The Galleries
Michael Newton

New York, November, 2007

 

Lida Abdul @ Location One

A single-channel video projected on the wall is the most elemental form of video installation, and sometimes it’s the most logical form. In this case, Abdul’s video of men pulling ropes to dismantle a ruined house in Kabul does so much with gestural motion and kinaesthetic space and symbolism—there’s so much going on on that wall.

 

Diana Al-Hadid @ Perry Rubenstein

A big sculpture like a church organ or a sacrificial altar or a monster. So many ideas could be drawn out of it, but I ended up not thinking about it too much after the fact. Maybe I’m just lazy.

 

Jose Alvarez @ The Kitchen

Alvarez made a name for himself a few years ago by appearing internationally on stage and on TV as a shaman, a mystic, and a faith healer, often in front of audiences who weren’t in on the joke. Recently, he’s turned toward the more peaceable practice of creating colorful, oracular paintings using symbolic materials, like peacock feathers and porcupine quills. For better or worse, these pieces don’t offer the cheap thrills and subversive shock of his performances; some of them are quite pretty, though.

 

Carlos Amorales @ Yvon Lambert

This is an example of an artwork where sheer labor is the saving grace: a little wall covered in black, paper moths would have been all well and good, but a massive gallery swarming with 25,000 moths—that’s another story.

 

Carl Andre @ Paula Cooper

Because contemporary art, as an entity, moves through ‘movements’ like Kleenex (epochally speaking), a lot of histories have to be written all at once. Carl Andre’s new works—grid-like constructs of wood and copper—are very, very similar to the work he’s been doing for decades. Is this consistency a function of the minimalist movement, of Andre’s generation in general, or is it just what artists do when they get older? Or is it just how Carl Andre is? Postscript: I like Carl Andre’s work a lot.

 

Olivo Barbieri @ Yancey Richardson

There’s a lot of interesting work being made right now by artists who build and photograph scenes in miniature, which can be a really useful way to get a photographic image of something otherwise elusive or dangerous or non-existent. Upon first seeing Barbieri’s work, I assumed (as do most people, I think) that he was working in this idiom. Actually he’s upending it: these photographs of people looking at waterfalls are of actual people and actual waterfalls, photographed using helicopters and in-camera distortions to make it all look like some sort of epic dollhouse exterior. That’s kind of creepy, isn’t it? Photographs turning people into toys?

 

Uta Barth @ Tanya Bonakdar

Called “Sundial,” these photographs show bits of sunlight passing across bare walls in the artist’s house—a new take on perpetually Barthian themes of ephemerality, perception, interiority, and reduction. It’s not a particularly new take on this stuff, mind you, but why mess with success, I suppose.

 

Alighiero e Boetti @ Gladstone

Boetti is probably best known for his “Mappa” works—embroidered, fabric maps of the world, with the flag of a given country overlaying its physical territory. There’s no trick to the imagery; the tricks are in the histories that define the images and cause the maps to fluctuate, and in the economic situation(s) in which the pieces are produced (they’re created on commission by Afghan weavers).

 

Louise Bourgeois @ Carolina Nitsch

Imagine making art on the computer if you had been making art for decades before computers were even imagined.

 

Bozidar Brazda @ Bortolami

A sort of punk-y, junk-y, post-minimal show. My favorite piece is a simple video of a dude playing bass, shot through a fisheye lens and with the speed all screwy.

 

Edward Burtynsky @ Charles Cowles

One day, Edward Burtynsky woke up and decided that he would try and photograph quarries. Simple enough, right? That decision has been central to his work as a photographer for the last 16 years, and has yielded some remarkable images. As in this show: tiny people dwarfed by what they’ve made; rocks whose sheer surfaces and uniformity betray artificial/human intervention, but simply look too big to have been modified as such.

 

James Busby @ Stux

It’s funny how the word “modern” doesn’t mean “in the here and now,” but rather “of the historical moment when people referred to themselves as ‘modern’ ” (in some contexts, anyway). What will happen when “contemporary” stops meaning “contemporary”?

 

Dean Byington @ Leslie Tonkonow

Drawings and collages become silkscreens on canvas with practically unbelievable levels of detail. Even knowing that much of the imagery is appropriated and copied, it’s wild to think that all these little lines were drawn by people at one time or another, if not by the same person or at the same time.

