Harp & Altar
POETRY
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Cynthia Arrieu-King is an assistant professor of creative writing at Stockton College. Her book People Are Tiny  in Paintings of China will be published by Octopus Books in 2010.

Ana Boičević was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1977. She emigrated to New York in 1997. Stars of the Night Commute (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2009) is her first book of poems. Her fifth chapbook, Depth Hoar, will be published by Cinematheque Press in 2010. With Amy King, she co-curates the Stain of Poetry reading series in Brooklyn. She works at the Center for the Humanities of the Graduate Center, CUNY, and lives in Huntington, N.Y.

 

Edmond Caldwell writes fiction and drama, and lives in Boston. His work has appeared in DIAGRAM, SmokeLong Quarterly, Word Riot, 3:AM Magazine, Sein und Werden, among others, and his short play, “The Liquidation of the Cohn Estate,” was produced in the 2009 Boston Theater Marathon. “Return to the Chateau” is a chapter from his novel-in-stories, Human Wishes.

 

Susan Daitch is the author of two novels, L.C. (Lannan Foundation Selection and NEA Heritage Award) and The Colorist, and a collection of short stories, Storytown. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions, The Brooklyn Rail, Bomb, Ploughshares, Failbetter, Tin House, McSweeney’s, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction. Her novel The Dreyfus Book will be published by City Lights later this year. She can be found at www.susandaitch.com.

 

Luca Dipierro is a writer, visual artist, and filmmaker born in Italy and living in Brooklyn. His short stories have been published in New York Tyrant, Lamination Colony, Gigantic, Everyday Genius, No Colony, and elsewhere. His latest films are the documentaries I Will Smash You and 60 Writers/60 Places, and the full-length cut-out animation Dieci Teste. His art has been exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and Italy. Luca’s website is www.lucadipierro.com. For some biscotti go to blackbiscotti.blogspot.com. His life is based on a true story.

 

Brandon Downing’s books include Lake Antiquity (Fence, 2009), Dark Brandon (Faux Press, 2005), and The Shirt Weapon (Germ, 2002). Dark Brandon: Eternal Classics was released on DVD in 2007.  Photographic work can be seen at www.brandondowning.org, while recent video projects can be found at www.youtube.com/user/bdown68.

 

Farrah Field’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many publications, including Mississippi Review, Typo, Pool, La Petite Zine, Ekleksographia, Effing Magazine, and Ploughshares. Rising, her first book of poems, won Four Way Books’ 2007 Levis Prize. She lives in Brooklyn and blogs at adultish.blogspot.com.

 

Craig Foltz is a multimedia artist and writer whose work has appeared in Chicago Review, Octopus, Ninth Letter, and others. His first book of poetry, The States, is out from Ugly Duckling Presse. He currently lives and works on the slopes of a dormant volcano in New Zealand. Critical Focus? Depends. Mist? Well, of course. More info: www.craigfoltz.com.

 

A.D. Jameson is a writer, video artist, teacher, and performer. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, The Brooklyn Rail, Mississippi Review Online, elimae, Caketrain, PANK, Mad Hatters’ Review, Action, Yes, and elsewhere. He has two books forthcoming later this year: a novel, Giant Slugs, from Lawrence & Gibson, and a prose collection, Amazing Adult Fantasy, from Mutable Sound. In his spare time he contributes to the group literary blog Big Other.

 

Matthew Kirkpatrick’s writing has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, PANK, Action, Yes, and Hobart, among other journals. He lives in Salt Lake City where he is working on a PhD in literature and creative writing. He co-edits Barrelhouse and can be found on the internet at www.mattkirkpatrick.com.

 

Matthew Klane is co-editor and founder of Flim Forum Press. His book is B______ Meditations (Stockport Flats, 2008). Recent work can be found online at Absent, Open Letters Monthly, Otoliths, and Word For/Word. He currently lives and writes in Iowa City.

 

Patrick Morrissey’s poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Typo, and Tarpaulin Sky, and his chapbook Transparency was published by Cannibal Books in 2009. His critical writing has previously appeared in Harp & Altar. He lives in New York.

 

Michael Newton’s gallery reviews appear regularly in Harp & Altar.

