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Isaac Julien: What Freedom Is To Me

Entering Isaac Julien’s forty-year career survey What Freedom Is To Me you run an edifying gauntlet, a hallway offering a peremptory review of the artist’s vintage and seminal films: Territories (1984), This is Not An AIDS Advertisement (1987), Who Killed Colin Roach? (1983), and Lost Boundaries (2003). These works, created with the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, present the roots and fundamental toolkit of Julien’s approach to filmmaking and social justice.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor

The Sum of It is Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s career survey of forty-one41 large combination works and one immersive installation. It fills five rooms, the central exhibition hall, and the entry rotunda of the Addison Gallery of American Art, which features an eponymously titled self-portrait (2017), showing Taylor photographing herself in the mirror above the vanity in a rainbow-tiled bathroom—an appropriate metaphor for her organized vision and preference for both slices of her own life and the American mundane vividly rendered.

Ethan Ryman: New Work

One of the most effective ways an artist can model their own history is by fabricating it themselves. This can be done to then depart from such a fabrication, encapsulating both making and knowing in a unified creative gesture.

Henry Gunderson: House Painting and Various Odd Jobs

Early in the pandemic Henry Gunderson moved into a run-down building in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In exchange for renovating it, he was allowed to live there without rent for six months. The place became Gunderson’s home and studio, where he created the “House” series now exhibited at Perrotin Gallery alongside other new paintings that follow the same thread as much of his previous work.

Anne Hicks Siberell: Concrete Journals

Anne Hicks Siberell’s series of book sculptures blur the lines between detritus, dailiness, and diary. Her “Concrete Journals” series, begun in the 1970s and now numbering in the hundreds, each measure about 4 by 5.5 inches and encase what to the naked eye appears to be trash: used tubes of paint, fortunes from cookies, scraps of newspapers and magazines, and museum entrance pins. But for Siberell, these represent collaged memories—or “memory jogs.”

Jennifer Bolande: Persistence of Vision

1986! That year the high tide of postmodernism and a vibrant market floated many boats. Locally, the art world cast a decadent eye upon glamorized readymades and cringe-y appropriations of biker culture. Jennifer Bolande’s eye, no less decadent, mediated the aftershock of the spectacle originating a complex body of work around, among many other things, splashes of milk, inert Marshall amps, and the neglected furniture in porn movies.

Chakaia Booker: Public Opinion

Chakaia Booker is a busy artist. On any given workday she paints, sculpts, and makes prints—seemingly all at the same time. Examples of all three media are crammed into the David Nolan Gallery for this astonishing show of work produced between 2002 and 2023 that clearly establishes Booker as one of the major artists of our time.

Jim Dine: Three Ships

“I lived with them,” Jim Dine says of his ruggedly executed self-portraits in pencil. It’s a statement he returns to, first when detailing the years-long process behind the construction of the three massive bronzes that comprise Three Ships (the Magi) (2022), and again, with regard to the over two dozen painterly self-portraits in oil, bodies of work currently on view at Templon. I happened to catch Dine the afternoon before the opening. With a smile, he advised, “Spend some time with the work.”

Courtney Childress: Fuzzy Logic

A playful line, cutting around and across abstract constellations of squares, tiny stars, or triple helixes, is consistent throughout Courtney Childress’s seven new works on view at Deanna Evans Projects. The line takes up various guises, as a knotty string, chain links, an incomplete halo, or a very long wave that snakes back and forth across the front of the canvas in horizontal stripes. Unlike the continuity of a drawn line or the coherence of a gestural brush mark, Childress’s twists and translucent fields are made by using barbed needles to meticulously push colored wool fibers through an unprimed canvas, or by tacking hand-felted yarn down onto that same surface.

Thornton Dial: Handwriting on the Wall

The first major show for Thornton Dial in Los Angeles, Handwriting on the Wall, represents an ongoing curatorial choice by Blum & Poe to address what might have once been called “outsider” art of the deep South. The show is joined by another, curated by friend of Dial and fellow Southerner, Lonnie Holley—who had a solo show at the gallery in 2022—running simultaneously at the space.

