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Matisse on the Move

“If we had the ‘Grand Jatte,’ maybe that would be the way to begin.” Unfortunately for MoMA Director Glenn Lowry—who offered this bit of wishful thinking in Arthur Lubow’s New York Times Magazine feature about the museum’s 2004 reopening and revised presentation of its impeccably well-rehearsed collection—the Seurat is not likely to leave its long-term home at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kiki Smith: Allegories on Living and the Mystery of Existence

“Lodestar” by Kiki Smith—recently shown at The Pace Gallery—should be seen as a companion installation to “Sojourn,” currently on extended view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Both reveal a certain progression in the artist’s ideas, technical involvement, and use of materials.

Walking the Elastic City

Becoming suddenly conscious of time and place can inspire melancholy. The experience can also be pleasing, or beautiful; Todd Shalom calls this “heightened awareness.” He says he felt it most profoundly when he was traveling, living for long stretches in Israel and Argentina.

LEE BONTECOU: All Freedom in Every Sense

A wall-sized, black-and-white, 1963 portrait of Lee Bontecou in her Wooster Street studio says it all: the artist stands with her back to us, acetylene torch in hand, gazing out at the monstrous canvas and steel relief she has just created. The air around her possesses an electric quality, singed with the same sort of crackling dry heat used to fashion her giant monoliths.

The Slave Theater

Paradox reigns over the field of photographic visualization. As a medium, this bastard child of the visual arts (at least until the past few decades) has been declared as everything from a purveyor of death (Barthes) to a mechanical reproduction mired in fetishized artifice (Benjamin).

RACKSTRAW DOWNES: Onsite Paintings, 1972–2008

If religion died in the 19th century and became art, then there is no better place to see art than in a former church. Exhibitions at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton are accessed through the nave, where the worshippers once sat and circumambulated via the crossing and transepts. A former church, the Parrish seems a less presumptuous place to exhibit art than many contemporary galleries. In fact, it is rather homey.

RACKSTRAW DOWNES: In Focus

Only after Diego Martelli, the Italian painter and art critic (1838-1896) whose portrait was painted by Degas, insightfully observed that Manet and Degas were “artists of modernity,” while Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro were the “true Impressionists who represent[ed] the dawn of the future,” did Cézanne (taking cues from Pissarro’s example) set out to restore the dignity of form that the Impressionists had destroyed.

MERLIN JAMES, LOUISE HOPKINS

Since 1995-1996, when the often plain buildings in his work became a metonym for the physical thing we call a painting, Merlin James has mounted a compelling, well-thought-out challenge to the commonly accepted narrative that, historically speaking, painting was a stand-in for a window (concerned with three-dimensional space) that became a surrogate wall (concerned with the two-dimensional surface).

WAYNE THIEBAUD: 70 YEARS OF PAINTING

The graphite drawing “Towards 280 (Study)” (1976) proves to be a useful lens through which to consider this exhibition of drawings and paintings, drawn almost exclusively from the Thiebaud Family Collection, the artist’s studio, and from family members.

PATRICK MICHAEL FITZGERALD Drawings

Guest Room/Contemporary Art is the brainchild of Nicolas Lemmens and Olivia Delwart. Situated in a quiet neighborhood on top of a hill in what is known as upper Brussels (there are two levels to the city), the gallery is a small white cube facing onto the street; it is open Wednesday and Saturday from 2:00 to 6:00 pm, and by appointment.

EVE ERIKSSON

The Swedish painter Eve Eriksson (1910-1992) would have turned 100 this year; and to mark the centennial of his birth, Thomas Kjellgren, the director of the Kristianstads Konsthall, has mounted a selection of more than 50 of the artist’s paintings and drawings (all untitled), most of which were done between 1978 and 1992, when he lived in Malmo.

