The Galleries
Michael Newton

New York, September, 2006

Roger Ackerling and Richard Long @ Von Lintel

Is it blasphemous to claim that you’re making art with “sunlight”?—i.e., “sunlight and acrylic on wood panel.”


Chuck Agro @ Cynthia Broan

The title of this show is “Cheeseburger in my big, fat, greasy American hands,” and I felt that was worth noting.


Stefano Arienti @ Lehmann Maupin

Classical, even medieval, tradition interrupted by postmodern appropriative aesthetics—doesn’t quite carry its own weight.


Avner Ben-Gal @ Bortolami Dayan

Dark urban scenes, rendered in a style that’s a lot like post-Richter German expressionism, only from an Israeli perspective and perhaps more depressing as such.


Jesse Bercowets & Matt Bua @ Derek Eller

After a day of looking at tons of art, I walked in here and was so overwhelmed by all the gooey, globby, pulsing, blinking, grinning, gleaming stuff that my head just about fell right off. A labor of love to be sure, and one that goes beyond being merely convoluted. But look a little closer and you can find allusions to imperialism, global capitalism and war. You could probably find allusions to pretty much anything you want, actually—it’s that kind of show.


Greg Bogin @ Leo Koenig

If you’re not critiquing pop culture, and you’re not celebrating pop culture, does that mean that you’re producing pop culture?


Céleste Boursier-Mougenot @ Paula Cooper

Walking into the gallery, and hearing what sounded like the orchestral murmurings at the start of a symphony, and seeing that the noise was coming from a bunch of harmonicas hooked up to vacuum cleaners put a big ol’ grin on my face—I mean, the most rarified, well-read, art-viewing sort of grin, of course.


Marc Brandenburg @ André Schlectriem

Brandenburg’s strategy is to take creepy media imagery and then up the creepiness by a) making the images high-contrast black and white; b) negativizing the images; and c) making flawless graphite renderings of the creepier, negative images. They look good individually, but huddling them together in big, bustling collages is just too much.


Brian Calvin @ Anton Kern

There’s an active discursive thread these days in which the goals of art have thoroughly escaped the probative limits of critique. Very well.


Joe Coleman @ Tilton

I once met Joe Coleman and for some reason asked him where he learned to paint, even though everyone knows he’s self-taught. Quelle faux pas. Anyway, Coleman’s paintings, with their myopically rendered detail, medieval luminosity, grotesque carnage, dense blocks of text, and preoccupation with American fringe celebrities—one painting features Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, Jon Benet Ramsey, John Cagney, Bob Barker, Soupy Sales, Lon Cheney, Jeffrey Dahmer and Osama bin Laden, among many others—they’ve come to epitomize outsider art, even though Coleman is pretty much an insider now. Many of his recent works show a tortured vision of a New York City transformed by war and hunger—the paintings are violent, but necessary. After looking around, I walked back out into the handbags and horticulture of the upper east side, feeling a bit like, to quote Mr. Leonard Cohen, “I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.”


Gerald Davis @ John Connelly Presents

These sumptuously rendered pencil drawings on the horrific rites of early adolescence make a clear nod to the tradition of autobiographical comix, but being as big as they are allows for lots more allegorical detail than you can get in a little comic panel. This brings up a formal issue: aren’t art shows sometimes just like big, multi-dimensional comic strips? (The answer: sure, kind of.)


Yang Fudong @ Marian Goodman

An ambitious eight-channel (yipes!) projection: a film that seems to snare and tangle the intents of pre-revolutionary Chinese aristocrats, sneaky gangsters, kids putting on a play, or some combination thereof. It’s not exactly narrative, and it’s not quiet enough to be meditative. This adds to the complexity of the piece, which is intriguing, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if it wasn’t just so, you know . . . artsy.


Chie Fueki @ Mary Boone

In which dark, super-masculine athletes of shifting ethnicity are no match for cascading Lisa Frank rainbows.


Barnaby Furnas @ Marianne Boesky

Furnas’s paintings employ an innovative technique of pouring, dripping, and splashing that generates a multidirectional momentum appropriate to the subject matter: people blowing up. To me, Furnas’s previous work seemed like Nintendo-era updates on historic battle-painting, but his new work is heavier on direct mythic and religious iconography (Jesus Christ? Abraham Lincoln?), and includes some massive paintings that suggest both the Red Sea parting and rivers of spilled blood.


