Doug McClemont on the Shows Not to Miss in New York

Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra at The Guggenheim

A comprehensive mid-career retrospective of the important Dutch photographer. Dijkstra is arguably best known for her depictions of individual youths on beaches around the world. As the subjects—each almost imperceptibly uncomfortable in their own skins and identities—navigate the act of posing, Dijkstra manages to capture adolescence itself in a kind of motion. Her series of mothers snapped just after giving birth is as fresh and breathtaking as ever, and like all of Dijkstra’s images, makes us contemplate the position and power of photography. Videos, such as club kids dancing to the sound of music coming from the next room, are included here as well as her portraits of Israeli soldiers and bullfighters. If you see just a single exhibition this summer in NYC, make it this one.

Pothole at Salon 94

This wonderfully crowded-but-choreographed show includes works by several of my personal favorite artists: Huma Bhabha, Jules de Balincourt, Jason Fox, Julie Mehretu, Sterling Ruby (don’t miss his fabric fang and blood Vampire Flag) and Dana Shutz. We are told that these artists were grouped for the exhibition because their work “has certain commonalities including a strong emotive or expressionist sensibility as well as an attraction to untraditional, handmade and often ‘low’ materials.” The statement, like most horoscopes, could apply to nearly everyone. But as a summer group show, Pothole, is a welcome change from the one-work-from-each-gallery-artist standard. Includes works by Daniel Hesidence, Sarah Lucas, Joe Bradley and David Altmejd. Highly recommended.

RETROSPECTIVE OF S at Fredericks & Freiser

The notion of creating a retrospective for a non-existent artist is nothing new (recall the Nat Tate hoax of 1998 that the likes of David Bowie and Gore Vidal participated in, not to mention Duchamp’s various disguised personae.) Here writer and vegan Jonathan Safran Foer, (author of Everything is Illuminated) teamed up with Samuel Messer, and has written wall texts for this group show of ten female artists which collectively constitute a retrospective of the fictional “S.” The artists on display are Natalie Frank, Rochelle Feinstein, Francesca Lo Russo, Josephine Messer, Judith Linhares, Njideka Akunyili, Caitlin Cherry, Chie Fueki, Jackie Gendel and Jennifer Packer. A pleasant send-up of biography and what it means to curate from within another artist’s body of work.

Stand still like the hummingbird at David Zwirner

It’s summer, and as always, group shows are proliferating. Curator Bellatrix Hubert has put together an exhibition that is what used to called “museum-quality.” This is a rich and varied show that includes contributions from Robert Gober, Christopher Williams, John McCracken, Mason Williams, Alan Uglow, Thomas Ruff, Jim Nutt, Morgan Fisher, Ed Ruscha, Sherrie Levine, Martha Wilson, On Kawara, Francis Alÿs, Tomma Abts, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Gordon Matta-Clark, Jim Nutt, Rodney Graham, Ruth Laskey, and Carol Bove. Not to mention artworks by the likes of Bruce Nauman, Cady Noland and Marcel Duchamp. Rusha’s influential photobooks from the 1960s and early 70s are here, as are Sherrie Levine’s appropriated Walker Evans silver prints, the magnificent upside down Welsh Oaks of Rodney Graham, a Bove bookshelf and a great Nauman video projection. Pencil portrait drawings by the still underrated Jim Nutt are a highlight. Duchamp’s iconic steel comb is, of course, a classic readymade with cryptic, pun-filled text on its edge. This is one of the more debated Duchamp works, but it is clear that sex was on his mind. The French word for comb, “peigne” is a homophone for “péne” (slang for penis). Dirty Duchamp never disappoints. Neither does this show.

