Hrag Vartanian is a writer, critic, and designer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Whitney Biennial 2006: Day for NightBy Robert C. Morgan, Hrag Vartanian, Stephanie Buhmann, William Powhida, and Ellen Pearlman
The 2006 Whitney Biennial had the potential to harness a subversive undercurrent with only a slight (if radical) reinterpretation of its curatorial premise, Day for Night.
Anthony Caro: New Galvanized Steel SculpturesBy Hrag Vartanian
Few sculptors have the range of Brit maestro Sir Anthony Caro, and fewer artists can consistently create three-dimensional forms that feel original yet rooted firmly in the ideals of modern sculpture.
Mala IqbalBy Hrag Vartanian
In Bellwethers pristine space on Grand Street, Mala Iqbals paintings are alluring and even titillating. A Staten Island native, she says in her artist statement that her work is partly a product of her childhood environment.
Evan LintermansBy Hrag Vartanian
Evan Lintermanss New Paintings show at *sixtyseven is a winterfresh whiff of arctic air consisting of three acrylic paintings on Plexiglas produced after an Alaskan trip. The subject perfectly suits Lintermanss technique and offers him the chance to show off his surfaces as his forms oscillate in shimmering waves.
Evan LintermansBy Hrag Vartanian
A native Angeleno, Evan Lintermans constructs a series of slick panels in Generica, a show named for a Sanford Kwinters and Daniela Fabricius essay in Mutations (2000). Lintermans has created six works in oil, latex, and enamel on panel, titled with cutesy names that suggest forms, "Puzzle" (2002), or locations, "Burbank" (2001).
Curating on the MarginBy Yasmeen Siddiqui and Hrag Vartanian
The challenges of dialoguing with subjects or spaces on the fringe, for better or for worse, are fragile endeavors that deserve a close examination of curatorial agendas and theoretical framing. Looking to the recently closed Williamsburg Bridges Palestine 2002 and the soon to open exhibition The Same Sky we can examine the success and failures of the margin, where things that traditionally escape our view are placed in the foreground for careful scrutiny.
Flip: Rachel Beach and Nora HertingBy Hrag Vartanian
Its latest show, Flip, brings together two artists, Rachel Beach and Nora Herting, who are completely immersed in a world of decoration and design. While they share some commonalities, they diverge in their approach and success. Beach is a sculptor who excels in fashioning art out of the seemingly superficial world of veneers, but shallow her objects are not.
The Breakaway Republic of BushwickBy Hrag Vartanian
In last months Rail, artist/critic James Kalm shined a bright light on the long history of Brooklyn, and Williamsburg in particular, as a creative force in the citys artistic life.
PedestrianBy Hrag Vartanian
The ghosts of 14th Street must have been happy in October, when Art in Odd Places (AiOP) chose the thoroughfare as the site for its month-long exhibition/intervention/performance/festivalthe choice seemed as much symbolic as aesthetic.
Nicholas Baker-MaffeiBy Hrag Vartanian
Couched in the artists pleasure, Baker-Maffeis eight paintings, spanning from 2000 to the present, are testaments to the creators moodwhether sexual, intellectual, or technical.
Portraying Gorky at GagosianBy Hrag Vartanian
Larry Gagosians fixation on Gorky is not surprising considering the cultural and personality traits the two figures share.
Elusive BoundariesBy Hrag Vartanian
When I visited Michal Rovner at her studio on Broadway near Bleecker, she told me one of those New York cabbie stories people tend to share over drinks.
KEITH HARING: 20TH ANNIVERSARYBy Hrag Vartanian
If Keith Haring seems more ubiquitous today than ever before, a walk through the Miami Basel art fair last December would have been proof positive. This year was considered a safe year for blue-chip art galleries in Miami and stashed everywhere amidst the mid-century abstractionists, early modernist masters, and more recent art stars, was Haring.
Histories of ViolenceBy Yasmeen Siddiqui, Hrag Vartanian, Thomas Micchelli, and Dore Ashton
Two concurrent Chelsea exhibitions tackle the aesthetics of violence within the context of war: Thomas Hirschhorns Superficial Engagement at the Gladstone Gallery and the projects of Walid Raad/The Atlas Group at The Kitchen under the title The Dead Weight of a Quarrel Hangs.
