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Kara L. Rooney

Kara Rooney is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer, and critic working in performance, sculptures and new media installation. She is a Managing Art Editor for the Brooklyn Rail and faculty member at School of Visual Arts, where she teaches Art History and Aesthetics.

Guest Critic

Gender Games and the Art Machine

In April of this year, I had the opportunity to interview artist Kara Walker on the subject of her project at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Our discussion, printed in the May edition of the Brooklyn Rail, covered issues of race and class, the subjugation of the labor force, and the economic and political complexities that engender and sustain such division, none of which can be considered without a discussion of feminism.

In Conversation

JIM LEEDY with Kara Rooney

With the upcoming fall 2012 release of Leedy: The Documentary, a chronicle of the artist’s life and work, Associate Art Editor Kara Rooney sat down with the legendary Abstract Expressionist sculptor in his Kansas City studio to talk about Zen Buddhism, clay, and the rough-and-tumble Ab-Ex crowd of 1950s New York.

In Conversation

A Sonorous Subtlety: KARA WALKER with Kara Rooney

From her all-enveloping cycloramas and iconic wall-mounted silhouettes to her searing films, drawings, and prints, Kara Walker’s work has remained fearlessly stalwart in its condemnation of social and racial injustice.

In Conversation


At opposite ends of the career spectrum, newcomer Claudia Comte and art world veteran, Ursula von Rydingsvard, have much in common. Both are female sculptors of the monumental, conjoined by their love of wood as material medium and a stalwart addiction to process, the result of which is an affectively particular aesthetic that finds its roots within the history of Modernism and Minimalist seriality as much as that of popular culture.

In Conversation

SARA REISMAN with Kara Rooney

Sara Reisman is an accomplished independent curator and former Director for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program, the city’s only legally mandated art-commissioning program fully funded by city capital projects.

In Conversation

A Conversation with Creative Time Reports

Creative Time, one of the longest standing institutions for the production of ambitious public art in New York City, recently launched Creative Time Reports, an international, web-based news platform.

Richard Allen Morris, Morris Code, works from 1957-2007

John Baldessari may have canonized the phrase, “I will not make any more boring art,” but it is his self-taught friend and contemporary, Richard Allen Morris, who lives out the infamous dictum.

Tainted Love

Love is not about power. It is not about politics. It holds no stake in reason, activist articulation or abstraction—or at least that is what the literary romantics would have us believe. Love, in fact, is intimately connected to the above, its voice most powerfully manifest in its contribution to communal world-making and social reform.

AGNES DENES: Philosophy in the Land II

At Leslie Tonkonow, a survey of Land Art icon Agnes Denes fits this contemplative criterion with over 100 photographs documenting the individual performances and earthwork interventions made by the artist from the late 60s onward, as well as chronicling, via meticulously rendered drawings and prints, her scientifically-based research into the essence of human nature and the paradoxical dialectic of philosophical thought.


Housed in the front lobby of downtown L.A.’s Standard Hotel is an analog outfitted organ replete with hippie-era kitsch: neon bells and whistles, not to mention the glimmer of quartz and crystal streaming from the Mod chandelier overhead, refract zaps of color off of keys equal parts the shade of ebony and California sand.


Hedonistic virtue aside, what do artist-cum-curator Jeff Koons, billionaire collector Dakis Joannou and the 6th century Assyrian demon god of wind have in common? A lot, apparently, as is demonstrated in the most recent installation of testosterone-tinged excess at the New Museum.


Entering Trouvé’s modular, multi-room installation is like delving into four dimensions simultaneously: Superman’s arctically isolating Fortress of Solitude; the acid-gothic sculptural machinations of Banks Violette; Albrecht Dürer’s perspectivally tweaked reality; and the post-WWII asylum—all dashed with narrative overlays of Jorge Luis Borges and Jungian psychoanalysis.

Winter @ The Kitchen

With an emphasis on performative installations, the screening of avant-garde film and emerging artistic dialogues, the Kitchen, now 40 years into its tenure, has long since established itself as a hotbed for experimental exchange.


