Art Review

Halber Mensch

Georg Baselitz
Gagosian Gallery
Through April 7, 2012

"Art demands fanaticism" -- Adolf Hitler, 1915

Georg Baselitz's (born 1938, Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, Germany) recent work at Gagosian, paintings on a monumental scale, presents the artist as a still-vital explorer, using both his personal history as well as myriad art historical references in a search for a unified, iconic image. Enormous canvases, measuring over twelve feet high, combine elements from his early works, such as "Die grosse Nacht im Eimer" (1962–63) and "A Modern Painter" (1966), remixed in a gambit designed to distance himself still further from the nearly thirty-year span of his signature, inverted, pseudo-Ab Ex work. A sense of nostalgia and reflection is evident here, as well as an undiminished appetite for new forms and styles.

Tessellation Row

Terry Winters: Cricket Music, Tessellation Figures, & Notebook
Matthew Marks Gallery
Through April 24, 2012

Abstraction, particularly in painting, is difficult to write about. You are often stuck with banalities like "that white area should be a little bit more to the left," or "that blue reminds me of this one day when I was surfing Zuma." Andy Warhol, whenever he wanted to avoid a subject of discussion -- such as death -- would fob off the topic by saying, "Gee, that's so...abstract." The bane of writing about art, this abstraction is.

Small Faces

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Through March 18, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in conjunction with the Bode-Museum, Berlin, has gathered over 150 fifteenth-century portraits: sculptures, drawings, paintings, and bronzes. Unlike most Renaissance portrait exhibitions, this one limits its purview to Italian artists and focuses specifically on the courts of Florence and Venice, as well as the princely courts of Ferrara, Milan, and Naples (the Met has supplemented the exhibition with some examples, from its permanent collection, of Northern European Renaissance works; not to be missed is Rogier van der Weyden's three-quarter portrait of Francesco d'Este (after 1475; below right), here displayed in a vitrine so as to permit a rare viewing of the d'Este coat of arms and dedication van der Weyden painted on the verso). This approach wisely narrows our view of this seminal moment in history, one that literally defined the way that "the portrait" would be viewed for centuries to come.

Celebrity Skin

Eric Fischl: Portraits
Mary Boone Gallery
Through March 17, 2012

We are eating lunch at La Mer. Fish tacos, something called Bischon Frise Ceviche, and churros y sea urchins chocolat. There are seven empty bottles of a 1983 Dom Perignon on the table, along with several empty phials of what I thought was cocaine, but wasn't. Spike Lee, David Salle, Winona Ryder, and Trent Reznor are trying to discuss a new Julian Schnabel film, but I can't hear them as Oleander, a model/actress/waitress (my date), keeps interrupting. Alba Clemente (sans Francesco), Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dave Navarro are discussing the new Coldplay CD. 

The Shape of Color: Bradley Rubenstein + Pia Lindman

After ten years in New York, Pia Lindman is experimenting with community building and constructing a sustainable and poison-free house in a small village in Finland. Her practice is moving further toward workshops and collaborations and engages with questions of health and individual as well as collective bodies. Last August, she started as Professor of Site and Situation Specific Art at the Finnish Academy of Fine Art -- an opportunity to develop further her ideas of art as workshops and research.

On Some Faraway Beach

Liz Markus: The Look of Love
Zieher Smith
Through March 17, 2012

Color, like scent, is one of the most powerful triggers of memory. The smell of cinnamon or nutmeg brings us back to our childhood kitchens, sweetly reminiscent, like something Mother used to bake. Or a signature perfume reminds us of a first fuck. Liz Markus uses color to tap into our collective memories, evoking the hues of time -- period colors: Seventies Polaroids, Eighties adverts, and the lurid tints of souvenir postcards. In the past her work used color as a weapon -- a blunt, punk-rockers attempt at identity. The paintings in The Look of Love show Markus all grown up, referencing a complex history of Modernism and Color Field painting.

Gigantic

Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin
Brooklyn Museum
Through August 12, 2012

Vitruvius, in The Ten Books on Architecture, proposed that the perfected form of the human body could be diagrammed by being placed inside both a circle and a square. Though he himself did not provide illustrations, Leonardo da Vinci made a drawing demonstrating this proposition to illustrate Paciolio's On Divine Proportion (1509). This was more than a geometric exercise, as Vitruvius imbued the square and the circle with divine attributes: the circle represented the cosmos and the square, those things secular. In the Middle Ages, artists painted the crucifixion both as a representation of Christ's divinity as well as his incarnation as an earthly being. Five hundred years later, August Rodin upended many of these concepts regarding the proportion and deportment of the figure in sculpture with his monumental The Gates of Hell and Monument to Balzac

Bulls on Parade

Jean Dubuffet: The Last Two Years
Pace Gallery
Through March 10, 2012

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) was born in Le Havre and moved to Paris, where he was briefly enrolled at the Académie Julian. Leaving the school in 1918, he began to follow his own path in painting and, after a brief sojourn in wine dealing (the family business), spent the rest of his artistic life seeking an authentic art based on the work of prisoners, the insane, the naïve, and other marginal outsiders. The style he developed, and which ultimately became its own school, is now called Art Brut.

Bat Out of Hell

Joyce Pensato: Batman Returns
Friedrich Petzel Gallery
Through February 25, 2012

In the 1970s, The Joker, Batman's greatest nemesis, had his own nine-issue comic book series, in which he faced off against a variety of both superheroes and supervillains. Because of the restrictive "comic books code," "good" ultimately had to triumph over "evil" in every storyline. This led to some creative writing strategies -- that is, how to make one of the most morally unhinged villains in superhero lore appear to do something "good" every third issue.

Fractured Fairytales

Paul Pretzer: The Seventh Skill
Marc Straus LLC
20 November - 23 December, 2011

Start with Hieronymus Bosch, lighten with illustrations from an early volume of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, sprinkle in a touch of Robert Hawkins and season with George Condo for a modern flavor, and, voila! You’ve got Paul Pretzer, a twenty-nine-year-old Estonian painter from Dresden. The combination of anthropomorphic, magically whimsical hobgoblins and oblique narratives has been a winning recipe for generations. Pretzer’s renditions are loosely stylized enough to be painterly; rendered tightly enough on board to be termed illustrative fantasy proto-realism (as opposed to photo-realism), and just creepy enough not to be too cutesy. Most visual story telling of this sort tends to be dark and angst-ridden, but whether or not he intended it, his paintings are too good-natured to be genuinely unsettling, and that may actually contribute to their popular appeal.