David Salle is a painter and essayist. (February 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

Art in Free Fall

Laura Owens

an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, November 10, 2017–February 4, 2018; the Dallas Museum of Art, March 25–July 29, 2018; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, November 4, 2018–March 25, 2019
The Los Angeles artist Laura Owens brings a light touch and a tough mind to a new kind of synthetic painting. Her exuberant, bracing midcareer survey at the Whitney beams a positive, can-do energy. As a stylist and culture critic, Owens is neither a stone-cold killer nor a gleeful nihilist, traits embraced by some of her peers. She’s an art lover, an enthusiast who approaches the problem of what to paint, and how to paint it, with an open, pragmatic mind. Her style can appear to be all over the place, but we always recognize the work as hers. Her principal theme may be her own aesthetic malleability.

Playing It Cool

Alex Katz: Vivien, oil on linen, 60 x 144 inches, 2017

Alex Katz

an exhibition at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York City, November 5–December 22, 2017
Other animals use tools, but as far as I know, we’re the only ones to make paintbrushes. Painting is a physical thing, like sports or ballet. There are important exceptions, of course, like Wade Guyton and his followers, who use computers, scanners, and inkjet printers to make paintings, but for …

Outing the Inside

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait

an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, September 24, 2017–January 28, 2018

Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois

by Robert Storr
In her long life, Louise Bourgeois experienced both extremes of the female artist story—marginalization, even invisibility early on, and decades later a fierce and passionate following by younger artists and curators. Her status was based on an independence from fashion, and on calling attention to emotions that most people prefer to keep hidden: shame, disgust, fear of abandonment, jealousy, anger. Occasionally, joy or wonder would surface, like a break in the clouds. But Bourgeois was an artist, not a therapist. Her imagination was tied to forms, and how to make them expressive. Her gift was to represent inchoate and hard-to-grasp feelings in ways that seem direct and unfiltered.

Clothes That Don’t Need You

Clothes/Not Clothes: War/Peace, from ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between’

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, May 4–September 4, 2017
What kind of artist is Rei Kawakubo? Let’s call her a combinatory formalist. She is unusually adept at combining the many disparate influences that course through her designs into unlikely, arresting, contrapuntal compositions. She is first of all a creator of images—of pictures liberated from their original settings, and in this she belongs with the Pictures Generation, that group of mediacentric artists who were among her first devotees. Fashion is the place where the associative, imagistic mind can run riot with impunity; it’s a postmodernist playground.