Jeanne Silverthorne

  • Louise Lawler

    Louise Lawler’s work is deliberately decentered. Look to the periphery to understand the heart of the matter “Now that we have your attention what are we going to say”—the subtitle for the piece shown here, Slides by Night, 1985, reiterates Lawler’s conviction that importance and meaning are conferred through presentation. With so much energy devoted to publicity and other attention focusing devices, what’s left over for the object of such fuss? The title also introduces a touch of self-mockery, since the slides—viewable only after dark, from outside the closed gallery, through its window—while

  • Agnes Martin

    Here’s a description of two of Agnes Martin’s recent paintings. One: a canvas 6 feet by 6 feet is covered with approximately 56 horizontal pencil lines, apparently evenly spaced, with a slightly uneven margin to either side; under the lines is a dry-brush application of gesso horizontally applied to match the weave of the bare canvas, whose natural oatmeal color appears wherever the paint doesn‘t. Two: a canvas 6 feet by 6 feet is covered with 17 sets of double lines approximately one-half inch apart; there‘s an uneven margin, a dry-brush application of gesso, and a barely present wash, horizontally

  • Nancy Graves

    Nancy Graves has engineered some of the most memorable sculptural events of the past twenty years or so. In addition to such pieces as Totem, 1980, which prodded our memories of this in the Museum of Modern Art’s “‘Primitivism’” show last fall, there were the “Camels,” 1968, the Ceridwen bones on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 1969–77, and the thicket of Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms, 1971. Although Graves has long been recognized, perhaps she has not received her full measure of praise.

    The works that have been viewed critically as the most problematic are the forays into bronze shown


    ONLY AN EAGER GRAVEDIGGER WOULD ARGUE that “Jonathan Borofsky,” the “retrospective” that began at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is now at the Whitney Museum of American Art,1 is Borofsky’s final or only word. His is among the most open-ended, responsive, and responded to of art, and if anything gets more so as time goes on. The fact is, however, that Borofsky’s work has repeatedly expressed reservations about its own efficacy. “Self-deprecating” is an adjective rarely used in discussions of his work. Instead, the work’s effusiveness and diffusiveness can stir murmurings about “unstable ego


    SURELY EVERYBODY KNOWS D.H. Lawrence’s dictum, “Never trust the teller, trust the tale,” or, to paraphrase for the visual arts, don’t ask the artist to explain the work. Still, I have a sense that in practice critics do this. Sometimes they transpose into their texts, unacknowledged, the contents of direct interviews with the artist; one can occasionally infer the interview from the syntax of the review, or one can think of no other means by which the writer could know such things. More often, the review incorporates hearsay that may or may not be traceable back to the artist. A writer can seem

  • Stephen De Staebler

    A fascination with the winged fragment has endured no doubt since the Samothracian Nike was first reclaimed. The oxymoronic aspect of an earthbound transcendentalism is appealing. Stephen De Staebler’s sculptures are the latest in a spotty filiation that includes Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913, and Mary Frank’s figures. Boccioni attempted to make his Victory whole, but the very speed with which the figure propels itself shreds it. Motionblurred, its features represent also erosion through time duré. De Staebler’s work, like Frank’s, with which it has much in common,

  • Raoul Dufy

    According to Raoul Dufy, all the world’s a pattern and we are merely players in a long-running hit. Repetition of a few key elements rules both narrative and scene. The use of certain pictorial devices to frame a view, as if in quotation marks, pushes the stage analogy and the sense of recycled material. Curtains in Le Prado Tiziano, 1949, and Gastronomie, 1950, create prosceniums, and balconies turn street scenes depicted on upholstered chairs into theater. Spectacle is almost always the subject matter, be it concerts, military parades, races, official receptions, circuses, or bullfights. The

  • Jedd Garet

    Maybe Jedd Garet is putting together a hornbook for estheticians with this latest series of paintings, a handbook of the phenomenological and historical building blocks of picture making. If true, this is fascinating; if not true, little enough whets the appetite in these deliberately rigid works. Garet’s painting has always been graceless but usually has still carried a graphic punch. Not so at the moment, but then the dryness alone may be a sign, whose fallaciousness is for now beside the point, of “intellect at work.”

    How else but as rubrics are we to take the isolation from canvas to canvas

  • Sherrie Levine

    Sherrie Levine patches us into “1917,” her new installation of drawings and paintings after Kasimir Malevich and Egon Schiele, with an aphorism worthy of Jenny Holzer: “We like to imagine the future as a place where people loved abstraction before they encountered sentimentality.” It’s not news that the future is a prefabrication of the past, or that many of those fabrications later confess to being substandard. Rather, it’s the way the arch of the sentence, from eager hope to deflated defeat, is echoed in its subtle hierarchy of tenses, the way the leap forward from a happy present (“we like”)

  • Louise Bourgeois

    The directness of Louise Bourgeois’ anger makes you avert your gaze; you turn away with a sickened feeling, sometimes, in Nature Study Velvet Eyes, 1984, for example, to meet another pair of staring eyes, emblematic of Bourgeois’ unflinchingness. But you turn back (unless you have no guts at all) because you know you’re being forced to confront something in an art context that has not been faced before—the absolute horror of sex. The story of the joy of sex has been told endlessly, the danger of sex (from Judith to Sardanapalus) frequently, but never the sheer primal horror of sex. Few artworks

