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Thomas Micchelli

March on Washington, September 24, 2005

We pulled into the parking lot at 5:50 a.m. and knew we were in the right place by the improbable clutch of people huddled together in the predawn darkness. Both sexes in almost equal numbers, with their Whole Foods bags and backpacks, but most were decidedly not young.

James Beck, Gadfly
(1930-2007)

James Beck, the art historian and longtime Columbia University professor, died at the age of 77 over the Memorial Day weekend.

In Conversation

Abby Leigh WITH THOMAS MICCHELLI

Managing Art Editor Thomas Micchelli paid a visit to Abby Leigh’s New York studio to talk about her life and upcoming exhibition at Betty Cuningham Gallery.

Railing Opinion: On the Misallocation of Funds

The island of Laputa, as described by Captain Lemuel Gulliver in his famous Travels, is a perfectly circular, airborne disk whose privileged population busies itself with fruitless pseudoscientific experiments like reconstituting food out of dung while remaining oblivious to the squalor of the peasants living in its shadow.

The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984

First, let’s get the nostalgia out of the way. Sure, the bands were great, and if you were lucky enough to play in one, the clothes were great too. But if the young, wild, and barely employed could afford to live, make art, and party hard between Canal and 14th Streets in the mid- to late-seventies, it was for the same socio-economic reasons that govern affordability, or the lack of it, anywhere.

Think with the Senses–Feel with the Mind: Art in the Present Tense

If the international survey exhibition of the 2005 Venice Biennale (Always a Little Further, curated by Rosa Martinez) professed “enthusiasm and exhaustion” over the state of contemporary art, the 2007 edition under the directorship of Robert Storr seeks its reclamation and renewal.

Alex McQuilkin: Joan of Arc

This assessment, corrosive as it is, doesn’t even take into account the sheer magnificence of the film that McQuilkin has spliced, scrambled and paired with color footage of her own face staring silently into the camera.

Monumental Squalor

On August 28, 2007, a press release issued by Southern Methodist University of Dallas, Texas, announced that the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation had selected Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP “to design the Presidential Library and Museum for America’s 43rd President,” which is to be built on the university’s campus.

WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution

WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution looks so at home at P.S.1 that it’s hard to imagine what it could have been like at its point of origin—the cavernous Geffen Contemporary outpost of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art—or its previous stopover at Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Catherine Sullivan Triangle of Need

A work of this scale and audacity necessarily defies the ordinary tools of assessment; perhaps the most straightforward way to approach it is through the sources that Sullivan and her collaborators, composer Sean Griffin and choreographer Dylan Skybrook, have acknowledged in their writings.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes The Disasters of War

Two hundred years ago last May, the population of Madrid rose up in a spontaneous revolt against the occupation forces of the puppet King of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon.

Eyal Danieli in the mood for love

The puzzle of Eyal Danieli’s work is that it neither embraces nor rejects the all-but-pervasive ironies of neo-conceptualism; rather, it compounds layers of irony to reach a kind of estranged sincerity—a restlessly ambiguous fusion of statement and commentary.

Keren Cytter
: Les Ruissellements Du Diable

If the events in Keren Cytter’s video Les Ruissellements du Diable (The Devil’s Streams) (2008) have a familiar ring, it is because they are adapted from the same source material as Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film, Blow-Up: Julio Cortázar’s short story “Las Babas del Diablo” (“The Devil’s Drool”).

The Generational: Younger Than Jesus

The Generational: Younger Than Jesus sent me back to William Blake. In his Songs of Experience, he bids “Youth of delight come hither, / And see the opening morn, / Image of truth new born. / Doubt is fled & clouds of reason, / Dark disputes & artful teazing. / Folly is an endless maze.” (“The Voice of the Ancient Bard”).

Ishmael Randall Weeks

One of the artists considered for the New Museum’s The Generational: Younger Than Jesus (all of the nominees are listed in the exhibition’s telephone-book-thick supplemental compendium, Younger Than Jesus: Artist Directory), is Ishmael Randall Weeks, who was born in Cusco, Peru, in 1976.

Michelangelo’s First Painting

Francis Bacon has turned 100, and the AARP is beckoning the theoretical girls and boys of the Pictures Generation, but Michelangelo is forever young.

