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Barbara A. MacAdam

Barbara A. MacAdam is a New York-based freelance arts writer.

In Conversation

with Barbara MacAdam

On the occasion of David Row’s recent show, Zen Road Signs, at Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Rail contributor Barbara MacAdam met with the artist in his longtime SoHo loft filled with examples of his art from various periods.

In Conversation


The Berlin-based, West German born-and-raised artist Gregor Hildebrandt was in New York for the opening of his show at Perrotin Gallery on the Lower East Side. It’s a disarmingly huge, three-story, former hardware emporium on Orchard Street, where the blaring signage announcing Beckenstein Hardware, remains intact as a reminder of the building’s history, and underscores the persistence of the past in the ultra-modern light-filled interior.

What’s So Important About Criticism?

To begin with, as a critic, editor, and simple enthusiast, I find criticism to be an often delightful form of self-indulgence—one that allows me to set forth a problem for myself and then figure out how to solve it.

Saul Steinberg: Untitled

Steinberg’s paintings run the gamut in associations, from the lyricism of Paul Klee to the political satire of Thomas Rowlandson, to the elegantly limned Surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico.

Joanna Pousette-Dart

Joanna Pousette-Dart’s work is a visceral experience. Organic and warm forms embrace one another just as they do the viewer. Similarly, the paintings’ colors are sweet and seductive and actively engage one another in often indefinable and unexpected contrasts.

Claire Sherman: Intuor

Claire Sherman entangles us in intimate and intricate landscapes: once we enter, we cannot escape. But this work is not about the dangers of nature. To the contrary, the paintings in this show, ranging from the delicate 30-by-26 Wildflowers (2020) to the room-filling (96 by 234) triptych Trees and Vines (2021), are intended as evidence of the harm human activities are inflicting on the global environment. But in depicting our pernicious intrusions, Sherman creates a paradox: how beautiful that damage appears! Is it a trick? Sherman brings to bear a richness of color and activity that almost seems to celebrate our meddling in the natural order, and this, as unlikely as it may seem, offers a note of optimism.

Edith Schloss: Blue Italian Skies Above

What a wonderful time to discover the sly and seductive charm of Edith Schloss’s largely under-the-radar art, writing, and life.

Mirror Image: A Transformation of Chinese Identity

The seven artists in this exhibition—all born in mainland China between 1979 and 1987—are represented by nineteen works that range from video to performance to installations, digital art, painting, and more. Each tells a different story with wit, curiosity, techno savvy, painterly skill, and/or sociability.

Fiona Rae

At play in the fields of abstraction, British artist Fiona Rae forces us to consider what indeed is abstraction. Could it be a part removed from a whole, or a piece used to construct a form? Can it stand alone? While this might appear to be a simple and overused trope today, it remains a provocative one, sitting at the core of anything we call art, and Rae’s works are truly art about art.

In Search of the Miraculous

This fascinating exhibition, curated by Gerard Mossé and Sebastian Sarmiento, leads us through physical, spatial, and spiritual realms to speculate on the nature of mostly abstract art in its many manifestations. It takes us through the variegated present, from the poetic expressions of artists like the Lebanese-born Etel Adnan to the young, Indigenous painter Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe.

Jorinde Voigt: The Match

Stretching along the hallway of David Nolan Gallery and into a light-flooded exhibition space, two large offices, and a parlor, Jorinde Voigt’s show The Match features a number of sculptures called Dyads (made of gold-plated stainless steel), and Triads (composed of wood), together with nearly thirty works on paper. Covering ten years of production and evolving techniques and media, Voigt’s content has been both coherent and diverse.

Lisa Corinne Davis: You Are Here?

Lisa Corinne Davis’s new paintings, created between 2022 and 2023, represent an evolution from her earlier works. Not a change in direction or an abrupt turn, but rather a development expressed in an extended, nuanced conversation with herself.

Merlin Carpenter: Paint-it-Yourself

The explosion of angst begins here with a “Dear Reena” letter to the gallery: Merlin Carpenter states, first, that he will not be attending the opening, however “strange a social situation” it might provoke. Of course, since Reena Spaulings is a collective enterprise, the position Carpenter takes is broadly directed; he is critiquing an abstraction.

Eddie Martinez: Inside Thoughts

Meaty and heady, Eddie Martinez’s densely packed paintings, rich with associations and imagery—all in the form of quotidian objects, sports paraphernalia, kitchen and dining items, art-history fragments—refuse to commit to a specific time or style.

Judith Murray: Tempest

Judith Murray’s Tempest, at Sundaram Tagore’s New York gallery, features a whirlwind of mosaic-like compositions.

Nari Ward and Robin Rhode: Power Wall

Extrapolating from American poet Robert Frost’s iconic reflection “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” we see in Power Wall both the brute reality of the wall and its much-loved qualities. Something in the work of both Robin Rhode and Nari Ward invites us to see the wall as so many things: barrier, writing surface, canvas, community center, basketball court, dance floor, and even decorative backdrop.

Fernanda Gomes

The entire installation, filling the gallery’s several rooms and corridors, is something like a stage set, with all the props either tossed about or lined up—and the performance not yet rehearsed. Where should the pieces go? What is their purpose? How do they relate to one another? Do they? And, above all, how do they activate our imaginations?

Hemali Bhuta: and the epic did not happen!

This warm and elusive show can be befuddling. Its reach is far and subtle, and embraces many modalities while its expression is quiet and minimal. It is what it isn’t.

