Search View Archive

Joan Waltemath

Joan Waltemath is an artist who lives and works in New York City. She writes on art and has served as an editor-at-large of the Brooklyn Rail since 2001. She has shown extensively and her work is in the collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, the National Gallery of Art, the Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. She is currently the Director of the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at MICA.

Guest Critic

contingency, probability and the void

In an amalgam of ancient cultural memory there is a tiny thimble containing all the alternate universes, events, and possibilities that have not yet occurred, the majority of which may never occur though, in fact, one may never know what unknown occurrence will not occur.

In Conversation

DAVID COHEN with Joan Waltemath

David Cohen is the publisher & editor of the online magazine He was well known to New Yorkers as art critic for the New York Sun until it closed in 2008, and as moderator of the Review Panel at the National Academy.

In Conversation

David Levi Strauss with Joan Waltemath

What I’ve always tried to do in relation to an artist’s work is to write something that can sit next to the work and not do violence to it, first of all, which is very difficult, and then to try to make something happen between them, between the visual work and the written, that is a third thing.

In Conversation

David Rabinowitch

Joan Waltemath (Rail): We can discount everything that came before… David Rabinowitch: Yes, we begin in the middle. Virgil begins in media res as Homer did.

In Conversation

In Conversation with Robert C. Morgan

It seems to me that we are in an era now where it is not enough to be from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, or Indonesia or Mongolia, but you have to somehow take what that culture is about, and your own experiences within that culture, and to make it palatable on the level of a kind of global system of exchange.

In Conversation

BARRY SCHWABSKY In Conversation with Joan Waltemath

Barry Schwabsky is an American art critic and poet living in London. His books include The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art (Cambridge University Press), Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon Press), Opera: Poems 1981-2002 (Meritage Press), and Book Left Open in the Rain (The Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions). He writes regularly for Artforum and The Nation, among others.

In Conversation

Karin Davie with Joan Waltemath

On the occasion of her traveling mini-survey featuring 41 paintings, drawings, and sculptures, which began last month on February 23rd at the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo, Rail contributing editor Joan Waltemath visited Karin Davie’s Lower East Side studio to discuss her life and work.

In Conversation

Joanna Pousette-Dart with Joan Waltemath

On the occasion of the painter’s recent exhibit at Moti Hasson Gallery, which will be on view until November 1, Joanna Pousette-Dart welcomed Rail Editor-at-Large Joan Waltemath to her Broome Street studio to talk about her life and work.

In Conversation

A Life in Theory: Sylvère Lotringer with Joan Waltemath

Sylvère Lotringer is professor of French literature and philosophy at Columbia University and general editor of Semiotext(e). He has a forthcoming book of interviews titled David Wojnarowicz: A definitive history of five or six years on the lower east side, as well as an augmented version of Overexposed: Perverting Perversions. He splits his time between New York and Baja, CA.

In Conversation

Ann Reynolds and Eve Andrée Laramée

Ann Reynolds is Associate Professor of Art and Art History, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Robert Smithson: Learning From New Jersey and Elsewhere (MIT Press, 2003).

Agnes Martin: "...going forward into unknown territory..."

Two shows of Agnes Martin’s work afford a unique opportunity to view both her early and late works concurrently.

In Conversation

Mira Schor with Joan Waltemath

Mira Schor is a painter and writer. She is the author of Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture, and the co-editor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism.

In Conversation

Jay Bernstein with Joan Waltemath

Jay Bernstein is Chair and University Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at The New School for Social Research. He received his BA in 1970 from Trinity College in Religion and his PhD in 1975 from the University of Edinburgh.

In Conversation

John Yau with Joan Waltemath

I write fiction, poetry and essays, generally that’s what they would be called, and then I organize shows when I’m asked. I am the publisher/editor of a small press,

In Conversation

Michael Corris with Joan Waltemath

Michael Corris is an artist and writer on art. Corris holds a BA from Brooklyn College, an MFA in painting/media from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and a PhD from University College London.