 

Michael O’Brien is the author of Sleeping & Waking (Flood Editions, 2007) and Sills: Selected Poems 1960-1999 (Salt Publishing, 2009). He lives in New York.

 

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi received her MFA in fiction from Brown University. Her work is forthcoming or can be found in Sleepingfish, Paul Revere’s Horse, Xcp: Cross Cultural Poetics, Encyclopedia Vol. 2 (F-K), and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems (Wave Books, 2008). She lives in Providence and teaches literature and creative writing at Rhode Island School of Design.

 

Alejandra Pizarnik was born in Buenos Aires in 1936. She studied philosophy and literature at the University of Buenos Aires and later pursued interests in painting and religion. Her books include the poetry collections Works and Nights, Extraction of the Stone of Folly, and The Musical Inferno, as well as the prose work The Bloody Countess. In 1969 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and in 1971 a Fulbright scholarship. She died in 1972 of a drug overdose.

 

Brett Price is an editor of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, and Light Industrial Safety and the author of Trouble With Mapping (Flying Guillotine, 2008), a chapbook. He lives and writes in Brooklyn.

 

Jason Stumpf is the author of A Cloud of Witnesses (forthcoming from Quale Press). He is also the translator of Aurora by Pura Lopez-Colome and The moon ain’t nothing but a broken dish by Luis Felipe Fabre. He is on the faculty of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

 

Jared White’s chapbook Yellowcake was included in the hand-sewn anthology Narwhal from Cannibal Books. He has recently published in Coconut, Laurel Review, and Boog City, with other work forthcoming in Action, Yes. His essays have appeared in past issues of Harp & Altar, as well as Open Letters Monthly, and he blogs irregularly at jaredswhite.blogspot.com. He lives in Brooklyn near two bridges.

 


 
The Galleries
Michael Newton

New York, October, 2009–February, 2010

 

Robert Adams @ Matthew Marks

Houses, trees, bits of trash, cars—if you’ve ever walked around the suburbs at night, you’ll find a sweet-ish familiarity with these photographs; and honestly, renowned as Adams may be, if you had brought a camera with you on those walks, the photos you took probably wouldn’t be all that different from the ones in this show. There’s one picture here, though, of a carnival at night—that’s how it is to walk around, alone: sometimes you see something amazing and there’s no way you could ever tell anyone about it. Well, Adams has found a way to tell us about it, at least somewhat.

 

Janine Antoni @ Luhring Augustine

Antoni has given a lot to the art world, and it does feel like a gift: her approach to sculpture and performance-based work fuses worldly concerns (feminism, economics, labor) with gut-level intimacy and lyrical inventiveness. Here, for example: “Tear” consists of a big video of Antoni’s own eyeball, a cast-lead wrecking ball sitting patiently on the floor, and the sounds of that same ball being used to tear down a building. So, we have the destructive potential of looking (or, gazing); the complexities of weak points and barriers set up within a body; degrees of guilt or complicity; and a funny dialogue between artist (or, big eyeball) and viewer. It’s not Antoni’s best work by a long shot—and look how much we have to talk about already!

 

William Betts @ Margaret Thatcher Projects

There’s a telling line in the press release, talking about Betts’s austere, mechanically produced imagery: “The abstract . . . line paintings included in this exhibition have specific meaning to the artist . . . .” That’s good, but what about the viewer?

 

Tom Burr @ Bortolami

Strewn clothes, lonely wooden planks, empty closets, drained wine glasses—the sparse set-up evokes the spiritual poverty of the Reagan-era yuppie lifestyle. Um, yeah, way to stick it to those jerks from twenty-five years ago! Really, though, these works speak to a sort of semi-professional, big-city sadness that is maybe more prevalent than those of us in the big city would like to admit.

 

Michael Buthe @ Alexander and Bonin

Buthe (who died in 1994) has been widely exhibited in Germany since the sixties, but this is only his third solo show in the U.S. Buthe’s art, I think, is perhaps too localized or too specific; to my American eyes, these amalgams of sex, mysticism and colorful kitsch are too tongue-in-cheek, too wacky-uncle. But it goes to show something about Germany: for all of its famous artsy rigidity, there’s a heart of jovial wackiness beating deep in the German body politic. It’s nice to see that trickle out into a gallery.