 

Anthony Caro @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash

A two-venue show of new galvanized steel sculptures. I’m not crazy about the pieces, but there’s a refreshing sense of peace and placidity here, skillfully wrought out of burly, industrial materials. Also, the guy’s in his eighties and is still making new work, which is pretty great.

 

Matthew Cerletty @ Team

A potentially useful, potentially stifling exercise for artists is to imagine their work in less-than-desirable settings: what would your work look like on an ugly website? On a sales rack in a thrift store? On the walls of a T.G.I. Friday’s? In the case of Cerletty’s work—large-ish, graphic appropriations of seventies modernist cool—it’s hard to imagine it outside the context of a well-heeled gallery. It’s even hard to think of these as individual works outside the exhibition. I think there’s a symbiosis at work: without the gallery, this art wouldn’t exist.

 

Emilie Clark @ Morgan Lehman

Since 1995, and in addition to her other projects, Clark has done one small painting every week, and they are all on display here, crowding out the wallspace in this rather small gallery. These paintings have stayed remarkably consistent over the past 12 years, and consistency can be a good thing, but change can be an even better thing. I was bothered by the lack of change.

 

George Condo @ Nicholas Robinson

Paintings by Condo from the late nineties through now, involving classical, archetypal imagery—reclining nudes, regal portraiture—defaced and replaced by wild-eyed chipmunk things. I like Condo’s sculptures, but these paintings hit a sour note for me: I feel like the old-fashioned paintings make for too-easy a target, even if Condo’s relationship to the work is more complex than all that.

 

José Damasceno @ The Project

When one’s art is reduced to only a few spare symbols, those symbols have a whole lot of weight to carry, and sometimes they can’t carry it all.

 

Thomas Demand @ 303

Demand’s work operates on two distinct levels, and they’re both pretty great. First, there’s the trompe l’oeil fun-and-games part. The large-scale photographs are of rooms and scenes recreated in cardboard: an endearing high-art magic trick. The second level is that of didacticism and research: Demand’s images are often based on transitory, generic-seeming sites that actually hold remarkable historical relevance. The drab apartment building of this show, for example, is based on the Embassy of the Republic of Niger in Rome. Many believe that papers stolen from this embassy were used to forge documentation of the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq—one of the linchpins in the Bush administration’s bid for public support of the Iraq war.

 

Pierre Dorion @ Jack Shainman

Anti-painterly painting is still painting; not looking paint-y is still something that paint does well as paint.

 

Sarah Dornner, Garth Weiser, & Davis Rhodes @ Casey Kaplan

These are actually three solo shows, not a group show, but it all works together as a group show (let’s be honest, here). All three artists are recent MFA grads, and all of them seem to be drawn to reduction, phenomenology, and the color black. Lots of black.

 

Thomas Eggerer @ Friedrich Petzel

My notes for this show: “Tent towns nude beaches dance classes.” Almost like a little poem, yes?

 

Hans Eijkelboom @ Aperture Foundation

A sort of conceptual documentary photo-essay by Eijkelboom, who shot isolated typologies in New York, Paris, and Shanghai. The results are compared and contrasted on the gallery walls, showing similarities and differences (mainly similarities) between the three cities. Examples: men wearing horizontally-striped shirts, men wearing vests, women wearing floral prints, playground structures, public sculptures. These pictures make New York seem genuinely multi-ethnic, and Paris and Shanghai seem pretty racially homogenous—so, as always, New York wins.

 

Mounir Fatmi @ Lombard-Fried Projects

As much as people talk about new decades signifying new eras, I think so much happened in the sixties that as a culture we’re still processing and sorting through the intellectual and revolutionary legacy of the period. I would say that’s why the aesthetics and ideologies of that time come up so much in recent art.

 

Daphne Fitzpatrick @ Bellwether

There is a piece here in which the viewer sits in a blanketed room and watches a video of construction workers doing some tedious crap on a muddy, awful day. So, you think, how nice it is to be in a soft warm room, watching a video, even if the blankets are a bit dirty and ugly. An effectively atypical way of provoking ideas of comfort and privilege.

 

Five Works in Bronze @ Matthew Marks

I didn’t know Ellsworth Kelly or Willem de Kooning ever did work in bronze. How hard is it to work in bronze, anyway?