In Conversation

ROBERT WHITMAN with Joan Waltemath

Robert Whitman, whose new work, Passport, will be performed April 16 – 17 at Dia:Beacon and Montclair State University, N.J., speaks with Rail Editor-at-Large Joan Waltemath at Mimi Gross's TriBeCa loft.

In Conversation

The Art of Parrying: Wilfried Dickhoff in conversation with Joan Waltemath

Wilfried Dickhoff is an independent critic, curator, and publisher who lives in Cologne and New York. He has taught at several art academies in Europe and recently at Princeton University. Currently, he is working on monograph books, e.g. on Albert Oehlen and Rosemarie Trockel, and a new international art magazine, which will be published out of Istanbul.

In Conversation

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe with Joan Waltemath

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe: I was born in the south of England and went to art school and then to London University Institute of Education for a year before coming to America, in 1968, first to study at Florida State and then to New York, where I first showed a painting in a group show at O.K. Harris in 1971.

Deep Space

Neither in concepts nor in language does anything ever stand isolated. But concepts actually become related only when the personality acts in inner unity, when full subjectivity radiates toward complete objectivity.

In Conversation

RAPHAEL RUBINSTEIN with Joan Waltemath

On May 5, Joan Waltemath met with Raphael Rubinstein at his loft in TriBeCa to talk about Reinventing Abstraction: New York Painting in the 1980s, a show he curated at Cheim & Read (June 27 – August 30).

Nancy Haynes: Threshold

Hidden away on the third floor apartment on West 92nd Street, Leslie Heller presents various artists in the different rooms of an apartment. There's furniture to sit down on to look at the work, making the scene homey and allowing for an extended gaze.

Kim Jones

The impact of Kim Jones’s work is visceral, it’s the kind of stuff we resist putting words to; often the moment we do they seem to reveal their limits as inadequate to all that the work evokes.

Rudolf de Crignis

In his current show at the Peter Blum Gallery in Soho, Rudolf de Crignis presents two groups of works, one essentially blue and one essentially gray. For de Crignis, like Yves Klein, ultramarine blue is his primary vehicle, but unlike Klein he uses it with other colors. Series of gray paintings emerge from a dialogue of complementary colors. A modest brochure details what information you need in order to be able to see the work. Everything has been done with an eye to precision.

Howard Smith Stroke and Structure

At his opening, where nearly 200 paintings and drawings are installed, I asked Howard Smith how much time there was in the room. At first he looked rather quizzically at me, but before long we lit on the figure of 17 years.

Cora Cohen

The legacies of de Kooning, Franz Kline, and later, the reputations of Brice Marden and Louise Fishman, to acknowledge a few, were established at a time when style was territorial. An artist using stylistic elements associated with another artist would be considered derivative—a criterion by which one could easily discount a work by saying it had already been done.

Jene Highsten, Lines in Space

Since I first saw them a few weeks ago at Björn Ressle Gallery, a series of unusual ink on photograph ‘drawings’ have lingered in my mind.

Wiser than God

It might be called generational sparring that Wiser than God, a show of octogenarians, opened at the BLT Gallery right across from the New Museum’s catchy Younger than Jesus exhibition unveiled last April. On view through the end of July, Wiser than God was conceived by Adrian Dannatt after attending the New Museum’s press conference, and co-curated with the painter Jan Frank.

FRANCES BARTH: Scale, Economy and Unnamable Color

One of the most striking things about Frances Barth’s acrylic paintings is how clearly straightforward they are. Having stated as much, the complexity of her dialectical approach slowly starts to unfold.


The more space a work of art is given, the more you are compelled to esteem it.


For the better part of her life, Dorothea Rockburne has conducted investigations into subjects most often approached through the mathematical sciences and language, yet her avenues of approach have been through fluid gesture, the properties of material and precise forms.


Two museum exhibitions in Germany give an in-depth look at the work of a New York painter, Alan Uglow.

ART = TEXT = ART curated by Elizabeth Schlatter

Text = Art = Text, an exhibition culled from Wynn Kramarsky’s renowned contemporary drawing collection, starts out with a piece by Cy Twombly. A series of cursory strokes, both scribbles and letters, run across the dense medium-gray, crayon-and-oil ground and remind us of the origin of the impulse toward mark making and its kinship to the marking of a letter.

