Barry Schwabsky

  • Glenn Ligon

    The title of Glenn Ligon’s recently exhibited selection of drawings since 1988, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen,” came to him from the New Testament by way of James Baldwin. Its resonances are thus multifarious, but my surmise is that the most vivid among them is the suggestion of a juridical proceeding on the one hand and a diffidence toward (if not thoroughgoing renunciation of) the “visual” on the other.

    Forbidding as that sounds, Ligon’s works on paper are more engaging than I’ve found his paintings to be. The latter are handsome, to be sure, with an aching intensity that belies their cool,

  • Larry Poons

    Once among the stars of “postpainterly abstraction,” Larry Poons has been going his own unpredictable way, pictorially speaking, for some time now. Not that he cultivates the signifiers of solitary genius; his new paintings suggest a studio, like the one in Courbet’s “real allegory,” so packed with the figures of his imagination that he can barely stop to notice his isolation. Which is fine for him, but it does make it rather difficult for us to follow along. Perhaps that’s why his last show here, in 1995—extraordinary paintings that in retrospect seem like a culmination of Poons’ last twenty-five

  • Giovanni Anselmo

    New York convention has it that an artist of any ambition does not exhibit without having an impressive number of works on hand, or else a spectacular, room-filling installation. All the more so, as in Giovanni Anselmo’s case, if it’s been seven years since the last show and viewers may need to be reminded of the artist’s stature. Yet what Anselmo presented was nothing more than five tall slabs of dark granite, fixed to the wall with iron braces that looked rather like columns or pilasters.

    It was the title, L’Aura della pittura (The aura of painting), that served to indicate that what counted

  • Blake Rayne

    Entering Blake Rayne’s recent show, you squeezed past a large Styrofoam “cube/crate” that partially blocked off the main exhibition space yet did not, in itself, command any particular notice. Each of the four walls displayed a single painting, mounted on an intermediate plywood support rather than directly on the wall. Less noticeably, the lower portion of the gallery’s imposing central column was painted with a high-gloss white acrylic, and a small diagram was painted onto the wall near the entrance to the office. The four paintings represented interior spaces that are empty or nearly empty,

  • Jim Dine

    Although the title of Jim Dine’s recent show, “Some Greeks, Some Romans,” refers straightforwardly enough to the classical sculptures that are the objects of study in this suite of 150 works on paper, the subtitle, “A Drawing,” implies a stronger claim to significance than the literally more correct plural would have. Dine invites us to see everything here as an entity, and not merely as a collection—an invitation easy enough to accept, since these fiercely worked, sometimes richly chromatic sheets contain so little of the sketchy or the simply notational and seem pervaded by a single effort of

  • Ghada Amer

    An Egyptian-born artist living in Paris, Ghada Amer reminds us forcefully what it means to say that art transcends its subject: this transcendence is a refinement, a distillation taken to such a degree as to become indistinguishable from excess. At one level, Amer’s work can be described easily enough, and in the process of describing it one has the impression of grasping the categories through which her work can be classified and interpreted. She takes stretched canvas (or, in one instance, a blue cotton tablecloth) and “paints” on it by embroidering colored threads, using images taken from

  • Kcho

    In the three sculptures on view in his first New York solo show, the young Cuban artist Kcho used, or cited, the boat as both a basic structure and an overarching metaphor. The two larger and more recent pieces, La Columna Infinita I (Endless column) and La Columna Infinita II, both 1996, were formed of slender slats of blond wood, held together with numerous C-clamps, and creating skeletal images of piled-up boats. Monuments to their own antimonumentality, these works certainly reminded at least those viewers who knew that Kcho resides in Cuba less of their ostensible Brancusian model than of

  • Bettina Rheims

    Eschewing any pretense to critique—in contrast to those photographers who’ve attempted to bracket out fashion’s starstruck vision to pursue subtexts revealed in the grainy, often black-and-white imagery of the stealthy, oblique shot—Bettina Rheims embraces the convergence between fashion/celebrity photography and art. In most fashion photographs, we are meant to see past an unnamed model’s personal identity to the characteristics she is supposed to embody in projecting an image suitable to a particular fashion line. On the other hand, fashion models are increasingly becoming celebrities, who

  • Kim Whanki

    Although the Korean painter Kim Whanki (1913–1974) spent significant portions of his career in Paris as well as in Seoul, this recent exhibition, entitled “Oeuvres inedites 1963–1973,” corresponded to a period when he lived and worked in New York. The show primarily consisted of works on paper, but it also included a dozen canvases dated circa 1968. As Yves Michaud points out in his catalogue essay, during these years Whanki was able to synthesize Western—or more specifically, American—abstract painting with the Asian sensibility in which his esthetic was rooted.