Bob Thompson

Bob Thompson, who died weeks shy of his twenty-ninth birthday but was wildly prolific within his short career, painted allegorical, mythological content, modeling his compositions after those of the Old Masters but amplifying them with his fresh rehearsal. During his short lifetime, Thompson worked at the interstice of several contradictions and conflicts fracturing the art world and tearing through the nation.

Chosen Memories: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift and Beyond

Although the show’s title, Chosen Memories, may afford its artists greater agency, it also illustrates the challenging terrain of ongoing debates concerning cultural preservation, identity, and the multifaceted narratives that shape our understanding of the region. MoMA’s exhibition reminds us how important it is to actively engage with history, not only as a passive observer but as an agent of transformation, working towards a future that reflects our collective values and aspirations.

Tessa Boffin: 1989—1993

The largest exhibition of Boffin’s work to date, Tessa Boffin 1989–1993 is also the first solo presentation of the London-based artist’s work in New York.

Sarah Sze: Timelapse

Sarah Sze is simultaneously more grandiose and more modest than Borges. He wants to use words to depict seeing the entire universe as a simultaneity; she wants to use paint, objects, video, and the entire New York Guggenheim to depict her translation of her artistic vision into something palpable.

Michael Ross: Time Repair

The gallery assistant at Galería Mascota in Mexico City's Roma Norte is perhaps unimpressed with the disheveled visitor who arrives late in the morning on a Saturday. I don’t think twice. I ask about the artist. “Michael Ross is an American artist who has been working in small scale art pieces for over thirty years,” says the assistant, “these are his latest pieces.”

Hito Steyerl: Contemporary Cave Art

Because it appears as part of a larger environment, Steyerl’s film cannot be understood apart from the multimedia installation of which it is a part. At Esther Schipper, where the show is called Contemporary Cave Art, the video is part of a labyrinthian cave with multiple screens showing animated paleolithic paintings moving slowly on rock walls.

Giovanni Bellini: Influences croisées

Giovanni Bellini, Influences croisées presents an extraordinary selection of Giovanni Bellini’s paintings alongside those of the Venetian master’s mentors and students, Giorgione among them. “It’s a natural project for the museum because Édouard André (1833–1894) and his wife, Nélie Jacquemart (1841–1912), were great fans of Venetian art and bought many paintings, including a Bellini, for the collection,” said Pierre Curie, Chief Heritage Curator at the Jacquemart-André Museum and co-curator of the exhibit.

Emmanuel Louisnord Desir: Ashes of Zion

In Emmanuel Louisnord Desir’s Ashes of Zion, painting and sculpture employ a skeuomorphic glitching of material to address biblical stories and collective histories. The work is remarkably attuned to the American vernacular, but the energy of it builds out of the artist’s ability to produce softness in the material resistance of wood. Desir gives us an allegorical metanarrative that begins with the garden and ends with the fall of Babylon.

Leon Xu: Empty Orchestra

It is a peculiar task to describe Leon Xu’s work. Perhaps it is easier to start with what it is not doing. These are not paintings of crowds or figures, but of experiences that feel too blurry to be near, too close to be real—too real to be vicarious. They don’t appear as much as they linger, declare as much as they hum. These are pictures of nothing, in particular.

Talia Levitt: Schmatta

Twelve acrylic on canvas paintings, all but one from 2023, form a kind of faux-embroidered, neo-Divisionist, post-Arts and Crafts Movement, labor-conscious practice. The show is titled Schmatta, Yiddish for old rags or ratty clothes, and hearing it, the classic rock segment of my mind recalls Mick Jagger singing “Shattered” from the Rolling Stones album Some Girls (1978).

List Projects 26: Alison Nguyen

For her first institutional solo show, at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Alison Nguyen presents history as hypnosis (2023), an exciting and complex body of work including a three-channel video installation, sculpture, and prints that revisits traces of personal and collective history.