Some artists make work out of a desire to become famous. For others, the act of making is a means of battling creative demons, a flushing of the system rooted in the equalization of the ego and its competing demands for fulfillment, formation, and release.


Canadian wunderkind, David Altmejd, has quickly garnered a reputation for his fantastical chimeras, often realized through Dionysian fusions of synthetic flesh, metal armature, mirror, and fur.


Painting is a doggedly powerful medium. Not merely as defined by its visceral exactitude or allegiance to color, but in its ability to strike at the core of who we are—to register on levels of the psyche otherwise untouched by the parlance of everyday life or pedagogical dogma.

KATHARINA GROSSE One Floor Up More Highly

The sense of the Sublime is a mixed emotion. It is composed of a sense of sorrow whose extreme expression is manifested as a shudder, and a feeling of joy that can mount to rapturous enthusiasm.

DANA SCHUTZ If the Face Had Wheels

The paintings of Dana Schutz are all decadence and destruction, wit and delivery; they expand and defy meaning, like water turned to ice in the crack of a stone.

A Studio Visit with Franklin Evans: EYESONTHEEDGE

“You can just step on the plexi-covered portion,” Evans said as I walked into the space and across the beginnings of the artist’s installation at Sue Scott Gallery on the Lower East Side.


When we speak of ritual, what exactly is it that we are speaking of? Is ritual something, an action or a thought, that we come to of our own volition? Or is it something forced upon us—a deep-seated template for engaging with the world, embedded within the psyche via a multitude of childhood experiences and repeated social conditionings—something that we as adults have internalized to the point of sublimation?

A Riot is the Language of the Unheard: An Exercise in Unrestrained Speech

Can speech acts, particularly those fueled by the aura of political gesture and first amendment rights, constitute a legitimate form of art making?

The escape from the banal everyday life to the world of the ideal

Like Derrida’s “writing,” the art object is the trace of our mark in this world. It can therefore never fully present itself, for to do so would be to undermine its potential—which is to transport, to transpose, to augment.

do it (outside)

For Revoir’s interpretation of Bader’s work, a rectangular wooden table with four legs was upended and secured with tar, at a 45-degree angle, to a five square-foot mirrored base, also set at a 45-degree angle and supported by four structural beams.


There is an innate humanness embedded in the way we respond to light. Like a plant leaning toward the open window, we too are drawn to the physical and emotional warmth gleaned from a luminous glow.

JOAN WALTEMATH: The Dinwoodies, 2005-8: graphite drawings on mylar

The Dinwoodies, a series of Joan Waltemath's mylar drawings made between 2005 and 2008, is currently on view at Schema Projects in Bushwick. This is the first time the work has been shown, and it is Waltemath’s first New York solo exhibition in over a decade.

The Dinwoodies, 2005-08: graphite drawings on mylar

Writing in the late 20th century, postmodern philosopher Vilém Flusser theorized that we had entered a transitional period between historical and post-historical thinking.

BRIAN O’DOHERTY Connecting the ...

The mirrored, joint exhibitions offer an eclectic overview of the artist’s probing intellectual and existentialist pursuits, subjects that range as widely as the semantic structure of language to our comparative experience of space, the exploration of individual identity, art historical tropes, and a personal (and formative) obsession with chess.

Report from Mexico City

Towards the end of March I traveled to Mexico City for the first time. I was there for the publication launch of a new literary arts magazine, diSONARE, as well as to seek out the vibrant art scene I had heard so much of over the course of the past few years. Upon landing I was immediately overwhelmed by the ecstatic colors, sounds, and foreign smells of the sprawling metropolis, which presented themselves as an unrelenting assault on the senses.

REBECCA WARREN Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?

Time has vindicated the art world’s longworn prejudice against clay as craft. These days, one sees it everywhere—throughout Chelsea, the LES, and Brooklyn galleries; center stage at the profusion of art fairs and biennials; as the subject of major retrospectives and museum exhibitions; and especially entrenched within the studio practices of emerging and mid-career artists.