 

Alejandro Cesarco @ Murray Guy

The film “Zeide Isaac” features Cesarco’s 94-year-old grandfather Isaac in his pleasant, sunny home, talking about his experience as a survivor of the Holocaust. Yet Isaac’s testimony feels different from what you’d expect: more abstract, intellectualized, and quiet, less matter-of-fact or emotional. Isaac is a real Holocaust survivor, but he’s reading a script written by Cesarco. The crossed wires of real and imagined, individual and collective, speech and silence, illuminate (to some degree) the functions of collective memory, the voids within every testimony. Altogether, an example of insular postmodern film techniques being used to make genuinely profound work.

 

Michael Cline @ Daniel Reich

Drawings of, essentially, someone’s desk and bulletin board: political cartoons, ads for escorts, Post-its, audio cassettes. Through a carefully chosen set of symbols, this show has an almost unsettling effect, making you feel like you’ve just met somebody who you don’t much care for. This is an artist skillfully exposing an ulterior intimacy (or perhaps, a la Pogo, the enemy is us).

 

Anne Collier @ Anton Kern

Normally I might tell you that I have a problem with art that ruts around in nostalgia for analog chic and golden-age postmodernist cool. I actually don’t have a problem with it per se, but what I ask of it is this: that it has to tell me something I don’t already know.

 

David Kennedy Cutler @ Derek Eller

These compelling, ethereal sculptures were made by applying heat and movement to clear Plexiglas—there’s a sense of a thudding, rubbing, man-sized something giving these things life and, beyond that, a sense of the last vestiges of movement, once there’s no body left. In other words, death. It’s always death.

 

Stephen Dean @ Sara Meltzer

Videos of simple street scenes shot using some sort of medical/military infrared-video technique: people turned to amorphous blobs of burning pigment, heated into candied light. But what do you do when someone’s art feels like it’s mainly a demonstration of some bit of technology? What if it’s an especially lovely technology?

 

Jan Dibbets @ Gladstone

Let’s talk about stupid crap. No really, let’s. “I once made four spots on the map of Holland, without knowing where they were. Then I found out how to get there and went to the place and took a snapshot. Quite stupid. Anybody can do that.” That’s Jan Dibbets talking about one of his early conceptual/performance pieces. I’m a fan of Dibbets’s work, and I like how he recognized that within the poetry and subversive austerity of conceptual art, there’s a fair dollop of stupidity and self-parody, too. It’s something to think about when looking at this new body of work: photo-collages that conjoin the horizon of a landscape with that of a seascape. It’s not stupid, but, as the basis for a solo show at a major gallery, it is pretty flimsy.

 

Leonardo Drew @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

These earthy, junk-pile accumulations—a far cry from the slapdash conscious-consumer messiness that has been an art-world fixture of late—have a sense of universality and rootedness (“rootsiness,” if you will), and also a sense of macho heroism. I find these two things weirdly irreconcilable. But it’s nice to know that Drew is, literally, saving the world.

 

Inka Essenhigh @ 303

Comic-book heroics have always been tied to pubescent male power struggles—to the struggles of puberty—and I think that’s what helped make Essenhigh’s earlier paintings so strong: sci-fi gunfights and biomorphic/corporeal abstraction, soldered at the root. Her newer paintings find her moving from boy-nerd to girl-nerd territory, with twisted, fleshy wraiths cavorting amid romantic, fairyland forests. I feel like these paintings are more lush, but, paradoxically, less fertile (and no, I don’t think that just because I’m a boy).

 

Omer Fast @ Postmasters

It’s been several decades since art started commingling with critical theory, and there’s really no shortage of films that reflect on the nature of filmmaking, narratives that double back on the dangerous process of constructing narrative, myths about myth. So why is Omer Fast’s artwork so effective? Part of the reason is that Fast incorporates critical theory in a way that feels genuinely critical. There’s a scene in “Take a Deep Breath” in which two policemen interrupt Fast’s recreation of an Israeli suicide bombing: Fast and his cohorts try to explain that they’re making a tableau vivant about “the pain of others” (“Have you ever heard of Susan Sontag?”) to which one of the cops replies, “My son’s serving in Afghanistan.” Ouch. That actually brings up another thing I really like about Fast’s videos: as artsy and heady as it all is, these are also sharp, entertaining little movies.

