Our annual winter support keeps the Rail independent, relevant, and free
Not all artists consider themselves writers too, let alone critics. The poet Alice Notley, in reviewing a new collection of poems by Edwin Denby in the St. Marks Poetry Project newsletter of 1976, prefaced her review (not quite a disclaimer nor a benediction) by stating, Poets cant write criticism because what they understand about a poet they adore is what they themselves do or would, it is visceraldeath to analyze? critics cant write criticism because they never are knowing.
At its very core, the intrinsic value of artwhich can be disruptive, unpredictable, and at the very least challenginghas tremendous transformative and healing incentives. Whether it occurs at the first encounter or over time, the implications for the viewer, be they formal or emotional, are simultaneously simple and complex, generous and demanding.
On the occasion of her third one-person show at Paula Cooper, I took the chance to talk with Tauba Aeurbach about her work and its laterally-cutting through of ideas and forms related to somatic being and its symbolic tissue.
Rail Editor-at-large Tom McGlynn speaks with Sarah Crowner about the concept of plastic memory, how time functions for paintings, the use of glazed tile, and how a painting is experienced differently when a performer activates the gallery.
A work I always think about in these terms of a puncture is this piece I made in 2007, a huge, tangle on this spindly stand: in the studio, almost jokingly, it came to be called “Mr. Messy,” which is from a children’s book.
I’d like to open our discussion with a statement from your essay “Form and Pressure,” in which you preface the scene from Hamlet directing the actors he brought to Elsinore for a play
Odili Donald Odita speaks with Tom McGlynn about his installations, the importance of drawing, and the politics of abstract art.
Since the early 1980s the influence of Peter Halley’s writings, paintings, and installations has been widespread.
Mary McDonnells show of new paintings, Clear Pause, takes the viewer to this risky place with insistent gestures, held in suspension by a sensual, musical use of color.
Lucio Fontana is amongst those latter-day European modernists whose post-WWII reputation was made by a signature autographic gesture.
In 1970, there was a pop hit that promised, Im your vehicle baby, Ill take you anywhere you want to go. These lyrics perfectly epitomize the transcendental nature of Americas relationship to the automobile, from the time the first Model T rolled off of Fords assembly line to today, when reissues of G.M. muscle cars like Camaros and Chargers conspicuously consume ever more costly fossil fuels.
Olivier Mosset isnt really an abstract painter, because his paintings arent abstractly real. This might seem like a tautological game, but it is actually at the root of Mossets raison dêtre.
Since the future was invented as a rational concept in time, relieved of its superstitious portents and omens during the Enlightenment, ruins have been relegated to picturesque monuments of the past in the present. Ruins came to represent a second-order past, not to be dwelt upon too long in a modernist lurch toward utopic ends.
Ferdinand Lassalle, the great early international-socialist light of 19th century Prussia, loved its capital Berlin so much that he snuck back into the city disguised as a wagon-driver after he was banished for social organizing during the 1848 49 uprisings in the still un-unified Germany.
As a style of painting, lyrical abstraction can too easily get short shrift as a histrionic sigh to the deeper draughts of abstract painting’s historical breadth. In general, the form tends to move away from the symmetry of compositional plotting toward a more rambling mapping of the picture plane. In doing so it can actually risk quite a bit in terms of painting’s clarifying limits for a wager on the optical choreography of the brushstroke.
Marcel Broodthaers’s career has to be one of the most hermetically abstruse, at least to an American audience, of the 20th century, so it’s a signal event when a museum like MoMA, so vested in the pas de deux of Dada and Surrealism, celebrates one of that tradition’s most prodigious acolytes.
In the mid 1970s consumer culture in the U.S. took a rare pause in its relentless appetite for brand name products. High inflation, the winding down of the Vietnam War, and the onset of OPEC and gasoline shortages all put pressure on marketing mavens to come up with a strategy that would address the budget-conscious consumer.
The first time I saw a grouping of Sadie Benning’s more recent paintings was at the Greater New York show at PS1 in 2015 – 16.
When exactly did postmodernism begin? For that matter, has the question of when modernism began ever been resolved?
This current exhibition of his works not only represents the paintings actually made in New York, but its curator, Sabine Rewald, has used the city as a kind of compass with which to orient the viewer within the scope of the artist’s life and vision—one that changed throughout his life challenges and geographic dislocations.
The blatant poetry and phenomenological politics of the Arte Povera group in post-World War II Italy offered a corrective to what art historian Jaleh Mansoor has termed “Marshall Plan Modernism 1” or the encroachment of hyper-realized American financial and cultural capital into war-torn Europe.
