Donald Kuspit

  • Garry Winogrand

    This incisive exhibition at Pace/MacGill—which opened simultaneously alongside the installation of a major traveling retrospective of Garry Winogrand’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—focuses on six of the Bronx-born photographer’s core subjects: Texas, Central Park, zoos, women, public relations, and the streets of New York. Together, the photographs exemplify Winogrand’s keen yet skeptical eye as he dealt with American culture at the height of its pre–Vietnam War prosperity and self-confidence.

    On the basis of these thirty-six works, one could class Winogrand as an

  • Sze Tsung Leong

    In landscape photography, the horizon line—that inevitable meeting place of earth and sky—is inexorable. Consider early panoramic daguerreotypes by figures such as Friedrich von Martens and William Southgate Porter, the former of the Seine in Paris, 1845, the latter of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, 1848. But while the horizon line may always appear in such images, it is rare to find cases in which it is a work’s explicit focus, the photo’s raison d’être. This is in no small part what makes Sze Tsung Leong’s images so striking. The twenty-nine color works that were on display

  • passages June 13, 2014

    Douglas Davis (1933–2014)

    DOUGLAS DAVIS believed in the power of communication. If we would only talk to each other, we could not possibly misunderstand each other: If we could collaboratively communicate—the intriguing possibility offered by his famous work The World’s First Collaborative Sentence, “written” in 1994—we would cure all ills. Davis was an indefatigable optimist, globalist, and idealist, a true believer in the power of the media to unite us, to forge enduring links between seemingly unlinkable individuals—even those with little in common beyond the fact that they could all instantly communicate by way of

  • Connie Fox

    The shore of Gardiners Bay on the east end of Long Island is, nominally, the theme of “Sammy’s Beach,” 2007–, a series of acrylic paintings by Connie Fox. Thirteen such works were on view in this exhibition, accompanied by five charcoal drawings from the series “Weeds,” 2010. The two groups comprise gestural abstractions distinguished by compulsiveness and distress, and all are marked by an interplay—invariably dramatic, often violent—of black and white.

    The “Sammy’s Beach” works are large, and typically have a strong central area, usually marked by an emphatic shape or shapes. Diamonds

  • Seymour Lipton

    At the 1958 Venice Biennale, the American pavilion featured installations by exemplary Abstract Expressionists of the time, including two sculptors: David Smith and Seymour Lipton. A comparison of the artists’ oeuvres is instructive. Both Smith and Lipton made vaguely figurative works, but whereas those by Smith tended to be thin and attenuated, Lipton’s had a bulky if oddly hollow presence; whereas Smith’s surfaces were textured, Lipton’s seemed weirdly agitated; and whereas Smith handled his metal gently, Lipton brutally hammered it, as though to shred its skin. Lipton, who died in 1986, didn’t

  • Joel Shapiro

    Dispersed throughout a vast space, the ten beams of Joel Shapiro’s installation Untitled, 2012–14, took over the large back room of Paula Cooper Gallery. These lengths of wood, each painted a different color, hung in midair, suspended from the ceiling and anchored to the floor with industrial cord. They are mismatched—some are flat planes, some are more boxlike—such that the work, taken as a whole, seemed unstable and incoherent, if not discombobulated and absurd. The sculpture was certainly at odds with gallery’s stately grandeur and order, especially the harmonious, serial regularity

  • Thomas Bangsted

    At times, Thomas Bangsted’s hypnotic, hypercalculated pictures of boats nearly resemble paintings. The water’s smooth variance in tone looks handmade; its ripples are often intensely gestural. Indeed, the images suggest deadpan hallucinations, as though the boats are toys in a twilight zone.

    In three of the seven images in this show, Bangsted portrays deserted ghost ships, historical relics of the two world wars. These depictions have been digitally altered—Bangsted has added the hard-edge, geometric patterning of dazzle camouflage. The boats are no longer rulers of the sea but vessels

  • Jack Beal

    “Imitation is natural to man from childhood,” Aristotle wrote in Poetics, which is why it is “natural for all to delight in works of imitation.” This remains true even for objects that are “painful to see,” such as “the forms . . . of the lowest animals and of dead bodies.” There are no dead bodies in Jack Beal’s imitations—unless one counts the memento-mori skull in Self-Portrait with Anatomy No. 3, 1986–87—but there is an animal, if not the lowest, in Still Life with Cat, 1999. Indeed, the subjects of most of Beal’s paintings are conventionally delightful, such as the flowers in

  • Eric Aho

    In 1963, art historian Max J. Friedländer argued that “in a world from which the gods have vanished, the miracle and enigma of landscape remains.” Are Eric Aho’s landscapes—such oil paintings as Trail (Third Approach to the Mountain), Hemlock Ravine, and The Straw Field (all works cited, 2013)—enigmatic and miraculous? Yes, to the extent that they constitute an attempt “to get closer to nature” while “avoid[ing] the banality of the objective” (as Friedländer put it, writing about Monet). Aho’s forests, mountains, ravines, and straw fields recall Impressionist and Post-Impressionist

  • Gene Davis

    Made between 1961 and 1985, the eight enormous acrylic-on-canvas paintings by Gene Davis in this show—all composed of vertical bands and stripes—testify to the artist’s devotion to color. “To understand what my painting is all about,” Davis once said, “look at my painting in terms of individual colors . . . select[ing] a specific color such as yellow or a lime green, and take the time to see how it operates across the painting.” When one looks at Yellow Jacket, 1969, one notices yellow used in a variety of ways: On the right, narrow vertical lines of yellows are tightly interspersed

  • Oscar de Las Flores

    In 1989, historian John McClelland described Edward Gibbon’s cool disdain for mobs. Gibbon, wrote McClelland, felt crowds should be regarded with “enlightened patrician contempt.” Oscar de Las Flores does not precisely share this scorn—on the evidence of the ink-on-paper drawings that were on view here, he views crowds with something more like enraged disgust.