Barbara Takenaga’s site-specific installation at MASS MoCA capitalizes on the artist’s signature patterned dot motifs while pushing the medium restriction of the canvas into new and unprecedented realms.


The language of the trickster is always duplicitous, simultaneously pointing toward meaning and away from it. Duchamp famously said, “I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste,” while Oscar Wilde, master of the ironic turn, wrote, “Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.” Doubleness, contradiction, and paradox—these are the trickster’s mother tongues, the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence.

WALID RAAD: Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World/Part 1_Volume 1_Chapter 1 (Beirut: 1992-2005)

They say that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. For more than two decades the Lebanese artist Walid Raad has worked within the slippery terrain defined by this categorical triptych...


The April 25 headline of the New York Times read, “Scenes of Chaos in Baltimore as Thousands Protest Freddie Gray’s Death.” The article goes on to describe how a largely peaceful protest, staged in the wake of this country’s third publicly documented murder of a black youth by police in less than a year, gave way to looting and riots in the streets of Baltimore.

Dorothy Iannone

Housed in the lobby of the New Museum, the cult of the eternal goddess and the dying god has come home to roost—at least that is the atmosphere of Dorothy Iannone’s first and only U.S. retrospective, Dorothy Iannone: Lioness.

The Slow Ascent: Death and Resurrection of the Art Fair

Four years ago, Artseen editor and writer Ben La Rocco published a piece on the Miami Art Fairs in which he likened the experience to walking through a tomb


Look at any inspired painting,” Philip Guston said. “It’s like a gong sounding; it puts you in a state of reverberation.” One can almost hear Alfredo Gisholt’s latest series, Canto General, pulsating with this same aftershock of rhythmic duress.

FRANCIS ALŸS: A Story of Deception

Duchamp did it before him; the Situationists carried on that legacy. Joseph Beuys mastered the art of false truths; Chris Burden and the body artists pushed the limits of performative shock value; Cai Guo-Quiang has enlisted teams of assistants to carry out his elaborate social interventions for decades.

LEE BONTECOU: All Freedom in Every Sense

A wall-sized, black-and-white, 1963 portrait of Lee Bontecou in her Wooster Street studio says it all: the artist stands with her back to us, acetylene torch in hand, gazing out at the monstrous canvas and steel relief she has just created. The air around her possesses an electric quality, singed with the same sort of crackling dry heat used to fashion her giant monoliths.

The Slave Theater

Paradox reigns over the field of photographic visualization. As a medium, this bastard child of the visual arts (at least until the past few decades) has been declared as everything from a purveyor of death (Barthes) to a mechanical reproduction mired in fetishized artifice (Benjamin).

ALDO TAMBELLINI We Are the Primitives of a New Era

Aldo Tambellini is obsessed with black. This fixation extends back six decades to a time when the artist, as one of new media’s avant-garde pioneers, was exploring the color and its associated meanings in various iterations of swirling spirals, black holes, and spherical matrices.

JEFF KOONS A Retrospective

There exists a fine line between fetish object and art object, camp and kitsch, high and low. This slippery demarcation subsists at the margins of taste, determining the course of art history and culture as well as defining the parameters of consumption and capital.


The works of Korean painter Woong Kim are fraught with ambiguity: nebulous references to the representational world encrypted by the language of hardcoded abstraction.


In 1962, self-taught art world dissenter Edward Kienholz shocked the L.A. art community with the exhibition of his first walk-through tableau, “Roxys.” Exactly 48 years later, this gallery sized installation, meticulously reconstructed and visible through the aperture of two panoramic windows at David Zwirner, has lost none of its staying power.


Summer exhibitions in the New York gallery scene tend to fall into one of two categories: they are either relentlessly saccharine or inexplicably chaotic—a mishmash of greatest hits waged in kaleidoscopic color and shortwave critical theory often heralded by artstar cameos and/or crowd favorites.

The Crude and the Rare

We are only as great as the sum of our parts—copper, ash, mineral, carbon. These are the material elements that define, comprise, and typify human corporeality. They are also the materials which, given a certain set of political and economic parameters, can act to expose the dark side of the human condition.