For Mezcal vs. Pulque, Tiravanija collaborated with cooperativa 1050°, a collective of potters from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Chiapas, and led by Kythzia Barrera. The result was numerous vessels in the exhibition shaped by Margarita Cortés Cruz, Marisela Ortiz Cortés, and Gregoria Cruz Peralta from Río Blanco Tonaltepec, as well as Silvia García Mateos and Leopoldo Barranco in San Bartolo Coyotepec.
Milton Avery is an artist who, considering his long career, cant be pinned to any one salient American style; yet it can be said that he midwifed many.
William Kentridges The Refusal of Time, which debuted in dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012, is a multi-channel video and sculpture installation that, at first, seems an evolution of the artists ability to craft complicated allegories of the struggle between the personal and the political.
Anri Sala’s sound, vision, and sculptural installations feel like they want to exist whether or not anyone is there to hear or see them. Like the entranced drummer in the work that lends the show its title, Answer Me (2008), Sala is not concerned with conventional conversation.
Irgin Sena’s work is substantial in its fragility: it explores the ephemerality of the representational structures and systems that constitute the foundations of our need to project significance, and perhaps narrative coherence, onto widely disparate signs.
Katzs individual portraits, figurative groupings, and landscapes form a highly personal and potentially arcane firmament of scenarios yet their forthright presentation in simplified motifs and bold color paradoxically make his deeply subjective journey available to all.
In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War and facing family financial hardship, Lucy Bakewell Audubon (John Jamess widow) sold her husbands portfolio of original paintings executed in preparation for his engraved and hand-colored masterwork The Birds Of America (1827 38) to the New York Historical Society.
Frank Stella’s famous aphorism, “What you see is what you see,” seems most likely to have been followed in his mind by an urgent, “Don’t just stand there looking, do something!”
I first met Leon Golub when the samizdat literary magazine I was co-editing, Ferro-Botanica (1980 – 1986) solicited an interview. Both he and his wife, the artist Nancy Spero, were quite generous with access to their studios, accommodating myself and my friends who at the time were just beginning to inscribe our mark in the New York art world.
The sculptural presence of these new works is carefully modulated by the wide vocabulary of glyph-like gestures that Lipke paints in colors that evoke, by turns, both the folkloric and psychedelic.
François Morellets life work represents the rakish progress of a cockeyed formalist. Though the artist was self-taught and sedentary, his various paintings, installations, and sculptures have nevertheless had a worldwide reach, largely due to their adaptability made possible by the artists inclination towards open-ended formal systems.
Drawing from a commons of art history, popular culture, and personal narratives, the artists Molesworth has assembled for Feedback readily form a complex universal chora of band practice and social studies.
Stephen Maine’s new paintings at Hionas exude a crackling static charge that might jolt even the most jaded of zombie aesthetics into a gritty kind of materialist satori. One could argue the merits of this: if a powerful-enough transcendent hit can revive an exhausted faith in abstraction, does this imply an idealistic renewal or simply the stoic resolve of a conditional belief?
Schumanns particular tack seems to be to rely upon the accumulated associative meaning shared in his readymade supports, a visual commons of sorts, to serve as a substrate for a pointed critique of the cultural clichés they rely upon.
Thornton Willis prefers the direct approach to painting. His constructive sensibility, a preoccupation with the architecture of space, lays out the basic proposition that painting is a vital projection of actual line, shape, and color. This keeping it simple makes his paintings eminently accessible to the viewer, whom he addresses as an existential equal.
Writing on Cézanne, D.H. Lawrence noted that, “After a fight tooth-and-nail for forty years, he did succeed in knowing an apple, fully; and, not quite as fully, a jug or two.
Walking down the slot canyon of Vandam Street and into the mini-cavern of the Kate Werble Gallery and Michael Berryhill’s show of recent paintings can have the effect of discovering a fecund microclimate of crystalline flora and fauna nestled among the bleached, late summer-bones of lower Manhattan.
The boldly cliché title of this show is turned inside out in the introductory paragraph to curator Robert Storrs catalog essay in which he clarifies that art, by definition, is artificial and unnatural.
Otto Pienes lifes work constitutes a grand example of the artists capacity for transforming the leaden memories of war and its ruinous aftermath into golden allegories of energy, light, and futuristic aspiration.
RITUALS OF RENTED ISLAND: Object Theater, Loft Performance, and the New PsychodramaManhattan, 19701980By Tom McGlynn
Imagine a place and time in New York where multiple city blocks were devoid of pedestrians and in which the passages from one neighborhood to the next occasioned drastic psychic shifts.
