Writings by David Cohen


Alberto Burri at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

However raw and rude his torn, scorched and crudely sewn-together burlaps, his molten plastics, or his randomly cracked ceramics might have been, he was a consummate aesthete, incapable — seemingly — of inelegance. In the case of Italian artists, the national stereotype happens to be true — they have a Midas touch with beauty, even when they are attempting to convey poverty, trauma or angst.

Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica L.A.,1966. Plastic, acrylic, combustione on Celotex, 11-3/8 x 14-1/2 inches Courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Alberto Burri at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

Burri is famous for the poverty of his means and the richness of his results.


Thomas Demand at 303 Gallery and Merlin James at Sikkema Jenkins & Co

Merlin James and Thomas Demand might seem as different as two contemporary artists can be. But a coincidence of means begs a comparison between shows of overtly contrastive mood and art-world temper. For both artists make their final images from models of their own making.


Karen Yasinsky at Mireille Mosler, Alex McQuilkin at Marvelli, Isaac Julien at Metro Pictures

Where Yasinsky accesses early girlhood through dolls and dinky illustration technique, McQuilkin seems dedicated to a perpetual state of teenage angst. The specific identification of both with early cinema relates to a broader trend in feminist-influenced art.


Anthony Caro at Mitchell-Innes & Nash

These hefty yet open-form, emphatic yet enigmatic assemblages of prefabricated, found, and adapted components show a youthful, spry, curiosity-filled artist at the top of his game.


R.B. Kitaj

R.B. Kitaj’s work broke a modernist taboo – before it became fashionable to do so – by being unabashedly literary. Hilton Kramer once complained that his paintings were “littered with ideas.” But as referential as he could be, Kitaj was always a consummately visual artist.

Lynda Benglis, Quartered Meteor, 1969. Lead, 57-1/2 x 65-1/2 x 64-1/2 inches, edition 1/3. Courtesy Cheim & Read Gallery

Lynda Benglis and Louise Bourgeois: Circa 1970, at Cheim & Read

Louise Bourgeois and Lynda Benglis are both inveterate explorers of sculpture’s soggy underbelly. They are doyennes of a dark sexuality and of the nebulous space between the personal and the universal.


Neo Rauch: para at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Neo is perfectly forenamed for an artist in whom, to paraphrase architectural theorist Charles Jencks, the wasms have become an ism. Rauch’s paintings, fusing elements of romanticism and realism from the last two centuries, resist the idea that anachronism and rejuvenation might be at odds with one another.


Venice Biennale 2007

LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA 52nd International Exhibition of Art A version of this article first appeared in the New York Sun, June 11, 2007 under the title “Pax American in the Serene Republic” The Venice Biennale has been the Olympics of the visual arts since its inception in 1895. In odd years countries choose their artist…


The Realist World: Alfred Leslie, Sylvia Sleigh, Philip Pearlstein

THE RADICAL THEATER OF ALFRED LESLIE Ameringer Yohe until April 21 (20 West 57th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, 212 445 0051) SYLVIA SLEIGH I-20 until May 10 (557 West 23rd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, 212 645 1100) PHILIP PEARLSTEIN Betty Cuningham until April 28 (541 West 25 Street, between 10 and…