Regional Unreal

Grant Wood created an art of populist appeal, which, when probed for its underlying content, reveals troubling tensions and endless ambiguities.…Read more


Artists have been sleeping in public for some time now; it’s the kind of move that pretends to invoke direct access to the unconscious. …Read more

Giacomettiʼs Thin Figures

Giacometti was aware of how important his anger was to his art. …Read more

Mishima, Mon Amour

Avoiding any critical probing into the private Mishima, Paul Schrader's film wraps a consistent, unsatisfying myth in flattering visual tissue…Read more

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Robert Ryman’s exhibitions are always compelling, frequently impressive, but rarely surprising. The octogenarian artist has created a consistent body of work, which, although diverse and inventive, usually remains within a relatively narrow set of parameters. He has devoted his career to exploring the fundamentals of painting—the basic relationships between paint, surface, and support—within the realm of predominantly white, square abstract co

mpositions. But Pace’s recent exhibition of Ryman’s drawings did hold some surprises, exposing new facets of what previously seemed a thoroughly familiar oeuvre. Most of the works on view were from the 1960s, though a few dated to subsequent decades. A series of four small square pieces titled “Stretched Drawings” (ca. 1963) opened the show. For each, Ryman drew a grid in charcoal or pencil on a square of stretched canvas, after which he removed the canvas and re-stretched it onto a smaller frame, restoring the grid and causing it to extend over the sides of the piece. The “Stretched Drawings” appear as classic Ryman, their reductive forms emphasizing the multiple relationships that define them: the character of the line vs. the texture of the fabric, the pattern of the grid vs. the shape of the stretcher, the dimensions of the work vs. those of the gallery. Although Ryman be...

The ten sculptures in Amir Nikravan’s show (all 2018) reconfigured a so-called Eastern motif by architect Edward Durell Stone, of Radio City Music Hall and Museum of Modern Art fame. The motif is a capsule shape that repeats on various white walls in the “Persian-inspired” building Stone designed for Stuart Pharmaceuticals in Pasadena, California. Constructed between 1956 and 1958 and exemplifying midcentury modernist style, the building today

provides communal and office space for an apartment complex that has been constructed around it (Nikravan first encountered the capsule pattern while working out at the gym there). Nikravan turned Stone’s motif into wall-mounted and pedestal-based objects that have the vivid colors and lush curves of Frank Stella’s “Protractor Paintings,” the restrained minimalism of Donald Judd’s sculptures, and the playfulness of Richard Artschwager’s “blps.” In reappropriating the orientalizing motif, Nikravan, an American with Persian and Mexican heritage, aims to challenge the tendency in Western art and design to turn other cultures into mere decoration. ...

The subject of animals and the natural world has become a major curatorial trend in the United Kingdom in recent years, and no British artist is situated more centrally within that discourse than Marcus Coates, whose work appears in most zoologically themed shows. Coates is the go-to guy for injecting a certain tone of irony and bathos, most notably with the quasi-shamanic projects where he adopts the guise of animals—the point being that his cost

umes and behaviors are less about truly emulating or understanding animals than about channeling human desires.His most recent body of work stems from a period he spent on Fogo Island in Newfoundland, and sees him shifting toward broader ecological concerns. The video Apology to the Great Auk (2017) is based on one of the most notorious episodes in natural history: the hunting to extinction, by the middle of the nineteenth century, of the North Atlantic bird species the great auk, which was prized for its soft down. The piece cuts between three different scenes: Coates meeting with the island’s mayor to get a formal statement of apology ratified; Coates chairing a committee of islanders to debate the language the document should be couched in; and the mayor publicly reading aloud the final draft, addressing the vanished birds themselves through a loudspeaker aimed out to sea. “Your e...

“Cosima von Bonin stages her objects while holding back a lot of information about the meaning of things.” So writes artist Arnold Mosselman in a statement accompanying this show, and he’s not kidding. The objects in “WHAT IF IT BARKS? featuring AUTHORITY PURÉE” were readily identifiable, but quite what they added up to was more ambiguous. Mosselman describes his subject as being “like a foggy cloud,” and von Bonin, speaking with him

about her process, admits, “Everything comes to me while I watch British shows and movies, listening to music and things like that. Or I steal it somewhere. I mostly sleep.” But such wry maneuverings aside, there are at least some clear themes in her current work, not least of which is the life aquatic.Von Bonin’s 2016–17 exhibition at New York’s SculptureCenter was titled “Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea?” And even if the question wasn’t at the forefront of most people’s minds, the battle it identified worked pretty well as a metaphor for the woeful spectacle of political backstabbing taking place at the time. The show itself was something of a test for viewers, too: how much of von Bonin’s outwardly childlike treatment of an already thorny topic would they tolerate? The presentation abounded with soft toys and cheerful printed fabrics. But while often funny, ...


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Art and Commodity, Josephine Halvorson, Grant Wood, Sable Elyse Smith