Art Review

Tyson vs. Picasso

Jonathan Richman sang, "No one ever called Pablo Picasso an asshole." This probably wasn't entirely true. In any case, the talented and witty painter Nicola Tyson weighs in on Picasso, whose Guitars are now on view at MoMA.


Dear Picasso,

A journalist recently asked me if as a female figurative painter -- as opposed to just a figurative painter -- I’d been influenced by you, which I thought is a bit like asking if my diet had been influenced by Monsanto. Unavoidable. Read more »

Come on Pilgrim

David Sandlin
Donnell Library Window Space, NYC
Through March 27, 2011

The painter Veronese was summoned before the Inquisition in 1573 to answer to charges of blasphemy. In a painting of The Last Supper he represented worldly things in addition to the spiritual. Among his figures was a dog, which constituted the blasphemy for which he was being charged. A decade earlier the Council of Trent had declared what was iconography for these religious scenes, and a dog clearly was not among the list of appropriate subjects. Read more »

Poker Face

Cézanne’s Card Players
Metropolitan Museum, NYC
Through May 8, 2011

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's small survey of Cézanne's Card Players series highlights three versions or variations of the seminal painting. Although it is indisputable that much of Cézanne's concerns in this group of works -- indeed in much of his painting -- were formal ones, here we see into these pieces something of the psychology that Picasso and Giacometti called "Cézanne’s anxiety." Read more »

Heart-Shaped Box

Picasso: Guitars 1912–1914
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Through June 6, 2011

In the course of only a few years, Pablo Picasso and his friend and colleague Georges Braque revolutionized painting through the development of Cubist Abstraction. Around 1912 or 1913 Picasso seems to have made a leap from the two-dimensional collages -- a technique Braque had pioneered -- bringing his own personal style of metamorphosis into three dimensions. Picasso's art, which seldom left the tether of a human or figurative referent, found a perfect metaphor in the form of the guitar. Read more »

Slanted and Enchanted

Lynda Benglis
New Museum, NYC
Through June 19, 2011

Since the late '60s, Benglis has been making objects and creating performance works that nominally were developing a feminist slant on Minimalist and Process art — nominally being the key word here. Although her work incorporated many of the basic tenets of the movement, there was always something inherently sexual permeating the material nature of her work. Beginning with her early latex pour pieces, Fallen Paintings (1968), which removed the medium from the canvas and let it pool sensuously over the floor, to the more literal "Smile" (1974), a cast-lead double dildo that she famously posed with — inserted — for an Artforum ad, these early works, as well as single-channel videos (Female Sensibility, 1973) and sets of Polaroids of her and her cohort, Robert Morris, drew a fine line between the discipline of Minimalism and the discipline of Discipline. Read more »

My Name Is...

Josh Smith
Luhring Augustine Gallery, NYC
Through March 19, 2011

There was a time, not that long ago, when we thought about art as an extension of ourselves. We spoke of a body politic, a body of work, a signature style. Josh Smith took this way of thinking about style and the artist quite literally: he painted semi-abstract paintings of his name on the canvas. Although this end-run around a long history of painterly thought could have remained a one-liner, Smith's recent works at Luhring Augustine show him in the process of developing a larger vocabulary out of this initial framework. Read more »

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Jason Bard Yarmosky: Elder Kinder
Like the Spice Gallery - Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Through March 11, 2011

From Kouros sculptures to the late self-portraits of Picasso, when artists depict the very young or the very old, questions of intent and psychology always arise, grafting themselves to the work of art. Jason Bard Yarmosky turns the tables on the usual practice of showing the blossoming of youth or the dying embers of old age by combining the two in an oddly intriguing, though deeply unsettling way.

