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Jessica Holmes

Jessica Holmes is a New York-based writer and critic. She is an Art Editor and ArTonic Editor for the Brooklyn Rail.

(1939 – 2011)

In the form of a rebus, the announcement translates something like this: “Louisa had a Caesarean. They cut her open and got the baby, and then they stitched her back up. Is she okay? Yes, she’s okay. I am happy.” So wrote Alexander Calder to his sister Peggy in California shortly after the birth of his second daughter, Mary Calder, on May 25, 1939.

In Conversation

with Jessica Holmes

Mariko Mori, unafraid to shed the skins of her past, has made a career from surprising contemporary art audiences around the world through a process of constant renewal in her work. But as it turns out, these are not skins of the past but rather strata that are all part of a continuum stretching back into ancient times and forward into the most distant realms of the universe.

In Conversation

SUE DE BEER with Jessica Holmes

For the past twenty years, Sue de Beer has been using, challenging, and subverting the tropes of horror to make experimental films that are by turns unsettling and beautiful, and infused with a sly-eyed humor. Her sixth major production centers in and around a medical clinic located on a remote island off the New England coast, whose doctors, nurses, and patients all hold their secrets, and are possibly not what they seem. De Beer has long wished to make a werewolf film, and on the occasion of her fourth exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery, I sat down with her to preview and discuss her newest piece, The White Wolf.

In Conversation

In Conversation with PETER LAMBORN WILSON

Prior to the opening reception of the writer/artist's new show at 1:1 gallery, (Vanishing Art & Hoodoo Metaphysics, September 23 – October 20) a group of students the Art Criticism and Writing M.F.A. program at the School of Visual Arts drove upstate to speak with Peter Lamborn Wilson.


Inside the Gary Snyder Gallery, a woman struck up a friendly exchange with another viewer about the current exhibition. They were strangers to each other but the connection seemed natural.


Interconnections lie at the heart of artist Jason Middlebrook’s work. The uneasy coexistence between natural phenomena and human-made objects, art’s grappling with the places it inhabits, and the collisions of disparate facets of art history all surface in Middlebrook’s paintings, sculpture, and installations.

Mushroom Hunter

Among the small and passionate subculture of mycophiles, it is well known that there is much joy to be found in methodically combing a damp forest in order to unearth rare fungi. In much the same way, art, like mushrooms, rarely lays bare its secrets.


For a photographer, the prospect of creating an image that will resonate with its audience is no doubt a daunting prospect. Three artists currently on view in Metro at Julie Saul Gallery—Reinier Gerritsen, Adam Magyar, and David Molander—attempt to tackle this problem by stitching together, though varied processes, patchworks of other photographs in order to make a new whole.

Urban Martyrs and Latter Day Santos

Rodríguez Calero—who was born in Puerto Rico but has lived most of her life in New York and New Jersey—is an artist whose methods and processes are so intricate that she has had to invent unique terms of classification to describe them.

TIM HAWKINSON Counterclockwise

What strikes first upon entry to Pace Gallery on West 24th Street is the persistent thrum of muted noise: the creaking of shaky machinery, a droning waaah, an intermittent snippet of what sounds like a vacuum cleaner’s motor.


Across the board, Caitlin Keogh’s work appears at first formally sound and visually engaging. Her paintings, rendered in flat acrylics, display a surface sexiness that draws the viewer in, underscored by a sophisticated color palette.

Matthew Wong: The New World, Paintings From Los Angeles 2016

Matthew Wong: The New World, Paintings From Los Angeles 2016 at Cheim & Read allows the viewer space to tune out from the mythological Wong and instead focus on the material Wong.

Noah Purifoy

Though at the outset, his compositions may seem haphazard, the careful viewer will come to appreciate his nimble deflections, crooked pathways, and masks and mirrors that pull you along on one trajectory only to deftly change course. Before you’ve realized it, you’re somewhere else entirely.

Uta Barth

Throughout her long career, photographer Uta Barth has probed the limits of human perception through deceptively simple imagery. Sheer curtains, glass pitchers, or bare tree branches are only ostensible subjects, conduits for an ongoing examination of what is her primary implement: light.

