Dan Nadel is writer and curator based in Brooklyn.


Viola Frey: Ceramic Sculptor of the Anthropocene

The first image in “Viola Frey: Center Stage,” supersized on an atrium wall of the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, California, and printed on the cover of the exhibition pamphlet, is a photograph of the artist in 1996. She stands inside one of her just-larger-than-life ceramic female figures looking steadily at the camera—as if to demonstrate that her work is an extension of her person, but that the two are not the same. Her pose conveys the sense of scale, a mastery of her medium, and an easy relationship to both. Frey helped to change notions that ceramics was inherently a medium for craft, not art. Whether because of her gender, the vast variety of her output, or both, acclaim comparable to her contemporaries’ has eluded Frey, despite frequent exhibitions of her work during and after her lifetime. “Center Stage” is the artist’s first major museum survey on the West Coast since 1981.

Steve DiBenedetto: A Denatured Humanism

Steve DiBenedetto: Traipser, 2018

On the evening that I first walked out of Steve DiBenedetto’s new exhibition of paintings, “Toasted with Everything,” I looked up at the navy sky, down the asphalt street, and felt dizzy with euphoria. DiBenedetto encodes his works with ideas about paint as if to answer the question, What should a painting look like, in all its confusing, diffuse, and oddball glory, in order to make us feel that we’re human and engaged?

Tigers, Horses, and Stripes

Ellen Berkenblit: Jonesy, 2017

Ellen Berkenblit’s striking new paintings at Anton Kern Gallery are a riot of luminous colors. Each layer of paint reveals shapes and colors, both painted and sewn, as if simultaneously pre-existent and made anew. In other works, the layers within Berkenblit’s paintings seem to display the history of their own making.