reviews

  • View of “Mrinalini Mukherjee,” 2019. From left: Basanti, 1984; Yakshi, 1984; Pakshi, 1985; Rudra, 1982; Devi, 1982.

    Mrinalini Mukherjee

    The Met Breuer

    The retrospective at the Met Breuer of the late Indian sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee (1949–2015) was also the first solo presentation of her art in the United States. Aptly titled “Phenomenal Nature,” the show—featuring nearly sixty objects, including her signature fiber sculptures and works in ceramic and bronze produced during the latter part of her career—was an overdue introduction to a formally audacious and technically exquisite oeuvre that defies easy art-historical and ethnographic classification. Although her engagement with textiles came in the wake of related midcentury investigations

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  • Dana Hoey, Imogene Simmons, 2019, ink-jet print, 32 1⁄4 × 24 3⁄4".

    Dana Hoey

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    From catfights to survivors of the great outdoors, Dana Hoey’s photographs represent tensions within and among her female subjects. Since the late 1990s, much of the discourse surrounding her work has centered on its fictional and nonfictional aspects—that is, the distinction between her staged and candid pictures. Her latest solo exhibition at Petzel, “Dana Hoey Presents,” is premised on the “parafictional.” Hoey’s use of the term, however, does not refer to the slippage of imaginary characters into reality but draws on what the art historian Carrie Lambert-Beatty describes as practices “built

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  • Alissa McKendrick, Untitled, 2019, oil on canvas, 14 × 10".

    Alissa McKendrick

    Team Gallery | Grand Street

    “Resentment” was a surprising title for a show of five vibrant, high-spirited paintings, none of which immediately gave off vibes of bitterness or rancor, even if their energy contained an understated ferocity. Alissa McKendrick is a fluent colorist with a propensity for subtly dissonant combinations of fruity, saturated hues that produce a jarring, acidic sweetness. Placing her stylishly accoutred female protagonists in spatially nonspecific color fields where they act out equivocal scenarios (motorcycling, nearly naked, past an overturned car, or confronting a seated ape as if engaged in

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  • David Kennedy Cutler, Double Exposure, 2019, ink-jet transfer, Permalac, and acrylic on canvas, 45 × 32 × 4 1⁄2".

    David Kennedy Cutler

    Derek Eller Gallery

    Over the past few years, David Kennedy Cutler has drawn notice for installations and performances centering on bizarre interactions among multiple selves—his own ineluctable one and those of a cluster of life-size Kennedy Cutler clones, doppelgängers fashioned from ink-jet prints of images gleaned with a handheld scanner. While some of these stand-ins remained flat like cardboard cutouts, others were grafted onto flexible mannequins, ready for uncanny action. In the weirdest of these productions, the artist—sheathed in the artificial skin of his digitized, casually attired self and sharing space

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  • Herbert Zangs, Plus-Minus, 1953, paint on cardboard, 55 1⁄2 × 51 1⁄8". From the series “Whitenings,” 1952–54.

    Herbert Zangs

    Blain|Southern | New York

    The late German artist Herbert Zangs (1924–2003)—who worked primarily with cardboard, staples, wood, and white paint in the years following World War II—generated a sorely underrecognized oeuvre that’s as blissfully meditative as it is dense with painterly innovation. “Plus Minus” at Blain|Southern—the first New York exhibition of Zangs’s work in fifty years—unearthed yet another example of the white monochrome’s presence during the early 1950s. When Robert Rauschenberg was showing his 1951 White Paintings to audiences both dubious and offended and Robert Ryman was observing the modernist canon

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  • Augusta Savage, The Harp, 1939, bronze, 10 3⁄4 × 9 1⁄2 × 4". Souvenir replica.

    Augusta Savage

    New-York Historical Society

    In the company of Jacob Lawrence’s streamlined Cubism, Romare Bearden’s faceted and collaged surfaces, and William Ellisworth Artis’s sleek, softly Egyptianized terra-cotta figures, the physiognomically expressive and convincing portrait busts of Augusta Savage (1892–1962) gave her the bearing of an éminence grise in “Renaissance Woman”—the first survey in thirty years devoted to the pathbreaking sculptor, educator, and arts advocate. Curator Jeffreen M. Hayes placed examples of Savage’s limited surviving production alongside works by these and many other artists who benefited from her guidance

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  • Leon Polk Smith, Untitled, 1953, pencil and collage on paper, 18 × 12 3⁄4".

    Leon Polk Smith

    Senior & Shopmaker Gallery

    This exhibition of fifteen small, intimate, and oddly fugitive works on paper—prints, drawings, and collages—by the late Leon Polk Smith (1906–1996) gave the viewer a glimpse into the sundry phases of thinking and making that marked the long career of this twentieth-century painter. Smith tackled a range of movements that focused on abstraction, from De Stijl to hard-edge painting and even Minimalism. But such labels tell us little about his singular success in giving precise aesthetic purpose to geometrical form and vivid hues.

