Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • Focus


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    Twenty-five years ago, on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art's landmark international exhibition “Information,” Cildo Meireles declared “I am here in this exhibition to defend neither a career nor any nationality,” a sentiment echoed by his fellow artist HClio Oiticica, who proclaimed “I am not here representing Brazil, or representing anything else.” Today these statements evoke a bygone era of internationalism: the reduction of artistic substance to the trope of “information” implied a logic of universal equivalence in the esthetic realm that piomised an easy traversal of

  • “Art from Brazil in New York”

    Twenty-five years ago, on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark international exhibition “Information,” Cildo Meireles declared “I am here in this exhibition to defend neither a career nor any nationality,” a sentiment echoed by his fellow artist Hélio Oiticica, who proclaimed “I am not here representing Brazil, or representing anything else.” Today these statements evoke a bygone era of internationalism: the reduction of artistic substance to the trope of “information” implied a logic of universal equivalence in the esthetic realm that promised an easy traversal of political and

  • 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.

  • “Metasex 94”

    After the various “Bad Girls” shows last year and similar shows such as last fall’s “Sense and Sensibility” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it has become clear how contested the notion of “the feminine” is within contemporary American and European art—and how difficult it is to address this highly charged issue in a coherent and responsible way. “Metasex 94: Identity, Body, and Sexuality,” which was originally presented in a somewhat different form at the Museum of Art in Ein Harod, views similar issues from a distinctly Israeli perspective. Organized by Tami Katz-Freiman, an independent

  • Rémy Zaugg

    One of the few true conceptual painters, Rémy Zaugg relentlessly interrogates painting to reveal the linguistic foundation of perception. Typical of Zaugg’s project would be the paintings, shown here in 1991, which bore verbal notations describing Cézanne’s House of the Hanged Man, 1873. Though Not Here, 1990–95, Zaugg’s new installation, is as reductive, austere, and monochromatic as ever, it is also, in its own fastidious way, a hoot.

    Its difference from Zaugg’s other work lies in its calculated simplicity. It consists of 27 seemingly identical, small white-on-white paintings bearing the same

  • Shirin Neshat

    Images of hand and eye have long been used as synecdoches not only for artistic production, but also for signification. In Shirin Neshat’s photographic work, they take on additional connotative value as they are the only two portions of a woman’s body that can be exhibited in public in certain Islamic countries.

    Neshat’s stark, confrontational black and white photographs are executed by others, and the artist herself—sometimes alone, sometimes with other women, always severely garbed in a black chador, and occasionally packing a weapon—is their subject. Although we may presume that Neshat composes

  • “Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe”

    At last one can really begin to get a feeling for the range of the Symbolist ethos. Janus-faced, it looked back to Romanticism and forward to Modernism, shuttling between worldliness and renunciation, religiosity and decadence, socialism and royalism, nostalgia and rupture, allegory and abstraction. This vast reexamination of Symbolism in the visual arts, organized by a team of curators under the direction of Jean Clair, was ambitious not just in its scale (some 600 objects by 189 artists) but in its inclusiveness in terms both of medium (not only painting, sculpture, and graphic art, but

  • William Anastasi

    If, as a subject, blindness has been pervasive in contemporary art, it has been nearly as ubiquitous as a method of production. Robert Morris’ “Blind Time,” drawings are perhaps the best-known examples of the pursuit of art through the deliberate denial of vision, a willful and fascinated magnification of the moment of blindness inherent in any originary gesture, as if distending this moment would, paradoxically, make it visible. The earliest and certainly the most sustained explorations of this kind, however, are the “unsighted” paintings and drawings that William Anastasi began back in 1963

  • Morris Louis

    An overrated artist is doomed to become underrated later; but eventually justice may be done. Has the time arrived to give Morris Louis his due? The Louis retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1986 was a less than celebrated event, provoking at best a cold admiration for what seemed a genuine but limited decorative talent. The present exhibition of works from 1960—the year Clement Greenberg proclaimed him one of the two “serious candidates for major status” after the Abstract Expressionists, and just two years before his premature death—was fuller and more various, both sensually and