Carlo McCormick


    JIM LUTES’ PAINTINGS ARE everything they seem on first impression: ugly, tragic, self-reproachful, gross, despairing. Somehow, they are also beautiful, comic, accusatory, delicate, and hopeful. They are all these contradictions, and more; and not balanced in some rational dualism, but schizophrenically staggered and sprawled across the surface of his canvases. Intensely personal, even private, these paintings are by and about Jim Lutes. But however singular and vulnerable Jim Lutes may seem, with his raw soul exposed before us, he is not alone. Confronting his own compulsions through an unflinching

  • Tony Fitzpatrick

    This rogues’ portrait gallery stars dozens of infamous American killers, such as Richard Speck, Fred Cowan, Ed Gein, Susan Atkins, Dick Hickock, and John Wayne Gacy. The art is as gruesome as one might expect, but not in the way one might anticipate. Fitzpatrick invokes the degenerate power, brooding violence and despair, and litter of life’s broken and beaten casualties. He casts their tormented condition in a strangely sympathetic light. What makes the images so vital and arresting is the tone of true, unprejudiced compassion. Instead of looking down from a culturally superior perch, Fitzpatrick

  • Kalachakra Sand Mandala

    A sublime form of wisdom was offered this past summer to the thousands visiting the Museum of Natural History in New York, who witnessed the first public presentation of a centuries-old Buddhist tradition of mandala-making. Working steadily for six weeks, three Tibetan monks from the Namgyl Monastery created an intricately detailed sand mandala, one grain of sand at a time. The Kalachakra, or “Wheel of Time,” mandala conveys a wisdom, a way of seeing things, that couldn’t be a more appropriate and timely lesson to our culture. Its beauty, order, and meaning convey both esthetic and spiritual

  • Christian Marclay

    Nearly anyone can play “Name That Tune.” Some people need to hear a few notes more than others do, but essentially we can all recognize well-known pop music melodies with but a few notes pecked out on the piano or distilled in some cheesy Muzak rendition. Christian Marclay, a noted experimental musician of New York‘s downtown art-performance circles who has become considerably more active as a visual artist in the past couple of years, knows well how that particular dynamic between memory and the senses works. Marclay‘s music over the years, in both solo and collaborative efforts, has involved

  • Kiki Smith

    Kiki Smith’s art finds the public within the private; it strips us down to our primal biological ingredients. In the mammoth ductlite iron Digestive System, 1988, the fragile terra cotta Ribs, 1987, or the delicately rendered Uterus Drawings, 1988, we escape the vulnerable, empty feeling of nakedness with the tacit understanding that there is yet something hidden, some deeper emotion or significance that cannot be exposed because it is deeper than our bare flesh and bones. These pieces are enigmatic precisely because their meanings, and even their raison d’être, are hermetically buried within

  • David Ireland

    There has been a surge of interest recently in the art world over arte povera. The movement, which emerged in Italy in the late ’60s and early ’70s, has never been so appreciated as it is now. Greater recognition has also been given to a number of American artists whose work since the late ’70s has offered a more local manifestation of the same esthetic. The new fascination with this esthetic has resulted in the rediscovery of a number of exceptional artists, many of whom are conceptually oriented and have lived and worked in the San Francisco area since the mid ’70s. David Ireland is one such

  • Daniel Levine

    If there’s anything more powerful than seduction or revulsion in art, it is ambivalence. It has been a frequent strategy among 20th-century avant-garde artists, who have generally used it as an aggressive perceptual gambit and/or a mannerist affectation. In Daniel Levine’s art, ambiguity is expressed as something poetically sublime. His is an art looking at art, a culture looking at culture to a point of reflection psychically split between self-identification and critical distance. It is a reflexivity magnified beyond its conditional terms, brought to a level of distraction. Like mirrors facing

  • Steve Miller

    The message and methodology of Steve Miller’s art have always been interesting, and with his most recent show he has succeeded in bringing together these two elements with intelligence and grace. Ideologically, Miller is making the same sort of criticisms in 1988 as he has since 1980, when he worked as a trading adviser in the commodities market. His concerns, like those of many artists in the postindustrial era of global economics and politics, are about the reduction of art to a commodity, and the potential for cultural truths—from the hierarchies of artistic value to the semiotic certainties

  • Allen Ruppersberg

    Allen Ruppersberg’s installation here included some framed examples of what appear to be autograph letters written by notable authors. He retrieved these unpublished letters from obscurity in 1976 by hand copying them and then exhibiting the copies. Displayed in a new context, juxtaposed with some of his more recent work, these letters were in effect re-rediscovered, re-recycled, or more aptly, re-reinvented. While there is a fundamental difference between Ruppersberg’s first purloining of these letters and his recent use of them as already produced art objects in an entirely new show, the nature

  • Mel Chin

    It might take volumes to explicate Mel Chin’s ambitious installation “The Operation of the Sun Through the Cult of the Hand,” 1987—to explain all the careful details and their symbolic and associative significance. Although such an investigation would be justified by Chin’s complex network of references, much of the poetry of his art would be lost in the translation. The installation consisted of nine works, named after the nine planets, that represent a distillation of myriad Eastern and Western concepts spanning centuries of religious, scientific, and cultural history. Chin has delved into

