Jeanne Silverthorne

  • Julian Schnabel

    Signs of empire, ancient empire, dominated here. It was as if this Julian Schnabel museum of pseudo-Egyptian and Roman finds—mummies, standards, amphorae, pot shards—were a confession that he finds contemporary life too minor in key. When he deals with modernity it is in flat, restrained paintings, wherein mechanical life-support systems, intravenous, help sustain an affectless existence subdivided into tracts of Piet Mondrian rectangles tied up with Barnett Newman ribbons. Interiority becomes a matter of tubal connections and ligations. Schnabel’s bent is elegiac; what’s curious is how that

  • “The Ritz”

    It was fitting that the dilapidated ruin chosen for the site of this collaborative attack on the current administration is called the Ritz; this derelict hotel not only picks up on the present government’s nostalgic Hollywood/tuxedo fantasies, but in its miserable fall from the pretensions of its name effects the same contrast of reality with false promises that the name Reagan does for the artists here.

    The show’s location was also effective. Near the F.B.I. offices, within walking distance of the Capitol, one felt that government would almost hear the racket it set up. Like the Times Square

  • Paul Thek

    Two things in particular have marked Paul Thek’s output over the years: a leveling tendency that employs a polemical indiscriminateness of sources, methods, and materials, and a compulsion to say what is generally being left unsaid. Except for their consistent medium (acrylic on newspaper) and uniform size, these new small works are no different. Thek’s personae have often been underdogs—Bo Jangles is a good example; here he uses a simile rather than a mask, but even that fights the decidedly not conceptual, decidedly phallic contemporary current.

    In The Mind as a Clitoris and related pieces,

  • Martin Silverman

    However much Thek embraces clichés and funk, his shrug of a technique preserves the results from being “cute.” That epithet seems to be reserved for clichés and funk that are carefully, pains takingly rendered. Somehow the lavished attention is diagnosed as the symptom of an infatuation with the subject. I suspect that Martin Silverman is curious to see how far “cute” can be pushed—it may be the only taboo left to contemporary art.

    In his preceding show the laborious, hokey figures were foiled by their own return-of-the-repressed sexuality. There was pathology in that homely ’30s stockiness.

  • Enzo Cucchi

    In Enzo Cucchi’s paintings and drawings the nature/nurture argument reaches its predictable impasse. Mythically overexposed, Italy the cultural construct, as preserved in house and city, strains to overcome its adamantine imperviousness and to merge with the entropic ooze of Italy the physical, almost scatological landscape. It’s a kind of post-Modernist death wish, impossible to fulfill because the social and intellectual forms are rocklike in their obdurate persistence. Only cosmic, not historical time can grind such boulders.

    Heads and skulls are synecdoches for impotent human presences and

  • Jannis Kounellis

    What’s most elegant and, because a delayed perception, moving about this Jannis Kounellis installation is the evocation of the entrapped body, which is accomplished without recourse to any figural imagery. Presented on steel shelves, parts of peeling furniture (of tables, chairs, possibly a bed)—by definition congruent with the body, at its service—and of weatherbeaten doors, shutters, and locks compose an elegy of entombment. Hints of interment from Kounellis are not novel. And given his mystical interests (demonstrated by the diverse gas-fueled smoking purgatories, and the golden wall and

  • Mary Frank

    Mary Frank’s bent is romantic, her sculptures a poeticized recapitulation of an Edenic period when man and woman enjoyed a unity with nature that amounted to a lack of individuation. Human arms are sometimes webbed, stopped in the middle of the evolutionary trajectory. Figures and flora are threads of a single fabric. Previously, when Frank laid her figures prone in a bed of sand, the mutuality with nature was presented as a closed-off option, fossilized, shedding the hushed glamour of any find seeming to be the repository of eons. Now it may be that this vision of mythic felicity is offered as

  • Richard Mock

    Richard Mock revises Picasso’s experiments in surrealism from the ’30s and ’40s. It’s possible to see him as casting himself in the role of conciliator between Picasso’s outrageous aggression and Carl Jung’s outrageous suggestion that Picasso, on the evidence of the 1932 Zurich exhibition, was a schizophrenic; in other words, Mock tries to reconcile the world-disturbing, dangerously alienating sexual/creative drive of the artist with the continuance of the community/audience, needful of harmony and defensive of its own pathology.

    The Demoiselles–like African masks of Mock’s heads may be his first

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Robert Rauschenberg’s ruminations on East and West in these Japanese clayworks, Chinese paper works, and the “Kabal American Zephyr Series” turn on a series of elaborate puns that reduce both realms to the terms of fluid mechanics, the flow of liquids and gases. The Orient, in an essentially trite but complexly conveyed notion, is a weightless, watery domain traversed by corrupting currents from the West; America is both the west wind and its cessation, the crash to earth of the previously airborne but always gravity ridden.

