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.”
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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.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Making deeper sense of some abstract art past its initial visual impact can require extended consideration. Not so much Chakaia Booker’s sculpture, now on view in her solo show “Public Opinion” at David Nolan Gallery. Composed predominantly of exactingly configured pieces of black rubber tires along with wood and metal, the work immediately grips you like a confident advocate, calm and insistent. In Minimum Wage, a shovel entwined in flowing ribbons of rubber appears to struggle to do what it is supposed to do.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Fifteen years ago, Jason Andrew was one of relatively few adventurous impresarios and gallerists who together established Bushwick as a New York art community and destination. For nearly five years, his project space Norte Maar was a steady source of the neighborhood’s sublime, funky buzz of possibility for aspiring, often young, artists. Andrew and Norte Maar have moved on, but he has not forgotten Bushwick. After a ten-year absence, he has returned to curate the relentlessly energetic and eclectic group show “Causality” at M. David & Co.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Getting an authoritative grip on a conceptual artist as elusive and unsusceptible to classification as David Hammons is no mean feat. He has been a willful outsider, defensively attuned to an art world that has, until recently, systematically excluded Blacks and others of color, and remains determined to disrupt and, in some ways, to frustrate the art establishment as he cajoles it into changing. Yet in their deft and moving documentary The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art and Times of David Hammons, which had its American theatrical debut at the Film Forum on May 5, Harold Crooks and Judd Tully essay Hammons’ iconoclastic critique with admirable clarity and due appreciation, plumbing the art, finding the man, and situating him firmly in art history without ever succumbing to hagiography or expository dullness.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Kelly Reichardt excels like no other filmmaker at conveying the subtle ravages of time on earth. She brilliantly tackled the epic theme of America’s western expansion in the revisionist westerns Meek’s Cutoff and First Cow and eco-terrorism in Night Moves. But it is the day-to-day yield and subtext of history and politics that most concern her: a young housewife facing down ennui in River of Grass; a friendship deteriorating with age in Old Joy; a young woman seeking a better life unprepared in Wendy and Lucy; women extracting meaning from desolation in the post-feminist Certain Women. For Reichardt, even subdued lives are fully lived and merit sympathetic attention. They include, she insists in Showing Up, the quietly precarious existences of artists. Wise, nuanced, and penetrating, the film is also stealthily hilarious.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / “Time Will Tell,” Don Porcaro’s boffo solo sculpture exhibition at Westwood Gallery, is at once aesthetically rigorous and culturally resonant, and neither quality ever compromises the other.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Last weekend in Brooklyn, for the tenth time, Norte Maar presented its unique and superlative CounterPointe dance-and-art performances. Each included seven dances, each of them a collaboration between a female choreographer and a female visual artist. Interpreting the programs is doubly subjective given that two main variables – dance and visual art – come into play.