reviews

  • Zoe Leonard, Untitled, 2019/2022, gelatin silver print, 21 5⁄8 × 30 3⁄4".

    Zoe Leonard, Untitled, 2019/2022, gelatin silver print, 21 5⁄8 × 30 3⁄4".

    Zoe Leonard

    Hauser & Wirth | 542 West 22nd Street

    Zoe Leonard’s art has long tackled fraught political issues—immigration, gentrification, capitalism—without coming across as moralizing or heavy-handed. Instead, the artist identifies historical or contemporary problems and dismantles them through investigations that are both materially expansive and conceptually rigorous. This approach stems in part from her involvement, beginning in the late 1980s, with ACT UP, fierce pussy, and other activist collectives fighting to save the lives of people with AIDS who were, infuriatingly, deemed not sufficiently worthy by the US government to live. In her

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  • Diane Arbus, Woman in a rose hat, N.Y.C. 1966, gelatin silver print, 10 3⁄4 × 10 1⁄4". Courtesy of The Estate of Diane Arbus.

    Diane Arbus, Woman in a rose hat, N.Y.C. 1966, gelatin silver print, 10 3⁄4 × 10 1⁄4". Courtesy of The Estate of Diane Arbus.

    Diane Arbus

    David Zwirner | 537 West 20th Street

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then late curator John Szarkowski (1925–2007) must be blushing. In 1972, he organized a major retrospective of Diane Arbus (1923–1971) at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Fifty years later, David Zwirner New York, in collaboration with San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery, resurrected it picture for picture: 115 in total, including two pieces that were taken out of the original presentation. Titled “Cataclysm” in a nod to the astonishing impact of the original presentation, the reboot at Zwirner’s West Twentieth Street space attempted to recapture

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  • John Baldessari, Man (With One Opinion and One Theory) and Leaf, 1993, photocopies, color photograph, graphite, and tape on graph paper, 8 × 11". © John Baldessari 1993. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2022. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

    John Baldessari, Man (With One Opinion and One Theory) and Leaf, 1993, photocopies, color photograph, graphite, and tape on graph paper, 8 × 11". © John Baldessari 1993. Courtesy Estate of John Baldessari © 2022. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer.

    John Baldessari

    Sprüth Magers | New York

    Breakthrough works from the mid-1960s by John Baldessari (1931–2020) owe their success to gestures of removal that paradoxically allowed the West Coast Conceptualist to make his mark. He curtailed his vision, his judgment, and his hand by turning the production of his paintings over to “professional artists.” And when he began in the ’70s to source materials from the film industry for his art, Baldessari made strategic excisions that became even more acute, adopting an approach that might be summed up as “The less said, the better.” Movie stills, publicity photographs, posters, and lobby cards,

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  • View of “Peter Sacks,” 2022. From left: Without Title 1, Without Title 2, Without Title 3, all 2022. All from the series “Without Title,” 2022.

    View of “Peter Sacks,” 2022. From left: Without Title 1, Without Title 2, Without Title 3, all 2022. All from the series “Without Title,” 2022.

    Peter Sacks

    Sperone Westwater

    This exhibition highlighted four new bodies of work by Peter Sacks. Two of them—the “Without Title” and “Without Name” series, both 2022—were mixed-media paintings. They were differentiated by size: The three “Without Title” works were large, if not grandiose, each measuring eight feet by six feet, while the four “Without Name” pieces were each four feet by four feet. Both series feature a mishmash of found materials, a sort of Sargasso Sea of debris. They are a “real paradise,” as van Gogh described the “place where the street-cleaners dump the rubbish.” (“My God, it was beautiful!” he exclaimed.)

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  • Lisa Oppenheim, Miroir entouré d’oiseaux, 1943/2022, ten-part suite of collaged gelatin silver prints, each 35 × 24 7⁄8".

    Lisa Oppenheim, Miroir entouré d’oiseaux, 1943/2022, ten-part suite of collaged gelatin silver prints, each 35 × 24 7⁄8".

    Lisa Oppenheim

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Lisa Oppenheim’s show “Spolia” extended her investigations into the reproduction and occlusions of cultural memory, this time by diving into the documentation of art that was looted by the Nazis from Jewish citizens in occupied territories during World War II—and that then went missing. Though the exhibition’s title—Latin for “spoils of war”—conjures thoughts of carnage and cultural plunder, many of the show’s works were based on anodyne photographs of stolen still-life paintings. As in her past works, Oppenheim complicated her appropriations, altering her source materials by way of fragmentation,

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  • Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilet of Salome, 1893/1906, photomechanical engraving from a drawing, 5 1⁄8 × 4".

    Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilet of Salome, 1893/1906, photomechanical engraving from a drawing, 5 1⁄8 × 4".

