Art Review

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. 


Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986–2011
Gagosian Gallery: New York, London, Paris, Beverly Hills, Rome, Athens, Geneva, Hong Kong

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage payments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchased in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose D.I.Y. and wonder who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning...but why would I want to do a thing like that?

Violent Femmes

Museum of Modern Art
Through March 26, 2012

From my window on the 69th floor of the Temperance Building, I can see the monument to Rosa Luxemburg that Chancellor Nirenberg erected in Zapruder Park after President Manson resigned and The Bund took control of the city. The first thing they did was to tell everyone that we no longer had to worry about The Flu; the virus had mutated and was now known as The Plague. Infection was spread through physical contact, most often rape (Katya and I had a good laugh at that), and the resulting zombies it produced were now wandering the city. Mostly they come at night. Mostly. Posters of women in sunglasses are plastered on walls. They warn what’s left of the panicked population that one side effect of the zombification is dilation of the pupils, until the whole eye turns black. Zombies look for the whites of the eyes. Sunglasses, the posters tell us, are a fashion-must this season.

Take a Look Around

Lola Montes Schnabel: Love Before Intimacy
The Hole
Through February 4, 2012

There is a koan that states, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Thinking about Buddha as something outside of oneself is creating preconceived ideas and is, hence, antithetical to one's awakening. Looking at the work of Lola Montes Schnabel is a little like that. It is hard not to think of the giant reputation of Julian Schnabel, her father, looming over her work. Even if you tried, it might be kind of like not trying to think about elephants, and, well -- you get the point. Schnabel has created a suite of paintings, stylistically not so much indebted to the Neo-Expressionist movement as developing from it, that are worth considering.

The Grounding Art of Jane Wilson

Jane Wilson: New Paintings
DC Moore Gallery

It is a rare gift to create a feeling of relief, of spiritual up-lift simply by painting a vast sky above a sliver of a horizon. The new paintings by Jane Wilson at DC Moore Gallery are a perfect example of this effect. And despite the low percentage of earthbound elements in most of Ms. Wilson’s work, her art has a very distinct ability of grounding the viewer. It is as if she offers an open invitation to proceed safely upward, to leave your fears, your day-to-day responsibilities and move to a place where you can float and experience anything from the electric energy of a pending storm, to the serenity of harmless cluster of white clouds without letting go completely all ties and comforts.

The Thing Itself: Mira Schor + Bradley Rubenstein, part 1

Mira Schor is a painter and writer living in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts. She is the author of A Decade of Negative Thinking: Essays on Art, Politics, and Daily Life (Duke University Press) and the blog A Year of Positive Thinking. She is an associate teaching professor in MFA Fine Arts at Parsons The New School for Design. She is represented by CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles and Marvelli Gallery in New York City where she will have a one-person exhibition in March 2012.

Red Sails

Howard Hodgkin
Gagosian Gallery
Through December 23, 2011

James Lord once wrote of Proust that "he realized, if ever anybody did, how the recapture of time gone by can create an infinite future." This pursuit of memory, both vivid and buried, has been depicted by painters quite often in the form of the sea. Jackson Pollock's "Full Fathom Five" (1947), with its skeins of watery paint covering the detritus of the studio (keys, coins, cigarettes, and so on) like buried ocean treasure, stands as one of the prime examples of such work. Howard Hodgkin's recent paintings extend this "search of memory" further. 

The Poetry of Space: Scott Grodesky + Bradley Rubenstein

Scott Grodesky was born in Warren, Ohio, in 1968. He lives and works in Long Island City, Queens, New York, and teaches painting at SUNY Albany. Grodesky’s most well-known body of work depicts life in his neighborhood, including his wife and children and the surrounding buildings and landscape. He employs reverse perspective as a tool for investigating new relationships with forms and narratives in painting.

Recent solo exhibitions have included Sunday L.E.S., New York (2009); Galleria Glance, Turin, Italy (2008); Baumgartner Gallery, New York (2000, 2007); Daniel Weinberg, Los Angeles, (2004); LFL Gallery, New York (2003).


Edgar Degas: Degas and the Nude
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Through February 5, 2012

Of all the artists who came to be known as Impressionists, with their emphasis on the effects of light and color -- plein air painting -- and focus on outdoor motifs, it was Edgar Degas who held onto the tradition of the figure as both subject and inspiration. In this aspect of his work he was, in some ways, the last artist of his generation to incorporate the long-standing belief that the depiction of people, whether heroic, iconic, or merely quotidian, was the noblest achievement of a painter.

When asked why he painted the ballet, Degas said, "Because it is all that is left us of the combined movement of the Greeks." This justification is what one would expect, based on his unwavering interest in the subject of the figure. Degas could see a Venus or Nike adjusting a sandal in the ballerina fixing a slipper ("Dancer Looking at the Sole of her Right Foot" [1896–1911], shown at left). Similarly, in 1856 he saw the Parthenon figures and Attic vase painting and translated those into images of the dancer Eugénie Fiocre. Like the Greeks, he believed in the primacy of the human form as the wellspring of art. His "Scene of War in the Middle Ages" (1863-65) and "Young Spartans Exercising" (1860-62) drew their compositions from Greek histories.

Snow Blind

Paul McCarthy: The Dwarves, The Forests
Hauser and Wirth, NYC
Through December 17, 2011

Once upon a time, as a queen sat sewing at her window, she pricked her finger, and three drops of blood fell on the snow gathered on the ebony windowsill. As she looked at the blood she said, "Oh, how I wish I had a daughter who had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair black as ebony." Soon after, the queen gave birth to a baby girl whose skin was white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair black as ebony. She named her Snow White. The Dwarves, The Forests is the first exhibition of sculptures to come from Paul McCarthy's recent exploration of the classic 19th century German folk tale Snow White (Schneewittchen) and of the modern reinterpretation, Disney's 1937 animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.