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Ann McCoy

Ann McCoy is an artist, writer, and Editor at Large for the Brooklyn Rail. She was given a Guggenheim Foundation award in 2019, for painting and sculpture.

Guest Critic

Wellsprings Reconsidered

The idea for this issue of the Brooklyn Rail came from a conversation I had with Donald Kuspit regarding his book The End of Art, as well as discussions I have had with artist Michael Zansky, whose art begins with a Freudian perspective and travels into uncharted realms.

In Conversation


Michelle Stuart and Ann McCoy met at the Rail headquarters on a recent August afternoon to discuss the intersections of art, archaeology, exploration, and animism. Both daughters of the West, they also spoke about riding sidesaddle, synchronicity, and stupas.

In Conversation


Nalini Malani recently flew to Japan to receive the Fukuoka Arts & Culture Prize and to open her solo exhibition at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. A book about her dOCUMENTA (13) installation: Nalini Malani: In Search of Vanished Blood with essays by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Arjun Appadurai, and Andreas Huyssen was produced by Hatje Cantz last year.

In Conversation


Ann McCoy met with Krzysztof Wodiczko at De Robertis Pasticceria & Caffe in the East Village—which has functioned since the ’80s as his studio and office—to discuss his video projections on statuary and some of the psychological aspects of the work.

In Conversation


Ann McCoy met with Raquel Rabinovich at her Rhinebeck studio to view her work and archives. Rabinovich discussed her life in Argentina, a country she has had to leave twice for political reasons, her life as a world citizen in Paris, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, and New York, and her afternoons with Jorge Luis Borges.

In Conversation


William Kentridge’s Triumphs and Laments opened April 21 – 22, 2016, in Rome. On a 550-meter-long, ten-meter-high section of the Tiber embankment wall between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini, eighty figures, pulled by power washing from the grime on the walls, depict Rome’s greatest victories and defeats from mythological times to the present.

In Conversation

Helène Aylon with Ann McCoy

Helène Aylon sat down with Ann McCoy at the Brooklyn Rail’s Industry City headquarters to discuss her upcoming traveling exhibition, Afterword: For the Children (Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and Kniznick Gallery, Waltham, Massachusetts, March 20 – June 16, 2017; Jerusalem Biennale, October 2017).

In Conversation


Fresh off the plane from New Mexico, Eve Andrée Laramée sat down at the Rail headquarters with Ann McCoy to discuss art, science, alchemy, and the nuclear legacy they share.

In Conversation

with Ann McCoy

“I believe language as song and as text possesses a kind of quietness, a space that allows words’ power to evoke and move emotions. I’m interested in the soft space behind language.”

In Conversation


Kristin Jones came by the Rail to discuss her collaborative project TEVERETERNO for the revival of Rome’s Tiber River with Ann McCoy. The artist has been working to adopt an 1,800-foot long stretch of the river, and turn it into a site for contemporary art, a first for Rome.

Eating Apollo’s Cattle

Hermes is a cattle thief, messenger, trickster, boundary crosser, and a god who represents a lot of artists.

Subliming Vessel: The Drawings of MATTHEW BARNEY

Subliming Vessel is the first major exhibition devoted to Matthew Barney’s drawings. “Vessel” references the alchemist’s flask, a container for the incubation of images and processes rooted in the unconscious.

MICHAEL ZANSKY: A Vacation on Mars with God

Ann McCoy discusses Michael Zansky's show, A Vacation on Mars with God, on display at Stux Gallery.

Here and Elsewhere

The museum’s façade and lobby vinyls of “The One and Only Madinat New Museum Royal Mirage” luxury hotel are by G.C.C., a collective of eight artists with roots in the Gulf.

AGNES DENES Living Pyramid

The monumental Living Pyramid rises from the lawn of Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City like a futuristic mirage, with a base thirty feet on a side. It marks a return to New York public art for this eighty-three-year-old artist.


Tony Oursler: The Imponderable Archive consists of 680 items culled from 2,500 photographs, news clippings, books, and assorted objects from the artist’s collection.


Slavs and Tatars, perhaps the smartest artist collaborative around, have returned for their first New York exhibition since Beyonsense at MoMA (2012).

Writing a Chrysanthemum: The Drawings of Rick Barton

Barton’s drawings are windows into his modest rooms, jail cells, church sanctuaries, and San Francisco’s gay clubs. His work chronicles a period when queer men flocked to San Francisco, yet he was not part of the celebrated gay scene around the King Ubu Gallery founded by Jess Collins and Harry Jacobus with Robert Duncan, and he was not known to other San Francisco artists like Wallace Berman and Bruce Conner.

