Jeanne Silverthorne

  • Thomas Lawson

    An allegorist’s need to fix a one-to-one correspondence and a synthesizer’s need to elide those correspondences into some ultimate final term strain against each other in Thomas Lawson’s paintings. Looking at them, one is reminded of Alberto Giacometti’s complaints about the inconstancy of vision, about how there is nothing but “granules moving over a deep black void . . . to fix ones gaze upon” in a “Sahara” between “one wing of the nose and the other.” Nevertheless, Giacometti presents us in the sculpture with the very seeable result of the inability to see, whereas Lawson makes that instability

  • “The Third Dimension: Sculpture of the New York School”

    This was one of those artist-influencing shows that will probably result in an adaptive, Lamarckian revival of Abstract Expressionist sculpture. At the same time, its delicious aroma of rightness derived in part from a highly developed olfactory capacity to sniff what’s in the air: as organizer Lisa Phillips implied by including in the catalogue photographs of works by Mel Kendrick, Nancy Graves, and Bryan Hunt, some return to an abstract but antiminimal sculpture has already begun. Until this show, however, when one looked around for what hadn’t been curatorially anchored into place this chunk

  • Rachel bas-Cohain

    “Let us inquire, to what end is nature?” Not only might Rachel bas-Cohain (1937–1982) have put Ralph Waldo Emerson’s question to herself, but she must have shared Emerson’s conception of the fluid character of nature, of energy, their binding unity the confluence of forces. Hence her continuance of the kinetic tradition, particularly that part of the tradition less concerned with the machine than with the phenomena it generates. Liliane Lijn’s Liquid Reflections, 1966–67, in which drops of moisture trapped under a clear turntable move in apparently inexplicable ways, is not so different from

  • 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”)