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Barbara A. MacAdam

Barbara A. MacAdam is a New York-based freelance arts writer.

In Conversation

with Barbara MacAdam

On the occasion of David Row’s recent show, Zen Road Signs, at Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Rail contributor Barbara MacAdam met with the artist in his longtime SoHo loft filled with examples of his art from various periods.

In Conversation


The Berlin-based, West German born-and-raised artist Gregor Hildebrandt was in New York for the opening of his show at Perrotin Gallery on the Lower East Side. It’s a disarmingly huge, three-story, former hardware emporium on Orchard Street, where the blaring signage announcing Beckenstein Hardware, remains intact as a reminder of the building’s history, and underscores the persistence of the past in the ultra-modern light-filled interior.

What’s So Important About Criticism?

To begin with, as a critic, editor, and simple enthusiast, I find criticism to be an often delightful form of self-indulgence—one that allows me to set forth a problem for myself and then figure out how to solve it.

Saul Steinberg: Untitled

Steinberg’s paintings run the gamut in associations, from the lyricism of Paul Klee to the political satire of Thomas Rowlandson, to the elegantly limned Surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico.

Joanna Pousette-Dart

Joanna Pousette-Dart’s work is a visceral experience. Organic and warm forms embrace one another just as they do the viewer. Similarly, the paintings’ colors are sweet and seductive and actively engage one another in often indefinable and unexpected contrasts.

Merlin Carpenter: Paint-it-Yourself

The explosion of angst begins here with a “Dear Reena” letter to the gallery: Merlin Carpenter states, first, that he will not be attending the opening, however “strange a social situation” it might provoke. Of course, since Reena Spaulings is a collective enterprise, the position Carpenter takes is broadly directed; he is critiquing an abstraction.

Eddie Martinez: Inside Thoughts

Meaty and heady, Eddie Martinez’s densely packed paintings, rich with associations and imagery—all in the form of quotidian objects, sports paraphernalia, kitchen and dining items, art-history fragments—refuse to commit to a specific time or style.

Judith Murray: Tempest

Judith Murray’s Tempest, at Sundaram Tagore’s New York gallery, features a whirlwind of mosaic-like compositions.

Nari Ward and Robin Rhode: Power Wall

Extrapolating from American poet Robert Frost’s iconic reflection “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” we see in Power Wall both the brute reality of the wall and its much-loved qualities. Something in the work of both Robin Rhode and Nari Ward invites us to see the wall as so many things: barrier, writing surface, canvas, community center, basketball court, dance floor, and even decorative backdrop.

Hemali Bhuta: and the epic did not happen!

This warm and elusive show can be befuddling. Its reach is far and subtle, and embraces many modalities while its expression is quiet and minimal. It is what it isn’t.

John Chamberlain & Donald Judd

So far and yet so near, the antithetical aesthetics of John Chamberlain and Donald Judd are provocatively at play in this compelling show of sculptures, wall pieces, and “paintings” from the 1960s and ’70s. The artists could be considered the alpha and omega of 20th century American sculpture.

Saul Steinberg: Imagined Interiors

The intimate drawings in this virtual show, astutely curated by Michaëla Mohrmann, associate curatorial director at Pace, take viewers on a charming, witty, ironic, and droll perambulation through the landscape of Saul Steinberg’s mind.

John Giorno

Influenced by Warhol, Rauschenberg, the graphic art of Pop as Edward Ruscha construed it, and the shock and schlock of advertising slogans and other signage, Giorno mixed media to promulgate feelings, beliefs, and social justice.

Never Forever

Clear, bright, and crisp, Daniel Rich’s recent paintings might also be viewed as eerie and unstable.

Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere

A fascinating glimpse into the origins of Alexander Calder’s thinking and evolution, this abbreviated retrospective is a rare opportunity to examine the artist’s early experimental and tentative production. The show follows Calder’s singular career, illuminating the artist's later, resolved and fully realized work, deploying some 70 objects from the mid-1920s through the 1950s.

Günther Uecker: Notations

The title of German artist Günther Uecker’s fascinating show at Lévy Gorvy, Notations invokes many meanings of the term, from a system of symbols representing information, to the noting of and keeping track of ideas, to the staking out of intervals in time. The works on display here create a visible beat.

Philip Guston: What Endures

These works capture one significant period in Guston’s multifaceted career (or careers), hinting at the breadth of his artistic and intellectual reach.

Petra Cortright: borderline aurora borealis

Although she is a digital painter Cortright also embraces tradition, and while her medium is new, she does not shy away from redeploying something old. A painter who doesn’t use paint, she teaches us to look using her tools as we follow her lead through represented landscapes and between hanging sheets of abstract images.

Jorinde Voigt

Voigt conveys her conceptual imaginings in color and line. Her peregrinations lead us through a sea of hand-dyed blue paper that has a Disney-esque underwater appearance in which strange, sometimes almost identifiable forms swim or float.

Jackie Saccoccio: Femme Brut

Layers of texture and materials—paint, oil pastel, and mica—supported by pattern upon pattern in shaky thin lines set the foundation for Jackie Saccocio’s forceful, physically and emotionally self-reflective paintings.

Elizabeth Schwaiger: From the Dark Sea

Elizabeth Schwaiger sets in motion a cacophony of styles, ideas, colors, and movements in this dense show spread out over two floors.

Vivian Springford

Indeed, Springford’s paintings, with their spiritual meanderings and discomforting vivid colors that appear to congeal and darken toward the center of the canvas, seem to strike a cultural nerve today. We are drawn into circular dark voids—evoking sexual orifices, pockets of the cosmos, the eye of a hurricane, and the caverns of dream and memory in the mind.

Degree Zero: Drawing at Mid Century

Curator Samantha Friedman has made a sensitive selection of some 80 drawings from MoMA’s international pool of artists working between 1948 and 1961.

Erik Lindman: Fal/Parsi

The sandwiched matter of Lindman’s images oozes its way to the surface, often leaking out and dripping in translucent rivulets. The artist makes his acrylic paint earn its keep, transforming it into something surprisingly rich, impastoed, and creamy.


In his intriguing, often provocative, interpolated show at the Brooklyn Museum, Rob Wynne builds, reflects, and—more literally—reflects on connections in American art. In doing so he manages to intervene in the course of art history itself. He pulls at the museum's paintings and sculptures and activates them through light and language, transmuting the collection by means of his signature hand-poured, mirrored glass.

Sylvia Hochfield

It’s very difficult to write about people you know well. The moment you start, you immediately suspect your own words and perceptions—you haven’t said enough? Made your point clearly? Or is it too simplistic? Obviously nobody perfectly fits a description.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2021

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