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Abts’ Traction

Tomma Abts’ paintings seem a natural, even predictable, choice for the inaugural painting exhibition at the putatively forward-looking New Museum. Despite her use of conventional media, Abts’ Turner Prize win in 2006 has paved the way for a hipper assessment of her work than most painting generates in a climate that favors improvisational, site-specific installation projects.

Marie Sivak - Barbara Hatfield

The most striking work in Barbara Hatfield’s exhibition Leave a Little Emptiness is “2 pieces,” a thin wooden plank that nearly blends into the wall. It is 26 inches long and two inches wide, covered in a rough coat of white paint, and sliced down the middle at a slight angle.

Brenda Goodman

Gertrude Stein’s line that there is “no / repetition / only insistence” means we can revisit but never duplicate an experience, and suggests the extraordinary range of responses such revisits can generate. Among them: soothing (simple rhythms of lullabies and nursery rhymes); dull (the endless acts of sex and violence detailed in the novels of Marquis de Sade); communal (holiday and religious traditions).

Whiting Tennis

“Reaper,” an acrylic with collage, is especially suggestive, with a moon looming over an eerie shack and a slumped pine tree. Its dusky, ominous tone feels counterintuitive given the unassuming nature of its pictorial vocabulary—a fact that speaks to Tennis’s control of this language and the latent expressive power of his materials.

Alice Kemp Madame Du Planchette de la Cloche

Despite my reservations about the venue, politics, and professionalism of the team who organized the Transmodern Festival in Baltimore, Maryland, there was one work included in their menagerie of interventionist® chic that avoided the prescriptive clichés of interactive performance.

Ryan Schneider One Dog Night

Many artists keep a journal. Their entries can be loose, fertilizing other preoccupations in their lives away from public scrutiny. Yet the scenic tableaus of Ryan Schneider’s six paintings, packed as they are with furniture, domestic effects and other objects, read more as a disingenuous staging of the personal.

Lois Dodd Landscapes and Structures

With the vibrant and saturated colors of plein air spring landscapes and closely cropped flora, Lois Dodd captures an optimistic view of modern rural life, though noticeably and curiously absent of people. Her Landscapes and Structures exhibition, a survey of paintings from 1969 through 2007 at Alexandre Gallery, rather than demonstrating a diversity of subject or approach, shows a remarkable consistency of an aesthetic vision grounded in the direct observation of reality and a sensitivity to oil paint.

Earl Cunningham's America

Earl Cunningham (1893-1977) was an odd, solitary artist who expressed an inexpressible yearning out of time and place, a sense of the wild, the unseen, the unknowable. He articulated a vision of the landscape that exists somewhere between memory and experience, twisted into a seaman’s knot of American vernacular imagination.

Elka Krajewska BOUND: a projected walkthrough by Elka Krajewska, light score by Anthony McCall, sound score by Bunita Marcus

In the American experience, scale is all. A big land to conquer. Big dreams to tear out of the world. Big egos, big defeats, big victories. Beyond the American spectrum, scale will more often flitter beyond the spotlight; a thought, an instinct, a budget. Within America, the inclination is to weigh scale—the big novel, the huge public-works installation—as the very soul of the endeavor.

Laurent Ajina The Perfect Line?

Vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, chairs, guns. These are just a few of the objects I envisioned while looking at Laurent Ajina’s works in his recent solo show at Dam, Stuhltrager. I also saw transformers and large factories. I even thought I glimpsed an entire city.

Jake Berthot

There is something quintessentially American about Jake Berthot’s paintings and drawings. For one thing, he is self-taught, which means that, like Robert Ryman and Jasper Johns, two other largely self-educated artists, he is a perpetual student. In Berthot’s case, he uses underpainting and glazing to build his surfaces, as well as an isometric-orthographic grid (visible in many of his exquisite pencil drawings), in order to locate the tonality, mark, or line.

Kanemitsu in California during the 1960s and 1970s

The small selection of lithographs and works on paper by Matsumi “Mike” Kanemitsu (1922-1992) offered a tantalizing glimpse into the work of an artist who has largely been bypassed by history. The first time I came across his name was in “Personal Poem” by Frank O’Hara, which I read in 1971.

Joe Brainard The Nancys

This small selection of Brainard’s hilarious reworkings of Ernie Bushmiller’s comic strip character, Nancy, celebrates the recent publication of The Nancy Book, published by Siglio Press, with an essay by Ann Lauterbach and a memoir by Ron Padgett.

Helen Miranda Wilson

In 2005, Helen Miranda Wilson, who has been celebrated for her small, highly detailed paintings of sky, landscape, still-life, and personal moments, began showing geometric abstractions, apparently having left representation behind.

Sasha Bezzubov and Jessica Sucher The Searchers

Every culture has its voyeurs, but somehow it is more horribly acute to see members of our own society peering in at another; sexual tourism in Thailand seems more interesting than sexual tourism in Las Vegas. We either naively idealize this other land and its people, or use them to fill our own low or impenetrable needs.

Kim Dorland North

I can still remember the exact moment, the exact brush stroke. I rounded a corner and fixed my eyes on “Marschland (Dangast),” a 1907 painting by Erich Heckel. I was visiting the small, secluded Brücke Museum in the Grunewald in what was still at the time West Berlin.

Fauxhemia: The Same Old Same Old New York School

In 1968 Jasper Johns silkscreened the title and blank facing page of Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets to his painting Screen Piece Number 3. The painting is a masterpiece of radical reserve, exigency, and untamed elemental elegance. The poetry too was a provocation, one the wilder for its recklessness kept in check by rigor. Note the date.

Bien-U Bae

In Bien-U Bae’s exhibition at Gana Art New York, two of his most important motifs are represented. One is the Sonamu (“pine trees”) and the other is Or¬um (“small mountain”). Both sets of photographs are highlights of Bien-U Bae’s long career, and are representative of a truly meditative state of awareness that reveals the vast intricacy of our planet.

Stephen Rosenthal 06—08 Paintings

Stephen Rosenthal’s new paintings are hard to differentiate from one another in words. To describe one is, with little variation, to describe any of them. They are all painted in ochre and grays, with forms hazily suggested in darker pigments that give the impression of an undifferentiated landscape perceived out of focus.

Meaning in Art

Is the concept of meaning in art long-gone, out-of-fashion, overspoiled? In theoretical jargon, it may appear too close to epistemology, as if epistemology—being the study of knowledge—has been inadvertently removed from the aesthetic, conceptual, and productive components of making art.

Out of the Furnace: Martha Wilson's Feminist Critique

Although Martha Wilson is one of the most important figures in experimental art and a famous conservator of avant-garde art in New York, she kept her own pioneering conceptual photo/text work to herself, in the proverbial “suitcase under the bed,” rarely exhibiting it except for an occasional group show.

The Very Public Life of Street Art

Everyone dreams about having it both ways and street artists are no different. On one hand they are rebellious lawbreakers exerting their right to public space, and on the other they are the ultimate capitalists monetizing their talents into commodities that sell increasing well.

Fresh Kills + Josh Azzarella

How can we find meaning in historical memories—Iwo Jima, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., 9/11—when our only apprehension of these events is the superficial photography and video, which reproduce them in numbing proliferation?

Brooklyn Dispatches: Computer Brain, Or Human Stain

WARNING: If the frank discussion of bodily fluids and their excretion make you squeamish, perhaps you should skip the first paragraph of this essay.

Five One Liners

1. Pollock, de Kooning et al at the Jewish Museum:

Our Myopia, Ourselves

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


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2008

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