James Lewis


    Anywhere I hang myself is home.

    —The Replacements

    WHILE AWAITING THE RETURN of Odysseus, Penelope calms her impatient suitors by claiming that she'll choose among them when she's finished with her weaving, and then prolongs the labor by unraveling her work at the end of each day. Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon is made possible by the cloth she uses to bind his arms before she stabs him, and images of string, fabric, carpets, and netting are interwoven into the verses that precede the event. Medea also uses cloth as a weapon, in her case taking the life of her estranged husband’s new


    IT IS A CURATORIAL TRUISM that, nearly anything in a vitrine looks good enough to hold one's gaze for a minute or two. A cigarette butt, a ballpoint pen, a crumpled piece of paper becomes a fascinating artifact under the aegis of exhibition. Stripped of all common faults, elevated to a position that commands esthetic attention, it becomes exemplary, its grime or banality transformed into testimony to its stunning ordinariness. Vitrines, then, are redeeming contexts, and it says something about how we now fit art into the world around it—about our division of the world into esthetically sacred

  • Sarah Charlesworth

    Sarah Charlesworth describes the means by which she makes her art as being composed of equal parts work and magic. The slightly fey tone of the latter word is as good a key as any to the faint uneasiness that this show of new photographs inspires.

    On exhibit were ten laminated Cibachromes of collages, in which figures from reproductions of various Old Master paintings had been isolated, combined, and then rephotographed against a monochrome background. A piece entitled Transfiguration (all works 1991), showed figures from Piero della Francesca, surrounded by silhouettes filled in with folds of

  • Eric Fischl

    In lieu of the typical essay, the catalogue for Eric Fischl’s show includes a short assembly of notes by the artist, banal jottings presented as a poem and titled “India In My imagination.” In this phrase lies the problem with the exhibition, for India is not a fictitious place, and, in any case, the artist’s imagination is none too active here.

    Fischl’s stock in trade has always been the tense narratives suggested by the poses of his figures and a sense of light that, at its best, can be remarkably effective. Neither is in evidence in this new series of paintings depicting his travels to the

  • Rodney Graham

    On display here were five enormous photographs of ancient oaks from the English countryside, marvelous old trees shot in black and white and printed in color so that barely perceptible hues appeared; however, each was hung upside down, and the effect was dizzying and disorienting because, while enough of the horizon is subtended by the photos so that one cannot help but feel oneself in the scene, still no amount of effort towards dissolving their gestalt would allow one to decompose them into abstract patterns, or even to right them again.

    Rodney Graham’s conceit made for a particularly visceral

  • John Miller

    The infant’s first creative act is defecation, and according to Freud the child’s pleasure in producing such a gift is considerable. But socialization, so the story goes, forces the child to transfer the joy of that making into other, more socially productive activities, among them the creation of artworks, an occupation in which the subliminal pleasures of original fecality remains relatively immediate. For some years now John Miller has been making works that attempt to recapture, or perhaps simply point out, just this hidden association.

    The centerpiece of his recent show was a series of wall-

  • Lawrence Gipe

    Lawrence Gipe’s strange and ambiguous “Krupp Project” is named for a dynastic German munitions manufacturer, whose head served a ten year war-crime sentence after Nuremburg. A group of highly stylized industrial tableaux, these paintings of steel-smelting plants, train factories, and the like, are all rendered in a kind of hot, dramatically lit style derived from World War II propaganda films and hortatory posters. Beneath each work is a painted slogan, most often in German, extolling the virtues that, Krupp apparently enforced: loyalty to the firm, the country, and the work ethic. These works

  • Clyfford Still

    Of the 3,000 or so works that Clyfford Still created in his lifetime, his estate still retains all but 150. Still specified that the remaining works could only be given en masse to a single city, and he placed stringent conditions on how they were to be treated thereafter. Since the estate does not make loans, and the few pieces in private hands are closely guarded, the opportunity to see a dozen or so works by this artist in a single room is a rare event Ben Heller’s essay for the catalogue accompanying this exhibition is, for the most part, an account of how difficult it was to stage.


  • Joseph Kosuth

    Invited to exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, Joseph Kosuth chose to root through the museum’s remarkable collection, acting as a kind of curator-cum-archaelogist. The result is a salon-style installation in the museum’s lobby of works that have, at some point and for one reason or another, been found offensive, juxtaposed with text silk-screened directly on the walls, which explains why and to whom they were objectionable. The whole installation is called The Play of the Unmentionable, a twist on the title of Kosuth’s previous curatorial investigation, The Play of the Unsayable: Wittgenstein and

  • Nan Goldin

    Four years ago Nan Goldin published The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the record of a slide-show that documented the mostly unhappy practices of her friends and herself with a series of sickly colored vérité-style images. The themes were the pursuit of pleasure, drugs, and sex, and the kind of tears, violence and garish disarray that accompanied this lifestyle; the most memorable image from the book is a startlingly direct picture of Goldin with her face puffed and bruised from a beating by her lover.

