Art Review

Ornamental Despair


Abstract Expressionist New York
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Through April 25, 2011

Almost since the term was coined, Abstract Expressionism and The Museum of Modern Art have been synonymous. Thanks to many factors, (including economic and political, as well as cheap New York real estate), the generation of artists who became known by that sobriquet would find their places in Art History held by Alfred Barr, the Salaambo of all things Modern. Unfortunately, over time, the definition "modern" became elastic, and new art was acquired, pushing aside some artists, making room for new ones. Fortunately for us Abstract Expressionist New York takes us back in time, exhuming works from the permanent collection which are ordinarily not always on view. Read more »

Magic and Loss


Houdini: Art and Magic
The Jewish Museum, NYC
Through March 27, 2011

My father, talented engineer, and aficionado of Blackstone and Houdini, and my longtime friend Julie Sloane, artist and creator who could see the magic in ordinary things were both shuffled off this mortal coil this year. I miss that they were not here to see this poignant Jewish Museum exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic, as they would have had such diametrically opposed responses. Read more »

Tiny Little Pieces


Charles LeDray: workworkworkworkwork
Whitney Museum of Art, NYC
Through February 13, 2011

Even in the metric age we still measure animals and things in hands and feet. So acute is our need for a haptic experience of our surroundings that the measure of the man, so to speak, is the measure of the universe. In the beautiful retrospective of the sculptures of Charles LeDray, currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, we find this basic tenant upturned as we enter a Lilliputian world of very tiny things.

LeDray has spent the better part of two decades crafting a world of everyday objects, faithfully replicated in miniature. Entering the galleries of these minute versions of pottery, men’s clothes and uniforms, teddy bears and furniture one finds oneself suddenly Gulliverized, made aware of one’s clumsy corporeal bigness. The 14th century Saint Augustine wrote: "Look and see; feel and see…see with your eyes…see with all your senses. Because [Christ] was seeking the inner sense of faith, he apprehended also the outer senses." Read more »

Girls, Girls, Girls!


Vivid: Female Currents in Painting
Curated by Janet Phelps
Schroeder Romero & Shredder, NYC
Through January 22, 2011
Gender equity in art has always been a tender subject, particularly in New York; largely due to the economics of the art world here, as opposed to other, more remote parts of the country. After several decades of activist/feminist artists efforts at parity, we have finally reached a point where there might be considered a second generation of feminist artists. Vivid: Female Currents in Painting, provides a wonderful snapshot of recent works by contemporary painters, who, reproductive organs aside, are good at what they do.

The Dog's a Vapour


Michael Zansky: The Reincarnation of Michael Vick (As a Dog)
Ice Box, Philadelphia
Through December 28, 2010

The duality of human nature is that we exist between two poles of existence; the need for redemption and the desire for retribution. In Michael Zansky' exhibition The Reincarnation of Michael Vick (As a Dog), at Ice Box, in Philadelphia, we are shown the Eagle's dog-murdering quarterback in a state of reincarnation; in the process of, if not quite achieving, redemption. Read more »

What Remains when All Insignificant Things Must Disappear?

Yarringon_More_Money_Than _GodOutside Trinity Church, perched on the empty flagstone courtyard facing Wall Street, lightly rests Steve Tobin's bronze sculpture, Roots. Recovered from the suffocating rubble of collapsed concrete and shattered glass from the 9/11 attacks, this massive root structure from a seventy-year old sycamore tree fell into St. Paul's churchyard in downtown Manhattan, missing the church itself and surrounding tombstones. The roots remained. Transplanted as a symbol of hope and memorial of struggle, to me the sculpture looks like an anatomically correct heart with chambers, veins, aorta, exposed for the world to see it survived, still pumping life. Decorated for Christmas, I notice a glittery star suspended in the center of the skeletal root canopy, blowing in the wind. Interior light from the church's stained glass gothic window mottles the bronze surface in a slight spectrum of color. A permanent fixture, Tobin's sculpture is not part of the Phenomena Project's exhibition, All Insignificant Things Must Disappear, but it is. Read more »


Kim Foster Gallery, NYC
December 2-24, 2010

When Lucifer fell from Grace, we are told, it was because, as God's once most favored creation, he had lost His countenance, and thus, his status. To remove, in other words, the sight of the face, whether God's, or the beloved who turns their back, is to ameliorate our existence. In Anonymous at Kim Foster Gallery, we see this theme woven into the works of artists working in a variety of mediums. Alejandra Villasmil paints, draws and collages over found images of people. Unlike a grafitti artist who attacks first the eyes (usually) then the mouth (adding words) of a subway ad, Vilasmil obscures the faces, e.g. identity, while leaving the eyes, those "windows to the soul," intact. Read more »

All of This and Nothing

what-is-left-showWhat is Left
Curated by Rachel Gugelberger
Nina Lola Bachhuber, Elissa Levy and Nick Herman
Winkelman Gallery/CRLab, NYC
Through December 23, 2010

There was a time in the late 60s and early 70s where the collision of failed economy and the booming production of art objects eerily resembled our current situation. Curators, those unsung entities of the artworld suddenly gained in importance and became names as they sought to fill empty museum and gallery space with a variety of inexpensively made (or, in some cases, faxed-in) art objects and ideas. Read more »

