Reviews

On Jason Dodge for Artforum

After some time away from critical writing to focus on my studies, I'm excited to get back into the swing of it. Read my review of Jason Dodge's exhibition at Casey Kaplan over at Artforum.com.

As is typical for Dodge, this exhibition is a curious collection of commonplace objects assembled towards poetic ends. The artist's engagement with poetry extends to his publishing company fivehundred places and the title of this exhibition, which was borrowed from the Franz Wright poem “Recurring Awakening.” That title – "hand in hand with the handless" – might as well be a mantra for the Readymade. But unlike Duchamp's supposedly indifferent Readymades, Dodge's are suggestive of meaning, which must be teased out by the careful observer. This initially elusive exhibition rewards such consideration.

Jason Dodge
hand in hand with the handless
Casey Kaplan
On view through July 27
artforum.com/picks

All images are installation views of Jason Dodge, "hand in hand with the handless," Casey Kaplan, New York, June 21 - July 27, 2018. Photos: Chris Murtha.

Recent Reviews for Artforum

I recently wrote two reviews for Artforum.com. The first, on Arlene Shechet’s second exhibition with Sikkema Jenkins & Co, was an absolute honor to write. Though primarily known for her ceramics, Shechet’s work has evolved from one material to another over the course of her career, and here she begins a new chapter with a series of hardwood sculptures.

The second piece reviews Polish artist Honza Zamojski's exhibition in the compact East Village gallery of OSMOS, aphotography journal. Zamojski, whose impressive multidisciplinary practice also includes writing, curating, and publishing, performs a series of subversive interventions with black-and-white photographs of magnet sculptures.

Arlene Shechet
Turn Up the Bass
Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
On view through November 12
www.artforum.com/picks/id=64323

Honza Zamojski
Ghostism
OSMOS Address
On view through December 4
www.artforum.com/picks/id=64478

Top and bottom: Installation views, Arlene Shechet, Turn Up the Bass, Sikkema Jenkins & Co.,
October 13 – November 12, 2016; Middle: Installation view, Honza Zamojski, Ghostism, OSMOS Address, October 14 – December 4, 2016. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

Two Reviews for Artforum

Alicja Kwade and Peter Linde Busk currently have a few things in common: both are Berlin-based artists enjoying their first solo exhibitions in New York City in galleries that just opened new locations. Mostly by coincidence, I recently reviewed both exhibitions for the Critics' Picks section on Artforum.com. Use the links below to read the reviews.
 

Alicja Kwade
I Rise Again, Changed but the Same
303 Gallery
Extended through July 14
www.artforum.com/picks/id=60284

Peter Linde Busk
Any Port in a Storm
Derek Eller Gallery
On view through June 19
www.artforum.com/picks/id=60400

Top and bottom: Installation views, Alicja Kwade, I Rise Again, Changed but the Same, 303 Gallery, NY; Middle: Installation view, Peter Linde Busk, Any Port in a Storm, Derek Eller Gallery, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s Otherworldly Treasures

In King of Lesser Lands, an eclectic but focused exhibition at Andrew Edlin Gallery, we are introduced to the world of self-taught artist Eugene Von Bruenchenhein by a long row of erotic pinup portraits of his wife. As intriguing as they are awkward, these photographs are almost generic compared to the visionary works that follow. Von Bruenchenhein proclaimed that he was of noble descent but also referred to himself as a visitor to this world, theorizing that there was a “First World” that Earth had splintered from during a cataclysmic event. In light of this, many of his works can be interpreted as documents and artifacts of this fantasized world.

Von Bruenchenhein’s vision is most fully realized in his paintings—Technicolor skyscrapers and otherworldly landscapes that evoke popular science fiction imagery and Charles Burchfield’s more mystical works. The imaginary vistas and aquatic microcosms depicted in paintings like To The Endless Span of Creation (1954) and Sea Fringe (n°882) (1960) radiate with frenetic energy. To achieve this effect, the artist worked quickly and spontaneously, using his fingers, combs, crumpled paper, and sticks to manipulate the paint—scraping, pushing, and fanning out the oils in vibrating, electric patterns.

