Charles Hagen

  • Robert Ryman

    Marked by an ascetic denial of such traditional artistic devices as facture and narrative, Minimalist sculpture and painting emphasized the absolute qualities of materials, rather than what the artist did with them. Frequently focusing on the interplay of random or found arrangements with the sensuous qualities of industrial materials, Minimalism reacted to the self-conscious emotionalism of second-generation Abstract Expressionism, positing the artist as a sort of Zen factory worker.

    Quieter than Pop art, Minimalism, rather than reveling in the circus of consumerism, ignored the ambient noise—or

  • Elena Sisto

    Elena Sisto’s new paintings combine the media imagery of Pop art with a luscious, painterly expressiveness. On small canvases, each a foot or so square, Sisto bunches various image fragments culled from sources ranging from comic strips to trompe l’oeil drawings, against swirling white or pastel backgrounds.

    One of Sisto’s favorite sources is the late Ernie Bushmiller’s classic comic strip “Nancy.” In Sisto’s hands the frizzy-haired heroine becomes a kind of surrogate self, in essentially surrealist narratives. In Stinker, 1989, for example, Nancy pulls back a theater curtain above a pair of

  • Elliott Schwartz

    Even on the level of object identification, Elliot Schwartz’s photographs are puzzling. He depicts various odd things—a broken light bulb, a model of Rodin’s Thinker with a wedge-shaped head, a pair of bent wires—framed in such a way that they’re obviously the “subjects” of the pictures, even if it’s not quite clear what they are. Many of these images bear a nominal relationship to portraiture—there’s something that looks like a rotting baseball with a cigar in its mouth, while what might be two sticks of dynamite become a pair of eyes beneath a checkered scarf. Printed in various sizes, in

  • Anthony Hernandez

    In his cool studies of the unseen corners where Los Angeles’ homeless sleep, Anthony Hernandez adopts the stance of an archeologist, or maybe a police photographer. In only one setting is the resident at home—a blanket-covered figure sleeps under the Hollywood Freeway surrounded by his collection of junk. These sites have the air of transient ruins—the residents scrabble together walls out of cardboard boxes, old car seats (this is L.A., after all), and broken-off planks, scrunching their possessions into the spaces beneath freeway overpasses or simply spreading out a soiled blanket in a bower

  • “The New Vision”

    What unites the work in this mammoth exhibition is the seemingly unshakeable faith in the optical that nearly every picture demonstrates. Not here will you find the contemporary suspicion of the image, or of the manipulative and coercive nature of the photographic exchange. Instead this work demonstrates a striking brashness, an apparent belief that the world can be understood by depicting it; further, that it can be changed by seeing it in a new way. However foolhardy such confidence in pictorial progress may seem now, looking back from an age battered by mass media, these pictures remain

  • “L’Oeuvre Ultime”

    At first blush the premise of “L’Oeuvre Ultime” (The final work)––to present works by 24 artists, all renowned Modernist masters, made in the last years of their lives—teeters on the brink of a patronizing sentimentality. (It might be subtitled a “celebration of the human spirit,” or some such.) But it raised pointed questions about notions of style and creativity, problematic subjects that the recent churn of the art market, with its emphasis on novelty, has tended to obscure.

    Given the theme of the show—curated by Jean-Louis Prat, director of the Fondation Maeght, and featuring 124 paintings

  • Rebecca Purdum

    In shifting the palette of her large abstractions, Rebecca Purdum has managed to avoid the too-easy transcendence that her earlier work seemed to threaten. The paintings in Purdum’s last show, with their brushy bunched-up clouds of blues and whites and grays, suggested nothing so much as swirling turbulent mists of color about to part and reveal—what? Any answer seemed doomed to anticlimax. Now, though, Purdum has brought a broad range of color into her work, from reds and oranges to purples and greens. As a result there’s a new sense of emotion in these paintings, some of which seem impressionistic

  • Louise Fishman

    Like a number of other current painters, Louise Fishman makes brushstrokes themselves the figures of her paintings. But where David Reed, for example, sculpts his fetishized brushstrokes into smooth, sinuous forms, Fishman keeps her marks raw, direct, seemingly unmediated in their record of their own making. Brushy, with hints of undercolor coming through their broken-up surfaces, these broad strokes—usually limited to verticals and horizontals, echoing the edge of the canvas—necessarily suggest veils. Like membranous planes, they separate the painting’s surface (where the image resides) and

  • Boyd Webb

    In recent years Boyd Webb’s photographic setups have focused on encounters between culture and nature, often carried out with violence: violins being ground up between gigantic molars, or a man struggling to extract himself from a turbulent sea. Now Webb has left out the human figure altogether, and given his large, cheery color prints an almost environmentalist twist. In Eyeless, 1989, a small flock of deflated rubber geese are arranged in a circle above the camera and framed against a bright yellow sky; the neck of one goose droops through a squarish hole cut into the clear plastic sheet the

  • Lewis Baltz

    Lewis Baltz’s photographs belong to what might be called the elegiac sublime tradition in American photography. Like Robert Adams, Baltz depicts both the transcendent beauty of the landscape of the American West and the depredations that it has suffered from the encroachments of industrial society. In the work here, Baltz shows the wasteland of San Francisco’s Candlestick Point, a barren area where chaotic tangles of rubbish and the rusting shells of derelict cars pile up in the shadows of the local sports stadium. In many of these pictures, junk contends with the remnants of nature—a stand of

  • “America Worked. The 1950s Photographs of Dan Weiner”

    The photojournalist Dan Weiner had only a brief career: most of his work was done in the decade before he died, in 1959, at the age of 39. Nonetheless he achieved a wide reputation for his graceful photographs, which were made using the small, lightweight cameras that other postwar photojournalists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank employed to similarly insightful effect. Weiner’s photographs demonstrate his great ability to capture fleeting but telling expressions and gestures, and to reveal the underlying drama of everyday events.

    Like W. Eugene Smith, who also achieved his greatest

  • Robert Heinecken

    The times appear to have caught up with Robert Heinecken. Many aspects of his work over the past three decades have now come into favor, although in altered form, in the work of the current generation of appropriationist photographers. In his emphasis on mass-media images of women and his interest in the manipulation of libido by advertising. Heinecken’s work can be seen as anticipating Richard Prince’s deadpan quotations from, or Cindy Sherman’s restagings of, similarly charged materials. Heinecken has long enjoyed a reputation as a sort of West Coast enfant terrible of photography, challenging