Barry Schwabsky

  • 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

  • Stefano Peroli

    A self-proclaimed student of art informel, Stefano Peroli plumbs the genre in order to “slip further back in time,” that is, according to Peroli, toward Delacroix’s romanticism or Poussin’s classicism, but thanks to his engagingly candid and uninhibited approach to color and surface, his return to an earlier moment in painting never seems academic. This recent show marked the first time Peroli exhibited paintings “uncontaminated,” as he put it in conversation, by collage or other distancing and conceptualizing devices. If the most direct route to visual jouissance is through color, Peroli avails

  • Richard Artschwager

    I’m sorry I no longer have my Richard Artschwager multiple, but I’m glad I still have the crate it came in. It’s a beautiful piece of work; I remember how, when I first opened it, its screws seemed to levitate with almost uncanny smoothness, to glide upward at the merest touch of a screwdriver.

    Apparently Artschwager too has noticed the esthetic satisfactions of a well-made crate: that’s the guise assumed by his latest sculpture—21 untitled works from 1994. The crowded installation transformed the gallery into a sort of ultrarefined warehouse. But these were not the simple rectangular shapes of

  • Matthew Antezzo

    Matthew Antezzo’s work is not so much conceptual as high-concept: his grisaille paintings are based on photographs of ephemeral manifestations of early-’70s art copied from back issues of Artforum and other magazines. Beneath each image, on a separate predella-style canvas, he paints the caption. Some of the works are famous, others forgotten. Where is Maggie Lowe now? (Antezzo’s Maggie Lowe, Explosion: Hostess Twinkies and Explosive, 1971, certifies her as a “bad girl” avant la lettre.) Antezzo sets himself up as this decade’s answer to Simon Linke. Whereas, in the ’80s, Linke painted contemporary

  • Betsy Kaufman

    Contrapuntally active, even a bit jumpy, rather than contemplative, Betsy Kaufman’s new paintings are wonderfully adept at coaxing color into revealing its ways and means. Most of them take off from a basic grid structure, but one that is deployed differently on each occasion, with unexpected syncopations counteracting any simple regularity. The complex interrelations of brightness and hue among contiguous blocks of uninflected color in Sugar St., 1994, produce a spatial illusionism that suggests a blown-up, digitalized photograph, for instance, whereas the brushy and somewhat more translucent

  • Norman Bluhm

    One of the most curious things about the “second generation” Abstract Expressionists is the need so many of them felt to renounce the very tradition from which they emerged. One could imagine the mature work of Al Held or Alfred Leslie having been made by artists who had never seen or heard of Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. There are exceptions to be sure—Joan Mitchell upheld the tradition, and so has Norman Bluhm. Indeed, though Bluhm’s most recent paintings are as impossible to extrapolate from his works of the ’50s as Held’s or Leslie’s, Bluhm, unlike those artists, has renounced

  • Richard Diebenkorn

    The beauty of Richard Diebenkorn’s small paintings of the late ’50s and early ’60s is inseparable from their aura of resignation. Strangely, something about them recalls the late work of Malevich, of Tatlin, of Rodchenko and Stepanova—work Diebenkom could hardly have known—in which, after the wreckage of their utopian Modernisms, those artists returned to what seems a shockingly traditional form of painting. One might call Diebenkorn’s work, like theirs, painting without ambition, or in any case with no ambition in any sphere other than the most intimate one, a sphere in which art could be,

  • Sue Williams

    The abrasive, quasi-agitprop style usually associated with Sue Williams’ work seems to have been left behind in her latest paintings. This development will doubtless disappoint some supporters, just as it will likely mollify some detractors. All of which only goes to prove that Williams’ work has a strange propensity for making a good part of its viewership lose its critical faculties altogether; they either flee in horror or slavishly applaud without ever looking the monster in the face.

    In fact, Williams has never been content to follow a straight line; not only has she experimented with

  • Luigi Ontani

    As if to make up for his seven-year absence from the New York scene, Luigi Ontani mounted a cram course in his special brand of artistic indulgence: an overwhelming array of more than 60 mostly recent works (though the show included some pieces dating back to the ’70s), ranging from hand-colored photographs to paintings, masks, and ceramic sculptures. The show could be considered a miniretrospective, yet for all its variety, it was so concentrated as to banish any thought of approaching the work in terms of chronological development. As Rome is the Eternal City, this is the Eternal Ontani.

    An

  • Howard Buchwald

    Howard Buchwald’s abstract paintings are didactic in the best sense: they present themselves as advanced lessons in the art of seeing. Since his last New York gallery exhibition five years ago, he has abandoned his idiosyncratic method of constructing elaborate supports shot through with holes at various angles to reveal the wall behind the painting. In this regard, the formal postulates of the recent paintings are less stringent than in Buchwald’s work of the ’80s.

