Barry Schwabsky

  • Søren Jensen

    One result of Modernism’s detachment of the idea of sculpture from the idea of the statue has been a blurring of the boundaries between sculpture and architecture. All sorts of nonfunctional (that is, nonhabitable) constructions that would once clearly have been architecture—garden follies, triumphal arches, or any sort of nonfigurative monument—could now just as easily be considered sculpture. In the wake of Minimalism’s adoption of “primary structures,” seriality, and industrial fabrication, many sculptors have adopted methods and forms associated with architecture. Søren Jensen joins this

  • Making Art Histories: On the Trail of David Park

    Presenting the artist’s oeuvre in multiple contexts, curators John Weber and Janet Bishop have organized “Making Art Histories” by nesting a twenty-four-canvas survey of seminal Bay Area painter David Park (1911–60) within a constellation of subexhibitions that examine local artistic activity during the course of his career (1930s–60s) as well as the tensions between abstraction and figuration in New York and San Francisco. SFMoMA’s collection practices in the ’50s are highlighted in a salon-style hanging of paintings from the museum’s storage vault. Featuring sixty-five works by three dozen

  • Bill Viola: A Survey Exhibition

    Bill Viola’s spiritually ambitious work ranks among the most influential products of second-generation video art. Viola’s first full-scale survey in the US, organized by Whitney director David Ross and dramaturge Peter Sellars, includes more than a dozen installations, as well as drawings and notebooks. It shows the evolution of Viola’s output since the ’70s from single- to multiple-channel works incorporating projections and digital technologies as a way to create environments of baroque theatricality. Nov. 2–Jan. 11; travels to Whitney Museum ofAmerican Art, New York, Feb. 12–May 10; Stedelijk

  • The Louisiana Exhibition 1997: New Art from Denmark and Scania

    Intended as a quadrennial showcase for the state of art in Denmark and Southern Sweden, “Louisiana Exhibition 1997” features no overarching theme beyond the curators’ opinion of what constitutes the most interesting work being done in the region. All the more reason why the selection has been closely eyed locally: joining curators Åsa Nacking and Tone O. Nielsen is Lars Grambye, just named to the very visible position of director of the Danish Contemporary Art Foundation (responsible for promoting the country's talent abroad). The three have invited about fifty artists to participate, with a

  • James Hyde

    Like Donald Judd before him, James Hyde strategically shifts the terrain of painting from that of a surface (normally a rectangle) to that of a volume (that is, a box). Unlike his celebrated predecessor, Hyde seems wedded to the idea that this redefined three-dimensional thing should retain its identity as painting. His success in bringing off this revisionist recuperation of Minimalism has been dependent on his mediation of the chancy interaction between the rigidity of the box (now far more active than the mere “support” of the stretched canvas) and the fluidity of its contents. Hyde’s

  • Marilyn Minter

    In Marilyn Minter’s new paintings “cosmetics” is the metaphorical terrain on which feminist interests (the representation of women, the topos of “the beauty myth”) and pictorial questions intersect. But more conspicuous are the issues concerning these works’ structure as paintings. Is “painting” a verb or a noun, a way of doing or a way of seeing things? The debate is joined by two works from 1996. In Dye-Job a woman’s head, cloaked in deep shadow à la Eugene Carrière, looks downward as a blue-handled brush comes in from the upper left to magically paint a swathe of her hair bright blonde. The

  • TAO AND PHYSICS: THE ART OF CAI GUO QIANG

    THOUGH CAI GUO QIANG EMIGRATED to Japan in 1986 and now lives in New York, his recent exhibition “Flying Dragon in the Heavens,” at Copenhagen’s Louisiana Museum, clearly presented him as a contemporary artist from China, his birthplace. This emphasis on his origins was made all the more evident by pairing the show with a remarkable archaeological exhibition, “Men and Gods: New Discoveries from Ancient China,” comprising works on loan from the People’s Republic. In the introduction to the accompanying catalogue, curator Anneli Fuchs reminds us that Cai’s “oeuvre rests on a foundation of religious,

  • Archie Rand

    Archie Rand has always emphasized the fact that his education included both Color Field and realist painting, and that his friendship with Philip Guston taught him something about how the two might be mingled without being synthesized. At the same time, Rand’s vocabulary encompasses both the raucously disruptive nonsense of cartoons and mural painting’s rhetoric of high-minded collective address. In that sense he has less in common with many of the painters who emerged, as he did, in the ’70s than with those of the ’30s—he may be less like alumni of CalArts than those of the WPA, even if his

  • “Fielding”

