Art Review

Spirits in the Material World

Susanna Heller
Phantom Pain
Magnan Metz Gallery
Through April 20, 2013
Susanna Heller's recent paintings present visually stunning landscapes that are layered with both strata of gestural paint and rich, subtle nuanced meaning. Heller uses the vocabulary of Expressionism, wielded with great skill, to create paintings that are rooted in nature and a gritty urban reality of lived experience.

Theater of Painting: Susan Bee + Bradley Rubenstein

Susan Bee is a painter, editor, and book artist who lives in New York. Bee is represented by Accola Griefen Gallery, New York, where she will have a solo show of new paintings from May 23 to June 29, 2013.

Criss Cross: New Paintings will be accompanied by a catalog with an essay by art critic and poet Raphael Rubinstein.

Bradley RubensteinSusan, I just saw this piece by Roger Denson in the Huffington Post: "Mira Schor and Susan Bee, the Thelma and Louise of the Feminist Painting and Crit set, pose the biggest threat to male domination of the medium and criticism of painting in that they are critics as wellas painters, and editors to boot, whose joint imprimatur has been pulsing out the feminist-left political art journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G since the mid-1980s." (Huffington Post, May 1, 2012)

Voodoo Problems

Peter Williams
Foxy Production
Through March 23, 2013
"Art should not have to be a certain way." -- Willem de Kooning

For Peter Williams's first solo exhibition at Foxy Production, he is showing work from two distinct but interconnected bodies of work:large figurative paintings depict fanciful, fractured narratives that mix cultural and personal histories with fields of pattern and color; and a set of smaller paintings that distil and intensify visual moments from the larger works, magnifying and expanding them. Williams's paintings tell entropic tales, with figures caught in moments that show their fragility -- scenes of everyday life, both seen and imagined.

Little Q + A: Amos Poe + Bradley Rubenstein

Bradley RubensteinYou are known primarily for your film work, but this show, Robots, is paintings. Is painting a new venture for you, like an extension of filmmaking, or something new?

Amos Poe: I am a filmmaker and have been making various art objects for years; the similarity is that they both take over my conscious and subconscious, and I'm compelled to get them out. Painting is a new discovery, or at least the pleasures of it are new. A new love. I started having dreams of robots in May of 2012, and the first painting came about a week later. I've been painting these robots since then, and the dreams still come regularly. I think everyone should have a robot in her or his life.

BR: You are a seminal New York filmmaker, so it almost seems beside the point where you are from, or studied, or whatnot -- but I'm going to ask you anyway.

Public Image, Ltd.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Gagosian Gallery
Through April 6, 2013
Life is a dark chain of events. 
-- Frederick Neitzsche
Pay for Soup.
Build a Fort.
Set that on Fire. 
-- SAMO (Jean Michel Basquiat)
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a unique and prodigious artistic talent who fused drawing and painting, pop culture and music, with history and poetry to produce an artistic language and content that was entirely his own. Combining the tools of graffiti (Sharpie markers, spray enamel, and chalk) with those of fine art (oil and acrylic paint, collage, and oil stick), his best paintings maintain a powerful tension between opposing aesthetic forces -- thought and expression; control and spontaneity; wit, urbanity, and primitivism -- while providing acerbic commentary on the harsher realities of race, culture, and society in the early 1980s New York social landscape. 

Family Affair

Dieter Roth. Björn Roth
Hauser & Wirth
Through April 13, 2013

Bruno Alfieri, one of the most outspoken writers on Jackson Pollock’s work, was not so impressed by an exhibition of Pollock's poured paintings. To Alfieri, the artwork seemed to be thrown together randomly, with little thought. In 1950, Time magazine's article "Chaos, Damn It!" quoted Alfieri on Pollock's work: There is "nothing but uncontrolled impulse. ... It is easy to detect the following things in all of his paintings: chaos; absolute lack of harmony; complete lack of structural organization; total absence of technique, however rudimentary; once again, chaos."” A cursory appraisal of the work of Dieter Roth, and his son Björn Roth, might initially elicit the same response. 

Identifying with Deborah Kass

Deborah Kass is an artist whose paintings examine the intersection of art history, popular culture, and the self. She received her BFA in Painting at Carnegie-Mellon University, and studied at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and at the Art Students' League. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of Art; the Solomon Guggenheim Museum; the Jewish Museum; the Museum of Fine Art, Boston; the Cincinnati Museum; the New Orleans Museum; the Weatherspoon Museum; and numerous public and private collections.

Mirror Moves

Henri Matisse: In Search of True Painting
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through March 17, 2013
The prospect of seeing forty-nine of Matisse's finest works should be enticement enough. However, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has upped the ante by arranging this somewhat thematic exhibition in groupings that show the painter refining his personal explorations in modernist paintings through endless, subtle variations. Although the pedagogical aspects of this might seem a little staid at first flush, upon close study one becomes entranced by the intricate, reductive logic that lay at the heart of all of Matisse's works.

From the start Matisse was an equal-opportunity gatherer and collector of other artists' styles and sensibilities: Giotto, Moreau, Cézanne, and van Gogh, to name a few. This is apparent right from the start of the show.

From Russia, With Love

Arcady Kotler: Sculpting the Void

Innovative artist Arcady Kotler is not associated with any particular creed, religion, or tradition, but excludes none. At the core of his works lies a profound sense of intimacy that hopefully initiates a dialog, for which the artist always longs.  Kotler's work presents the evolution of a concept bearing form: from elaborately adorned yet impeccably harmonious ("Clothed Maja") to minimalist, with a strong reference to Russian supremacy; in "The Red Square" [left], the rigid geometry of a square intrudes on the organic form of the intentionally excessively decorated Russian nesting doll. It feels as if complexity has reached its limit and collapsed into the simplicity of the red square.

A matryoshka is a traditional Russian toy, the skill level of which rests on the number of nesting dolls it consists of. The last and smallest doll of Arcady's matryotshka is not hollow. It is solid.