Stephen Deffet: Shadow Heir

At Below Grand Gallery, nestled in a restaurant supply store on Orchard Street, Stephen Deffet’s triptych of narrow vertical paintings, Eternally Off Course (2023), hang on the convex wall of a window display. Each panel, evenly spaced from the next, features an interconnected segment of an unoccupied, sun-drenched bedroom.

Harmony Hammond: Accumulations

Over the last two decades, Harmony Hammond has largely retreated from her curatorial and writing efforts, instead focusing on her own artistic practice. Her current solo show Accumulations at Alexander Gray presents a series of new paintings from the last three years that speak to her continued dedication to material and process.

Tom McGlynn: What Gives

Painting, as medium, is always just that—a vehicle to channel things from one world to another; that it should encounter some friction seems natural. In Tom McGlynn’s work, that friction is more than significant.

John Walker: New Work

Resurrection III (2022), the first painting in John Walker: New Work, is an almost entirely cobalt-blue and white canvas stretching seven feet high. A vertical primer-white passage cuts upward through the blue, with lateral extensions branching left and right.

Controlled Burnings: Hiller, Latham, Schneemann

With the exception of carved sculpture, the making of art has historically been an additive, creative process in which materials are turned into ingenious works. It is both the physical hand and innovative talent of the artist that transform materials into objects that have meaning beyond their simple constitutive elements. Bringing together works by Susan Hiller, John Latham, and Carolee Schneemann from the period when all three were based in London and in dialogue with one another, Controlled Burnings centers on these artists’ challenges to standard additive modes.

Samuel Ross: COARSE

Whether through his art or his fashion label, A-COLD-WALL*, Samuel Ross’s approach to design and craft reflects a self-conscious attitude towards post-industrial social relations. In COARSE, his second solo show at Friedman Benda, the UK-artist and cultish fashion designer presented a selection of brutalist sculptures meant to inspire tension within pre-ordained notions of globalist manufacturing.

Kim Young Won

The sculptor and painter Kim Young Won is considered by many residents of Seoul to be one of their major living artists. His art is the kind of work that needs to be seen—not on the screen, but directly according to its physical presence.

Clare Grill: At the Soft Stages

Clare Grill’s nine new paintings on linen at Derek Eller are breathtaking in their expansiveness. Usually I don’t foreground my own embodied responses to art in my writing, preferring instead to extrapolate an observation that surfaces as interpretation. But my actual gasp before these paintings was so visceral that it warrants mention.

Matthew Day Jackson: Against Nature

The Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, a book on the work of Albert Bierstadt, René Daumal’s Mount Analogue, and Roy Gallant’s Our Universe are arranged along the front desk of Pace. While these books index the aesthetics of Matthew Day Jackson’s exhibition, it is Huysmans’s Against Nature that inspired the show’s title, and its protagonist, the isolated collector of extravagance Des Esseintes, who acts as its aegis.

Picasso Sculptor. Matter and Body

When we encounter any work of art by Picasso, be it a painting, a drawing, a print, a ceramic, or a sculpture—let alone an exhibition of his works that is medium specific or dedicated to a particular theme, or a phase of his evolution—we viscerally feel an ecstatic joy in the presence of his most exceptional attribute: his ability to think and feel and fearlessly invent.

Andy Warhol: Thirty Are Better Than One

Andy Warhol once quipped in a 1962 interview with David Bourdon. “I think someone should see my paintings in person before he says they’re vacuous.” Indeed, Warhol’s work—or at least images of it—may seem overly familiar, but, in person, it never fails to impart a potent, almost visceral impact that does not come across in reproductions.

Fred Eversley: Cylindrical Lenses

The installation at Kordansky provides something that fans of Eversley’s sculptures have long desired: the chance to see more of them. For, like his California peers in the Light and Space movement and who developed finish fetish, the ways he plays with and exploits optical effects compound when his work is seen in quantity.

