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Artforum Critics Pick by Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Those needing a dose of gaiety—both the festive and the faggy kinds—should make their way to “100 Works,” a survey of paintings, drawings, and collages by the late Joe Brainard(1942–1994). Most are no bigger than a notebook page, and the dense hang is perfectly in keeping with the artist’s aesthetic of accumulation. He was, after all, the author of I Remember (1975), an expansive inventory of memories ranging from sad to sexy, beautiful to banal.

Joe Brainard in Hyperallergic by John Yau - May 2019

Minor Master or Master of the Minor?One reason Joe Brainard made so many small works was to convey that modesty and ambition were not mutually exclusive.

Joe Brainard’s last New York show in his lifetime was legendary because of the sheer number of works it included. It was in 1975 at the Fishbach Gallery and Brainard was in his early 30s. Rather than making large works, as did many of his contemporaries, he cheerfully did the opposite: within a period of a few years, Brainard made more than 3,000 tiny collages. The gallery managed to exhibit 1,500 of them, which was quite a logistical feat.

Brainard’s reason for making small, affordable works is revealing. Talking to Lee Wohlfert about his students at the School of Visual Arts and about his motivations for working small, Brainard stated:

Most of the students agree that the art scene has gotten too big, too serious, too sacred, too self-important and too expensive.Already a bad situation in Brainard’s lifetime, the art world’s self-importance has become appalling since his death in 1994. The triumph of obscene wealth, bulbous frivolity, and swell-headed immodesty is not something the art world should be proud of, yet it is. (Maybe it is time that critics start calling out curators who seem to chase and champion only financially successful artists who make large works.)

Beyond the fact that Brainard reveled in making art, I think one reason he made so many small works was to convey that modesty and ambition were not mutually exclusive. To this combination he added a large dose of relentlessness, heightened by his inclination to be thorough. He once wrote me that he was going to read all of Charles Dickens’s novels again.

Susan Jane Walp Art in America, May 2019 by Eric Sutphin
Jess in Art in America Secret Compartments, reviewed by Travis Diehl

Four nested heads, their features interlocking: the drawing, from 1966, could be the cover of a Love album or an Aldous Huxley novel. In fact it’s an illustration by the late San Francisco artist known as Jess (1923–2004) for a poem, “Surrealist Shells,” by Robert Duncan, his partner. It’s as good an entry point as any for Jess’s wide-ranging work. The exhibition “Jess: Secret Compartments,” which traveled to Kohn from Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York

John Ashbery in Artsy by Julia Wolkoff

”Why Famous American Poet John Ashbery Made Hundreds of Collages

In his 1975 masterwork Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, the late American poet John Ashbery (1927–2017) meditates on Francesco Parmigianino’s painting of the same name. The emotional intimacy of the Renaissance artist’s sensitive, tender-hearted portrait captured Ashbery’s imagination: “The soul establishes itself. / But how far can it swim out through the eyes / And still return safely to its nest?”

John Ashbery in Hyperallergic by John Yau

The Childhood Innocence of John Ashbery’s Art

Ashbery’s primary subject matter concerns an alternate world where nothing goes permanently wrong, and where disasters are nothing more than pranks

Delia Brown - New York Times, June 8 2018 by Martha Schwendener

Delia Brown

Through June 17. Tibor de Nagy, 15 Rivington Street, Manhattan; 212-262-5050,

Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), a painting depicting prostitutes on a notorious street in Barcelona, has served as both a cornerstone of modern art and Exhibit A in arguments about women being objectified and exploited in Western art. But what happens when women turn the lens on themselves, posting similarly suggestive or sexualized images on social media? Delia Brown uses this idea as a springboard for “Demoiselles d’Instagram” at Tibor de Nagy.

Several paintings here feature women taking “gym selfies,” a subgenre of Instagram self-portraiture. Cute harp seals are neatly woven into the compositions, suggesting the wild disparities of social media feeds, and one painting roughly mimics the composition of Picasso’s “Demoiselles,” with its shifting, jarring perspectives and distorted figures. Ms. Brown’s titles, made up wholly or partly of emojis, are a nice touch, too.

Ms. Brown’s acrid palette and stylized, often grotesque figures signal a departure from her earlier, more sedate realism. In the same way Picasso cribbed from African sculpture to almost-invent Cubism in his “Demoiselles” (full-blown Cubism came a year later) Ms. Brown’s ladies echo the exaggerated femininity of Japanese anime; Lisa Yuskavage’s paintings; Dana Schutz’s reduxes of Willem de Kooning’s Cubist-inspired reduxes of Picasso; the graffiti aesthetic of Kenny Scharf; and the brilliantly weird figurative paintings of 20th-century outliers like late-Francis Picabia and Leonor Fini.

