Ben Lifson

  • “The Subverted Object”

    Most of the forty-eight pieces in this survey of Dada- and Surrealist-derived sculpture (generally from the ’60s to the ’90s) represent everyday objects and are made largely out of the objects themselves: a mirror coated with silver paint (Bertrand Lavier, Mirror, 1986); a pair of worn high heels partly wrapped in plastic and tied together with twine (Christo, Wrapped Shoes of Jeanne-Claude, 1962); a globe coated with gray soil (Vik Muniz, Terra Incognita, 1996); a red dial phone whose earpiece is a hand drill (Richard Tipping, Drill-a-Phone, 1990); two furled umbrellas covered with shiny,

  • Dawoud Bey

    Emotion has been the theme of Dawoud Bey’s work since his early pictures of everyday life on the streets of Harlem, Mexico, and Puerto Rico (ca. 1975–85). The best of these black and white studies, taken with a 35-mm camera, are distinguished by close observation of, and measured sympathy for, moments of ordinary feeling that transform a passing stranger into the hero of his section of sidewalk, or turn the street into landscape. Bey’s sensibility is attuned equally to sparks of laughter, the melancholy of waiting, and the intensity that quickens a step or lengthens a stride.

    Since 1991, Bey has

  • Jane Dickson

    Jane Dickson’s recent exhibition featured eight tall, narrow oilstick drawings on canvas and linen, and three oil and Roll-A-Tex paintings, showing Times Square side streets, the views and surroundings from the artist’s former office-turned-studio on West 43rd Street. The subjects are men eyeing women, men eyeing men, policemen stopping suspects, and other vignettes, seen in front of liquor stores and sex emporiums on empty late-night streets. With their high vantage points and steep foreshortening, they seem to have been painted from Dickson’s windows. A strip joint, Paradise Alley, lent its

  • Janine Gordon

    In these slight, flawed but promising pictures the subjects are young Hispanic men from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. That they are also gang members is of little importance, for the iconography does not immediately mark them as such the way wings do angels.

    Gordon depicts them at home, among themselves, often bare-chested, laughing, wrestling on beds, striking poses; the major notes are patience, tenderness, tolerance, gaiety, and sweetness. True, glazed eyes and dreamy smiles suggest drugs, as does a picture of two men, their parted lips almost touching, sharing a puff of smoke. But drug use is not

  • Craigie Horsfield

    Mounted in black wooden frames, Craigie Horsfield’s photographs are large (ca. 50-by-40 inches) black and white pictures with a narrow, dark palette. They show: in Barcelona, a bullfight, a soccer field in an industrial area, rooftops, a bar frequented by twenty- to thirty-year-olds, and, a long, low ceramic sink; in Poland, teenagers playing basketball, a handsome woman’s face, a young woman with a printed T-shirt, and a factory worker at her machine, staring into the middle distance; in London, a pretty young woman standing naked in an empty room.

    This could have been a group of faits divers.

  • John Coplans

    With these recent works John Coplans shows a mastery of surface from which comes a singular beauty, Mozartian in its development: strong forms and specific emotions evolve swiftly, imperceptibly, mysteriously into others. The pictures’ rhetorical modes (expository, lyrical, dramatic) vary rapidly and sharply, as do the pleasures of the surface (surprise, delight, astonishment, charm, wonder). Saving it all from being merely gorgeous are a knowledge of the body’s expressiveness and a complex infrastructure of forms worked into inventive, overlaid abstract compositions. Thus, Coplans directs the

  • Richard Poussette-Dart

    This first posthumous exhibition of the pioneering American Abstract Expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart does his reputation little good. Knoedler’s selection (fourteen paintings, mostly large; seven small watercolors) revealed a competent but mediocre professional whose work belies much of what has been said about it.