    As before, Buchwald’s method is a crisp distillation of gestural abstraction—of Pollock’s allover composition in particular. But

  • Matthew Abbott

    It’s like when you’re drunk at a party and the person you came with seems to have wandered off, and someone’s talking to you, someone you don’t recognize, but the music is really loud, and lights from an unidentifiable source keep flashing, so even though you’re trying really hard to hear what this guy is saying, nothing quite adds up, though it keeps sounding like it should.

    This kind of woozy confusion emanates from Matthew Abbott’s paintings. He combines complex abstract patterns—often with strong color contrasts or “tacky” metallic tones, sometimes over more or less irrelevant swirling textures

  • Jack Whitten

    Given that Jack Whitten was nearly invisible to New York’s mainstream commercial gallery scene between 1978 and 1992, the show of his work from the early to mid ’70s (at Daniel Newburg) could only begin to fill in the development of this important abstract painter, but it did something that may be more important: it showed how prophetic Whitten was, brilliantly resolving the dilemmas to which younger abstractionists would return in the ’80s and ’90s with, presumably, little awareness of Whitten’s pioneering efforts. Whitten’s work of the ’70s seems to be about finding the intersection of

  • Marlene Dumas

    Marlene Dumas’ work shows clear stylistic affinities with the ’80s neo-Expressionists—Francesco Clemente in particular—and some of her subject matter, like that of The Peeping Tom, 1994, echoes Eric Fischl’s, but her paintings are fueled neither by the idea of painting as self-indulgent masturbation (à la Clemente) nor as prurient voyeurism (as with Fischl). Rather, they evince an unashamed passion for contact, a commitment to the reality principle. This commitment distinguishes itself, however, from that of various forms of lately fashionable “content-driven” art. Such work disrespects

  • Elaine Reichek

    Elaine Reichek’s “A Postcolonial Kinder-hood” was the first show in the series “Cultural Conversations” developed by the Jewish Museum to “address issues of Jewish identity.” This installation suggested, however, that the museum’s project is bound to short-circuit itself, if, as Reichek posits, contemporary Jewish identity has been reduced to anxiety over its own absence. Ever since the “emancipation” of European Jewry in the 19th century, the problem has been how to postulate an irreducible difference that, one immediately hastens to add, makes no fundamental difference at all. While the

  • IRREPLACEABLE HUE

    BY THE MID ’70S, Color Field painting was self-evidently passé. In his classic essays on the “white cube,” Brian O’Doherty hardly needed argue his assertion that the art Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried championed as the crescendoed triumph of Modernism had become a kind of latter-day salon painting. Calling for big walls and big collectors, it looked “like the ultimate in capitalist art.” Well, it’s been so long since Color Field had that kind of reputation that it’s now hard to believe it ever did. Today, it’s Minimalism that seems to have surer access to elite patronage and to the attendant

  • Andrea Belag

    Broad horizontal stripes, alternately light and dark and predominantly in blue, earth tones, and white, dominate most of Andrea Belag’s recent paintings. The colors seem to have been imprinted in thin, variable layers on the canvas rather than painted on directly. Though, admittedly, the surfaces of Belag’s paintings may recall faded jeans, in strictly artistic terms they bring to mind the sobriety and reflective self-effacement associated with a tradition that stretches from the late work of Cézanne to the early work of Brice Marden—work in which the space of naturalistic perception is crossed

  • Jill Baroff

    The urge to purify, to distill a gesture or an idea until it reaches its most concentrated form is the impetus behind Jill Baroff’s recent work. Only a few years ago, Baroff was showing quietly resolute abstract paintings that effectively synthesized a restrained gesturalism with an equally circumspect affinity for biomorphic reference. She has since radicalized her sense of the practice of painting to the point where she dispenses with nearly every convention associated with the term. These recent paintings are situated at the precise intersection of painting, drawing, sculpture, and even

  • Robert Rahway Zakanitch

    Robert Rahway Zakanitch’s “Big Bungalow Suite,” 1990–93, consists of five paintings on unstretched canvas—only the first four of them exhibited here—each of which is 11 feet high and 30 feet long. Executed in an exuberant painterly style, complete with drips and splatters, they nevertheless convey a sense of restraint and formality, one enforced, perhaps, by the artist’s method of laying down his repetitive patterns of imagery with stencils before working them up with the brush. Flowery, wallpaperlike motifs become equivalent to allover fields into which a number of smaller, oddly shaped images

  • Paul Ramirez Jonas

    Under the title “Heavier than Air,” Paul Ramirez Jonas presented two installations dealing with the history of flight and invention. For the earlier (though ongoing) work, Men on the Moon: Tranquility, 1992, the artist reconstructed Thomas Alva Edison’s first phonograph, 1879, using it to record, onto 398 green wax cylinders (each containing about a minute of sound), the initial six and one-half hours of the first manned mission to the moon in 1969. (He intends to record the remaining 17 hours of the mission by this method as well.) The cylinders were displayed on shelves along one wall, with