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On View

On View

‘Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties’ at the Brooklyn Museum

Emma Amos, 'Three Figures,' 1966. (© Emma Amos / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo by Becket Logan)

“We didn’t want a dream, we wanted a revolution,” the sculptor Mark di Suvero says in the catalog for this utterly captivating exhibition. “The art establishment ignored us. Pop art was just starting up. We were against capitalism.”

“Witness” thrusts you back into the world he is discussing in that passage, the 1960s of civil-rights struggles and political violence. Expertly marshaling its art (by names big and still too small), documentary photography, fashion and music, the show channels a time when the stakes were enormous—life and death—and when artists were digging in, serving as committed spectators and activists, testing what could be represented and how. Read More

On View

‘Eugene von Bruenchenhein: Bits from First World’ at Maccarone

'Untitled, November 18, 1978' (1978) by  von Bruenchenhein. (Courtesy  the Estate of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Fleisher/Ollman and Maccarone)

Eugene von Bruenchenhein sparkles like the light of natural reason. This gorgeously punctuated and interwoven show includes the late Milwaukee obsessive’s psychedelically messianic oil paintings of glass towers and aquatic jungle flora; his black-and-white photos of his wife, Marie, as muse, maid, pinup, friend and model, and St. Sebastian; and the devastating vases, built up in extraordinary, barbarous precision from handpinched leafy petals of clay he dug up himself that he fired in his stove at home. Five slender red steeples, in Steel-Imperial City, June 1978, flick up into a cloudy blue sky like Chinese yo-yos or astral Empire States out of a mound of snaky lower structures in yellow, green and blue. The windowless peaks, which the artist shaped and marked directly with his fingers, shimmer with scaly surfaces that are alternately transparent and opaque. Sitting on dark fabric against a white wall in Untitled (Marie seated on floor, ruffled stockings, pearls, wonderful shadow), with straight bangs, wavy hair framing her face and the pearls draped across her shoulders like a pagan breastplate, von Bruenchenhein’s muse looks up and to the right, innocent, strange and hopeful. In Untitled (Marie with lace top and black bow tie, one arm awkward on lap, hair up), boxed in tightly but with her candidly perfect composition hard to make out against a bold floral-print background, she looks directly into the camera. But in the former, because she averts her eyes, we can feel as if we’re participating in the playful exchange; in the latter, her loving gaze pushes the viewer out of the marital intimacy even as it reveals it. The vases, gourd-shaped, with pinched necks and flaring mouths, occasionally closed but more often a kind of patched open work (they could only hold dried flowers), and usually left a natural brown but sometimes painted coppery green or a flaky, fragile gold, create a tantalizing sense of fuzzy exactitude, like a delicate grid being implied, not shown. Read More

On View

‘Moyra Davey: Ornament and Reproach’ at Murray Guy

'Outtakes' (2012-13) by Davey. (Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy)

Moyra Davey’s Outtakes, a series of 10 unique C-prints hung at eye level in two rows of five, begins with a profile of Abraham Lincoln, stamped into copper and surrounded by green and rose static and a few bulging letters. Ms. Davey folded the photo into sixths, taped it shut, wrote her New York address in the corner and mailed it to gallerist John Goodwin in Toronto. Unfolded again, the photo is left with eight squares of orange tape framing its canton and three postage stamps—one showing an eagle atop a clock and two a detail of Rockefeller Center—hanging from the president’s ear like a tribal earring. The other nine photos are also close-ups of pennies, but each is slightly different. In one, the column of stamps hangs from his mouth like a Fu Manchu mustache, with a square of tape under his nose like a concurrent Charlie Chaplin; in another, a stamp of a Man Ray photo displaces the “American Clock.” The Great Emancipator is occluded by rusty scratches, smoothed with age, and besieged by salty encrustations before rising again, red and angry, from out of a sea of poxy green. Symbol succeeds token, collapse becomes recurrence, image replaces letter, and ideas are passed from hand to mouth until, in the anonymous immortality of coinage, the discreet supremacy of the transient is revealed. Read More

On View

Jordan Wolfson at David Zwirner

Still from 'Raspberry Poser' (2012) by Wolfson. (Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner)

For a brief moment in his discomfiting 14-minute video Raspberry Poser (2012), Jordan Wolfson, dressed as a ragtag skinhead, gives the camera a knowing little smile. Its message: I’ve arrived. He is 33, and his debut at David Zwirner firmly establishes him as a talent and a terror on the order of a young Jeff Koons: hell-bent on perfection and eager to provoke. People are going to take sides. He can’t wait. Read More

On View

‘Other Primary Structures’ at the Jewish Museum

Rasheed Araeen, 'First Structure,' 1966-67. (Aicon Gallery/© Rasheed Araeen)

Costa Rican-born German curator Jens Hoffmann’s first effort as deputy director of the Jewish Museum takes on the legacy of one of New York’s most important modern art exhibitions: his museum’s 1966 “Primary Structures.” Organized by Kynaston McShine, “Primary Structures” exhibited works by American and British artists—Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Robert Morris among them—who were defining the art we now call Minimalism. Mr. Hoffmann, uninterested in simply recreating the iconic show, instead presents “Other Primary Structures.” Read More

On View

‘Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937′ at the Neue Galerie

'Departure' (1932–35) by Beckmann. (Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art)

On weeks like the fair- and biennial-filled one New York just had, there is a citywide  welcoming of new art. “Degenerate Art” reminds us that in mid-20th-century Germany and Austria, some avant-garde artists, far from being embraced, were systematically persecuted. Olaf Peters organized this exhibition on German and Austrian modernist art and the politics that labeled many of its makers untermenschen (subhuman), destroyed their paintings and drove them to exile or suicide. Read More

On View

‘Thomas Kovachevich: 2013′ at Callicoon Fine Arts and Show Room

'Solid Geometry' (2013) by Kovachevich. (Courtesy the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts)

Some magicians intimidate their volunteers, commanding them to step onstage and dance. But Thomas Kovachevich uses a panoply of materials, many of which could be found in a hardware store or co-op basement, to create quiet spaces in which the line between performer and audience becomes irrelevant as he, the viewer, and the environment all play together. A show taking place in three galleries—Callicoon’s handsome new space on Delancey Street, its soon-to-be-former space on Forsyth and Show Room in Brooklyn—feels hardly big enough for Mr. Kovachevich’s wide-ranging embrace of mediums and tones. Read More

On View

The 2014 Whitney Biennial Disappoints, With Misfires, Omissions, Only Glimmers of Greatness

'Threshold' (2013) by Walsh. (Photo by Steven Probert, courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery)

From the moment that the Whitney Museum revealed that the 2014 biennial would have three curators, each organizing a show on a separate floor, I’ve been worrying. The decision sounded like an abdication of responsibility, a downgrading of the museum’s trademark show, and a recipe for a colossal disaster.

I was wrong. This year’s biennial is not a disaster, but neither is it anything close to a success. It is deeply dissatisfying—a wunderkammer-like, all-over-the-place show that offers some remarkable pleasures and far too many enervating frustrations. It pulls you in not three, but dozens of different directions, plenty of which are dead ends. The quality of the art is dramatically uneven, the tone uncertain. Some work agilely somersaults forward. Too much is frighteningly adrift. There are baffling omissions. Read More