Art Review

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. Read more »

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. Read more »

StimULAting Texts

Breathtaking and horrifying, Hurricane Sandy's devastating aftermath left many speechless and others still talking. "Go Home Sandy," "Boo! Go Away Sandy We Want Candy," "Better Safe than Sandy," and a slew of other witty taunts graffitied onto boarded windows and doors tried to disguise mass fear. Hundreds of 3x3 white hate-notes with brief messages to Sandy veiled shop windows in New York City. Written in different languages, the sentiment was the same. The superstormdid not discriminate, decimating already poverty-stricken and economically challenged islands including Cuba and Haiti but also sweeping away multi-million dollar homes along the gold coast of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Read more »

Master of Puppets

Bjarne Melgaard: A New Novel by Bjarne Melgaard
Luxembourg & Dayan
Through December 22, 2012

I open one eye. Sunlight pours in through my Zaha Hadid-designed venetian blinds, casting horizontal shadows on the walls, turning the room into a recumbent prison cell. I was supposed to meet James Franco (who is still a little sore at me for beating him out for the part of Cocktimus Prime in Sue de Beer's hardcore version of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) in Central Park an hour ago, but my Philippe Starck alarm clock (which I fully believe is haunted) failed to wake me. Read more »

Back to Black

Picasso Black and White
Guggenheim Museum
October 5, 2012 - January 23, 2013
 
Claiming once that color weakened his work, being merely an addition to an already finished canvas, Picasso eliminated it from his palette during many phases of his well-documented career. If one wanted to make the case that the haunting blue period and the sugary rose one were the painterly equivalents of tinted photos, then there might be a case to be made for it being a lifelong practice with which Picasso demonstrated the supremacy of drawing above all else in his work. Clearly the Guggenheim, in this well-curated exhibition, makes a strong argument for this position, bringing nearly 150 paintings, many of which have never been seen before in New York, as well as some that have never been exhibited publicly, to its Frank Lloyd Wright temple of Modernism.

Hudson Valley, Take 2

New Hudson/Second Nature
The Living Room, Cold Spring, NY
 
The Hudson Valley was, to the Hudson River School of painters, a glorious and inspirational place. Today, after a century and a half of industrialization and development, a good bit of what once was is gone and the otherworldly beauty that defined the Hudson Valley has disappeared with it.

The five artists who have been selected for New Hudson/Second Nature by curator Suzanne Ball give you the idea that, despite the changes, the Hudson Valley remains a powerful draw for the more creative among us. Read more »

Little Q+A: David Humphrey + Bradley Rubenstein

David Humphrey's new work can be seen in solo exhibitions at Fredricks & Freiser, New York, opening November 8, 2012, and at The American University Museum in Washington, DC, opening November 3, 2012.

Bradley Rubenstein: The last time I was at your studio, we were looking at an empty landscape in progress. You said, "This one is just waiting for a protagonist." You were thinking in terms of storytelling -- a part of the picture was the character, another was the set. Read more »

Nashville Rising: Carrie Mae Weems and Other Current Exhibits

It happens quickly -- discomfort in a public place -- and it is a very effective element to control, as you will experience with the work of Carrie Mae Weems. Early on in the exhibition at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, Weems confronts her audience with her AINT JOKIN’ series from 1987-88. Here she combines images and text that project racial stereotyping with works such as "Black Woman with Chicken" [left] and "Black Man Holding Watermelon." In another piece nearby we see a vintagepolitical drawing of Abraham Lincoln looking a bit disheveled, seated in a room filled with props and papers positioned above the question: WHAT DID LINCOLN SAY AFTER A DRINKING BOUT?. The answer-box nearby reveals: I FREED THE WHAT?. The exposure to this, and other bits of appropriated hurtful humor will surely prompt an uncomfortable feeling in most viewers as it flies in the face of current, ‘public’ trends toward universal political correctness. Read more »

Double Fantasy

Jackson Pollock and Tony Smith: Sculpture: An Exhibition on the Centennial of their Births
and
Tony Smith: Source
Matthew Marks Gallery
Through October 27, 2012

Nominally a show of sculpture, Matthew Marks is presenting something more like relics of art world myth, or a romanticized artist-buddy story (think Lust for Life or Schnabel's Basquiat). It seems an odd pairing at first glance: Pollock, whose paintings consist of poured or dripped skeins of paint and are the archetype of Ab Ex passion, and Tony Smith, whose Buckminster Fuller-like geodesic monuments ushered in an Age of Cool. This show presents the remains of a day, one spent at Smith's New Jersey home, when Smith tried to coax out of the fallow (and soon-to-be-dead) Pollock a few last attempts at making art and ended up becoming a sculptor himself. Read more »