 

Vincent Fecteau @ Matthew Marks

These slightly convoluted papier-mâché abstractions have an almost defiant modesty to them. But remember, modesty and intimacy aren’t the same thing and aren’t necessarily even related.

 

Hans Peter Feldman @ 303

The main thing about “Shadowplay,” a kinetic sculpture, is its messiness. Feldman has made a giddy sideshow out of bright lights and carousels of salvaged knick-knacks, and then left the clamps and bulbs and other evidence of creation (the wires, as it were) purely visible. The spectacle isn’t terribly seductive, but the mess hints at liberation: you can create a spectacle, too. FYI, he used LET-151 150-watt bulbs, which seemed to work pretty well.

 

gelitin @ Greene Naftali

For “Blind Sculpture,” the guys in gelitin got a bunch of their friends (who happen to be a who’s-who of art-world cool people) to assist as the four of them sculpted with blindfolds on (they claim to have not seen the sculptures until they were finished). I could be wrong about this, but I feel like, with the entwined structures of the media and the economy in so much flux, there’s been a sort of circling of wagons among creative elites: groups of artists banding together, closing ranks, trying to prove that—if not as individuals then as mighty aggregates—they matter, they will continue to matter, and they will remain culturally and economically viable. As with this show: art-world insiders joining hands in a riotous art-world in-joke. Please feel forgiven if you yourself don’t find it very funny.

 

Amy Granat @ The Kitchen

There are some imaginative compositions and evocative images in these videos, which look a bit like classic experimental color films, but here’s the thing: they’re all based on Paul Bowles’s novel The Sheltering Sky. I have not read The Sheltering Sky. Have you read The Sheltering Sky? Did you enjoy it? Would you care to see some experimental videos based on it? Because if so, I know of an art exhibition you might like. As for me, I didn’t really get it.

 

Robert Grosvenor @ Paula Cooper

Three heavy, untitled sculptures out of found industrial materials, dating from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. I don’t know what was going on in Grosvenor’s life at this point, but these works invite some speculation and query: was he looking for home? For faith? For sex? Did he have a big apartment? Where was he keeping all this junk? When he finally found something (as I’ll assume he did), what did he end up finding? On a related note, I’d like to say that as frustrating as the art world’s rigid anti-populism can get, it can be pretty fun to see (and somewhat enjoy) a show that feels like it embodies people’s stereotypes and parodies of how pretentious and silly the art world is.

 

Todd Hido @ Bruce Silverstein

Lovely Midwestern landscapes photographed through what seem to be windshields—you’ll note the condensation, the refracting light, the bits of blur. It ends up being an interesting take on America’s elevation of the automobile into a realm of myth and dreams—in this case, achieved without depicting actual cars. But of course, a lot of people shoot pictures/film/video from within their cars, so take that where you will.

 

Koo Jeong-a @ Yvon Lambert

An installation out of modest drawings, with a charming, rough-hewn quality that suggests there might be some intimacy and honesty afoot. But is there? The associative gaps between images makes it feel almost like you, the viewer, must finish the artwork yourself. Shouldn’t the art be finished before it gets hung up at the gallery?

 

Annie Kevans @ Perry Rubenstein

In these thinly painted portraits, luminous subjects stare back with beguiled, kiddy innocence or yearbook-ready glamor. Read up a bit and you’ll see that these are paintings of the mistresses and illegitimate children of various U.S. presidents. It’s compelling and, even across all these generations, somewhat shocking stuff, but the work feels unstable: the hasty-looking painterly approach, the ungainly subject matter, the top-heavy exhibition title (“Manumission”), the condition of a British artist making work about American presidents . . . what’s going on?

 

Robert Kinmont @ Alexander and Bonin

For good or ill, early conceptual art took its tone and aesthetics—its flavor—from the academy: written like theoretical philosophy, structured around intellectual/scholarly concerns, looking like an officiated thesis. Kinmont, a first-generation conceptualist who didn’t quite squeeze his way into the canon (this is the 72-year-old artist’s first solo show), made wonderful work combining conceptual performance with an earthy, generous, back-to-the-land sensibility. There are simple machines meant to irrigate small patches of dry earth, bent willow branches, a homey food-as-art performance that prefigures Rirkrit Tiravanija’s similar experiments by a generation or so. And then, there’s “Just about the right size”: photographs of a performance in which we see the artist himself, looking gentle, scruffy and earnest, offering us—his audience—a boot, a frying pan, a fish, a rubber ball, and a gallon of milk.

