John Howell

  • David Sandlin

    In David Sandlin’s faux fables, the Devil isn’t just riding shotgun on the Great American Joyride. He’s at the wheel, steering the dream machine through a nightmarish landscape teeming with neon-lit, canoonish tableaux illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins. But Sandlin’s sin-soaked world is a genial one. The painter moralizes like a painting prophet, but ever so good-naturedly. He may portray the Redeemer as “He-Jesus, Defender of the Faith,” but plays it for laughs; as a commentary on the debasement of faith, it’s a ridiculous truism. Overall, this exhibition of nine paintings had the chuckle-minded

  • “What It Is”

    This survey show organized by German critic and curator Wilfried Dickhoff, was one of those zeitgeist readings that often seem so significant when seen outside of New York or in Europe, but which tend to come off as willfully self-important in a New York gallery context. What would probably have registered at a distance as an idiosyncratic ideological sampling of trendsetting artworks looked, at first glance, more like a fast-food buffet of chic names when viewed up close in Soho. But if you looked beyond the “what’s hot” aspect of this eclectic assemblage, you could parse out a meaty question:

  • Norman Catherine

    From a comfortable vantage point, it’s almost too easy to say what the response—and the responsibility—of art created inside a brutal, unjust social system such as South Africa’s should be. Certainly we expect an intellectual stance against injustice and racism, and an emotional frisson of vicarious horror at an impending apocalypse. The mocking ghost of George Grosz seems to hover over such situations, and whether directly summoned or involuntarily invoked, the angry laughter of Ecce Homo haunts the graphics and mixed media works of South African artist Norman Catherine like a raucous poltergeist

  • Anne Turyn

    Like most structuralism-inspired artists, photographer Anne Turyn picks modest, basic literary genres on which to work out theoretical conundrums. The formats and subjects are usually clichés, and the more ordinary—even banal—they are, the better. The point is to show how information is structured by perception and social convention, and to let information (i.e., story, conversational tone, conclusions) seep out through the cracks between various linguistic codes. Beginning with her first “photo nova” Dear Diary, 1979, which consists of photographs of an open notebook with diaristic jottings,

  • Poppo and GoGo Boys, Requiem

    Butoh, the Japanese experimental dance genre, is tirelessly physical, full of exaggerated images, and uses unlikely juxtapositions of gesture and music for shock effects. It would seem to be entirely at home in the context of Lower East Side performance art. For the last seven years, Poppo Shiraishi has been refining a singularly East Village version of the style in various club performances, notably with a series of events at the 8BC cabaret. Requiem was something else again, a full-length Butoh work, a summa of Poppo’s Far East-East Village transactions so far.

    With its portentous title and

  • Ethyl Eichelberger

    “Drag act” doesn’t begin to describe the transformations that Ethyl Eichelberger performs on the nominal subjects of his solo shows: Elizabeth I, Carlotta of Mexico, Clytemnestra, Catherine the Great, Nefertiti, Jocasta. Along with some other notorious historical personages—Lucrezia Borgia, King Leer [sic], Rip Van Winkle—and one homemade character, Minnie the Maid, they comprise a performance portrait gallery of singular purpose: they are outrageous vehicles for outlandish satire. These grand dames are presented as demonic divas, as a multi-character collective unconscious of borderline

  • Guy Peellaert

    Life isn’t just lonely at the top in Guy Peellaert’s paintings of Las Vegas superstars—it’s the ultimate downer. In this series of 48 paintings by the Belgian artist, the comics, mobsters, sports stars, singers, politicians, and merely famous who play the “big rooms” of the Strip’s entertainment showplaces are all portrayed alone (even when in a crowd), their performers’ extrovertedness on hold, their energy low, their narcissistic gaze turned in on nothingness. Melancholy Monarch, 1984, the title of a portrait of Nat King Cole, could stand as a generic title for this one-note series of memento

  • David Byrne’s True Stories and Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency.

    David Byrne, True Stories (New York: Harmondsworth, England; Victoria, Australia; Markham, Canada; and Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin Books, 1986), 191 pages.

    Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (New York: Aperture distributed by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986), 144 pages.

    A FLAMBOYANT GESTURE OF ART that takes place in time—performance film, video—is its vanishing act, it disappearance once the show’s over. Such work can, of course, be documented, and countless books have postulated theory about it, described its practice, and worked textually and visually as collections of artifacts of

  • Matthew Maguire, The Memory Theatre of Giulio Camillo

    After two seasons as an ad hoc exhibition hall, the Anchorage’s neomedieval atmosphere, created by its 55-foot-high arched ceilings and dank air, was put to effective use by a site-specific performance, The Memory Theatre of Giulio Camillo, sponsored by Creative Time, Inc. This mixed-media theatrical collage, written and directed by Matthew Maguire, of the Creation Production Company, a collaborative performance group with a special interest in theater and architecture, had a past as checkered as the Anchorage’s (originally intended as a warehouse for gold, it was used to store tires for city

  • Martha Clarke, Vienna Lusthaus

    The Lusthaus was a “pleasure pavilion” in turn-of-the-century Vienna’s Prater Park, a libidinous DMZ where primal passions and Hapsburg manners swirled in a Victorian cultural waltz that we now recognize as a seminal source for our own age of discontent. Like the Museum of Modern Art’s “Vienna 1900” show, Martha Clarke and company’s performance was partly inspired by the “Vienna: Dream and Reality” exhibition put on in Vienna last winter. Clarke’s Vienna Lusthaus is a performance complement to the Modern’s scaled-down version of that larger exhibition. Both Clarke and the museum have assembled

  • THE PACHINKO EXPERIENCE

    The cultural value and potential of Tokyo may be assessed more objectively, more accurately, by those who live outside Tokyo, outside Japan.
    —Yūichro Kōjiro

    I WAS THINKING ABOUT TOKYO in Minneapolis, Minnesota, because that’s where I found it, at the Walker Art Center’s “Tokyo: Form and Spirit” exhibition (organized in association with the Japan House Gallery, New York). Like most Americans, I’ve never been to Tokyo, or even to Japan, but I’ve got a full-to-overflowing, thoroughly scrambled image bank of contradicting stereotypes, associations, and fantasies about the place. Minneapolis’

  • Al Taylor

    Wall works, constructions that stake out a deliberately ambiguous territory between painting and sculpture, seem to be a mostly mannered genre these days, perhaps because of a virulent cultural conservatism which is impatient with cross-genre problems, or because of a simple exhaustion of interest after the heady days of the ’60s and ’70s, when such objects presented so many new possibilities. But Al Taylor’s exhibition demonstrated just how much remains to be explored in this hybrid area. Far from realigning themselves with their respective genres or retreating from conceptual confusion into