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When, in 1992, Anton Kannemeyer and Conrad Botes began publishing Bitterkomix—the underground comic books written mainly in their native language, Afrikaans—they had a clear target for their biting satire, for apartheid had not yet entirely fallen in South Africa. Bitterkomix was a huge hit—revelatory, even liberating for many young South Africans. Then rainbow democracy was born, and truth and reconciliation warily accomplished; Kannemeyer moved into murkier struggles, and, eventually, from books to walls.
In ceramics, Arlene Shechet has found the medium that best accommodates her career-long penchant for transformative processes and accidental effects.
Helen Frankenthaler, the pioneering American abstractionist, whose preferred technique of staining thinned paints into unprimed canvas became the hallmark of Color Field painting, died today at her home in Darien, Conn. She was 83.
A decade ago, the Los Angeles-based artist Wendell Gladstone was creating ensembles that paired a freestanding sculpture with a wall-hung figurative painting, connecting the two parts with string. These days his compositional alliances are forged in two dimensions, through paint alone. Chains, ropes and colored lines, or strands of objects (semaphores, pebbles, beads), wind through apparitional figures-of skeletons, chambermaids, vigilantes, sailors, raptors, serpents-interspersed with stretches of trippy patterns. And images are carried within images. In the manner of Lari Pittman, Gladstone makes you concentrate hard-you have to work to decipher and disentangle. Yet his meticulous surfaces offer a delicious read, yielding the guilty pleasures of fantasy novels, the concatenations of dreams.
Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., has just boosted its architectural profile with a sensitive expansion to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, I.M. Pei's concrete-and-glass modernist jewel of 1973, and the near-completion of the 48,000-square-foot Milstein Hall, a brand-new facility for the College of Architecture designed by OMA partners Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu. It is a return of sorts for Koolhaas, who studied for a year at Cornell in 1972, when the Johnson Museum was under construction.
Borrowing her techniques from 20th-century radical theater and her dialogue from the news, Liz Magic Laser mounted the excellent production "I Feel Your Pain," a Performa 11 commission, on Nov. 13 and 14. A faculty member at the School of Visual Arts, Laser took over SVA's theater facility, an ex-cinema on 23rd Street in Chelsea, where she projected live video feeds on the giant screen and skillfully engaged audience members in a biting and often hilarious satire of contemporary political and media culture in the U.S.
Phaidon's Vitamin P, a 2002 survey of contemporary painting, is the publisher's best-selling contemporary art title, so it made sense to expect a sequel. New this month is the latest in the "Vitamin" series: Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting. The book's numerous, often full-page illustrations highlight paint-slingers from the already famous (Dana Schutz, for example) to the emerging (London's Justin Mortimer). Each is covered by a brief text by one of a team of contributors.
Byron Kim, the painter, often looks at the heavens above his Brooklyn home. For years he has been working on a series he calls his "Sunday Paintings" (begun 2001) in which he writes notes about his quotidian life on depictions of daytime skies. Currently he's showing a new series of nighttime skies at his new Chelsea gallery, James Cohan. Large, text-free and at first glance monochromatic, they are dark fields of purple or gray bounded on one or more of their edges by painted strips of a darker tone. Looking closer, you see subtle variations of color within the fields. Recalling paintings by midcentury modernists like Rothko and Reinhardt, they feel like pure abstraction, but as always with Kim, have profound ties to the world.
The market for contemporary prints has tanked in the past couple years, but print dealers and workshops have never expected much by way of glamour and glitz. Theirs remains the friendliest and most optimistic sector of the art world. Proof lies in the 14th installment of Editions/Artists Book Fair (E/AB 11), open this weekend on the second and third floors of the ex-Dia space on 22nd Street in Chelsea (Friday and Saturday 11–7; Sunday 11–4).
Around four decades have passed since Susan Rothenberg first took a chance and painted a horse when it wasn’t cool to paint animals, let alone paint at all. Her early horses were iconic and hieratic, bisected or crossed out or otherwise marked for ironic distance; they were blank and submissive to formal considerations. Time passed. Her menagerie expanded to dogs, snakes and geese. Human figures and marionettes appeared, sometimes just as a head or in parts, riding horses, playing dominoes, lying bloody in the snow. By turns mysterious, whimsical, violent, Rothenberg’s subjects have always toed a delicate emotional line. Her paintings are gestural though not expressionistic, agitated but never unhinged.