David Frankel

  • Nari Ward

    A complex compression of a complex relationship, Nari Ward’s Happy Smilers: Duty-Free Shopping, 1996, examined not only what it means for a New Yorker to visit the West Indies but what it means for a West Indian to live in New York. This rich installation opened as a dig at tourism, with an anteroom painted a cheerful yellow and hung with empty plastic soda bottles, including a drink called Tropical Fantasy and island music courtesy of the Happy Smilers, a long-ago Jamaican band (Ward’s uncle sang in it) whose name today seems a knowing parody of Aunt Jemima stereotypes. Fine, but rather obvious;

  • Squeak Carnwath

    O-o-oh, California, la-la-la. . . .

    Squeak Carnwath’s paintings speak clearly of that other coast, at least to a provincial New Yorker who knows of it only what he reads. She also makes me think of Joni Mitchell circa 1971: not yet completely posthippie, but with a gorgeous command that clashes with her pose of naiveté. Carnwath, I suspect, knows that her nonart ideas—her philosophical thumb-suckers, her Eastern mysticism, her fretting over ecology, her generalized upset with violence, misogyny, intolerance, and the whole caboodle of things she calls “bad stuff”—demand some kind of subtlety of

  • Amy Sillman

    The center of Amy Sillman’s Hindu High School (all works 1996), which crowds the rest of the painting’s images to its sides, is a large orb of yellow—a pool of yellow to dive into, a yellow sun to bake under, or perhaps, given the title’s Hindu reference, some kind of tantric meditational cosmic something-or-other to locate one in spiritual space. Thinly lettered words fanning in from the four corners nourish that notion: “Birth,” “Death,” “Conception,” “Forgetting.” Having declared with this summary that her art will touch the bases of human and of creative life, Sillman smartly leavens ambition

  • Leon Golub

    Leon Golub’s new “Snake Eyes” series, 1995–96, is in some ways more delicate than his well-known paintings of mercenary soldiers, of assassins and tyrants, of tortures and interrogations, but it is just as fierce. The difference lies in the surfaces, which are elegantly thin compared to the scraped and battered canvases that used to serve as the visual correlatives of the scenes depicted on them. It is also in the imagery: rather than precise, exactly described brutality (Golub has sometimes lifted his figures from documentary photographs), we get what the artist calls a “pseudo-metaphysical”

  • Loren Madsen

    In Loren Madsen’s For Next, a piece he showed in this gallery back in 1986–87, 2,000 thin five-inch-square copper tiles hung from the ceiling by a thread tied at each corner to form a continuous carpet at, as I remember, a little under shoulder height. Below, where sculpture usually finds the floor, was empty air; above, where there’s usually empty air, was a transparent thicket of supporting threads, both present and bodiless, like steady rain. Near one end of the carpet the tiles swelled into a low mound, an effect achieved simply by strategic shortening of the threads. All at once, the piece

  • Willie Doherty

    A quick reader of Willie Doherty’s recent photographs and video might think of film noir, with its dark palette, its tensions and secrets, and its hint of violence, promised or past. But the story is drained and de-peopled, and has no plot, or no plot but that an American viewer might supply from knowledge gained outside Doherty’s work. There are holes in some white-painted metal, and blots of rust have formed around them, suggesting, maybe, a vernacular Clyfford Still. Many people in Northern Ireland, where these images were made, might recognize such shapes, but in case we’re unfamiliar with

  • Tim Maul

    Old-fashioned English teachers used to talk about the romance of names, about how a poet like Milton, by listing places like Ormus and Ind, Thule and Vallombrosa, could perfume his work with whole climates of sensation—riding on the reader’s imaginings of what it might feel like to be and see where those words point. Pictures, as visual experiences in themselves, would seem less needful of this kind of gambit. But at least in part, this is how the photographs Tim Maul has taken in Dublin’s National Library work.

    Sligo, Roscommon, Meath: names are full of place, of history, weather, landscape,

  • Beth B

    If only because of their intrepid advent in the wake of last year’s demonizing of “victim art,” Beth B’s simultaneous film retrospective and exhibitions struck bracing poses this winter. At the same time, they also suggested some of the problems with the genre.

    B’s film work shows her to be a virtuoso of the talking head. In Stigmata, 1991, a half dozen men and women, each addressing the camera directly and alone, speak of their involvement with drugs. Cutting regularly among these hurt but articulate people, and occasionally interspersing shots of sunlit countryside, B brings out relationships

  • Sophie Tottie

    To judge from her work, Sophie Tottie, a Swede in her early 30s, might be a woman schooled by the idea- and process-obsessed artists of the ’60s and ’70s but who goes home at night to worry about life in the computer age. Cool, muted, obscurely troubled and troubling, Tottie’s images suggest a curiosity about the orders innate to visual technologies and systems, particularly electronic ones. Yet she is as much as anything a painter, if one who also makes photographs and videos, and whose paintings arrive at their quite distinct mood through means less expressive than analytic.

    When Tottie executes

  • Anne and Patrick Poirier

    “It is wrong to believe that these myths and ancient geneses do not concern us anymore. The human soul is made of memory and forgetfulness; these constitute being.” So Anne and Patrick Poirier once wrote, referring to the classical culture of the Mediterranean. The art that the Poiriers built on this faith in the ’70s and ’80s—microcosmic reconstructions of ancient ruined architecture, arrangements of outsize fragments of Greco-Roman sculpture, and related works—was among that period’s many signs of an esthetic shift: after the sublimities and stringencies of formalism, Conceptual art, and

  • the Boys and the Bard

    “WELL, THIS IS THE FOREST of Arden”: the line, from As You Like It, is one of those blunt cues that Shakespeare often fed his characters, an audience pointer explaining the play’s whens and wheres. But it’s also something else: an announcement of entrance to the green world, the exurban universe beyond human order and law, in the comic mode the magical wood of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the tragic the terrible heath of King Lear, the space of the suspension of expectation, the realm of the reversal of role—all in all a pleasant spot, when picnicking there, for a chat about identity politics.

  • Czechered History

    It’s been a long time since the Rolling Stones have mattered enough to rock the body politic. Once, through music and otherwise, they seemed to be saying something serious, even in their habits of consumption—as in the 1967 marijuana and uppers bust that made Jagger and Richards symbolic foci of a new generation’s new life and of the establishment’s reaction to it. Attacking the heavy sentence (later overturned), a London Times editorialist was moved to ask, “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?,” adding his brick to a romantic construction inside which everything the band did had weight. But then

  • Film

    ON A BLUISH GRAY EVENING, a Russian freighter glides into an English port, seen across the water as a collection of stately piles, dimly lit, as in mist. Pointing to these grand wedding cakes and spires, a suitably ursine sailor calls in Russian to a friend, “Piotr! Look! Quickly! It’s Liverpool! Beatles!” So begins this year’s British sleeper movie Letter to Brezhnev, with a concise evocation of a city through the architecture and music of the past. The present, we quickly learn, is at odds with its heritage: of the pair of heroines, local women who share the sailors’ shore leave for a night

  • THESE THINGS ARE IN THE HANDS OF GOD

    THE ART OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN culture-within-the-culture (most easily experienced in popular music) is more immediate to many, both black and white, than the temporally distant, scholarship-encrusted, “high art” Greek drama. One doubts that Thomas Dorsey, often considered the father of gospel music for his pioneering work in the form, ever much heeded the concept of catharsis or other of the notions of Aristotelian poetics, or, for that matter, any of the thought of that heathen people of the pre-Christian era, the ancient Greeks. Classical Greek drama may appear in university syllabuses as a