Fernanda Gomes @ Baumgartner

Oh, gallerist! Gallerist! I do believe these canvases are blank!


Everest Hall @ Bellwether

By painting morbid, kitschy objects against near-psychedelic patterned backdrops, Hall has made the still life hip. The question is whether or not that was something worth doing.


Stuart Hawkins @ Zach Feuer

Interesting, semi-comic video pieces about the intersections of Western imperialist and touristic impulses—a fictional Hawkins goes to another country and does odd things and the people there don’t know what’s going on. Do we know what’s going on?


Michael Heizer @ Pace Wildenstein

Large stone sculptures inspired by prehistoric tools. Big. Heavy. Rocks.


Damien Hirst @ Gagosian

This collection of drawings, mainly working drawings for Hirst’s large-scale sculptural works, would be great for die-hard Damien Hirst fans. But I’m not so sure there is such a thing.


Nir Hod @ Jack Shainman

Sometimes photorealist painting is like listening to an opera singer who keeps hitting the same high note over and over: you’ve already heard it—though to be fair, it’s a pretty amazing note.


Elizabeth Huey @ Feigen

Busy artworks about the history of the mental institution by a talented painter with an undergraduate degree in psychology. Huey probably doesn’t want her work to be overly didactic, but I would have liked to learn more about the subject, honestly.


Invisible Geographies @ The Kitchen

I didn’t know anything about this German sound art “scene.” Am I just not “down” enough? Anyway, this show features four members of this “scene”—technological whiz-kids (well, whiz-adults) who use their art to access hidden worlds of sound. Christina Kubisch’s piece, for example, involves a homemade headset that translates electromagnetic waves into sounds that can then be graphed and collaged and etc. Jan-Peter E. R. Sonntag has a really amazing installation here, but I’m not gonna even try to describe it. Look it up.


Natalie Jeremijenko @ Postmasters

Let’s talk about trends for a minute: for a while, you could barely go to an art show without seeing a flock of flying birds in there somewhere—a powerful motif that has been woefully overused in art, design and fashion. But sometimes, someone can take an overused motif and suffuse it with enough brilliance to give it new life. Enter Ms. Jeremijenko: an artist who applies strategies of environmentalism toward conceptual art. For the main piece here, she created a pigeon habitat on the roof of the gallery and provides a live video feed and some still photos of birds coming and going. So, flying birds, but it’s amazing. Also on display: a selection of innovative birdhouses, produced by various architects for the upstairs garden.


Jesper Just @ Perry Rubenstein

Three linked short films by Just that utilize cinematic techniques—sharp cinematography and epic melodrama—to tell a sort of story about redemption and patriarchy and probably something about being Danish. I thought it scored well as both a heady art film and as a little movie—probably not an easy thing to do.


Just Off Focus @ Andrew Kreps

Kind of a vague theme: work whose subjects are somewhat hidden, and must be found through examination and interpretation. I mean, a lot of contemporary art is like that, you know? But there’s some strong work here that evokes the all-time greatest hidden artistic subject: death!


Karen Kilimnik @ 303

Kilimnik’s faux-naïf paintings (though some say that the naïf isn’t really faux), with their wistful doe-eyed pretty-ballerina iconography, have been criticized for being part of a feminist art practice that isn’t really feminist at all—just more objectification with a thin patina of intellectual dissociation. But, is that really Kilimnik’s fault? She was doing this sort of thing before it was cool, after all, and it’s hard to deny her paintings their considerable charm.


Joseph Kosuth @ Sean Kelly

Kosuth is an important early conceptual artist, but some of his work is a sort of by-the-numbers conceptualism, which often falls flat. For this show the gallery was, remarkably, transformed into a maze (I got lost getting out, it’s true)—the walls painted black and covered in quotes by famous smarties: Lacan, Said, Goethe, Woolf, Jung, Adorno, even Thomas Edison. The work comes out of a Foucault quote on the labyrinthine properties of literature, but ends up feeling less like a deep, intertextual excursion and more like, well, a maze with quotes on the wall. The most-quoted smarty, it seems, is Kafka, and here’s one juicy quote from him: “We were expelled from Paradise, but Paradise was not destroyed. In a sense our expulsion from Paradise was a stroke of luck, for had we not been expelled, Paradise would have had to be destroyed.”


