Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

  • Robert Morris: the Complication of Exhaustion

    No one’s mind is likely to have been changed by the exhibitions of Robert Morris’ work that took place in New York and Philadelphia in the spring of this year. One interesting thing about Morris is that he seems to be an artist who—for many people—has remained extremely problematic although he has achieved the status of a major contemporary figure. Which is, I think, symptomatic of the complexity of his ambition. To remain problematic is to maintain the capacity to provoke, and this Morris continues to do in a way that elaborates an earlier statement of his own: "Characteristic of a gestalt is

  • Michael Johnson

    Michael Johnson showed paintings at his studio that were subsequently shipped off to the antipodes for an exhibition, whence they’ll probably not return. Johnson started to paint in Australia and then spent some years in England before coming here. It shows. However, his work has persisted in being an intelligent articulation of color through a vocabulary derived from that history. Gold Nomore 1974 is an atypical painting in that it has a fifth color, a block of white at the top right. Usually there are four, three blocks and the ground. Since one tends to see changes of value and hue on a flat

  • Jules Olitski

    As the ’60s progressed Jules Olitski’s paintings went through a series of changes that, in my opinion, aimed at incorporating the openness of Pollock’s work of 1947–51 into a format comparably overwhelming in size, but structured by color. Color, to Olitski, has always operated—as did line for Pollock—as a material substance as well as an optical signifier, but in his new work—unlike that of the recent past—violent gesture is no longer undermined by a fragile and spatially ambiguous pigmentation. The result is a retreat from the heroic into pathos, from internal complexity to a thick surface

  • Judith Bernstein

    I’m beginning this month’s reviews with an unprecedented—and not to be repeated—parenthesis, that will remind us all of where we really are. Judith Bernstein is a painter who draws enormous penises in that most traditional of materials, charcoal. One of these was accepted for a woman’s art exhibition in the Philadelphia Civic Center. Then a John Pierron, executive director of the center, stepped in and vetoed it. This flagrant piece of middle-American aggressiveness has resulted in Marcia Tucker, one of the show’s jurors, withdrawing her support of the exhibition, the circulation of a predictably

  • “Line As Language: Six Artists Draw”

    Robert Morris exhibited a piece in “Line as Language: Six Artists Draw,” at Princeton, which seems directed toward a further elaboration of his concern with the metonymic reflexiveness of space and time, and of institutional impersonality and autobiography. Light-Codex Artifacts 1 (Aquarius) (1974) is a wall-sized drawing made in a way analogous to the method employed in the new drawings he’s currently exhibiting at the Castelli and Sonnabend Galleries, that have to do with temporal measurement. Imposed on the surface—in the form of an arrangement of pushpins—is a map of the Aquarius constellation,

  • Carl Andre

    Carl Andre’s new work, as one might expect, illustrates the problem contained in the repetition of an idea. Andre’s prominence has come from his identification of sculpture with the ground plane, which—as he made sculpture become an interaction between a specific materiality and an undifferentiated, though not unconsidered real space—has put him in a position possibly analogous to Barnett Newman’s some time ago. Andre is now, perhaps, confronted with the problem of maintaining a position based on an ultimate reduction. One problem with his new sculpture is that what Andre’s work proposes as a

  • Brice Marden

    While, of course, the cultural vernacular is such that the capacity to engage in a kind of illusionism that counters its own materiality is understood to come as it were naturally to paint, in particular, to paint on a flat vertical surface. The question for painting, for quite some time and in terms dictated chiefly by the work of Brice Marden and Robert Mangold, has been how to bring that innate capacity for illusionist or “optical” signification to bear on real space.

    In an article on his work that was published last year in Arts Magazine (May–June, 1973) Roberta Smith noted Marden’s interest

  • John Torreano, Elizabeth Murray; Marilyn Lenkowsky, David Reed, Herbert Schiffrin

    It’s taken me a while to get to a point where I can begin to appreciate John Torreano’s paintings. Torreano makes paintings out of oil paint and plastic diamonds, and I must say it’s very nice to see the medium revered by every painterly pedant around subjected to this kind of interpenetration by dreck. Unfortunately, conventional spirituality’s rape by banality is only engaging when the context thereby ceases to be banal, as is not always the case with Torreano’s work.

    With the paintings that are rounded off at either end, however, it is. In these Torreano seems to have found a format which is

  • Alan Finkel

    Alan Finkel makes sculpture influenced by Andre—in its use of modular, readymade components—and LeWitt, whose development of a nonrepetitive, systematic proliferation based on a grid seems basic to this work. At this time Finkel’s seems to be an art of small adjustments to the idiomatic usages identified with these two, slightly older artists. At the moment, too, he seems to have difficulty with the introduction of intuitive decision-making into a structure that’s systematic in derivation. But it’s interesting that that’s what he’s trying to do. I think of Finkel as a sculptor who, like John

  • Bernd And Hilla Becher

    Bernd and Hilla Becher continue to make photographs. And these photographs continue to be of similar types of industrial structures like water towers, or like the ends of houses in Typology of Framework Houses (1959–74). I can think of no reason why I should like the Bechers’ art—which I do—save that it appeals to the religious side of my Marxism, an art of total self-abnegation dedicated to the tabulation of the everyday through its more apparently peripheral features. Certainly this is an art that’s historically conscious, not to say devoted or devotional. Even as I say this, though, I realize

  • Robert Whitman

    Robert Whitman has been around for a long time and used to be connected with Happenings, at the time when Happenings happened. His recent show consisted of four—or maybe three—pieces of work. A set of two-sided pastel drawings, hung from the ceiling, and in which recto and verso are made to correspond. An example of this is a picture of a traffic light, with, on the other side of the paper, a red dot at the same place as the traffic light’s red. A pile of old furniture piled into a corner of the gallery, while a ridge of clothes that might have been rented from the Goodwill people stands free

  • Roberta Allen and Roman Opalka

    Roberta Allen showed work of two sorts. Strips of canvas arranged on rollers, in groups, partially rolled and partially unrolled and labeled according to the length exposed. And groups of vertical lines on gridded paper—one line to a square—labeled as arrows without heads denoted as pointing up in some pictures and down in others. The theme of partial concealment also enters into some of these drawings. Allen is impressive because of the variety she gets out of this simple idea, and this variety—the large number of different kinds of work she’s able to make with it—indicates the depth of its