    While Whanki’s earlier work

  • OPENINGS: BEATRIZ MILHAZES

    ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, I’ve heard the work of Beatriz Milhazes, a young painter from Rio de Janeiro, characterized by the annoying snap judgment, “Interesting Frida Kahlo meets Philip Taaffe.” This assessment rankles, of course, because of the Kahlo connection. It’s as though, despite the enormous cultural and historical distance that separates Mexico half a century ago from contemporary Brazil, any woman painter from anywhere south of Texas must have emerged from the same current. What’s more, the equation of Milhazes and Kahlo elides the readily apparent stylistic differences between the

  • Stephen Rosenthal

    The four paintings and four works on paper in this show would appear to represent the most attenuated evolution of lyrical abstraction. Reminiscent of a certain aspect of Cy Twombly’s work (where what Roland Barthes called “the purity of fact” is paradoxically related to “dirtying” activities), the paintings are pale, almost colorless at first glance, an approximation of the blank canvas that has been described as one of the limits of Modernist painting. Each expanse of off-white appears featureless except for a few scattered smudges or spots of equivocal color—slippery orange/pinks or green/grays,

  • Ariane Lopez-Huici

    Photography usually seeks out beauty, whatever one conceives that to be, and also, in one way or another, tries to take possession of it. In the hands of Ariane Lopez-Huici, however, the camera is freed from this sometime pursuit. Her subject retains his or her autonomy, and the work becomes a process of sympathetic collaboration rather than domination.

    All six black and white images in this exhibition portrayed the same extremely overweight woman in a series of playfully theatrical poses, flaunting her own corpulent nudity with a humor and lack of self-consciousness that would be impressive in

  • Lucio Fontana

    In the United States, Lucio Fontana is perhaps most famous for being underrated. Everyone knows he is a significant artist, but many have difficulty codifying the reasons for his renown. And then there is the suspicion that he was perhaps merely the perpetrator of a facile formula (How many of those slashed monochromes did he turn out anyway?). This selection of paintings and ceramics from the ’50s and ’60s may not provide adequate material for a broadened comprehension of Fontana’s work—his career was so long and various, encompassing precocious examples of installation art, neon sculpture,

  • Cathy de Monchaux

    Like Rachel Whiteread or Grenville Davey, among other British sculptors of her generation, Cathy de Monchaux is warping aspects of the Minimalist vocabulary toward metaphoric ends. Most of the works here show her to be more interested than her peers in the object’s potential for reduplication and seriality; that is, most of them work by the multiplication of similar parts. In de Monchaux’s hands, however, modularity evokes not just industrial manufacture, but a distinctly biological, corporeal dimension as well, whether the implication is of cells, organs, or entire bodies.

    Cruising Disaster (

  • Lawrence Weiner

    You’d expect a show devoted to an artist’s multiples and editions to be of minor importance, at best a collection of diversions, digressions, ephemera, jeux d’esprit, and other asides. In the case of Lawrence Weiner, by contrast, such an exhibition turns out to be the best way to enter his oeuvre. One reason for this is the simple fact that this show supplies a rare opportunity to gather a large number of works of very different sorts in a single room. More important, it serves as a reminder that Weiner’s work is nothing if not an art of diversions, digressions, ephemera, jeux d’esprit, and

  • George Herms

    Although the critical reception of their work in the Whitney Museum’s recent exhibition on the Beat generation has been distinctly cool, the group of artists who began working with assemblage and collage in California in the ’50s constitutes an important parallel, and to some extent a predecessor (Clay Spohn’s pathbreaking Museum of Unknown and Little Known Objects in fact dates from 1949), to the better-known “neo-Dada” manifestations in New York (e.g., Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Allen Kaprow) and Paris (e.g., Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri, Mimmo Rotella). These diverse artists both extended

  • Prudencio Irazabal

    How unexpected to find a painter who not only transcribes the earnest intellectual/formal issues of the art of the 1960s with a flash and seductiveness reminiscent of the late ’80s, but actually pulls it off. With his first New York solo exhibition, Prudencio Irazabal presented the fruit of this unlikely synthesis, demonstrating that it is still possible to open up the seemingly narrow esthetics of monochrome painting.

    Of course, the designation “monochrome” is usually a misnomer. Your typical monochrome painter will point to an all-green painting and proudly announce, “You know, there’s no green

  • Catherine Howe

    Like some of the most interesting new figurative painters—notably John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, and Brenda Zlamany—Catherine Howe begins with an essentially formal conceit that soon lurches into discomfiting psychological or social territory. In Howe’s case, the inaugural trope is a simple goof on the notorious figure/ground dichotomy: each canvas presents a “portrait” of a young woman, usually nude, as often black as white, done in a rather dashing, painterly style reminiscent of the Ashcan School, against a ground that cites Abstract Expressionism or its immediate derivatives.

    In her last

  • Brice Marden

    Beau Brummell recommended spending four hours dressing in order to give the impression that all had been done in four minutes. Brice Marden’s new paintings embody the same highly cultivated naturalness. The palette knife, it seems, has replaced the long brushes Marden used to create the precariously high-strung, spidery lines of his “Cold Mountain” series, 1988–91, in which nervous hesitations and sudden shifts of direction tended to divide pictorial space into quasi-cubistic facets. In his recent works, Marden has thickened and smoothed his lines, and lengthened them as well. Their ramifying

  • Juan Uslé

    There has been talk lately of a resurgence of formalism in contemporary art. If this implies a return to Greenbergian purity, a cordoning off of media and genres into segregated “areas of competence,” such an assertion would be hard to verify. That is, if for example Juan Uslé—abstract painter that he is—can be called a formalist, it is only in the sense that the term might apply to an artist as different from him as Jessica Stockholder. Both these artists stage elements of diverse, sometimes conflicting formal vocabularies and make them perform, but not necessarily in their accustomed roles.