Geometry: Selected Works from the Estate of MARY ANN UNGER

It has been more than a decade since the work of the late sculptor Mary Ann Unger was last exhibited. I, for one, was not familiar with the artist’s prolific output, as I would daresay would be the case with the majority of the contemporary art world.

THE PARADE: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg

I first encountered the graphically visceral, clay-based animations and musical scores of Nathalie Djurberg and her collaborator, Hans Berg, at the 2007 Performa Biennial, for which the two were commissioned to perform one of Djurberg’s films live.


There was an offbeat classicism to Sergei Tcherepnin’s recent exhibition at Murray Guy.

JUDY PFAFF Five Decades

Judy Pfaff is one of my heroes. A resident warrior of the Post-Minimalist movement’s dawning era, her work has both defied and embraced categorization for more than 50 years. Pfaff is neither sculptor nor painter, printmaker nor draftsman.


The work of British artist Gillian Wearing resides somewhere in the intermediary space between documentary staging and the complex aesthetics that categorize contemporary fine art.


The history of the drill hall carries its own weight. The history of the unconscious similarly traces a lineage of effects waged by war: community, a sense of connection forged in darkness, the flicker of nightmare and equal parts light, at times visual and at others purely aural, haunting, familiar, elusive, as if existing just beyond the boundaries of the physical world.

New Work

Sangram Majumdar’s new works, currently on view at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, demonstrate a deft evolution of the painter’s pictorial sensibility. Majumdar is a painter’s painter, and his recent explorations in form and color bear this out.


What is the measure of a successful artistic career? Is it the validation gleaned from an institutional retrospective, or soaring prices for one’s work on the auction block?

Zipora Fried: Trust me. Be careful.

The history of the world by Zipora Fried would probably look something like the black and white avant-garde films of the Dadaist canon: morphing, jagged, and driven by a language that is neither recognizable nor familiar, emphasizing everyday objects as agents of intellect rather than simple extensions of the hand.


Freud defined the id as “the personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy that works to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires.” Using traditional wheel-thrown and hand-built methods for her most recent executions in clay, Shechet taps into the psychoanalyst’s collective unconscious of archetypal symbols.

“FRESH FOR(U)MS” Garden Party/Arts

Back in May of 2012, I was invited to attend a dinner by an artist friend of mine, Alyse Ronayne. Ronayne, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art and current M.F.A. candidate at Bard, was featuring work in conjunction with a new project starting in Brooklyn, centered around the theme of roving feminist exhibitions.

Letter from Cairo
IBRAHIM AHMED Pressing Fallacies

On December 29, 2015, Egyptian authorities raided and shuttered the internationally respected Townhouse Gallery (founded in 1998) in Cairo, along with its affiliate, the Rawabet theater—the most recent in a series of actions taken by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to quell dissention amongst the city’s cultural and artistic voices.

Tauba Auerbach: Here and Now/And Nowhere

Roughly a decade prior to the advent of the personal computer (and by extension, the digital revolution), famed semiotician Jacques Derrida, foretold its invention through an analysis of the human condition. Crowning mathematics as the universal language, he predicted the inevitable condensation of linguistic forms as a result of man’s fascination with codes: “What is natural to mankind is not spoken language but the faculty of constructing a language, i.e. a system of distinct signs corresponding to distinct ideas.”

No Entrance, No Exit

Much has been said of late about the status of so-called “post-Internet” art. Detractors, like Art in America’s Brian Droitcour, see the movement as “the art of a cargo cult, made in awe at the way brands thrive in networks.”


The slideshow paused on the now iconic image of a young Robert Mapplethorpe, his body turned away from the camera, stance partially bent over a sheet-covered platform.

THOMAS WOODRUFF The Four Temperament Variations

Thomas Woodruff’s recent suite of paintings at P.P.O.W. does nothing short of dazzle.

Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch: The Aboutthing (in the air)

If such a thing as the collective unconscious could be visualized in a work of art, the Y generation’s version of it is arguably portrayed in Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s collaborative gallery debut.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2023

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