Charles Hagen


    “DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS a man who must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” Raymond Chandler wrote of the hardboiled detective novel. “The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything.” But what happens when the hero disappears, when people begin to suspect that maybe there never was a hero in the first place? Without a protagonist to perform the dramatic action or declaim the stirring speech in order to push the story forward, it’s as if the star of a play had suddenly walked off the stage, leaving the other actors to putter

  • David Reed

    David Reed continues to explore variations of the lush, sweeping folds of color that have become the hallmark of his painting. On one level these marks suggest magnified, almost fetishized brushstrokes, but their swirling, bulging forms carry other references as well, from rumpled velvet to whitewashed store windows to hilly landscapes. Reed divides his compositions into rectangular sections, most of which are filled with these brushstrokes. Usually, the brushstrokes are contained within individual sections, but sometimes they continue across several of them. In many of the paintings, a section

  • Michael Spano

    In work shown last year, Michael Spano seemed to be following closely in the Surrealist tradition. He applied the technique of solarization, in which some parts of the image are flipped back into negative tones, to traditional Surrealist subjects: the female nude and (in a series of pictures of his wife) woman-as-romantic-mystery. Here, though, he tilted the equation by using nondescript photographs of more or less ordinary street scenes as the basis for his solarizations.

    Portrait of a Man, 1986, for example, shows a bareheaded old man on the street; the background is thrown out of focus and

  • Bill Jensen

    This ambitious exhibition provided not only a partial retrospective of Bill Jensen’s work but also a chance to consider it in the context of related paintings from the Phillips Collection. These other works—abstractions based on organic forms or landscapes, by such pioneer American Modernists as Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and Albert Pink-ham Ryder—were chosen specifically to complement Jensen’s show and were shown in two galleries adjacent to the exhibition.

    Jensen himself has acknowledged the links between his paintings and those of the earlier artists—for example, in the

  • Evergon

    In the six large-format Polaroid photo-works shown here (each consisting of one to six 20-by-24- or 40-by-80-inch sheets), Evergon borrows themes and styles from paintings of the 16th to 18th centuries. Some are based on specific works, as in Re-enactment—Goya’s Flight of the Witches #3, 1986, which shows the prostrate body of a man borne aloft by several men in green cellophane skirts and funny hats, while a donkey and a frightened attendant look on. In others Evergon uses costumes, props, lighting, and composition to give his works a generalized pseudo-antique feel. The Three Fates, 1987—in

  • Ruth Thorne-Thomsen

    In the photographs in her “Expedition” series, 1976–84, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen alluded to the great archaeological photographs of the 19th century, such as those made by Maxime Du Camp of the monuments of Egypt. In many of them, Thorne-Thomsen showed large brooding stone heads, like the fragmented remains of some sphinx, sitting in the middle of the desert surrounded by tiny figures. Taken with pinhole cameras and presented as small sepia-toned black-and-white prints, they have a somewhat fuzzy, dreamlike quality that heightens the feeling that they come from a more innocent period of picturemaking.

  • Neil Winokur

    Despite their scenting lightheartedness, Neil Winokur's photographic portraits underline the close relationship between portraiture and funerary art. In these multipanel works a relatively straightforward photograph of the subject is accompanied by close-ups of various objects selected by the sitter, presumably for their personal significance. In earlier works Winokur had presented these panels in various arrangements—stacked like a totem pole, with the image of the person at the top and the accompanying photos of objects below; or arranged like a pyramid or like a cross, again with the person

  • Joe Smith

    Joe Smith’s use of evocative common materials in his small sculptural arrangements—panes of glass, broken bottles, gravel, sheet concrete, rough-hewn blocks of wood—recalls both Robert Smithson’s cross-sections of industrial environments and the material investigations of arte povera. But Smith’s work lacks both the sociological/archaeological dimension of Smithson’s work and the environmental, almost ritualistic quality of, say, Gilberto Zorio’s installations. Instead, his small setups have the quality of didactic models, as if they were demonstrations of the associational syntax of the particular

  • John Gossage

    As centers of social power, cities inevitably take on metaphorical power as well. In recent decades no city has acquired a more complicated symbolic value than Berlin. In part this stems from its central position in both history and global politics, and in part it comes from its special status within the German Federal Republic and the support given to art there. Whatever the causes, a recent spate of artworks and exhibitions in which Berlin has been taken more as a metaphor than a city testifies to its power as image.