Yarmosky paints portraits of the elderly, with an eye to the vicissitudes of old age, yet dresses them up in attire reminiscent of the boxed Hallowe’en costumes of the Spider-Man variety. On the surface they appear to be riffing on the character of the creepy old neighbor on Family Guy, or, more sinisterly, John Wayne Gacy and his collection of clown costumes. Harmony Korine’s recent Trashhumpers is populated with a similar species -- young actors with the prosthetic makeup of old men, wiggling dildos and drooling onto their pajamas. Here, a football-helmeted codger cradles a scotch while standing in his boxers ("Tight End," 2011); in "Cowboy" (2011), a dark shadow obliterates the face of a potbellied man in a Stetson and vest. Read more »

Velvet Goldmine

Ellen Gallagher: Greasy
Gagosian Gallery, NYC
Through February 26, 2011

Ellen Gallagher has for many years attempted to construct an alternate reality for her viewers, as much as for herself. In her recent exhibit, Greasy, she continues this pursuit, attempting a hybrid of the Harlem Renaissance’s New Negro movement with a slacker form of High Modernism. Her dogged attempts at unification are inspiring, if only because she brings into our grasp a sense of the urgency that her subject matter, as well as painting, means to her.

Belief is firstly an act of willful imagining. It is what imagination is called when we create an object or system which is greater than ourselves; it develops an internal power or authority. Read more »

I’ll Be Your Mirror

Jenny Dubnau: Head On
Aldrich Museum
Ridgefield, CT
Through June 5, 2011

There were those who once believed that Alberto Giacometti pissed away a flourishing career as a leading Surrealist sculptor for what some saw as the seemingly futile pursuit of trying to paint a nose convincingly affixed to a face. Because it was Giacometti, we trust his judgment and agree that it was a good idea after all. His project for portraiture, which he pursued for the next 30-odd years, was of vital importance. Similarly, Jenny Dubnau's exhibition at the Aldrich, of simple faces portrayed against a blank ground, shows how compelling that idea still is. Read more »

Inside The Snowglobe

vilinski-diasporaContemporary Souvenirs
The Gallery of Contemporary Art
Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT
January 23 - March 3, 2011

Outside, adopting the form of mountaintops, pyramidal mounds of snow in the parking lot and courtyard masked views and uncovered new perspectives. Inhaling, the sub-zero air crystalized inside my body; exhaling and imagining white sandy beaches, my breath left a trail of fog that looked like an aerial message advertising an Iceland getaway. Read more »

Hazy Shade of Winter

Seth Michael Forman: Snow
Frosch&Portmann Gallery, NYC
Through March 6, 2011
The timing of Seth Michael Forman's exhibition at Frosch&Portman could not have been more fortuitous, coming as it does in the middle of a seemingly endless winter. In contrast to our daily encounters with urban snow -- that blackened, dirty, slushy stuff -- Forman’s pristine crystals seem a relief.
Through Forman's paintings we are transported to an eerie, isolated landscape of the Northern Exposure variety. A strange cast of woodland kings and Twin Peaks Log Ladies might be illustrations of what Paul Celan, addressing the work of Georg Buchner, wrote:
"Going beyond what is human, stepping into a reality which is turned toward the heaven, but [is] uncanny -- the realm where the monkey, the automatons, and with them…[all] seem at home."

God Save The Queen

George Condo: Mental States
New Museum, NYC
Through May 8, 2011

As might be expected from the hyper-prolific Condo, his retrospective Mental States at the New Museum is a bawdy, sprawling affair. Since the early 80s Condo has continued to develop a body of work which both appropriated and expanded on artists as diverse as Picasso and Velasquez, Guston and Gorky, while striving for a hybrid sort of Pop Surrealism, peppered with subject matter like Crucifixions and Shakespearean dramas. Condo has more often than not hit his mark by accidently landing in a zone of comical, dark, whimsy. This fine exhibition backs him on this gambit by studiously trying to elevate his work to Old Master status. Read more »

Tainted Love

R. Luke DuBois: A More Perfect
Bitforms Gallery, NYC
Through February 19, 2011

Feo Belcari of Florence wrote in 1449: "The Eye is called the first of all the gates/Through which the Intellect may learn and taste/The Ear is second, with the attentive Word/That arms and nourishes the Mind." The basic premise of these lines is underscored in A More Perfect Union R. Luke DuBois exhibition at Bitforms. We are taught, early on, that the eye, the window to the soul, is also the first portal through which desire enters -- bringing with it, and upon us, the seed of The Deadly Sins. Read more »

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 »

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