Kim Joness most recent show at Pierogi opens with a small acrylic on Xerox piece Untitled, (Kim as Boy) (1955 99). It presents a Xeroxed childhood photograph of the artist in boxer shorts or swim trunks overdrawn with intestines that stretch out to form an angular superstructure surrounding the artists head and shoulders, like the truss work of a Byzantine halo.
Neo Rauch has all but cornered the market on post-modern historical painting. While his histories dont overtly present as such, he does thread a specific temporal narrative (German, idealist) through what one might describe as the hangover dream of the repressed nation-state.
The logo-type signature that Stuart Davis affixed to all of his later compositions has the feel of an exuberantly but deliberately carved and cast-off orange peel. This shaped incorporation of the author with his works, which in many instances resemble a virtual junkyard of animate cast-offs, clearly signals Davis’s lifelong intention: to sublate an older genius of the exceptional subject into the oblivious, objective meander of the modern commons.
In discussing Dan Walsh’s work here, perhaps it’s best to get the term “post-minimalism” figured from the beginning. There is an undeniable link in Walsh’s work to what artists and critics ranging from Mel Bochner to Rosalind Krauss helped to define in Minimalism’s 1960s heyday.
The image I retain is one more of a workshop of a freewheeling tinkerer than an eccentric abstractionist. At the time, I really didn’t know what to make of his work, as this small sampling was my first encounter with his approach to sculpture that seemed more like a non-approach to art.
James Siena is an artist whose work has gained extraordinary critical acceptance over the past two decades for its ingenuity and grace, yet I still wonder what exactly it is that compels such a consensual reception, given that its intellectual rigor and complexity might just as well achieve the opposite effect.
Barbara Rose’s conception of Painting After Postmodernism (PAP) seems to want to address, in Owen’s terms, the “static, ritualistic and repetitive” aspect of the postmodernist turn.
One of the most salutary effects of taking in Flemings work (and his intentions for it) from the mid- 1960s is to make present room for a visionary continuum that promotes a newly expansive sympathy for space- and the time it takes to experience it.
The modern book is the product of a mechanical operation, the printing press, but as Internal Machine suggests, it can be considered a mechanism in and of itself.
There are a number of portraits presented at Luhring Augustine in this tightly-curated survey of Auerbachs paintings and drawings, which also includes some of his relatively larger landscapes. Its a welcome opportunity to review up-close a number of mature works by an artist much more well known (as practically a national treasure, really) in his adoptive homeland in the UK.
In Aus dem Boden (From the Floor) at The Drawing Center, one is presented with the opportunity to delve deeply into the artists mode of conjuring up his symbolical derivatives with a series of drawings (not quite studies) for his larger paintings which are helpfully organized by the shows curator, Brett Littman, into six groupings under the loose headings of absurdist drawings, architectural and landscape drawings, character studies, scenarios and figure drawings.
An important attribute that has contributed to Landfields independence as a painter is his assimilation of the long history of improvisatory painting and his dedication to physically exploring the recombinant potential of its basic pictorial presumptions.
Since Gorchovs most effective canvases tend to target the solar plexus of the viewer, the scale of each becomes significant. The closer the scale of his paintings to a torso, the more bodily tension they tend to exert.
The title of this brief reflection is cobbled together from Philip Guston’s 1978 letter to Ross Feld, a younger poet and critic who had written appreciatively of Guston’s signal 1970 show, which marked his leap (or return) to figuration after years building a solid legacy of moodily lyrical abstractions.
In the pit of the post-war Modern European Theater lay the ruins of the School of Paris. Its various painterly edifices, a formerly fruitful mélange of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism had been shaken loose from their avant garde foundations by cataclysmic world events. This pit would, in part, become dominated by an aesthetic pendulum swinging between the capriciously whimsical and the patently absurdbetween the promise of revived joy and the depressing reality of modern alienation.
In these latest paintings, Westfall breaks freer from the asymmetric diagonal grid that has lent previous bodies of his work a kind of cock-eyed consistency and, by doing so, he amps up their vectoral dynamism. The grid isnt completely banished in these newest works, its just on a wild walkabout.
Richard Princes body shop of horrors here, a deconstruction of the American vehicle, is an elegantly orchestrated grand guignol of stock and customized hood forms as stand-ins for paintings with a few minimalist asides of free-standing parts and whole muscle car carcasses. And is there any American dream machine more representative of the restless substance of American Spirituality than the Fordist automobile? A pure product of the assembly line gone mad, the American car is the perfect prima materia from which Prince can ignite innumerable false starts.
