reviews

  • Eitarō Ishigaki, Soldiers of the People’s Front (The Zero Hour), ca. 1936–37, oil on canvas, 58 1⁄2 × 81 1⁄2".

    Eitarō Ishigaki, Soldiers of the People’s Front (The Zero Hour), ca. 1936–37, oil on canvas, 58 1⁄2 × 81 1⁄2".

    “Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    FOR THE SECOND TIME since its relocation, the Whitney Museum of American Art appropriated the word America from a context with a hemispheric connotation to refer solely to the United States in an exhibition title. The first instance was in 2015, with its inaugural downtown show “America Is Hard to See,” named partly after a Robert Frost poem about Columbus’s encounter with the New World. This spring, “Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945” co-opted the name of a journal published

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  • Gary Simmons, Anger Issues, 2020, oil and cold wax on canvas, 24 1⁄4 × 18 1⁄4".

    Gary Simmons, Anger Issues, 2020, oil and cold wax on canvas, 24 1⁄4 × 18 1⁄4".

    Gary Simmons

    Metro Pictures

    Honey’s back for a return engagement in Gary Simmons’s new paintings, this time with her boyfriend, Bosko; both characters hail from the Looney Tunes animated cartoons that captivated audiences in the 1930s. As stereotypical caricatures of black people, Bosko and Honey, who were neither fully human nor entirely animal, starred in more than twenty musical-film shorts as singing, dancing simpletons who were as happy as they were oblivious to the debased racism they emblematized. Directly related to the minstrel stage, they were second only to Porky Pig and Daffy Duck in popularity. Even when

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  • Chloë Bass, The unparalleled mix of emotions when someone who loves you calls to say: “rest. I see what you’re doing, and the world needs you to be well.” Joy, sorrow, and a relief so profound it’s almost bitter., 2019, laser-engraved aluminum. Installation view.

    Chloë Bass, The unparalleled mix of emotions when someone who loves you calls to say: “rest. I see what you’re doing, and the world needs you to be well.” Joy, sorrow, and a relief so profound it’s almost bitter., 2019, laser-engraved aluminum. Installation view.

    Chloë Bass

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    I’ve gotten to know Wayfinding well. Every day I walk by some, if not all, of the twenty-four signs that compose Chloë Bass’s meditative, ever-unfolding, treasure hunt–like installation in Harlem’s St. Nicholas Park. (It has taken months for me to spot them all.) The project, commissioned by the Studio Museum in Harlem and curated by Legacy Russell, appeared last fall as part of the institution’s series of off-site community programming, which continues while its new building is under construction.

    The Conceptual artist, who grew up in New York City, has placed most of her messages along a

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  • Julian Charrière, Towards No Earthly Pole, 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 104 minutes.

    Julian Charrière, Towards No Earthly Pole, 2019, 4K video, color, sound, 104 minutes.

    Julian Charrière

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    The earliest signs of nature gone awry in the classic 1954 black-and-white Godzilla are essentially moments of monochromatic abstraction: A glimmer of light roils the ocean’s surface from below, then a slick, rutted mound—ostensibly a reptilian back—emerges from the waterline. Towards No Earthly Pole (all works 2019)—the 104-minute video in Julian Charrière’s solo show at Sean Kelly Gallery—samples some of the cinematic language of this and other early creature features, using discomfitingly unrecognizable forms to evoke the sublime horror of untamed wilderness. But here, ambiguity never lets

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  • Kimber Smith, Kup’s White Diamond, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 94 × 65 1⁄4".

    Kimber Smith, Kup’s White Diamond, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 94 × 65 1⁄4".

    Kimber Smith

    Cheim & Read

    “Cosmically we find that matter organizes around centers, which are often marked by a dominant mass,” the gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim once said, but “we cannot be grateful enough for living in a world that, for practical purposes, can be laid out along a grid of verticals and horizontals . . . the Cartesian grid.” In two early works by the abstract painter Kimber Smith (1922–1981) at Cheim & Read—Untitled, 1965, a modestly sized gouache on paper, and Kup’s White Diamond, 1970, a large acrylic on canvas—the center is utterly conspicuous. In the former, it is a pale, luminous void edged

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  • Alison Rossiter, Density 1930s (Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours), 2019, four gelatin silver prints, each 8 1⁄2 × 6 1⁄2".

    Alison Rossiter, Density 1930s (Gevaert Gevaluxe Velours), 2019, four gelatin silver prints, each 8 1⁄2 × 6 1⁄2".

    Alison Rossiter

    Yossi Milo Gallery

    “Every photograph is a certificate of presence,” wrote Roland Barthes in his 1980 book Camera Lucida, the final and most personal of his many engagements with the medium. The presences Barthes had in mind—an ancient house, a table set for dinner, strangers and loved ones—were at once corporeal and temporal, representing specific moments of physical tangibility fixed precisely in time by light and chemistry. The elegant, conceptually expansive work of Alison Rossiter also conjures extraordinary ordinary presences, but of a very different kind. Since 2007, the artist has been collecting expired

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  • Nancy Brett, Funnies with Twill, 2019, newspaper, linen, 9 × 7".

    Nancy Brett, Funnies with Twill, 2019, newspaper, linen, 9 × 7".

    Nancy Brett

    Parasol Projects

    When I first saw Nancy Brett’s work, around 1990, she was making landscape paintings. I couldn’t quite tell how much direct observation might have gone into them, but they seemed rooted in reality despite their subtle otherworldly mood. Within a few years, her art had changed radically: She was making figure paintings, steeped in images of childhood, and blending memory and metaphor without any pretense of realism. Brett’s last solo show was in 2008. Her reemergence in “Over and Under :: Painting and Weaving,” organized by her fellow artist McArthur Binion along with Anna Stothart, chief curatorial

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  • Adrian Morris, Bunkhouse, ca. 1985, oil on board, 35 7⁄8 × 42 1⁄8".