Almost Famous

Richard Phillips
Gagosian Gallery
Through October 20, 2012

I am running late, so I park the Ducati on the sidewalk and toss the keys to an eager production assistant. It is incredibly hot and crowded as I push my way through a crowd of background actors to the location, which has been carefully designed to look like a gallery. Wardrobe has given me an antique Ramones t-shirt (which actually has some of Debbie Harry's vintage blood on the sleeve) and a period Hugo Boss Nazi SS uniform jacket with five firing-squad bullet holes through the left lapel (vintage blood carefully removed). Also, store-torn Alexander McQueen jeans (a gift from an Olsen twin, I think) and flip-flops, which are decorated with pictures of colorful monkeys. Read more »

Light in August

Matt Bahen: The Weight of Light
Munch Gallery
Through October 20, 2012

The paintings of Matt Bahen are nothing if not quiet. That is not to say that they do not speak to us, directly and clearly; they do, but in hushed voices, as if imparting a secret. It might be easy to overlook such work -- simple, almost monochromatic paintings of derelict landscapes -- were it not so good.

Bahen's subjects are ruined places: empty industrial buildings, Anselm Kiefer-ish woods, and frozen, snowy rivers. It would be more precise to say that these are Bahen's locations; his real subject matter is paint. In "The August of the Night" (2012 [left]) and "In the Quiet of the Dark" (2012), Bahen uses the plays of light, gliding through empty spaces and tracing rectangular windowpane patterns on the walls to exercise a muscular brush, loading heavily leaded pigment layer by layer -- essentially sculpting that most fleeting thing, light, out of dense pigments.  Read more »

Be Here Now

Angela Dufresne: Parlors and Pastorals
Monya Rowe Gallery
CRG Gallery
Through November 10 at Monya Rowe Gallery; through November 6, 2012 at CRG Gallery

Things fall apart…at least in the recent paintings of Angela Dufresne, whose works are in a two-gallery exhibition at Monya Rowe and CRG entitled Parlors and Pastorals. That is the impression at first glance: nominal landscapes and scenes of bourgeois interiors, these paintings, awash with color and executed with an impressive arsenal of painterly paint handling, are slipping glimpses into scenes both real and imagined, caught in a state of permanent contingency. Read more »

A National Treasure Placed in Context

"Wisteria" by Maruyama Ōkyo and Edo Period Screens
Nezu Museum, Tokyo
July 28 - August 26, 2012

While in Japan vacationing with my in-laws, I had the good fortune to catch an exhibit built around an Important Cultural Property (an official designation) of Japan: an exquisite pair of six-panel screens by Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795). The other ten byōbu (screens) in the exhibit are valuable for much more than context; several of them are just as remarkable as the featured work, and this two-gallery exhibit kept me occupied for over an hour. It was too breathtakingly beautiful not to document. Read more »

Little Q & A: Cat Crotchett + Bradley Rubenstein

Cat Crotchett is a visual artist and professor at Western Michigan University. She recently sat down with Bradley Rubenstein in Chelsea to talk about her new work.

Bradley Rubenstein: It was great seeing some of your new pieces. I’m not sure exactly what we should call them -- they are a kind of hybrid print. I was comparing them to the two little Pollocks up at the Whitney now [Untitled (1939-42); Untitled (1944)] where he was also using wax as part of the process. Can we talk a little about your new pieces first?

Cat Crotchett: They are encaustic mono-prints and involve a very intuitive process based on random marks I make with the encaustic paint when I’m printing. At this point I can’t predict how they’ll look when they transfer to paper. When I look at the paint on the encaustic palette, I have an idea of how the piece might turn out, but the reality is something completely different. I’ve decided to embrace this abdication of control even though it is definitely uncomfortable. Read more »

Worlds Aligned

Brenda Giegerich & Kaethe Kauffman
Kathleen Cullen Gallery, NYC

Kaethe Kauffman’s archival inkjet and mixed media scrolls are comprised of suggestive vignettes, lucid passages, and familiar pairings. However, an elusive narrative emerges that defies that base. The main thread, parts of the body, registers in ways that are both intimate and particular, while the anonymity of the faceless figures gives each work a more symbolist tone. There are patterns here as well that suggest one cause of behavior that develops through repetition. It is also quite possible that Ms. Kauffman is commenting on how we target gesture and color, then detail in our daily observations when we make a judgment or speculation. Read more »

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