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Thornton Willis: A Painting Survey, Six Decades: 1967–2017

Thornton Willis prefers the direct approach to painting. His constructive sensibility, a preoccupation with the architecture of space, lays out the basic proposition that painting is a vital projection of actual line, shape, and color. This keeping it simple makes his paintings eminently accessible to the viewer, whom he addresses as an existential equal.

Nancy Evans: Moonshadow

The phenomenal supermoons of the past six years deeply impressed Nancy Evans, and in Moonshadow, Evans’s first show with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, they serve as a powerful motif to consider our precarious, transient place in the universe.

John Divola: Swimming Drunk

For over fifty years John Divola has made photographs which live in the conventional boundary separating the photograph’s function as a document of fact and a producer of fictions. In countless series, the majority of them site-specific, Divola intervenes into the found conditions of his environment, adding both text and graphic elements which provide subtle accents and, in some cases, completely transform the atmosphere of a space.

Milano Chow: Prima Facie

When titling her first institutional solo show at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Milano Chow reflected on the role of a title as the first impression of a show. Embracing this frontline nature, she chose Prima Facie, which translates from Latin to first impression.

Jane Dickson: 99¢ Dreams

An overwhelming desire for the past looms in the air; indeed, one reminder of this sentiment—and it’s a stunning one—is 99¢ Dreams, Jane Dickson’s current exhibition of new paintings at James Fuentes Gallery.

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept

You either start in darkness, or you start in the light. One is not better than the other, but the choice is the first one that affects your experience of the Whitney Biennial. The show spreads out across multiple floors, but it mainly takes place on two: one is designed like a labyrinth, the other as an open field. It’s a dramatic shift. In the labyrinth your eyes can’t travel far; in the open field there is almost nothing to stop them.

Larry Day & Me

I hadn’t thought of Larry Day or his work very much in the previous fifteen years. This innocuous streetscape in the reproduction was airily peaceful, classicized; Arcadian, even. The workaday Philadelphia I had known might look that way to someone who had served in Iwo Jima (I knew he did, getting through the pauses in battle reading The Magic Mountain). It was evidence of what Day wrote in one of his notebooks: “How we dreamed of the ordinary as ideal when we were in the army.”

Brad Kahlhamer: Swap Meet

Brad Kahlhamer: Swap Meet is a succinct yet expansive exhibition composed of drawings, paintings, sculptures, and a mobile home trailer woven into a uniquely personal cosmology. Walking into the large open space of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art reminds me of Kahlhamer’s account of his first visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix in the late 1970s.

Nora Turato: govern me harder

Precision meets the edge of nonsense in govern me harder, Nora Turato’s solo presentation at 52 Walker. Vibrant murals painted from floor to ceiling are punctuated by seven enamel panels each emblazoned with graphic lettering, the font bolded and stretched and still just legible.

Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running

In his act of filming, Mekas meticulously captured the poetry of the everyday as he experienced it—springtime flowering bulbs, intimate weddings, dinner with friends, or a sunset on the beach. Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running at The Jewish Museum situates the artist’s displacement as the impulse for his lifelong search for joy through the camera’s lens in a moving, nuanced, and topical presentation of Mekas’s work.

Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, & Reparations | Chicago to Guantánamo

If exhibitions of incarcerated artists can range from the voyeuristic to the merely evidentiary (look, here’s art made under duress; aren’t the artists resourceful and isn’t it shocking that they, too, are human?), Remaking the Exceptional is neither.

Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting

The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE preserved the world of Pompeii and Herculaneum like a bee in amber. Serious excavations, beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, began to pull the curtain back on these intimate lives that were terminated in an instant.

Willie Birch: Chronicling Our Lives: 1987–2021

Willie Birch has exhibited his work in New York for the first time since 2000 at the Fort Gansevoort Gallery located in the Meatpacking District. Originally from New Orleans, Birch is no stranger to New York City. Aside from Broken Dreams (Tattered White Picket Fence) (2020–21), the exhibition centers on Birch’s New York period (1983–1997).

