut at the New York gallery Canada, which announced the recently minted twenty-two-year-old BFA as a precociously talented painter. Within just a few years, she would complete an MFA at Yale University and go on to have solo exhibitions at blue-chip galleries in Paris, Los Angeles, and London before mounting a major solo show in New York (her final until recently) in 2010 with Deitch Projects during the last days of Jeffrey Deitch’s first space in SoHo. By then, Crow had developed a style in which some detected an incongruously

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  • Paul P., Untitled, 2019, oil on linen, 10 5⁄8 × 8 3⁄4".

    Paul P., Untitled, 2019, oil on linen, 10 5⁄8 × 8 3⁄4".

    Paul P.

    Queer Thoughts

    Paul P.’s “Slim Volume” at Queer Thoughts was finely tailored, with an insistence upon grace. The show’s oil paintings, illustrations, two collages, and lone sculpture did not overwhelm the tiny exhibition space, thanks to the careful curatorial consideration of emptiness

    and selectivity.

    Histories are retold by Paul P. via slow processes and deliberate finesse. The Canadian artist has been working steadily with portraiture for at least ten years, repurposing images of men sourced from the archives of gay magazines. The artist photocopies decades-old photographs and reconstructs them as oil

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  • Tyree Guyton, Good Boy, 2016, house paint on canvas, 26 × 22". From the series “Faces of God,” 1989–.

    Tyree Guyton, Good Boy, 2016, house paint on canvas, 26 × 22". From the series “Faces of God,” 1989–.

    Tyree Guyton

    Martos Gallery | New York

    “Love, Sam,” Tyree Guyton’s solo exhibition at Martos Gallery, was titled in honor of the artist’s grandfather Sam Mackey. A housepainter by trade, he gave his grandson his first paintbrush when he was nine years old. Guyton, who is now sixty-four, would go on to study art at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies in 1980; six years later, he began painting candy-colored polka dots on the facade of Mackey’s house on Heidelberg Street in McDougall-Hunt, a predominantly black, working-class enclave on Detroit’s east side. This benignly eccentric act marked the beginning of the Heidelberg Project,

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  • Wayne Thiebaud, Lake Mountain, 2019, oil on canvas, 48 × 36".

    Wayne Thiebaud, Lake Mountain, 2019, oil on canvas, 48 × 36".

    Wayne Thiebaud

    Acquavella Galleries

    Forget the cakes, ice creams, and pastries that pop into your head when you hear “Wayne Thiebaud.” Nothing was sugarcoated in the mountainous solitary landscapes that appeared at Acquavella. Across thirty-three works in sundry media—oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, gouache, and assorted types of prints—the artist confronted vertiginous territories with the same enchanted, impassioned eye as that of Caspar David Friedrich. Altitude doesn’t frighten Thiebaud, because he’s able to convey monumental scale, even in more modestly sized pieces. His vision extends over spectacular, unobstructed vistas—and

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  • Man Ray, Macbeth, 1948, oil on canvas, 29 7⁄8 × 24 1⁄8". From the series “Shakespearean Equation,” 1948–54.

    Man Ray, Macbeth, 1948, oil on canvas, 29 7⁄8 × 24 1⁄8". From the series “Shakespearean Equation,” 1948–54.

    Man Ray

    DI DONNA

    An eye-opening survey of Man Ray at Di Donna—comprising thirty-two paintings and thirty-four works on paper—possessed what André Breton once called the “extreme degree of immediate absurdity,” a quintessential aspect of Surrealism. Man Ray, one of the movement’s undisputed masters, is well known for his photograms and solarized images, as well as for his fashion and portrait photography. He also produced various avant-garde films and conceptually driven pieces, such as the readymade Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1923, an image of an eye snipped from a photo and attached to

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  • View of “Nicole Cherubini,” 2019. Foreground from left: Red One, Athena, 2019; Chair 1—blue VW bus, 2019. Background from left: Chair 5—turquoise with shard, 2019; Deep Blue Sea, 2019; Chair 4, 2019.

    View of “Nicole Cherubini,” 2019. Foreground from left: Red One, Athena, 2019; Chair 1—blue VW bus, 2019. Background from left: Chair 5—turquoise with shard, 2019; Deep Blue Sea, 2019; Chair 4, 2019.

    Nicole Cherubini

    Derek Eller Gallery

    No single word suffices. To describe Nicole Cherubini’s sculptures as “urns” connotes antiquity’s lost grandeur, archaeological recovery, or the ashes of the departed. To call them “pots” implies decorative home wares, Sunday ceramic workshops, and that scene from Ghost. “Vase” is too elegant, “vessel” too vague. “Specific object” has the benefit of stressing a phenomenological dimension but is otherwise useless. In any case, volumes assuming the shape and material histories of clay containers have been the central motif of Cherubini’s work for more than twenty years. Here, the artist included

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  • View of “Larry Poons,” 2019. From left: For “Glenda”, 2019; Things Minus People (Kubrick), 2018.

    View of “Larry Poons,” 2019. From left: For “Glenda”, 2019; Things Minus People (Kubrick), 2018.

    Larry Poons

    Yares Art | New York

    Two very different sides of Larry Poons appear in his most recent exhibition. On the one hand are a dozen paintings—made between 2014 and 2019 and built out of masses of small, flickering gestures—that in their meditative lyricism hearken back to Impressionist landscapes. On the other are thirteen canvases, or “Particle Paintings,” dating from 1996 to 2002, that Poons made using a technique that involved laying down mostly linear relief elements onto the work’s surface before applying paint. Via this approach, “drawing” became a material fact, to which Poons could react with color, presumably

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  • View of “Robert Mallary,” 2019. Foreground: title unknown, 1962. Background from left: title unknown, 1962; Descent, 1955.

    View of “Robert Mallary,” 2019. Foreground: title unknown, 1962. Background from left: title unknown, 1962; Descent, 1955.

    Robert Mallary

    Mitchell Algus Gallery

    Renown arrived swiftly to Robert Mallary, then bolted. The Museum of Modern Art in New York featured him in 1961’s “The Art of Assemblage,” then went on to show his junk works in two more group exhibitions that decade. In 1962, the New York World’s Fair commissioned The Cliffhangers, 1963–64, one of his breakthrough tuxedo sculptures: doomy, vaudevillian tableaux featuring suits gleaned from trash heaps, then infused with toxic polyester resin and, before stiffening, torqued into precariously baroque sideshows. Yet by the late ’60s he had pivoted—in part due to the resin’s deleterious health

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  • Nicolas Moufarrege, Le sang du phénix (The Blood of the Phoenix), 1975, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas, 49 7⁄8 × 64".

    Nicolas Moufarrege, Le sang du phénix (The Blood of the Phoenix), 1975, thread and pigment on needlepoint canvas, 49 7⁄8 × 64".

    Nicolas Moufarrege

    Queens Museum

    In his short life, Nicolas Moufarrege (1947–1985) traversed vast terrains both geographic and intellectual. His idiosyncratic hybrids of painting and embroidery, which took shape in Beirut, Paris, and New York, muster dense arrangements of Middle Eastern and Western iconographies. The smartly titled “Recognize My Sign”— Moufarrege’s first museum survey, which debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2018—returns him to his final hometown. The artist’s varying references, as old as Egyptian papyrus and as pop as Mickey Mouse, vibrate with a longing for connection while also showcasing

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