  • Leon Golub

    A crucial moment in the chronology of Leon Golub’s figure is when, realizing its potential, it teeters before turning against its own kind. The figure’s development parallels a change in public consciousness forced by the escalation of the Cold War—the shift from pre- to postnuclear age. According to the evidence in this retrospective, until the close of the ’50s Golub’s figure is damaged but generally protects itself from its surroundings with heavy dark outlines. It is alone, the ahistorical, existential man. At some point toward the end of the decade the thick skin thins to an osmotic membrane

  • Martin Puryear

    Universal beauty and a morally superior nature evidently exist for Martin Puryear, and he finds them good. Despite the labor-intensive craft of his works, they dream of seamlessness, of being grown or hatched. In Dream of Pairing, 1981, pied surfaces shift color from one end of a wooden circle to another so subtly that the change seems a function of protective camouflage or of light rather than of paint; in an untitled piece from 1978, the “found” torsion of a vine is left undisturbed in the same way that certain tribal architecture preserves the buttress roots of trees intact, to support roof

  • Anthony Caro

    At first, the deep satellite dishes of Anthony Caro’s largest new works seem to beckon the viewer. For example, Soldier’s Tale, 1983, puts down steps from the rim of the concavity, an alien ship expecting company. Whereas this frontal hollow is framed with plates and girders, which emphasize its centered depth and create a threshold for it, the chilly rear of the construction does not so much repulse as exclude. What had seemed a shell of safe retreat is from the back exposed as a propped-up concatenation of incompletion—halved ellipses, makeshift shims, functionally redundant sheets and rolls.

  • Jane Irish

    The appeal of Jane Irish’s paintings is their economy. In general, they simply place two different examples of architecture in opposition under a blue sky and allow them to object to each other, to fight it out (stadiums recur). Battles take place between cultures (primitive versus sophisticated) and between gender symbols (steles versus doughnuts); occasionally the structures find a link to each other despite their hostility, as in Businessman’s Special, 1984, whose sports arena and skyscraper establish the intimacy of empire with the playing fields of Eton.

    The works are not exactly badly

  • Richard Long

    An interesting aspect of Richard Long’s work, at least at this point in history, is how we believe him. When he says that he walked here or there and climbed this or that mountain in so many days, we take him at his word. No one ever questions whether or not he actually walked; how do we know he didn’t cheat, by driving or flying? Was he even there? Someone else could have taken his Lapland snaps. How do we know the granite is from California?

    \It’s possible to see the Long persona, constantly on the move, as a fugitive—if not from justice, then from guilt. Unlike many other performance artists,

  • Sigmar Polke

    If, for purposes of discussion, Long may be a con artist, Sigmar Polke is a criminal investigator, relentlessly juxtaposing “eyewitness” accounts. Confronted with a blatant sex bomb, a realtor sees only commerce and offers her and her mate an igloo to house her emphatic curves (Igloo, 1983). The “painting” of skyscrapers behind him demonstrates that he understands a different version of passion. In what might be taken for a companion piece, Untitled, 1983, another middle-aged, balding man prefers the lure of sex to the tame real estate of a painted landscape he attempts to hang. A pun on arousal,

  • Marisol

    In Marisol’s sculptures as in Polke’s paintings, things will not stay put, but her rebellion reflects a kind of physical revulsion to restraint rather than an intellectual and spiritual unrest. The protest of her pieces seems almost to be wrenched from them against their will. Unruly by nature more than on principle, they will not tolerate restraint; the most refined sort of drawing inevitably pops into the most rambunctious, obnoxious, full-bodied kitsch. Marisol’s sarcasm, unlike that of Red Grooms, is incomplete, alloyed with longing. Grooms’ rejection is clear and unmistakable; Marisol’s,

  • Justen Ladda

    Lifting the curtain, entering Justen Ladda’s environment, standing in the dark and seeing a (painted) yellow figure framed in (painted) cathode rays and adjusting a (real) TV set, daring or wondering if one dare trespass into the roped-off area containing man and (real) armchair, TV set, bed, fireplace, shoes, stove, perhaps even surreptitiously fingering the pots and pans—it would take more effort than it’s worth to shake off a certain guilty thrill in this licensed invisibility. That answers a question raised by the depicted light of the large TV screen that encloses the objects and comprises

  • Cheryl Laemmle

    Cheryl Laemmle’s new paintings occupy the very constricted space between the horns of a dilemma, a space wherein any assertion of the ego is seen as murderous. It’s a very narrow interstice that Laemmle allows herself to colonize here—between culture and nature, between autonomy and attachment. The will to power of art kills nature; Laemmle paints her figures as literally made of wood—trees, to be precise, but trees in which a Daphne still lives to feel the bite of the shaping blade. The inexpressive woodenness only heightens the emotion, which leaks out of a multitude of knots rendered as so

  • Jasper Johns

    The Jasper Johns curriculum of life and art is a series of double binds, but the ultimate nonchoice here is between death and madness. As the words in Racing Thoughts, 1983, warn (in French and German, “Beware, Falling Ice”), the glacier of Johns’ reserve is breaking up and uncovering an intense paranoia. Whereas formerly fragmentation was limited to the extremities of the body, now it is the center that will not hold. Breakup is most elaborated on in this canvas, which echoes a precedent, Mathias Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, ca. 1510–15—itself dispersed during the French Revolution and