In spite of an overwhelming profusion of monumental abstraction this gallery season by the expected array of STARtists (Richard Serra, Michael Heizer, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, and Christopher Wool), a number of shows offer stubborn resistance to predictability. Ironically, two stalwart anti-establishment artists are both showing at one of the most prestigious galleries in the art market today.
Ida Applebroog, Hauser & Wirth New York, 18th Street, thru July 31st
Throughout her lifetime, Ida Applebroog’s central corpus has emanated from and circulated around the double-edged blade of abuse and desire. Her current exhibition — The Ethics of Desire — suggests that philosophy needs to position itself more fully within the most intimate relations we offer and impose on one another. While Michel Foucault, in the 1970s and 80s, wrote a history of human sexuality, Plato, centuries ago, distinguished reason from desire in his principle of opposition (see The Republic, 436b – 437a). Applebroog’s figures nakedly strut, promenade, goose-step, and stand in defiant opposition to the wounds they bear. Yet they remain silent as apostles and martyrs, the narrative component of the exhibition compressed like a genie into the video monitor screening her 1978 shadow puppet play that condenses and displaces loyalties and betrayals through the dream-like associations of story-telling. Lining the hallway and scattered throughout the installation are steel folding chairs emblazoned with the artist’s cartoon-like line drawings of figures (both human and animal). Like Nancy Spero’s repertoire of heroines, they imply the gesture of dance just as their smudged magic-marker presence denies the possibility of sitting down. We are to take our place standing in this panoply of would-be philosophers, cognizant of the ethics at play.
Leon Golub, Hauser & Wirth New York, 69th Street, thru June 20th
Ida Applebroog is of a similar uncompromising stature as her late colleagues Nancy Spero and Leon Golub. They are artists’ artists — known and respected — though for decades their works were infrequently exhibited, published, or collected. According to norm, Applebroog’s figures of desire would be displayed in Hauser & Wirth’s townhouse on 69th Street while Golub’s monumental dying Gauls would fill the arena of the Chelsea gallery. But Hauser & Wirth is more interested in what makes art than what makes sense: the incongruity of Golub’s raw canvases (cut, torn, and hung without stretchers) to the dignified townhouse setting echoes the seething conflict that is both subject and manner of his work. Golub’s brutal imagery is even more trenchant today in a increasingly militarized society whose machismo touts gun rights over human rights than they were when he first responded in activism and paint to the Vietnam War and the dictatorships in Latin America half a century ago. Whether from the 1960s and 70s or 2002, the impression is wrenching and emphatic.
Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Callicoon Fine Arts, closing May 31st
Rokni Haerizadeh’s work has been seen most recently in the 2013 Carnegie International and the New Museum’s Here and Elsewhere 2014 exhibition of art from the Middle East. In I won’t wait for grey hairs and worldly cares to soften my views, he joins with his brother Ramin and fellow artist Hesam Rahmanian – all three of whom left Iran for Dubai – to perform a riotous installation that joins a Hannah Hoch-like fervor with the irony of Andy Warhol and the excess of Jason Rhoades. No surface is left untouched, no corner disregarded and yet its fluidity defies claustrophobic angst. Their collective action goes beyond a surrealist “juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities” (Pierre Reverdy, 1918) – Ramin’s painting, Rokni’s collage assemblages, and Hesam Rahmanian’s performance work mixed in a blender yield a fun-house assembly of satirical barbs that are perplexingly hard to unpack. It’s not about singling out the cat-scratcher cum Mr. Potato-head, the mannequin-leg fountain, or the surround-sound-visual pathway of geometric abstraction but to dive into the fathomless depths of political alienation and cultural exile. There is freedom in their kitchen sink!
Jaime Davidovich, Bronx Museum, thru June 14th
Humor and satire has been essential to Jaime Davidovich’s exile from Argentina since 1963. Faced with the prominence of the Abstract Expressionists in New York and the emerging minimalist movement, he sidetracked competition by working outside the usual artistic venues, experimenting with video and making his art in alleyways and the busy urban street. From monochrome painting, he moved off the canvas to cover surfaces with tape and then found the nominal similarity between tape (i.e., packaging) and tape (i.e., video) to suit his own sense of irony and institutional critique. This comprehensive retrospective in the Bronx reveals the range of his practice since the 1970s including public access television, saleable objects that poke fun at the market they attract, experimental video, and the use of tape as a painterly surface to redefine the perception of space and tactility. In his own words from 1971:
My work is more like an extraction than abstraction. I use non-representational elements to extract the quality of the surfaces I cover. I am interested in re-covering surfaces that were dormant or wasted.
This recuperation is perhaps also an entrance: though his walls are not passageways, they open a view beyond the visual to a sensual recognition of being present. Abstraction at its best!
Leidy Churchman, Murray Guy, thru June 6th
Rivane Neuenschwander, Tanya Bonakdar, thru June 20th
Daisy Youngblood, McKee Gallery, closing May 30th
Wolgang Tillmans, Metropolitan Museum of Art, thru July 5th
Piotr Uklanski: Selects from the Met Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, thru June 14