Jim Lambie @ Anton Kern

There is a sculpture here of a smallish bird, perched on a mirrored pedestal, covered in black lacquer that was left to noticably drip down to the floor, and set against a perfectly symmetrical backdrop. So, that’s five trendy motifs in one sculpture. Intentional? Unintentional? Incorrect?


Reiner Leist @ Julie Saul

Since 1995, Leist has taken thousands of photographs of the view from one window in his Manhattan apartment. Over time, this project has become a reluctant historical document: Leist’s window had a view of the World Trade Center, you see. It’s a gentle illumination of a sad truth: subjects of history tend to be unwitting.


Nicola López @ Caren Golden

López creates installations out of her own printed graphics, of postindustrial detritus and the chunky machinery of postmodern surveillance and control, clustered together as canny metaphors for the organic underpinnings of technological sprawl. In so doing, she’s managed to find a vital contemporary form for woodcut printing, which should make art students happy in beleaguered printmaking departments everywhere.


Frank Magnotta @ Cohan and Leslie

My first thought here, because I’m a big nerd, was the delicately rendered, dark surrealism of cartoonists like Renée French and Jim Woodring. As in Magnotta’s past work, tumorous blobs and corporate logos make an all-too-fitting combo—in this case, they form into bobble-headed portraits of institutional archetypes.


Malerie Marder @ Greenberg Van Doren

Photographs of the artist—here looking towards the future, scared but hopeful; there with her full, pregnant belly illumined in dusky moonlight—make her seem like the star of her own movie. Aren’t we all?


The Materialization of Sensibility: Art and Alchemy @ Leslie Tonkonow

A show of art that appropriates symbols of alchemy—it feels logical but strained. After all, good art is always alchemy (bad art is a chemistry set with pieces missing).


Rita McBride @ Alexander and Bonin

Architectural drawing templates, enlarged and rendered in steel. So long, old technology, been good to know you.


John McCracken @ David Zwirner

A group of lacquered, black monoliths. McCracken gets high marks for consistency— he’s been doing this sort of thing for forty years.


Annette Messager @ Marian Goodman

Messager speaks to the sullen goth kid in all of us—as a teenager, I saw some of her crucified teddy bears and thought they were pretty cool. But beyond that, she puts a gutsy intuition toward representing the horrors of the adult world through little-kid eyes. In this show, a bunch of inflatable viscera—intestines, brains, and bones connected to motorized air pumps—breathe and sigh in a dark corner of the gallery. It’s icky and fun, but also recalls so many atrocities that I’m now going to move on to another review.


Adam McEwen @ Nicole Klagsbrun

I think that McEwen is a punk—not in a radical humanistic egalitarian way, but in a nasty Malcolm McLaren catch-as-catch-can way. Hence, crushed chewing gum on canvas.


Keegan McHargue @ Metro Pictures

I’m sorry that I just can’t get over McHargue’s youth—he’s 24 and has already been getting big-time art recognition for years. But hey, the kid’s got talent. His drawings and paintings are of a neo-folksy, historical-utopia sort, but they’re complex enough to set them apart from that brand of similarly themed art that’s content to just skim the surface of an aesthetic.


Jason Middlebrook @ Sara Meltzer

Middlebrook’s paintings seem like illustrations for magazine articles on environmental devastation. But where are the articles? We want articles!


Taylor McKimens @ Clementine

McKimens’s sculptures of painted, cut paper make the viewer feel like they’ve just stepped into a scratchy underground comic—kind of a misanthrope’s answer to Disneyland (though some would say that that’s what Disneyland is anyway). This show has some sculptural stuff but is mainly drawings, and it shows that McKimens has tapped into an understanding shared by many bitter underground cartoonists: that a lot of American culture is, more than anything, just really gross.


Vik Muniz @ Sikkema, Jenkins & Co.