Joan Mitchell

Hemlock is presently on display in the Baltimore Museum of Art’s blockbuster exhibit, Joan Mitchell. Katy Siegel, from the BMA, along with Sarah Roberts, from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, co-curated this dazzling retrospective. They also co-edited its beautifully illustrated catalogue (a tome, really) and contributed insightful essays to the text that range from scholarly to anecdotal.

Jamel Shabazz: Eyes on the Street

Jamel Shabazz likes to say that his photographs capture people “at their best.” His language is deliberate, and his words sit in their own shadow, leaving implicit and unsaid the dark question of the converse. His lively portraits are stalked by their own context, so many artifacts of a period in which, he admits, “people were witnessing a lot of suffering.’ It’s in spite of this, or perhaps because of this, that Shabazz’s images are incandescent with joy.

Marcia Resnick: As It Is or Could Be

Resnick’s portraits of iconic figures such as Sontag, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kathy Acker, and Gary Indiana, among others, have become well-known documents of a much-romanticized period in the history of New York. Yet few are familiar with the photographer’s multifaceted and wide-ranging practice beyond these portraits, something the curators of this retrospective, Resnick’s first ever, hope to change.

Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art

Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art is an ambitious exhibition that occupies two floors of the Museum of Art and Design. Curated by independent scholar Alexandra Schwartz, this show is long overdue for several reasons.

Warren Rohrer

Raised in Lancaster farming territory, in a Pennsylvania community near Philadelphia, Warren Rohrer (1927–95) was descended from many generations of Mennonite farmers. For a long time, he lived on a farm amongst the Mennonites. And so, becoming an artist involved some real personal struggle. And although he left that community, this tradition gave him close, lasting ties to nature and agriculture. This show of abstract paintings and drawings from the 1990s reflects this, his lived experience.

Russell Maltz: Painted / Stacked / Site

Maltz’s project is to make something but still deny the fruit of his efforts a description; his process is also calibrated to reject bourgeois definitions of art—he stacks, piles, and arranges objects but refuses to force them into a state of permanent association.

Thomas Woodruff: Resurrection

For the new series, he developed an eccentrically exaggerated hyper-illusionistic space, while rejecting the conventions of Natural History painting as well as “paleoart.” He aimed to imbue his dinosaurs with human aspirations and emotions.

Cameron Martin: Parts to Whole

While Martin’s landscapes and fragments of nature from the aughts implied socio-political and ecological issues, and were even framed by a robust discourse in a 2009 monograph around the history of the Hudson River School, the sublime, and what is now decried as settler colonialism, Martin frustratingly would not explain why he was using landscape.

Robert Irwin: New Work

Here I am reminded of the writer Vladimir Nabokov’s modestly controversial definition of art as “precision” in contrast to science, which he described as “intuition.” In the case of Irwin, however, the perceptual aspect found in recent works holds a certain balance between the two: here precision and intuition come together.

Carrie Moyer: Morphologies

In fifteen mixed-media collages on view now at DC Moore, Carrie Moyer shifts the boisterous abstract compositions for which she’s renowned to a smaller, more personal scale.

How to Get Free of the Rectangle

Absent any punctuation, How to Get Free of the Rectangle reads as a directive. Decades ago, it might have been a longing question, but now painting’s rectangle has been bent, torn, re-sewn, and looped in on itself, so it might be easy to scoff at the premise and how far removed it is from the radical. But this modest survey accomplishes a small miracle: it justifies painting’s bullish intrusions into other mediums.

Hale Woodruff: The Amistad Murals

Woodruff saw this as an opportunity to resurrect the past, to connect it to the present. Over six canvases, completed in two cycles, there was the opportunity to illustrate the struggle for freedom, education, and the climb from slavery toward equality.

Hana Yilma Godine: Substance in Ethiopia

The human body, according to Godine, exists in a communal space that transcends time and place, rooted in a continual energy exchange with the environment.

Nancy Graves: Synecdoche II

Complementing Synecdoche (December 2013 – January 2014), Locks Gallery presents Synecdoche II, a collection of Nancy Graves’s mid-1970s paintings and drawings that evolved from her “Lunar Orbiter” series, which extrapolates NASA lunar surface maps into fragmentary, mysterious, abstract spaces.

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The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2022

All Issues