Comparative Hell: Arts of Asian Underworlds

In an age when few dread eternal damnation and the torments of hell no longer function as a deterrent to bad behavior, a stunning exhibition at the Asia Society Museum expands our knowledge of this infernal nether region.

A Greater Beauty: The Drawings of Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (1923) is one of the best-selling books of all time: Elvis Presley’s well-worn annotated copy of The Prophet was found posthumously among his effects. Gibran, a popular Lebanese American poet, artist, and mystic remained fixed in the collective spiritual imagination for decades; Gibran, a Maronite Christian, included other religions, Sufi mysticism, Jungian psychology, Buddhism, and Theosophy in his mix.

A Dweller on Two Planets

This is an exhibition for the viewer who loves watching the silent films of Georges Méliès—for a trip to the moon or a mermaid submerged in a goldfish tank. A trip to Microscope Gallery fills that bill. Here, four exceptional Asian women artists take us on a time-travel into imaginary realms where mythology, science fiction, and complex narratives converge.


Joséphin Péladan’s (1858-1918) portrait by Jean Delville (1895) as “Sâr Mérodack,” white robed and posed like a Byzantine Christ Pantocrator “ruler of all” with an arm raised in benediction, greets the exhibition’s viewer.

RICHARD LONG Crescent to Cross

Entering the main gallery of Sperone Westwater, the viewer is dwarfed by Red Gravity (2015), a stunning, two-story-high, circular red clay drawing filling the height and width of the main wall. A suspended glass balcony allows the viewer to see the top half, which enhances the work’s scale.

Restoring the Minoans: Elizabeth Price and Sir Arthur Evans

The latter part of the Victorian era was a romantic age of celebrity archaeologists: Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb captured the public’s imagination, as did Leonard Woolley’s excavations of the burial pit at Ur. Sir Arthur Evans unearthed and restored Knossos, and Heinrich Schliemann excavated Mycenae—rescuing Homer’s lost civilizations from the mythological mists of time.

Robert Smithson: Abstract Cartography

The vast expanse of Smithson’s artistic vision is staggering, and in this exhibition, we are transported on a geological timeline from the Proterozoic to a futuristic possibility of entropic collapse.

Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young

The exhibition title, Aubrey Beardsley, 150 Years Young, refers to Beardsley’s (1872–1898) birth 150 years ago, and the freshness of his work today. He was a consumptive who died at the tragically early age of twenty-five, and here we see the scope of his early genius.

Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist

That a contemplative artist like Agnes Pelton (1881–1961) is having an exhibition in a shuttered museum, as her viewers are experiencing enforced reclusion during a pandemic lockdown, has a profound synchronicity.

Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond

This treasure-trove of artifacts from regions stretching from the Balkan Mountains north to the Carpathian Basin on view now at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World is a revelation and engenders an overdue revision of ancient history.

Shari Mendelson: Animals, Idols, and Us

Shari Mendelson’s hauntingly beautiful sculptures—some part human, part animal, part divine—transport the viewer down the timeline into other worlds and dimensions. Their fragility and translucent luster are reminiscent of glass from antiquity and make us forget their humble origins.

Chrysanne Stathacos: The Re-turn

Chrysanne Stathacos occupies the position of the Pythia (prophetess at Delphi) in an art world much in need of a connection to the Mysteries. The Mysteries have been the foundation of all great civilizations, and their demise has always signaled a decline—after the Mithraic priests and later the Gothic leader Alaric and Christian monks invaded the shrine of Eleusis, Greece fell from dominance. Stathacos is a unique prophetess, bridging East and West, and comes to us in our time of cultural collapse.


There is nothing new about the idea of symbolic space. Doug Wheeler’s second installation at the David Zwirner gallery brings to mind the French Enlightenment fantasy architectural monument spheres of Étienne-Louis Boullée.

Karla Knight: Road Trip

Karla Knight’s mysterious spaceships transport the viewer into other-worldly dimensions at a time when much of the art world can feel grounded by an ideological flat earth society. Like Hilma af Klint, whose works were channeled from higher masters in the astral plane, Knight’s remind us that art can originate from realms both mysterious and incomprehensible. Positivism, Adorno’s anti-occultism, and the “liberation” of art from its spiritual mission have dominated much recent discourse. When reading Knight’s statement—“I would say a visionary is someone who is a good listener, and a bridge between two worlds”—this critic wanted to applaud. Her works resonate and affect us deeply and draw the viewer into deeper meditations with their presence. Karla Knight’s art is pulled from the artist’s own psyche and lifts us into the fourth dimension where the spirit resides. It bucks many recent collective theoretical trends.


