Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / In an adventurous departure from drawing and collage, Steve Greene now offers intriguingly acerbic abstract paintings in his solo show “News From Nowhere,” on view at Frosch & Co. They are rich with sharply drawn shapes and robustly differentiated visual content, yet they require little deliberation to be appreciated. They penetrate immediately. This quality stems from the thematic cohesiveness produced by trenchant cultural and art-historical tropes distributed among the paintings. Judging by the fluidity of his marks and line, Greene generates these allusions intuitively, with minimal contrivance.
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Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The set-up of Vasilis Katsoupis’ slickly but somewhat facilely resonant feature debut Inside is deceptively simple. A high-end art thief is helicoptered onto the roof of a luxury Manhattan high-rise and, with the aid of a techie accomplice, hacks into the security system of an absurdly opulent penthouse, owned by a high-end art collector who is evidently away for a season or two. The thief is targeting several of Egon Schiele’s signature vampy drawings and a singularly valuable self-portrait.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / It’s tempting to lament the demise of the takedown review. The form invites both schadenfreude and outrage, which are energizing. In the literary world, it had been fading for some time until B.R. Myers and Dale Peck revived it in the naughts. They enjoyed an extended moment of visceral celebrity, but it seemed to burn out relatively quickly on a pyre of stern earnestness. Literary Hub does publish a list of the year’s “most scathing book reviews,” but the targeted screeds – self-promoting Beltway memoirs, vanity projects by anointed novelists, didactic polemics masquerading as fiction – tend to be overripe, low-hanging fruit that would be exempt from even the most charitable standard of forbearance. The general rule of civility is still that the compulsion to shape opinion is best served by measured reason rather than reactive assault.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Elisa Soliven sees her dignified ceramic sculptures, now on display in a faultlessly curated solo show at LABspace in Hillsdale, as vessels containing the rich stuff of life – space, time, cultural tropes, history both grand and personal. Too eclectic and searching to be merely iconic, they are brimming with both old and new referents, and bear their weight with extraordinary grace.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The group exhibition “Resounding, Variegated, Leaves” brought together three quite divergent artists – Fabienne Lasserre, Annie Prendergast, and Lily Ramírez – who share a penchant for audacious color choices that serves to unify their work. The show yielded an intellectually satisfying and harmonious experience as well as an aesthetically edifying one. That’s a credit not only to the artists but also to the insightful curators at Mrs. Strategically postured in New York but at a tactical remove in the gritty neighborhood of Maspeth, Queens, the gallery appears to have forged a crisply nuanced niche, gently tilting towards female artists, abstraction, and vivid color.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / “You Don’t Have to Tell Me Twice,” Mark Bradford’s galvanizing tour de force at Hauser & Wirth, was a three-story exhibition of arresting coherence. His muscular paintings grab you by the lapels, pull you in, and visually immerse you to a point of satisfying comprehension.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / In 2000, The Onion published a durably wise wise-ass book called Our Dumb Century, chronicling with heavy satirical spin the endless follies of the twentieth one. Maybe a sense of relief lifted the editors. They could be forgiven for surmising, mistakenly, that centuries couldn’t get any stupider. That was the year before 9/11, when the world looked improbably rosy. It remains a moment that many look back on with special fondness. But there is dumb nostalgia and there is smart nostalgia. In “1999 NYC Tees,” a bracing four-day exhibition at Fierman on the Lower East Side, painter Nora Griffin zones in on this period and shows that the smart kind lives on the border “between kitsch and pathos.”
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Robert Bordo’s gently enveloping solo exhibition “Paint World,” now on view at Bortolami, is comprehensively seductive and sly, staking a claim to the attention of both the dreamer and the realist. Ultimately, he favors the latter. His subject is this rock we all live on. In depicting it impressionistically, from lunar vantage with small, nuanced brushstrokes, he achieves a paradoxically clued-up serenity of pastoral detachment and soft focus – not unlike that of, say, Monet’s waterlilies or, more abstractly, Günther Förg’s patches and crosshatches. But in literally facing the world, as it were, he also directly confronts its profound challenges and emphatically declines to turn his back on them. Thematically, then, this series escalates the existential worry of his earlier “Windshield” and “Crack-up” paintings – presumably planted in part by Guston, with whom Bordo studied – to global scale.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Ben Godward is a grounded artist, dedicated for fifteen years to rendering zestful sculptures out of his Bushwick studio by way of poured resins that pop with bright color and radiate social and political awareness.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Nancy Powhida, age 80, has just had her first solo exhibition in New York, curated by Kristen Jensen at Essex Flowers. Titled a deceptively straightforward “Oh Dear! Our Life was Like a Horror Show! (No Wonder You Had to Learn to be Resourceful),” the show comprised six graphite drawings and one oil painting, each piece an unnervingly moving revelation.