PHILIP GUSTON: Small Oils on Panel 1969-1973

Every once in a while a work of art splits across your consciousness like a cracked egg. That happened in late December—with two paintings, actually—at the McKee Gallery’s exhibition of small figurative panels by Philip Guston dating from 1969 to 1973, presented here as a group for the first time.

WILLIAM KENTRIDGE Five Themes

I had one idea walking into the Museum of Modern Art’s William Kentridge: Five Themes, and no ideas walking out.

BRUCENNIAL 2010: MISEDUCATION

Click on the home page of the Bruce High Quality Foundation University and you’ll find this slogan, in red: “Don’t say can’t. Say canarchy.”

DAWN CLEMENTS

Dawn Clements burrows into her drawings with an alarming relentlessness. The indelibility of her ink strokes, scraping out every detail she can catch, mirrors the fatalism of her conceptual path: once she starts, there is no turning back.

MARY JUDGE Pop-Oculus: new works in pigment

There is a perfect stillness to Mary Judge’s installation at Storefront. Most of the works are on paper, mounted in two ranks: framed under glass at eye level and unframed above.

In the Use of Others for the Change

There were two passages when the stage was empty, dark, and throbbing with music: guttural cries in the first and blues harmonica in the second, both shot through with ripples of electric guitar. It was during those moments that the essence of In the Use of Others for the Change was laid bare.

GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM: The Graphic Impulse

In the end, it all comes down to Otto Dix. Once again we have been privileged with his unsurpassable intaglio suite, The War (1924), which was displayed less than six months ago at the Guggenheim (Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918-1936) and in 2005 and 2010 at the Neue Galerie (War/Hell: Master Prints by Otto Dix and Max Beckmann and Otto Dix, respectively). What, we may ask, are the gods telling us?

SUSAN ROTHENBERG

New Image Painting is something I’ve never been able to let go of. Most of the artists featured in the 1978 Whitney exhibition that gave the movement its name took their work in other directions, disavowed the label, or both.

Histories of Violence

Two concurrent Chelsea exhibitions tackle the aesthetics of violence within the context of war: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Superficial Engagement at the Gladstone Gallery and the projects of Walid Raad/The Atlas Group at The Kitchen under the title The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs.

Always a Little Further

With Always a Little Further, curator Rosa Martínez has taken Venice’s impossibly vast brick-and-limestone Arsenale—the 500-year-old shipyard serving as an adjunct venue for the 51st Biennale—and filled it with a bristling array of audacious, turbulent and visionary art.

Life on Mars: 55th Carnegie International

As an organizing principle, the title of the 55th Carnegie International, Life on Mars, (followed a bit too breathlessly by the taglines “Are we alone in the universe? Do aliens exist? Or are we, ourselves, the strangers in our worlds?") comes off as a consummate nonstarter.

Sean Hemmerle

On the face of it, a series of formally rigorous, symmetrically composed and impeccably printed architectural photographs wouldn’t ordinarily be described as heartbreaking.

OK/OKAY: Recent Art From Europe

We may have waded through our fair share of new British art since the Sensation show of 1999, but ambitious surveys of little-known continental artists are still hard to come by.

Peter Williams: Artistic Repair

Peter Williams is a troubling painter for troubling reasons. There is a disconnect between his sophisticated paint handling—which can veer from dry pointillist dots to hard-sculpted tonalities to bejeweled washes and drips, all in the same picture—and the low-culture effrontery of his images.

Nils Karsten

In her puff piece on Marcel Dzama in the Style column of The New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon writes that Dzama’s “lugubrious fairy-tale sensibility…exemplifies the latest drift in contemporary art.”

Nicolas Carone Sculpture

What stays with you, first and last, from Nicolas Carone’s carved stone heads is their blunt, incandescent beauty.

Twilight of The Gods

On the fourth floor of the Museum of Modern Art, at the foot of the escalator, hangs Alice Neel’s “Benny and Mary Ellen Andrews” (1972). It depicts a New York art couple, a painter and photographer respectively.

Charles Garabedian

The most arresting image in Charles Garabedian’s exhibition of recent works on paper is a large acrylic called “Channel Swimmer” (2006).

Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua

All-American aggression, bloody violence, and heavy metal pandemonium are the stock-in-trade of Braggin Rites, an installation of irredeemable junk fashioned by Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua into what they claim to be the world’s largest Bowie knife.