HOWARDENA PINDELL Paintings, 1974-1980

Howardena Pindell has been making work steadily since the late 1960s, when she arrived in New York after receiving her M.F.A. at Yale. A founding member of the landmark feminist artists collective A.I.R. Gallery in 1972, she has taught at SUNY Stony Brook since 1979, all the while consistently producing bodies of work both complex and multifarious.

Romare Bearden: Bayou Fever and Related Works

For the artist Romare Bearden—born in 1911 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina—the American South always loomed large. His parents, driven north to Harlem during the Great Migration three years after his birth, quickly established themselves among the burgeoning black intelligentsia. Though Bearden remained an established New Yorker, annual childhood summer trips to visit grandparents who remained below the Mason-Dixon line supplied provocative fodder for his imagination and nourished a lifelong connection to the South.

ANGEL OTERO New Paintings

Puerto Rican-born, New York-based artist Angel Otero has refined a singular, labor-intensive process for making paintings. He applies thick oil paint to Plexiglas slabs and allows it to nearly dry before painstakingly peeling the oil skins away and reapplying them to canvas, to which he then adds and scrapes additional paint, resulting in an entirely new composition.

The Return of Tom Doyle

The Return of Tom Doyle signals an attempt to resurrect the career of a sculptor who in reality never really “disappeared,” but who remained blasé through most of his life to the vagaries of the art world.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All

If someone had asked me six weeks ago to write a review of an exhibition I couldn’t physically go to see, I would have said no. Well, that was six weeks ago. On March 4th, the Met Breuer opened Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, a major show of work by one of the most celebrated artists of the late‐20th and 21st centuries.

Gates of Paradise

His dramatic camerawork draws out the luster of the bronze panels, and the audience is treated to an opportunity to examine their delicate detail in an intimate way.

LARRY CLARK they thought i were but i aren't anymore...

Two trains of thought about Larry Clark’s artistic output consistently pervade consideration of his work, which for the past 40 years has almost exclusively examined the debauched underbelly of adolescent life in America.

John Bock: Dead + Juicy

The lobby of Anton Kern’s Upper East Side townhouse gallery has been transformed into a dimly lit room housing a dilapidated shack made from corrugated tin; a floor to ceiling curtain onto which a looped fragment of film is projected hangs opposite the shack.

Sue Williams

In the early days of Sue Williams’s career, her work frequently centered on male violence perpetrated on women. Vignettes of rape, sodomy, and battery pervaded her canvases, rendered in comic-book style with figures depicted in black-and-white, and incorporated text.

EMILY MASON The Intuitive Print

“If you ponder a rose for too long you won’t budge in a storm.” The work of octogenarian artist Emily Mason shares roots with those words by poet Mahmoud Darwish, on the importance of adhering to one’s intuition.

Noah Davis

When artist Noah Davis succumbed to cancer in 2015 at the age of 32 he left behind an ambitious body of work. A studio of paintings revealed a flourishing artist already making preternaturally mature work, while a self-conceived exhibition space in Los Angeles, the Underground Museum, attested to the spirit of a social maverick. Rather than being overtly political, Davis’s politics were instead baked into a nuanced and sophisticated body of work.


The danger of the art world constantly searching for the “next big thing” is that quieter, more introspective work, like that of painter Bill Lynch is easily overlooked. Thankfully, he has just been given his inaugural—and posthumous—New York exhibition at White Columns.

CHUCK CLOSE Red Yellow Blue

Chuck Close once said in an interview in the pages of this publication that “Painting [. . .] makes space where it doesn’t exist, but you relate to it through life experience.” If a viewer takes pause from looking at the new paintings on display in “Chuck Close: Red Yellow Blue” at Pace Gallery in order to observe her surroundings, she will note the insight of that remark.


Ralph Eugene Meatyard, a married father of three children, was an optician who lived and worked in Lexington, Kentucky, where he owned an eyeglass shop called “Eyeglasses of Kentucky.”

Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper

Mark di Suvero: Steel Like Paper, now on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and organized by the museum’s Chief Curator Jed Morse, includes thirty sculptures in addition to a wide array of lesser known drawings and paintings. Across these bodies of work, which span from the late 1950s through the present, di Suvero’s much-lauded vitality and generosity of spirit pervades the show, bestowing the viewer with a lingering sense of joie de vivre that is sometimes hard to come by in an oft-antiseptic contemporary museum setting.


“Once you leave New York City, America begins,” or so the old maxim goes. The notion that the city is a threshold, that it stands apart from the rest of the country, is a potent cultural marker, one that many New Yorkers subscribe to.

Marilyn Lerner: Walking Backward Running Forward

The music hits you as you walk through the door of Kate Werble Gallery, where Walking Backward Running Forward, a new show of work by artist Marilyn Lerner, is on view.

ALI BANISADR: Trust in the Future

A convergence of influences is at play across painter Ali Banisadr’s body of work. In writing dedicated to his paintings a reader will find frequent reference to Northern Renaissance and Venetian art, Persian miniatures, as well as more modern touchstones like Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning. Banisadr has acknowledged the effects of literature and cinema upon his thinking, and although these influences are apparent in his recent exhibition, Trust in the Future, certain paintings achieve something different—and more exciting.

Bacon’s Women

Francis Bacon, the indomitable twentieth-century painter whose gritty and chaotic life was expressed so eloquently in the turmoil of his canvases, was not known to make women the subject of his portraits.

Angela China: Girl on the Grass

As frosty air and bleak clouds give way to warmth and color the sense of renewal inherent to blooming tulips and budding leaves becomes palpable. And so it is witnessing the debut exhibition of a young artist full of promise—hope also blossoms. Girl on the Grass, a solo show of ten paintings by New York-based artist Angela China arouses a similar, buoyant expectation.

KÄTHE KOLLWITZ & SUE COE: All Good Art is Political

A woman, face blemished with grime, sleeps in a half-sitting position, her head propped in one hand. Her body curls protectively against those of two small children. One appears to be only an infant, and the other is wound into a thin blanket fast asleep, shadows encircling her eyes and mouth agape in an expression of utter exhaustion.

Counter Forms: Tetsumi Kudo, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek, Hannah Wilke

“In place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art.” Susan Sontag offered this challenge to a critic in her 1964 essay, “Against Interpretation.” She argued that the task of a critic was to elucidate for the reader how a work of art “is what it is,” rather than to show “what it means.”

Philip Pearlstein: I Love Mud

The accumulations of a sociable, cultivated, and well-traveled lifetime became the subjects of the watercolor paintings now on view in I Love Mud, Philip Pearlstein’s current exhibition at Betty Cuningham Gallery.

Mr. Dial’s America

History is made up of layers. The present, like a creeping vine, overtakes the past and without studied remembrance it becomes easy to forget that times now are not always what times once were.

Outrageous Fortune: Jay DeFeo and Surrealism

Though more closely identified with the San Francisco Beat artists and poets of the late 1950s and early 1960s, DeFeo also looked to the Surrealists a generation older than she, and drew from artists such as Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray, whom she once called her “north star.

Robert Hawkins: Dream Mine

In 1894, John Hyrum Koyle, a Utah Mormon, received a message from the Angel Moroni in his dreams. Moroni, a major prophet of the Mormons and the Latter Day Saint theological movement, instructed Koyle to tunnel a mine through a mountainside located in Salem, Utah, where he would uncover gold and riches that would provide untold financial wealth and security to the church and all its believers, especially through the end times.

Joan Miró: Birth of the World

The Birth of the World hangs centrally in the first of the two galleries that comprise the show, positioned as the painting where Miró broke with the style of his earlier work.

Pope.L: Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration

Instigation, Aspiration, Perspiration, form a triumvirate of Pope.L experiences that are, or recently have been, unfolding across New York this autumn. Alongside Choir at the Whitney, member: Pope.L 1978–2001 at the Museum of Modern Art presents a historical survey of some of Pope.L’s most significant performance works. The opening of these shows in October was backdropped by Conquest (2019), a performance commissioned by the Public Art Fund that took place in September, where Pope.L coordinated more than 140 volunteers to undertake one of the artist’s venerable Crawl pieces through the streets of lower Manhattan.

