Off the Wall


Who says there are no second acts? In the art world, second acts are often best. Philip Guston pulled the old switcheroo on abstract expressionism, abandoning his rosy haze for a fiercely comic imagery of grizzled stumblebums. Cy Twombly morphed from 10th generation ab ex to primal scribble. Richard Serra went from being a real heavy, as they used to say, to brute tonnage, and then all of a sudden he came up with some of the most sublimely monumental sculpture of the new millennium. Julian Schnabel transformed himself from painterly has-been to brilliant moviemaker.

It’s near impossible to predict who’s going to astound us with a turnaround, much less how, when, and where. But among the shows scheduled for this spring are a few likely contenders. One is Adam Cvijanovic, who has been rolling with the punches ever since the latest crop of MFAs were toddlers. “He is so cool. He’s the John Travolta of the art world. His reinvention of himself is awesome,” says Becky Smith, proprietor of Bellwether, whose walls will host two of his hand-painted wallpaper murals in May. One, she says, will be basically “high noon at Daytona Beach on spring break.” The other is a middle-of-the-night, middle-of-the-sea, middle-of-a-storm number. Together, they could put a 21st-century spin on the antiquated notion of the nautical sublime.

According to Smith, Cvijanovic didn’t go to art school; he just blasted out of Boston doing young-man expressionism. Then he went through a psycho-narrative phase. His first New York show, at the old Bess Cutler Gallery on Mercer Street in 1985, when the East Village was the really happening place to be, featured an enormous streetscape of the Lower East Side. His last in 1994, before he stopped painting for a couple of years, was a weirdly memorable installation at the now defunct Richard Anderson Gallery, which included two large retro-style paintings. One starred Chuck Close as Vermeer in Las Meninas. The other, a portrait of some sweatshop workers who were his loft neighbors, was based on Rembrandt’s old-master portrait of the cloth worker’s guild. As painting, it was pretty conventional. As conceptual gesture, it was brilliantly perverse.

“Looking at the last John Currin show,” Cvijanovic—whose work one might not think of in the same breath as Currin—says, “I felt he went from Pop farther and farther back into the depths of European painting. I remember feeling a great sympathy for that work. It was a trajectory I understood.” By the time Cvijanovic began to work seriously with the obsolete idea of decorative landscape murals, he’d done a stint as a commercial mural artist, creating landscape scenes in lobbies and dining rooms. “After the end of the ’80s and the collapse of the art market, I wasn’t at a plateau like Fischl or Salle who were going to ride it out. I did a lot of commercial murals and some were really horrible and they’re on walls all over the place. I started thinking there’s something really, really good here but it’s been handed over to schlockdom.”

“This is definitely the second go-round for me,” he says. His enormous wallpaper mural, Monument Valley, suddenly appeared out of the blue in 1999—with sun-bleached, bone-dry colors, sly interchangeable mix-and-match panels, and throwaway details (like John Ford and crew in the distance, filming a western). He had discovered Tyvek, the same unrippable stuff that FedEx envelopes are made of. “You can take it down and it can change shape and size and be reinstalled in different ways. I’m fond of thinking of them as mobile frescoes.” The mural was a complete anomaly, blurring boundaries between site-specific installation, interior decoration, painting (supposedly dead) with delusions of grandeur, and nomadic, parasitic, up-to-the-minute cinematic mirage. Fusing vulgar materialization with elegant concept, it was impeccable, and it looked like nothing else around. That should have been his comeback show. But the walls it wrapped around, in the Richard Anderson Gallery, which had by then moved to Chelsea, were four steep flights up. Not a lot of people saw it.

A year or so ago he showed at Bellwether a super-calm, ice-cold mural of a massive glacier. It was titled Disko Bay, not in homage to Travolta but because that’s the name of the place in Greenland where all the North Atlantic icebergs (including the one that sank the Titanic) calve. The Dionysian beach frieze that will wrap around one room in his upcoming show will be, he estimates, about 50 or 60 feet long. “The high point will be a beer tent and a wet T-shirt contest.” And the roiling seascape in the other room, a dark Antarctic vision that’s the diametric opposite of Disko Bay, will run maybe 70 feet around the walls. He’s thinking of titling it The Screaming Sixties, but this has nothing to do with the decade. The ocean, it seems, gets more and more turbulent as you get closer to the South Pole, and seafarers refer to the sea that wraps around Antarctica by the latitude, as they pass through the Roaring ’40s and the Furious ’50s to the fearsome Screaming ’60s at the extreme end of the earth. It’s an appropriate subject for an extreme painter on a roll.