Andrew DemirjianBy Hrag Vartanian
In his first solo Williamsburg show, Andrew Demirjian exhibited two video works at LMAK Projects that grapple with the American media’s manipulation of everyday reality: “Scenes from Next Week” (2005) and “Unpromised Water” (2004). It is a process we, as consumers, according to Demirjian, accept uncritically, even passively.
Stuart HawkinsBy Hrag Vartanian
In the hands of an artist like Stuart Hawkins, photography sings with a global voice. The New York/Nepal-based artist has taken a Technicolor look at the uneasy relationship between foreigner and native—a binary reality at the core of identity politics, but one that is increasingly about imagined narratives rather than facts.
Art in the Shadow of Katrina: Exploring Prospect New OrleansBy Hrag Vartanian
When Mark Bradford built his ark, Mithra (2008), in the middle of New Orleans devastated Lower Ninth Ward, I dont know if he envisioned it as a monument to futility or a symbolic cry for salvation but it reads as a little bit of both. Bradfords ship sculpture is composed of large sheets of plywood and covered with advertisements that, even in New Orleanss rather temperate climate, peeled and washed away.
Homomuseum: Heroes and MomentsBy Hrag Vartanian
This year marks the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, and no one can argue that the world has not changed for the better for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Once characterized as the love that dare not speak its name, today gay issues are discussed during Presidential debates and regularly featured on network newscasts.
Out of Place: Summer 2002 PicksBy Hrag Vartanian
In 1989, painter R.B. Kitajs wrote about a Diasporist art. Something that came out of an artist that paints in two or more societies at once. A flexible position that was as old as the hills (or caves) but new enough to react to todays newspapers or last weeks aesthetic musing or tomorrows terror.
Cheryl MolnarBy Hrag Vartanian
Over the last twenty years, north Brooklyn has endured one crisis after another: crack, gentrification, homesteading dot-comers, more gentrification, destination restaurants, luxury lofts, the closing of Engine 212, a new power station and now development of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront.
The Male GazeBy Hrag Vartanian
When I was in college in the 1990s, there was an emerging movement called Gay Art; it was akin to Feminist Art, but focused on radical Queer Theory and its impact on male gay identity.
Shirin NeshatBy Hrag Vartanian
In her latest exhibition, Shirin Neshat continues her cinematic translation of Iranian writer Shahrnoush Parsipours Women Without Men. Her latest filmic installation lingers on a prostitute, named Zarin, in an Iranian brothel, a place saturated with color and languid characters that frame the protagonists psychological breakdown.
Harriet ShorrBy Hrag Vartanian
Harriet Shorrs new exhibit is filled with difficult images. They mark a new direction for Shorr, who is known for her more straightforward still lifes. Here, she has attempted radically new works that wrestle with allegory in the guise of porcelain figurines, textiles, flowers, branches and reflective surfaces.
Garbage CollectionBy Hrag Vartanian
Greenjeans, a small craft shop slowly morphing into a makeshift gallery in Brooklyn’s South Slope, is becoming a destination for new American craft. Their latest show, Garbage Collection, is their first foray into a gallery-like exhibition.
John LurieBy Hrag Vartanian
A founding member of the musical group Lounge Lizards, John Lurie isnt well known as an artist, but his latest show at Roebling Halls small Chelsea space showcases a rich style that is also infused with irony.
Modernism: Designing a New World 1914–1939By Hrag Vartanian
Accustomed to discussing the masterpieces of Modernism, it is easy to forget that Modernism in fact constituted an explosion of visionary movements that changed history forever.
Hiroshi SugimotoBy Hrag Vartanian
Hiroshi Sugimotos seems at the brink of a brave new world in his latest exhibition, Colors of Shadow, which is also his first foray into color photographythough looking at these virtually monochromic images youd hardly know it. What he presents in this show shoots straight to the origins of art and hints at a new direction for the artist.
Andrew Ohanesian and Tescia Seufferlein Blind SpotBy Hrag Vartanian
For those who oppose the Iraq War, its unfolding tragedy has colonized a repository of dark motivations and actions that represent the nadir of American ideals, a shadow realm of places like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and Manhattan’s Pier 57 (used to house RNC 2004 protesters) that scares the shit out of us.