Ali Banisadr: These Specks of Dust

In taking bits from across time and genre and processing them through his own synesthetic technique, Banisadr ultimately shucks convention, rendering paintings that are entirely new. It is a deeply intuitive process.

The Un-Heroic Act: Representations of Rape in Contemporary Women’s Art in the U.S.

The exhibition, whose title subverts Brownmiller’s epithet, recaptures the experience of rape from this art historical romanticizing, presenting work by twenty female artists from the past forty years on its decidedly “un-heroic” nature.


Berlin-based artist Jorinde Voigt is recognized for the luminosity of her cerebral, abstract drawings, which feature mathematical equations and annotations that explore her hermetic belief systems.

(“we are not what we seem”)

Bruce Conner & Jay DeFeo (“we are not what we seem”) is a testament to the singular relationship, cultivated over decades, between these two stalwarts of the post-war San Francisco cultural scene.

Barnett Newman & Brice Marden

Newman: Notes — Marden: Suicide Notes, now on view at Craig Starr, exhibits two series by twentieth-century icons, Barnett Newman and Brice Marden, that show each artist shifting from painting to a focused exploration of the primordial mark of the line.

Marcus Jahmal: Mining

Across the barren landscapes of self-taught artist Marcus Jahmal’s recent paintings, barren trees dot empty horizons, bathed in the hot glow of ambers, burgundies, and reds. Stripped of any foliage, their limbs reach like outstretched arms towards the sky while hollows in the trunks form elongated mouths that look as if they are singing, moaning, or supplicating to the gods.

Forms Larger and Bolder: Eva Hesse Drawings from the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College

The drawing is the latest of the works on view at Hauser & Wirth, and was made shortly before Hesse’s premature death from cancer at age 34. Spanning two floors of the gallery, the exhibition proceeds in reverse-chronological order so that the viewer finds herself ambling backwards in time to more tentative beginnings.

Criticism and Civility

Writing in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, the craft of criticism feels more urgent than ever, a skill to continually hone at all costs. When I was first asked the question, “What is criticism?” upon entering the Art Writing MFA program at the School of Visual Arts five years ago, I’d suggested that good criticism, in the context of considering art, is a civility.

Jessica Holmes

On the 50th anniversary of Smithson’s Passaic stroll, America is catching up to him in the sense that our assumptions of what a monument is have been deeply shaken, and what was once presumed to be a given now is not.

Alexander Calder:
To do the Circus

Always taciturn on the nature of his art, Alexander Calder once quipped, “That others grasp what I have in mind seems unessential, at least as long as they have something else in theirs.”

Sean Scully: Illuminated Manuscripts

“I don’t actually keep a diary but sometimes I write things down on A4, and I sort of faintly hope they survive,” says Sean Scully.

Tony DeLap: Painting Sculpture & Works on Paper 1965 – 2013

In our globalized art world, it is strange that an artist whose work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Tate Gallery, and who has had more than 75 solo exhibitions since the mid-1950s, could also somehow be considered, if not unknown, then at least not very well known.

Mark di Suvero

Cranes, steel beams, and industrial rigging don’t easily evoke carnality, sensuality, and human connection, but after reading Mark di Suvero, it might be impossible to subtract these bodily qualities from the artist’s mighty steel sculpture.

Marie Darrieusecq: Being Here is Everything: The Life of Paula M. Becker

The portrait’s subject, a young woman with a snub nose in three-quarter profile, stares back at her viewer, the wide-set brown eyes direct but inscrutable. Something wry tugs at the corners of her mouth, leaving her with neither a smile nor a frown.

The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation

What is an artist-endowed foundation? In the nexus of the art world, foundations are often perceived as mysterious nebulas. Unlike museums, which—at their most basic—share a duty to care for and protect works of art, and make them available to a viewing public, artist-endowed foundations are organizations that serve an array of purposes and uphold diverse missions.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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