In a sense, Alice Neel’s portraits are always naked, at least psychologically; Neel brilliantly stripped her subjects down to their bare essence. As Joseph Solman, a fellow artist and old friend from her Socialist Realist days, once put it, “She turned a person inside out. If she did a portrait of you, you wouldn’t recognize yourself, what she would do with you. She would almost disembowel you, so I was afraid to pose for her. I never did pose for her.” Or as another old friend, artist Benny Andrews said, “I always said she was looking at you like an X-ray…” [Read more…]
We are so accustomed to seeing Warhol as a seminal game changer that it’s easy to forget that like most artists, he started out in a much more conventional vein, as evidenced by his junvenilia and other early works on display at the Whitney’s wonderful major Warhol survey. The New York Academy of Art’s recent exhibit, Andy Warhol: By Hand, running somewhat concurrently with the Whitney retrospective, offered a rare opportunity to sample Warhol’s seductive skills as a draughtsman and illustrator—apart from such well-known commercial work as his I. Miller shoe ads and album covers. [Read more…]
James Siena has had what might be called a linear career. Whether painted, drawn or sculpted, his work is purely line-based. Yet his art always avoids the shortest distance between two points; i.e. the simple straight line. Instead he has continued to evolve work based on what he calls “a visual algorithm,” creating recursive labyrinthine canvases; intense but relatively small-scale repetitive patterns painted in enamel on aluminum. [Read more…]
Joan Semmel is the master of the anti-Selfie. For decades she has turned the camera on herself, using candid photographs as references for her large-scale nudes, which are both sumptuous and unsettlingly intimate. For an age obsessed with instant, miniature self-branding imagery, pervasively produced by iPhones and through Instagram, her large, flawed, vulnerable figures open a nearly forgotten door onto the pure pleasure of painted flesh. [Read more…]
Both a multi-faceted spin on the pervasive selfie and an erudite capsule of feminist history, Hunter Gatherer, Julie Heffernan’s epic show at P·P·O·W, her first in five years, is far too much to absorb in one viewing—or even a dozen. Typically, Heffernan’s painterly technique is classical, almost atavistic. In a series of nine extraordinarily detailed images, all completed in 2018, Heffernan creates a personal diary cum feminist manifesto with an overtly political content seemingly at odds with its self-consciously pretty form. [Read more…]
In his ghostly installation, Ode to a Void, at Studio10, Brooklyn, artist Ron Baron has channeled a literally granular level of grief. Particles of pearlite, salt, sand and broken glass are sprinkled on the gallery floor in the pattern of a room-sized spiral resembling a cosmic corona. Placed seemingly at random on this winding road to nowhere — or at least nowhere on earth — are some 60 pairs of shoes, ranging from baby’s shoes to adult cowboy boots. They have been slip-cast in ceramic, and whatever their past life was, they are now frozen in time. [Read more…]
The Village Voice is, sadly, now a hallowed memory of the past, but many of its iconic images live vividly on through the work of Fred W. McDarrah, the publication’s first picture editor and its sole staff photographer for decades.
McDarrah, who died in 2007, aimed a powerful lens at some of the most creative and turbulent times in New York City’s history. Eighty of his vintage black and white photographs are on display at the Steven Kasher gallery, in a show that coincides with the publication of the comprehensive Abrams book, Fred W. McDarrah: New York Scenes. [Read more…]
Jenny Saville has always reveled in rendering flesh. Her earliest show at Gagosian, at the tail end of the 90s, established her ambitious scope: big, generously impasto’d gestural nudes that flew in the face of current painting trends. Lucian Freud once famously said that he wanted his “paint to work as flesh.” Saville also focuses on “paint as flesh,” but not in the service of a heightened form of portraiture that physically embodies the sitter. Rather, Saville is interested in using paint to, as it were, flay the flesh she depicts, deconstructing her subject matter while simultaneously layering it with art historical references. [Read more…]
As much a visionary as he is an artist, Tomas Saraceno, a visionary artist, clearly follows in the footsteps of such innovators as Buckminster Fuller, Paolo Soleri, and others whose aesthetic brilliance parallels their deep desire to sustain humanity on this planet. The influence of his friend, the great Olafur Eliasson, for whom he briefly worked as a studio assistant, is obvious. But Saraceno goes beyond flexing the muscles of his considerable technical flair to invent designs that are or can be implemented as part of his Aerocene project, started in 2015, the stated goal of which “proposes a new epoch, one of atmospherical [sic] and ecological consciousness, where we together earn how to float and live in the air, and to achieve an ethical collaboration with the environment.” [Read more…]
From two concurrent exhibitions:
Clothes Make The Man: Works from 1990-1994, at Mary Boone Gallery
2017: The Mess and Some New, at Salon 94, NYC
Reviewed by Phoebe Hoban
We live in the age of the avatar, and over the course of several decades, Laurie Simmons has proven herself to be the ultimate avatar artist for our age. (Think of her shocking 2015 “The Love Doll” series: sophisticated Japanese sex toys beautifully chronicled in suburban household settings, like Dare Star’s classic 1950s character “The Lonely Doll.”) [Read more…]
Claudia Doring-Baez is fascinated with repurposed images; images culled through memory or even re-enacted. As a graduate student at the Studio School, she devoted an entire series to Cindy Sherman’s iconic Untitled Film Stills, appropriating the cinematic stills that Sherman herself had appropriated, and recreating them in oil paint; a true meta work. [Read more…]
Consistently miles ahead of the curve, the uber-feminist Judy Chicago has been so prescient that it has, at various key moments, worked against her. It sometimes seemed—and certainly must have felt—that despite presaging much of our current predicament, she was, unfortunately, pissing into the wind for entirely different reasons than the super-hero-sized malevolent male in her series, PowerPlay: A Prediction, shown at Salon 94. This evil-looking, nearly headless giant boasts a six-pack and a relatively small member, which he sprays like a brainless hose, heedlessly poisoning the hills and valleys of our planet. The painting, done in 1984, is called, appropriately enough, Pissing on Nature. [Read more…]
Judith Bernstein’s work has always been brazenly in-your-face. In the early-to-mid 1970s the self-styled “proto-feminist” was best-known for her huge charcoal drawings of hairy, phallic screws, one of which was censored from a museum show in Philadelphia in 1974, despite a petition signed by Louise Bourgeois and John Coplans. A co-founder of the alternative gallery, A.I.R., which showed only female artists, she more or less disappeared from the art world until 2012, when the New Museum featured “Hard,” a show of her large-scale work, including a 66-foot long mural painted directly onto its lobby windows, followed by two shows at Mary Boone in 2015 and 2016. [Read more…]
The name Louis Bourgeois has become justly synonymous with her giant spiders and other large-scale sculptures. But there has always been another, more intimate dimension to her work. One that is beautifully explored in The Museum of Modern Art’s exquisite show of her prints and illustrated books, Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait.
