Lee Ufan’s letter to Stella underscores his ongoing critique of Western aesthetics, which began with the specific objects we associate with Minimalism. Whereas Minimalism, at least as Stella codified it, emphasizes the material presence of an object isolated from the passage of time, the artists associated with Mono-ha were interested in what happened between things, in the dynamics of their relationship as well as in change. Thus, for all the visual affinities between a Western-made object and those made by the Mono-ha artists, these connections have to do with appearance — they are morphological and, at best, superficial.
The Great Journey into Space is the second exhibition of the Belgian Pop artist Evelyne Axell to be seen in New York. Her first New York exhibition, Axell’s Paradise: Last Works (1971–1972) before she vanished, which I reviewed for The Brooklyn Rail (Nov. 2009), was also at 1602 Broadway (October 1–November 21, 2009). (Note: The gallery’s name is different from the address, which is 1181 Broadway, third floor). Together, these exhibitions fill a gap in our knowledge of what was going on during the heyday of Pop Art as well as offer viewers a chance to assess the work of an artist who has largely been left out of art history. An exhibition devoted to the “Erotomobiles” that Axell did between 1964 and 66, at the outset of her rather short career, would fill out the picture.
Lichtenstein and Warhol might have been using the same source material, but they were hardly after the same things, as the latter’s subsequent work would quickly make clear.
The photographs of Eva Besnyö (1910–2003) are hardly known in America. This fact was made clear to me before my recent trip to Paris, when no one recommended that I go see an exhibition of her work at the Jeu de Paume.
There is the American flag, and there is the painting “Flag” (1954–55) by Jasper Johns, which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Flying over federal courthouses, churches, schools, post offices, lawns, construction sites and, in the months after 9/11, nearly ever taxi in New York, the American flag signifies nationalism and a set of ideals over which there has been increasingly rancorous debate. Each generation must wrestle with three basic questions: who is American, what does it mean to be an American and what is an American entitled to?
Even though you can no longer drop into Weiser’s Bookshop to browse through the shelves, looking for a book on Aleister Crowley, John Dee or Dion Fortune, in New York you can still learn almost anything you want to know.
Gabriel Solomon Brodie grew up in a tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. That he became an artist who achieved what he did in a relatively short period — his career spans around twenty-five years — is a testament to his ferocious persistence. Wanting desperately to get himself out of his impoverished circumstances, he became a painter. He did so out of the purest motivation: he fell in love with painting.
Jocelyn once described her husband, Gandy Brodie (1924–1975) as a “delinquent Hebrew student.” In the novel Life on Sandpaper (Dalkey Archive Press, 2011), the Israeli novelist and painter Yoram Kaniuk writes about the time he and Gandy hung out together in New York, befriending Lenny Tristano and Charlie Parker, as well as Willem de Kooning and Tennessee Williams.
It is hard to resist the temptation to mythologize Albert Contreras’s adult life, to not see it take shape as a movie script or imagine who might get the starring role. But if you to stop to think about it, the only reason Contreras’ life story could be turned into a movie is because of his paintings. That’s what it boils down to. We shouldn’t want it any other way.
I have been a Sven Lukin fan since 1970, when I first saw “Untitled” (1969) in one of the concourses running under the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Made for, and located in, a long recessed area — and playfully hovering between flatness and volume, the pictorial and the sculptural — Lukin’s “Untitled,” a three-dimensional, green, orange and blue squiggle, is over 11 feet high and nearly 120 feet long.
Like someone practicing penmanship, “Untitled” begins as a series of tightly compressed vertical folds — think u’s and n’s — that rise and fall, suddenly run along the floor, undulate once, and then extend straight along the floor again until it rises up again; it wants to stretch to its full length, which, as the recessed area makes clear, it can never do. Despite its physical imprisonment, “Untitled” is as irrepressible as a rubber snake.
This is what a small group of people — most of them artists living in and around New York — know. Xylor Jane is a singular figure, and her widely spaced exhibitions are regarded as events.
Marco Breuer is best known for the photographs that he makes without using a camera. (He does other sorts of photography, but this body of work is largely what we know about his endeavors). Rather than pointing at a moment that is gone, and wresting fixity from flux, as photographs are said to do, Breuer acknowledges the triumph of instability, with its attendant manifestations of destruction and demise.