Von Bruenchenhein’s sculptures are evocative of unearthed royal treasures: miniature thrones intricately constructed from painted chicken bones, leafy ceramic crowns and vessels, arrowheads fashioned from broken glass (not exhibited here), and large-scale concrete heads that lined his house like spiritual guardians. All of Von Bruenchenhein’s works were made entirely at his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—he even hand-dug the clay for his ceramics and fired them in his coal-burning oven—and they remained there during his lifetime.

Photographs taken of the artist’s home shortly after his death document the overwhelming accumulation of artwork and bric-a-brac. His ramshackle palace was an extension of his art and a kind of museum in its own right: the exterior was a patchwork of color, doors and walls were painted with scenic and abstract imagery, and placards with handwritten poems and theories hung throughout. His paintings and sculptures are presented here in stark contrast to the way that Von Bruenchenhein lived with them and, though that may be unavoidable, some of their power is lost. Nonetheless, we should be thankful to behold such curious and forceful treasures.

Top: Untitled, 1978, Oil on cardboard, 29 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches; Middle: To The Endless Span of Creation (detail), 1954, Oil on board, 24 x 24 inches; Bottom: Installation view, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, King of Lesser Lands, March 24 – May 8, 2016, Andrew Edlin Gallery, NY. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

The Shape of Light: Ellsworth Kelly’s Photography

For this exhibition, which is the first to focus solely on Ellsworth Kelly’s photographs, Matthew Marks Gallery compiled images that were taken over thirty years and printed shortly before the artist’s death this past December. Though Kelly did not use his photographs as direct sources for his paintings, they share a striking emphasis on geometric forms, from simple squares and triangles to skewed diamonds and rhomboids. These images are revelatory not only because we are unfamiliar with Kelly’s extraordinary work in this medium, but they also provide a context for and a contrast to his colorful abstract paintings.

Kelly spent the last forty-five years of his life in rural Upstate New York and the images in this show are a reminder that even though the hard-edged minimalism of his works can seem urban or industrial, he more frequently found inspiration in the pastoral. Two early photographs from 1950—one of curling tendril-like pine branches, the other of re-bar and concrete—call to mind his elegant contour drawings of plants and flowers. These images are outliers though; overwhelmingly, Kelly’s photographs are preoccupied with how mass and volume can be suggested by light and shadow.

Potato Barn, Southampton, 1968, Gelatin silver print, 8 1/2 x 13 inches; Above: Doorway, Belle-Île-en-Mer, 1977, Gelatin silver print, 12 7/8 x 8 1/2 inches. (Photos: Chris Murtha)

Kelly was especially attracted to the simple architecture of barns and the shadows cast by their gabled roofs and large doorways. In Barns, Long Island (1968), one barn abuts another perpendicularly, creating an intricate stacking of linear structures, but the eye is drawn to the starkly white fragment of sky created by the roof’s peak. Often, these negative spaces and shadow forms act as referents for Kelly’s canvases, as in Movie Screen, Waterbury (1982), in which a drive-in screen creates a diamond-shaped white void against the backdrop of dense foliage, or the jewel-like shadow in Doorway Shadow, Spencertown (1977).

With these black-and-white photographs, Kelly—an artist so famous for his use of color—was able to visually compress and distill the three-dimensional world into a flattened space, emphasizing the forms he spent his career examining. When taken collectively—especially as viewed on the gallery’s website (as seen below)—the photographs read as an index of Kelly’s visual vocabulary. Perhaps more importantly, they provide a context for his abstractions, one that is based squarely in his lived experiences.

Screen capture showing thumbnails of Ellsworth Kelly's photographs on Matthew Marks Gallery’s website, www.matthewmarks.com.