This under-appreciated aspect of Bourgeois’ genius, ranging over seven decades of her long and productive life, includes 265 prints, as well as about two-dozen sculptures and a smattering of drawings and paintings. The exhibit was curated by Deborah Wye, a long-time Bourgeois friend and scholar, who was also responsible for the museum’s 1982 Bourgeois retrospective, the first that MoMa ever gave a female artist, and is now its curator emerita of prints and illustrated books. The work is striking for its delicacy and hyper-attenuation, as well as for its poignant psychological and erotic content; it makes palpable Bourgeois’ famous motto: “Art is a guaranty for sanity.” [Read more…]
The art of Carol Rama occupies a strange and singular space; Rama, a self-confirmed outsider, is poised on a chosen cusp. Not a true outsider artist herself (her intense, self-conscious stoking of her own particular obsessive-compulsive neuroses precludes that) she provides a unique meta-vision — even a celebration — of the outsider mindset. She is a self-proclaimed insider of an outsider world, which she obsessively observes, reveling in recording its scatological and erotic impulses.
Henry Darger and Martin Ramirez were equally obsessed: it is fair to say that they all, including Rama, suffered from some degree of obsessive-compulsive disorder, just as does the uber-successful artist Yayoi Kusama. Louise Bourgeois once famously called her art “a form of therapy.” Or, as Rama put it, “We all have our own tropical disease within us, for which we seek a remedy. My remedy is painting.” [Read more…]
Few contemporary painters nail the zeitgeist as pointedly as Eric Fischl. The artist is in top form at his current show “Late America;” five large-scale canvases that pack a paunchy punch: the Hamptons’ haute bourgeoisie, magnified poolside by harsh daylight in the full flawed glory of their middle-aged decadence.
Fischl’s merciless vision is equally unkind to the men and women in these works, but here the men fare slightly worse. This is the decline of the American empire in painted Technicolor, and its various iterations depict the nominal heads of household as gracelessly aging emperors without any clothes. Although the show’s press release states that the pieces are not political, it is hard not to think of the wizened white patriarchs currently in power. [Read more…]
The Georgia O’Keeffe show at the Brooklyn Museum is an ode to the artist as icon. The exhibit combines little-seen early work with the artist’s own clothing–including dresses, jeans, shoes, and hats—as well as photographs taken by her famous husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and a dozen or so other noted photographers, to illustrate the extent to which O’Keefe — much like Warhol — was the brilliant architect of her own enduring image. [Read more…]
Pierogi, New York City
Reviewed by Phoebe Hoban
Elliott Green’s show at Pierogi is an eye-opener. The dozen ambitious canvases exude enormous confidence and verve, and more than most contemporary abstract painting, bring the once-radical genre of abstract-expressionism back to its original roots. While essentially abstract, these works are nothing if not expressive on a purely visceral level, a painted barometer of a roiling subconscious encountering disorienting change. [Read more…]
Elizabeth Peyton’s portraits of both her friends and members of the cultural elite of her era, (Kurt Cobain comes to mind), first gained celebrity in the mid-to-late 90s. Since then, there has been what one might informally call a Peyton school of portraiture, particularly among young or emerging artists. Peyton herself owes a debt to the great portrait painter Alice Neel, known for her incisive psychological studies, and in fact paid homage to Neel with a nude image of the artist (referencing Neel’s own famous nude self-portrait at age 80.) [Read more…]
Icons in Ash: Cremation Portraits
Ubu Gallery, NYC
Reviewed by Phoebe Hoban
Somewhat hidden, the small, subterranean Ubu Gallery, on 59th Street, close to the East River, is the perfect place for the haunting show by Heide Hatry, known for her use of unique or transgressive materials–such as fashioning flowers out of animal offal, something she artfully did in a previous series. [Read more…]