 

Amy Gartrell @ Daniel Reich

Gartrell is a young artist whose work has stuck in my mind, thanks to her skillful utilization of amusing iconography, imaginative compositions, and ultra-bright color. But the show is sort of a disappointment: crystalline forms, black velvet, chintziness and curios. It feels like this has all been done too much of late.

 

Douglas Gordon @ Gagosian

At this point in my life as a gallery-hopper, I’m perpetually overloaded not just on Warhol, but on art that references Warhol: there’s just so much of it, you see. And especially when Douglas Gordon does it, considering all the interesting stuff he makes that has little to do with Warhol (at least on the surface).

 

Antony Gormley @ Sean Kelly

The main event here is “Blind Light,” a glass-walled room filled with light and mist. Go inside, and you can barely see anything beyond your own body, just a limitless, gauzy fog. The effect is sudden and visceral and primal—the good side of primal. I have a sense memory of this work that’s unlike almost any other memory I have. Apparently this piece was a big deal when it was exhibited in London, where it received over 208,000 visitors and was featured in various news media.

 

Jill Greenberg @ Clamp

Greenberg is a highly accomplished studio photographer who has been getting lots of attention lately due to her monkey portraits. For her new series, “Ursine,” she built an outdoor studio in the wilderness and lured in bears—honest-to-god bears—to have their portraits taken. That’s a mark of real photographic skill, there—when you get bears to collaborate with you. Also on display is Greenberg’s controversial “End Times” series from last year, in which she captured toddlers in the throes of temper tantrums—little chunks of apocalyptic fury. The controversy came about because of her process; supposedly she pressed the kids into tantrums by offering them candy and then snatching it away (“Taking candy from a baby” was the name of an article about the photographs in the U.K. Sunday Times). It seems wrong to make children suffer for art, but seriously, these images are amazing—even the Sunday Times couldn’t resist putting them on their cover.

 

Stefan Hirsig @ Spencer Brownstone

These large abstract paintings with occasional pop-cultural nods have an element of cleanliness throughout. Even the messy parts look like clean representations of some outside concept of messiness.

 

Duane Hanson @ Van de Weghe

Hanson died in 1996, but his art still provides reliable, head-slapping pleasure, with extremely detailed, life-size sculptures of people. Viewers have to sort of force themselves to accept that the people they’re seeing aren’t real. Hanson’s subjects were all working-class Americans, and what is sad about this show is how much, and how consistently, these figures contrast with the aesthetics of their audience—us gallery-goers are from a tragically different class.

 

Jay Heikes @ Marianne Boesky

My favorite works in this somewhat sprawling show are person-sized black boxes with earthy, stain-dappled drapes: voting booths becoming coffins, becoming sites of peril and ritualized strife.

 

Sophie von Hellermann @ Greene Naftali

These new paintings by von Hellermann are reminiscent of a high-schooler’s illustrated book report of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about trust—and trusting artists and trusting art—and this is work that I can’t bring myself to trust, really.

 

Leslie Hewitt @ D’amelio Terras

This show is operating on the kind, graceful side of my personal prejudices: I love conceptually-grounded work on relationships between individuals and texts, which I think is what this show is. And yet, I feel like I’m missing out, like the work hasn’t quite fulfilled its responsibility to glue everything together. I just don’t have any glue.

 

Scott Hug @ John Connelly Presents

It’s sleazy, it’s full of lies, it’s a reactionary Rupert Murdoch rag, but still—what would New York City be without the New York Post? The lurid, laconic headlines are touchstones of the city’s visual culture and aesthetic. For this show, the most prominent works are prints on canvas in which individual Post front pages are turned into messy black whorls, though I’m not sure what these pieces have to say about the Post that the Post doesn’t already say about itself.

 

Folkert de Jong @ James Cohan

These life-size sculptures of dell’arte clowns—gloppy and sickly but still charming—are transformed through the inclusion of a simple but prominent detail: barrels of oil. Then other details click into place: the synthetic foams, the beckoning black puddles, the death-white clown masks, the jumbled bodies, the massed confusion.

