Amy Gerstler

  • Karen Finley

    Karen Finley’s exhibition “St. Kilda” presented an assortment of works that dealt with bereavement and the regressive, helpless condition it can reduce us to. In Written in Sand, 1992–94, a memorial installation first shown at HallWalls in Buffalo, ten tons of damp sand were deposited in a dim, gilded room, and the sand hillocks that formed were topped with flickering white votive candles. A handwritten text on the wall invited you to “write the names of those you have loved and lost” in the sand and then to smooth them away.

    The main gallery contained nine framed pieces that resembled giant

  • Kim Abeles

    Mounted as a kind of mid-career retrospective, this exhibition surveyed the prolific Kim Abeles’ work from 1979 to the present. She tends to work in series, 12 of which were represented in this show of more than 80 works. Combining elements of assemblage, Dada, and the diction of instructional materials, Abeles creates shrines that are often armed with an insistent social message. Beautifully conceived, designed, and produced, the catalogue that accompanied the show successfully advanced Abeles’ primary goals: to captivate and educate. Presented as a faux–World Book encyclopedia volume, it comes

  • Jeffery Vallance

    Jeffrey Valiance’s stance—the role he’s cast himself in and the way it determines his practice—can only be described as the result of an oddball vision that, when broken down into its contributing parts, doesn’t convey how resolved and monolithic the work ultimately is. Valiance’s tone approximates a fusion of an overzealous, fixational seventh-grader’s-international-affairs report; the knowing/naive diction of a 1956 World Book Encyclopedia entry; a rapt article in some fringe phenomena magazine like Fate or UFO Digest; and the travel notebooks of an eccentric uncle—journals that prove amazing

  • Todd Murphy

    Todd Murphy’s pieces are striking for several reasons, including their scale—a third of the works in this show are of imposing proportions (around 10 by 12 feet). Murphy’s imagistic vocabulary of undefined symbols afloat in an open-ended syntax may or may not be intended as narrative. In various combinations, the works feature: geese; chandeliers; a wind-up toy duck; faceless figures in voluminous dresses; a boxer in long underwear, dukes raised, standing on a brocade chair; another figure, its face hidden from the viewer, standing on an ornate chair shouldering a small old-fashioned airplane;

  • Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin-Kienholz

    Six years ago, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin-Kienholz embarked on a project that would address the arbitrary, unfair distribution of wealth in the world. Their stated premise was that human fate is largely determined by “accident of birth”—that economics can be destiny. Through extensive travel they gathered raw material for their work: an octagonal life-sized carousel, controlled by the spin of a wheel of fortune, was exhibited with thematically related 3-D wall reliefs referred to as “drawings” and with monoprints. All the works were fabricated largely from items collected during visits

  • “Relocations and Revisions”

    Closing, ironically, the day after: Independence Day, this exhibition marked the 50th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which declared all persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast a threat to national security, and led to the incarceration of 120,313 Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II. Deprived of liberty, livelihood, property, and dignity—virtually jailed in hastily constructed “camps” located in desolate areas of the country—two-thirds of these internees were U.S. citizens. The toll of this injustice and its historical

  • Nancy Rubins

    Table and Airplane Parts, 1990, was the title of the first of a trio of pieces, each occupying its own room, that comprised Nancy Rubins’ recent show. Installed in the gallery’s large, concrete, bunkerlike front room, the work consisted of a gigantic tumble of crumpled airplane parts: wings, doors, ducts, metal sinks, turbines, etc., bound together with lengths of wire. Bunches of severed cables dangled from the wreckage like bouquets of snakes. (Dirt still clung to some of the plane fragments.) At one end of the piece, plane parts seemed to rest on or stem from an unpainted wooden table, and

  • “Misfit Lit: Contemporary Comic Art”

    For aficionados of the genre, the “Misfit Lit” experience was like being afflicted with a serious sweet tooth at a pie-eating contest. Confronted with so much interesting work crammed into so few rooms, one had to quell a little stab of panic at the overwhelming plenty and stifle the urge to stuff oneself sick. Isn’t it time to establish a few museums devoted to this flourishing medium, which has outgrown the modest accommodations “alternative” art spaces can provide? Or would that be ushering an art/literary form characterized by flexibility, spiritedness, and iconoclasm into the restrictive,

  • Raymond Pettibon

    The most affecting artwork often proves to be the hardest to write about, and Raymond Pettibon’s obsessive, noirish, text-riddled ink drawings are a case in point. Visually, the works have been likened to a cross between William Blake’s inscribed illustrations, EC Comics, and Gustave Doré’s engravings; indeed, Pettibon’s flat, graphic drawing style and stark, melodramatic compositional sense embody both the rawness and the peculiar lyricism such comparisons suggest. But what really marks Pettibon’s jumpy, metaphysical vision is the “ring of the voice,” to borrow a phrase from one of his works,

  • Nancy Pierson

    Nancy Pierson’s thoroughly peculiar tableaux of middle-aged women suggest, through their eccentric wordless narratives, the tangled webs of female-to-female relations.

    The figures in these charcoal works on paper are positioned with an intentional stiltedness. If pushed much further, this quality could come off as conventionally allegorical; as it is, the slight stiffness contributes to the work’s overall oddness. Making use of smudged areas as well as fine cross-hatching, Pierson’s renderings contain a measure of neo-Gothic spookiness, which is quite magnetic. The women in these works look like

  • “Twisted Sisters”

    Subtitled “a collection of bad-girl art,” this exhibition featured work by 14 contemporary female cartoonists. Though it included a few watercolors, pastels, and other forays into more “conventional” art media, the main thrust and most potent aspect of “Twisted Sisters” was its display of original black-and-white artwork for comic strips that first appeared in publications like Weirdo, Wimmen’s Comix, and Young Lust.

    Since book-length comic works are frequently referred to these days as graphic novels (scoot over, Flaubert), it seems fair to describe this show as a sampling of notable developments

  • Nancy Burson

    Nancy Burson has been investigating techniques for making computer-assisted photographic images for over fifteen years, participating in the development of programs that have enabled her to pursue her work with increasing sophistication, flexibility, and range.

    In Burson’s recent show, viewers found themselves transfixed by the unblinking stares of ten large faces. These composite Polaroid Polacolor ER portraits, realized with the aid of the artist’s faithful computer, fuse aspects that might be thought grotesque with other features that could be considered beautiful.

    The photographs in this