A. M. Homes


    The world is at war. The Glandelinians—atheists, military men in ornate uniforms armed with rifles and bayonets—are battling the Christian Angelinneans, enslaving little girls, nailing them to crosses, burning them, strangling them, dismembering and eviscerating them in bloody scenes of murderous mayhem.
    The world is at peace. A large playroom is filled with cookie-cutter children, appropriated from coloring books, almost all of them girls, engaged in a variety of activities. They are naive, wide-eyed, if a little blank. On the rear walls of the playroom are paintings—of the children at play, a girl on a tricycle, a witch and a pumpkin, a boy playing the harmonica while his dog howls along. The room is suffused with the energized ether of childhood, the odd hues of pastels pushed to extremes: bright reds, yellows, and violets, and an elusive, recurring green (a variation on the institutional greens and blues that used to be considered calming?). There is a comforting familiarity to the scene, a hopeful sense of the promise and safety of childhood, and yet something is not quite right. There is an inescapable and odd sensation of anxiety. One of the little girls is holding up a sign—“Don’t Worry we Blengins will help you escape.”

    This is The Unreality of Being, the world of Henry Darger. Born in Chicago in 1892, Darger was almost four when his mother died after giving birth to a sister, who was believed to have been put up for adoption. Darger lived with his father until he was eight and then was sent to a Catholic home—The Mission of Our Lady of Mercy. He continued to attend public school, where he was a good student (a civil war aficionado), but had some difficulties: he made strange noises, among other things. A reference, perhaps an explanation, appears as text in one of Darger’s paintings: “The Vivian girls seek

  • Howard Hodgkin

    EVERYTHING WRITTEN ABOUT HOWARD HODGKIN talks about his reluctance to discuss his paintings—he’s famous for saying, “I am happy for people to talk about my pictures, but I wish devoutly that I was not expected to talk about them myself.” On the Sunday before we met I ducked into the Metropolitan Museum of Art to hear a discussion between Hodgkin and Susan Sontag—on the occasion of the opening of Hodgkin’s first major exhibition in ten years. The auditorium was packed; I sandwiched myself into a seat in the balcony and listened to Sontag spin her responses to Hodgkin’s work, and her thoughts on

  • Robert Beck

    Is it evidence? Is it proof? Read between the lines. In a nation addicted to armchair investigation, it won’t be long before jury duty is something served at home in front of the TV, the verdict reached by pressing either the guilty or not guilty button on the remote control. Reflecting our increasing need to judge for ourselves, Robert Beck’s “true crime series” is part homage to the photo insert found in mass-market, “fact-based” paperbacks and part addition to a growing body of art based on documenting all the grisly details—what might be called “evidentiary art.”

    Beck’s series is made up of


    A TREE IN A PARK, a section of road, a little girl’s bedroom, a billboard. All of them eerily familiar. Looking at these sites, I think: I have been here before, I know this place. But where is it? What is it? I have the uncanny sensation that something is missing. Narrative? Evidence? The story is found on a wall tag: I’m seeing the weeping crab apple tree where Robert Chambers murdered Jennifer Levin in Manhattan’s Central Park, the spot on Foothill Boulevard where Los Angeles police beat Rodney King, the Iowa bedroom where Jessica DeBoers lived with adoptive parents for two and a half years


    On the branch of a tree, larvae cling to a jellied blue egg sac, a yellow butterfly hovers, berries grace the foliage. Below and in the background are houses—a door is open, there is a patio, a picnic table. We have been here before, only now it is not quite so familiar. There is something odd about our position, menacing, as though we were burglars come calling on our own lives. The foreground, these bugs, this scrofulous sac, are in hyperfocus. The detail is cinematic; neither imitating nor illuminating life, the image suggests something beyond, where color and light key the story to a pitch

  • Deborah Kass

    Call Me Barbra: call me an appropriation, a recasting, a challenge to concepts of ethnicity, gender, and patriarchy—call me the work of Deborah Kass. In the “Jewish Jackie” and “My Elvis” series, both 1992, Kass replaces Warhol’s ’60s iconography with Kass’ woman for the ’90s—Barbra Streisand—seeking to subvert the male gaze with the female.

    At first the gesture comes off as a humorous attempt to turn the male-dominated world of painting around: a commentary on the medium itself—a recasting of the often camp work of a gay artist into a post-Modern, feminist, queer-theoried, wry bit-o’-revenge.

  • “Dysfunction in the Family Album”

    Smile. Say “Cheese.” Look at the birdie. Grin and bear it. The photo opportunity family-style, replete with pseudo-voguish posturing, and misrepresentation of reality for the purpose of creating pleasant future memories, is the starting point for “Dysfunction in the Family Album,” a group show organized by painter David Humphrey. Beginning with the family photo, the eight artists included here take off in a multiplicity of directions reflecting both the transforming qualities of photographic processes and the power and influence of the family on the development of the individual. Artists such

  • Jonathan Borofsky

    In Jonathan Borofsky’s Pieces of Infinity, 1991, numbers of various sizes, crafted from woods such as oak; maple, walnut, and mahogany, are arranged in straight lines or simply spilled across the walls of the gallery. This installation harks back to Borofsky’s counting project initiated in 1969, in which he recorded sequential numbers on sheets of graph paper for several hours each day. The hours turned into months, days to years, and by the time the work was last seen in 1988, as part of the Borofsky retrospective,at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the piled pages made a four-foot

  • Donald Roller Wilson

    Picture a large and serious ape (Beverly) in a royal red dress befitting a queen, furred and jeweled crown on her head, one hand holding a wet and juicy green pepper stuffed with thoroughly foul matter—go on, use your imagination—the other clutching a worried bulldog in a white dress (Jane). In the background, a heavy fringed drapery, pulled aside like a curtain, allows the viewer to peek into a lush, dark forest. Across the top of the canvas in small neat print: “DONALD ROLLER WILSON • 1991 • BEVERLY • HOLDING JANE • WHO WOULDN’T TOUCH HER LUNCH • WHO LATER ESCAPED TO SANIBEL ISLAND WHERE SHE

  • Jim Shaw

    Jim Shaw’s work constitutes a deep dipping back, a one-man magical mystery tour charting the development of the artist’s alter ego—an adolescent Every-boy named Billy.

    The show includes pencil drawings—reminiscent of those doodled on the covers of bumpy blue three-ring binders—Lincoln-log constructions, plastic fish-tank plants, a strange topographical-map-like miniature pool table, and an ant farm gone wrong that suggests a failed science project. The 24 similarly scaled mixed-media works exhibited are all part of My Mirage, a conceptual illustration, repackaging raw slices of a boy’s life, that

  • Vito Acconci

    “For Otto Titzling had found his quest ,/to lift and shape the female breast,/to point the small ones to the sky/and keep the big ones high and dry,” sings Bette Midler on her album Mud Will Be Flung Tonight!

    Mammoth plaster, canvas, and steel-cable reinforced structures, Vito Acconci’s four Adjustable Wall Bra pieces, 1990–91, spanned the gallery with the sensual grace of a garment flung across the room to land half on the floor, half against the wall, bent, twisted and possibly still warm. Acconci has long challenged the artist’s relation to himself, the space of the gallery, and his audience;