reviews

  • View of “Wael Shawky,” 2019. Background: The Gulf Project Camp: Carved wood (after ‘Nighttime in a City’ by Mir Sayyid Ali, c.1540), 2019. Foreground, from left: The Gulf Project Camp: Glass Sculpture # 1, 2019; The Gulf Project Camp: Sculpture # 5, 2019.

    View of “Wael Shawky,” 2019. Background: The Gulf Project Camp: Carved wood (after ‘Nighttime in a City’ by Mir Sayyid Ali, c.1540), 2019. Foreground, from left: The Gulf Project Camp: Glass Sculpture # 1, 2019; The Gulf Project Camp: Sculpture # 5, 2019.

    Wael Shawky

    Lisson Gallery

    The sensuous impact of Wael Shawky’s exhibition “The Gulf Project Camp” at Lisson Gallery was stunning, immediate. Soaring walls glistened, slicked with a pearly pink that offset the poisonously fulgent cyan of a crumbly, crenellated gypsum structure zigzagging to nowhere in the middle of the room. Then we noticed the scent—a deeply historical aroma that emanated from five grand reliefs exquisitely crafted out of hefty timber planks that were between four hundred and two thousand years old. The gallery told me the ancient cellulose was obtained from a company in Mestre, Italy, known for its vast

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  • Pierre Soulages, Peinture 130 x 102 cm, 27 août 1986 (Painting 130 x 102 cm, August 27, 1986), oil on canvas, 51 1⁄8 × 40 1⁄8".

    Pierre Soulages, Peinture 130 x 102 cm, 27 août 1986 (Painting 130 x 102 cm, August 27, 1986), oil on canvas, 51 1⁄8 × 40 1⁄8".

    Pierre Soulages

    Lévy Gorvy | New York

    In an homage to Pierre Soulages’s indomitable spirit, this mini survey at Lévy Gorvy featured twenty of the French artist’s oils made between 1954 and 2019. He is still amazingly productive and still obsessed with the color black, even at the grand old age of ninety-nine. At this stage of the human life cycle, the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson has said, the only choice a person has is to either stagnate or to keep pushing along, full steam ahead. Soulages has clearly chosen the latter. He has never stopped being generative, despite the fact that his trademark hue is “a totally dead silence . . .

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  • Suh Seung-Won, Simultaneity 88-724, 1988, oil on canvas, 51 1⁄8 × 63 3⁄4".

    Suh Seung-Won, Simultaneity 88-724, 1988, oil on canvas, 51 1⁄8 × 63 3⁄4".

    Suh Seung-Won

    Tina Kim Gallery

    Born in 1941, Suh Seung-Won is younger than the more-prominent painters—such as Ha Chong-Hyun (b. 1935), Park Seo-Bo (b. 1931), or Yun Hyong-keun (1928–2007)—associated with Dansaekhwa, or Korean monochrome painting. Although commonly grouped in with them, Suh, at least during the period covered by this show (1967 to 1989), seems to come from a different branch of abstraction’s family tree: Where their art is earthy, based in process and materials, his hard-edged shapes are rendered in flat hues and inexpressive surfaces, exuding a spirit more akin to that of Russian Suprematism.

    The three earliest

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  • View of “Hiroshi Sugimoto,” 2019. From left: Past Presence 029: Blond Negress, II, Constantin Brancusi, 2014; Past Presence 022: Maiastra, Constantin Brancusi, 2013; Past Presence 021: The Cock, Constantin Brancusi, 2013.

    View of “Hiroshi Sugimoto,” 2019. From left: Past Presence 029: Blond Negress, II, Constantin Brancusi, 2014; Past Presence 022: Maiastra, Constantin Brancusi, 2013; Past Presence 021: The Cock, Constantin Brancusi, 2013.

    Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Hiroshi Sugimoto’s solo exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery featured twenty-two hazy black-and-white photographs of artworks by modernist masters such as Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse. Other prints highlighted (or, perhaps more accurately, gently obfuscated) paintings from the more recent past by Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Joseph Kosuth. All of the pieces here were from a series titled “Past Presence,” 2013–, which was generated by an invitation from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to commemorate its sculpture garden. (One image from this project is currently on view

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  • View of “Elaine Cameron-Weir,” 2019.

    View of “Elaine Cameron-Weir,” 2019.

    Elaine Cameron-Weir

    JTT

    Let’s get these out of the way: A BDSM dungeon for alchemist Bitcoin investors. A druid hideaway in the abandoned Palo Alto headquarters of the corporation Theranos. A crossover between Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, where Walter White cooks meth for White Walkers. I could go on. This is the kind of prose that the art of Elaine Cameron-Weir inspires. Her assemblage sculptures and their lengthy, loopy titles—e.g., at the end of the line an echo sliding downtown the mercurial reflective pool of a familiar voice and me a person it never made real in the mirrors of my own halls (all works

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  • George Tooker, Guitar, 1957, egg tempera on panel, 18 × 24".

    George Tooker, Guitar, 1957, egg tempera on panel, 18 × 24".

    George Tooker

    DC Moore Gallery

    “Watching George Tooker paint is excruciating,” art historian Thomas H. Garver once remarked. “Stroke, stroke, stroke, it goes on and on, yet to an observer almost nothing seems to be happening.” Over months and months, his effulgent surfaces would accumulate thousands of delicate wisps in egg tempera—the medium favored by the painters of late-medieval Italy—to illuminate delphic modern genre scenes and allegories glowing with beatitude and despair. Tooker (1920–2011) learned his ascetic and “plodding” (per the artist) method in the mid-1940s, from his friends the painters Paul Cadmus (Tooker’s

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  • Joe Massey, Telling me where to bend, 1946, ink on paper, 11 × 8 1⁄2".

    Joe Massey, Telling me where to bend, 1946, ink on paper, 11 × 8 1⁄2".

    Joe Massey

    Ricco / Maresca Gallery

    In his essay for the catalogue accompanying Lynne Cooke’s recent exhibition “Outliers and American Vanguard Art” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the scholar Darby English unpacks the complicated relationship between the avant-garde and the work of self-taught makers. “Outsider art,” he writes, “has served modernist culture as a bastion of artlike activity symbolic of urges still more anarchic than the vanguard’s best revolutionary impulses.” Whatever their material conditions, style, or content, these expressions vibrate with difference, and this otherness clearly rhymed in

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  • Sarah Rapson, Classical Landscape, 2011, mixed media, 8 × 11 3⁄4".

    Sarah Rapson, Classical Landscape, 2011, mixed media, 8 × 11 3⁄4".

    Sarah Rapson

    Essex Street

    Tell me what you want, what you really really want

    I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.

    Sarah Rapson deadpanned a variation of this call-and-response for sixteen minutes in an early audio work, stretching the refrain from this famous Spice Girls anthem on female solidarity into an exasperated mantra. At the entrance to Rapson’s survey at Essex Street, the piece could be heard through a set of headphones while on the wall opposite hung Untitled, a photogravure featuring the title page from a later edition of H. W. Janson’s History of Art (1962), that virtually womanless

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  • View of “Kristine Woods,” 2019. Background, from left: Felt Around Federal Standard 33538, 2019; of or related to (gramma), 2019. Foreground: Simile, 2019.

    View of “Kristine Woods,” 2019. Background, from left: Felt Around Federal Standard 33538, 2019; of or related to (gramma), 2019. Foreground: Simile, 2019.

    Kristine Woods

    Geary

    Weaving tends to be a stationary affair. Looms are cumbersome, and the process of threading the weft over and under the warp is tedious. However, the woven sculptures in Kristine Woods’s exuberant show at Geary, “Sparkling or Still,” offered up movement and contingency. Strings dangled, edges frayed, and threads of varying thicknesses were bound together in a tumble of colors that often appeared ready to unravel. Textiles bulged and sagged. Though the works ranged from modest lanate reliefs to a massive installation of felt, they all seemed to have been produced on the move and in haste.

