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Taney Roniger

Taney Ronigeris an artist, writer, and frequent Rail contributor.

Guest Critic

Art, Science, and the Question of Convergence

Somewhat improbably, in the thick of a political climate that has both art and science under threat of irrelevance, something of a renaissance seems to be happening at their intersection.

MAYA LIN Here and There

Maya Lin has long been known both for her protean practice, which spans the fields of architecture, memorial design, environmental earthworks, and studio art, and for the eloquence of her understated aesthetic.


Occasionally one finds works whose internal demands extend beyond the confines of the frame or pedestal to encompass their entire context.

SVEN-OLE FRAHM A Hole in the Wall is Nothing to Worry About – Part I

Insouciantly titled A Hole in the Wall is Nothing to Worry About, this is the artist’s first U.S. exhibition, and with its playful boundary-crossing between seemingly fixed categories and impish reversals of conventional hierarchies we are goaded into a kind of awareness that transcends dualistic thinking.

NORIO IMAI Perspective in White

Aside from prayer and its secular variants, few experiences can shift consciousness as powerfully as a transformative aesthetic encounter. The quiet, all-white work of Norio Imai achieves this with such deceptively simple means that the intensification of awareness it occasions is all the more profound.

HEDWIG BROUCKAERT a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness

Our postmodern sensibilities notwithstanding, there remains in this culture a deep and pervasive undercurrent of Platonic idealism, of belief in the possibility of purity, perfection, and permanence in a world that so emphatically suggests otherwise.

Yoshiaki Mochizuki: Summer Solstice

While new materialist philosophies are slowly tipping the scale on its side by exploring the subtle vitality inherent in matter, many artists are engaging with materials in ways that render this cultural shift concrete and experiential. Yoshiaki Mochizuki, who before coming to art worked as a buyer of loose diamonds, is one of them—and one whose intimate knowledge of that formidable crystal endows his work with singular power.


In the great chain of being, brute matter has never fared well. Cast as cold, lifeless, and dumb, denizens of the rock, earth, and mineral worlds have long occupied the bottommost rung on the ontological ladder—a ladder that, having been fashioned by us, naturally has human beings somewhere at the top.


In his new show at Pace—his first with the gallery—Villareal delivers a tour de force that transcends the work’s optical appeal, offering a poetic meditation on the inner workings of nature.

KATE TEALE I Am Not Empty, I Am Open

When it comes to the poetry of intimate spaces, Gaston Bachelard remains unrivalled in the probity of his insights and the wonderful lyricism of his analyses. In his oft-cited Poetics of Space, the French philosopher examines the house—that most intimate of human spaces—as a potent metaphor for our humanness, sheltering not just our bodies but also our deepest dreams, memories, thoughts, and imaginings.


“These trees are magnificent,” Rilke famously observed, “but even more magnificent is the sublime and moving space between them, as though with their growth it too increased.” Especially in the West, so scant is our awareness of negative space—of the gaps, pauses, and silences between things—that it often takes a great poet to bring it to our attention.


If poetry is the art of condensed expression, Lori Ellison’s drawings and paintings are the consummate example of verse made visual.

ZIPORA FRIED I Hope the Moon Explodes

Those unpracticed at the art of “negative capability”—Keats’s celebrated term for the capacity to embrace uncertainty, ambiguity, and doubt “without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”—would do well to steer clear of Zipora Fried.


What do the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, the famed mountaineer credited with the first conquest of Everest, and the scribal mystics of medieval Judaism have in common? Nothing,

Suddenly, There: Discovery of the Find
Curated by Eileen Jeng and Tamas Veszi

“In order to invent, one must think aside.” This observation, made by the French philosopher Etienne Souriau, might have served as the inspiration for this refreshingly exploratory group show.


In physics, a system is said to be symmetric when its essential features remain unchanged under various transformations. Judith Braun, the ever-mutating, contradiction-embracing, Bad-Girl feminist and high priestess of monastic discipline, is just such a system.

MARCO MAGGI Unfolding Marco Maggi

Artists, someone once astutely noted, are the great observers of society; their job, above all else, is to notice the world the rest of us inhabit but largely fail to perceive. By this criterion, Marco Maggi is the consummate artist, having made a career out of attending to the small and insignificant, the overlooked and ignored, the humble details of the phenomenal world that hover beneath the radar of ordinary perception.

Suzanne Anker & Frank Gillette: Strata

“It is worse, much worse, than you think.” So begins David Wallace-Wells’s new book on climate change, tellingly titled The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. So thoroughly have we now altered the planet, the author tells us, that even if we were to dramatically change our lives right now the future that awaits us is more devastating than we’ve imagined.


