David Rimanelli

  • “The Green Mountain Boys”

    Just in case you’re the last one on the bus, I’m telling you now: formalism is back and better than ever. And I don’t mean the crew of pretty-pretty painters who dabble “playfully” in formalist concerns while studiously disavowing or making fun of the intellectual premises that underwrote Color Field painting, and hence aligning themselves with the kinder, gentler crap that enjoys such vogue in certain quarters of the art world. (It’s worth mentioning that this alignment is not necessarily to the exclusion of those quarters that patronize the mean, scream-at-you aspects of the contemporary scene;

  • Helen Frankenthaler

    The Guggenheim Museum has given Helen Frankenthaler a small show, “After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler 1956-59.” She may well wonder whether or not they’ve done her a favor. Her often large canvases have been crammed into two mingy tower galleries, and there is a strange precision to the span of years covered. After her initial breakthrough of the stained-canvas technique in Mountains and Sea, 1952, Frankenthaler reverted to a more conventional AbEx painterly mode. The pictures of 1956-59 represent a return to the innovation on which her place in art history rests: spacious pictures that “

  • Chuck Close

    Chuck Close’s retrospective was originally slated to open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the artist canceled because of his dissatisfaction over the ungracious quarters the museum had afforded him. Evidently, the rooms available at MoMA are a lot nicer. Close's best-known monumental portraits are like anti-John Singer Sargents: insistently, clinically unflattering, they reveal every pore and blemish. More recent works retain the painter's signature scale and have an optically punchy, psychedelic splendor. Organized by MoMA curator Robert Storr, the exhibition surveys the full range of

  • After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler 1956-1959

    It seems ridiculous to have to “reevaluate” Helen Frankenthaler’s early achievement, seeing that she herself has been so uncharitable about almost all art since—well, since hers. Yes, her position in art history still looks secure—if only for the innovation of the stained-canvas technique (introduced in her one picture everyone knows, the 1952 Mountains and Sea)—but now she seems more famous as a neo-con gal pal than as the woman Greenberg shouldered with the burdens of carrying the standard of advanced aesthetic consciousness (at least until he moved on to Noland, Louis, and Olitski). This

  • Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958–68

    In recent years, the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has moved from the margins of art history to someplace very near the center. Part of this shift might be attributed to changing fashions: as a woman whose work explicitly addresses gender identity and sexual content, her sculptures and installations seem even more timely today than in the ’60s. Nevertheless, both in her eccentric personal life and in her work, Kusama remains an original, and this show, organized by LACMA associate curator Lynn Zelevansky and MoMA assistant curator Laura Hoptman, will go some way toward filling the gaps in the

  • David Rimanelli

    1 Carl Andre (Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Ace Gallery, New York); Tony Smith (Paula Cooper Gallery); Richard Serra (Dia Foundation, New York): I’m coming out of yet another closet: the kind of art I really like is white heterosexual male art. Big butch bruiser art. The kind of art that kicks ass and doesn’t stop kicking ass.

    2 Robert Rauschenberg (Guggenheim Museum, New York): Who are the most important artists of the postwar period? This is a question grand poobah David Sylvester likes to ask, and, as I recall, one member of his own troika is Jasper Johns. My nominees: Pollock, Warhol, and

  • On the Edge: The Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Collection

    Elaine Dannheisser—the colorful collector who butted heads with Morley Safer on the notorious 60 Minutes segment trashing contemporary art—seems an archetype of the ’80s, a decade when patrons at times eclipsed artists. Will the art she amassed with husband Werner hold its own? Kirk Varnedoe and Robert Storr’s exhibition of MoMA’s largest acquisition of work from the period (comprising such echt-’80s stars as Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, and Anselm Kiefer) should provide the answer. Though the collection also includes artists whose reputations predate the decade, Dannheisser’s selections of ’80s

  • Richard Serra: Torqued Ellipses

    Perhaps the most controversial living American sculptor, Richard Serra remains best known to the broad public as the creator of Tilted Arc, the government-ordered demolition of which—it was regarded as an eyesore by office workers in a neighboring building—was a dubious milestone in the history of public art. That’s a shame, since Serra’s large-scale sculptures have been among the most thrilling things seen in galleries in the last several years. Serra remarks that the three new works, rolled plates of Cor-Ten steel, exploit “a continuousness of space, revolving from the inside out. They are

  • Richard Diebenkorn

    For many years, my closest acquaintance with the work of California painter Richard Diebenkorn was at my dentist’s office, which was adorned by two poster reproductions of works from the artist’s famed “Ocean Park” series. This sense of Diebenkorn as an agreeable, too-easily-likable salon abstractionist is up for grabs now that a full-scale retrospective, curated by Jane Livingston, is in the offing; this show of more than 150 pieces, including early abstract paintings, middle-period figurative works, and a substantial selection of canvases from “Ocean Park,” should allow for a reappraisal. Oct.

