reviews

  • Ben Shahn, We Fight for a Free World!, ca. 1942, gouache and tempera on board, 13 × 30". From “We Fight to Build a Free World: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz.”

    Ben Shahn, We Fight for a Free World!, ca. 1942, gouache and tempera on board, 13 × 30". From “We Fight to Build a Free World: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz.”

    Jonathan Horowitz

    The Jewish Museum

    In 1942 Ben Shahn, employed by the United States Office of War Information to create propaganda in support of the Allied cause, borrowed imagery from his fellow artists for a series of five posters depicting the “methods of the enemy.” “Suppression” was represented by Edward Millman’s We Must Win!, 1942–45, a rendering of a gaunt visage gagged by a swastika-emblazoned cloth; Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Torture, 1943, featured a scarred muscular figure whose hands are bound behind his back. Käthe Kollwitz’s 1923 lithograph of begging children allegorized “starvation,” while Bernard Perlin’s exquisite

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  • Mernet Larsen, Gurney (after El Lissitzky), 2019, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 45 1⁄4 × 70".

    Mernet Larsen, Gurney (after El Lissitzky), 2019, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 45 1⁄4 × 70".

    Mernet Larsen

    James Cohan

    Think back a hundred years ago to the high-water mark of Russian avant-garde art, when, in stark contrast to our present day, utopianism was at a peak. Currents of revolutionary fervor, coupled with industrial expansion and promises of liberation for all workers, stirred a radiant vision of the future: “The people” would be released from poverty and the onerous social conditions they had endured. Everyone could be a creator—an artist!—and manifest their own unique essence. El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich were among those prophets of the new world order, and their radically abstract art mapped

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  • Mira Schor, The Painter’s Studio, 2020, ink, acrylic, and gesso on tracing paper, 9' 11" × 19'.

    Mira Schor, The Painter’s Studio, 2020, ink, acrylic, and gesso on tracing paper, 9' 11" × 19'.

    Mira Schor

    Lyles & King

    Perhaps you know of Mira Schor as an alumna of the legendary “Womanhouse” exhibition of 1972, a coeditor of the journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G (1986–96, 2002–16), and the author of Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture (1997) and A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life (2009). Or perhaps you recognize her from Twitter, where she regularly weighs in on current events and retweets various left-leaning blue-check accounts. “Tipping Point,” a selection of works Schor made over the course of the Trump presidency, reflected the difficulty in reconciling the discrepant

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  • Tourmaline, Salacia, 2019, 16 mm, sound, color, 6 minutes 4 seconds.

    Tourmaline, Salacia, 2019, 16 mm, sound, color, 6 minutes 4 seconds.

    Tourmaline

    Chapter NY

    A debut solo show is typically a watershed moment for an artist. But for Tourmaline, it was more of an object lesson in self-understanding, underscored by a sensitivity and maturity you don’t see often enough. Take the considered selection of her exhibition site: As Chapter NY’s location on East Houston Street in Manhattan is inaccessible to disabled people, the polymath—who is well known for her filmic portraits of Black trans activists and icons, and for her own activism—staged her presentation in an accessible pop-up space so that everyone could see it. This was not a small detail, but rather

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  • Barry Stone, Box of Prints Thrown from the Car, US I-59 Outside Fort Payne, Alabama, 2018, ink-jet print, 13 × 19".

    Barry Stone, Box of Prints Thrown from the Car, US I-59 Outside Fort Payne, Alabama, 2018, ink-jet print, 13 × 19".

    Barry Stone

    Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

    Every picture tells—no, needs a story. The eleven mostly black-and-white photographs (and a zine-like publication assembled from photocopies) that made up “Drift,” Barry Stone’s solo exhibition here, are striking enough at first sight—but they’re also mysterious, both individually and as an ensemble. Water is a recurring element: as the backdrop for the hands holding the vulnerable-looking little sea creature in Hermit Crab, Bailey Island, Maine, 2018, or the substance on which a couple of kids back-float in Floating, Birmingham, Alabama, 2018. In Rainbowed Seaweed, Bailey Island, Maine, 2017–20,

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  • Margaret Lee, B.I., 16, 2020, oil and news­-paper on linen, 68 × 50". From the series “B.I.,” 2020.

    Margaret Lee, B.I., 16, 2020, oil and news­-paper on linen, 68 × 50". From the series “B.I.,” 2020.

    Margaret Lee

    Jack Hanley Gallery

    The visitor to Margaret Lee’s latest exhibition at Jack Hanley Gallery, her first New York solo show in five years, might be forgiven for having thought they’d walked through the wrong door. In the main gallery was a series of abstract oil paintings titled “B. I.,” 2020, each some five-and-a-half feet high by four feet wide, done in a calm restricted palette of lavender, gray, and black, with patchy rectangles the predominant motif. The canvases were simple, not overworked; sometimes the linen wasn’t even fully gessoed. A few featured large, ambiguous, and roughly geometric icons—what you might

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  • Samson Pollen, Contract Killer on Cemetery Hill, Stag Magazine, 1973, gouache, acrylic, and mixed media on illustration board, 16 × 25".

