Artist B. Wurtz on five exhibitions in New York [published 9/24/2018]

“You really sense the artists’ genuine involvement.”

“Charline von Heyl”
through October 20, 2018

“Wolfgang Tillmans: How likely is it that only I am right in this matter?”
through October 20, 2018
David Zwirner | West 19th Street

“Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art”
through October 27, 2018
David Zwirner | West 20th Street

“Urs Fischer: PLAY” with choreography by Madeline Hollander
through October 13, 2018

“Kathy Butterly: Thought Presence”
through October 20, 2018
James Cohan

Last week, I finally got out to look at art. A surprisingly large number of things I liked a lot!

The first show I saw was Charline von Heyl’s at Petzel Gallery. I’ve admired her work for a long time. In what I think of as von Heyl’s best paintings, there’s usually a clash of forces—two things coming together to create a strange, powerful energy. I find them aesthetically beautiful, but there’s also something weird and off about them that makes them really interesting.

Charline von Heyl, Mana Hatta, 2017, acrylic, oil and charcoal on linen, 82 x 70 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans’s exhibition at David Zwirner was also great. He’s a master of installation—some of the photographs are framed, some of them are taped to the wall, some of them are hanging from clips. Though his subject matter seems all over the place, what I always come away with from his work—which includes films and sound pieces as well as photographs—is a very focused, intensely personal view of the world.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Independence, 2018. Copyright Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, Galerie Buchholz Berlin/Cologne, and Maureen Paley, London.

I was blown away by “Endless Enigma” also at Zwirner, a sort of reworking of “Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism,” the 1936 show at MoMA curated by Alfred H. Barr Jr. It was amazing. Whatever you think of mega galleries like Zwirner, they mount incredible, museum-quality exhibitions. In this one, there’s a Hieronymus Bosch. There’s a Titian. There’s wonderful work by Surrealists like Odilon Redon and Max Ernst. There’s a great Bob Gober, and good pieces by other contemporary artists. It’s a winner.

Lisa Yuskavage, Transference Portrait of My Shrink in Her Starched Nightgown with My Face and Her Hair, 1995. Copyright © Lisa Yuskavage. Courtesy Nicholas Hall and David Zwirner.

I didn’t know what I was going to think of the Urs Fischer installation at Gagosian, but I really liked it. Created it in collaboration with artist and choreographer Madeline Hollander, it’s just a few office chairs in this enormous gallery. The chairs roll around the space and seem to react to you. You know, of course, that they’re simply responding to data collected by cameras, but each chair seems to have a personality. Maybe I’m being too generous, but I really enjoyed the piece’s simplicity.

Installation view of “Urs Fischer: PLAY” with choreography by Madeline Hollander, Gagosian, 522 West 21st Street, New York, September 6 – October 13, 2018. Artwork copyright © Urs Fischer. Photo: Chad Moore. Courtesy Gagosian.

I was not that familiar with Kathy Butterly’s ceramic work, so I went to her show not knowing what I was going to see. Her objects, seemingly functional but all squashed, are a total delight! I liked that apparent residue of usefulness, and delicate details that made me think of how attuned people were in past centuries to decoration.

Kathy Butterly, Baked Sale, 2018, clay, glaze, 4 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 5 3/8 inches. Copyright © Kathy Butterly. Image courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

So right off the bat this fall there are all these terrific shows in Chelsea. There is a certain kind of art being made right now that I think is partly the result of a bad effect of grad school—the idea that all you have to do is pick a topic and make something to illustrate it, or else make some bland thing and tack a bit of critical theory onto it. But in the shows I’ve just mentioned, you really sense the artists’ genuine involvement—it’s a great start to the season.

B. Wurtz’s work is currently on view at Metro Pictures, New York, through October 20, and at Richard Telles, Los Angeles, through October 27. “This Has No Name,” his first U.S. museum survey, will open at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, on September 30 and run through February 3, 2019.