David Salle is a painter and essayist. He will have a show of recent paintings at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris this winter.
 (January 2020)

IN THE REVIEW

The Great Amalgamator

Rachel Harrison Life Hack

an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, October 25, 2019–January 12, 2020
It’s funny how durable the figurative is in art—it’s a reassuring presence, hovering protectively over the wilder exploits. The artist Rachel Harrison makes sculptures that are grounded in figurative forms but that are not representational in any traditional sense.

Houdini with a Brush

Charline von Heyl: Dunesday, 62 x 60 inches, 2016

Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes

an exhibition at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, June 22–September 23, 2018; the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium, October 14, 2018–January 13, 2019; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., November 8, 2018–April 21, 2019
A good painting focuses our attention in a matter of seconds—what is sometimes called wall power—and it also holds our gaze over time. It repays prolonged looking. A good painting appeals to both the eye and the mind, the one refreshing the other. There is no one thing or set …

The Star of the Silken Screen

Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again

an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, November 12, 2018–March 31, 2019; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 18–September 2, 2019; and the Art Institute of Chicago, October 20, 2019–January 26, 2020
Andy Warhol combined social and pictorial intelligence in a way not seen in this country since John Singer Sargent. In one of the most unexpected artistic transformations of the last century, he found a way to make a highly synthetic, semimechanized kind of painting feel authentic. His attitude and posture, his public persona, and his forays into filmmaking and other media were radical in the world of high art, but his aesthetic inclinations were more traditional. They harked back to, and partially bridged, two widely divergent tendencies in American art: social realism and abstraction, the Yankee peddler and the Transcendentalist.

Musical Lines

Terry Winters: Schema (57), 1985–1986

Terry Winters: Facts and Fictions

an exhibition at the Drawing Center, New York City, April 6–August 12, 2018
There’s a Nichols and May routine from the early 1960s about a high-strung worrier of a mother who’s going to the hospital for some tests. Her grown son asks her over the phone what the doctors intend to do. She tells him, “Well, they’ll X-ray my nerves.” That bit came …

Theater of the Self

Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away

an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, February 9–May 9, 2018; and the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, August 30–December 2, 2018
The art of Danh Vo is popular and politically engaged, though it’s the opposite of agitprop. Vo is too canny and too much of an aesthete for that. He’s like Prospero and Ariel both, light on his feet, and his art manifests images and pulls in references from disparate places; it feels in transit, as if it just alighted here.

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.