Kate Teales work, in her first one-person show in 10 years, looks and feels, at first glance, to be quietest in its tonal reduction and insular subjects. Her works on paper and rice paper affixed to canvas are modest in scale and play the middle range of contrast.
Its been 22 years since Willem de Koonings death at 93. His long and prodigiously productive career was lately most fully examined in a retrospective held between 201112 at MoMA.
The quotidian fortune of being bull’s-eyed by a bird letting loose from on high supposedly augurs good luck, a sign that the splat was a chance operation. The deeper magic, of course, is that both pedestrian and the bird exist within a universal plane of consistency that somehow purposefully unites the bird’s flight with the walker’s groundedness. This may seem an odd analogy with which to introduce the prodigious sequence of painterly operations brought into intentional coincidence by Alex Katz over his long professional lifetime, yet it does concur with his stated notion of getting at a sense of “figure-in-ground” in his work.
If one were tasked with coming up with a phrase that would roughly characterize Katy Moran's way of painting, then "aggressive diffidence" might suit. In her case, however, it's a stance that projects a deeply powerful, perhaps even anarchic, energy.
The symbolic battle between word and image is a metaphoric representation of the contained malleability of human expression.
One encounters Jim Osmans sculptural assemblages as maquettes of the possible. His works potentiality is made manifest via his canny juggling of organic materials, tectonic engineering, and solid colortogether with how those disparate materials cohere in highly animated theaters of ensemble character.
The curatorial correlation of these three painters offers an opportunity to make relative judgements about how each came to their individual conclusions on painterly touch.
If Alex Katz hadn’t so deftly invented himself, New York would have had to. Born in the city in 1927, he belongs to a remarkably self-creative generation, which has included such singular individuals as Frank O’Hara and Edwin Denby, whose urbane voices and visions became inextricably identified with the realigning echelons of post-war American upward mobility.
The Times is a cleverly capacious title for this large group exhibition, referring simultaneously to a multiplicity of historical periodizations and to a colloquial condensation of the New York Times. The works, like the title, encompass the specificity of individual perspectives, as well as the generalized verbal semantics and visual syntax of the printed commons.
For painters of this generation the war allowed for a break from the gravitational influences of Picasso and the School of Paris, the same break that would lend lift to the Abstract Expressionist ascendancy in New York.
Will Corwin has chosen to work within this premise of archeological projection, and further, to ventriloquize its forms for a contemporary audience. So, what happens when an archeologically derived artifact is remade in the likeness of the artist’s own ontological projection?
The show is dominated by artists associated with what became known as the Washington Color School, including Kenneth Noland, Howard Mehring, Thomas Downing, and Gene Davis, whose careers benefitted from Clement Greenbergs notion of post-painterly abstraction.
Greater New York
This most recent Greater New York is tightly curated (with some speculative room to move) around a trans-generational city of reality and dreams. It’s an amalgam of contemporary and historic art interpretations of the multi-layered, collective experience we call living for the city.
The work thats never truly done for the scholar of art is to relate an intimate experience of the artists task without merely boiling it down to a referential precipitate. David Leiber, in his juxtaposition of Josef Albers and Giorgio Morandi, has managed to do this. By ignoring a strict art historic bracketing and shotgun-pairing these two modest masters, he proposes that their compulsive attention to subject and material might actually attain a sublime aesthetic concordance.
Al Held moved to Paris in 1949 where he was part of a loose-knit expatriate community of American painters that included Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis.
Each of Nozkowski's paintings wind up as amalgams of geometric and biomorphic abstraction of varying scale, color, and pattern that appear to me to be an invented pictographic language analogous to one thing leading to the next.
The first Aegean farmers to unearth ancient Cycladic figures with their ploughs must have wondered at their articulate simplicity, as successive generations of artists have been inspired by Myron Stout's single-minded commitment to exploring similarly shaped (and similarly mysterious) forms in his paintings and drawings.
Claudia Hart is an artist for whom the ludic is essential to understanding the complicated concept of human individuation. Her tactical play with words, contexts, and mediums serves to poke fun at the logical machine we call self.
Robert Ryman’s painting smolders with restrained, yet eccentric, color and gesture. His hand both withholds and idiosyncratically gestures with an open palm: the magic of an aesthetic disappearing act.
The immediacy of Dawn Clementss drawing acts as a seismic register of emotional states transcribing both real and imagined landscapes
John Newman’s recent mini-retrospective of works presented at Safe Gallery is thickly populated with all sorts of biomorphic tropes but fortunately the assemble works escape the fate of the quick read of quirky stylizations offered in place of uncanny presence.