Achtung, Baby

anslem-kiefer-jerusalemAnselm Kiefer: Next Year in Jerusalem
Gagosian Gallery, NYC
Through December 18, 2010

The brilliance of Mel Brook's film The Producers is that the plot turns on the creation of a musical so horrifyingly bad that no one will see it -- whose very appallingness is, of course, exactly what the audience was hungering for. Thus, "Springtime for Hitler" is born. We might be tempted to feel thinking along those lines went into the production of Anselm Kiefer's recent exhibit Next Year in Jerusalem, a crowed, operatic, and at times jaw-droppingly distasteful spectacle. Read more »

Lipstick Traces

liz-markus-punkLiz Markus: Are You Punk or New Wave?
Zieher Smith Gallery
Through December 18, 2010

Punk was about color. Puce, fuschia, chartreuse. The colors of spray paint; the colors of cheap nail varnish and hair color. Colors abhorrent to Nature. Color represented individual choices, perhaps the last individual choice that the disempowered could actually make. The legions of those that came after missed the boat, and black became standard issue, no doubt due to the misguided apotheosis of the gormless retard Sid Vicious as the poster-boy for the movement. Liz Markus, as witnessed by her solo exhibition "Are You Punk or New Wave?" at Zieher Smith hasn't forgotten the primary role that color played in those years.

In the past Markus has used thin washes of subtle hues to pay homage to a wide variety of her artistic peers and heroes. Television idols, Color Field Abstractionists, and 80s artworld "superstars" like Julian Schnabel and Jean Michel Basquiat. Read more »

Confusion is Next

raymond_pettibon_paintRaymond Pettibon: Hard in the Paint
David Zwirner Gallery
Through December 21, 2010

Satire, that first cousin of Irony, has long held a high place in both literature and the visual arts. Voltaire, Boswell and Dr. Johnson, Daumier and Hogarth paved a road for the free critique of politics, social interactions, and the breaking down and understanding of class, race, and economic structures. Raymond Pettibon, who three decades ago began his career creating cover art for Post-Punk bands like The Minutemen and Sonic Youth, continues this tradition in the recent exhibition at David Zwirner. Read more »

Holding On and Letting Go

christian-boltanski-berlin-photoA Collection of Memory at the Westport Arts Center We are a world obsessed with memory. And rightfully so, because in the end, this is what we are left with -- an intangible of all the tangible photos, videos, letters, souvenirs, newspaper clippings, charms, and other keepsakes that we collect throughout our lives to remember our own journey and document it for those that we have walked with and sometimes never will meet. Just as paper yellows, edges fray, and video warps, so too do our memories blur and fade with time. By their very nature, the details of memories lose their significance and what is left, at the core, is a feeling.

Read more »

Aggressive Perfector

miro-dutchMiro: The Dutch Interiors
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Through January 17, 2011

Two years ago the Museum of Modern Art presented Joan Miro: Painting and Anti-Painting, a retrospective of the Catalan artist's work from 1927 to 1937. This small slice of the painter's oeuvre proved to be one of the best and most intelligent shows of that year, parsing Miro's long and often repetitive years of work to get to the period that not only made him an important figure for his time, but made him an important painter for ours. Now, the Metropolitan Museum follows up this event by winnowing further the scope of works of that period and gives us just three works, called The Dutch Interiors, magnificent proto-surrealist pieces from his most fertile research into image deconstructing, along with preparatory studies, sketches, and most importantly two of the original Dutch masterpieces upon which they were based. Read more »


francesco_clemente_conferenceFrancesco Clemente: A Private Geography
Mary Boone Gallery, NY

Through December 18, 2010

Francesco Clemente has always traversed various boundaries in his work: the geographical, personal, and sexual have all been routed through his various explorations in a multitude of media. His exhibit A Private Geography at Mary Boone uptown, his best in many years, proves no exception to this rule. It may be misleading to say that his work is all about the breaking down of perimeters. Instead, he renders them porous through his work and peripatetic lifestyle: He lives and works in New York, Italy, and India through various parts of the year, and works in painting, sculpture, prints, and most successfully pastel, drawing, and watercolor. Read more »

Sweet Fred in Brooklyn

Tomaselli_Big_RavenFred Tomaselli: Sweet Leaf
Brooklyn Museum, NY

Through January 2, 2011

There is a wonderful scene in Pink Floyd's film version of The Wall where Bob Geldof, having ingested a significant quantity of everything, trashes his hotel room, carefully shaves his head (and, memorably, his eyebrows), and then proceeds to obsessively arrange the shards and fragments of the mayhem, as well as the surviving pills and drug paraphernalia, into patterns on the carpet. Fred Tomaselli has created a coherent body of collage works over the years, deploying an astounding array of painstakingly layered images embedded with an equally astounding array of drugs embedded in their resin surfaces. LSD, speed, aspirin, anti-depressants, Ecstasy, marijuana leaves, and psychedelic mushrooms are carefully aligned in patterns reminiscent of the psychedelic art of the 1960s, and also of the trashed-hotel-room-floor-sculpture of Mr. Geldoff. Read more »

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