    Violent mobs fill de Las Flores’s drawings, as if combating horror vacui. Gloriae Americanae (American Glory), 2012, for example, is a mess of ravaged and raving figures. It, like all of de Las Flores’s drawings (most of those shown

  • Judith Schaechter

    Judith Schaechter’s The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2011–12, was first installed at the historical Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia together with sixteen related works of stained glass. These glass pieces remained colorful and exciting here, yet a significant component of the works’ original meaning—a commentary on the nature of imprisonment in the early modern era—was lamentably lost in the gallery context.

    I’ve visited the Eastern State Penitentiary several times; it’s a rather gloomy Gothic fortress, intimidating from the outside, oppressive on the inside. In its heyday—it

  • Howard Hodgkin

    The fifteen prints in Howard Hodgkin’s “Views”—as this exhibition was titled—invite comparison with the work of Matisse, an influence the artist has acknowledged. (The ten lithographs, two screenprints, and three etchings with aquatint traveled from the gallery’s London location, where the show debuted this past March.) In Lotus, 1980, and other works, Hodgkin uses an interior frame, suggestively a window frame, as Matisse did in The Open Window, 1905, and View of Notre Dame, 1914. Yet Matisse depicted readily recognizable objects, figures, and scenes; Hodgkin, by contrast, produces

  • Walter Robinson

    Among the fifty-six “Indulgences” displayed in Walter Robinson’s recent show were paintings of sandwiches, french fries, cookies, pinups, beer, and whiskey, along with those of daily medication, painkillers, and nasal spray. (One painting was from 1997, the rest from between 2009 and 2013.) All are presumably consumed by Robinson, suggesting that the paintings have an implicit “confessional” character. Together, they give the impression of having been created by a studious monk contemplating his sins, painting them in an act of aborted contrition. Many of the works are peculiarly “self-indulgent”

  • Philip Pearlstein

    Philip Pearlstein regards the body as a “territory for abstraction”—so writes Desirée Alvarez, an artist and a longtime model for the artist’s painting. This is a counterintuitive approach to figuration, Alvarez explains, because we always experience our bodies as “visceral,” and are therefore drawn to representations of it that are also visceral. Pearlstein’s language of abstraction is thus a challenge. Indeed, the bodies he paints lack any organic quality. There’s no “lushness,” no sense of flourishing flesh. The skin looks thin and dried. And his nudes are often irksomely positioned—their

  • Osvaldo Romberg

    Osvaldo Romberg dedicated this exhibition to Josef Albers and Raúl Lozza, the latter of whom was a fellow Argentinean and the founder, in 1947, of Perceptismo, a derivative of Concretismo. The aim of Perceptismo, in Lozza’s words, was to emphasize “the reality of the color-plane.” Following in Lozza’s footsteps, Romberg created a group of works in 1980 that resemble color charts—there were six such pieces in this show. Each is composed of small squares painted varying gradations of hues from Goethe’s color wheel and juxtaposed with those painted some other color—ultramarine in three

  • Esteban Vicente

    Esteban Vicente died in 2001, having lived to the ripe age of ninety-seven and worked to the end. It was not a bitter end, as his last paintings—thirteen of which were on view in this exhibition—indicate. Made between 1998 and 2000, these bright, colorful abstractions were inspired by the artist’s garden in Bridgehampton, New York, where he lived and worked. Among the flowers he planted were phlox, helianthus, foxgloves, daisies, and morning glories, all apparently in great abundance and carefully cultivated. Registering the effect of sunlight hitting the blossoms, the paintings are

  • Rupert Deese

    Rupert Deese’s self-described “painted structures”—there were a dozen in this exhibition—could be regarded as versions of what Lawrence Alloway termed “systemic painting,” or, as it has sometimes been called, “pattern painting.” Yet the appearance of a pattern is only an illusion. To create each work, Deese made a mold based on the elevations represented in a topographical map. Then he arranged triangular tiles on top of the mold, building a structure whose surface approximates features of the landscape, its peaks and valleys. This faceted ground is painted a single, unmodulated color,

  • Darren Waterston

    Grand, visionary landscapes unfold across the seventeen oil paintings from 2012 in Darren Waterston’s exhibition at DC Moore, all of which appear on gessoed wood panels (with the exception of Edifice, which is on canvas) and vary in size from large to small. The exquisitely strange scenes are based on nature. Meticulously drawn pine trees proliferate throughout, forming a dark ring around the luminous center of City of Sun, growing from a spindly, desiccated trunk in City on the Edge, or looming above an outcrop of rock in Island.

    In the last of the works, a small, abstracted city sits beneath

  • Kiyoshi Nakagami

    The striking thing about Kiyoshi Nakagami’s paintings is not so much their sublimity, but the unexpected influence of Barnett Newman’s “zip” on their construction—“unexpected” because Nakagami’s ethereal waterfalls of gold paint on black grounds are, formally, miles away from Newman’s rigorously geometric Color Field abstractions. Yet it is not the drip’s form—the cleanly demarcated vertical line—in which Nakagami is interested. Rather, he is inspired by the way in which the zips recall “drips,” the way in which they seemingly cascade down the flat planes of Newman’s painting,