Carey Young: Appearance

Appearance, British-American artist Carey Young's concise, striking survey at Modern Art Oxford brings together works made between 2005 and 2023 that consider power and the women who wield it. Early text-based pieces draw on Young’s ongoing interest in law as a material and subject for art. Later photographs and videos explore female agency in industry and the courtroom, as well as, in a brand-new series of still images, the similarities between recent Belgian prison architecture and abstract painting.

Peter Halley: Paintings and Drawings, 1980–81

The 1980s were formative years for Peter Halley, a New York artist best known for geometric paintings evoking prisons and cells, painted in florescent colors with industrial techniques. His dual shows currently on view at Karma and Craig Starr offer a privileged view into the artist's earlier experimental work.

On-Site: Major Paintings by Rackstraw Downes & Stanley Lewis

In a bygone age of college football, Doc Blanchard “Mr. Inside,” and Glenn Davis “Mr. Outside” made headlines for the West Point Military Academy team winning several championships with their backfield game, running the ball on the inside and carrying it on the outside. They’ve now been replaced by a couple of landscape painters: Stanley Lewis on the inside and Rackstraw Downes on the outside. Both are plein-air artists; together, they take the landscape tradition in a new direction. Unlike the Hudson River School painters, they are not consecrating a virginal New World landscape, nor are they following the lead of Corot, creating beautifully rendered but imaginary places. They do not seek the picturesque, or endeavor to subjugate wild nature to artistic will. These two find places—or perhaps the places find them—in nature overtaken by human beings, devoid of the picturesque, and that no one, most certainly, would ever call virginal.

Karin Davie: “To Boldly Go Where No Man’s Gone Before

Karin Davie is adept at ironic sleight-of-hand: she simultaneously tricks us and shows how her hocus-pocus works. In the title of this double show, she deliberately apocopates Captain Kirk’s sententious prelude in the voiceover for the original Star Trek series: “to boldly go where no man has gone before!” Her version is more conversational or vernacular, but it also calls attention to the irony of a woman’s appropriation of it.

Chrysanne Stathacos: The Re-turn

Chrysanne Stathacos occupies the position of the Pythia (prophetess at Delphi) in an art world much in need of a connection to the Mysteries. The Mysteries have been the foundation of all great civilizations, and their demise has always signaled a decline—after the Mithraic priests and later the Gothic leader Alaric and Christian monks invaded the shrine of Eleusis, Greece fell from dominance. Stathacos is a unique prophetess, bridging East and West, and comes to us in our time of cultural collapse.

Kehinde Wiley: HAVANA

Renowned American painter Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977) returns with his signature portraits inspired by recent visits to Cuba. On view from April 28 through June 23 at Sean Kelly Gallery, HAVANA features new oil paintings, works on paper, and a three-channel film that explores the evolution of Black performance culture in Cuba. Known for his vibrant use of color and spotlight on the global African Diaspora, Wiley fixates on themes of circus, celebration, and carnival, placing subjects in lush compositions alongside multihued patterns.

Chryssa: Chryssa & New York

Some 60 years after her breakout solo shows in 1961 at the Betty Parsons Gallery and the Guggenheim Museum, the pioneering artist Chryssa is finally back in the public eye. Showcasing an impressive range of work centered upon light and form, Chryssa & New York at Dia Chelsea is the first museum show in North America in over four decades to focus on the Greek-born artist Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali (1933–2013). Once considered a pivotal figure in the burgeoning dialogue amongst Pop, Minimalist, and Conceptual factions, Chryssa’s stature has suffered in recent decades, her profile fading as others in her milieu have had their reputations burnished to the level of cottage industries.

Dread Scott: Goddam

“The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam,” Nina Simone announced during her 1964 concert at Carnegie Hall. “And I mean every word of it.” A response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in which four little girls were killed, events which had occurred the previous year, Simone’s expression of grief, frustration, and anger became an anthem of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement; its debut marked a sharp turn towards the political in the singer’s career. Nearly sixty years later, artist Dread Scott links Simone’s songs of protest to the present-day, creating four large screen-prints on canvas in which contemporary images acknowledge the continuation of hatred and violence directed towards Black Americans, women, and LGBTQ+ communities.