    Samson Pollen, Contract Killer on Cemetery Hill, Stag Magazine, 1973, gouache, acrylic, and mixed media on illustration board, 16 × 25".

    Samson Pollen

    Daniel Cooney Fine Art

    Pulp is the raw material used for manufacturing paper, making it the ideal substrate for the pulpy men’s magazines for which brush-for-hire Samson Pollen (1931–2018) created his lovely, lurid illustrations. All of the modestly scaled drawings (made of gouache, acrylic, and mixed media on board) in this exhibition invariably and redundantly featured slim, pretty, and big-breasted women: mass-produced femme fatales that likely countless men have fantasized about in masturbatory admiration.

    Pollen’s female subjects are artificial dummies worthy of Madame Tussauds. From the psychoanalytic perspective

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  • Marsha Pels, Fallout Necklace, 2018, patinaed cast aluminum, patinaed steel, flame-worked glass, powder-printed glass, 7 × 10 × 15". From the series “Trophies of Abuse,” 2013–19. Photo: Charles Benton.

    Marsha Pels, Fallout Necklace, 2018, patinaed cast aluminum, patinaed steel, flame-worked glass, powder-printed glass, 7 × 10 × 15". From the series “Trophies of Abuse,” 2013–19. Photo: Charles Benton.

    Marsha Pels

    Lubov

    Frankly, I was a little taken aback by “Solace,” New York sculptor Marsha Pels’s solo exhibition at Lubov. Previously unfamiliar with her career—her sprawling welded site-specific pieces made of discarded steel from the 1980s, her decades-long practice of transforming found objects through casting, and her tradition of severe visual metaphor—I arrived unprepared for such brazenly melodramatic work. The two pieces on display, created twenty years apart, were united by the artist’s gauche yet supremely polished strain of brute symbolism, stark political commentary, and untempered emotion. It was

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  • Yuji Agematsu, Times Square Times (Kodak All-Stars), 2003–2007, 391 color and black-and-white 35-mm slides, 6 carousels, sound, dimensions variable. Installation view. Photo: Stephen Faught.

    Yuji Agematsu, Times Square Times (Kodak All-Stars), 2003–2007, 391 color and black-and-white 35-mm slides, 6 carousels, sound, dimensions variable. Installation view. Photo: Stephen Faught.

    Yuji Agematsu

    Miguel Abreu Gallery | Eldridge Street

    In one scorching 1973 performance, jazz drummer Milford Graves unleashes a maelstrom of thunderous high-speed slams upon his kit. This display, captured on black-and-white film and recirculated as the opening to the 2018 documentary Milford Graves Full Mantis, shows the recently departed percussionist thrashing wildly as he arches over a snare-stripped set of gongs and cymbals, holding his sticks tight at the center. At certain times, he strikes the tom-toms with such velocity and precision that no roll emerges; at other moments, he beats down with his elbows instinctively, as if playing a bongo.

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  • Melchior Grossek, Grossek’s Dance of Death, IV. Die Feldherren (The Commanders), 1923, paper, 8 3⁄4 × 7 3⁄4". From “Everybody Dies!”

    Melchior Grossek, Grossek’s Dance of Death, IV. Die Feldherren (The Commanders), 1923, paper, 8 3⁄4 × 7 3⁄4". From “Everybody Dies!”

    “Everybody Dies!”

    carriage trade

    Last May, when the Covid-19 death toll in the United States was about to clear 100,000, the New York Times filled its front page with the names of victims and telling excerpts from their obituaries. “Rocket engineer in the early days of supersonic flight.” “Brooklyn cabbie who found a home in Buddhism.” “Enjoyed trying her luck in the casino.” In lieu of maps or infographics, the editors opted to convey the scope of the disaster through the details—the habits, talents, and quirks—that made these lives unique. The project was a tacit acknowledgment of the news cycle’s tendency to reduce human

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  • Julia Haft-Candell, Woven Kick with Lavender and Slate, 2020, ceramic, 12 1⁄2 × 20 1⁄2 × 5 1⁄2".

    Julia Haft-Candell, Woven Kick with Lavender and Slate, 2020, ceramic, 12 1⁄2 × 20 1⁄2 × 5 1⁄2".

    Julia Haft-Candell

    Candice Madey

    In “Carrier Bag of Fiction” at Candice Madey, Julia Haft-Candell’s ceramic sculptures were imbued with language; they read as origin stories in a state of revision. The show was named after and inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” a 1986 essay in which the author interrogates the trope of the heroic journey and argues for an antidote to “the killer story” of the hunter protagonist who slays all. In her text, Le Guin shakes up this male monomyth, insisting that “the reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd.” The author’s stance was the starting point for the

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