Writing at the tail end of the Machine Age, Lewis Mumford, that most incisive critic of culture, noted an emerging irony: the more human-like our machines were becoming, the more lifeless and mechanical were the human agents they were created to serve.

XU BING Phoenix: Xu Bing at the Cathedral

Since last winter, a formidable presence has resounded across the cavernous interior of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Upper Manhattan. It is not that of the divine, although that too is surely there.


If the power of contemporary art lies in its propensity to both reflect and give shape to the consciousness of our times, one might expect to find it laden with signs of cultural transformation.

DEREK LERNER Convenient Gratification

The human compulsion for mark-making, so pronounced in many visual artists, contains an element of the territorial imperative. Both impulses, it seems, arise from a fundamental need to extend into and lay claim to space, to ceaselessly reshape the world in one’s own image.

Leah Raintree: Another Land: After Noguchi

Considering those shimmering fields of human handprints that cover the walls of prehistoric caves, the human impulse to make a mark on the world is not a recent mutation

Greater New York

School Daze

In a show largely as soulless as the institution its venue once housed, the exquisitely engaging work of Yoshiaki Mochizuki comes as a welcome surprise. Nestled in a hallway on the museum’s third floor, the six small paintings on view are easy to miss.

The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

When it comes to that distinctly human sensation we call awe, little can rival the complexity of our own brains to elicit it. Indeed, so staggering are the numbers— current estimates have it that each contains 100 billion neurons with 100 trillion connections between them—that the organ seems to founder before its own immensity. No less astonishing, though fortunately more comprehensible, are its structures—the cells’ elaborate shapes and the byzantine networks by which they communicate— and this is exactly what we get to see in the exquisite drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

Maya Lin: A River Is a Drawing

Last fall, the United Nations issued a grave pronouncement: If we don’t act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we risk crossing the point of no return by 2030.

John Bruce and Pawel Wojtasik, with a performance by Matt Freedman

It begins with a looming black screen. Inside a small room that has been fashioned into a theater, a crowd has gathered to immerse itself in a subject we spend most of our lives denying. For the first minute and a half of the film, we stare into the gaping abyss while a male voice tells a Groucho Marx joke, speculates about the metaphysics of card tricks, and recounts the persistence of the black hole motif in the Roadrunner cartoon.

My Stonehenge

The year is 1971. My father is twenty-nine, I just barely two. Under a vast expanse of cloudless sky, the two of us sit huddled against the ripping wind, my pint-sized body on his lap as he leans back on one of the stones.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Years ago I read a book by the philosopher Alan Watts titled The Wisdom of Insecurity, and although its contents have largely faded from memory, I often recall its title. The phrase seems particularly apt when it comes to those rare occasions of deep transformation produced by an encounter with a work of art.

I Run My Hand Over the Race

The words in my title belong to Robert Irwin. I came across them years ago in Lawrence Weschler’s much-loved book of dialogues with the artist, and since then they’ve become something of a personal shibboleth. Referring to his technique for placing bets at the track (a second vocation in which he enjoyed great success), Irwin relayed that, after carefully studying the statistics for each horse, he would forget all the facts, close his eyes, and “run his hand over the race.” I don’t think I’ve encountered a better metaphor for tacit thinking: the kind of thinking we do unconsciously, without language, with and through our bodies.

The Great Denial

As its title suggests, the subject of Charlene Spretnak’s most recent book is the long history of artists’ engagement with the spiritual dimension throughout the trajectory of modern art.

A Pill for the Heart

Art and science: terminally uneasy bedfellows, or powerful partners in a new era of synergistic alliances? It’s a question that nags at anyone following the groundswell of enthusiasm for the convergence of these two fields.

Radical Empathy: A Manifesto for the 21st Century

This perennial problem of the rift between artist and audience is what laid the seeds for Odyssey Works, both the title of this wonderfully original and deeply affecting book and the name of the interdisciplinary performance group whose work it presents.

The Aesthetic Animal

Both an academic and a professional dancer, Rohman is among a growing number of scholars working in the emerging field of bioaesthetics, an interdisciplinary undertaking that looks at art and aesthetics as biological phenomena.

You Are Where You Are: Sarah Robinson’s Architecture is a Verb

Part theoretical manifesto and part practical guide, the book advances an emerging approach to architecture that offers a radical corrective. Robinson—herself an architect who practices in Pavia, Italy—draws on an enormous range of scholarship to support her thesis.

Dare to Be Naïve

With admirable concision and a prose style as delightful as it is rigorous, Keats critically examines six of Fuller’s most important ideas, ending each section with a “proposition” of his own that builds on—and often goes far beyond—his predecessor’s original.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2023

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