John Miller


    ONE OF THE MORE IRONIC quirks of recent discourse on visual art is how seldom the word “beauty” crops up. A once seemingly natural thing has become cause for embarrassment, left to grudging asides and awkward hesitations. But of the many artists and critics who apparently spurn it, few would forfeit beauty’s enhancements in their own lovers, surroundings, or personal adornments without feeling a deep pang of regret. This attachment registers the nice disparity between the spontaneous generation of values and the sometimes duplicitous way in which these values are represented and perpetuated;

  • Allen Ruppersberg

    In keeping with the premises of Conceptual art, Allen Ruppersberg generates new work by deftly manipulating format and creating distinct juxtapositions within his existing oeuvre. In his recent show, this method yielded three different projects: You and Me, The Gift and the Inheritance and See For Yourself (all works 1989).

    In You and Me, a checkerboard of black and white floor tiles inlayed with a contrasting italic “poem” that combines the pronouns “you” and “me” variously (“me + you and you + me,” “me + you and you – me,” etc.), became a kind of recombinant dialogue between self and other.

  • Ford Crull

    Ford Crull’s paintings suggest figures, but leave it at that. They invite the viewer not so much to ascribe one particular form to a given instance of shape and color as they do to acknowledge the possibility of figuration latent in a range of incidents across the pictorial field. Sketchy black cartoon lines frequently outline Crull’s shapes and although his gestural technique is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s neoprimitivism, where Crull’s approach differs—and this difference is telling—is in its ongoing deferment of words and explicit iconography. A palette predominantly of pastels and

  • Lewis Stein

    Lewis Stein’s new photographic works operate somewhere between the imagistic cancellation of Roy Lichtenstein’s mirror paintings and the horror vacuii of Allan McCollum’s surrogates. The specificity of influence would completely bog down a less focused esthetic proposition, but here, where the work intimates its own disappearance, specificity becomes a distinct advantage. Stein’s method is simple. He first selects reproductions of mirrors from mail-order catalogues. He then photographs them and blows them up to life-size, laminating each print to a thin board which has been cut to match the

  • Max Frazee

    Part of the calculated dementedness of the antisitcom Married with Children is the star family’s surname, the same as that of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. What its black humor insinuates is that if psychotic derangement might leave a long and bloody trail of carnage, worse horrors fester within the cocoon of familial normalcy. In stark contrast, Maxx Frazee’s installation, called “Epitaph for Ted,” bluntly exploits Bundy as a reified cult object but offers no such insights.

    The mainstay of the exhibit is a series of pastels on Epsom board. These share a common design motif which has no

  • Antoni Tàpies

    This focused and cogent selection of Antoni Tàpies’ small sculptures from 1969 to 1973 obviates the artist’s idealizing tendencies, notably the alchemical conceits which plague much arte povera. Fashioned from cast-off scraps such as wood, cloth, and paper, these modest works confront the viewer with an unblinking materiality which points up the artifice inherent in all artworks. In so doing, they are remarkably concise, yet eloquent. Each sculpture consists of a gesture so simple that, in most cases, its title alone can go a long way toward describing the piece itself. Cornet de Papier (Paper

  • Mary Lucier

    Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Mary Lucier’s three-channel video installation Wilderness, 1986, is that it implies beauty and cliché through the same set of images. Lucier demonstrates how the popular assumption that the two are intrinsically antithetical is not necessarily true. Wilderness consists of a row of seven monitors mounted variously on faux classical pedestals, tree trunks, and a fluted urn. Lucier has arranged these in descending order, from the highest on the ends to the lowest in the middle; she has also mounted all but the urn, the center element, on low risers as well.

  • Ronald Gault Jirado

    Toss a Burger King wrapper in front of an artwork and see how the work holds up. If it doesn’t lose its cool, it’s safe to say that it has something to do with life as it’s lived in this half of the 20th-century. If it suffers much in comparison, odds are that it’s quagmired in some retrograde idea of beauty. Ronald Gault Jirado’s installation—which offered, in the artist’s own words, "a reconstructing of Eastern/Western customs and ceremonies of philosophical and religious idealogies [sic]”—flunks the Burger King test. It looks alright at first, but it’s pretentious.

    Like so many other artists

  • Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz

    The Kienholzes’ open-ended, all-inclusive attitude toward assemblage conveys a number of unchic sentiments. Although the recent works are generally less severe than their predecessors, the existential angst of beatnik days lingers on. If the scale is occasionally heroic, the feeling is mawkish, that of mucking around with the cast-off odds and ends of a culture gone to seed. To let oneself be maudlin and still to give a damn demands a rare kind of courage. Compare the Kienholzes’ technique to what’s become the norm in sculpture: it’s impossible to imagine them searching out just the right element,

  • Syvia Kolbowski

    That writing necessarily distorts the memory of the event it chronicles may be the principal irony of Sylvia Kolbowski’s recent installation, entitled Review, 1989. This time the culprit takes center stage. Raised to the status of this year’s exhibit, the various letters, manuscripts, student papers, and published reviews about Kolbowski’s previous show, Enlarged from the Catalog: USA, 1988, create a hall of mirrors in which the image of the original exhibit becomes remote. This collection is likely to elicit additional commentary—which, in turn, might inspire more art.