    Today many or most of Goldin’s friends are dead, and though she has spent time in a detox program,

  • Todt

    For some time now the otherwise anonymous foursome known as TODT has been taking over galleries with their vaguely militaristic and industrial environments. Part Ed Kienholz and part Fritz Lang, their esthetic is not unfamiliar; in fact, now that cyberpunk has made information rather than industry the new object of paranoia, TODT’s mock-ups of machines with unknown but clearly horrific functions have a curiously archaic feel, an air of early-century antipositivism rather than late-century apocalypse.

    Nonetheless, TODT’s work remains sufficiently menacing to disturb, and this recent installation,

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Though Anselm Kiefer’s paintings based on themes from Jewish mystical thought are without question remarkable, the impulse behind them seems misbegotten. The exhibition’s centerpiece, a massive wall-mounted construction of sandwiched lead books with shards of broken glass spilling onto the floor entitled Bruch der Gefässe (Breaking of the vessels, all works completed in 1990), refers to the shattering of the containers of God’s emanations that Kabbalists believe preceded the creation of the material world. The seven canvases that fill out the show trade on the same faith. So one piece is called

  • Mark Dion with William Schefferine

    In consultation with the staff of the zoo in Belize, Mark Dion has designed a series of ten signs to serve as guides to the animals housed there. A newly reorganized, English-speaking democracy in Central America, Belize is rich with rain forests and wildlife. The zoo, as Dion explains in an accompanying statement, is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the country’s animal population, and accordingly, the signs are both instructive and cautionary. Both the Spanish and the English names are supplied for each animal and together with standard “naturalistic” line drawings, matched with a less

  • Meyer Vaisman

    As if by some unexpected formal progression, Meyer Vaisman has moved from representations of blown-up canvas weave to actual fabrics and reproduction tapestries. His new work is richer both in texture and in associations than anything he’s shown so far. Starting with expensive decorator tapestries, Vaisman seamlessly incorporates cartoon figures into the depicted scenes. As in a game of “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” at first glance it is difficult to tell what has been altered. In a work entitled The Making of the Wool (all works 1990) the viewer suddenly discovers a pair of cartoon laughing

  • Will Insley

    For the past 18 years Will Insley has been exhibiting drawings and designs for a massive imaginary dystopia he calls ONECITY. Insley envisions a home for some 400 million citizens plunked down in mid-America, but while he designates its location it remains temporally unspecific; ONECITY is not so much a vision of a predicted or hoped-for future as an atemporal fiction. Insley has an elaborate, almost obsessive tale to tell about the cultural structure of ONECITY, its Byzantine forms of government, entertainment, and work rivaling those of Dante’s Hell. Although the work has changed formally

  • James Casebere

    The scenes that James Casebere builds and then photographs have always seemed underdetermined, whitewashed and so starkly lit that it is difficult to tell how big they are or what kind of space they occupy. Though the models are in fact quite small, Casebere has recently turned to making sculptures that, by contrast, are enormous. The two room-size works exhibited here together with four prints and one light box offer a continuation of Casebere’s spare reconstructions of the past—dreams of 19th-century American living spaces, and of the peculiarly American way they have been swept away.


  • Hans Danuser

    For some years now Hans Danuser has been taking photographs of the interiors of laboratories and industrial plants. Three series were on display here: “A-Energie,” 1982, scenes from various atomic power plants and research facilities; “Medizin I,”1984, observations of pathology and anatomical instruction labs; and “Chemie II,” 1989, views of genetic engineering labs. The black and white prints are not so much studies of work environments as landscapes of a world, depopulated and half-dark; not illustrations of the life spent in the acquisition of knowledge, however odd and arcane, but portraits

  • Sean Landers

    The plaster casts Sean Landers uses in his works are cheap copies, commercial reproductions of famous or popular sculptures sold as bookends or piano-top knickknacks. The head of the great Laocoön appears in one, a Roman sculpture of Agrippa in another, and there are portraits of Shakespeare, of Marie Antoinette, of Pan, and of an anonymous French aristocrat. Landers takes the casts, puts them in deep cylinders, and submerges them in a translucent brown polyester resin. The block that emerges is then placed on a pedestal of Landers’ own making.

    Landers seems to be fascinated the way contexts

  • Alexis Rockman

    Insects have always played a prominent part in the imagination of horror, perhaps because these creatures are the most resistant to being humanized, to taking on characteristics which would make them seem friendly. Their habits are irreducibly disquieting; their life world is necessarily cruel. In our recognition of that, nature becomes a nightmare. Nothing has to be invented. A simple shift in scope and scale will do—we need only to look down to the life below our feet. Alexis Rockman’s recent oil paintings offer compelling glimpses into that world; the grass crawls with insects, blind worms

  • Miquel Barcelo

    Miguel Barcelo displayed a number of sketchbooks and drawings made on an extended trip through Africa in 1988; a dozen paintings, made upon his return to Paris, were also on exhibit. The self-absorption of some of his earlier work has apparently been mitigated by his travels; where once he had tended towards a romanticism that put himself and his work and habits at the center of attention, this body of work contains little evidence of self-reference. Barcelo remains a remarkable draftsman. The sketchbooks and drawings––all gouache on paper––present the spareseness and privation of the North