SONIA ALMEIDA The Angle of the Sun’s Rays

It’s been more than a few years since you last visited me in New York; you wouldn’t believe the changes that have taken place since you were here on the Bowery. Galleries are opening all over the neighborhood, even on the first floor of my building where Simone Subal, former director at Peter Blum, has just opened a space.


David Diao and Walid Raad met at Hampshire College in the late ’90s where they were both on the faculty—Raad having just completed his Ph.D. and Diao, though born in Chengdu, a veteran of the New York art world with a history from the early days of SoHo, where he had the first one-person show at Paula Cooper’s gallery in 1969.

JOANNE GREENBAUM Hallowed Laughter in a Hall of Mirrors

Joanne Greenbaum’s new paintings are full of stuff; very few areas are left open or unattended. In many of these new pieces, colored pencil, marker, or crayon lines run over the surface, giving the feeling of a child let loose. On first impression this creates a powerful energetic field.

Means of Approach: New York Painting

Walking up the museum’s central circular stairway one can approach New York Painting, an exhibition that has been on view all summer in Bonn, through any of three possible entrances.

Merrill Wagner

One doesn’t know, initially, how often Merrill Wagner painted these paintings and how often they painted her. The hallmark of a true artist is someone who meets the material and the idea to be embodied in it halfway, and in so doing allows the material to speak and renders its qualities visible.

Dan Walsh

In Dan Walsh’s current exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, large-scale canvases are hung mostly below eye level. In the 1980’s in Soho Alan Uglow made it a point to position his paintings below eye level, a move which not only added a sense of gravity to their bearing, but reflected the position of abstract painting at that time as being below the radar.

Mediating the Void Gabriel Orozco

After a few moments amongst the paintings in his recent exhibition at the Marian Goodman Gallery it becomes clear that Gabriel Orozco doesn’t intend to take up a dialogue with the history and medium of painting; he is painting not as a painter, but rather employs the format of abstract painting as a possibility for depicting his geometrical thought.

Marcia Hafif: The Art of Distillation
The Italian Paintings, 1961 – 1969

Marcia Hafif’s mostly two-color paintings now on view in Chelsea were created in Rome, and are being shown for the first time in the United States after thirty-seven years in storage.

Architectures of the Mind: Hedda Sterne and Eve Aschheim

Will we ever know Hedda Sterne as a painter of paintings and not primarily as the only woman and last surviving member of the “Irascibles”?

Field of Color: Tantra Drawings From India

Originating as illustrations for 17th century tantric texts, tantra drawings have taken on autonomy through their dissemination for use in spiritual practice. In the center of each paper there is a form that has been handed down for generations, used over and over again to aid in meditation until it is worn, some accident befalls it, or a new practitioner arrives.

SUZAN FRECON Recent Painting

Suzan Frecon’s exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery is composed of two-panel paintings nine feet high generously spaced around a large room and a second room of smaller scaled works.

CARY SMITH and DON VOISINE Orthogonal and Diagonal

Interspersed in a two-person show in San Francisco, the work of Cary Smith and Don Voisine is heavy on black and white, with notes of color punctuating in concert and alone.

Carmen Herrera at Frederico Sève

The story of Carmen Herrera’s life and work has been spreading. The talented and once undiscovered 95-year-old geometric abstractionist had a mini-retrospective in England with a handsome catalogue and a New York Times review last year that brought her story to the fore.


Utopian, Austin Thomas’s show of delicate constructions and drawings at the Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden in Chelsea is the first part of a three-month collaboration between the Hansel and Gretel Gallery and Thomas’s unique venue in the Lower East Side, Pocket Utopia. The collaboration will include exhibitions as well as events.

Theory Mapping in the Interregnum: LISA DAVIS, New Paintings

Lisa Davis’s paintings are nothing if not complex. It’s a complexity that’s deeply embedded in her perception of how the world moves, shimmers, and stutters. Contrary to the non-casual present at MOMA’s painting show, The Forever Now, Davis celebrates the machinations of time.