Adam Cvijanovic’s work will be on display March 7-10, “The Armory Show,” Navy Piers 88 and 90, between 48th and 50th streets, and in May at Bellwether, 335 Grand Street, Brooklyn, 718-387-3701.


Reviews by Kim Levin:


March 7-April 19

Sara Meltzer, 516 West 20th Street, 212-727-9330

With an installation of three video pieces in the front space and photographs in the back, the duo known as Type A show the results of their latest series of performative works, in which the two of them use their bodies in smart, funny, and unpredictable art-related ways. This time it’s about earthworks, as well as opposing territories, shared space, and competition.


March 8-May 3

Exit Art, 475 Tenth Avenue, 212-966-7745

Exit Art leaps into a new ring this season: an unrenovated 17,000-square-foot space that stretches the upper edge of the Chelsea scene into Hell’s Kitchen and takes Process Art to a new extreme. There will be nothing at the opening except for the artists and their ideas for site-specific works that will evolve from concept to completion over the course of eight weeks. The theme? Reconstruction and renewal, of course.


March 22-May 3

Kent, 67 Prince Street, 212-966-4500

One way or another, her work has long been about particles in collision, the release of energy, and solids that melt into air. Maybe this time she’ll wow us with her installation of suspended water, titled Precipitation. It certainly sounds intriguing.


March 22-May 3

Henry Urbach Architecture, 526 West 26th Street, 212-627-0974

“This is his comeback show,” says the gallery rep about Mantello, whose last solo show of gaudy accumulations of mass-culture Americana took place in 1996. For the past few years he’s been working on Box Rap, a composition of candy boxes, toys, pennants, photographs, packing materials, and other tacky consumer stuff.


March 29-April 26

Feature Inc., 530 West 25th Street, 212-675-7772

A master manipulator who makes wondrous things out of the most unlikely materials (a single aspirin, a bit of dust, a stack of sugar cubes, a few sheets of colored construction paper) takes over the entire gallery space in this show of his latest crafty work.


April 11-June 8

Sculpture Center, 44-19 Purves Street, Queens, 718-361-1750

Curated by Aneta Szylak, former director of the Bathhouse in Gdansk, this exhibition should be a major eye-opener. Ever since the ’60s, Polish women artists have been chiefly responsible for the most risky, extreme, and advanced art strategies and objects. Some, like Zofia Kulik and Katarzyna Zkozyra, are known internationally.


April 18-May 19

Pierogi 2000, 177 North 9th Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-2144

These early “Drawing Studies,” dating from ’94 to ’98—when Lombardi began to connect the transnational corporate, military, and political conspiratorial dots—are rougher than his later cat’s-cradle networks of nefarious revelations, but Pierogi’s Joe Amhreim says they’re amazing. With a large traveling show of his work coming down the pike, it’s his moment. Too bad he’s no longer here to see it.


April 19-May 18

Participant Inc., 95 Rivington Street, 917-488-0185

Kim Gordon, yes, the Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, shows a site-specific installation and sculptural paintings with a supposedly overarching but as yet undisclosed theme. If you’re thinking supersonic Sunday painter, forget it. She survived art school and worked with Stan Graham before acquiring celebrity in the music world.


April 22-August 3

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street, 212-849-8420

The second version of this 21st-century triennial offers a grab bag of bright and not-so-bright ideas by 80 product, graphic, lighting, and fashion designers and firms. What it lacks in cohesion it could make up for in the sheer variety of more than 300 objects, models, photographs, films, and renderings.


April 26-May 24

Lehmann Maupin, 540 West 26th Street, 212-255-2923

LaVerdiere, whose role in conceiving the twin towers of light transcended aesthetics and brought him wide recognition, shows three large sculptural works. Among them Imperial Dragster: Napoleon Rebuilt, a half-scale replica of Napoleon’s tomb on drag tires, and a piece based on the Penn Station eagle could be equally timely meditations on imperial glory and mortality.


April 26-May24

Friedrich Petzel, 535 West 22nd Street, 680-9467

One of the most interesting of the new French social conceptualists, who was involved in the Annlee project (in which several artists gave life to an alien manga cutie, without a narrative to call her own) now has a show titled “Alien Seasons.”


April 26-May 31

Tanya Bonakdar, 521 West 21st Street, 212-414-4144

The Icelandic-born art star shows a revealing workshop-like installation of models, maquettes, and other sketchy sculptural visions of past, present, and future projects. More like an introspective than a retrospective, it’s guaranteed to provide insight into where his various projects are coming from and how his mind and eyes work.


