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


    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


    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

  • Nancy Grossman

    “You should only wear leather if you mean it,” goes an old West Hollywood proverb, an admonition to make the streetfoolish streetwise. Does Nancy Grossman really mean it? Not that she wears it, but she does continue to swathe life-size wooden busts with the stuff. Naturally, leather is hide, so why not give your sculptures skin? But Grossman’s sculptures look a little more semiologically complicated than this simplistic premise.

    Her ten new busts look dressed to kill. Three are eyeless, blindfolded by leather hoods. They look about as harmless as sharks: two have bared teeth, the third a spiked

  • Jamie Dalglish

    Jamie Dalglish epitomizes the crisis in abstract painting. Each idea (allover markings, contrast of high-key color, figures that are almost iconic yet nonrepresentational) in Dalglish’s work has been in currency for at least 30 years—each has been well-spent by Pollock, Newman, Krasner and Gottlieb. Not that novelty is essential in itself, but it seems that Dalglish’s renegotiation of old territory is listless. uncommitted. As Jean-Luc Godard recently responded to Paul Schrader (who had approached him to admit that he had lifted some Godard scenes from A Married Woman for his American Gigolo),

  • Frank Young

    Frank Young recently exhibited abstract paintings and wall sculptures. There was no apparent logic connecting the two enterprises except their shared feebleness. The paintings: largish, on unstretched canvas, oil paint (thick, applied in the current pastry-school fashion) serrated on in vortexes. Flaccid orphism, in both senses of the adjective. The wall sculptures: swaddled and wrapped bundles, ranging in size from shoulder bag to fair-sized backpack made of packaging elements like foam rubber, nylon duffel bags, stray drop cloths, and other detritus.

    Of the two kinds of work, the sculptures

  • Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party”

    An interior dialogue occasioned by The Dinner Party:

    It is not a hoax, it is not hokum: The Dinner Party is a Pop phenomenon on the order of bra-burning and The Women’s Room. That is to say, an artwork that’s larger-than-life, perhaps larger even than the 1,038 lives it honors. It addresses all aspects of social, esthetic, and religious practice. From the moment of its installation at the San Francisco MoMA last year, it became, indisputably, a landmark—a monument to art and the women’s movement. I envision historians and critics of feminism, feminist art, and goddess spiritualism adopting the

  • Mimmo Paladino

    Not long ago, a metropolis aiming to be a cosmopolis would host a world’s fair in order to call attention to itself. Nowadays such prestige is accorded to the city sponsoring a film festival or art fair. Given the mobility of contemporary art, and the likelihood of seeing the same sculpture in Venice (Italy) and Venice (California) in the same season, it would seem safe to suppose that an “International Style” could be evolving among younger artists.

    Leading contender for International Style 1980 is the rampant New Imagism. It’s visible in Rome. In Chicago. San Francisco. Düsseldorf. Manhattan.

  • Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, and Francesco Clemente

    This is the question to ask of the work of the Italians recently imported to Manhattan, beginning with the Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia shows at Sperone Westwater Fischer last spring, continuing with “The Italian Wave” at Holly Solomon’s last summer, and crescendoing in the MIMMO PALADINO show at Marian Goodman plus the triple-threat exhibition of the “Three C’s” (ENZO CUCCHI, SANDRO CHIA and FRANCESCO CLEMENTE) at Sperone Westwater Fischer in October. Grumblings from various artists and interested parties had it that this October’s new Italian movement—as Arlo Guthrie said in Alice’s

  • Lynda Benglis

    No longer is LYNDA BENGLIS off the wall. No longer dispersed. No longer scattershot. She’s still a sculptor, however, and as such operates like Paladino the painter. While he paints real grounds and virtual figures protruding, Benglis just worries about the figures.

    Like many artists in New York, Benglis’ work was visibly affected by Margit Rowell’s Planar Dimension exhibition at the Guggenheim in 1979. Seems that after that show, lots of painters made canvases that began to grow in relief from the wall, while sculptors pushed their volumes into the wall. Benglis may be up against the wall now,

  • Andy Warhol

    Mr. Merchandising, ANDY WARHOL, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse: how about a print folio of ten famous Jews? A moral nightmare, but a marketing dream. Jewploitation. Warhol had already done “The Ten Most Wanted Men,” and “The Ten Most Beautiful Women,” but these had been ironic variants on police blotter and beauty contest listmaking. Listing ten Jews(the advance on this project termed it “Jewish geniuses of the 20th century”) had no such irony, its only raison d’être was to penetrate a new market: the synagogue circuit. It also turned out to be the only way to get the Jewish Museum to show