Jeanne Silverthorne

  • 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

  • Isamu Noguchi

    Isamu Noguchi’s customary concern with the slow burn of revelation turns, for now, into the strobe of edge flashing into plane. The new sculpture, all done in 1982–83, is best described as origami in steel, and one imagines the brooding gravity of Noguchi’s stones having eventually collapsed under their own heft and somehow come out the other side into a weightless, bright fourth dimension (which can only be defined as some confabulation between the second and third). Density has compacted into a cartoon; in fact, some of these pieces, particularly ones like Giacometti’s Shadow and Root and Stem