    Adrian Morris, Bunkhouse, ca. 1985, oil on board, 35 7⁄8 × 42 1⁄8".

    Adrian Morris

    Essex Street

    Three paintings of mullioned windows, precisely rendered but curiously off-kilter, hung in a row at Essex Street as part of the late British artist Adrian Morris’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Behind the imaginary glass there was nothing to see but a dim gray haze. The modernist grid and the Symbolist window (the former, per Rosalind Krauss’s influential reading, a traumatic displacement of the latter) were here collapsed, their metaphysics stunted by the opaque, abortive view. In Window Ledge II and Window Sill II, both ca. 1997, fenestration was party to a ruthless abstraction

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  • Scott Reeder, Bread & Butter (Beach), 2019, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 × 40".

    Scott Reeder, Bread & Butter (Beach), 2019, acrylic and oil on canvas, 30 × 40".

    Scott Reeder

    CANADA

    In the serenely colored paintings of “Didactic Sunsets,” Scott Reeder’s first solo exhibition at Canada, food and flora go about their daily lives. In a room lit by dawn-colored light (Green Interior, 2020), a pear and a banana embrace in bed—a ripped-off peel lies on the floor—as another banana watches them through a window. This banana appears once more in Purple Interior, 2019, checking out the pear as it salaciously mounts a bunch of grapes. Another painting finds the grapes on a therapist’s couch in a flatly rendered, nearly featureless office. Single grapes roll about on the floor as the

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  • Ernst Yohji Jaeger, Untitled 11, 2020, oil on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 31 1⁄4".

    Ernst Yohji Jaeger, Untitled 11, 2020, oil on canvas, 39 3⁄8 × 31 1⁄4".

    Ernst Yohji Jaeger

    15 ORIENT

    The recent oil paintings of Ernst Yohji Jaeger—dreamlike, sensual, and restrained—convey a powerful sense of solitude. Even in the rare works depicting multiple figures, his characters seem cocooned within their own internal worlds. In Untitled 5, 2019, a head swathed in velvet shadows watches an apricot sailboat drift across a surreal expanse of jade. In Untitled 6, 2019, a young man with feline features looks down at his hand, stretching what might be a dew-strung spiderweb, or pearlescent strands of semen, between his thumb and forefinger. Darkness suffuses the hazy landscape behind him:

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  • Benjamin Degen, Way, 2020, oil and spray enamel on linen on panel, 84 × 60".

    Benjamin Degen, Way, 2020, oil and spray enamel on linen on panel, 84 × 60".

    Benjamin Degen

    Susan Inglett Gallery

    The paintings and drawings of “In Waves,” Benjamin Degen’s solo exhibition at Susan Inglett Gallery, are affecting reminders of those commonplace pleasures that we frequently take for granted but that are always deserving of reverence, especially in light of our alienating present: intimacy and human touch. Whether he is depicting two people watching a sunset, or bare feet stepping between seashells, Degen’s mark-making vibrates with an ardor that transforms quotidian experiences into extraordinary events. This is the fleeting stuff that life is made of, the gossamer threads that connect us to

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  • Antonio Lopez, Body Study (Lacrosse), Louis Falco Dance Company, 1985, graphite on paper, 17 × 14".

    Antonio Lopez, Body Study (Lacrosse), Louis Falco Dance Company, 1985, graphite on paper, 17 × 14".

    Antonio Lopez

    Daniel Cooney Fine Art

    Antonio Lopez (1943–1987) was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, and relocated with his family to New York’s Spanish Harlem in 1950, where he honed his artistic inclinations by assisting his mother and father in their respective occupations: dressmaker and mannequin producer. In the early 1960s, while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, Lopez met Juan Ramos (1942–1995). For a time, they were lovers, but it was their lifelong creative partnership—Lopez as illustrator, Ramos as art director—that established their preeminence in the fashion industry for more than twenty years,

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  • View of “Zsófia Keresztes,” 2020. From left: Easy targets, heavy bites I, 2020; The Failure, 2020.

    View of “Zsófia Keresztes,” 2020. From left: Easy targets, heavy bites I, 2020; The Failure, 2020.

    Zsófia Keresztes

    Elijah Wheat Showroom

    Five years ago, the artist Audrey Wollen shook the internet with her “Sad Girl Theory,” proposing the notion of female sadness as a mode of politicized resistance that runs counter to the “lean-in” rhetoric of empowerment feminism. In her photo series “Repetition,” 2014–15, Wollen re-created artworks made by men, in which she posed as moody, modern versions of art history’s female muses. (One image shows Wollen from behind, lounging nude in bed like Ingres’s odalisque. She gazes at her laptop webcam, while the front of her body is displayed on the screen.) The reception to this project was

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  • View of “Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics,” 2020.

    View of “Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics,” 2020.

    “Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics”

    Japan Society

    Let’s stop promoting the nefarious free-market myth that sustainability is a choice, as if it were something that could be plucked from a delectable buffet of options. The at-hand presence of resources that can be used—or exploited—is less likely to guarantee quality than perhaps to inspire overindulgence.

    The Japanese folk tradition of boro—patched or mended textiles—and the contemporary designers and artists whose work adopts its spirit offer a timely statement on making do. Boro can be translated as “rags,” traditionally produced by the residents of Aomori, the northernmost prefecture on

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