 

Barney Kulok @ Nicole Klagsbrun

Alluring black-on-black panels show the remnants of some sort of coded linguistic system: what are all these weird words? Here’s what they are: the names of all the various WiFi networks between two given points in New York City, as collected on the artist’s cell phone. This sort of thing feels almost like it should be more interesting than it actually is—who cares what people call their WiFi networks? Perhaps the more interesting thing is the tenuousness of Kulok’s approach: trying to chart a stable course through this crazy city that’s always changing.

 

Virgil Marti @ Elizabeth Dee

Wallpaper, plush seating, and malformed candelabra that relate to the morbidity and ickiness of old-fashioned opulence (the first thing I thought was “Graceland”). I don’t know—I feel like, as the aesthetics of wealth change, these deconstructions of decadence will exist mainly as pastiche or parody; art about gilded chintz will become a parody of a parody, and at some point, art about kitsch will become, purely, kitsch. Perhaps that is the ultimate fate for all of us: we’re all doomed to become exactly what we are.

 

Christina Mazzalupo @ Mixed Greens

We’re lucky, you and I. We have access to a material and cultural abundance that previous generations couldn’t even dream of (they didn’t have the words, you see), and all it requires of us is a lifetime of stress, anxiety, sickness, and sadness. Ta da! Mazzalupo’s flat, wordy paintings do a fine job recording her ailments, which, in turn, chronicle the handfuls of shiny pills, the deepening cold, the sprawling disarray, the advanced anxiety that is our birthright, our inheritance for having been born in this place we built. Be afraid.

 

Josiah McElheny @ Andrea Rosen

If you know McElheny’s work (or if you saw him featured on Art:21), you know that he expresses and embodies a genuine devotion to both his own technical craftsmanship and to exploring (or expanding) the legacy of modernist aesthetics. The combination of scholarly inquiry and refined object-making can engender a really satisfying art-viewing experience. But, as with any academic inquiry, the problem comes when it starts to play only to insiders; after some time spent looking at McElheny’s sculpture based on a 1922 Mies van der Rohe maquette, I had to throw my hands up in the air and admit that I just don’t know enough about modernist architecture to understand what’s going on. Well, I didn’t actually throw my hands up in the air—because the thing’s made of glass and I didn’t want to break it—but you know what I mean.

 

Lee Mingwei @ Lombard-Fried Projects

For “The Mending Project,” Mingwei invited participants to give him torn clothing that he would then mend, using brightly colored thread, and while he chats with the participant, the mended clothes become a sort of accumulative sculpture before being returned to their owners. This piece doesn’t necessarily teach us much about any of its constituent parts—labor, tailoring, community, sculpture, meditation, generosity. But think of it this way: how often is it that all those things coalesce into a whole?

 

Richard Misrach @ PaceWildenstein

Apple-I. That’s the Photoshop keystroke for inverting the colors of an image. Apple-I. Apple-I. Does this keystroke reflect on the short but storied history of photography? Yeah, it does. Does it represent a fundamental shift in the way images are made? Somewhat, yes. Is it easy to do? Oh, boy. Apple-I. Apple-I. Apple-I. (In other words: there are some strong images here, but I can’t get past the goofy simplicity of the process.)

 

Daido Moriyama @ Luhring Augustine

Moriyama’s photos are known for their grittiness, their dirtiness, their veracity. For his debut show at this gallery, Moriyama presents large photos of Hawaii, and though he seems to be going for the same grainy, dirty, messy honesty, ultimately Moriyama is still a tourist in these places (albeit an informed and talented tourist). The exhibition also includes some vintage shots of Moriyama’s native Japan, and it’s here that we get to see some of the messy, filthy, nasty, yucky, dirty, gritty stuff that we’re after—free of charge.