 

Isaac Julien @ Metro Pictures

Artists have to be careful when they utilize kitschy imagery: it can take a lot of skill to avoid actually producing kitsch. Good thing, then, that Isaac Julien is a very skilled artist. His new, three-channel film work involves beautiful people walking across white, sandy beaches; let the work unfold, and it becomes a piece about immigration politics and casual cruelty. Since Julien is a ‘filmmaker’ as much as an ‘artist,’ he’s unafraid to use some effective tools from the filmmakers’, um, toolbelt: the charge of coordinate sound and movement that so much video art misses out on.

 

Yishai Jusidman @ Yvon Lambert

Called “The Economist Shuffle,” this series of paintings is based entirely on thumbnail photographs from the “The World This Week” section of The Economist. Jusidman seems to be de-investing these photographs of their political implications and journalistic currency, reducing it all to pictorialism and light and gesture—and honestly, I’m not sure why that’s something he’d want to do. The paintings are quite lovely, though, and so I guess that’s why.

 

Rinko Kawauchi @ Cohan and Leslie

I wouldn’t want to use the word “mythology” (I know I just did, stay with me), but Kawauchi is the sort of photographer who seems to build an idea of self—her self—through her work. That’s the largest thread that I would run between the images—there are glittering diamonds, little bugs, and a remarkable photo of morning sunlight cascading and glinting down schoolhouse steps.

 

Oskar Korsár @ Yossi Milo

These sophisticated ink-drawings of awkward adolescent girlhood remind me of autobiographical comic books, as does lots of interesting art these days. Yet they lack the intimacy and veracity of such work—probably because Mr. Korsár was never an adolescent girl.

 

Kristian Kozul @ Goff & Rosenthal

As I was walking down the street, I was lured into the gallery by the sight of a bucking, lurching, glittering mechanical bull, decked out in black sequins and sadomasochistic spikes. Also, there are cowboy accoutrements covered in red, white and blue sequins. The artist, Kozul, is Croatian—sort of odd, given how idiomatically American the whole show is (but of course, that’s really not odd at all).

 

Barbara Kruger @ Mary Boone

Before the bombastic 1980s work that made her famous, Kruger did a series of photo/text pieces in which shots of suburban exteriors are paired with snippets of narrative writings that imagine the lives of the inhabitants. The use of fiction as fine art isn’t as rare today as perhaps it once was, and I think that these works are part of the reason why, but there’s a lot that could happen in these pieces that just doesn’t happen. My favorite moments are when the writing gets the most weird and stylized, as in this sentence: “He has a room in this beige stucco envelope which reeks of California as if it had been to Europe.”

 

Rezi van Lankveld @ Friedrich Petzel

Give these swirling, smudgy (a la the Photoshop “smudge” tool) black abstractions a minute, and people start showing up—figures out of some Victorian morality play, drunkards and lotharios and sinners. These are remarkable studies in image-reading, in how much raw visual information is necessary to establish narrative. They should get a scientist to look at these and figure that out. Any scientist will do.

 

Kristin Lucas @ Postmasters

On October 5 of this year, Lucas had her name legally changed from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas. She was, to paraphrase the press release, refreshing herself as though she were a web page. This show contains documentation of this performance, and a multivalent suite of projects relating to the old and new Kristin(s), including video, photography, painting, music—the works. This is, if you will, a non-stop show. And even though it utilizes a number of corny, potentially ruinous hipster bon mots—flying birds, faux-naif paintings, video-game graphics, cutesy electronic pop songs—the wide scope and endlessly inventive process at work make for a compelling body of art, and a fun story, too.

 

Robert Longo @ Metro Pictures

Longo’s trademark charcoal drawings are of large, dense representations of power. Mushroom clouds, comets, baseball players—things like that. For his “Children of Nyx” series, Longo uses his style to portray the heads of sleeping babies; is this an inversion of his typical approach, or are we seeing a manifestation of some different sort of power?

 

Billy Malone @ Clementine

The lowly ballpoint pen, that most plebian and facile of writing instruments, can actually be really useful for creating rich, detailed drawings. Ballpoint ink is oil-based, you see, and allows for shifts in density and tonality that can’t be achieved with water-based media.

 

Dan McCarthy @ Anton Kern

Sort of a contemporary re-imagining of modernist bohemian primitivism, or something: big, blue, naked people. Okay, and red people, too. I’m not thrilled with the individual paintings, but the experience of standing at the center of the gallery with all these weird naked people sort of lunging at me was memorable and funny and charming, even. Anyway, many of these figures seem to be involved in some process of sexual seduction, so it makes sex seem kind of stupid and funny, too.