    The

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  • Samuel Levi Jones, Plain Sight, 2019, deconstructed footballs, 70 × 40".

    Samuel Levi Jones, Plain Sight, 2019, deconstructed footballs, 70 × 40".

    Samuel Levi Jones

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    The art of Samuel Levi Jones is one of wholesale material reconstitution, in which the artist physically deconstructs conceptually and emotionally loaded objects to the point of abstraction. He presents his quasi-painterly remakings as metaphors for the cut and thrust between warring—or, perhaps, just differing—perspectives on the social and the artistic. His creative alchemy doesn’t have the narrative complexity of, say, Dario Robleto’s, as Jones is more concerned with a consistent and easily digestible look and feel—he doesn’t strike one as somebody who eagerly dives into the rabbit holes of

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  • Key Hiraga, The Elegant Life of Mr. H, 1970, oil on canvas, 17 7⁄8 × 15".

    Key Hiraga, The Elegant Life of Mr. H, 1970, oil on canvas, 17 7⁄8 × 15".

    Key Hiraga

    Ortuzar Projects

    In the work of Key Hiraga (1936–2000), which slid from black line drawings into barking Day-Glo paintings, the human body is the key. Hiraga, who was raised outside of Tokyo, might have been under Dubuffet’s sway—particularly in how the Frenchman rendered his famous tomato-splat heads and bodies of the 1950s. By the mid-’60s, Hiraga’s paintings became less illustrative. And in 1967, he developed a character: a small man with a bowler hat and Brobdingnagian penis who often appears floating around worlds dominated by ecstatic colors and patterns. The figure is like a Japanese analogue to cartoonist

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  • View of “Perla Krauze,” 2019.

    View of “Perla Krauze,” 2019.

    Perla Krauze

    The Chimney

    Human beings move mountains, or pieces of them, every day. The impulse to carry stones, large and small, over great distances is one of the more curious ones that bind us to each other across time and space. The Egyptian pharaohs ordered thousands of tons of granite to be ferried hundreds of miles up the Nile to Giza. The builders of Stonehenge sneezed at local sources and quarried their megaliths in modern-day Wales. Today, architects order Italian travertine for corporate plazas in New York, and even children pocket souvenir pebbles on the beach.

    In her exhibition at the Chimney, Perla Krauze

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  • Penny Davenport, Animal Sacrifice, 2010, ink on paper, 7 1⁄2 × 11".

    Penny Davenport, Animal Sacrifice, 2010, ink on paper, 7 1⁄2 × 11".

    Penny Davenport

    Fortnight Institute

    Penny Davenport maps nebulous environments of waves, hills, curtains, rippling mountains, clouds, starscapes, and muted rainbows; the enigmatic denizens of these realms are sundry. “Silent Ancestors,” her solo exhibition at Fortnight Institute, spanned ten years of drawings in media such as ink, pencil, watercolor, and oil pastel. The works were unframed, inviting close inspection, and arranged in single rows along the length of two walls. Displayed in a vitrine were several pieces (some of which were treated with wax) that resembled antiquated, yellowy vellum.

    The artist’s hand is apparent

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  • Saks Afridi, Sighting #3, 2019, Vibrachrome print on aluminum, 48 × 36".

    Saks Afridi, Sighting #3, 2019, Vibrachrome print on aluminum, 48 × 36".

    “Utopian Imagination”

    Ford Foundation Gallery

    Imagining utopia requires a certain leap of faith—and a conscious suspension of our present reality, with all its glaring limitations. That we must cross a literal threshold in order to enter this group exhibition seems appropriate, then. Viewers pass through a curtain of silver drapes into a small, mirrored room, wherein a pair of luscious panels by Firelei Báez—known for creating immersive, painterly environments that overlie evanescent portraits and Baroque Tropicália—are infinitely reflected. Collectively titled Adjusting the Moon (The right to non-imperative clarities), 2019, these works

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