Glenn O’Brien

  • Ye’ll tak’ the high road an I’ll tak’ the low road / An’ I’ll be at Le Mondrian before ye.

    “I LOVE YOU ’CAUSE you’re my style.” So goes the latest jeans jingle, affirming in the boldest terms ever the supremacy of fashionable over natural selection. “You’ve got the look I want to know better / You’ve got the look that’s all together,” chant the Jordache singers as the Jordache dancers cavort in a model mating ritual. “When every little bit of hope is gone, Sassons say so much,” croons Elton John on one of the most elaborate blue jeans spot-musicals of all time. Actually, the ad is a retouched rock video: John sold his elaborate “Sad Songs” music video to Sasson, because the assonance

  • Adam Füss

    Adam Füss starts photography over from scratch with his pinhole camera. There is no lens; there is just a tiny aperture and a large piece of film. Füss uncovers the hole for a few seconds or for several minutes, depending upon the light on location. By reducing technology to ground zero, he trans forms technique into something almost physical; he makes the photograph an attitude with endurance. The camera can’t measure anything precisely, so Füss “shoots from the hip.” The pinhole is his remote “third eye,” and he must imagine what it sees as he finds his angle and range and gauges light. The

  • Robert Barnes

    Robert Barnes is an accomplished painter, and this show, a “mid-career survey” including works dating from the mid ’50s to 1984, made it easy to trace his development simply by following the chronology of the gallery walls Barnes’ development has not been in response to the fashions of painting; his works have remained, at all times, outside mainstream art. His earliest work is as finely made as his latest, but for me, this show was bouncing from one formally interesting early canvas to another, then walking into another room, a room of more recently made paintings, and boom. Just what this boom

  • the star-spangled pitch.

    “THEY SAID THIS CITY was through. You said, No way. . . . And this Bud’s for you.”

    Sometimes selling beer isn’t enough. Sometimes an advertiser has to stand up and be counted and urge consumers to do the same. What good is a Budweiser, even in a long-neck bottle, if your city is dead?

    Hey Dad, you’re out of a job. Good morning! This Bud’s for you!

    Our brewery friends at Anheuser Busch have realized that Bud isn’t what it used to be when you’re laid off in Detroit, when the mills are closed down in Cleveland, when the oil rigs are shut down in the Gulf of Mexico. This Bud is for after work, let’s

  • Vincent Gallo

    Vincent Gallo paints what could be called “found sculptural objects,” metal plates that look like big switchbox covers. They are rusty, formerly painted, very scraped, very artistically reduced and de-finished. These are contemporary relics, discards of ”condoed" industrial buildings. On top of these abraded metal surfaces Gallo has painted neo-Roman still lifes of tables, bowls, and grapes.

    A graffiti artist told me that he found Gallo’s grape paintings "soft.” Softness has many causes. I think in this case the graffiti artist found Gallo’s paintings too decorative, as if they were too good-looking

  • Maura Sheehan

    Dig it: an installation of 30 car windshields, each with a series of Grecian (or are they Etruscan?) urns painted on the reverse. These windshields are “found sculptural objects”; they are also broken. The gallery’s handout says, “Sometimes the cause of breakage can be surmised from the apparent impact of a stone, a gunshot, or a human head” “Surmised” is the key word. One windshield did look as if it might have taken a gunshot, but few of them appeared to bear the imprint of a skull; in fact, most looked as if they had been screwed too tightly into their frames and had simply popped from the

  • the model critic: a new face in the empire of signs.

    IT WAS MY FIRST TRIP to Japan, so I thought about art every time dinner arrived, every time I bought something and the clerk wrapped it so artfully. I think I was at the J Trip Bar, which is painted in not-Jean-Michel-Basquiats by a guy named Katsuhiko Hibino, Japan’s hot young artist, when I first said, "Everything is art here but the art (On another wall were a couple of old Hibinos that were not-Ben-Shahns.) I said it again and again and it began to sink in that my trained distinctions between art and art direction were all blurry. Our easy distinctions between fine art and commercial art

  • Martin Wong

    Martin Wong’s exhibition in 1984 was dominated by the landscape of Manhattan’s Lower East Side: abandoned buildings, their brickwork distorting out-of-square, their windows vacant; twisted wire, the skeletal remains of cars. People were small details. In Wong’s most recent paintings, however, the human figure is front and center. Wong’s brickscapes have become a backdrop, but they still have meaning. Their angles seem to map out images, like the constellations Wong outlines in his paintings. But Wong’s people are beginning to dominate their stars rather than being ruled by them; they are champions

  • station breaks. The electronic vaudeville circuit.

    VAUDEVILLE ISN’T DEAD; it just moved to the station break, where it thrives happily in the world of the pitchman. There, in 30- and 60-second spots, the endangered folk talents have found a niche that will preserve them from extinction.

    Radio and talking pictures are said to have killed off vaudeville. Its refugees scattered to the borscht belt, to Hollywood Extra-land, to carnivals and arcades. Variety acts lingered for a while: the jugglers, contortionists, double-talkers, musical seals, counting horses, and one-man bands. There was the dream of making it onto the Ed Sullivan Show and then

  • Justen Ladda

    It may be Justen Ladda’s outsider perspective on the English language (he is German) that gives him the enthusiasm for its multiple connotations visible in these paintings. Ladda loves language and in these paintings he explores how it works and how it doesn’t work. The show was titled “Word Paintings,” and, in fact, most of the paintings here were portraits of words or phrases.