    Hydrants, fish, scenes reflected in pools or puddles, and one claywork

  • Gene Davis

    Talking heads, even graphic ones, sometimes lose their cool; the number of screaming heads has proliferated lately. Not that they’re everywhere, but they are frequent enough to be a presence these days. Joan Snyder’s savagely drawn screamers and Italo Scanga’s “singers”/ witnesses answer Edvard Munch’s The Scream as it echoes down the years. Gene Davis’ open-mouthed self-portrait is of a different ilk, too pantomimic to be a portal for anguish or pained protest. A black silhouette of a profile, it’s repeated larger than life on 9 unprimed canvases and in miniature on 38 white rectangles. It’s

  • Ronnie Cutrone

    Conflicts, cartoons, countries—Cutrone. Conflicts: overwhelmingly, there are pairs of opponents in Ronnie Cutrone’s Manichaean world view; faltering in the act of distinguishing light from dark, however, is likely. The separation is clear when an angelic Felix the Cat fights for a soul against a pitchfork-toting Woody Woodpecker (but isn’t it usually the cat who devours the bird?)—rarely otherwise. Elsewhere, coming across a panicked Yankee Woody chased by a Russian bear, this demonic taint prepares us for the Paranoia of the title. The bear is big, it is in angry pursuit; but even in his native,

  • Sylvia Plimack Mangold

    Analyzing Van Gogh’s Crows over the Wheat Field, Meyer Schapiro describes the lines of perspective as “the paths of Van Gogh’s impetuous impulse toward the beloved object,” then goes on to note that in this painting as in most of the later work “this flight to a goal is rarely unobstructed or fulfilled.” In Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s canvases from the early ’70s a similar dialectic is at work: a pronounced convergence in the floorboards she typically rendered is frustrated by various painted-in devices—a mirror, rulers that “prove” space is not shrinking though it appears to be, etc. At the same

  • Frank Stella

    The question has been “what will Stella do next” for so long that, lately, getting over disappointed expectations delays entertaining the possibility that Stella, at least, may have changed the question to “what has Stella done?”. If the flashy French-curve reliefs that so disturbed the peace in 1976 seemed, at the time anyway, to break with what came before, and were among the first Stella pieces to signify as individual entities independent of serial context, the newest work apparently aims to reinsert all the reliefs back into that series. The pieces are a coda, in a way, a formal autobiography.

  • Stephen Mueller

    First scenario: Stephen Mueller’s paintings are a reactionary reprise of lyrical abstraction, beautiful but enervated; glamour under glass, they are sustained by an exhaustive battery of cosmetics and prostheses (stain, impasto, hachure, scumbling, scribble) detached from conceptual or emotional moorings to become free-floating, painterly items, an inventory of stock. A wan attempt to keep up with fashion (two suggestions of Jedd Garet-like figures) seems sadly foolish and ill advised.

    Second scenario: Mueller’s paintings are an act of protective coloration in the service of extended life. Hidden

  • Steve Keister

    From Georges de la Tour's incandescent figures to Dan Flavin's burlesques, artists have attended to the conundrum of emanating light. Steve Keister, too—witness the way he dims his installation space by blinkering the spots and training them exclusively on the painted interiors of his sculptures. The result is a seemingly sourceless beaming of light; the works appear to glow from within, but there is no trace of a controlling mechanism inside, Glamorama, for example, is a mannequin filled with light that enters through a hole in the top of the head which one has to stand on tiptoe to see.

  • John Chamberlain

    “In what I do, constant hard work is not necessary; my drive is based on laziness. . . . I don’t mind admitting that I’m lazy because laziness is, for me, an attribute”: thus John Chamberlain on John Chamberlain, in a statement accompanying this show. It’s hard not to like a man with that kind of attitude—an attitude that allowed Chamberlain to do things that, in the ’60s and careful early ’70s, were verboten. It was a time when artists worried a lot. Certain things were not allowed—for example, paint on sculpture. Applied chroma was nothing, formalists opined, but a skin, and therefore it was

  • “Primer (for Raymond Williams)”

    Group Material’s “Primer (for Raymond Williams)” is collaborative, its intent political, its participants diverse in age, gender, and class, its setting noncommercial. This impeccable correctness could no doubt be annoying to those who implicitly worry about political art developing a hegemony, challenging pure art, however defined, to a duel from which only one will emerge alive.

    Be that as it may, it might be more useful to abandon the debate over whether collaborations like this one are propaganda rather than art and to see them in a protean relationship with other efforts analogous to that

  • “The Pressure To Paint”

    This is a show not about art but about power: the power of money, the power of hype, and the power of exclusion. According to curator Diego Cortez, the first two are justified by an undisguised (if ludicrous) process of inversion: middleman becomes producer (the “new” dealers’ marketing techniques are, he writes, part of a “strategy of the soul,” and his “admiration and respect” for them “is at least equal to that of the artists and their work”); and high-powered commercial gallery becomes radical alternative space (“Yes, Marlborough for my purposes is an alternative space”). In other words,

  • Troy Brauntuch

    The paradox at the center of Troy Brauntuch’s pictures is this: on the one hand, the very muteness of the images provokes the viewer into trying to make them talk; on the other, attempts to get the work to confess its secrets are made to seem bruising, exertions of undue force—in effect, fascist. To begin with, although the technique is “realistic,” details are so indistinct that representations verge on or pass into the inscrutable. As with the enlargements in Blow Up, looking so hard generates doubts about what is seen; as in recalled dreams, the more intense our pursuit of a scene, the farther

  • Italo Scanga

    Brauntuch defers closure as if loath to confront the shame of a disingenuous looking. The irresolution of Italo Scanga’s new series of drawings is more like the ceaseless agitation of a stream of consciousness in which chunks of private, religious, and art histories tumble around with motes of the quotidian. Nevertheless the work of both expresses a will to confound. Because Brauntuch’s references are so specialized there’s a better than average chance that his audience won’t be familiar with his source photograph or drawing. Because Scanga’s iconography is so generalized an excessive number of