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