Amy Feldman, “Dark Selects” at Blackston Gallery

Makes paintings that emit sculptural vibes. Then, with their perfectly placed drips and small spatters, teeter back to the painterly. I’m smitten with the artist’s fondness for blue/gray blacks, and the audacity of her finished works. They utilize the language of minimalism to call bullshit on that movement’s self-importance. Feldman’s titles—In & Out, All or Nothing, Owed, The Fact of A Door Frame (all works 2012)—give added import to these deceptively simple acrylic on canvas masterworks. Best viewed in a group such as this.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard at Peter Freeman

The late photographer is a legend to many contemporary photographers, known for his many influential photographic narrative books. The current exhibition at Peter Freeman presents black and white photographs from 1958 through the early 70s and includes images from the beloved “Family Album of Lucybelle Crater” series, in which rural adults and children calmly pose wearing rubber monster masks. Meatyard’s work is very much about revealing the nature of photography itself, and his masterful blurred forest scenes are as harrowing and memorable as any 10-minute cinematic scene.

Creative Growth at Rachel Uffner

The brilliant curator and director of NYC’s White Columns, Matthew Higgs, brought Creative Growth to my attention a few years back. Higgs has said it best when he simply stated that experiencing the talent of these mentally challenged adult artists was “the most profound artistic experience in my career.” The artists from Creative Growth work in any medium he or she chooses, from drawing to painting to sculpture. Donald Mitchell’s ink drawings of little men, once seen, cannot soon be forgotten. The text-based drawings by Dan Miller are made of spindly, stick-figure letters that come together to make a mesh of his current auditory input. The mixed media assemblage by the late Judith Scott steal the show as usual. Her perfectly misshapen bundles of tied strings and fabric invariable contain unknown objects that were stolen by the artist before entering their colorful cocoon for eternity.

MARXISM at 303 Gallery

This exhibition might seem to belong in the gimmicky category (to which I am no stranger having curated a show loosely based on The Wizard of Oz. One of the curators of MARXISM, Jens Hoffmann, had his own Wizard of Oz show a few years ago.) but it well worth a visit. There is much history, wit and cleverness here, and for those of you who know the Marx Brothers only from the YouTube clips of the elderly (and aptly named) curmudgeon Groucho Marx being self important on chat shows, the exhibition at 303 will surprise you. Alongside Marx Brothers posters, props, wigs and memorabilia such as a ring prize found in cereal boxes, artists such as Richard Prince, Rodney Graham, Tim Lee and Jack Goldstein have created works in video or canvas that celebrate the iconic siblings. The brothers own artistic interventions are highlights. As if to prove the point that Duchamp is inescapable, his mustachioed Mona Lisa is included, complete with her naughty inscription L.H.O.O.Q. (One of the most celebrated puns of 20th Century art, the letters, when spoken in French come together to proclaim, “She has a hot ass.” In English, the cheeky letters can be pronounced, “Look”) A worthy time capsule for a comedy style—and era—that has long since disappeared.

Rachel Whiteread

Painting in Space at Luhring Augustine

This exhibit was put together by Tom Eccles and Johanna Burton to benefit CCS Bard, and includes work some of the greats of a generation: Amy Sillman, Tony Oursler, Rachel Whiteread, Glen Ligon, Martin Creed and Nicola Tyson. It does a fine job of examining the three-way relationship between sculpture, gallery visitor and painting. Paintings here are sculptural and the sculptures are painterly. Creed’s wall painting of red crosshatches corrals the exhibition like a chain link fence, and it’s impossible to miss Mark Handforth’s giant blue aluminum hanger, which takes up most of the gallery with its crooked lines. Clever contributions from Rachel Harrison, Josh Smith, Carol Bove, Wade Guyton and Franz West are additional highlights.

Magdalena Abakanowicz at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza

Under the stewardship of Mayor Bloomberg, public art has thrived in New York. Abakanowicz is currently on display at Second Avenue and 47th Street with her 2009 sculptural work entitled Walking Figures. The larger-than-life sized, headless bronze being give the simultaneous impressions of a casual stroll and a military siege. Nearly every New Yorker when I’ve been nearby has glanced up with tacit admiration.

About the author

Doug McClemont is a writer, curator and critic and the New York correspondent for Saatchi Online's magazine. He has contributed essays to several monographs on contemporary art, and his writing appears in publications from ARTNews to Publisher’s Weekly. As the former editor-in-chief of the infamous magazine HONCHO, he has been the subject of profiles in Time Out New York and Frieze. You can now following Doug on twitter @duggworld

One Comment

  1. KWright says:

    Rineke D. is the best!


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