Angela Strassheim

Political art, it goes without saying, is oppositional art. But the exhibition Left Behind, Angela Strassheim’s series of large-scale C-prints at Marvelli Gallery, deals with a hot-button topic, the Christian right, without attempting to reassure its likely audience of its own enlightenment.

Getting Over It: A Morality Tale

It’s no longer news that Altria, and the $7 million it lavishes each year on the arts, is leaving New York.

TRACKS: The Quay Brothers and the Argument for the Real

Perhaps the most salient point I can make about the art of the Quays is the sense of violation I feel by typing something—anything—onto the blank whiteness of the page.

Into Me / Out of Me

Into Me / Out of Me at P.S.1 is the kind of exhibition you don’t expect to see at a public institution anymore, as even privately funded nonprofits grow more skittish over material that might prove offensive to prudes, snoots, the underaged or the faint of heart.

The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings

The title of The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings is a bit of a feint: the artist’s works on paper, including his youthful caricatures, are cited in a number of monographs published over the past half century or so, from William Chapin Seitz’s Claude Monet (1960) to Paul Hayes Tucker’s Claude Monet: Life and Art (1995), not to mention Monet by Himself: Paintings, Drawings, Pastels, Letters, edited by Richard Kendall (1990).

Regina José Galindo

Regina José Galindo’s practice is the embodiment of Akira Kurosawa’s dictum, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes,” and she challenges the viewer to do the same, even as she’s carving the word “perra” (“bitch”) into the flesh of her thigh.

Judy Glantzman

Judy Glantzman got her start at Civilian Warfare and Gracie Mansion Gallery in the East Village, and her work still retains the shambling, honest intensity of eighties downtown art.

Dash Snow

Dash Snow started taking Polaroids at the age of sixteen to reclaim pockets of lost time: countless nights of hard partying that neither he nor his friends could remember the following day.

Milton Resnick: A Question of Seeing

You don’t so much look at a Milton Resnick painting as step into it, like an elevator shaft. Unmoored from the formal constraints of space and form, Resnick’s picture plane vaporizes into an arena of agitated indeterminacy—a nebulous interlacing of strokes darting with the incessant motion of acute anxiety.

Videodyssey

Parker’s Box provides a glimpse of very recent European video (all from 2005) with Videodyssey, an exhibition also staged at the PULSE art fair and, in a different version, at Galerie Anne Barrault in Paris.

Christoph Buchel
Training Ground for Democracy

This is not a review of Christoph Büchel’s Training Ground for Democracy at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art because, as of this writing, the exhibition does not exist.

Lynda Abraham

The first thing you notice is the choking. Step inside the bright, narrow antechamber of Lynda Abraham’s installation at Dam, Stuhltrager, and you’ll encounter a bank of black-and-white video monitors running a tape of two women jammed inside a simple but diabolical machine.

Alex Katz
First Sight: Working Drawings from
1965–2002

Two years ago, the Peter Blum Gallery held an exhibition called “Alex Katz: Cartoons,” which raised some entertaining questions about the role of intentionality in the creation of a work of art. The drawings on display were essentially by products of the process Katz uses to compose his large-scale paintings.

Shit: a group exhibition

So it’s in the air. Three shows opening the new season in New York all bear the word “shit” in their titles: Andres Serrano’s Shit at Yvon Lambert (reviewed here by Robert C. Morgan), Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s The Fan and The Shit (reviewed by Shane McAdams), and Shit: a group exhibition at Feature’s brand new, barely finished space on the Bowery.

DAVID RABINOWITCH Birth of Romanticism: New Works on Paper

This is how Joan Waltemath opens her 2003 Rail interview with David Rabinowitch. She is referring to the point they had reached in their conversation (his reply: “Yes, we begin in the middle”), apparently marking a transition to topics of more immediate interest.

Maria Elena González

Maria Elena González was born a Catholic in Cuba two years before the revolution. By the time she was five, Castro had closed the churches and “Catholicism became little more than a residual consciousness,” according to Eleanor Heartney’s insightful catalogue essay for Internal DupliCity, González’s recent sculptural installation at Knoedler & Company.

War/Hell Master Prints by Otto Dix and Max Beckmann

You might expect that Der Krieg (War), a suite of fifty intaglios by Otto Dix, and Die Hölle (Hell), a set of ten transfer lithographs by Max Beckmann, would have been consigned to irrelevance by now. Predating the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, napalm, death squads, bunker busters, and depleted uranium–among countless intervening horrors -what could their tremulous depictions of World War I and its aftermath tell us that hasn’t been eclipsed by the twentieth century’s relentlessly expanding scale of violence?

