Charles Hagen

  • 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

  • David Row

    There’s a barely suppressed sensuousness in David Row’s paintings, even a sense of antic play. Beneath a surface that appears at first to be reductively geometric—with its broad curves and zigzags, painted in white on white or black on black—lurk fields of color, mostly reds and blues, that Row allows to peak through incisions scratched into the surface. Not that the layer of color is independent of the surface; often the underpainting is divided into red and blue, in the same way the surface image is divided into the curving and angular forms and the spaces between them. Row further complicates

  • Adam Füss

    Adam Füss’ photograms are closer in spirit to those of László Moholy-Nagy—with their Constructivist, scientific overtones—than to the kinkier, psychosexual ones produced by Man Ray. They also recall the organic process art of the ’60s and ’70s, continued today by Meg Webster and others, which attempts to record the effects of various natural systems. For one group of pictures here (the majority of the works are Untitled, 1988), Füss suspended a flashlightlike pendulum above a sheet of photographic paper. The images record the egg-shaped paths traced by the light as it gradually swung to a stop.

  • Therese Oulton

    Thérèse Oulton’s paintings never quite relinquish representation. Several works shown here, all from 1988, suggest landscapes, while others feature figurative and nonfigurative passages within the same image. But whatever the references of the images, the essential vehicle of meaning in Oulton’s work remains the syntax of paint. The whipped, lathery surfaces of her pictures suggest the thickly applied paint of such other English painters as Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach; in Oulton’s work, though, the swirls of color are built up, not from gobs of paint heaped on heavily, but from distinct,

  • John Coplans

    By turning his attention from his body to his hands in his “Hands: Self Portraits” series, 1986–88, John Coplans shifts the emphasis of his photographs away from the documentary and toward the symbolic. In an earlier series, “A Body of Work,” 1984–87, Coplans relied on the theatrical meanings of poses, but it was the physical facts of his body that made those photographs so striking—the wrinkled, hairy skin, worked by time like a palimpsest; the sagging torso, comically contrasted with the heroic poses Coplans would strike. In narrowing his focus to his hands, he has given up the autobiographical

  • Emily Cheng

    In her new paintings, Emily Cheng combines fragments of images of different sorts, whether the flat shapes of Modernist abstraction or perspectival representations.Her paintings appear to be layered, with some forms in them suggesting bulbous shapes of organic Surrealism or geometric icons, as well as others that resemble folds of cloth or twisting tubes. All are presented using an extensive vocabulary of illusionistic devices—transparency, overlap, contingency, reversal of figure and ground. In their formal play, in the indirect nature of the clues they provide the viewer for reading them,

  • TELEVISION'S BODY

    LIKE A FILM and photography before it, television seems to come to us as pure image, magically coalescing out of the air. It is the TV set the box itself, television’s body—that gives the lie to this idealist fantasy. Whether Watchman or Diamond Vision, whether in a high-tech brushed-aluminum case or a birds-eye-maple colonial-style console, the apparatus of television itself denies the medium’s claim to transcend the bonds of materiality and history. In his video sculptures the West .German-born artist Wolfgang Staehle combines TV sets, in all their peculiar and expressive physicality, with

  • Homeless In America

    The homeless offer vivid evidence of the failure of government social policies in the ’80s; at the feast of apparent prosperity offered up by the Reagan era they serve as an unwelcome ghost, a nagging reminder that not everyone is allowed at the table. Both city and federal administrations continue to act as if the problem did not exist, even as the evidence of its spread can be seen nationwide, whether in the encampments of homeless across from the White House or in the growing number of panhandlers to be found in virtually every American city. The great moral force of this modest show stems

  • Thomas Nozkowski

    Over the past decade, the figures in Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings have grown more definite, until they now rest within active grounds of color like heraldic shields or the uncials of illuminated manuscripts. The almost Arabic quality of some of these figures is emphasized by the relatively small size of the paintings, all done on his usual 16-by-20-inch canvasboard panels. This consistency of size makes the paintings seem somewhat provisional, as if they were studies for other works, either larger or smaller. At the same time, they lend the figures the quality of written characters, whose meaning

