Counter Forms

“Counter Forms,” a beautifully thought out and lovingly installed show curated by Elena Filipovic, Senior Curator at WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, is currently on view in New York at Andrea Rosen Gallery.

The exhibit brings together historically important work, primarily small sculptures, dating to the 1960s and 70s from four artists, Tetsumi Kudo (1935-1990), Alina Szapocznikow (1926-1973), Paul Thek (1933-1988) and Hannah Wilke (1940-1993).

The tag, “historically important,” typically indicates that to get interpretive mileage out of the show you will need a hefty dose of background — biographical and art historical. What makes this show remarkable is that each artwork on display while indeed historically important is still able to command attention and speak for itself, background knowledge or not. That said, to spend some time and learn about each of the exhibited artists only serves to make the work all the more hard-hitting (Szapocznikow survived Nazi ghettos and concentration camps, being one example).


Fabulousity: a night you’ll never forget… or remember!

Steve Terry, the one-man show behind England’s Wild Life Press, has an uncanny knack for sniffing out and shaping into hard-hitting photobooks material that is not only marginal in its subject matter (portraits of ‘90s NYC tranny street walkers, “the club kids” of the same era) but also marginal in its original production. His books gather up what were labors of love pursued primarily for personal reasons outside any formal art-making avenue. These are photographs that sat in boxes in apartments for decades unknown to but a few.

I first met Terry in person a few weeks ago in New York. Before that we had recently worked together long-distance on a profile of the photographer Katsu Naito (the full profile will appear in volume five of our print magazine) focusing on his and Wild Life Press’ first photobook, West Side Rendezvous (2011), an intimate collection of forty-five black and white portraits of tranny sex workers taken on the streets of New York’s Meatpacking District in the early 90s. Steve was in town ahead of the NYArt Book fair to showcase his second and most recent photobook, a catalogue technically, published to coincide with the London exhibition, “Fabulousity: a night you’ll never forget… or remember!”


John McCracken: Works from 1963-2011

My knowledge of the west coast minimalist sculptor John McCracken prior to entering the museum-grade retrospective at David Zwirner’s 20th street outpost was limited to a handful of reproductions in art history books and the apocryphal story that his work had inspired the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I entered the show wanting to like it, figured I wouldn’t, and left with a renewed sense of what color, form, light and mass could be in the right hands.



The Bleeker Street Arts Club is a relatively new gallery tucked on the upper floors of a landmarked art deco West Village building.  The space is well-appointed and well-lit and showing, for a few days longer, a group show titled Sub Rosa that includes collaborative and solo photographs by Los Angeles based Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Edward Arnold. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Cope/Arnold on their long running collaborative projects and a chance to catch up with Cope at the opening for this show.  The full profile will appear in volume five of our print magazine.

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Francis Cape – We Sit Together: Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Separatists of Zoar

The sculptor Francis Cape begins the introduction to his book We Sit Together thus, “Twenty Benches are gathered in the middle of a room. Each is built from poplar and finished in the same rubbed linseed oil. No two are the same. This is the sculpture Utopian Benches. I made the sculpture as a way of thinking – and talking – about communalism as both a historic and a contemporary alternative to [capitalist-driven] individualism.”


Takuma Nakahira: Circulation: Date, Place, Events

The 80 or so medium-sized, B&W photographs up at Yossi Milo Gallery by Provoke founder Takuma Nakahira in his first solo US show may initially read as street photography but what “Circulation: Date, Place, Events” really amounts to is an exercise in intellectual honesty, and a brutal one at that.

The prints on view were selected from negatives created by Nakahira during the Seventh Paris Biennale held in the autumn of 1971. When Nakahira was invited to participate he was in an intellectual rut after the publication of his classic photo book “For a Language to Come” (a rut documented with Daido Moriyama in his 1972 classic, “Farewell Photography”). As he describes it in “Photography, a Single Day’s Actuality,” one of his essays reprinted in the book “Circulation: Date, Place, Events”


Erin Shirreff: Day is Long

Day is Long, Erin Shirreff’s second solo show of photographs, sculptures and videos at Lisa Cooley is invigorating in that it does so well what good writing is supposed to do, namely, show not tell.  The works in this show and, really, all her shows, for Shirreff’s voice is and has been consistent and steady, unfurl at a stately pace in your mind to slowly reveal that what you see is not necessarily what you see: videos are not quite videos; photographs do not quite depict what you at first thought; and sculptures do (or do not) possess the physicality the eye and mind initially attributed them.  First, you ask yourself what am I looking at, and when the answer comes, the “what” has bent.  As noted by Jan Allen in one of the essays included in the just released and recommended first book on Shirreff, in the end you are looking at looking.

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Peter Hujar at Pace/McGill

So finely attuned is Peter Hujar’s (1934-1987) photographic voice that the eighteen black and white photographs comprising the mini-retrospective at Pace/MacGill are more than sufficient to present his world and his take on it.

A prominent artist in 70s and 80s New York, the at-ease portraits of William Burroughs, Vince Aletti, Paul Thek, John Waters and David Wojnarowicz included in the show are properly seen as portraits of friends as much as of art world luminaries; with that said, the head-on ’78 close-up of a cow mindlessly chewing on a strand of barbed wire is brutally economic in alluding to the harsh environment that was downtown New York City back then, AIDS crisis to come (to which Hujar himself would succumb).


Daido Moriyama – Labyrinth

Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama is so prolific that his official website can hardly keep up: the ninety-one-book list is already out of date and omits a lot of past titles too. If we wanted to, we could bury you with book reviews for this septuagenarian artist. In this blur one particular title, Labyrinth, co-published by Akio Nagasawa Publishing and Aperture, stands out due to its genesis, production value, and content. It is a large format, well-appointed book, printed in Japan that comprises 300 pages of contact sheets that were personally selected by Moriyama from his archive from the 1960sto the present. Roughly eyeballed, it contains around 4500 images. It reeks of black ink. Oh, and you will need a magnifying glass.