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Reviews

UNTITLED: Bright Lights, Dim Content

by Paddy Johnson on November 30, 2016
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Evidence that the election results have had any impact on the art fairs were scant at best yesterday. Artist Jason Lazarus told me he kept hearing that this was the year artists would skip, but as I walked around UNTITLED., I didn’t notice any fewer artists then usual. I witnessed plenty of sales, though, and the dealers mostly seemed pleased. Collectors are aware of their upcoming tax windfall.

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With Art As My Witness: Carrie Mae Weems at Jack Shainman Gallery

by Emily Colucci on November 23, 2016
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I often hear the platitude that art thrives when artists are forced into action by life or death necessity. But, what might this new politically engaged art actually do to combat racism, xenophobia, misogyny and a host of other threats that have already appeared well before Trump’s inauguration?

Carrie Mae Weems’s two current exhibitions, on view at both Jack Shainman galleries, seem to offer an answer: art can act as a witness. In the dual shows, Weems shines a light on violence, institutional silence, judicial ignorance and black underrepresentation. This is seen most vividly her gut-wrenching take on the killings of unarmed black men and women by police in the 24th street space. Not all the pieces in Weems’s shows force viewers to witness these crimes, but those that do drag these issues into view for a Chelsea art audience, rendering a passive and apolitical viewing experience almost impossible.

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Carolee Schneemann’s Body Is A Battlefield At PPOW Gallery and Galerie Lelong

by Emily Colucci on November 21, 2016
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A week after the election, women’s bodies are a battleground yet again. Donald Trump hinted at overturning Roe v. Wade on 60 Minutes and Paul Ryan thought birth control was a “nitty-gritty detail” of the dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t even taking into consideration the pussy-grabbing rhetoric of the campaign. With President-elect Trump and a Republican majority in Congress, women–like many diverse populations–feel newly under siege.

This danger to women’s health and civil liberties inadvertently breathes new life into art that engages with the female body and its subjugation. While using the body, in the recent past, may have felt like Feminism 101, art now needs to reflect and reject this patriarchal threat. Feminist art stalwart Carolee Schneemann achieves just that in her dual exhibitions Further Evidence–Exhibit A at PPOW Gallery and Further Evidence–Exhibit B at Galerie Lelong. In these dual shows, Schneemann depicts the female body as contested, controlled and imprisoned. And it couldn’t feel more timely.

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Alex Da Corte Takes On The Founding Fathers In ‘A Man Full Of Trouble’

by Emily Colucci on November 17, 2016
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Now that the country has elected a threatening Wizard of Oz figure for president, any art that takes aim at the myth of American exceptionalism feels pretty relevant. The democratic dream created in 1787 looks a lot like a nightmare in 2016. And with the news of White House staff and potential Cabinet appointments reading like a list of supervillains, it’s refreshing when art can articulate a pointed skepticism of America’s promise.

Alex Da Corte’s A Man Full Of Trouble at Maccarone provides some of that much-needed critique. The work here launches a timely reassessment of America through a combination of its storied colonial past and its kitsch-filled, worn out present.

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The Heart of New York Lives on a Sticky

by Paddy Johnson on November 15, 2016
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I don’t believe it’s necessary to see all art in person. As the existence of Contemporary Art Daily demonstrates good documentation can go pretty far and for some exhibitions understanding the concept is more than enough.

There is a danger in living by that assumption, though, in that it’s easy to miss shows that need to be seen in person. That almost happened to me this week, when I stumbled upon Matthew Chavez’s “Subway Therapy” after coming home from dinner. I’d already read about his piece, which invites riders to express their feelings in whatever way they might need. The project began in June, but after the election, Chavez brought pens and sticky notes to the subway, and riders came by the thousands to express their feelings. Now, a subway wall on 14th between fifth and sixth is coated with people’s thoughts.

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Mark Leckey Made Me Hardcore at MoMA PS1

by Emily Colucci on November 11, 2016
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It’s hard not to see any art through the lens of politics this week. Trump’s unexpected victory leaves little space for anything else–nearly any experience has a surreal quality to it.