    In the 11 massive photographs shown here, made in both East and West Berlin

  • Tina Potter

    Photography can be used as an abstract medium only with difficulty. Its primary purpose has been to reveal detail, to provide a surfeit of information about the scene it depicts. The illusion that photographs offer an objective picture of reality is based on just this overwhelming ocean of data that it offers. Photographers who want to emphasize the pictorial qualities of the medium—chiaroscuro, texture, abstract form—have to find ways to suppress its unflagging tendency to depict specific and recognizable scenes, and by the same token to forestall the tendency on the part of viewers to read

  • Sally Gall

    Given the almost suffocating omnipresence of photography, it’s hardly surprising that the rhetorical structures of the medium have become as familiar as they have. Anybody who watches television or goes to the movies learns to distinguish the meaning of certain croppings or camera angles with an enormous, though often unconsciously exercised, sophistication. Only a very narrow range of expressive formal devices is acceptable, however, when photography performs the societal task of defining and reporting on reality. Other technical traits that are equally inherent to photography—at least in some


    A CENTRAL PURPOSE behind the vast majority of photographs—particularly in such mass-distribution forms as advertising and newspaper photography—is to define a communal perception of reality. This process is both reassuring and coercive, with the photographs implicitly urging that we accept the version of reality they propose and therefore explicitly delineating the boundaries of what is “normal.” Photography as it is usually practiced is reassuring (and oppressive) in another way as well—it repeats and seems to certify unchanging verities of narrative, of the nature of the world, of the varieties

  • Joel Fisher

    Joel Fisher develops his drawings and sculpture using a method similar to the one that Marcel Duchamp devised for his 3 Stoppages Etalon (3 standard stoppages, 1913–14). Duchamp dropped three threads, each of them one meter long, from a height of one meter, and glued them to strips of cloth mounted on glass in the exact configuration in which they had fallen, then cut the same shapes out of three long wooden rulers. Like Duchamp, Fisher presents the basis of his method along with the results. For each of his drawings he singles out one of the fibers in a sheet of his own handmade paper and makes

  • George Negroponte

    George Negroponte’s recent paintings are built on a strong, almost architectural structure. Most of these works are slightly vertical, and Negroponte typically divides them in half horizontally, then further divides the top portion with a vertical stripe about a third of the way across. The three roughly rectangular shapes that result are related to one another in their proportions, while at the same time suggesting, in their spiraling progression from the smallest to the largest, both depth and motion. This geometric compositional framework links Negroponte to the mathematical constructions of

  • “40th Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting”

    In contrast to its better-known counterpart to the north, the 40th Corcoran Biennial didn’t pretend to provide an overview of current American art. Instead it presented New York as the latest in a series of “regional” art centers being considered by the Biennial. (The West and the Midwest were featured in the two previous editions; still to come are the Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic, and New England.) Curator Ned Rifkin (now at the Hirshhom Museum) redeemed this somewhat droll conceit by narrowing the focus of the exhibition to the work of a group of midcareer artists, all of them abstract painters,

  • Jan Groover

    Since achieving recognition in the early ’70s for a series of coolly conceptual photographic pieces, Jan Groover has followed a path that has taken her deeper and deeper into an exploration of the properties of photographic depiction. Perhaps not surprisingly, Groover’s quintessential photographic formalism has led her to rely on an increasingly pared-down technique, involving the use of a large-format camera and black-and-white film to produce platinum-palladium contact prints. At the same time she has restricted her work to a narrow range of subjects, primarily still lifes composed of a limited

  • “The Idea of North”

    In the face of rumored budget cuts that could force it to close, this nonprofit space continues to provide a valuable showcase for contemporary Canadian art. “The Idea of North,” curated by France Morin, the gallery’s director, was challenging in the scope of its inquiries, as so many exhibitions here have been. Based on a radio program by the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, the show attempted to find parallels in the visual arts for what Gould discussed as Canadians’ attitudes toward the vast arctic wastes that make up the northern third of Canada. Gould’s program, a collage of music,

  • Todd Siler

    Throughout the 20th century psychology and philosophy, the brain and the mind, and cognition and perception have frequently been regarded as oppositions. Most researchers have situated themselves either in the area of observable, concrete, performance-based data, or in the more abstract, subjective region of knowledge and competence, but seldom in both. Todd Siler is one of those rare individuals who have staked out an area of investigation based on a synthesis of the two, addressing in his work the constructions and symbolic systems of both scientific and artistic thought. Siler’s work is about

  • Sandy Skoglund

    In two simultaneous exhibitions, Sandy Skoglund showed an installation (at Sharpe Gallery) and a group of related photographs and photo-derived paintings (at Castelli Uptown). Although both exhibitions were based on a theme of abandoned cars, the work in each show was strikingly different. For the installation, Neo Auto, 1987, Skoglund presented a smashed and trashed derelict auto painted a cloying shade of lavender on an acid yellow carpet in the middle of the small gallery. Twining over the wreck were an enormous number of forks, bent and twisted into odd shapes and welded together, which

  • Barbara Kasten

    Barbara Kasten’s style might be called Bauhaus on acid. In her photographs she usually combines geometric forms—triangles, circles, and so on, often cut out of mirrors—with colored lights, creating intricate and deceptive spatial effects. The result has been work that combines the clean-cut progressivism of the Bauhaus with the cozy tawdriness of resort-motel decor. These two design strains, seemingly so much at odds with one another—one promising a Modernist future of rational progress, the other a past of luxury and gentility—are now tinged equally with nostalgia and have been equally relegated