  • IT’S MY PARTY: JEFF KOONS, A STUDIO VISIT

    As for techniques and processes, as seen in the works themselves, neither public nor artists will find anything about them here. Those things are learned in the studio and the public is interested only in the results. —Charles Baudelaire, “The Salon of 1846”

    MY IDEAL MOVIE OF THE ’80s art world wouldn’t be Basquiat, it would be Jeff Koons. To make a film about that period from the vantage point of Neo-Expressionism means making a certain kind of movie, one that for all its wit and local color essentially confirms the general public’s perceptions about artists and their lives. To be poor and

  • the “1997 Biennial Exhibition”

    Several years ago, circa 1990, I attended the opening of a then-fashionable abstract painter, one of whose favored motifs was an Escherian stairway. There seemed to be a lot of repetition going on, and a lot of busy handiwork. The paintings were well received; they sold, and for considerable sums of money (this artist was still “a young artist”). My friends and I didn’t understand them, or rather, we didn’t understand the fuss over them. One of my friends pointed out an art critic known to be very well disposed to this painter’s work and offered to ask him what X’s paintings were about. When he

  • Robert Overby

    The work of Robert Overby (1935–93) admits perhaps two overriding interpretations, distinct but not incompatible. On the one hand, his cast latex reliefs of architectural environments and fixtures belong to the history of the late-’60s/early-’70s experiments in antiform, process art, post-Minimalism, what have you. From the perspective of art history—or, more precisely, an art history of “movements”—it is precisely these works that constitute the salvageable core of the artist’s output. But the show at Jessica Frederick’s gave the impression that, in addition to the “good” process-art style of

  • “a/drift”

    As an undergraduate, I took a survey course in art since 1945. The course followed a predictable, almost teleological progression, as Abstract Expressionism was succeeded by Color Field painting, Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism, and . . . and then, sometime in the ’70s, everything fell apart. Suddenly, just as the course was coming to an end, just as we were breaking upon the present, the satisfactions of identifiable stylistic and intellectual currents wore out. Our professor characterized this moment as one of pluralism, introducing it as the consequence of our contemporary condition (postmodernism

  • David Rimanelli

    GOOD IDEA

    As anyone who regularly visits galleries knows, Conceptualism remains one of the most fertile sources for current art. At the same time, very little of the original “Idea Art” is readily available for inspection. It’s a “movement” that everybody knows something about but few people actually know. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles did a great service with “1965–1975: RECONSIDERING THE OBJECT OF ART,” which presented the wide spectrum of activities that came to be known as Conceptualism. Including both the famous as well as many lesser-known if not altogether forgotten

  • Damien Hirst

    Entering Damien Hirst’s first major major New York show, one notices at some point that Gagosian’s downtown gallery, designed by Richard Gluckman and rotely touted as “one of the most beautiful spaces in SoHo,” looks awful. Gluckman’s design, expensive and echt-’80s though it may be, never announces itself but rather recedes, so that “important” artwork may without rancor or dissension command the podium. Damien Hirst fucks this up. Rather than a chapel, Hirst transforms this elegant space into a carnival ground; we are treated to an arcade and freak shows. The pieces seem to jostle each other

  • Basquiat

    WELL, IT’S REALLY not that bad.

    That was my gut reaction to a screening of artist Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut. Previous ’80s-artist-becomes-filmmaker vehicles (David Salle’s Search and Destroy, Robert Longo’s Johnny Mnemonic) had been poor precedents at best, and long delays in scheduling the screening had led me and others to speculate that the film’s distributor, Miramax, had gotten cold feet; but I left Basquiat (a flat-footed retitling of Schnabel’s original Build a Fort, Set It on Fire) with a peculiar sense of pleasure and/or relief. The ordinary expectations of schadenfreude had

  • Gus Van Sant's To Die For

    FOLLOWING IN THE WAKE of the commercial and artistic failure of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Gus Van Sant’s new movie, To Die For, is perhaps his most conventional film, in spite of its fractured diegesis and multiple points of view; conventional, certainly, in its ostensible subject, a satire of the mass media, particularly the allure of television. This rather disingenuous theme, through which one arm of the media “critiques” an obstreperous rival, has been traversed in many movies: Network, The King of Comedy, Being There, and more recently, Serial Mom and Natural Born Killers. The trend

  • Douglas Keeve's Unzipped

    DOUGLAS KEEVE’S DOCUMENTARY Unzipped, about fashion designer (and Keeve’s former boyfriend) Isaac Mizrahi, operates, perhaps involuntarily, as a corrective to the smug fatuities purveyed by Robert Altman’s recent, regrettable film about the fashion industry, Ready-to-Wear. Whereas Altman’s fictional account of fashion week in Paris was intent on demonstrating that the fashion business is—say it ain’t so!—venal, meretricious, dumb, and populated with characters to make Tod Browning’s Freaks look like The Brady Bunch, Keeve’s perspective is essentially that of the empathetic yet shrewd-eyed insider.

  • David Diao

    Failure: no one wants to become one and yet as a theme it is one of the 20th century’s privileged topoi. Long before post-Modernism’s esthetic and ideological valorization of incompletion and irresolution over “organic unity,” high-Modernist literary exemplars mined the rich thematic vein of failure: the narrator’s pathetic failure to quit smoking in Italo Svevo’s The Confessions of Zeno; and the literal failure of the characters to move, buried as they are in sand up to the neck, in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.

    In the realm of painting, failure is a no less popular theme, particularly since