I’m not going to say I don’t find this disruptive to the critical process. The context of evaluating art has changed. What was relevant seems useless post-Trump. But since there’s no way around it, I’ve decided to embrace it. In the case of Mark Leckey’s Containers and Their Drivers at MoMA PS1, I found his career-long satirical engagement with technology amusing on Monday. Today, though, three days after the American people decided to press the country’s self-destruct button, I’m left wondering if the show even weathered this sudden change in perspective.

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Virginia Heffernan Thinks The Internet Is Art

by Emily Colucci on November 8, 2016
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Virginia Heffernan joined the Internet in 1979 at 9. Growing up near Dartmouth, the cultural critic learned the computer language BASIC from the college’s president John Kemeny with a group of her classmates. I learned this random factoid about Heffernan’s online life at her lecture on Tuesday night at School of Visual Art’s Design Research, Writing and Criticism Department, where she discussed her new book Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art.

Heffernan’s bizarre, meandering lecture was full of tidbits about her own web usage including her high score in Angry Birds, her meetings with Google or her chat room experiences on early live chat feature Conference XYZ. Her over-the-top adoration of her own online history might explain why she thinks the Internet is art.

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With A Little Help From My Friends: Ellen Cantor’s ‘Pinochet Porn’ At MoMA

by Emily Colucci on November 3, 2016
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It’s quite a surprise that a film titled Pinochet Porn depicts a tender portrait of friendship. Granted, Ellen Cantor’s final film buries that theme under a shocking mélange of spank-heavy sex scenes, depressed clowns, descriptions of rape and torture over vintage Pepsi ads and disturbing archival footage of the Pinochet dictatorship, Hitler and September 11th. But looking beyond its violent and erotic imagery, the film is a celebration of a close-knit avant-garde community.

This became clear at the film’s premiere at MoMA on Monday night, part of the museum’s Modern Mondays film program. Playing to a sold-out theater, the screening also featured a post-film discussion between the Museum’s Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art Stuart Comer, Participant Inc.’s founding director Lia Gangitano, who appears in the film, and filmmaker John Brattin, who acted as Director of Photography. While this is common with MoMA’s screenings, it seemed particularly important on Monday. Firsthand accounts of the film’s production and posthumous completion, provided here by Gangitano and Brattin, seem irrevocably intertwined with any analysis or enjoyment of the film itself.

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Struggling ‘To Organize Delirium’ at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hélio Oiticica Retrospective

by Emily Colucci on October 28, 2016
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Geometric abstractions, makeshift shacks and a copious amount of sand transforms Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art into a hippie playground for Hélio Oiticica’s retrospective To Organize Delirium (which comes to the Whitney next year). The exhibition presents a chronological look at the Brazilian artist’s short but feverishly prolific career. (He died suddenly in 1980 at 43-years old). In one gallery, a cluster of orange boards hangs from the ceiling while a cage of live parrots sits in a corner. Colorful macramé hammocks and projected images of Jimi Hendrix covered in cocaine fills another room. And the Museum’s grand Hall of Sculpture looks like a tent city on a beach.

While well-regarded in his native country, the artist remains relatively overlooked in the United States. But past the institutional visibility, To Organize Delirium doesn’t do much to rectify this. The show’s curators provide such little context for the work, which didn’t seem to age well in the first place, that I felt uncertain as to why his art had any currency at the time.

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The Hellion is a Lonely Hunter (with apologies to Carson McCullers)

by RM Vaughan on October 27, 2016
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After wandering through “Golem”, the Jewish Museum Berlin’s occasionally insightful but too often flat meditation on the fabled creature of medieval European-Jewish folklore, I was left with a curiously empty feeling. Hardly what one expects from an exhibition depicting a monster of such long-standing and resonant legend; a homunculus whose story has influenced all things horrific from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein to Disney/Marvel’s evil robot Ultron to those adorably gangly “grey aliens”.

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