reviews

  • View of “Shahryar Nashat: Force Life,” 2020. Foreground, from left: Brain (are you nervous in this system), 2020; Barre (when will you get rid of my body), 2020; Brain (you no longer have to simulate), 2020. Background: Blood (what is authority), 2020. Photo: Denis Doorly.

    View of “Shahryar Nashat: Force Life,” 2020. Foreground, from left: Brain (are you nervous in this system), 2020; Barre (when will you get rid of my body), 2020; Brain (you no longer have to simulate), 2020. Background: Blood (what is authority), 2020. Photo: Denis Doorly.

    Adam Linder and Shahryar Nashat

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    CONTEXT MAY NOT BE EVERYTHING, but it is inescapable. And for the New York performance/art world, no context in recent memory was more highly anticipated than the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, unveiled as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s celebrated $450 million renovation. The Studio was billed as a “new live space dedicated to performance, music, sound, spoken word, and expanded approaches to the moving image.” That seemed like a lot to relegate to what was revealed to be a modestly sized “state of the art” gallery (standing

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  • Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Running with My Black Panthers and White Doves a.k.a. Running with My Daemons, ca. 1989–90, mixed media on canvas, 6' 9“ × 11' 6”. From the series “Panthers in My Father’s Palace,” 1984–90.

    Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Running with My Black Panthers and White Doves a.k.a. Running with My Daemons, ca. 1989–90, mixed media on canvas, 6' 9“ × 11' 6”. From the series “Panthers in My Father’s Palace,” 1984–90.

    Mary Lovelace O’Neal

    Mnuchin Gallery

    Though the seventy-eight-year-old Mary Lovelace O’Neal’s art and achievements warrant great acclaim, she is, unfortunately, little known. It’s no small wonder: O’Neal is a black woman based on the West Coast. She was not celebrated in the much touted “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” which originated at London’s Tate Modern in 2017 and traveled around the world. “Chasing Down the Image,” a mini retrospective covering five decades of her paintings at Mnuchin Gallery—O’Neal’s first show in New York since 1993—aimed to remedy that omission.

    Hailing from Jackson, Mississippi, O’Neal

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  • Jana Euler, Unform 2, 2019, acrylic on linen, 78 3⁄4 × 63".

    Jana Euler, Unform 2, 2019, acrylic on linen, 78 3⁄4 × 63".

    Jana Euler

    Artists Space

    Slugs are conspicuously absent from the Western canon. Although their flashier cousins, snails, make occasional art-historical appearances—creeping around the margins of medieval manuscripts and below the tulips in Dutch still lifes—slugs rarely get to play even these supporting roles. It’s surprising, in a way, given how utterly bizarre and inadvertently beautiful their behavior can be. Certain species of slug, for instance, mate in midair, dangling from strands of mucus like slimy Cirque du Soleil acrobats. Twirling gently, entwined in an armless embrace, these hermaphroditic paramours extrude

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  • Krzysztof Wodiczko, A House Divided . . . , 2019, 4K video projection on expanded polystyrene foam. Installation view.

    Krzysztof Wodiczko, A House Divided . . . , 2019, 4K video projection on expanded polystyrene foam. Installation view.

    Krzysztof Wodiczko

    Galerie Lelong & Co.

    Have you ever met someone whose face is so compelling that you cannot process the words coming out of that spellbinding mouth? This sort of distraction was what was both entrancing and vexing about “A House Divided . . . ,” an exhibition at Galerie Lelong & Co. that featured several examples of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s video projections from the past dozen years. For most of these works, the artist projected the images and voices of refugees, immigrants, and ordinary citizens onto buildings and statues.

    In one of the galleries was Four Public Projections, 2020, a looped video showing some of Wodiczko’s

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  • View of “Joanna Pousette-Dart,” 2020. From left: 2 Part Variation #3 (After Pierrot), 2015; 3 Part Variation #6, 2013; 3 Part Variation #12, 2017.

    View of “Joanna Pousette-Dart,” 2020. From left: 2 Part Variation #3 (After Pierrot), 2015; 3 Part Variation #6, 2013; 3 Part Variation #12, 2017.

