Doug McClemont’s Top 10 Shows in New York

Dana Schutz at Friedrich Petzel

Not very long ago, Schutz left her original gallery and requested that Petzel represent her, reportedly because the artist was a fan of the works of his female gallery artists such as Sarah Morris and Nicola Tyson. After a rare misstep in which she experimented with large black holes in the canvases, Schutz has created some of her most memorable works to date. Her inventive vocabulary of application and varied narratives that are often bleak (but resigned) comments on the human condition are rendered in the hues of a spectacular colorist. The current exhibition is entitled “Piano in the Rain” after one of the strangely melancholic paintings. A suite of smaller, appealing grotesques of characters yawning (which further distorts their faces in a Schutzian way) occupies the rear gallery. Not to be missed.

Richard Avedon at Gagosian

An argument could be made that Avedon was more commercial photographer than artist, but the evidence seems to support his artistic chops. He captured soon-to-be historic figures and self-important people on white seamless paper and managed to create a portrait time capsule. Gagosian has chosen to reprint several of Avedon’s group shots in truly massive, larger-than-billboard scale. War administrators and Vietnamese survivors make a stark impression. The most iconic images here are arguably those of Warhol’s Superstars: Joe D’Allessandro, Viva, Taylor Mead, Candy Darling, Bridget Berlin and studio assistant Gerard Malanga. Viewers get a poignant (and genital eye level) view of fame in the making. Don’t miss the famously harrowing shot of Andy’s stomach scarred after the shooting and several surgeries. Vitrines in the gallery’s corners hold gems such as Candy Darling’s original model release.

Gary Hume at Matthew Marks

Hume’s handsome, minimal creations are often as cryptic as they are visually striking. For this, his most overtly political exhibition to date, the painter has created portraits of Angela Merkel and Barack Obama that have been pared down to elements such as a mouth or blue sky. The large horizontal work in the show is certain to be considered a masterpiece in his gloss household paint oeuvre: its original inspiration was the image of American leaders watching the assassination of Bin Laden on video monitor. In Hume’s hands, the scene becomes a handsome (but slightly ominous) group of balloons floating across a grassy field. Hume is one of our most consistently fascinating living painters.

Helmut Lang at 24 Washington Square North

The universally respected designer, after abruptly halting his fashion career, is now creating memorably minimal sculpture. This unlikely Washington Square space is filled with Lang’s rubber and foam stacks and protrusions that seem to have sprung from somewhere beneath the floor of the gallery. Most are inescapably phallic and the exhibition is entirely comprised of forms that utilize black and white to increase their minimal impressions. Louise Bourgeois is certainly being channeled here. The humble materials being brought into a gallery setting becomes a handsome comment on aging and context. More info at:

Rachel Harrison at Greene Naftali

Ignore the sketches (and everything negative you might have heard about the artist herself) and go straight to Harrison’s sculptures. Take in the actual works for what they are: happily cynical forms that smirk and look like art. Her best pieces are the sculptural pieces that utilize her formula of entwining humor and hubris, while obliterating dusty distinctions between “high” and “low.” Brightly smeared cement, foam and wood constructions—with found objects from medicinal drops to garbage cans to Mr. Clean eraser pads tucked in—are guaranteed crowd pleasers, arguably in spite of themselves. Each standing monolith exudes an appealing mix of entitlement and insecurity.

Thomas Demand at Matthew Marks

Demand is the master of the model. His photographic recreations of real life remind us of stills from Hitchcock films for their cinematic precision and air of suspense. For the current exhibition the artist has continued his work with existential locations (always devoid of humans) created in cardboard then immortalized in C-prints on Plexiglas. An image of a control room in Japan after the tsunami forced the inhabitants to evacuate is included as well as a precise 3-D duplication of Whitney Houston’s last room service meal cart, right down to the saccharine packets. But the tour-de-force in the exhibition is a video work that is a recreation of a cruise ship during violently turbulent seas. Chairs and other furniture perform a frenetic ballet that is based on a YouTube video from the ship’s surveillance camera. At a gathering after the opening I mentioned to the artist that I had experienced a similar shaky ship. With characteristic deadpan wit, Demand replied, “I bet you didn’t see the beauty in it, did you?”

Kehinde Wiley at Sean Kelly

For the exhibition entitled “An Economy of Grace,” Kelly, who cannily softens the tough self-projections of male rappers, has chosen to present his first paintings of women. The photo-realistic subjects are depicted on his signature flowery backgrounds that seem to want to swallow up the sitters. The oil on canvas works depict memorable Nubian divas posing as if it was what they were born to do.

Taryn Simon at The Museum of Modern Art

One of the most important exhibitions of photography in recent memory. The talented Simon is presenting work that was produced over a four-year period of travel researching and documenting bloodlines of genocide victims in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India. Photographic evidence, portraits and text make up each powerful story. If you’re not moved by this exhibition, consider yourself impervious to the power of photography and empathy.

Xylor Jane at CANADA

Though this is certainly one of my favorite galleries in New York, I’ve always been a bit perplexed by my own fondness for the colorful, mathematical paintings of gallery artist Xylor Jane. I loathe numbers and avoid pattern and decoration, at least in art. But Jane’s work manages to cross over. They’re simultaneously retro and futuristic, and technique and concept are equal partners. The charm and cool comes from the fact that the paintings resemble embroideries and op art version of Chuck Close. Check out these paintings by the artist and let us know your opinion in the comments section.

Liam Gillick at Casey Kaplan

The exhibition takes its title, “SCORPION AND UND ET FELIX” from an early unpublished manuscript of a comedic novel by Karl Marx, Scorpion and Felix, in which three characters Merten, the tailor; Scorpion, his son; and Felix, his chief apprentice, engage in a satirical narrative that abstractly references irresolvable philosophical polemics. Gillick works are often sculptural and he straddles media such as graphic design and film. All exude a clean kind of post-minimal cool. A rich exhibition about space, boundaries and modernism.

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


  1. Pat Harris says:

    3:07 am, Morpheus and Blanco are clearly the class of Xylor Jane’s show at CANADA. Of course, Shutz, Hume and Demand always deliver. Thank you for bringing the Simon exhibit out into the open. Reminds me of “The Disappeared” at SITE Santa Fe several years ago. Are you coming out SITE’s biennial this summer? Pat H

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