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Phyllis Tuchman

Phyllis Tuchman is a critic and art historian. She is an Editor-at-Large for the Brooklyn Rail.

Art Criticism & Social Media

While art criticism languishes in the doldrums, I get my information on who to watch, what to read, must see shows, and related matters from Twitter and Facebook. These two networking services, which I consult throughout the day on my iPad and my iPhone5, have become indispensable sources of information for a variety of reasons.

Nicole Eisenman: Sturm und Drang

Sturm und Drang, a solo show from Nicole Eisenman that’s on view at The Contemporary Austin through August 16, features representative examples of her art. No matter the medium, she excels. Besides her skill at making things, she forcefully expresses herself with aplomb, conviction, empathy, bravado, and a gift for visual storytelling.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Laura Hoptman is an old hand at finding new talent. Time and again, Hoptman has shown that she has a good eye, a searching intelligence, and a sense of history. Years ago, during her first stint at the Museum of Modern Art, she introduced many of us to Maurizio Cattelan, John Currin, and Luc Tuymans.

Donald Judd: Paintings 1959-1961

Say the name Donald Judd, and many people will picture an object that has taut lines, sleek metallic surfaces, and often is two-toned like a sedan from the 1950s. Squiggles don’t come to mind. That’s partly why it was such a surprise to find 15 paintings by the artist dating from 1959 into 1961 on view this autumn at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea that were so unlike the three-dimensional constructions the artist would soon fabricate.

Eric Fischl: Meditations on Melancholia

Because many of his figures appear in settings with backyard swimming pools or the ocean, a range of blues dominates his works. Frequently, his subjects are more memorable than his technique.

Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Works on Paper

Possessing a well-honed, singular formal intelligence, Cragg breathes life into vibrant entities. He masterfully sets in motion rhythmic passages. Repetitive waves wash across his sculptures and enliven his compelling surfaces. His art is fluid, not unchangeable.

Oscar Murillo: Ourself behind ourself concealed

Oscar Murillo’s latest paintings are big, bold, and breathtaking. They would not look out-of-place in a survey exhibition featuring significant works by Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Al Leslie, Harry Jackson, and Grace Hartigan. Anyone who ever considered this 36-year-old artist a zombie abstractionist should take note. He has matured into someone who should be considered an honorary second-generation Abstract Expressionist.

Jeff Koons: Lost in America

It’s an illuminating show. Instead of confronting lots of sculptures lite, as some would have it, this retrospective illuminates the changing role objects have played in Koons’s career. Digging deeper, you’ll notice, too, that the terms statues and sculpture are not interchangeable. Though paintings and prints are on display here, the large, three-dimensional works primarily draw our attention.

Modigliani Up Close

Modigliani Up Close, the impressive retrospective on display at the Barnes Foundation—its only venue—this autumn and winter rekindled my deep-rooted feelings for the artist. The scholarly, well-written exhibition catalogue, accessible to laymen, added further to my appreciation.

Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971

Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971 is jam packed with treasures and revelations. At the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, you’ll find film clips, movie posters, historical photographs, scripts, film scores, cameras, costumes, artworks by boldface names, and even miscellaneous objects, such as tap shoes worn by the remarkable Nicholas Brothers, as well as one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets. They’ve all been brought together to tell an unfamiliar story. This astonishing, well-paced journey through seven-plus decades of movie history suggests that this fledgling institution, only a year old, has already emerged as a significant place for film aficionados to discover the past, present, and future of moving pictures.

David Smith: Follow My Path

The David Smith show on view at Hauser & Wirth’s uptown outpost is both lively and unusual.

Cecily Brown: Death and the Maid

Cecily Brown: Death and the Maid, an atypical mid-career survey, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through December 3, 2023, comprises 21 paintings, 18 works on paper, 5 sketchbooks, and 3 monotypes made between 1997 and 2022 that treat just two themes: death and a maiden.

Michael Williams: Opening

Michael Williams was among the unlucky artists who had a solo show shuttered when New York went into lockdown in mid-March. On view for only two weeks, his exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea featured 11 large paintings and five small collages. While these works are now accessible on the internet, this isn’t an ideal way to view them—partly because of the way they were made, and partly because his installation was integral to how you respond to his art.

Amy Sillman: Twice Removed

As it is, Sillman is a gamechanger. Her paintings and drawings reframe long-held notions regarding the look and emotional character of abstraction, a style that enjoyed its golden age in America a half century ago during the 1960s.

Georg Baselitz: Pivotal Turn

In 1969, Georg Baselitz, then a 31-year-old artist based in southwest Germany, began painting people, places, and things upside down. Over the course of the following decades, his art changed considerably. Nevertheless, he still inverts his subjects. This practice, coupled with existential themes, remains the hallmark of his art.

Giuseppe Penone: Leaves of Grass

Sculptures, installations, assemblages, photographs, and other works executed by Giuseppe Penone and his Arte Povera colleagues often look off-kilter and slightly madcap. Think DIY. Or picture these Italian artists, active since the late 1960s and early ’70s, stranded on a deserted island and joyously making art from found materials.

Josh Smith: Spectre

Josh Smith has done it again. With a palette favoring lilac, tangerine, lime, and citron, he has transformed a relatively bland subject into a fevered dreamscape.

Painting Pollock

Before the Internet and social media, it was easier to read about Jackson Pollock ’51 than it was to see the film Hans Namuth directed and Paul Falkenberg produced.

The Dedalus Foundation

Robert Motherwell was a multi-hyphenate artist. He’s entered art history books as the youngest and best educated of the first wave of Abstract Expressionists. But Motherwell also enjoyed a significant career as the editor of the “Documents of Modern Art” series, among other publications, and as a Hunter College professor.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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