Muniz is forever finding tricky ways to recreate pre-existing pictures (with chocolate syrup, with toys, on huge tracts of dirt, etc.). For this series, paintings of classical mythology are recreated in massive scale, out of piles of industrial junk in a warehouse in Rio. It’s the junk that’s really the heart of the show: whatever’s going on in terms of ideology and allegory has to take a backseat to the mind-boggling process of the work itself.


Neo-con @ Apexart

It’s a show of young artists reinterpreting classic conceptual pieces. “Neo-con,” get it? Okay, so, in João Onofre’s video, a woman sings the words “the artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates” to the tune of “Like a Virgin.” Get it? No? Come back when you get a master’s in art history and I promise it’ll be funny.


Rivane Neuenschwander @ Tonya Bonakdar

A video piece here shows ants carrying little bits of colored confetti that the artist had left on the ground. You’ll have to talk to the ants union to discuss whether such patent antsploitation deserves to be projected in our nation’s art galleries.


Walter Niedermayr @ Robert Miller

In a show of big, clean photographs, the most memorable works show tiny skiiers against fields of snowy negative space—sociological playfulness, or playing God? Next time on 48 Hours.


Jockum Nordström @ David Zwirner

Like Fred Astaire at the beginning of a movie, pretending he’s never danced before, Nordström has a highly refined awkwardness at work—the stilted gait and dopey expressions of his figures and the cut-and-paste landscapes they live in betray a sophisticated graphic sensibility. The work has something to do with European history (pastoral chores, rigorous study) clashing with modernism (ugly buildings, naked ladies), but it’s the pretty pictures that Nordström delivers—if you want a cohesive narrative, read a book or something.


Albert Oehlen @ Luhring Augustine

Oehlen makes abstract expressionist paintings. That’s it—they’re not abstract paintings with videos embedded in them or anything. But there’s enough post-digital saavy and tricky compositional structuring here that Oehlen has remained an influential, international artist while managing to sidestep the sort of self-gratifying machismo that gives expressionism a bad rap.


Open Walls #2 @ White Columns

Work by six emerging artists. Josh Shaddock has some interesting art drawing off of schticky Catskills comedy—I welcome this with open arms.


Catherine Opie @ Gladstone

Opie, an accomplished photographer, has already earned an important spot in queer-art history: for her documentary images of queer couples and her s/m inspired self-portraits. But her anthropological impulses go a lot wider than that, as in this show of academic, panoramic shots of American cities. While looking at them, I had a sense of displacement that I couldn’t figure out, until I realized that there’s not a single person in any of the pictures.


Sarah Oppenheimer @ P.P.O.W.

From the architecture-as-art set: a modular construction loops the gallery into itself, revealing and concealing parts of the room. When you get to the window, you’re like, “Oh wow, it’s the window!” When was the last time you felt that way about a window?


Sean Paul @ Elizabeth Dee

No, not that Sean Paul. Anyway, a lot of contemporary art has settled into an emotional territory that I couldn’t identify for a while, but I think I’ve got it: a lot of contemporary art is surly.


Ken Price @ Matthew Marks

I’m often attracted to “formless” objects in part because they’re suggestive of so many other things, but for some reason these sculptures mainly suggest themselves.


Seth Price @ Friedrich Petzel; Reena Spaulings; Electronic Arts Intermix

An ambitious, three-venue show about how video and film are circulated right now. So, sociologically, there are lots of interesting differences between “in-group” and “out-group” language—how a group refers to itself and how outsiders refer to the group. This is an in-group art show.


Matthew Ritchie @ Andrea Rosen

Ritchie’s work is either too smart for the likes of you, or a wily put-on of a naked-emperor sort—there’s not really a middle ground. Well, there is, actually: bombastic high-art spectacle, with exploding landscapes and spooky narration and seismic video projections, which is fun whether or not it would make good material for a dissertation.


Andrea Robbins and Max Becher @ Sonnabend

In his photographic work with Ms. Robbins, Mr. Becher continues the didactic, no-frills documentary tradition of his esteemed parents, Bernd and Hilla. But the update includes vibrant color and an informed exploration of juicy postmodern concepts like otherness, exile, simulation, and nationalism; the work ends up being quite stunning. This show is all about the Lubavitchers, a Brooklyn-based group of Hasidim, and how their aesthetic and their identity is maintained in places that are most assuredly not Brooklyn (Milan, Los Angeles, Australia, Iowa).