    Joanna Pousette-Dart

    Lisson Gallery | 508 West 24th Street | New York

    “Strong experience of nature . . . is the necessary basis for all conception of art,” Paul Cézanne wrote in 1904. And in 1949 Clement Greenberg surmised that “Western painting has continued somehow to be naturalistic despite all appearances to the contrary.” The critic also went on to say that abstraction began “when Braque and Picasso stopped trying to imitate the normal appearance of a wineglass and tried instead to approximate, by analogy, the way nature opposed verticals in general to horizontals in general.” Similarly, Joanna Pousette-Dart’s paintings in her exhibition at Lisson Gallery

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  • Juanita McNeely, Is It Real? Yes It Is, 1969, nine panels, oil on linen, overall 12 × 12'.

    Juanita McNeely, Is It Real? Yes It Is, 1969, nine panels, oil on linen, overall 12 × 12'.

    Juanita McNeely

    James Fuentes

    The wailing wreckage of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, the necrotic wrist stump in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Self-Portrait as a Soldier, 1915, and the hellscapes of Otto Dix’s series “Der Krieg” (The War), 1924, all echo in Juanita McNeely’s pained visions. For her exhibition at James Fuentes, presented in collaboration with Mitchell Algus Gallery, the eighty-four-year-old artist showed two epic multipanel paintings from previous decades of her career, rendered in a sui generis expressionist style. The shell-shocked tricks of European modernism find new life in these complex works, depicting the

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  • Heidi Hahn, Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater #3, 2020, oil on canvas, 68 × 60". From the series “Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater,” 2019–20.

    Heidi Hahn, Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater #3, 2020, oil on canvas, 68 × 60". From the series “Folded Venus/Pomaded Sweater,” 2019–20.

    Heidi Hahn

    Nathalie Karg

    The first thing to notice about Heidi Hahn’s paintings is the artist’s adroit way with the fundamentals of the medium. Her handling of color, line, luminosity, and so on comes across as somehow both instinctual and analytical: Chromatic washes condense into emotional atmospheres, while swift gestural drawing elicits, rather than imposes, definition. Hahn makes mood palpable.

    The second thing one observes is how indebted her loose-limbed figurative style is to that of Henri Matisse, in whose work that amalgam of intuition and intellect reached a pinnacle. This might be worrisome, as an awful lot

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  • Rochelle Goldberg, Corpse Kitty: towards a friendly fatality, 2020, bronze, eye shadow, 19 3⁄4 × 40 1⁄8 × 12 5⁄8".

    Rochelle Goldberg, Corpse Kitty: towards a friendly fatality, 2020, bronze, eye shadow, 19 3⁄4 × 40 1⁄8 × 12 5⁄8".

    Rochelle Goldberg

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Eldridge Street

    Let us remember the Chia Pet. This brand of terra-cotta animal and human figurines contained chia seeds that, with regular watering, would sprout to resemble fur or hair. Its advertising jingle, “Ch-ch-ch-chia!,” played during 1980s cartoons such as The Transformers and M.A.S.K., which were themselves little more than extended commercials for toys that also catered to a fascination with change. To my knowledge, the artist Rochelle Goldberg has never cited the Chia Pet as an influence, but the fact remains that the work for which she first came to prominence appropriated the novelty item’s key

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  • Kristians Tonny, Sketch for a Mural in Avery Auditorium (Right Wall with Volcano), 1937, watercolor on paper, 21 3⁄4 × 37 1⁄4". From “Other Points of View.”

    Kristians Tonny, Sketch for a Mural in Avery Auditorium (Right Wall with Volcano), 1937, watercolor on paper, 21 3⁄4 × 37 1⁄4". From “Other Points of View.”

    “Other Points of View”

    Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art

    “The anti-institutional, anti-formal, anti-aesthetic nihilism of the Surrealists,” Clement Greenberg wrote in 1944, “. . . has in the end proved a blessing to the restless rich, the expatriates, and aesthete-flaneurs in general who were repelled by the ascetism of modern art. Surrealist subversiveness justifies their way of life, sanctioning the peace of conscience and the sense of chic with which they reject arduous disciplines.” The implicit target of his words was View, an avant-garde magazine founded in 1940 by the Mississippi-born poet and flaneur Charles Henri Ford, the “last protégé” of

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  • Becky Suss, Mic (Lighthouse with Solar System), 2019, oil on canvas, 84 × 60".