James Brooks: A Painting Is a Real Thing

James Brooks was, above all, a man of his times—that is, his various times. The exhibition at the Parrish makes evident what many knew Brooks to be: a very fine painter, attentive to his position in contemporary art history, to his influences and peers, to his surrounding landscapes, to society, and to history.

John Chamberlain & Donald Judd

So far and yet so near, the antithetical aesthetics of John Chamberlain and Donald Judd are provocatively at play in this compelling show of sculptures, wall pieces, and “paintings” from the 1960s and ’70s. The artists could be considered the alpha and omega of 20th century American sculpture.

Saul Steinberg: Imagined Interiors

The intimate drawings in this virtual show, astutely curated by Michaëla Mohrmann, associate curatorial director at Pace, take viewers on a charming, witty, ironic, and droll perambulation through the landscape of Saul Steinberg’s mind.

John Giorno

Influenced by Warhol, Rauschenberg, the graphic art of Pop as Edward Ruscha construed it, and the shock and schlock of advertising slogans and other signage, Giorno mixed media to promulgate feelings, beliefs, and social justice.

Never Forever

Clear, bright, and crisp, Daniel Rich’s recent paintings might also be viewed as eerie and unstable.

Catherine Murphy: Recent Work

Murphy’s profoundly precise, deadpan depictions of all quotidian matter, from rags to trees, hair, doors, gratings, and even a camouflage blanket—often excerpts from artifacts and scenes—focus our attention on the power of the part in relation to the whole, the underlying tension between the two. We are left to wonder whether the part builds or undermines our perception of the entire picture.

Esther Kläs: Come Again

It’s as if, in this sensitive exhibition at Peter Blum, Esther Kläs’s sculptures, works on paper, and installations had themselves chosen their relationships with one another and set the stage for performing together.

Calder: Small Sphere and Heavy Sphere

A fascinating glimpse into the origins of Alexander Calder’s thinking and evolution, this abbreviated retrospective is a rare opportunity to examine the artist’s early experimental and tentative production. The show follows Calder’s singular career, illuminating the artist's later, resolved and fully realized work, deploying some 70 objects from the mid-1920s through the 1950s.

Günther Uecker: Notations

The title of German artist Günther Uecker’s fascinating show at Lévy Gorvy, Notations invokes many meanings of the term, from a system of symbols representing information, to the noting of and keeping track of ideas, to the staking out of intervals in time. The works on display here create a visible beat.

Philip Guston: What Endures

These works capture one significant period in Guston’s multifaceted career (or careers), hinting at the breadth of his artistic and intellectual reach.

Elisabeth Kley: A Seat in the Boat of the Sun

Elisabeth Kley revels in the kitsch, the eccentric, and the natural rhythm of patterns. Her drawings and ceramics span time and cultures with intelligence, charm, and humor, as well as allusions to nature and the way we play in it.

Petra Cortright: borderline aurora borealis

Although she is a digital painter Cortright also embraces tradition, and while her medium is new, she does not shy away from redeploying something old. A painter who doesn’t use paint, she teaches us to look using her tools as we follow her lead through represented landscapes and between hanging sheets of abstract images.

Jorinde Voigt

Voigt conveys her conceptual imaginings in color and line. Her peregrinations lead us through a sea of hand-dyed blue paper that has a Disney-esque underwater appearance in which strange, sometimes almost identifiable forms swim or float.

Jackie Saccoccio: Femme Brut

Layers of texture and materials—paint, oil pastel, and mica—supported by pattern upon pattern in shaky thin lines set the foundation for Jackie Saccocio’s forceful, physically and emotionally self-reflective paintings.

Elizabeth Schwaiger: From the Dark Sea

Elizabeth Schwaiger sets in motion a cacophony of styles, ideas, colors, and movements in this dense show spread out over two floors.

Vivian Springford

Indeed, Springford’s paintings, with their spiritual meanderings and discomforting vivid colors that appear to congeal and darken toward the center of the canvas, seem to strike a cultural nerve today. We are drawn into circular dark voids—evoking sexual orifices, pockets of the cosmos, the eye of a hurricane, and the caverns of dream and memory in the mind.

Degree Zero: Drawing at Mid Century

Curator Samantha Friedman has made a sensitive selection of some 80 drawings from MoMA’s international pool of artists working between 1948 and 1961.

Jacqueline Humphries

Conceptual-modernist painter Jacqueline Humphries is actively securing her place in contemporary art history, and she is doing so in a particularly literal way, making unabashed reference to those who came before her and to those working more or less alongside her.

Erik Lindman: Fal/Parsi

The sandwiched matter of Lindman’s images oozes its way to the surface, often leaking out and dripping in translucent rivulets. The artist makes his acrylic paint earn its keep, transforming it into something surprisingly rich, impastoed, and creamy.


In his intriguing, often provocative, interpolated show at the Brooklyn Museum, Rob Wynne builds, reflects, and—more literally—reflects on connections in American art. In doing so he manages to intervene in the course of art history itself. He pulls at the museum's paintings and sculptures and activates them through light and language, transmuting the collection by means of his signature hand-poured, mirrored glass.

Sylvia Hochfield

It’s very difficult to write about people you know well. The moment you start, you immediately suspect your own words and perceptions—you haven’t said enough? Made your point clearly? Or is it too simplistic? Obviously nobody perfectly fits a description.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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