April 26-May 24

Postmasters, 459 West 19th Street, 212-727-3323

Some years ago she made love to a motorcycle at the old Gramercy art fair. A few weeks ago at P.S.122, her performance work called “Stable (Stupidity Project Part 10)” involved, among other things, three rottweilers in western outfits. It’s anyone’s guess what’s in store for this show.


May 2-June 6

Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, 212-206-7100

Oursler, whose rag-doll and poltergeist projections have long since gone over the top into the realm of psycho-dramatic hysteria and apparition, shows his latest object and image phantasms. These new works involve isolated facial features exaggerated by computer and projected onto plaster sculptures. He calls them “Caricatures.”


May 3-June 7

D’Amelio Terras, 525 West 22nd Street, 212-352-9460

It’s been six years since we last saw this British artist’s viscerally conceptual, cerebrally deconstructed work in New York. But her charred and atomized Southern church, suspended in thin air at Deitch Projects, burned itself into our retinas. There’s no telling what she’ll do this time, but we can hope for a major new installation piece.


May 8-June 14

McKee, 745 Fifth Avenue, 212-688-5951

Some of us are still nostalgic for her black rubber tangles of electrical circuitry. But she’s now into sweat, tears, and states of emotional distress, so this show includes a multi-part representation of a scream—traveling from a tongue through pipes, valves, and speakers to cartoon speech balloons—as well as lachrymose drips and puddles, and three-inch-tall figures.


May 15-October 19

Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-638-5000

With some 100 lurid (and politically incorrect) paintings created for the covers of pulp fiction magazines in the 1930s and ’40s, paired here with the printed versions, this exhibition is for those who take perverse pleasure in potboilers, as well as connoisseurs of obsolete sexual and racial stereotypes.


May 17-June 21

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, 436 West 15th Street, 212-627-5258

Together these two artists bought a big old Victorian house in the Catskills, painted it black, and spent a year making it spooky. Pruitt says The Black House Project is “a big sculpture you can live in.” Horowitz adds that it’s also about “decorating as a historically gay form of expression.” They just might turn the gallery into a real estate office, offering it for rent as an art object.


May 25-July 13

Wave Hill, 675 West 252nd Street, Bronx, 718-549-3200

Thanks to cult filmmaker and art guru Hiroshi Teshigahara, Ikebana has grafted itself onto installation art. Now six Japanese artists, who’ve come a long way from traditional flower arrangement, create large environmental works in the galleries and on the grounds, using rice, veggies, carnation petals, bamboo, and other stuff.


Reviews by Vince Aletti:


March 6-April 26

Roth Horowitz, 160A East 70th Street, 212-717-9067

Japan’s most prolific living photographer shows work from a project he created in 1971 and ’72, when he exposed 99 rolls of film and arranged the results in four big books. Forty-eight images from those volumes—nudes and cityscapes whose emulsion Araki deliberately eroded in his processing—will be on display here along with the original books.

Mask appeal: Wendy Ewald’s A Boy Dressed Like a Girl (Mexico, 1991)

(photo: Wendy Ewald/Courtesy the Queens Museum of Art)


March 16-June 8

Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, 718-592-9700

“Collaborative Works With Children, 1969-1999,” a retrospective that includes projects in Mexico, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, and Appalachia by an artist who shows her work alongside the self-portraits and often dream-like experimentation of the children whose latent creativity she brings to life.


March 20-May 17

Bruce Silverstein Gallery, 504 West 22nd Street, 212-627-3930

Cohen, whose radically invasive and fragmentary images of ’70s urban street life look even better now than they did nearly 30 years ago, shows new black-and-white work that demonstrate his pointed vision hasn’t blunted a bit.


March 20-April 19

Paula Cooper Gallery, 534 West 24th Street, 212-255-1105

Color images of rural landscapes, buildings, and trees, along with more urban pictures of bubble gum on sidewalks, a group of gravures, and, possibly, a sculpture involving found suitcases.


March 21-April 12

Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street, 212-645-1701

This Israeli photographer’s New York gallery debut includes a group of his artfully staged color photos involving both soldiers and civilians in ambiguous narratives that are as much about homoeroticism as life during wartime.


March 21-May 3

Gallery 292, 120 Wooster Street, 212-431-0292

To complement and update Howard Greenberg’s concurrent exhibition, “Art Photography in Japan, 1920-1940,” this excellent vest-pocket space shows some of the jazzy, soulful images Klein made for his 1964 book on Tokyo.


