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.
Tag: Jonathan Stevenson
David Humphrey: Art is an ass
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / As “Ass Backwards,” the title of David Humphrey’s new show of paintings at Fredericks & Freiser, suggests, they are less in-your-face than much of his recent work. But they remain as busy, visually precise, and narratively provocative as ever, suggesting that it is not Humphrey’s approach to painting but rather his apprehension of the world and his place in it that have changed.
Art and Film: The 2022 notables
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / This is a little late, but just in time for the Oscars. Filmmaking in the time of Covid is looking healthy, so no epochal disquisition is needed – just the usual caveat that these picks are inevitably subjective and, in some cases, perhaps eccentric.
Jeff Gabel: Subtext rules this fucker
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / There’s a Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, annoyed by the knowing ellipticality of a New Yorker cartoon caption, marches into the august magazine’s offices and confronts the editor – portrayed to preppy-geek perfection by the late Edward Herrmann – about its meaning. After offering several generic, pretentious, and abjectly unconvincing interpretations, he admits that he has no idea what the hell the caption is supposed to mean. Jeff Gabel – whose elaborately narrated drawings and paintings, a few site-specific, are presently on display in a solo at Spencer Brownstone Gallery on the Lower East Side and a group show at Jennifer Baahng Gallery on the Upper East Side – runs no such risk, abjuring obscure glibness for mordantly wise, sourly penetrating bloviation.
Heidi Hahn’s bold challenge to figuration
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / On one level, in “Flex, Rot, and Sp(l)it,” a penetrating and conceptually cohesive show of paintings at Nathalie Karg Gallery, Heidi Hahn visually chronicles the tension between the unavoidable confinement of the body and the irrepressible expansiveness of the mind. While the so-called mind-body problem is as old as philosophy itself, to Western audiences it is perhaps most resonant in René Descartes’ exercise of systematic doubt, concluding with “I think therefore I am.” In terms of value, this ingrained formulation privileges the mind over the body. While philosophers are left to connect mental processes with gray matter, for painters and others it can be discomfiting to realize that although thinking is supposed to be the essence of being, a person’s mind is often prejudged on the basis of their body’s characteristics.
When Irish eyes aren’t smiling
Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin is darkly comic — invariably mordant and occasionally hilarious. But the situational modesty and outward sardonicism are subterfuge. This is a stealthily grand film with weighty political and existential themes, framing McDonagh as contemporary cinema’s wisest bad-ass.
Mary Shah’s pulsing abstract narratives
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / “Dream Opera,” Mary Shah’s solo show at Rick Wester Fine Art in Chelsea, presents suavely dense abstract narratives that still unfailingly meet the visual priority of beauty. While the notion of an abstract narrative may seem paradoxical by its terms, if representation and abstraction are part of a continuum and not a stark dichotomy, the paradox isn’t too daunting to resolve. Abstract Expressionism, spiritual abstraction, and lyrical abstraction have long certified emotional and spiritual content in abstract painting, and opened the door to narrative as well. Shah confidently marches through it, and in fine style.
Claude Viallat, Supports/Surfaces, and life during wartime
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / In enlisting the stretcher itself and other materials not customarily used in art as part of a painting’s aesthetic content in addition to the traditional media on the canvas, the avant-garde Supports/Surfaces movement echoed the popular ferment in 1960s and 1970s France that challenged the […]
Tom Bills’ ground truth
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Tom Bills, for decades primarily a large-scale sculptor, has recently translated that vocation into riveting compact-yet-monumental wall-mounted pieces now on display at 57W57 Arts in midtown Manhattan. Rectangles of modest size, their highly wrought finishes and elliptical narratives invest them with an improbably kinetic presence and stern gravitas that leave the viewer both sobered and assured.
Undercurrent: Hibernation and emergence
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / While a degree of pandemic fatigue is understandable, there’s no denying that lockdown was an extraordinary fact of daily life whose ripple effects have far from dissipated. And insofar as it left artists with more time to think and work, it has yielded an abundance of resonant art. Jillian McDonald’s and Kate Teale’s drawings, now on view at Undercurrent Gallery in Dumbo, are sterling examples.