    True, he could put paint on canvas, and, at surface level, had a prodigious vocabulary of means and effects. He could paint thin and flat and thick impasto; make purple daubs glitter like jewels, patches of white paint seem liquid, whole paintings resemble stained glass; seamless

  • A MODEL PRISONER: JAMES CASEBERE

    JAMES CASABERE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER in the documentary style. His subject is architecture, but instead of visiting buildings that fascinate him he builds and photographs models of them. His most recent work is about prisons. He has studied the subject thoroughly, and in conversation gives the impression that in his models—with their regular facades, the cell blocks with their enormous grids of windows, the long walls, guard towers, the barbed and razor wire—he sees 200 years of prison buildings and types, and the attitudes both toward incarceration and toward the relationship of architectural

  • John Walker

    John Walker’s new paintings seem predicated on esthetic ambition. One can imagine Walker having asked himself, “Can I take a passing visual fancy as slight as something seen behind closed, sleepy eyelids and develop it until it seems to open onto the reach and density of obsession?”

    The panoramic vastness of these paintings makes the conceit plausible, as do Walker’s unprepossessing hues—the pinks and browns of faded postcards from out West—and the two principal figures he takes up each time: 1) a broad smear of pinkish/brownish paint rising like a jet of thick muddy water and falling like the

  • Andres Serrano

    Andres Serrano’s new, large color photographs taken in morgues are portraits, figure studies, and studies of the hands, feet, heads, and genitals of corpses. We see, at close range and larger than life, stab wounds and scalpel incisions, flesh bloated from drowning and discolored by poison, ears and noses half burned away, fists clenched as though to ward off blows.

    Serrano had permission to take lights and backdrops into the morgues, that is, he worked with the freedom and control of the studio artist, yet handled his subjects like a mediocre amateur. Light: from how-to books of glamour photography,

  • Diana Michener

    “Diana Michener is not shy when she chooses her subject matter,” the press release states. What is to recoil from in laboratory specimens of deformed fetuses ca. 1900, in handsome glass jars, floating in formaldehyde? One has two heads, another two crania and one face, another’s torso dwindles into a fishtaillike flap of skin, another has one half-formed eye in mid forehead. No gorgon here, or basilisk, or the Duchess of Malfi’s corpse: “Cover her face,” says her brother, who had her murdered, “mine eyes dazzle: she died young.” If style mirrors perception, Michener sees through a black and

  • Lois Conner

    Lois Conner’s panoramic platinum prints of China give us the provinces before mechanization and good roads. Even large cities look provincial. An occasional bicycle and old truck are the most modern things we see, and only the imperial architecture of Beijing and the British imperialist architecture of Shanghai act as historical markers. The rest is gardens, yards, streets, fields, steep buttes, low-lying ancient ruins on empty plateaus, and peasants.

    Using large negatives on platinum-treated paper—which together produce the most finely-graduated scale of grays now available to photographers—Conner

  • Frank Majore

    According to Frank Majore, “there are only three subjects worthy of making art about . . . sex, death and beauty.” as for art itself, “it should have some sort of spiritual value, and people should actually be moved by what they see.”

    In Majore’s brand-new series, “Anima Rising: The Birth Of Venus (I-IV),” 1992, sex is represented by small, black and white pictures of soap bubbles floating in blackness above soap suds. Some say that Aphrodite “rose naked from the foam of the sea and, riding on a scallop shell, stepped ashore first on the island of Cythera,” and others that “she sprang from the

  • BEATO IN LUCKNOW

    M. Beato, a Corfiote, made [excellent photographs] . . . in Lucknow. . . . The moment they were taken I sent a set of them to my father, in London, who showed them to her Majesty the Queen-Empress. That lady was graciously pleased to express her interest in them, they having been the first she had seen.

    —Francis Cornwallis Maude, Memories of the Mutiny, 1894

    The Siege of Lucknow

    The Sepoy Rebellion; called by Europeans the Indian Mutiny and by Indians the first battles in the struggle for independence, began in May 1857, when sepoys, Indian enlisted men in the British Indian Army, rose up and took

  • ABOUT GARRY WINOGRAND

    GARRY WINOGRAND AND I KNEW each other for almost ten years. We welcomed each other at airports at odd hours of day and night; we ate at each other’s tables, slept under each other’s roofs and smiled on each other’s children. But we never lived in the same city, nor were we ever part of each other’s daily lives for long times at a stretch. I was neither companion nor neighbor nor spectator nor bystander nor student—although at various times I was a bit of one or another of all these. It took me some years, in this world of telephones and airplanes and broken and far-flung relationships, to