Joan Casademont

  • Eleanor Antin

    One initially couldn’t be sure of just how seriously ELEANOR ANTIN’s Eleanora Antinova wanted us to take her. Inviting a small group of people to a typically modern gallery space to sip sherry among the potted plants and to listen to this alleged “once celebrated black ballerina of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes” share her recollections at first seemed the height of artistic contrivance. But Antin, in a discreet short black dress and pumps, didn’t perform in the predictably self-conscious manner. When the ballerina’s funny but sad monologue finished, it was, as it is with any good actress, hard to

  • John Baldessari

    It was even more difficult to know how seriously JOHN BALDESSARI wished us to take his “Fugitive Essays”; perhaps because the confusion, even in the end, was not so bittersweet. The subject of the humor appeared to be characteristic Baldessari—banal or conventional ways of ordering information. But Baldessari’s elaborate alternative did not point us in the direction of another: the methodology misfired.

    On the gallery walls, at three different heights, were photographs of three different “types” of information, in three different types of corresponding frames. One didn’t have to decipher

  • Ed Ruscha

    Among all of the mannered but “impersonal” imagery with a capital “I” prevalent in contemporary painting, ED RUSCHA’s “Grand Horizontals” elicit more than detached amusement. He has taken his culturally locked signs and phrases to a larger format (some of the canvases are 13 feet wide). They still hover, isolated and ironic, but they become surprisingly personal, even intrusive, once past the humor. In the paintings without the “familiar” phrases, there are allusions to time or place, their wistfulness maximized by the emotive use he makes of the expansive canvas space. If his earlier isolated,

  • Judy Rifka

    Eclecticism—not to be confused with this year’s fashion—informs Judy Rifka’s painting from the series, “80 Views of West Broadway.” Rifka doesn’t rehash old points, though her approach shows a careful consideration of color and form. The catch is that the work appears very contemporary, since its “accessibility” carries a distinctly New Wave sensibility.

    These seven paintings are of a limited palette. On grey backgrounds, Rifka arranges, contrasts and composes silhouettes, shapes, and reverse silhouettes of other shades of flat acrylic grey, white, red, yellow, orange and black. The complex is

  • Les Levine

    Les Levine has long been one who disdains the hypocrisy of denying art’s inherent status as commodity; hence, his art has often taken the form of blatantly commercial products. His latest series of “ADS” are mock-ups for a low-art form, proposals labeled, “Media Project for a Large Outdoor Billboard.” The strange part is that his ads have nothing to do with advertising. He isn’t using “art” to question popular culture; he’s using popular culture to test the nature and impact of “art.”

    The subject matter is misleading, though; the imagery seems to implicate that same old demon, materialism. In

  • Robert Wilson

    Robert Wilson once told a well-known critic that he gave up painting for theater because the images in his head were so much richer than what he could get on canvas. What Wilson has created on stage since the late ’60s is so distinguished and rich in images and actualization that it is thought of in the tradition of Richard Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. In his catalogue essay, John Rockwell of the New York Times explains Wagner’s idea as being the result of believing that each of the arts “ . . . individually lacks self-sufficiency.” He uses the words “visionary,” “mystical” and finally “religious”

  • George Landow

    When George Landow says that he wants a film sequence to contain moments of “compressed energy,” I can’t help but think of a zealous chemist mixing highly explosive substances, thrilled by the danger of the risk and the uncertainty of the end: Landow revels in the potency of his subject matter and the ambiguity of his messages. The energy of his latest short film, The Marriage Broker as Cited by Sigmund Freud in Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, or Can the Avant-Garde Artist be Wholed? is as undisciplined as its title, and in the end, despite its outstanding moments, just as puzzling.

  • Margaret Harrison

    It is nearly impossible to discuss the art of Margaret Harrison without addressing her politics. Harrison is not so much an artist with a socio-political cause as she is a serious feminist activist who has chosen a traditional art medium with which to communicate. If this sounds like an introduction to the ineffectual but earnest outpourings of liberal pop rhetoric with high art trappings, it’s not all so easily categorized. When Harrison presents a large amount of highly technical material, both textual and visual, documenting the historical conditions of modern Western women in the work force,

  • Judy Tomkins

    One of the first black-and-white photographs one encounters in the show of Judy Tomkins’ "Hells Kitchen portraits is of a white man sitting on a stoop with a little girl (possibly his daughter) standing next to him. The man’s style is tough and protectively masculine, but his eyes are soft and his expression effuses pathos as he gazes steadily into the camera. The little girl twists away from him to focus on a distant spot down the street, her face cross and hostile at the sight of what we can only imagine. Though bordering on the staged (the girl’s head is cropped off at the top of the photograph,

  • Sarah Charlesworth

    When Andy Warhol in the ’60s used newspaper images, documentations of destruction and disaster, one was wholly conscious of their media origins; often they were either pictures of familiar historic moments, or they appeared along with that bold-faced, instantaneous alarm-signal, the newspaper headline. Warhol may have made the peculiar genre of newspaper disaster reporting “art,” but in his work its identity as media remained intact. “Media” remained the source of interest and material for contemplation as phenomena.

    When Sarah Charlesworth in her latest series, “Stills,” isolates disaster images

  • Laurie Anderson

    After Freud it may sometimes seem that a man dreams primarily so that his dreams may be interpreted; objects and events in dreams exist or happen only symbolically, to be decoded into needs and desires. Laurie Anderson’s “dreams” in the installation Dark Dogs, American Dreams subvert such a rudimentary appropriation of Freud, their context and “meaning” skewed, premised on an elaborate pun. If the “dark dogs” part of her piece offers tribute to Freud, then the “American Dreams” part also pays homage to Horatio Alger and media contributions to (or transformations of) that vision. Finally, however,

  • Kathy Acker

    Being a good storyteller in large part means having a good story to tell; Kathy Acker’s Great Expectations is a good story, an inventive series of burlesque vignettes, a venture through the seamy sides of the lives of a decadent cast of modern characters.

    Acker’s writing is rich in visual and visceral texture; as she reads from her elevated podium, she shifts theatrical personae to take us from France to the bowels of Egypt to 73rd Street in New York where a husband and a wife have a quarrel that ends with the shooting of an unidentified four-year-old girl in a blue bonnet. The characters are a

  • David Shapiro And Stephen Paul Miller

    When performance art or just plain theatre carelessly takes on social and political burdens, the results are often pretentiously disjointed, humorless, tediously self-conscious and grave—sincere but deadly—and often leave one cynical, gasping for a taste of the irreverent. This is, of course, a reaction of the earnest viewer, the one who believes that art can be a vehicle for ideas that address serious questions of world-view. But one can only defend what an artist tries to do for just so long. Naive, simple-minded sincerity is not enough, in any arena or from either side.

    A particularly modern

  • Lucas Samaras, Barbara Schwartz, Alain Kirili

    Much is said about LUCAS SAMARAS’ “Reconstructions” as being a prophetic challenge to the ideologies of modernist painting in the ’70s. Thread and fabric do brazenly take the place of brush and paint on the canvas, but when viewing Samaras’ latest slew of materials and patterns, I question his allegedly ripping “attack” on modernist painting. Carter Ratcliff calls these conglomerations “violent” indictments of modern painting. Kim Levin writes in the catalogue for the show that they are glaring “reconstructions of modern art objects precisely at the moment that modernism has become untenable.”