Christine Hiebert

An exhibition of pencil, tape, and charcoal drawings by Christine Hiebert opened in November in Philadelphia at Gallery Joe and will remain on view through the month of December.

Joseph Kosuth – a labyrinth into which I can venture

In the context of Joseph Kosuth's monumental installation at the Sean Kelly Gallery a quote from Michale Foucault (1969) that appears at the entrance to Kosuth's black sheet-rock maze seems pointed: "Aren't you sure of what you are saying? Are you going to change yet again, shift your position according to the questions that are put to you..."

R H Quaytman Chapter 12: iamb

It’s been a number of years since a solo exhibition by R H Quaytman has appeared in New York. It has been well worth the wait, however, to have the opportunity to view Quaytman’s work at the Miguel Abreu Gallery, a small space on the Lower East Side in an area that has been relatively recently colonized by art galleries.


Two exhibitions of Jill Nathanson’s work, Sacred Presence/Painterly Process at the Derfner Judaica Museum in Riverdale and No Blue Without Yellow at the Messineo Art Projects/Wyman Contemporary in Chelsea, give view to more than five years of her development.

Rebecca Horn: Cosmic Maps

The Snake’s Ghost, the kind of kinetic sculpture for which Rebecca Horn has become known, sits on the floor in the front room at Sean Kelly. It consists of a pool of gray water in a circular steel pan and a finely fabricated apparatus with a spiraling copper rod.

Jill Baroff: Second Nature

At first glance the use of technology in simple processes sets up technology as a kind of ersatz or second nature in Jill Baroff’s Second Nature.

José Parlá: Layered Days

José Parlá’s first New York solo exhibition is on the fourth floor of an old Soho loft building; a manually operated freight elevator takes you up to a space that has been cleared of its usual offering of furniture to make room for his paintings, works on paper and ceramics.

How to Be Unique

How to be Unique, an eclectic exhibition selected from the private collection of Jochen Kienzle, includes the work of thirty-two international artists from three generations and eight countries.

Mind Games: James Siena’s typewriter drawings

I can’t imagine John Singer Sargent typing. Maybe he did. His lush, fluid lines and his adroitness, however, make a good foil for James Siena, whose adroitness is a story of another kind.

Margrit Lewczuk: Angels

Nothing is obvious—there is no face, rather a series of brushstrokes fill in for a face, itself flanked by a flurry of criss crossed marks motioning the wind of a wing otherwise invisible on either side of the central form. There is something deeply mysterious and poignant in the immediacy of Lewczuk's Angels.


The exhibition feels in tune with the present moment where uncertainty and restraint fill the lives of most Americans.

Barbara Takenaga and Patricio Guzmán: telescopes and other visions

The buzz about Barbara Takenaga’s recent show, Outset at DC Moore Gallery, had already reached me by the time I got back from my summer on the Great Plains and was standing in front of her lush new paintings.

Dorothea Rockburne's Visionary Installation at Dia:Beacon

Rockburne’s timeless forms allow us a perspective from which to reflect on both her prescience and our predicament.


To my mind it’s significant that the Rail’s current Guest Editor, Tom McGlynn is soliciting a response from artist/writers on being an artist who writes about other artists’ works. This is not a consideration that usually receives a lot of attention, especially in the recent past when a theoretical approach dominated art writing and the credibility of an objective viewpoint had not yet been debunked.

What is Art? Art is What?

It is a good time now to consider the question “What is art?” as investment and career concerns have usurped the more profound communication traditionally found in works of Art.

Mutable and Immutable Divides

In attempting to elucidate the possibilities of escaping the rational mind in order to have experiences with art, Georges Didi-Huberman describes a “gaze that would not draw to a close only to discern and recognize, to name what it grasps at any cost—but would, first, distance itself a bit and abstain from clarifying everything immediately.

bent reflections: a response to Judd’s writings

Few institutions that would survive among the power structures of our culture can afford the presence of an individual who would challenge the merit of their rules, nor dare they embrace a code of conduct or administration that does not seek, and yield to, the collectivist denominators of this time.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2023

All Issues