March 27-May 3

Ricco/Maresca Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 212-627-4819

The Korean photographer shows ocean views and white-on-white studies of pine needles in the snow—elements of a new body of work he calls, in homage to Fox Talbot, “The Pencil of Nature.”


March 29-May 3

Sonnabend Gallery, 536 West 22nd Street, 212-627-1018

A survey of little-known photo work made in the late ’60s by this influential conceptualist, including abstract images of gridded and painted surfaces, fresh from an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art.


April 5-May 3

Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street, 212-741-1111

Lutter, whose massive camera obscura pieces were in the last Whitney Biennial, shows several of her ghostly two- and three-panel images made in the Frankfurt airport, a Pepsi-Cola factory, and the empty Nabisco plant in Beacon, New York, before it was redesigned as galleries for the Dia Foundation.


April 11-May 10

Andrea Rosen Gallery, 525 West 24th Street, 212-627-6000

A photographer whose work has featured marauding aliens and mutant nerds shows 11 mural-sized color images from an unsettling new series he calls “And Jeopardize the Integrity of the Hull.”


April 15-July 19

Grey Art Gallery, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, 212-998-6780

A survey organized by the Fotomuseum Winterthur’s Urs Stahel that includes the internationally recognized Ugo Rondinone and Annelies Strba along with seven other artists who are having their first major American exposure here.


April 24-June 29

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, 718-784-2084

Simon, whose fashion and editorial photos have been memorable, brings her heightened documentary style to a project called “The Innocents”: portraits of American men and women who were imprisoned (and later exonerated) for violent crimes they didn’t commit. Taken at the scene of their alleged crime, the site at which they were misidentified, or some other place crucial to her subject’s story, Simon’s photos question reality at the same time they attempt to pin it down.


April 26-June 7

Paul Morris Gallery, 465 West 23rd Street, 212-727-2752

The work this retired Swiss police photographer made from the ’50s to the ’80s—primarily deadpan (and largely bloodless) black-and-white documentation of traffic accidents—was shown at the last Venice Biennale, and its rediscovery continues here. Odermatt’s first New York gallery show includes those car crashes and staged color work of his colleagues miming routine police procedures.


May 1-June 28

Laurence Miller Gallery, 20 West 57th Street, 212-397-3930

The French photographer who made his reputation with huge, ravishing color images of construction sites moves on to the natural landscape, but with a similar attention to the erosion of the traditionally picturesque by urban and suburban sprawl.


May 1-June 14

Pace/MacGill Gallery, 32 East 57th Street, 212-759-7999

Perhaps the most accomplished and artful contemporary architectural photographer, Polidori shows previously unpublished images of Shanghai, Alexandria, and the interior of Chernobyl’s abandoned Reactor 4.


May 8-June 14

Roth Horowitz, 160A East 70th Street, 212-717-9067

“Commercial/Residential,” 40 vintage photos by one of the leading lights of what might be seen as New Objectivity, American style. This portfolio, which the gallery is issuing in book form, includes work made from 1968 to ’72 during the preparation of Adams’s book of social landscape work, The New West, but not published or exhibited until now.


May 8-June 14

Ricco/Maresca Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, 212-627-4819

Slota, whose scratched and cut-up images have always had an aggressive edge, shows a series inspired by fables and fairy tales, the darker and stranger the better.


May 14-June 28

Robert Miller Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, 212-366-4774

In its first local gallery show since the 2000 New Museum retro, this Paris-based collaborative team, whose one-of-a-kind images involve as much painting and retouching as actual photography, shows a broadly retrospective range of previously unexhibited early work along with new images. Expect as much erotic heat as over-the-top glitz.


May 15-July 3

Yancey Richardson Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, 646-230-9610

This obsessively inventive collaborative team mounts a new project called “City of Salt,” centering on a sculptural installation representing the city itself and including a suite of delicately colored panoramas and a unique artist’s book laying out K/S’s latest fully-imagined alternate reality.


May 21-June 28

David Zwirner Gallery, 525 West 19th Street, 212-727-2070

Arguably the most inventive and unpredictable of the reigning triumvirate of the new German photography (the other two: Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth), Ruff shows vividly colored abstract images from his “Substrats” series and a group of black-and-white studies of industrial machinery.


May 22-July 19

303 Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street, 212-255-1121

In the ’70s, Shore—along with William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz—broke down the resistance to color photography among photo traditionalists and museum professionals, and his cool, matter-of-fact style comes back to us via Gursky and Struth. A group of previously unpublished or unexhibited American landscapes from the early ’70s makes its debut here.