 

Paul McCarthy @ Maccarone

Just in time for the holidays: Maccarone transforms its large space into a genuine chocolate factory, to produce chocolate Santas designed by McCarthy. The Santas are kind of perverted, but still cute enough to give to a friend. The whole place smells like chocolate, and there is a wonderful churning machine that seems to twirl molded chocolate until it dries.

 

Mario Merz @ Sperone Westwater

These works by Merz, a leader in the Italian ‘Arte Povera’ movement who died in 2003, date from the late sixties to, most recently, 1985. Yet they look like they could have been done last week—this may mean that they’re continually pertinent or perpetually irrelevant, depending on your mood, honestly.

 

Mariko Mori @ Deitch Projects

Mori’s background in the fashion world always comes through in her work; even without a direct reference to fashion, there are elements of glamour as a key to transcendence. This show includes a gorgeous white monolith that lights up in tandem with a live data feed of observed cosmic neutrinos. That’s right—glamorous neutrinos.

 

Jackie Nickerson @ Jack Shainman

One of those fortuitous circumstances where a talented photographer gets access to a rare and intriguing subject. Nickerson has spent years photographing the Catholic religious orders of Ireland. There is, I’ll admit, a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing to be done at the hushed and insular world on view, with its steadfast but limited antiquation (are those new Penguin paperbacks I see on that hulking, old-fashioned bookshelf?), but there’s a lot more than that going on. Those classical motifs—the black robes and black habits, the light pouring in through the church windows, the daily recognitions and homages to death—still hold their charge.

 

Adrian Paci @ Peter Blum

I’m used to art that deals with memory as something nebulous and shifting, something flimsy and faded. This show includes paintings of weddings and family functions, seemingly lifted from video stills, and set onto large brick walls. It’s a refreshing and provocative approach: memory as something hard and fixed and interminable.

 

Kamau Patton @ Tilton

I would like to be the first to say it: perfect symmetry is dead. Or, it will be very soon. Not to be confused with regular, old-fashioned symmetry, which will never go out of style, I mean perfect symmetry, where one half of a work of art is a mirror image of the other half. I think that this is just too much of a cheap trick, too easy a way to make something look cool. That’s not to say that artists shouldn’t use this device at all, though—in the case of Patton, it may actually be necessary. For the main piece here, a video work, digital mirroring is employed to turn a simple, gestural performance into something sacred and menacing. Still kind of a cheap trick, but it’s used in an intelligent and effective way.

 

Hirsch Perlman @ Robert Miller

There are approximately three distinct bodies of work on display here. First, there are simple silkscreens: line-drawings of Schrödinger’s cat. Then there are long-exposure photographs, in which Perlman plays with light and sand: performative images that recall ruined cities and rocket blasts. Finally, there’s an ongoing, semi-performative installation in which the artist sells homemade copies of the U.S. Army’s counter-insurgency manual (the proceeds will go toward organizations working to dismantle the Electoral College and to restore habeas corpus to Guantanamo prisoners). In its entirety, the show is a funny, intimate, evocative slow-burn, an individual’s attempt to sort through the debris of morality and philosophy in a new age of war and terror (a terror that comes from all sorts of places, mind you).

 

Portraits @ Luhring Augustine

A show of contemporary portraiture that includes some cop-out moments, such as Jack Pierson’s piece, with the words “Evie Sands” spelled-out in plastic letters discarded from signage. Just because a work of art is about somebody doesn’t mean it’s a portrait, guys. Well, anyway, there’s work by lots of heavy-hitters, including Janine Antoni, John Baldessari and Daido Moriyama, along with a faux-book by Steve Wolfe, whose work I’ve been admiring these days.

 

Eileen Quinlan @ Miguel Abreu

Quinlan has, it seems, been getting a lot of attention lately for her photographs, in which she employs old-fashioned illusionistic techniques (her ongoing series is called “Smoke & Mirrors”) to produce disorienting, abstracted imagery. In the end, it’s a pretty simple trick, but Quinlan has a lot of skill as an image-maker, and her work is always a pleasure to look at.