    Take Little Dogies at Night, 1942, which features an eccentric grid

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  • Marta Minujín, Menesunda Reloaded (detail), 2019, mixed media, dimensions variable.

    Marta Minujín

    New Museum

    After three years of working in Paris, the Argentinean artist Marta Minujín organized an exhibition of her sculptures, made with pillows and discarded mattresses on wooden structures, and invited other artists to “destroy” them by adding materials evocative of their own practices. She then burned everything. Her first “happening,” called La destrucción (The Destruction), 1963, stemmed from her belief that “art was a way of intensifying life, of having an impact on the viewer by shaking him up. . . . Why, then, was I going to keep my work? . . . So that it could die in cultural cemeteries, the

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  • David Hockney, Two Boys Aged 23 or 24, 1966, etching and aquatint on paper, 13 7⁄8 × 8 7⁄8".

    David Hockney and James Scott

    Anita Rogers Gallery

    In 1966, only four years out of the Royal College of Art in London, David Hockney was already a star. James Scott, a contemporary of Hockney’s, had received acclaim for short films he’d made with actors such as Drewe Henley and Anthony Hopkins. Scott wanted to make a documentary, something with an artist, so he asked Hockney, who agreed. Scott’s twenty-seven-minute film, Love’s Presentation, 1966, was the centerpiece of this exhibition at the Anita Rogers Gallery; the show also featured Hockney’s “Illustrations for Fourteen Poems from C. P. Cavafy,” 1966, the etchings at the core of Scott’s

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  • View of “Polly Apfelbaum and Betsy Kaufman,” 2019. From left: Polly Apfelbaum, Rose Moon, 2018–19; Betsy Kaufman, untitled (#30), 2015.

    Polly Apfelbaum and Betsy Kaufman

    Kerry Schuss

    Polly Apfelbaum and Betsy Kaufman’s splendid joint exhibition, “Through Thick & Thin,” foregrounded an almost comical number of oppositions between the artists’ works. Apfelbaum’s eight ceramic disks were glossy, loud, and, yes, thick, while Kaufman’s ten square paintings on paper were light, flat, and precise. Apfelbaum doesn’t just layer clay; she heaps up glob after pigmented glob. Kaufman, by contrast, uses the barest washes of acrylic, her paint so thin that the controlled swipes of her brush often expose the white paper beneath. Even the titles offered a lesson in difference that reveled

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  • Andy Mattern, Average Subject/Medium Distance 7264 (Contrast), 2019, ink-jet print, 25 3⁄4 × 17 3⁄4".

    Andy Mattern

    Elizabeth Houston Gallery

    In 1977, Douglas Crimp observed that “while it once seemed that pictures had the function of interpreting reality, it now seems that they have usurped it.” How understated that declaration appears today—with its hedging seemingness—in a world ruled and fueled by images. Crimp wrote the line for the catalogue essay accompanying a modest, generation-making group show he organized at Artists Space in New York, called simply “Pictures” (its title yet another understatement). Crimp’s thought was on my mind in early July, a couple days after his death, when I visited the basement of the Elizabeth

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  • Sophia Narrett, Wishes (detail), 2019, embroidery thread, fabric, 73 × 39". From “Do You Love Me?”

    “Do You Love Me?”

    P.P.O.W

    Elliott Jerome Brown Jr., Kyle Dunn, Martine Gutierrez, Gerald Lovell, Reba Maybury, and Sophia Narrett were the six artists featured in “Do You Love Me?,” a group show that took on a number of subjects, such as intimacy, sexual politics, and the body as a site of wonder and horror—ideas that, thankfully, moved beyond the exhibition’s cheeky title.

    Gutierrez explored the transmutability of gender and reality as it pertains to self-presentation. Two groups of seven small-scale, black-and-white photographs, Girl Friends (Rosella & Palama), 2014, and Girl Friends (Anita & Marie), 2014, portrayed

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  • Anya Kielar, Talk Talk, 2019, paint, linen, foam, aqua-resin, wood, Plexiglas, 38 1⁄2 × 30 1⁄2 × 7 1⁄2." From “L’IM_MAGE_N.”

    “L’IM_MAGE_N”

    ASHES/ASHES

    “L’IM_MAGE_N,” curated by artist Timothy Hull, was a strong grouping of six coolly sovereign works. The show’s title—“a play on the word image” (limn, mage, imagine, etc.)—parses the mutable alchemy of artmaking and its many registers, touching on, to paraphrase the curator’s words, artistic wizardry and “the sacredness of the object.” And why not? Life has been fraught with political chaos and crucial eclipses the past few years—let us look beyond the dark firmament and embrace mutation.

    Mathew Cerletty’s painting, Neocon, 2005, almost read as an anodyne portrait of a striking man. But up close

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