Jeff Perrone

  • Wayne Thiebaud from Phoenix to Des Moines

    GRACING THE FRONT COVER of Sunshine Muse, Peter Plagens’ apologetic history of West Coast art, is Wayne Thiebaud’s Girl with an Ice Cream Cone. Although Plagens spends little time on Thiebaud in the text, the point must be that there is something typically West Coast—or at least Californian—about the painting. If you can get past the fact that Thiebaud has rendered the flesh so that it approximates Manet’s Christ, there is a good case for this girl representing the Sunshine Muse. Her tan looks all-year-around. She wears her bathing suit as if she’d been born in it, ready for eternal sunshine.

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG IS BOTH a protean artist and cultural symbol. He is enormously prolific and talented. But the successes and failures of his career are bound up with his character, which scripted, certain accomplishments and blocked many others. The diversity of materials, styles, and images in his career is surely one of the most prodigious in Western art since the Second World War. But dealing with that career, one sees how Rauschenberg was the captive of the appetite for artistic transformation he himself did so much to stimulate. Writers have turned his artistic success into the material

  • Duane Michals: The Self as Apparition

    He was not surprised to find his closet empty. Everything familiar was becoming unfamiliar. He could not be sure of anything.

    —from Something Strange Is Happening

    BY EXPLORING THE SPECIFIC meanings in his photographic discourse, Duane Michals has arrived at a belief in the Platonic view of the universe. Things are not real; ideas are. For him, there exist fleeting surface appearances which we mistake for reality. To have faith in photographic information and then confront Michals’ purpose is to open a closet and find it empty. A photograph can neither imitate nor document a real situation or

  • Bruce Nauman

    Bruce Nauman’s career as a famous artist in New York went by as fast as you could say “phenomenology.” It began in late 1968 and ended early in 1972 with the pronouncement that Nauman, by giving up Duchamp, had ceased to “interesting.” This was also the year of Nauman’s “retrospective,” which had been “several years in planning.” Although Nauman has continued to show every year, little attention has been paid to his work. Successive pieces have displayed increasing difficulty and waning collectability.

    After the abstract “split” sculptures came the punning word games; these gave way to the

  • Cynthia Carlson

    Cynthia Carlson has been tagged as part of the “thick paint” gang, but the ongoing drama in her work is best described by the title of a recent Joan Snyder painting: Mom’s Just Out There Tryin’ to Break That Grid. Carlson, Snyder, and others like Jennifer Bartlett, Arlene Slavin and Miriam Schapiro are all trying to get away from the grip of the grid, inventing ways to subvert or dissolve it. Snyder runs over the grid with painterly gesture. Bartlett uses it in extremis so as to make it a joke, and all the while she’s filling it in with an inventory of pictorial images, making the content more

  • Elijah Pierce

    Elijah Pierce is an 84-year-old black man who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He is a barber and a sculptor. He showed a remarkable set of carved wood reliefs painted with enamel and occasional glitter. The works portray religious scenes from the Bible, narrate scenes from the history of slavery (Pierce’s father was a slave), illustrate old sayings (“Life is a book and each day is a page”) and generally involve subject matter unavailable to present-day sculpture and painting in New York.

    The best work was the Noah’s Ark scene. The animals, in pairs, were carved with an affection for the strength and

  • Jake Berthot

    One thing you can say for sure about Jake Berthot: he’s up on his contemporaries’ painting—Johns, Motherwell, Marden, Twombly, and so forth. The sources seem to be right out there in the open. Berthot was on solid ground in 1974 with paintings that established a clearly articulated space, with proportioned, sectioned canvases, and forthright yet subtle color. His paintings after that became dark and moody; color was sacrificed for surface density, for continual scraping and repainting. Line which had functioned as shape was reintroduced inside the frame as scratching and as a desire to return

  • Jackie Ferrara

    Jackie Ferrara’s new wood sculptures take a step toward complexity, and consequently endanger the basic position established in her earlier work. That position consists of a number of interrelated antimonies. The first maintains that there is a balance between reading the form as a unit—a gestalt—and viewing it as a construction of parts. From this basic dualism comes the tension between the obvious mathematical system which generates the form and the form itself (a pyramid, an incline, steps, etc). There is really no reason why, given certain mathematical formulae which determine the “cuts”

  • Approaching the Decorative

    THE IDEA THAT TEN ARTISTS would agree to be placed together as a group and exhibit under a collective title is not a completely new one, but it is one that has been out of circulation for some time. An artist-defined sociality determined by a common concern—one might even call it a “cause”—creates a situation opposed to the large group show of the ’60s, which usually stuck artists in erroneous categories (examples: Johns and Rauschenberg as Pop artists, or Noland and Poons as Op artists). What is most troublesome in the new show “Ten Approaches to the Decorative” is, however, that word: decoration.