 

Elaine Reichek @ Nicole Klagsbrun

In which touchstones of modern and contemporary art are reduced to just so many carpet samples. It always seems like the ones who have the most problems with art in general are artists themselves. I guess that’s exactly how it should be.

 

Reynold Reynolds @ Roebling Hall

The centerpiece here is a video installation about the inner life of an apartment building. The piece makes the most of its two-channel structure: the daily goings-on of apartment residents are juxtaposed with each other and with time-lapse footage of rot and decay. It’s a hypnotic, compelling piece, but it’s emotionally unsatisfying, with a bad aftertaste. It doesn’t help that the characters, including a lonely, chubby loser guy and a tragic, sexy junkie girl, are screamingly stock-in-trade.

 

Bridget Riley @ Pace Wildenstein

A two-venue show of new work by the pioneering op-artist, though I guess she’s over the whole op-art thing. Is it wrong to want to see a nice optical illusion every now and then?

 

Duke Riley @ Magnan Projects/Magnan Emrich

Part of why performance art was so embraced by the feminist movement is the way it politicizes the body, uses the body as a locus of meaning and history. So for me, that’s the first thing that comes to mind with Riley’s work—a critical take on classical maleness: faux-historical artifacts and real-life performances of misplaced heroism and nautical derring-do. In one video you can even see the artist—brawny, tattooed, drinking a beer, and about to get into his homemade submarine—plunge into the Brooklyn harbor and eventually get questioned by the NYPD and written about in the local papers.

 

Heather Rowe @ D’amelio Terras

For this show, Rowe has created a large-scale sculpture based on modernist architecture from the seventies. Is it just me, or is about twenty percent of new art based on modernist architecture from the seventies? Well, that said, there are a lot of very successful things about this piece—one of them being the precariousness of the structure: it feels like it could fall on you and kill you, if the fates so desired.

 

Thomas Ruff @ David Zwirner

An important, unifying factor among the German objectivist photographers—Ruff, Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, et al.—is the utter bigness of their printed pictures. What would Candida Höfer’s library photographs look like at five by seven inches, you know? For this show, Ruff took small photographic images off the internet and enlarged them to massive scale, magnifying the marks of digital compression: the scuzzy, pixel-y, compromised character of so much online imagery. It’s that tension that makes the work successful—overall, an interesting example of bigness itself being the engine of meaning and relevance for a body of art. I wasn’t really expecting to like this show, but I do.

 

Will Ryman @ Marlborough

Ryman works in a format that I’ll refer to here as sculpted caricature—distended papier-mâché crazy people. His large installation of an afternoon street scene is a loving portrait of urban life (Ryman lives in New York), though my p.c. liberal heart is a bit worried at the sight of white artists getting laughs from wacky representations of black urban poor.

 

Carlos & Jason Sanchez @ Caren Golden

The Sanchezes’ highly staged, well-executed photographs appear as important moments from contemporary dramatic cinema. The thing is, if these were stills from actual movies, those movies would probably be pretty bad. There’s likely something to be said for that—a commentary on the trappings of modern filmmaking, perhaps, but I’d rather just watch a good movie.

 

Kenny Scharf @ Paul Kasmin

Kenny Scharf is an artist I remember liking before I really knew what this whole “art” thing was all about. His work from the eighties included cartoonish gremlins formed in strands out of shiny graffiti globs—kiddy fun with an endearing subversive streak. His new work is more in line with Rosenquist-y pop, with toothpaste and doughnuts and appropriated celebrity iconography. It’s okay, but it’s been done; if he were going to retread something anyway, why not retread his own innovative, loopy sytle?

 

Adam Parker Smith @ Priska C. Juschka

I walked into the gallery and was so pleased to find myself surrounded by grinning human heads impaled on long sticks. As for why this would be a nice, pleasant sensation, well, I guess that’s what the show is about in the first place.

 

Aaron Spangler @ Zach Feuer

I have to admit that after seeing so much junk-heap style work in so many galleries, it’s nice to see art that seems to have required lots of time and lots of skill. This is a show of bas-reliefs carved directly out of wood, and that’s what sticks in my mind: the loveliness and detail of the forms, rather than the iconography and narratives at hand (which had a lot to do with conflicts between American industrialism and American ruralism).