Dario Robleto @ D’amelio Terras

The medium is certainly the message for Mr. Robleto—his mournful sculptures draw allegorical power from the materials they’re made of. For example, one sculpture here involves a cast of that famous australopithecine “Lucy,” made of bone dust from every bone in the body, filled with melted recordings of Sylvia Plath reading her poetry, and resting on paper made from the pulp of letters sent by mothers, wives, and daughters to soldiers in various wars. Though literally filled with symbolism, Robleto’s work can feel kind of aimless—as in, he’s found an amazing way to charge objects with meaning, but hasn’t found a way for that charge to be released.


Kay Rosen @ Yvon Lambert

So, how is it that an installation consisting of eight big, printed words, a total of thirty-two letters, could be such a potent evocation of the Katrina disaster? I don’t know, and if I did, then maybe I would be Kay Rosen rather than someone writing a review of her art show. (I’m not going to print the eight words here—that would be gauche.)


Børre Sæthre @ Participant, Inc.

You ask me, What is Art? I tell you—the taxidermied polar bear, the white plastic panel, and the video game noises. That is art.


Lucas Samaras @ Pace Wildenstein

Never one to shy away from a fun new technology, Samaras, the bearded hippie spiritualist whose steely yet vulnerable gaze has graced a thousand artworks, is having a grand old time with iMovie (the standard-issue video editing software on the Macintosh). This show includes a choice selection from what seems to be hundreds of short videos that Samaras has made on the computer, and they are a somewhat miraculous meld of childlike experimentation (you can make everything pink) and a Zen-like questing for the limits of mortality. To enjoy this show, you have to believe in the liberating potential of both art and technology—it would probably be kind of painful for those who don’t.


Alessandra Sanguinetti @ Yossi Milo

Sanguinetti here employs her considerable photo-taking chops toward a series of images that utilize farm life as a bridge between romantic fable and corporeal reality. It is prettiness tinged with pathos, done well, and with memorable jolts to the system in the wet, fleshly memento mori of dead, skinned livestock.


Satellites @ Tonya Bonakdar

So, at what point is the art world going to have to capitulate a little and start appealing to the uninitiated? I mean, I’m not saying that art should be judged based on the extent to which it would, you know, fly in Poughkeepsie, but sometimes the affected insularity of the art world kind of bothers me.


Norbert Schwontkowski @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Recent German expressionism meets a sort of romanticized urban ennui, à la old New Yorker covers—a wonderful flavor of ennui.


The Searchers @ White Box

This is an age when the myth and mystique of the cowboy has been twisted, exploited, and driven to death. So this show about the American West feels especially timely, and it includes some impressive work—Wardell Milan II’s cut-and-paste diorama photo, for example, which cannily blends wild west and hip-hop iconographies.


Richard Serra @ Gagosian

I had already seen this show of huge, corridor-like steel sculptures, and had felt like it was missing something. Seeing it here on its last day, there were students with notebooks and tourists with cameras and a full-on film crew on a crane, and that’s part of what was missing, I think.


Small Sculptures @ Matthew Marks

In this absurdly well-curated exhibit of wee little sculptures by blue-chip types, the real show-stopper is Katharina Fritsch’s “Pistole”—a perfectly realized matte black gun that speaks to a prepatent, non-verbal understanding of the eternal. I really like Katharina Fritsch, by the way.


Cristián Silva @ The Project

The problem with things that have the ability to perpetually shift is that sometimes they collapse. This is true of objects and it’s true of ideologies, allegories, and meanings in general.


Kiki Smith @ Larissa Goldston

This suite of work by the venerable Smith, known for her wrenchingly emotional installations, has the breezy, disaffected air of young slackerdom. Certain emotions do get pretty tiring after a while, it’s true.


Dash Snow @ Rivington Arms

Snow seems to be mixing pre-punk iconography with post-punk nihilism: Charles Manson, gun-toting radicals, cheesy old porn, masked bank robbers, and hippie families all find their way into Snow’s collages on pre-aged paper. These aren’t subversive artworks so much as they are studies on the aesthetics of subversion—a cruelly tantalizing tidbit in an age when so many of us are hungry for the real thing.