  • Barbara Schwartz

    Barbara Schwartz crafts wall reliefs by filling in chicken-wire forms with plaster and painting them with casein. I used to think her former work resembled carpets; they appeared to be paintings fattened out with plaster decorated with half-circle forms. With these new works the feminist meaning is clearer. They are all composed of two-part mirror-image forms with rounded, protruding centers and mostly thinning, elongated tops and bottoms. These generalized forms are not only organic, they are humanized. They are colored with hot, dry pigment, layer after layer, to produce a complex visual

  • Mary Heilmann

    The interest of Mary Heilmann’s paintings is in the discrepancy between their obvious structure (strictly deductive) and their subtleties of execution—how they were painted. Composed of rectangles which either frame the edges and/or divide the canvas into two rectangles, they do not claim any new structural identity. The “drawing” of the rectangles is done in one-shot Ryman-like strokes. But these strokes are bolder, more vigorous—closer to Kline than any post-Minimal painting. The image and the style of painting are simple—it is the layering of the paint, the textures along two thickly painted

  • “Three Generations of American Painting”

    There is another more common way of aggrandizing a younger artist’s work—connecting it to older, established art so it appears to be the heir to a great tradition. The younger artist gets the residue of accomplishment from the older artists, and is from then on identified with them. This kind of thing is so easy to spot, it is difficult to understand why anyone would even try to do it. Such a lineage is attempted in the double-gallery exhibition Three Generations of American Painting, but the inclusion of a young member is the least of its problems.

    Considering that the first two generations in

  • Frank Stella

    Almost as if he deliberately set out to infuriate the people who found his aluminum relief paintings last year some of the best modernist painting ever, Frank Stella’s new work makes that anticipation about “what he’d do next” just plain stupid. These new “paintings” are also constructed out of aluminum, and really are no longer just “reliefs”; they ignore the wall and come out so far into the room (almost two feet) that they might almost be free-standing sculpture. (That one is dedicated to Noguchi is revealing.) Most of the work is so large that it obliterates our orientation to the wall by

  • Seeing Through the Boxes

    Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959–1975 (Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975), 229 pages.

    Donald Judd, a catalogue of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and a catalogue raisonné, essay by Roberta Smith (Ottawa: The National Gallery of Canada for the Corporation of the National Museums of Canada, 1975), 320 pages.

    THESE TWO BOOKS (A COMPLETE catalogue and the complete writings) are, in effect, a semicompact way of increasing the importance of an oeuvre with immense amounts of supporting material reclaimed from a highly defined

  • Topics in American Art Since 1945

    Lawrence Alloway, Topics in American Art Since 1945 (New York: Norton, 1975), 282 pages, 64 black and white illustrations.

    THE FIRST WORD IN Lawrence Alloway’s selected survey of American art since 1945 is “differentiation.” It is a key term, implying a wide range of subject matter. The jacket cover promises Abstract Expressionism, Hard Edge and Systems, Conceptual Art, Pop Art, Happenings, Earthworks, Public Sculpture, and finally, The Changing Role of the Critic. Indeed, we get all this plus Alloway on “highway culture,” photo-Realism, Radio City Music Hall and the chronology of an art gallery.

  • Jo Hanson

    Jo Hanson’s Crab Orchard Cemetery is about the discretion of dealing respectfully with the unknown, as well as being an experience of memory filtered through historical re-creation. The work radiates a very gentle aura. The cemetery itself is built from Styrofoam slabs cut with hot wire, silk-screened to appear like gravestones; a backdrop around the room is formed by two layers of ceiling-to-floor transparent film, with images of trees and mountains. (Hanson also made rubbings from real gravestones: they are immediate, sensuous drawings which belie their somewhat grave origins.) Next to some

  • The Ins and Outs of Video

    I

    DISCUSSIONS OF VIDEO USUALLY run through such subjects as communication theory, cybernetics, computers, mixed with equal parts of McLuhan, synthesizers, Cage, Zen, and, ultimately, the “revolution.” The historical blossoming—if you can call it that—of video is situated in North America, 1960s, and video couldn’t have escaped these popular topics and influences. Proclaimed as the most “advanced” media for both popular (mass) and art (elite) consumption/participation, video was said to be the harbinger of all kinds of glorious and wonderful changes in art and society at large. “I have treated

  • Brice Marden

    Brice Marden was discovered just when many were saying that painting seemed to be on its last leg. A certain rescue strategy was initiated that magnetized his work, attracting every possible influence and predecessor of the last 400 years. This made Marden seem to be the apotheosis of it all, the crowning glory, the last gasp, not just of the endangered species—painting—but Western Art and Culture itself. To me, this is undoubtedly the worst thing short of utter neglect that can happen to a painter and his art. These canvases exist solely as vehicles for critics to exercise their ability to

  • William T. Wiley

    It’s no wonder that William T. Wiley strikes fear in the hearts of veteran New York art pundits. I doubt if I’ve ever seen a more perverse display of self-consciously bad-art-for-bad-art’s-sake than Wiley’s “Projects” show at the Modern. Oh, how they try and understand him! “Dude Ranch Dada” and deliberate put-on of New York art, meant to 1) categorize him with familiar (European) terms and 2) place him in some kind of relation to New York art; even if he’s anti-Big Apple, it still means he’s concerned with the capital of the art universe—no one gets to ignore it.

    The perversity of the

  • Carl Andre: Art Versus Talk

    KNOWLEDGE BOTH OF AN ARTIST’S writings and his myth (the things he allows to be said, whether true or not) usually creates friction for the viewer who wants to reconcile them with the visual objects at hand. It is not easy to “dismiss the evidence” when we know the artist thinks one thing and does another. And the artists and their apologists, taking refuge in the time-honored myth of le bête peintre (first attacked by, of all people, Duchamp) have literally felt free to contradict themselves on matters which they present as critically important or vaguely evocative, depending on the context.

    Of