 

Do Ho Suh @ Lehmann Maupin

It’s often been said, and I’ve said it before myself, but it remains true that fine art draws some severe boundaries between people who “get it” and people who don’t, forcing questions of responsibility and engagement in artistic production—i.e., how many people should be able to enjoy an artist’s work? Suh deserves lots of credit for making art with multiple levels of accessibility—even little kids would probably love this show, in which glazy little naked guys form an orange-tinted tornado, rising out of the gallery floor.

 

Mark di Suvero @ Paula Cooper

This little gallery space on 23rd Street has changed hands so many times in the last few years. . . . Anyway, di Suvero comes out of a manly, big-art idiom that I tend not to care much for, but it’s still interesting to see this assortment of small works and sketches. For example, the ways that di Suvero’s massive metal structures are influenced by light, ephemeral gestures.

 

30/40 @ Marian Goodman

Over the last 30 years, the venerable Marian Goodman gallery has worked with some seriously talented artists. This is the second of two exhibitions showing, in total, 40 of those artists, and everything just feels so damn resolved. Even stuff I don’t care for—it feels like it all accomplishes what it set out to accomplish. There is strong work by the likes of Ger van Elk, Juan Muñoz, and Gabriel Orozco, but my favorites are the video pieces: like, Pierre Huyghe’s mesmerizing animation re: avatars and fictions, William Kentridge’s magic proscenium video-opera, Rineke Dijkstra’s dancing club kids, and Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s finely-chopped mini-movies.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans @ Andrea Rosen

Tillmans is a pioneer of a particular, no longer unique approach to photography, in which individual images, grouped together, become large, multiplanar installations, often with tenuous and conflicted bonds between the sum and the parts. It’s a risky way to make art; it asks a lot of the viewer and then has to pay up in accord with what it’s asking for. This particular exhibition doesn’t gel for me, precisely along these lines—it feels more diaristic than other work of Tillman’s, but at the same time less personal. The thrill of reading someone else’s diary stops being a thrill if the diary is boring.

 

Took My Hands Off Your Eyes Too Soon @ Tanya Bonakdar

Another show that I liked against my expectations. I was worried that it would be too much of an academic in-joke—an MFA smirkfest—but there are some great moments here. For example: Jack Strange’s “Stunt Double,” a slide show for which the artist photographed himself standing next to strangers, everyone wearing shockingly bright red windbreakers.

 

Cy Twombly @ Gagosian

There’s a satisfaction at work here. Twombly’s an innovator, a legend, and he’s been doing this stuff for a long time; if he wants to make big, drippy paintings of peonies, then that’s what he’ll do.

 

Kara Walker @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

Walker’s “thing”—the thing she’s famous for—is her scenes of cruelty and exploitation in the antebellum South, made out of cut-paper silhouettes. The best-kept secret about Walker, though, is the scope and strength of her text-based artworks. In this exhibition, a show of new work to supplement her amazing touring museum retrospective, there are paintings and drawings and other sorts of images, but the centerpiece is a wall-sized grid of writings, which relate Walker’s themes of power, slavery, and degradation to current goings-on in Africa and the Middle East. There are questions as to what rights Walker has to even be talking about this stuff, but those questions apply to many other artists, too, and to viewers like me in Chelsea and to the New York Times and CNN and Time—don’t they?

 

Andy Warhol @ 1018 Art

This is my requisite Warhol show for this outing. It is quite good, actually—work based around Edvard Munch paintings.

 

Christopher Wool @ Skarstedt

I love Wool’s use of text in his paintings, though that’s not what he does here. These are paintings of patterns. As conceptual as Wool’s practice may be, these works succeed because they’re nice visual compositions. Maybe it sounds mean to call them “nice,” but they are.

 

Karen Yasinsky @ Mireille Mosler, Ltd.

In a show of charming videos and drawings based on the 1934 film L’Atalante, my favorite piece is a looped animation in which a romantic interval from the film is extended forever, becoming something ludicrous and gently grotesque.

 

Amir Zaki @ Perry Rubenstein

These photographs of abandoned consumer edifices in Southern California all contain glyphic, non-denotative symbols applied somehow to the facades of the buildings. It’s a worthwhile twist on graffiti, on the more standardized forms of inserting the self into the landscape.