    Aubrey Beardsley

    Grolier Club

    Drawn from the holdings of the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection at the University of Delaware and hosted by the oldest bibliophilic society in North America, “Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young” was a bookish yet buoyant romp worthy of its subject. The curators of the sesquicentennial exhibition, Mark Samuels Lasner and Margaret D. Stetz, stuffed the second floor of the venue’s neo-Georgian town house with amusing bagatelles and ephemera—from a teenage self-caricature as Whistler’s mother to a letter recounting flirtations with the occult (specifically, an “unpleasant experience with a Planchette”

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  • Emily Nelligan, 28 JUNE 92 (1), 1994, charcoal on paper, 7 1⁄4 × 10 1⁄2".

    Emily Nelligan, 28 JUNE 92 (1), 1994, charcoal on paper, 7 1⁄4 × 10 1⁄2".

    Emily Nelligan

    Alexandre Gallery | 291 Grand

    Roughly two miles long and a mile wide, Great Cranberry Island is, like many of the settlements along Maine’s juddering Down East coastline, a place defined as much by water as by land. Reachable via a short boat trip from the bigger and busier tourist island of Mount Desert, it is itself a (much more modest) vacation destination, with a year-round population of a few dozen that swells by a magnitude of ten in the warmer months. Artist Emily Nelligan (1924–2018) was one of its part-time residents. Making work solely on the island in the summer and early autumn, she produced numerous quietly

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  • Janet Werner, Untitled (harlequin), 2022, oil on canvas, 69 × 52".

    Janet Werner, Untitled (harlequin), 2022, oil on canvas, 69 × 52".

    Janet Werner

    Arsenal Contemporary Art | 21 Cortlandt Alley

    “Crush,” featuring eighteen canvases made over the past two years, was a belated New York solo debut for prominent Montreal-based painter Janet Werner. Her earlier work often took the form of portraits—but imaginary ones, made without the use of real or photographic models. According to the artist, those paintings “actually came out of an investigation of abstraction.” Judging from reproductions, they certainly had nothing to do with realism, allowing painterliness its own impulses as it flirts with the grotesque. Later, she began mining fashion magazines for source material. That’s well-trod

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  • Nina Yankowitz, Sagging Spiro, 1969, sprayed acrylic on canvas, 10' 5" × 5' 1".

    Nina Yankowitz, Sagging Spiro, 1969, sprayed acrylic on canvas, 10' 5" × 5' 1".

    Nina Yankowitz

    Eric Firestone Gallery | New York

    Toward the end of the 1960s and into the early ’70s, Nina Yankowitz was engaged with core questions about the nature of painting. Then an undergraduate student at New York’s School of Visual Arts—at a time when two- and three-dimensional objects inhabited distinctly separate realms—she voiced a seditious desire to upend the binary: “I want to do both,” she told the head of SVA, according to her 2018 oral history interview for the Archives of American Art. In 1969, at age twenty-three, she had her first full-scale solo show at Manhattan’s Kornblee Gallery (during a period when gallery representation

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  • Jamie Diaz, Life Is Wonderful Being Queer, 2014, watercolor on paper, 20 × 15".

    Jamie Diaz, Life Is Wonderful Being Queer, 2014, watercolor on paper, 20 × 15".

    Jamie Diaz

    Daniel Cooney Fine Art

    Dignity is perhaps the most appreciable and astonishing quality emanating from Jamie Diaz’s artwork. This is no small feat, given that the artist—a trans woman—has been confined to a men’s penitentiary in Gatesville, Texas, for the past twenty-seven years. Diaz’s exhibition of watercolors, comics, and assorted ephemera at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, heartrendingly titled “Even Flowers Bleed,” was her first, ever.

    The Mexican American artist was born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1958 but grew up in Houston. Diaz’s habit of frequenting the rougher parts of the city’s downtown area during the 1960s and ’

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  • View of “Azza El Siddique,” 2022. Background, left and right: Book of two ways, 2022. Center, on floor: Temple of a million years, 2022. Photo: Sebastian Bach.

    View of “Azza El Siddique,” 2022. Background, left and right: Book of two ways, 2022. Center, on floor: Temple of a million years, 2022. Photo: Sebastian Bach.

    Azza El Siddique

    Helena Anrather

    If, as science tells us, the universe tends toward chaos, then we may find relief in untethering ourselves from a linear, finite notion of time. The works in Azza El Siddique’s solo exhibition “Dampen the flame; Extinguish the fire” leaned longingly into the possibilities of cyclical states. They flowed back into themselves and continuously metamorphosed, insisting that some things always remain in the wake of loss. Inspired by her research into ancient Egyptian and Nubian death traditions, El Siddique grapples with protean matters: the inevitable collapse of everything, what happens after life,

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