    In a cultural context in which the model for painting is fundamentally expressionist (the salient references being Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby)—recent attempts to break free of this model have generally revolved around video and photographic work that often leaves the expressionist paradigm intact (if tacit)—any attempt to articulate an alternative model for and through painting is bound to seem questionable. Although “Fielding” included artists from France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, I was not entirely surprised when a Danish artist referred to the exhibition as “that show

  • Manuel Alvarez Bravo

    In the great portrait Frida Kahlo in Manuel Alvarez Bravo’s Studio, 1930s, the painter’s head, with its penetrating, questioning eyes, is twice rhymed elsewhere: in the mirrored ball next to her arm, which (like the mirror in Velasquez’ Las Meninas) gathers, concentrates, and somehow expands the space in the studio, thereby returning it as a distorted reflection; and in the carving on the floor behind her, staring blind-eyed and open-mouthed at nothing. This seems to say that, like any art, photography can encompass the function of the all-gathering yet alienating mirror, or the unseeing yet

  • Marnie Weber

    Walt Disney meets recovered-memory therapy: the imagineering of trauma would seem to be the subject of “Lost in the Woods,” the first East Coast exhibition by Los Angeles–based artist/musician Marnie Weber. The show included twenty-four photocollages and two video/sculpture installations, and was accompanied by a fourteen-song CD, Cry, for Happy (1996). The disk helps fill in a bit more (not a lot more, mind you) of the underlying narrative, which concerns a girl named Happy who wanders through a forest only fitfully able to distinguish her identity from those of the woods’ various animal

  • Carol Rama

    This show was the first solo American exhibition by Carol Rama, a cult figure in her native Italy since 1945, when her premiere exhibition at age twenty-seven was immediately shut down by police on the grounds of obscenity. While the work from that show disappeared, a number of drawings on view here dated from the ’30s and early to mid ’40s. The chaotic post-Mussolini period was clearly no friendlier than that of dictatorial order to so monstrous a spirit as Rama’s, who speaks in an interview of her profound desire to “incazzare tutti” (piss everyone off). These early works give a pretty good

  • Agnes Martin

    We don’t go to an Agnes Martin exhibition expecting surprise—although good art is always surprising, a source of stimulation rather than the placidity into which memory can sometimes flatten our recollection of work so apparently self—consistent as Martin’s. Eschewing dramatic changes in her approach to painting as much as dramatic conflict within any particular work, Martin depends for her surprises on the degree to which the effects of her paintings can vary within severe limits. On these grounds this was one of her finest exhibitions in some time. The work was even more concentrated and

  • Rochelle Feinstein

    Rochelle Feinstein’s paintings can be complex, contradictory, and full of rowdy visual cacophony. Or they can be simple, obvious, even dumb. In neither case are they easy to ignore. These works undoubtedly eschew whatever remains of the desire for something “purely” visual or optical in “abstract painting”; they clearly assume, and at times proclaim, a semiotic and discursive model for their own activity. But that does not mean—even, perhaps especially when they are at their most obvious—that they accept an ideal of communicative clarity or declamatory certainty. Rather, their effect is to

  • Leon Polk Smith

    “Geometrical abstraction” often tends toward the iconic. It seeks reduction to a contemplative essence that can monopolize the viewer’s attention. Such works—Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, for instance—rebuff close hanging, all the more so when it comes to similar works by a single artist. So perhaps Leon Polk Smith had a point to make by crowding two not-very-large rooms with no less than sixteen substantial paintings (some of them already seen at his 1995–96 retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum) made between 1990 and 1994, for what sadly turned out to be the last solo show of his life. These

  • John Millei

    Should the facile painter be envied or pitied? Perhaps the better question is, Who is to be pitied more, the facile painter who remains imprisoned by his proficiency, luxuriating in its pleasurable trivialities—or the one who feels the constraints his talents impose on his expression, flailing against the bars of style? To his credit, if not his comfort, John Millei clearly belongs among the latter class of artists. There’s something cruel, therefore, in gathering together so much of his production over the last eight years, as this show did. Where a smaller exhibition of a single series might

  • Fred Sandback

    Fred Sandback’s exhibition at Dia is titled “Sculpture,” which seems neither definitive nor inaccurate, just less misleading in its specificity than “Painting” or “Drawing,” both of which might as easily have been considered, since the work involves line, plane, and color but not volume. Yet the artist is apparently attached to the sense that what he does is sculpture, and he sometimes uses the term “construction” as well. The reason is presumably that, as ethereal as his materials are—until recently they have been confined to taut strands of acrylic yarn—they are quite literally and materially

  • 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