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s The Wind (2006), a 14-minute, three-screen installation at the Museum of Modern Art, is a disappointment. Not so much for its filmmaking craft but for the tantalizing possibilities it raises yet falls short of realizing.

Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century Collage: The Unmonumental Picture

The New Museum opened on the Bowery in December, garnering near-universal praise for its ethereal, SANAA-designed building and pitiless abuse over its ghastly inaugural show. That exhibition, Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century, is still with us, but on January 16th it expanded to include Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, the second of a four-part series, with sound art and online montage on the way.

Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection

It was when I hit the Sherry Levines that the sinking feeling started. If the impetus behind Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection is “assessing drawing now,” as the exhibition catalogue asserts, it disregards evidence of a parallel “then” alongside the “now,” with Levine’s 1985 works marking the wormhole between the two.

Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936

Even without its notorious provenance, the painting that once hung over Hitler’s mantelpiece—“Die Vier Elemente: Feuer, Wasser und Erde, Luft (The Four Elements: Fire, Water and Earth, Air)” by Adolf Ziegler (1892 – 1959)—looks malignant and bankrupt.

Anselm Kiefer: Paintings and Sculpture

What is it about Anselm Kiefer’s art that inhibits unfettered admiration? I write this as a longtime fan, someone who was left reeling from his big show at Mary Boone in 1982. Of the dozen or so artists vying for prominence in the 1980s under the mantle of Neo-Expressionism, Kiefer seemed to have single-handedly legitimated and fulfilled the promise of Postmodernism.

Leon Kossoff: From the Early Years - 1957-1967

The School of London has always posed a problem on this side of the Atlantic. The term was coined by the American ex-pat R.B. Kitaj for the 48 artists he included in a show called The Human Clay at the Hayward Gallery in 1976. Today we associate the term primarily with Kitaj, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, and Leon Kossoff.

William Blake’s World: “A New Heaven Is Begun”

Once, when complimented on his reinvigoration of the painted image back when the smart money was betting on its extinction, Richard Artschwager grinned and replied, “I do everything wrong.” That could be the epitaph, and battle cry, of William Blake: enemy of the state, abominator of religion, self-starting prophet, and overt reactionary in technology and art.

Jenny Holzer

Two enormous black hands, blocky and clownish, greet you at the entrance to Jenny Holzer’s indispensable exhibition, Archive, at Cheim & Read. Palms out, fingers slightly splayed, they could be pleading for mercy or halting a vehicle at a checkpoint.

Nin Brudermann

For sixty years the U.S. Navy hit the tiny Caribbean island of Vieques with everything it had. It stored vast quantities of munitions, including depleted uranium shells, on the fingerlike island’s lush west end and exploded them on its environmentally ravaged eastern tip.

The Book as Object and Performance

Is it fair that an exhibition devoted to the book ends up reaffirming the vitality of contemporary video?

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.

AUSTIN THOMAS Drawing on the Utopic

To admire someone’s ideals is one thing, but to confront what that person does in the privacy of her studio is something else again. Austin Thomas is well known as one of the prime movers of the Bushwick scene, whose efforts to seed and shape a community have achieved a degree of success that is as substantial as it is unlikely.

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.

Alternative Histories

I caught Alternative Histories at Exit Art on the last day of the show. While I had avoided, for the moment, one of the hazards of a hyper-busy life—the belated discovery that an important exhibition had already run its course—it felt especially wistful to visit this remarkably well-researched and well-presented excavation of recent cultural history in the hours before it vanished forever.

Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi knew Fascism with a capital F. The story of Italian art is intertwined with its often ruthless politics, never more so than in the bloody history of the past one hundred years.

Leigh Ledare: You Are Nothing To Me. You Are Like Air

Not to mix mythic metaphors, but Oedipus was also a narcissist.

Joan Banach: Citizen

I can’t remember a show that sabotaged my first impressions more thoroughly than Joan Banach’s recent solo at Small A Projects.

Elise Freda

In an art scene that makes a virtue of anarchy, careening from the shrill to the fatalistic without a dominant direction or commanding style, a shot of unadulterated beauty like Elise Freda’s abstractions at Ch’i Contemporary Fine Art can feel both clarifying and unsettling.

