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Notes on Gesture

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Riddles for Minds and Bodies

There is something ardent about Barbara Bloom's fascination with the lives behind her found images and objects. …Read more
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Critical Eye: Famous Forever

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Reviews

Four nested heads, their features interlocking: the drawing, from 1966, could be the cover of a Love album or an Aldous Huxley novel. In fact it’s an illustration by the late San Francisco artist known as Jess (1923–2004) for a poem, “Surrealist Shells,” by Robert Duncan, his partner. It’s as good an entry point as any for Jess’s wide-ranging work. The exhibition “Jess: Secret Compartments,” which traveled to Kohn from Tibor de Nagy

Gallery in New York, showed that between the 1950s and 1990s he took up maybe a dozen styles—or dozens, depending on how you count them. The aforementioned illustration shows Jess in the collaborative role he often played. (Also on view were four other illustrations for Duncan’s poems, another for a book by Denise Levertov, and two covers for the poetry journal Credences.) It’s also slightly cheesy, of course. Whatever mode Jess employed—psychedelia, NorCal impressionism, modernist collage—he imparted just enough kitsch for the work to seem affected, almost performed. ...

British artist John Russell’s recent exhibition at Bridget Donahue, “DOGGO,” was stylistically inconsistent, conceptually capacious, and insouciant in tone. Somehow, it all worked. Much of the gallery glowed green from the fluorescent backlighting of an 8-by-27-foot vinyl-printed digital rendering of a leafy forest landscape, the lushness of nature here confined to a swath of artificial imagery. Beyond this, another digital print depicted a hi

ghway overlaid with the neon pink face of a hybrid rose-person—a character in the exhibition’s central work, the video DOGGO (2017–18), which combines theory and comedy to envision a weird possible future. The video’s characters are generally humanlike figures with some very nonhuman features. The two protagonists are Doggo, who has the head of a pug and tentacles for fingers, and Insect, who has a fly’s head. They work together as a sort of detective duo....

Some time ago I read an essay on Julio Cortázar in which the repetition of the word “yo” in one of the Argentine author’s novels was said to allegorize his sapped authority, as the “o”s resemble bullet holes. Such intense, even hallucinatory, uses of language are found throughout SITElines 2018—the final installment in SITE Santa Fe’s trio of biennials focusing on art from the Americas—with, for instance, its sung press releases (St

ephanie Taylor’s Press Release #1, 2017, and Press Release #2, 2018), woven sentences (Melissa Cody’s textiles), word play (Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds’s Surviving Active Shooter Custard, 2018), and poetic musings (Fernanda Laguna’s Pintada, no vacía/Pintada está mi casa [Painted, Not Empty/My House Is Painted], 2018). Deftly curated by Candice Hopkins, Ruba Katrib, and José Luis Blondet, the exhibition borrows its title, “Casa Tomada” (House Taken Over), from a 1946 Cortázar short story that tells of a pair of middle-aged siblings being run out of their large family home by unnamed forces. The house, although emptied of its former inhabitants, is fuller than ever, invaded, it seems, by the dark rumblings of a world in upheaval just outside the door, with the story appearing to allude to the rise of Peronist populism....

The nine oil paintings in Judith Eisler’s first New York show in a decade (all 2017 or 2018) take their imagery full circle, in a sense: they portray shots from director Derek Jarman’s film Caravaggio (1986), whose own style is meant to conjure, in celluloid, the Italian master’s early seventeenth-century oil paintings. One looks in vain, however, for evocations of Michelangelo Caravaggio’s stark tenebrism, so integral to Jarman’s film, wi

th its clusters of bodies in spare sets and raking light. Ever since she began exhibiting in the mid-1990s, Eisler, who splits her time between Connecticut and Vienna, has based her work on photographs she takes of paused scenes in movies—the vast majority of the time focusing on close-ups. Here, that close-up focus has allowed her to unearth moments filled with a diffuse light and vivid colors that stand in contrast to her source film’s general aesthetic....

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Andy Warhol, Barbara Bloom, Delacroix

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