MARK DI SUVERO

There are five pieces in the Mark di Suvero exhibition at Paula Cooper: three elegant, welded-steel sculptures from the artist’s recent “Totems” series (1998, 2005, and 2006); a large (7’10 ½” high, 16’ wide), joyfully colored acrylic abstraction from 1978 – 82; and the enormous “Nova Albion,” a reconstruction of a work built on a northern California beach in 1964 – 65.

GREATER NEW YORK

Greater New York has already taken its lumps in the press, and deservedly so. What I found most troubling, however, wasn’t the show’s provincialism, its emotional hollowness, or its wearying pile-on of sensory (mostly auditory) stimulation.

THE HISTORY OF “WE”: HIS STORY, HER STORY, OUR STORY

Anyone who knows me, or who might have followed my ramblings over the last several years now, would be aware that I have a great interest in the history of New York’s art community. This fascination started gradually (I’m a slow learner), when it dawned on me that to understand the mystery of art, you had to know the history of art.

LETTER FROM HONG KONG ARTHK 2010: WHAT ART YOU DOING?

As the ferry World Star rumbled rhythmically across Victoria Harbor to its dock in Wan Chai, scene of the 2010 Hong Kong International Art Fair, it was a particularly robust sunny day—as if someone magically erased the thick felt of pollution that normally clings to the tall towers of Hong Kong Island like some sort of futuristic moss.

CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI No Man’s Land

If a work of art isn’t working when it’s small, it probably won’t work any better if it’s 10 times the size. The problem with this truth truism is that if bigger isn’t necessarily better, it is often more spectacular and, unfortunately, in some sad cases, spectacle is passed off as real feeling (much of what was on display at “Skin Fruit” at the New Museum comes quickly to mind.)

JULIE MEHRETU Grey Area

In 2007, while completing a residency at the American Academy in Berlin, Julie Mehretu received the 15th commission of the Deutsche Bank and Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. This annual enterprise, which is designed to underwrite and promote works by leading contemporary artists, has previously included Hiroshi Sugimoto, Jeff Koons, Bill Viola, and Gerhard Richter, among others.

REBECCA SMITH Tape and Steel

Tape and steel are the constituent materials of Rebecca Smith’s sculptural practice, and now they are the subject of her exhibition at the New York Studio School. Almost as if to emphasize this fact, Smith has titled her exhibition after these materials with an ironically complex machismo ring that evokes the Modernist sculpture of her father, David Smith.

CHRISTINE HIEBERT Reconnaissance: Three Wall Drawings

Christine Hiebert’s soaring installation, “Reconnaissance: Three Wall Drawings,” has been in residence on the top floor gallery of Wellesley College’s Davis Museum (designed by Rafael Moneo in 1993) for the past year.

JIM NUTT

Jim Nutt is back in New York, sans straightjacket. Once a wildman, he was part of Chicago’s Imagist/Hairy Who movement, back in ’66 when Hairy meant huge, when Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was customizing petroleum-powered hot rods with giant ratfinks, chrome pipes, metalflake paint jobs and two-tone flames, shortly after which S. Clay Wilson introduced the maniacal Checkered Demon and the ravishing Star-Eyed Stella.

ROSS NEHER Sanctuary

David Foster Wallace considered tennis “chess on the run” because, like chess, there are an infinite number of possible plays that can be made once the ball is set in motion. Infinite variability comes out of an adherence to formal constraints: sets of boundaries and standardized rules.

MAGRITTE, PAINTER-PHILOSOPHER

For the first time in Belgium, the art of its native “genius surrealist” gets the royal treatment in a one-man museum similar to those established for van Gogh in Amsterdam, Paul Klee in Berne, Picasso and Miró in Barcelona, and Dalí in Figueres.

ROME, IMPERIUM SINE FINE? (DOMINION WITHOUT LIMITS?)

Are we to believe the ancient Romans who declared that all roads lead to Rome? Or Edward Gibbon, who, in 1787, lamented the decline and fall of the Roman empire?

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JUL-AUG 2010

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