 

Takashi Murakami @ Gagosian

Murakami is known for his stylish blend of anime/manga graphics, traditional art, psychedelica and grotesquerie, but he’s maybe even more known for being this generation’s most truly commercial artist. Like Koons and Warhol before him, Murakami sketches out concepts that are made into elaborate, salable paintings by a paid crew of craftspeople, producing as much art as the market calls for. How strange, then, to have an exhibition of only one painting. Does this signify a tightening of focus for Murakami and his team, or is it just a marketing trick? The painting is something, though: called “Picture of Fate: I Am But a Fisherman Who Angles In the Darkness of His Mind,” it’s a work of such thematic, visual, and technical complexity that you could probably call it a Murakami masterpiece. Could, that is, had Murakami made it himself (as it stands, you’ll need to qualify the statement a bit).

 

No Show @ Nicholas Robinson

This show documents an approach that has, strangely, become something of a small-scale trend among youngish artists: what appears to be trashy ephemera is actually a meticulous sculptural recreation (a la Robert Gober’s cat litter and Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes). Witness: Gavin Turk’s used coffee cup out of painted bronze, Jud Nelson’s toilet-paper roll out of carved marble, Richard Haden’s damaged fire extinguisher out of carved and painted wood. The more of this stuff you see, the more gimmicky it feels, but it never stops being at least a little beautiful—this devotional love of trash, this revelatory banality, this charge of crossfiring values. Perhaps the most effective work here is that of Susan Collis, which maintains the most extreme polarity between perceived worthlessness (old screws and nails left in the wall) and artisanal exquisiteness (meticulously carved gold, diamond, sapphire, and turquoise).

 

Chris Ofili @ David Zwirner

Ofili (yes, he’s the guy who did that thing with Giuliani and the poop and what-have-you) is known for his catchy, psychedelic paintings, which blend African and European traditions. This show presents quieter, more intimate pencil drawings, which combine pseudo-topographic twirls, bulbously Africanized totemic puddles, and writerly notebook scrawl as a sort of meditation on disparity, displacement, literature, and conflicting loci of power and faith. It’s a highly compelling idea—more compelling, alas, than the drawings themselves.

 

Erwin Olaf @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler

“Dawn/Dusk,” a series of photos and videos, has something to do with race, with mannered 19th-century melodrama, with sex, with Freud, with babies. The parts don’t quite make a whole, but with its moody restraint and protrusive imagery, the experience here is something like that of a polite, cultured nightmare: not a histrionic horror show, but the sort of thing that would actually keep someone awake. This exhibition also includes “Hotel”: photos of hot & sexy naked ladies in hotel rooms. Gotta pay the bills somehow.

 

Damián Ortega @ Gladstone

Burnished and broken bricks, confusedly imposing edifices, structures within structures. They’re abstract, these sculptures, but they still manage to convey some ineffable essence of money, power, urban development, and American history (and I mean the Americas). The fact that Ortega started out as a political cartoonist might seem weird at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense: he seems devoted to imbuing reluctant forms with politicized energy.

 

Pauline Olowska, Stephen G. Rhodes, and Catherine Sullivan @ Metro Pictures

Kind of an arbitrary assortment of artists getting shown together here, but if it’s good art, then who’s complaining, right? Rhodes’s sculptures present American political pomp as a Cronenbergian diseased sci-fi nightmare, adroitly speaking to the little-discussed flipside of the the human race’s famous want-of-power: a fear of power—in ourselves (and others, of course). Sullivan’s videos combine wonky choreographed dancing, melodramatic filmmaking technique, spiritism, research, out-and-out weirdness, and probably a hundred other things. Even if you lose some of the threads (the piece here is about a silent-film star and her theater-critic boyfriend and an erotic musical and some other stuff), well, that’s okay. Sullivan’s work still comes off as densely sophisticated and relentlessly unique—she’s got vision to spare. Finally, Olowska’s collages and text-pieces are, um, kind of boring.

 

Emilio Perez @ Galerie Lelong

With downshifting luminance and knife-edged scrapes, these paintings use layered tones and textures to evoke some sort of heaving, breathing celestial body. But are these works headed toward a deliberate (let’s say “Kusama-esque”) plumbing of the cosmic void, or just a humdrum, aimless infinity? Careful, Emilio.