Frank Stella: From the Studio

By now, Frank Stella’s illustrious, long career is very well documented. We know by heart the story of his early development of proto-minimalism; his transition to making elaborate decorative paintings; and his construction of metallic relief sculptures. And of course we have his fine, highly personal book, Working Space (1986), which relates that development to the prior history of early modernism. The story of Stella’s art is, arguably, the story of late twentieth-century American painting. What more can he possibly do at this point? And how might his style in old age add to our picture of this artistic period?

Alexis Rockman: Melancolia

Melancolia, Alexis Rockman’s fifth show at Sperone Westwater, concerns a series of iceberg paintings on the first floor. On the second floor is a selection of slightly earlier work, concentrating on brilliantly detailed, surreal images of flora and fauna. Rockman has long been recognized for the attention he pays to nature, finding in it not only visual tropes of the most remarkable kind, but a cautionary tale emphasizing our ever-increasing vulnerability to damages brought about by climate change.

Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper

Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper, now on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and organized by the museum’s Chief Curator Jed Morse, includes thirty sculptures in addition to a wide array of lesser known drawings and paintings. Across these bodies of work, which span from the late 1950s through the present, di Suvero’s much-lauded vitality and generosity of spirit pervades the show, bestowing the viewer with a lingering sense of joie de vivre that is sometimes hard to come by in an oft-antiseptic contemporary museum setting.

David Henderson: Disturbances

David Henderson’s solo exhibition, Disturbances, at Slag features CAD-designed sculptures whose intricate, continuous surfaces challenge the mind with labyrinthine change. Designs that might seem unapproachable on the computer feel warm, intriguing and otherworldly after being fabricated from layers of plywood, foam, or fiberglass.

Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy: Ring of Iron, Ring of Wool

Newly separated from an Italian prince, the American-born painter-poet Kay Sage (1898–1963) snuck into the studio of the surrealist Kurt Seligmann—enticed by a stack of paintings visible from the hallway of the Hotel Grosvenor in Paris. Later that summer, at Seligmann’s urging, she visited Galerie Charpentier and saw a painting titled Je vous attends (I am waiting for you) (1934)—the first she would glimpse of her future husband, Yves Tanguy (1900–55). The chance encounter proved transformative: already a student of landscape painting, she resolved to move to Paris from Italy and earn her place among the ranks of the Surrealists. In 1938, the seemingly predestined couple met and remained constant companions until Tanguy’s death in 1955.

Josh Kline: Project for a New American Century

The exhibition Project for a New American Century at the Whitney Museum installed on the fifth and eighth floors is a sampling of Josh Kline’s works done over the last fourteen years. The initial impression is that Kline’s work descends from the tradition of social realism and agit-prop in which art serves as a tool of social and political criticism and mobilization. However, what one soon realizes is how often it instead verges on melodrama.

Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty

Is the Lagerfeld found within Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty a man, content amongst cans of half-drunk soda, or is he a god, elevated to higher standards of aesthetic perfection? The Costume Institute seems unable to make up its mind on this matter.

Tim Brawner: Glad Tidings

Tim Brawner’s Glad Tidings at Management sustains horror past its breaking point. In his exploration of genre through the passages of B-movie horror reels and its more recent evolution into online creepypasta, the artist is able to fixate on the tremulous imagery of jumpscares and translate a clever act of self-negation into painting. What is shed, what is stayed, and what new tension is currently relayed?

RF. Alvarez: Eros

For Eros, his first solo show with Alanna Miller, Texas-based artist RF. Alvarez reflects on the evolving notion of home. Eros unfolds like a day in the artist’s life, or perhaps many days blended together. The richly colored narrative paintings (all 2023) are based on memories of fleeting moments, as well as photographs of the life Alvarez has built with his husband in Austin. The viewer is offered an intimate look at the people and experiences that comprise their home.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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