To explore the profound impact of Shadows, one must begin with Alfredo Jaar, the architect. Jaar’s site-specific spaces at Lelong have no equivalency in contemporary architecture.

Recycling Religion

Recycling Religion represents a missed opportunity for a necessary discussion of a complex subject. “Recycled Thinking” would be a more appropriate title for this mishmash of tired Pop art, simplistic religious clichés, gadgetry, and scatology, that comes across as a traveling promotional for Marat Guelman’s stable and his new museum complex in Montenegro.

The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th-Century China

The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in 17th-Century China opened in the midst of the mercantile Armory Show madness.

YOAN CAPOTE Collective Unconscious

The Cuban artist Yoan Capote is an embodiment of the archetypal Hephaestus, the Olympian god of the hammer and forge, so undervalued in today’s art making. Capote builds much of his work using classical sculptural techniques, and represents the best of a Communist worker tradition.

Making Space: Women Artists in Postwar Abstraction

Making Space: Women Artists in Postwar Abstraction has work by many of the same artists as its 1995 predecessor Elizabeth Murray, Modern Women (1914 – 73)—work by seventy women from the MoMA collection.

New Paintings

Strange Muses I (2017) is remarkable on multiple levels. It was created not to show the here and now, but to take us into what could best be described as a liminal space...

Carolee Schneemann

In this time of war and uncertainty, Carolee Schneemann, the best artist embodiment of Aphrodite we have, has brought us two exhibitions that take us, with her uncompromising authenticity, into places rarely visited.


To capture the encyclopedic scope, breadth, and dimensionality of Joyce Kozloff’s exhibitions, a magic carpet is a prerequisite.


Lisson Gallery has mounted a stunning, historically important, museum quality first New York solo exhibition of the work of Channa Horwitz, an artist who died in 2013 at the age of eighty.

M’s Crossing

The intangible mystery of this work transports this viewer to an archaic place in consciousness when nature and mankind were inseparably fused in peaceful coexistence and respect.

Lenore Malen Scenes from Paradise

Creation myths provide blueprints for their respective societies, on both a conscious and unconscious level. Lenore Malen, whose past work on utopian societies traverses history, in this exhibition takes us back to biblical Eden to ascertain where things went off the rails.

Michele Zalopany: Nānā i Ke Kumu ‘Pay Attention To The Source’

Zalopany is a master of pastel drawing, an artform usually associated with French masters like Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Edgar Degas, and the American Mary Cassatt. While many artists work from photographic and archival material, the artist’s images of native Hawaiians resonate because they are part of a personal journey to recover a culture destroyed by missionaries and colonial exploitation.

Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting

The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE preserved the world of Pompeii and Herculaneum like a bee in amber. Serious excavations, beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, began to pull the curtain back on these intimate lives that were terminated in an instant.


Two stunning simultaneous exhibitions by the Scottish artist Lucy Skaer give New Yorkers their most comprehensive view of the artist’s range to date. Skaer represented Scotland in the 52nd Venice Biennale, was a finalist for the Turner Prize in 2009, and has had solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, the Kunsthalle Basel, and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh.

Archie Rand: Misfits

Archie Rand glides onto the scene, part mystical rebbe, part Diogenes, carrying a lamp, by day, which he shines in our faces, in his search for an honest man.

Stations of The Cross

It is affirming to see an exhibition like Stations of the Cross, based on a Catholic pilgrimage and devotional practice, in a world plagued by attacks on both Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism.

Home is a Foreign Country

Helen O’Leary’s work, which has its formation in Irish linguistics, gives us an inspired version of an Irish art rooted in a sense of place in rural Ireland. The late nineteenth century Gaelic revival (Athbheochan na Gaeilge), advocated for a return to the Irish language, and O’Leary’s psyche is firmly planted in that tongue. O’Leary’s art originates from a life lived on a farm in rural Ireland, and a spiritual connection to that land and rural way of life. In a time when many younger Irish artists have adopted critical theory, digital technology, and international styles severed from their cultural roots, O’Leary’s work possesses a life-lived authenticity and hands-on craftsmanship that sets it apart.

Greater New York

My Favorite and Most Disturbing

What a celebration! Have we forgotten that before Nancy Spero was shown at MoMA, in 1976 she was picketing the place, demanding that an exhibition include fifty percent women?

Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future

With this first American large-scale exhibition of Hilma af Klint’s profoundly moving art, it is as though a needle has been lifted from a well-worn record called “the entrenched history of abstraction,” and any attempts to place the needle back into the grove will henceforth prove difficult.

Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg: One Last Trip to the Underworld

One Last Trip to the Underworld is the world premiere of four video works by sculptor and stop-animation video artist Nathalie Djurberg and electronic composer Hans Berg. The artists give us not the underworld of antiquity, but a contemporary fall down the rabbit hole into the Freudian unconscious of repressed desires, perversity, and what Freud called day-residues.

Wallace Berman: Off the Grid

Descending into the cellar at TOTAH feels like entering a sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies. The leitmotif of this exhibition could be the theme of intimacy, images feeling like handheld windows into the artist’s psyche.


Paul Laffoley and Suzanne Treister are two rare artists who don’t fit into the current art discourse focused on politics and critical theory. Laffoley and Treister are more suited to a gathering in the Samovar Tea Room at the Museum of Jurassic Technology than a Whitney lecture.

Nancy Holt

In his doctrine of anámnēsis, or recollection, Plato makes a distinction between eternal Forms and their resemblances in human perceptions.

A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon's Ishtar Gate

The Ishtar Gate was created in the service of the gods for the divine protection of the city, manifested divine powers on earth as the entry point of the gods into the city, and formed Babylon’s political and religious center. It represented the culmination of centuries of religious thought, technological advances, and artistic achievement.

Graphic Resistance

In 1986, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, as it was then known, held the first solo museum exhibition of Sue Coe’s work in New York. It was titled The Malcolm X Series. Thirty-two years later, as MoMA PS1, the institution now gives Ms. Coe her second solo exhibition in New York, Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance.

Justin Matherly: Compost

Justin Matherly has positioned two monumental busts of the divine physician Asklepios on either side of the gallery entrance: Eat yourself fitter (2020) and Eat yourself fitter (2019). Six cast modified gypsum statues of Telesphoros, the dwarf-like nocturnal companion of Asklepios, may be found in the corners of each room: T1-T6 (2020).

Peggy Ahwesh: CLEAVE

In Verily! the Blackest Sea, the Falling Sky (2017), a two-channel video work, Peggy Ahwesh takes us on a journey from the ocean’s primordial depths, filled with squids and Leviathans, into the reaches of outer space.

Maria Nordman: At the Start

Nordman joins Gaea and contemporary feminist theorists like Luce Irigaray in demanding a break from the phallogocentric and imagining a new creation myth. In her “Plato’s Hystera” (hystera is Greek for uterus) from Speculum of the Other Woman (1974), Irigaray advocates that we consider the cave as a place of origins. This is in opposition to the heliocentric view of the outer world as the source of enlightenment.

All that is solid melts into eros

An elongated, “keystoned” vertical projection, updated daily and made from ash adhered to a slide, fills the gallery’s first wall.


1966 was a hard time to be a woman at Yale. There were perhaps three women students in a class of men, and no female professors.

Into the Mystic

Vaughan’s Circle (2004), a stunning six-foot square canvas by Brian O’Doherty, was the jewel in the crown of perhaps the best abstraction exhibition of the summer, The Unusual Suspects: A View of Abstraction at the D. C. Moore Gallery, curated by Richard Kalina.

Art in the Age of Vulnerability

Vulnerability implies that a greater force will threaten a more fragile one. As a woman I have been acquainted with the word since childhood. Women, small kittens, and sparrows fit the definition of the vulnerable.

Notes from an Old Maenad in the Trenches

At 68, I was part of the second feminist charge in Los Angeles. I was among the first group of women to gain anything resembling an equal share (thanks to Marcia Tucker) in the Whitney Biennial of 1973.

When We Are Given a Voice

In the ’70s and ’80s I had written a few pieces about fellow women artists who could not get any coverage, because men got most of the ink. It began as a sort of public service for my sister artists, marginalized and discouraged.

What is Art?

When I think of art the Kwakiutl come to mind. The Kwakiutl had no word for art but art was everywhere, in all aspects of their lives. Every utilitarian object was a work of art, whether it was a grizzly bear or otter bowl, a whale spoon, or a heron fishhook.

William Kentridge Takes New York

William Kentridge and his South African collaborative team have landed in New York City and New Haven this fall, leaving us with remarkable opportunities to see their work.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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