Carrie Rickey

  • Raymond Carney’s study of John Cassavetes, American Dreamer—asleep on the job.

    American Dreaming: The Films of John Cassavetes and the American Experience, by Raymond Carney. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1985, 335 pp, 19 black and white photographs.

    THE TEMPTATION IN WRITING a book on John Cassavetes, of course, is to improvise an imitative monologue punctuated with drum rat-tat-tattoos and a bassman’s staccato riff to evoke the jazzy, dangling-conversation movies of this writer/director, more popularly famous as an actor and (coincidentally? ironically?) once star of the short-lived TV series Johnny Staccato. Raymond Carney’s scholarly

  • POPCORN AND CANVAS

    IS IT QUAINT TO SPEAK of art movies? I don’t mean those independently financed films, uncommercial esthetic expressions, which have been staples of small urban cinemas and university film societies since the ’20s. I do mean the recent high-budget films—typically international and most typically flaunting more art-historical connoisseurship and references than can be absorbed from years of visiting the Met and ritually attending university slide lectures—that self-consciously stake a claim for film as high culture. For the purposes of easily distinguishing them, let’s call the former art movies

  • Overlay

    CITYBOUND DURING THIS SULTRY JULY, I read Overlay anticipating a travel surrogate: a vicarious vacation to the cairns and henges of Wiltshire, England; a hike across the New Mexico butte to see the kivas and petroglyphs. But who would guess that I would really be transported? Though the book is billed as a collage of contemporary art and the art of prehistory, that’s too modest a description of an ambitious, speculative account of the links between contemporary earthworks and site sculpture and those primal ruins that dot unlikely mesas and moors all over the globe. Utterly unlike any art

  • UNPOPULAR CULTURE (TRAVELS IN KIENHOLZLAND)

    I really begin to understand any society by going through its junk stores and flea markets. It is a form of education and historical orientation for me. I can see the results of ideas in what is thrown away by a culture.

    —Ed Kienholz1

    WHAT IS THAT OBSCURE CATALYST that shapes you, gives your life definition? In Roman Catholicism, the fathers mystify it, call it a “calling,” but I refuse to romanticize. Without irony, shame, or hyperbole how do I explain that in 1966, I, a middle-class, Jewish, Los Angeles teenager (like, totally, a Valley Girl sans whine), one sunny April Saturday experienced

  • The Hirshhorn: Danger, Curves Ahead

    NAVIGATING THROUGH THE “DIRECTIONS” show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., I had the sense of a good news/bad news joke. The good news is that curator Miranda McClintic had the guts to organize different concerns parading under the rubrics of post-modernism, pluralism, plagiarism, etc. “Artistry,” “Myth and Metaphor” and “Social Observation” are the three parts into which she divided contemporary art. The bad news is that the art didn’t fit its pigeonholes very snugly; art that, for me, is positively formalist, appeared in “Social Observation,” while pieces that seem incontestably

  • The Whitney’s Latest Sampler

    AMERICAN ART’S EQUIVALENT OF a trade fair, the Whitney Biennial this year is more like candy’s Whitman’s Sampler, with something for everyone, than the result of a compromise or battle among the curators who make the selections—John Hanhardt, Barbara Haskell, Richard Marshall and Patterson Sims. This year, film, video, installation, painting, sculpture and photography in their various forms are all amply represented; what’s narrow-minded about it, though, is that virtually every work on view (except for the film and installation choices) could have been seen sometime during the last two years

  • The Guggenheim: Singular Pluralism

    EXXON’S “19 ARTISTS, EMERGENT Americans,” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, is under attack from those who think art should remain pure of corporate sponsorship. But with President Reagan projecting budget cuts at the National Endowments, to whom can museums turn for support but to corporations? Think of it as blood money for art’s sake—a cynical statement, perhaps, but true. Be that as it may, in “19 Artists” the indefatigable Peter Frank, self-avowed “pluralist,” has, despite his claims to having as catholic a taste as there is around, surprised everyone with his curatorial orthodoxy. He

  • Lucas Samaras

    “Is there progress in art?” is the question on everybody’s minds as we inexorably enter a new decade. From the look of things, there’s certainly regress in art: rediscoveries of Expressionism, Constructivism, Realism and Surrealism abound. Some people call that evolution, others devolution, and yet others are able to transcend this limiting question and understand the less transient meanings underlying it all. What would you call Lucas Samaras’ new work, now that he’s practically relived and reworked his whole career in his latest show? Progress? Stasis? Or some other kind of dynamic?

    A Real

  • Ad Reinhardt

    While Lucas Samaras rediscovers that subject equals object, about 20 blocks uptown the specter of Ad Reinhardt, flickering through the Whitney’s “Concentration” of his works in their collection, must be chuckling at contemporary art’s rediscovery of the obvious, its reinvention of the esthetic mandala. There’s probably no other 20th-century artist as exasperating to decipher as Reinhardt, no other artist who had it so well figured out that Cosmic Truth wasn’t much more than a Local Statement. He once asked himself, in a celebrated 1965 Artnews “Autointerview,” “Are you still saying the one thing

  • “Three by Four”

    The underlying concept of “Three by Four,” to feature four important artists by showing, for each of them, three disparate works made over a period of time is interesting, especially since all of the artists, Richard Diebenkorn, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella, have made drastic or subtle changes that make you rethink the question “what is progress?” But what results here is simply a series of star turns. Whatever pleasure there is in seeing the paintings, there didn’t seem to be any motivation behind the exhibition—save for the obvious.

    Stella was the most intelligently

  • “Pictures and Promises”

    Doubtless the most provocative show during January was “Pictures and Promises,” “gathered” by Barbara Kruger for the Kitchen. It’s the kind of assembling that can be viewed many different ways, depending on what propaganda you marshal to describe the visual propaganda. For those who argue that art is in a crisis, on a trajectory hurtling towards devolution, this collection of images, which includes art “information” by Hans Haacke juxtaposed with advertising “information” by Seagram’s, can be used as propaganda on behalf of their argument—in this show, “art” and “commerce” are indistinguishable.

  • Brenda Miller

    Brenda Miller’s new show, a rope’n’grid installation, is a subversively anti-Minimalist piece which should bear the caveat: oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive Minimalism. The walls and the ceiling of the small gallery at Sperone are scored with a red-and-blue-chalked grid; just standing in the room makes you feel like a coordinate trapped in 3-D graph paper. Part of the room is cordoned off by a floor-to-ceiling rope grid; behind this divider are crosshatched rope filaments which successively grow more slender, and incrementally more limp and tangled. The message