Art Review

Sign ☮ the Times

Signs & Symbols
Whitney Museum of American Art
Through October 28, 2012
Saturday I woke up early, went for a run in Central Park, had breakfast at The Carlyle, and at 10 went over to the Whitney Museum to meet the artist and director Michael Lee Nirenberg (I just finished an interview with him on his new performance documentary Redacted), the actor James Franco, who Nirenberg was meeting to discuss doing the voice-over narrative for another doc, and Nirenberg's assistant Lana (who also works in the film industry, mostly punching up scripts for comedies) to catch the new exhibit Signs & Symbols, featuring the work of Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Tobey, Will Barnet, Forrest Bess, and others.

Little Q & A: Pedro Barbeito + Bradley Rubenstein

Pedro Barbeito's exhibition Pop Violence presents a series of work ranging from 2005 to the present. The paintings are based on images of war taken primarily from the world news media. For Barbeito, these works address the formative role of violence in contemporary life, from a political ethos driven by "terror" and deception, to the aesthetics of visual assault prevailing in popular culture. They draw upon the anxieties of an age when we are afforded, primarily through the Internet, unprecedented visual access to the violence of war and political strife. The complexity of the differing treatment of the various layers and textures, combined with new visuals—some of them computer-generated diagrams, pixilation, patterns, grids, ambiguous forms, confusing plays between foreground and background, surface and depth, fragmented compositions, and striking colors -- all contribute to works of uncanny beauty.

Rubberband Man

Richard Prince: 14 Paintings
303 Gallery
Through June 22, 2012

In a 1927 article on fetishism Sigmund Freud allowed that a person who erotically fixated on an inanimate object had found a substitute for their perceived missing phallus. He gave as an example a young male patient who had fetishized the "shine on the nose" of a woman. In fixating on this elusive phenomenon, the patient had chosen as his erotic object a condition that characterized eroticized elements in general; that is, they cannot actually be possessed and therefore are eternally elusive. The desired thing is ultimately ungraspable.

This Wreckage I Call Me

Martin Kippenberger: The Raft of the Medusa
Carolina Nitsch Project Room
Through June 23, 2012

Call me Ishmael. Martin Kippenberger completed The Raft of the Medusa portfolio in 1996, one year before his untimely death at the age of 44. Martin Kippenberger: The Raft of the Medusa at Carolina Nitsch Project Room comprises the complete portfolio of fourteen lithographs, as well as a selection of drawings and collages related to the portfolio.

There is something inherently message-in-a-bottle-like about the printmaking process. Making serial imagery in multiples speaks to the frailty of art: it is the hope of the collector of a print edition that attrition in the series will result in one's ultimately owning that last one of its kind, turning the multiple into a unique work of art. Printmaking, more than any other artistic discipline, recognizes the impermanence of objects and the transitory nature of making art.

The Van Gogh Boat

Keith Haring: 1978–1982
Brooklyn Museum
Through July 8, 2012

Not since Andy Warhol has an artist been as driven to achieve both popular and critical success simultaneously as Keith Haring. Although his trademark images of radiant babies, anthropomorphized televisions, barking dogs, and UFOs caught the attention of the N.Y.C. subway-riding masses, and his Pop Shop products rivaled Warhol’s Factory output, Haring received little museum attention during his lifetime.

Little Q&A: Julie Tersigni + Bradley Rubenstein

Julie Tersigni: Paintings and Drawings
Lolita Bar, 266 Broome Street, NYC
May 1 through July 7, 2012

Bradley Rubenstein: You are showing paintings and drawings in your exhibit. Can you give us a little backstory -- where you are from, things like that? 

Julie Tersigni: I was born in Akron, Ohio. But I’ve been in N.Y.C. since 1982. It was possible to survive in Manhattan on very little money then! I worked as a model for many artists: Eric Fischl, Audrey Flack, Alex Katz, Robert Kushner, David Salle, Raphael Soyer, to name a few. I was able to see how professional artists work. It made me want to use my own figure as the "ground" of the large collages I was making at the time. My photographer boyfriend took photos of me in poses I thought I could work with. Then I would adhere photocopies of them to the canvas, and paint and draw over them. And, these many years later, I used those photos as the source for three of the drawings in this show.

What We Do Is Secret

Emma Bee Bernstein: Exquisite Fucking Boredom
Curated by Phong Bui
Microscope Gallery
Through June 25, 2012

Attend, please. Attend carefully. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. If the works of Emma Bee Bernstein -- Polaroids, videos, poetry -- have anything to tell us, it is that we probably didn't really need a second act anyway. The first one was quite enough. These pieces, loosely woven together in Polaroids, a smash-cut, homemade DVD movie, and texts, tell a story that probably needs no tying up of loose ends because it is probably your story, and mine, and everyone else's, and whoever grew up America, and you know how these things end. Ms. Bernstein committed suicide at age 23 in Venice, Italy, in 2008.

Nothing Like I Planned: The Art of John Mellencamp

Nothing Like I Planned: The Art of John Mellencamp
Tennessee State Museum

John Mellencamp doesn't see himself as an activist, which I suspect is his humility speaking. There is no escaping the fact that Mellencamp is political artist. And I say this with the utmost respect, as his views are heartfelt, witnessed first-hand and lifelong. With work ranging from the alarming "Strange Fruit" (2006), which points to past, horrific atrocities; to the straightforward "Coast to Coast" (2005), which reveals the continuing problems and degradation more and more are facing across our once-great nation, we see the thoughts and concerns of a passionate creator. And like one of his greatest influences, Max Beckmann, Mellencamp paints powerful, impassioned, difficult, and haunting imagery that will find its way deep into the mind of the viewer as it picks and prods memories, moods, and impressions most would like to overlook.

Karma Chameleon

Francesco Clemente: Nostalgia/Utopia
Mary Boone Gallery
Through June 30, 2012

In both his work and his life, Francesco Clemente has made a career of breaking down boundaries. His multimedia approach to art -- through painting, sculpture, photography, and bookmaking -- and his peripatetic, nomad-like lifestyle share a common theme of restlessness and ambiguity. In his recent exhibition at Mary Boone, he has created a suite of paintings that reinforce our impression of him, painting works that run through Colonial Baroque, Afro-Brazilian, Indian, and Modernist iconographies. The strategies employed here, drawing on a variety of sources and influences, seek to present some commonality of experience, of shared ideas.

Blister in the Sun

Dana Schutz: Piano in the Rain
Friedrich Petzel Gallery
Through June 16, 2012

The sitcom, or situation comedy, is a television show format that usually features a family scenario (for example, a husband and wife, like in The Honeymooners), or a larger, extended family (The Cosby Show), or some kind of surrogate family (Barney Miller, Cheers). In this weekly formula a mini-crisis or drama ensues, threatening to unravel the delicate fabric of the familial tranquility. Historically, theatrical comedies have often dealt with the concerns of human activities and conditions in ways that drama can't, cloaking tragedy with humor. Shakespeare, for example, often used his comedies to deal with subject matter that might have been problematic to present as drama; the entirety of Restoration theatre was based on the use of satire as a form of social and political critique.