January 31, 2012
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Midway through Roberta Smith’s recent review of Damien Hirst’s Complete Spot Paintings, she asked: “Am I grading on a curve?” It’s a good question, and one that recognizes the difficulty of measuring art on a shifting scale: a good show at one gallery is a disappointment at another, and the best show in January might have been middling in the bustle of October.
Make no mistake: Rashid Johnson’s Rumble is one of the best shows in New York right now. It’s a tightly interwoven, confidently executed show that looks good, sounds smart, and plays to the preternatural ability to move between media that is Johnson’s greatest strength. At the same time, it has obvious flaws: it is unmoving, at times indecipherable, and falls into the Conceptualist trap of sounding better as a press release than it looks as a show.