  • Harvey Quaytman

    By itself, the cross at the center of Harvey Quaytman’s recent compositions implies solidity and geometric order. But the cross sits in front of what seems at first to be an unstable interweave of forms. On closer examination, though, this apparently shifting scenario turns out to be fairly consistent: behind each cross is a single tall rectangle, which is flush with the left edge of the canvas. Wedded in this way, cross and rectangle sit before a more or less uniform background, most often white or black. The square format of Quaytman’s canvases further emphasize the play between stability and

  • Nicholas Nixon

    Nicholas Nixon’s pictures from the late ’70s and early ’80s display an astonishing command of composition. In a typical shot, as many as half a dozen people, most often seen on porches or in backyards, are arranged in taut, subtly balanced groupings full of dramatic and formal meanings; the images bear the seeming inevitability of well-told tales. These pictures share the supple grace of the best street photography, as represented by the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand. But because Nixon used a cumbersome 8-by-10 inch apparatus rather than a compact 35-mm. camera,

  • Robert Mapplethorpe

    A certain smart elegance—intense but never forced, aggressive, on the verge of being cloying but rarely falling over into sentiment or pretense—has always been the hallmark of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. No doubt it is this quality, in part the product of an extreme attention to craft (evidenced above all in Mapplethorpe’s frames, themselves exquisite objects, and in some cases even becoming the work itself) that has made him so successful working for magazines selling just this kind of hip elegance. In one of the catalogue essays for this show, Ingrid Sischy describes Mapplethorpe as quintessentially

  • Andrew Savulich

    Like some latter-day Weegee, Andrew Savulich takes the seemingly endless stream of weirdness of the city—horrible or mundane, gruesome or ridiculous—as the subject of his photographs: two men fighting on the street; a dental hygienist teaching a young boy how to brush his teeth; a sidewalk preacher in Times Square at night. This is the stuff of tabloid journalism, events that suggest a view of life as a mixture of the violent and the tedious, of chance and the everyday. Savulich follows the model of Weegee stylistically as well as in his choice of subjects; like an all-seeing, dispassionate eye,

  • Forrest Bess

    It’s easy to see why abstract painters of the ’40s and ’50s were drawn to the work of Forrest Bess (1911–77). Even now artists enthuse over Bess’ fluent command of a rich array of simple but powerful abstract imagery, presented in blocky, saturated color on tiny canvases. This exhibition—reportedly the largest exhibition ever of Bess’ work—gave ample evidence of his quirky, distinctive style. The twin white rectangles centered against a black background of Untitled (No. 12A), 1957, for example, have a mute eloquence that seems to anticipate the solidity of Minimalism, but the pinks and purples

  • Stephen Laub

    For all their pointed particularity, photographs suffer from a lack of physical presence, like creatures that are all brain and no (or virtually no) body. Abstract sculpture, on the other hand—especially when it is based on geometric forms—often suffers from the opposite problem. Stephen Laub addresses both of these potential lacks by combining the two media, making objects that, depending on one’s point of view, can be seen as either abstract wall sculptures with tiny photographs set into them, or photographs for which these sculptures serve as elaborate frames. The objects are derived from

  • Georges Rousse

    Georges Rousse photographs abandoned buildings—either the outsides or, more commonly, the empty interiors—shortly before the buildings are to be torn down, after first altering these derelict spaces in some way. In one untitled work from 1985, for example, he painted an illusionistic rendering of a squared-off spiral across the corner of a room before photographing it; in another untitled work, this one from 1982, he painted a series of human figures along the wall of a staircase, as if they were the ghosts of all the people who had climbed those stairs in the building’s lifetime. Depending on

  • Margaret Bourke-White

    Throughout most of her career, Margaret Bourke-White’s status as a media star overshadowed her photographs. It’s telling that even the picture used to advertise this show is not by her but of her, sitting in a demure skirt and fashionable hat on a girder of an unfinished building, clutching one of the bulky press cameras of the day. Life magazine, for which Bourke-White worked for many years, was happy to exploit her reputation as an intrepid photojournalist, continually risking danger to get her picture—“Life’s Bourke-White Goes Bombing” proclaimed the headline for a 1943 story featuring photos