Charles Hagen

  • 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


    “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