 

Jack Pierson @ Cheim & Read

Pierson is known for his relatively simple text-sculptures, made out of found/discarded signage. The work in this show puts the same materials toward abstract typographical compositions rather than written phrases, but that almost doesn’t matter—in his capacity as an artist, Pierson’s most important role is arguably that of the collector, the preservationist, the guy rescuing these artifacts from a gentler era of localized, all-American commercialism. Just seeing those big, beveled O’s or red, calligraphed S’s is enough to register an immediate loss and spark an instant nostalgia—maybe a nostalgia for a time before you were born.

 

Jaume Plensa @ Galerie Lelong

Three big, translucent, sleepy female heads, lit from within, appearing to be dreaming. Also, the show is called “In the Midst of Dreams.” Also, the heads have words like “anxiety,” “hunger,” and “panic” written on them. I’ve been complaining a lot about how fine art is often made to be pointedly inaccessible, but it does feel good to be taken seriously—to have responsibility—as a viewer. This show presents a nifty spectacle, but I felt like I was being talked-down to.

 

Reel Subjects @ Andrew Kreps

A small group show vaguely organized around the use of moving images in sculpture. Jamie Isenstein’s installation “Clap Magic” consists of a lamp plugged in to “The Clapper”—everyone’s favorite go-to joke from the early nineties—and a video of two clapping hands that switch the lamp on and off. The piece is from 2007; it’s funny (isn’t it?), the things you find yourself nostalgic for. Anyway, be sure to check out the Whitney’s major upcoming show about crisis and permanence, “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up.”

 

Anselm Reyle @ Gagosian

There are many roads to take through these space-age, chrome-armored accumulations: socialist architecture, capitalist overproduction, found sculpture, regimented abstraction. Or, you could decide it’s just a bunch of junk and then go home. That last one may not be the most noble road, but it may unfortunately be the most sensible.

 

Sterling Ruby @ Foxy Production

For “The Masturbators,” Ruby hired several male porn actors to masturbate on camera, all the sessions then projected en masse in a gallery-filling installation. Beyond making the enterprise of male sexuality feel a bit silly on the whole, I’m not sure what this project really has to tell us about the linear masculine libido. Still, the greasy, ramped-up spectacle of it, the experience of being surrounded by all those grunting dudes jizzing all over the place, well, what can I say? It was a memorable afternoon in New York. God bless art and God bless the art world. Also, kudos to Mr. Ruby for having two shows within a year that I wanted to write about (see the next review).

 

Sterling Ruby @ PaceWildenstein

There is a cinematic quality here, but I’m kind of loathe to talk about it: the sculptures seem like elaborate props from a gritty, apocalyptic movie (Children of Men comes to mind). These are two buses outfitted into mobile prisons or on-demand torture chambers (Guantanamo while-u-wait?), taking a plausible scenario beyond politicized imaginings, beyond mere plausibility—it’s right there in front of you. So, that’s why I felt bad talking about this work’s ostensible Hollywood roots: the reason these sculptures are so effective is because they’re real.

 

T.V. Santhosh @ Jack Shainman

There’s a sort of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ trigger that gets tripped, sometimes, when artists include oblique references to current events (or French theory or something) into their work. You trust that the artist has watched all that news and read all those books; if you don’t get the reference, well, that’s your fault. Maybe you should have been reading The Economist instead of watching those old American Idol clips on the internet. Then you’d understand what these lovely, obscure, psycho-photo-realistic paintings are about.

 

Markus Schinwald @ Yvon Lambert

By painting creepy, archaic medical apparati into likewise-archaic portraiture, Schinwald exposes some of the raw horror skulking beneath the stately veneer of the mansions-and-minions set. Not such a new subject, you might say, and you’d be right, so maybe you’d rather consider the sculptures, which reconfigure old wooden furniture legs into red-handed, borderline-pornographic scenes. Now that’s some tableau vivant!

 

Christopher Tanner @ Pavel Zoubok

The fact that these glitzy, vampy, vaguely vaginal sculptures (and paintings, too) were made by a man meant some potential, I thought, for contorting (or anyway, considering) representations and expressions of gender. The more I looked, though, the more it seemed like these artworks are all about women as dangerous, mysterious, sexy beasts. There’s only one word for that kind of stuff. The word, of course, is: yawn.