The question of poise comes up in different ways when viewing Barry Flanagan’s survey at Paul Kasmin Gallery: Strictly sculptural poise (from the ground to the plinth) but also conceptual poise, the balancing act that an artist needs to sometime effect to get their point across.
Ben Wilson’s career as a painter parallels that of many others in his generation who began their creative investigations in the social realist idiom of 1930s America, ultimately evolving their own responses to Modernist abstraction in the post-war period.
The most radical aspect of James Siena’s aesthetics, extending from his earliest works, is that he foregrounds the empirical impulse.
Pousette-Darts painting, in general, is decidedly uncool in that its aggressively-shaped, chromatically bold canvases adumbrate the liminal space between painting and sculpture with an irrepressible jouissance.
Over the course of his career Bochners art has evolved from a skeptical, anti-subjective conceptualism that valued an austere tactical reframing of aesthetic conventions, towards his more recent work, which appears a transparently subjective gushing of hyperbolic invective.
Don Voisine's show at McKenzie Fine Art proves that the precise navigation of an abstract fold has the potential to unfurl multitudes.
Perhaps more than any sculptor of his generation Serra has stared base materiality in the face, thereby forcing it to conditionally reveal its stock-still visage back. Its a game of truth or dare that, in Serras case, he usually concedes with a poetic deference towards an unblinking counterpart: the secret to Serras work is not his intent to overcome gravitys mortal indifference to the sculptors will, but to frankly acknowledge it.
Albert Oehlen comes out of what might now be considered a tradition of anti-tradition in post war German painting. It was established by Sigmar Polke, one of Oehlens mentors at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, as a bricolage of pop iconography and pattern combined with bravura impasto and dissolute washes.
In Stanley Whitney’s magisterially unfolding show at Lisson Gallery’s dual spaces in Chelsea, the artist presents a cycle of paintings and drawings that resemble a calendar of the conscious, a notational form of painting that checks off time as a series of vividly experienced partitions.
Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe in which the uncanny bricoleur sensibilities of Jessica Stockholder, Franz West, Cady Noland, Martin Kippenberger, Isa Genzken, and Mike Kelley are melded into one super/sub consciousness of sculptural caprice named Rachel Harrison.
Walking off of Great Jones Street and into Eva Presenhuber’s beautifully proportioned New York space hosting Martha Diamond’s most recent show of paintings, one can figuratively reconstruct the quotidian grandeur of an urban promenade in luscious abstract oils.
Everyday events are deceptive in that their very ordinariness can remain transparent to us. It is a somewhat irrational human impulse to maintain a more exalted interval between the art of life and naked subsistence. Who hasn't harbored a secret wish, formed perhaps in the magical thinking of childhood, that we can be artists of our own lives, authors of our own destiniesthat we can make "me" a world.
At a certain point in a career as long and accomplished as Alex Katzs, one hopefully reckons to ask if that artist has begun to transcend themselves: where they become, in effect, more themselves (arguably a form of inner transcendence) or simply a representation of such.
Coates’s paintings share a transhistorical affinity with Caspar David Friedrich’s scenes of ruined Gothic architecture set amidst scraggly oaks, yet are much less explicitly allegorical or connected to any specific theology.
The posse of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, has ridden off into the now canonical (if sun-setting) territory of Post-War American Art triumphant.
Tom McGlynn is an artist, writer, and independent curator based in the N.Y.C. area. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian. He is the director of Beautiful Fields, an organization dedicated to socially- engaged curatorial projects, and is also currently a visiting lecturer at Parsons/the New School.
Alexis Rockman graciously welcomed me into his Tribeca studio on two occasions this fall to talk about his work, natural (and personal) histories, and the natural world of the 21st century. Hanging in the studio was a series of large-scale watercolors related to a recent project entitled “The Great Lakes Cycle,” which looks at the environmental history, degradation and resilience of that particular ecosystem.
In this recent, 416-page volume devoted to the artists life as seen through his portraiture, one gets the picture that Katzs people constitute a distinct ecosystem of social relations. While the artist himself values gestural simplicity, his portraits, taken as a whole, make up quite a complex of civil manners.
An artist isnt motivated by need alone. One of the unique aspects of pursuing an artistic life is that the intent of such a life is driven by a personal vision and, if there is an economics of that desire, it is for more vision. Adolph Gottlieb believed, unequivocally, that to be an artist was the ultimate life choice. He also acutely knew, however, that from this choice, pragmatic necessities do, unavoidably, arise.