  • Joseph Nechvatal

    In a manic proliferation of communication, Joseph Nechvatal’s overmediated language streams across the viewer’s info-fried consciousness as a miasma of fuzzy, fleeting, and overlapping images. The result is something like receiving television signals from several stations and data banks simultaneously on a single screen and trying to read the tangled web of electronic blips and blobs for whatever subliminal truths can be found there. One way to look at Nechvatal’s development since his first shows in alternative spaces in 1979 would be in terms of the various media with which he has chosen to

  • James Nares

    Why do the drawings of an ex-filmmaker who only marginally made his mark in the late ’70s underground cinema in New York now command our interest? There is an originality and authenticity to James Nares’ work that comes not from a combative assertion of some new revolutionary esthetic but from a sensitively tuned subversion of expectations. The forces that stir the cultural stew in the arts today tend to be far subtler than the dramatic upheavals of an avant-garde. This generalization, though fragile, may account for the peculiar potency of Nares’ modest, unimposing oil drawings on paper, a

  • Clowns

    HA HA HA ha ha ha! Peals of laughter echo hauntingly, in countless ambivalent tones. Hundreds of clowns are parading through the halls of contemporary art, in work by Lee Gordon, Archie Rand, Tony Fitzpatrick, Judy Rilka, Randolfo Rocha, Jonathan Borofsky, Michael O'Brien, Donald Baechler, Bobby G., Mark McCloud, Rob Scholte, Daniel Tisdale, Ellen Phelan, John Baldessari, Katherine Sherwood, David Wojnarowicz, Robert Williams, Greg O'Halloran, Julian Schnabel, John Peters, Julie Wachtel, Federico Fellini, Ted Rosenthal, David Salle, Aurthur Sarnoff, David Graham, Robin Winters, the Alien Comic,

  • Bessie Harvey

    Despite being misused and overused, the term “visionary art” describes the art of Bessie Harvey in its most profound and moving sense, as an evocation of the connections between material and spiritual being. Her organic sculptures are realizations of invention and faith, in a form that is both physical and metaphysical. Using fragments of the trunks, limbs, or roots of trees, together with wood putty, spray paint, house paint, glitter, glass and plastic beads, feathers, dried vines, and other found materials, Harvey creates works whose meanings are layered like the inner and outer skin of personal

  • Paul McMahon

    I just loved Paul McMahon’s latest show. Sure, there are many ways, more articulate and refined, of expressing admiration, all of them more dignified and appropriate for an art review. But there is a directness, simplicity, vulnerability, and benevolence so profound in McMahon’s art that earns it such inanely effusive praise. His charm and openness has completely seduced me out of my cumbersome jaded critical armor. Naked here, before this craftily disarming jester, I will make no pretense to hide the strong positive bias with which I entered the show. A dedicated fan of McMahon’s peculiar sense

  • J. S. G. Boggs

    Conceptual art has the potential of working as a mental stimulant in two contrary ways. There is the sort of conceptual expression that is a cryptic gesture, rich in meaning and equivocal in reading. There is also an emphatically less subtle idea art that is conceived and executed as a critically bold and pointed reflection of the culturally accepted norm. The tactics of J. S. G. Boggs’ art certainly belong to the latter of these two modes of conceptualism. While we might miss in Boggs the lyrical ambiguity of the first mode, his work is appealing in its keen ideological clarity and precision

  • Mark Mothersbaugh

    There is a peculiar strain of media-inspired art today, often overlooked and generally misunderstood as some funky latter-day offshoot of Pop art. A new generation of image makers has been producing its own ultimate vernacular of our disposable popular culture that is a good deal less tame than Pop and subsequent fine-art hybrids of kitsch Americana. Experimenting with various art forms for over a decade now, Mark Mothersbaugh has struck the raw nerve of our accelerating media frenzy and reorganized the patterns of psychic disruption that it engenders. His recent retina-zapping show of silkscreen

  • Izhar Patkin

    Izhar Patkin parades the pompous fashions of our artistic decadence as if they were parodic figures, like corn-media dell’arte characters. Culture has been clad in the same sort of esthetic vestments for so long now that the fabric of Beauty is but a musty, tattered heirloom. The garments of cultural respectability have indeed worn so thin that their transparency reveals to us their luxurious wealth and feeble condition. The luxuriousness apparent in Patkin’s show, entitled “Five-Piece Suit,” remained ambiguously double-edged throughout. At issue for the viewer was whether the art was beautiful

  • Taro Suzuki

    Through the use of figure/ground illusions in his new work, Taro Suzuki questions the “truth” of human perceptions. The fantastic character of Suzuki’s earlier art, especially the organic surrealism of his lava lamps, has been largely preserved in his latest efforts, but in a tone remarkably more austere and direct. It is as if, by creating streamlined versions of his science-fiction fantasy objects, with a more precise rendering of effects and an almost laboratorylike reduction of all extraneous elements, he has been able to convince us that these new, purer models are absolutely scientific.

  • Fred Riskin

    The myths of a day are invisibly woven from the subliminal threads of that which lies beyond understanding. Fred Riskin’s recent installation of Conceptual art, Sub Rosa: A Psychic Journey, 1987, created just such a modem fable of unseen powers, vague and superhuman. It is a decidedly narrative sort of tale, an engrossing international spy story of intrigue, danger, and extrasensory perception. Captivating as a thriller should be, it works as an atmospherically dense web of photographs, text, and sound. The sense of mystery that pervades the installation arises out of the sinister shadows of