Yutaka Sone @ David Zwirner

Like a snake after a hearty meal, this gallery has expanded to three times the size it was last time I was here. Anyway, Sone’s big sculptural installation is a living, breathing island that looks like it would be fun to play on, but that’s not the sort of world we live in, is it?


Jane South @ Spencer Brownstone

Impressively well-formed cut-paper sculptures of boxy objects that suggest a nostalgia for a bygone era of city life—one of clattering cash registers and large cuts of meat, rather than humming computers and, you know, salad.


Jessica Stockholder @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Stockholder has been credited as the forerunner of one of contemporary art’s most vexing trends: that of throwing a bunch of crap in a pile and letting associations form willy-nilly. But that’s not fair—Stockholder’s work is very deliberate, and a remarkable thing about her big, colorful agglomerations is the generic nature of the objects she uses: consumer products that could have come from any industrialized country. So, she has a unique talent for decontextualizing objects and making plastic objects more “plastic,” if you know what I mean.


Alison Elizabeth Taylor @ James Cohan

Before wood paneling acquired its current cultural status as creepy rec-room decor, it was really quite a luxury, and out of this history comes “marquetry”: the archaic technique of creating pictures from inlayed, multicolored veneer. Ms. Taylor employs that technique here to make strong, cartoonish images of a rural America seething with potential conflict.


Leo Valledor and Mario Yrisarry @ Mitchell Algus

Work from the sixties by two artists whose flat-color paintings hung in New York shows alongside the more actively-remembered minimalists of the era. Nothing too earth-shattering, but an interesting show of work from a less common cultural perspective—both artists are Filipino.


Sara Vanderbeek @ D’amelio Terras

An impressive array of work in the photography-as-painting/photography-as-collage idiom. See also: intaglio-as-filmmaking, macrame-as-performance-art, dancing-as-architecture, architecture-as-potato-printing.


Chris Verene @ Alona Kagan

Verene’s ongoing photographic project is to document his family and their friends and neighbors in the town of Galesburg, Illinois. He’s been doing this since 1986, but now, in the middle of a war and with so much speculation and rhetoric circulating around the exigencies of working-class America, Verene’s smart, vibrant images have earned a historical currency. But there’s a catch: many of Verene’s subjects are Jewish, thus removing them from the allegorical center of this particular political discourse (that of Christian America), which arguably makes the photos more relevant and less relevant all at once.


View Ten @ Mary Boone

I once attended a panel discussion at MoMA on “The New Grotesque”—all the panelists agreed that there was nothing new about a fascination with the grotesque. But there is something kind of new that artists are doing with the grotesque these days: being wacky. At this very imaginative show of ghouls and gross-outs, Jeff Davis’s melty monster heads were impressive, and Kati Heck’s massive painting was very cool indeed, but the show-stoppers for me were Sean Bluechel’s Inferno-esque ink drawings—big, dense, and gushing with detail, they’re labor-intensive epics, incongruously titled “So What.”


Gabriel Vormstein @ Casey Kaplan

Images appropriated from European art history are painted onto sheets of newspaper. You could probably force a lot of associations and symbolism out of that, but why should you have to force anything?


Andy Warhol @ Perry Rubenstein

How much do you wanna bet that Warhol and Tupac hang out in Cuba together when they’re not rolling around in money?


When Fathers Fail @ Daniel Reich

The artists in this unabashedly hip exhibit display a remarkable sensitivity to materials. For example, Jordan Wolfson’s piece—a 16mm film loop of animated ocean waves—feels perfectly degraded.


B. Wurtz @ Feature, Inc.

Simple constructions out of grocery coupons and yogurt lids that made me kind of sad.


Liu Ye @ Sperone Westwater

Le’s paintings of cute little kids in front of imposing modernist canvases would be great in a childrens’ book—“My Day at the Museum,” or some such thing. The sexualized images of lithe, moon-faced young women would probably be less appropriate in said context. The press release gives some important hints: Le’s father was a Mao-era childrens’ book author, and Le grew up in a time and place where modern art and sexy pin-ups all fell within the bounds of forbidden imagery.