 

Juergen Teller @ Lehmann Maupin

Teller is an artist who proudly blurs the line between fashion/commercial photography and fine art. That last sentence makes it sound like Teller’s project has a democratizing or populist bent; it sort of does, but of course, both fine art and fashion suffer the same deep-seated elitist/narcissistic personality disorder. The work here, for example, shows naked white women (Charlotte Rampling and Raquel Zimmermann, specifically) walking around the Louvre at night. The images are rather fascinating, but it’s also a double dose of decadence. As per the gallery, the photos will “. . . appear in a leather bound limited edition book . . . .” You don’t say.

 

Diana Thater @ David Zwirner

A two-projector film (on real film, always a treat) shows a magician performing low-rent, bunny-procuring tricks as framed within a baroque proscenium space. One of the best things art can do is formalize or make evident something complex or mysterious, but this work seems to just be spelling things out for us like we’re a bunch of dummies. And oh yeah, CINEMA IS MAGIC, stupid.

 

James Turrell @ PaceWildenstein

Turrell’s innovative use of light as a sculptural medium has granted him a unique position among contemporary artists: someone capable of making work that’s at once sharply refined and chaotically primal. Using light in a different sort of way, he’s created a series of simple, geometric holograms. This work doesn’t tell us as much about our ancestral selves or primeval thought, but it has an important message of its own: holograms are neat.

 

Vertically Integrated Manufacturing @ Murray Guy

Here’s a crash course (brought to you by a friendly non-expert): a lot of contemporary art is inspired by leftist critical philosophy, the methodology of which grew out of Marx’s analysis of capitalism, which is linked, in turn, with early-industrial manufacturing processes. In a way, it’s incumbent on fine art to preserve aspects of factory production, otherwise art will lose a chunk of its ideological history and discursive relevance. This show features smarty-pants artists (Douglas Huebler, Francis Alÿs, Carl Andre) giving their own take on ‘producing’; less interesting is the art-world naval-gazing (does Stephen Prina really have to re-create all those Manet paintings?), more interesting are the conceptual re-imaginings of the manufacturing process (Allan McCollum’s cookie-cutters-on-commission).

 

Banks Violette @ Gladstone

Yeah, Banks Violette, he’s an artist you love to hate—not really because of his artwork, but because he represents the Faustian moment when the art market fell inexorably in love with juvenile rock-star fantasies. Lately, though, Violette seems to have ditched the blunt heavy-metal iconography of his earlier work; his sculptures now have an imposing, appealing, monolithic morbidity with more subtle nods to the heaviness—the material and structural heaviness—of rock and roll. In other words: at this point I would not love to hate Violette, I would rather just like him.

 

Rebecca Warren @ Matthew Marks

These bulbous, bumpy clay sculptures didn’t click at first. Organic abstraction? A bunch of linked knobs and nodes? Well, yes, but mainly: they’re female bodies, having undergone a sort of comic, sexualized amplification (like R. Crumb times ten). These works smartly reference canonical representations of the female form while eliciting a surprising emotional tug, going straight for the heart, the throat, and the gut (the show is appropriately called “Feelings”). I should note that as a person who’s seen his fair share of art, it’s very refreshing when someone proves that something you thought you knew (clay sculptures of naked female bodies), is actually something you don’t know, not entirely.

 

Jill Weinstock @ Sara Meltzer

In these small sculptures, Weinstock applies the same copper-plating technique that you’d use to bronze a baby shoe to toys and other (potential?) childhood keepsakes. The work is, of course, about memory—holding on to memory—but Weinstock seems to be eliding the minefield of her own personal memories and becomes instead something of a shallow-memory wholesaler. Did you use to have a horsey like that too, little art-worlder?

 

Andy Yoder @ Winkleman

When I saw these sculptures—a crystal hubcap, a garage door covered in silk flowers, a life-preserver coated in fashionable fur—I assumed that Yoder was a younger artist casting some Oedipal nose-thumbing upon the dens and garages of his dad and his dad’s buddies. Yoder, it turns out, is in his fifties and is (perhaps more admirably) addressing the masculine tropes of his own generation. The problem remains, though: what happens when the next generation of dads adopts the next litany of gendered symbols? What are we gonna do?