In the end, however, women representing themselves via social media do not fare better here than they did in Picasso’s misogynist universe. (And while competent and often clever, Ms. Brown’s exhibition doesn’t constitute a comparable, seismic shift in the history of painting.) Society and the beauty industry’s demands may shape these representations, but rather than “victims” of sexist body culture, the “Demoiselles d’Instagram” appear to be flagrant perpetrators.

Hyperallergic by Stephanie Maine
Two Coats of Paint by Sharon Butler
Two Coats of Paint By Sharon ButlerJune 17, 2017

Medrie MacPhee: Flat-out at Tibor de Nagy

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Medrie MacPhee’s new paintings, on view at Tibor de Nagy (recently relocated to shared space with Betty Cuningham on the Lower East Side) feature sewing notions and fabric pieces—zippers, pockets, buttons, facings, sleeves, and so forth—all harvested from cheap, disassembled clothing. The elements and shapes are flattened out, pasted onto the two-dimensional surface, and painted with a odd color palette. The effect, devoid of any fashionable digital reference or nod to our collective distraction, conjures the decisive presence and independent object-hood of abstract paintings from an earlier era.

This new body of work, inventive and considered, is a departure for MacPhee. Last year during a visit to her Ridgewood studio, I saw some older paintings and works on paper. The images had a dystopic vibe, depicting fragments of architecture and deflated, almost comical, non-referential blob-like shapes. At the time, the painting titled Big Blue was still a work in progress, and MacPhee had pasted some old sweat pants and a zipper onto the painted image. She had them lying around from a previous, unrelated project: upcycling cheap clothes into jumpsuits to give as amusing gifts for friends. The addition of the clothing parts was an interesting new development on the canvas, but MacPhee was still unsure whether it worked. Now, a year later, she has made up her mind: the new paintings are chock full of thick, solid-colored fabric pieces, fabric trim, and other unhinged clothing parts. They work.

At first glance, the paintings seem like formal abstraction, investigations of relationships between shape and line, but, when seen in terms of the development of MacPhee’s visual language, they are more complex than simple arrangements of form. MacPhee seems—consciously or unconsciously–to make aesthetic choices that telegraph collective despair at the instability and danger we are experiencing from our current political situation. She creates the abstract images through a process of creative destruction. Items that were once fully utilitarian and three-dimensional are dismantled, their elements recombined in new formations. The space is shallow, the lines and shapes are pushed up to the surface, and a sense of claustrophobia prevails. Expressing anxiety is, paradoxically, liberating.

Hyperallergic by John YauJanuary 5, 2017

The journey or the dream, the unavoidable movement from one domain to another, is one of the themes running through a number of the recent collages. In others, which use a game board as the ground upon which Ashbery has affixed various images, a terrain is re-imagined. We seem to encounter the most unlikely and ordinary things, all of which are mysterious portents of what lies ahead. The other thing that struck me about these works is how gay some of them are. For a poet who is notorious for writing opaque poems in which autobiography and transparency are dispensed with, a number of collages celebrate the youthful male body with an innocence that is touching, tender, and, frankly, poignant and sweet.

The Paris Review by Dan PiepenbringJanuary 5, 2017

John Ashbery is eighty-nine. In the last two months, he’s published a new collection of poems, Commotion of the Birds, and launched an exhibition of his latest collage work, which appears through January 28 at Tibor de Nagy. 

What have you done in the last two months?

The Observer by David D'ArcyJanuary 5, 2017

Much has been made of the notion that Ashbery creates his collages by accretion, as he does with his allusive poems. No doubt. Yet he also works as a curator here, selecting images and staging them to tug the viewer in unexpected ways.  All the more unexpected since the artist whose sly boyishness comes through in this new work is almost 90.

The New York Times By Will HeinrichJanuary 5, 2017

He places this figure where it will reinforce rather than disrupt the original composition, so that even as he is shading, psychologizing or interpreting the painting he’s chosen, he’s also letting it shine as it is.

Hyperallergic by Rob ColvinDecember 1, 2016

The art of Fairfield Porter (b. 1907) might be more admired today than when he died in 1975. If so, it’s because he has given younger painters a way out of their own race with art criticism, academic theory, shopworn irony, heartless formalism, and mannered diffidence as if painting had no future. These are the artists who need to see Fairfield Porter: Things as They Are at Tibor de Nagy most. 

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