SANTIAGO SIERRA Los Penetrados

Santiago Sierra, who was born in Madrid in 1966 and lives and works in Mexico City, has made a career out of stirring controversy and pissing people off. He grew up working class and once lived among the laborers, mendicants, and prostitutes he now hires to perform pieces illustrating the futility of alienated labor.

Pierrette Bloch

A word like “revelatory” should be used advisedly, but there really isn’t a better way to describe Pierrette Bloch’s current exhibition at Haim Chanin Fine Arts.

Robert Lazzarini, Drawings

Anyone who encountered Robert Lazzarini’s “payphone” at the 2002 Whitney Biennial will remember it as an unassuming, blank-faced oddity that somehow managed to upstage everything else in the room.

Dreaming of a Speech Without Words: The Paintings and Early Objects of H.C. Westerman
Will Barnet: Recent Work

H.C. Westerman (1922-1981), one of the lone wolves of American art, served in both World War II and the Korean War and emerged a scathing critic of America’s ascendant militarism and mindless materialism.

TRACKS
In/Visible: The Drawings of Maria Bussmann

Maria Bussmann counters the unknowable with the unseeable. Her suites of drawings—Following Heidegger, Drawings to Baruch de Spinoza_’s Ethik, Drawings to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, About the Visible and Invisible of Merleau-Ponty—address the infinity of meanings implicit in her source material by defying the ordinary parameters of visual art.

Suzanne Opton

There are no skin grafts masking third-degree burns, no tangled cords of scar tissue, no missing eyes or shattered jaws in Soldier, Suzanne Opton’s exhibition of large-scale color portraits of recently returned veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism

Whatever you think you know about Cubism, well, think again. Picasso, Braque and Early Film in Cubism, which continues at PaceWildenstein’s East 57th Street location through June 23rd, not only gathers together a staggering collection of masterworks from what is arguably the most important movement in modern art—it knocks a century’s worth of received wisdom on its ear.

Helen Mayer Harrison & Newton Harrison: Global Warming

While looking at Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison’s exhibition Global Warming on a dark, dank, altogether nasty Wednesday afternoon, an unrelated opinion piece from that morning’s New York Times kept drifting into my head.

HANNAH WILKE Early Drawings

Walking in off the street, it’s immediately obvious that these drawings need no footnotes, subtext or backstory. They are the markings, of a restive, smoldering intelligence—barreling through ideas, conjoining and discarding influences, resisting and succumbing to the pull of the senses.

Role Play: Feminist Art Revisited 1960–1980

“I embody everything you most hate and fear.” This provocation floats in a comic strip-style dialogue balloon in Adrian Piper’s oil crayon drawing, “I Embody Everything” (1975), but it could have been scrawled under every work in Role Play: Feminist Art Revisited 1960-1980, a subtle, timely, and moving exhibition at Galerie Lelong.

Hysterical Blindness: Critical Mess and the Limits of Vision

In the December 2006/January 2007 issue of The Brooklyn Rail, Irving Sandler published his “Call to Art Critics,” which posed some pointed questions and landed a few well-aimed kidney punches.

Our Myopia, Ourselves

At 6:30 in the evening on Monday, April 14th, a capacity crowd of 500 gathered in The New School’s Tishman Auditorium to hear a panel discussion titled Artforum at The New School: Art and Money. Moderated by Artforum editor Tim Griffin, the participants represented the commercial, non-profit, academic and creative sides of what is now called, apparently without irony,

Divine Retribution

Eight years is a considerable chunk out of anyone’s lifetime—10.3 percent, in fact, of the U.S. life expectancy (77.8 years, as tabulated by the National Center for Health Statistics) and almost the same percentage of the time afforded us by the writer of the 90th Psalm (“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away”).

Purgatory Lost: MASS MoCA Trashes Democracy

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art announced on September 25th that “it has begun removing materials gathered for Training Ground for Democracy and will not permit the public to enter the planned installation which was cancelled on May 21, 2007.”

Film: Losing the Thread

Only after cinema has freed itself from linear narrative can it do justice to the multifaceted and fluid phenomenon we define as reality. Or so goes the premise of Doug Aitken’s alternately frustrating and fascinating book, Broken Screen.

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NOV 2019

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