Reviews

On Lutz Bacher for Artforum

I reviewed Lutz Bacher's The Long March—an exhibition that examines cult of personality via Mao Zedong—at New York University's 80 Washington Square East Gallery. The following is a selection of my digitally “scribbled” notes from Open the Kimono, a slide show of Bacher's hand-written jottings, “lessons” culled from mass media presented in a nearby lecture hall. Read my review for Artforum at the link below.

Weaponizing the media

Your focus needs more focus

One cannot speak truth to power if power has no use for truth

Perhaps she’s tired of being Queen

Results may vary

Nobody needs to die tonight

How far is this from normal?

Human resource exploitation manual

I feel motivated

You’ll find you have the power to move the very earth itself

We have a human problem in addition
to a technology problem

Tornado of impulses

This was still America
 

Lutz Bacher
The Long March
80 Washington Square East Gallery
On view through September 8
artforum.com/picks/lutz-bacher-76082

All images: Lutz Bacher, The Long March, 2017, series of framed cards, paint on walls; installed at 80 Washington Square East Gallery, NY, June 21 – September 8, 2018. Photos: Chris Murtha.

For those interested in seeing more of Bacher's work, her FIRE (2016) is currently on view through August 19 in Readymades Belong to Everyone, the inaugural exhibition in Swiss Institute's new location. Additionally, the basement gallery is painted in a similar manner as the walls at 80WSE: various shades of gray in one light coat—an untitled work credited to Dusty Baker, likely another alias for an artist who already operates under a nom de plum.

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)