Barry Schwabsky

  • 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


    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.

  • Kerry James Marshall

    By synthesizing Leon Golub’s monumentality—the mythic quality he finds even in the basest and most brutal reality—with Robert Colescott’s raucous, satirical/parodic image-crunching, Kerry James Marshall is still developing a style that, while perhaps less personal (or at least less obviously idiosyncratic) than either of theirs, promises a greater range and flexibility. In their efforts to retain painting’s grasp on historical subjects, Golub and Colescott sometimes seem like isolated figures—younger artists have been engaging history less convincingly in painting than in other media—but Marshall’s

  • Sidney Goodman

    There is, of course, no such thing as realism. As Donald Kuspit recently pointed out, the hyperprecision of a painter like Philip Pearlstein is actually rooted in a fascination with abstract, reified surfaces. By contrast, Sidney Goodman’s notion of the real has less to do with verisimilitude than with the intensity of dreams; his work looks back, through aspects of Surrealism, to the eccentric fin-de-siècle visions of artists such as Odilon Redon.

    Like many of the Symbolists, Goodman is more consistently effective on paper than on canvas; his paintings, though ambitious, are sometimes overly

  • Alberto Savinio

    Alberto Savinio (1891–1952) spent much of his life trying to dodge the shadow cast by his older brother Giorgio de Chirico. Just as the need to establish a separate identity pushed him to adopt another name, so it may have stimulated the distinct singularity of his work in a number of different media. Savinio’s first efforts were as a composer and writer. While his music is no longer played, his remarkable books—fiction, plays, essays—remain highly regarded in Italy, and several have been translated into English. Savinio’s first efforts as a painter, around 1926, show clear evidence of the

  • Joyce Pensato

    Joyce Pensato’s work serves as a reminder that not all painting with cartoon imagery derives from Pop art. Although Donald, Mickey, and the rest of the Disney crew—along with the occasional interloper from more contemporary cartoons, such as Bart Simpson—form the basis of Pensato’s imagery, her paintings and wall drawings are much more closely related to Abstract Expressionism than to the work of Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol. The black and white enamel Pensato uses was very much Jackson Pollock’s medium of choice in 1951–52, and one cannot help but recall the black and white oil of Franz

  • Frank Stella

    Though Frank Stella’s work has sometimes been attacked as a sham extension of Modernist logic, in recent years it has evinced the wild diversity, energy, and inventiveness that comes only from someone who follows his own whims. At this point in his career, it seems that Stella will try anything that promises to come out looking like a Stella—and by now, almost anything will. His new paintings, most of them huge, look a bit like steam rolled versions of his familiar painted relief constructions, but they relate more closely to his technically ambitious prints. Like prints, they are essentially

  • Raoul de Keyser

    Raoul De Keyser’s paintings are at once familiar and elusive, banal and eccentric. Well known in Europe, this Belgian artist is regularly included in important surveys such as “Documenta IX,” and last year’s “Der Zerbrochene Spiegel” (The broken mirror), as well as the more recent “Unbound: Possibilities in Painting” at the Hayward Gallery. De Keyser’s first American solo show suggests that, at the age of 65, he is self-assured enough to conceal the effort that goes into attaining a given effect. The thin paint and limited palette he uses belie the careful layering from which De Keyser constructs

  • June Leaf

    What constitutes June Leaf’s genius also makes her something of a throwback or an anomaly, an artist whose work looks back, through that of Giacometti and Picasso, to the primitive impulse to make images. Known primarily as a painter, which is also how she sees herself, Leaf surrounded the paintings exhibited in her most recent show with a broad selection of sculpture from the mid ’70s to the present. Although Leaf’s sculpture began in the ’60s with Joseph Cornell–like boxes—concretizations of ideas whose origins are painterly“ (as Dennis Adrian wrote at the time of Leaf’s 1978 retrospective)—it

  • Nancy Davidson

    The first thing about Nancy Davidson’s new sculptures is that they are large—not in the way something architectural is large, despite their bigger-than-life scale, but more the way a person can be. Even the relatively smaller pieces, which Davidson calls “ Girl Guides,” 1994–95, have the overfed look of chubby teenagers. If you were to think of abstract Boteros, you’d be on the right track. And as with Botero, the scent of kitsch is in the air. These rotund, anthropomorphic masses, suspended from the ceiling or resting on beanbag-chair “pedestals,” are less threatening than comically seductive.