    To Ladda the pun is a mystery of religious proportions. In the painting Buying Power, 1983, a field is covered with the black-and-white corpses of fallen soldiers; on the horizon is the phrase “cold heros.” The connection

  • Jed Jackson

    I remember stopping when I was a child at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on the Pennsylvania turnpike and then having to leave the dining room because the Pennsylvania Dutch nudes in the paintings there were making me too ill to eat my fried clams. Those paintings walked the line between voluptuousness and grotesque flesh. When I walked into Jed Jackson’s show it was a HoJo flashback.

    Jackson paints grotesque flesh, sensuality gone wrong. His canvases are a kind of American Gothic—Grant Wood meets Stephen King. He portrays flesh tumid with gristle and dense, rippled flab or overpumped with muscle.

  • Wyndham Lewis

    Wyndham Lewis’ first solo exhibition in the United States, 28 years after his death, came at a time when his literary star is rising. In fact, after many years of being out of print and unavailable (particularly in the United States), Lewis’ work has almost come into vogue, and several of his books have been reprinted in the last few years.

    Still, Lewis remains more or less “out” as a visual artist—a position he cultivated as “The Enemy.” It may be that Lewis’ bombastic art criticism had more to do with his ostracism from the art world than his painting itself or his boycott of painters’ bohemia.

  • Like Albers. Consistent.

    ON NEW YORK’S LOWER East Side there used to be men standing on the street corners yelling out brand names: Presidential, Colt .45, Dr. Nova, Black Sunday. They were advertising heroin brands. But they weren’t really advertising, because everyone who heard them and came into the “store” had already made up their minds to buy.

    Now the dope business has been driven underground as the neighborhood has been “gentrified” and now there are art galleries where there used to be shooting galleries, but the advertising strategy is pretty much the same. Let ’em know you’re around and maintain a consistent

  • Docu-Ads. Marketing realism in 30-second spots.

    A PRINCIPAL SPONSOR OF the Live Aid broadcast, AT&T, concocted a special advertisement for the occasion—documentary footage of starving Africans accompanied by AT&T’s familiar theme song, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone!” The nicest thing the message seemed to be saying was “call Ethiopia.” And what would we say to an Ethiopian? Getting any more food yet? Hang in there baby?

    Coca-Cola was another sponsor of Live Aid and I was waiting for that big Christmas-tree-shaped mob of new, old, classic, cherry, diet, and caffeine-free people holding candles and singing, “I’d like to buy the world

  • Art jockeying in the Sistine Discos.

    WHEN STEVE RUBELL, NIGHTCLUB IMPRESARIO and excon, speaks, The New York Times listens. “Artists are becoming the stars of the 1980’s, like the rock stars of the 1960’s or the fashion designers of the 1970’s. People who used to go to singles bars on First Avenue now go to art openings on Avenue A. I don’t create things,” said one of the men who made Studio 54 and now the Palladium, “I jump on them.”

    Now that Steve Rubell has jumped on art—has it been mugged? Can art, fine art, big art, become the centerpiece, the core, of the big discos and still be big and fine? Can you make Peter Max career-choices

  • Rachel Gellman

    Rachel Gellman uses computer programs to generate the images in her large Cibachrome and C-prints. Gellman’s pictures are imagistic and, because of the nature of the computer’s scanning grid, they resemble very tight pointillist technique, or—because of their perfect regularity—fabric design or needlepoint.

    Gellman goes in for puns; her Body/Building, 1985, depicts a body and a building. The building has a classical Greek facade, the body resembles a classical nude torso. In Brush and Variations, 1985, a series of color program variations on a basic design looks like a linoleum pattern for neo—art

  • The new ads and their gift of art. Easel does it.

    DURING EVERY NEW YORK Yankee radio broadcast one of the announcers will announce how many times a day People Express flies to a particular city and what the fare is with “absolutely no restrictions.”

    “And because there are no restrictions to talk about,” continues the announcer, “People Express would like us to use the time that’s left in this commercial to talk about baseball.”

    From there Frank Messer and Phil Rizzuto might go on to discuss Don Mattingly’s streak of errorless ball games, which is approaching an American League record . And they can actually get in quite a bit of baseball talk on

  • Dennis Smith

    I thought it was odd that the most recent painting in this captivating show was made in 1982 until I learned that Smith died soon after, a young man.

    The oldest paintings here, made in 1977, are wild and fresh, witty and casually mystical, remarkably “now” eight years later, though outside any trend or groove.

    Smith combines a skilled cartoon/caricature technique with a Renaissance/Surrealist sense of symbolism and iconography. His images are odd and striking. In Beauty Farm, 1981, the beauty-treatment recipients are set upon by giants. A giant hand twirls one woman’s hair onto a fork like spaghetti;

  • David Kapp

    I have been an admirer of Kapp’s paintings for several years. They are attractive. They are elegant. They are not revolutionary. Sometimes I didn’t want to like them because they seemed calculated and limited, but I couldn’t get over my basic attraction.

    With Kapp’s recent show my reservations disappeared. I didn’t mind that all of his pictures were, as usual, of automobiles on city streets. This time they seemed like inevitable post-landscapes. They seemed to point out the general lack of cars and streets in painting, and the need for more of these if art is to maintain any kind of ecological

  • Brion Gysin

    Although Brion Gysin is best known as a writer (author of Here to Go, 1982, and The Third Mind, 1978), as an influence on other writers (William Burroughs credits him with inventing the cut-up technique of writing), and as a beatnik-society figure (he was proprietor of an odd music-club/restaurant in Algeria in the ’50s), Gysin is also a great painter. His paintings are not well-known because they are few and because Gysin was never an art careerist. But Gysin is a prophetic painter, as this retrospective exhibition demonstrated.

    Collected by Felicity Mason, most of the works in the show were