    Becky Suss, Mic (Lighthouse with Solar System), 2019, oil on canvas, 84 × 60".

    Becky Suss

    Jack Shainman Gallery

    In a series of new oil paintings at Jack Shainman Gallery, Becky Suss furthers her search for lost time by excavating children’s literature, interior decoration, the chimera of memory, and fictional homes. The show’s title originated in the writings of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, a pioneer of early education, whose Here and Now Story Book (1921) promoted child-centered learning. Suss created fantasias of preservation, laboring to remake domiciles that echoed with the question Is anyone home? The answer was mostly no, but this body of work was concerned with lives lived, from the cradle to the grave.

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  • View of “Merlin Carpenter,” 2020.

    View of “Merlin Carpenter,” 2020.

    Merlin Carpenter

    Reena Spaulings Fine Art | New York

    During the opening of his second presentation at Reena Spaulings Fine Art in 2007, Merlin Carpenter painted invectives such as DIE COLLECTOR SCUM and I HATE YOU THE ART WORLD YOU CUNTS onto canvases. At his 2011 show at Berlin’s MD 72, only those who were willing to pay 5,000 euros were allowed to view the art. For a 2017 show of paintings at Simon Lee Gallery in London, Carpenter contractually bound buyers of his works to keep them wrapped up until the year 2081. His art, depending on who you ask, is either willingly naive, deeply cynical, or the real thing. For his fifth outing at Reena

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  • E. J. Bellocq, Storyville Portrait, ca. 1912, printing-out-paper print, 10 × 8".

    E. J. Bellocq, Storyville Portrait, ca. 1912, printing-out-paper print, 10 × 8".

    E. J. Bellocq

    Deborah Bell Photographs

    Legend and rumor grow like weeds around the enigmatic photographer E. J. Bellocq (1873–1949). His beat was Storyville in New Orleans, a locale that spawns the tallest tales. The photo don John Szarkowski once described him as a “hydrocephalic semi-dwarf”; he was also said to be an outcast, one with a cone-shaped head and a high-pitched voice. He loved “high-class” brothels and made what Nan Goldin has called “among the most profound and beautiful portraits of prostitutes ever taken.” Bellocq captured these women circa 1912—in their gaudy rooms or outdoors, sometimes tenderly holding a pet—with

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  • View of “Maximilian Schubert,” 2020. Foreground: Stations, 2020. Background: Untitled (fracture), 2020.

    View of “Maximilian Schubert,” 2020. Foreground: Stations, 2020. Background: Untitled (fracture), 2020.

    Maximilian Schubert

    Off Paradise

    The spirit of Felix Gonzalez-Torres presides over Maximilian Schubert’s show “Doubles” at Off Paradise, not in any easily identifiable formal way, but rather as a kind of genius loci—a sense of refined, melancholy simplicity and intelligence that suffuses the eleven works on view. The presence of Gonzalez-Torres, now nearly twenty-five years gone, is not unbidden. As he began to produce the works for the show, Schubert and Natacha Polaert, the gallery’s founder and director, made a request to the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation for the loan of one of the late artist’s pieces, to be included in

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  • Susan Meiselas, Youths practice throwing contact bombs in forest surrounding Monimbo, 1978, C-print, 24 × 16".

    Susan Meiselas, Youths practice throwing contact bombs in forest surrounding Monimbo, 1978, C-print, 24 × 16".

    Susan Meiselas

    Higher Pictures Generation

    In the late 1970s, Susan Meiselas—then a new member of Magnum Photos, an artist-owned agency and standard bearer for the postwar field of photojournalism—traveled to Nicaragua, where she documented the Sandinista uprising against the government’s autocratic regime. A selection of her photographs, many published in international newspapers and magazines of the time, was exhibited here as a riveting testament to the impending coup and its aftermath. Meiselas’s series balances fidelity to sociopolitical context with attention to the volatility of visual signs—a quality more commonly associated with

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