Open AirBy Hrag Vartanian
For four days, curators Alyssa Natches and Lou Auguste welcomed a slew of street artists to paste, paint and stencil to their heart’s desire on plywood walls constructed in the rented Stay Gold gallery space on Brooklyn’s Grand Street. Tiki Jay from LA was in town for his first New York showing, while New York diehards Michael De Feo, Dan Witz, the artistic pair Skewville, and FAILE—among others—packed the space to capacity.
LONGTIME EXPOSURE: Considering Street Art PhotographyBy Hrag Vartanian
Katherine Lorimer (aka Luna Park) is a Brooklyn-based street art photographer. People outside the world of street art and graffiti probably dont know what that means, but then again most street art photographers are figuring it out themselves. A librarian by day, she spends her free time scouring the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn looking for the best street art and capturing images which she will post online.
Is Contemporary Architecture a PR Panacea for Autocrats? Western Architectural Ethics & Undemocratic NationsBy Hrag Vartanian
The recent Beijing Olympics has highlighted a crisis in contemporary Western architecture and some of us are worried. Earlier this year, Thomas Micchelli penned an insightful essay in the Rail entitled Monumental Squalor, which indicted architect Robert A.M. Stern for his complicity in the George W. Bush Presidential Library, a project that is planned to perpetuate the bankrupt beliefs of a presidency that has destroyed the ideals of America.
50 years of HelveticaBy Hrag Vartanian
The entry of Helvetica as the first canonized typeface into the hallowed halls of MoMA is a great moment for typographers and design enthusiasts everywhere. The museum has acquired a set of original 36” Helvetica Bold lead plates (1956-57) into its collection, and has organized an exhibit entitled 50 Years of Helvetica to mark the occasion and display its influence in context.
Ernst Ludwig KirchnerBy Hrag Vartanian
Few art museums have the luxury of acquiring masterpieces one by one and then mounting an exhibition with an accompanying catalogue for each artwork, unless you are the Upper East Sides Neue Galerie of Austrian and German Modern Art.
Engaging EphemeraBy Hrag Vartanian
Sometimes I encounter an artist whose work provokes a visceral reaction that haunts me for days. Cal Lane in Engaging Ephemera instigated exactly that response, and while she is one of three artists on display, she undoubtedly dominates the show.
Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-BauerBy Hrag Vartanian
In one fell swoop Ronald Lauders $135 million purchase in June of Gustav Klimts 1907 portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, bestowed Manhattans Neue Galerie with a destination artwork and a steady flow of tourists gawking at the most expensive painting in the world. Even hype-resistant New Yorkers stopped by to take a look.
Virtually an Art Market? Artfully Living a Second LifeBy Hrag Vartanian
Now that the Internet is ubiquitous and many of us prefer email, instant messaging and online chat rooms to live conversation, it was only a matter of time before our cultural pursuits followed us online as well. Now, a virtual world known as Second Life (www.secondlife.com), is offering a venue for the art world to expand its terrestrial (aka offline) presence into an online terra incognita.
The Very Public Life of Street ArtBy Hrag Vartanian
Everyone dreams about having it both ways and street artists are no different. On one hand they are rebellious lawbreakers exerting their right to public space, and on the other they are the ultimate capitalists monetizing their talents into commodities that sell increasing well.
Love/War/SexBy Hrag Vartanian
Exit Art is an oasis, one of the only professional alternative spaces in New York that takes a chance with carefully curated new work, effortlessly interspersing established and emerging talents. Saying that, their current show is a mixed bag of ideas about the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, their resulting impact and their mind-numbing role in our lives.
Bushwick Open Studios Continues to Grow but at What Cost?By Hrag Vartanian
What a difference five years makes. From a scrappy and dispersed open studios festival, Brooklynsif not New Yorkslargest such event, Bushwick Open Studios (BOS), has grown to 161 locations, including 16 information hubs and hundreds of artists over a three-mile stretch of the nebulous neighborhood known as Bushwick.
Whos Afraid of Atom EgoyanBy Hrag Vartanian
When I interviewed Atom Egoyan in 1999, he hesitated to tell me about Ararat, the new project he was poised to announce, which addresses the Turkish Empires genocide of Armenians in 1915.