    Taken together, the

  • Sue Williams

    Deals are made, hearts are broken, but Sue Williams will have none of that. The great appeal of her work lies in its utter refusal to perpetuate any sense of business as usual. This stance, arrived at through adamant hyperbole and acerbic humor, enables the artist to target certain patriarchal power relations in their most banal and perverse forms. Take Better Luck Next Time, 1989, a cluster of grisaille vignettes which snowballs into a seething fatalism. Smack dab in the middle of the picture stands a generic, suburban home with the words “BETTER LUCK NEXT” running up the sidewalk and the word

  • Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trülzsch

    In their latest show Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trülzsch confronted viewers with an installation of two dissimilar kinds of work—one that accordingly resists ready interpretation. There were the photographs for which they are best known. In these, Trülzsch paints the otherwise naked Lehndorff so that, when photographed, her body disappears—here into an amorphous backdrop of rags and cloth cuttings. This device, though obvious, has proven to be consistently effective for the artists. Opposed to the photos were a series of comparatively hermetic sculptures: tall, narrow wooden boxes which contained

  • Meuser

    For his first solo exhibition in the United States, the Düsseldorf-based artist Meuser presented a number of found-object sculptures that bore a deceptive resemblance to more conservative welded-steel compositions. He also included preliminary sketches for three of these works. As a student of Joseph Beuys, Meuser clearly gets his sense of materials from his mentor, but rather than choosing to build a grandiose myth of the self, he pursues a steadfast anonymity. In this regard, Meuser’s work sometimes proves to be more palatable than that of the mentor himself.

    Most often Meuser works from steel

  • Perry Hoberman

    In his recent show of horizontal Plexiglas lightboxes, Perry Hoberman used state-of-the-art computer technology to create an effect that, ironically, is closely associated with the 1950s—namely, that of 3-D, stereoscopic imagery. Hoberman first takes pictures from advertising and film stills, then processes them with computer-graphics programs (some devised by the artist himself) and finally prints them onto transparencies with a color ink-jet plotter. These techniques enable him not only to make stereoscopic pictures, but to colorize, solarize, distort, and otherwise manipulate the image.

  • Seton Smith

    A preoccupation with architecture’s ideological underpinnings is widely recognized as one of the mainstays of post-Modernism. For artists, this focus often entails bringing certain philosophical and psychoanalytic propositions to bear on otherwise unreflected aspects of architecture’s social embeddedness. Seton Smith has clearly embraced this approach. Her sensitive photography, choice of elegant materials, and feeling for past epochs evoke a tranquil, romantic mood. Yet in their own quiet manner, her various tableaux question the signifying force of our built environment. Smith successfully

  • Gary Bachman

    In his recent installation Gary Bachman amassed a monumental array of 1,000 drawings, all culled from dictionary illustrations. He copied each illustration by hand, using ink on paper in an 8-by-10-inch format, then hung these “plates” on panels in groups of 25. The entire series is alphabetized from beginning to end by the name of the subject. Although the work of a single illustrator comprises its source material, Bachman’s project differs from other, more typical appropriation gestures in that the source itself is decidedly generic, with the question of authorship largely a matter of

  • Peter Nadin

    Over the last several years, Peter Nadin has gradually developed a large repertoire of diverse imagery and techniques. His new paintings pack all of it and then some into every canvas, including crude still-life drawings, simple houses, lollipop trees, a schematic self-portrait, a snapshot of a longtime friend, a drawing of a human skull, land- and skyscapes, hand-and footprints, and short poems. Loaded, chromatic brushstrokes and solid blocks of color punctuate this imagistic mélange. Each pictorial element stems from a specific technical procedure, first arrived at through trial and error.

  • Allan McCollum

    Individual Works, 1988, Allan McCollum’s recent installation of rhetorical objects at John Weber Gallery (running concurrently with the artist’s exhibition of other works at Annina Nosei Gallery and Julian Pretto Gallery), consisted of more than 10,000 plaster/Hydrocal castings displayed on a broad, velvet-lined pedestal, like a gigantic banquet table, that spanned the length of the gallery. This large structure aggressively theatricalized its surroundings as would a quintessentially Minimalist sculpture à la Michael Fried, but the real drama here lay in the suspect individuality of the castings

  • Ken Lum

    For at least the past six years Ken Lum has concerned himself with a meditation on closure. His installations have consistently featured arrangements of modular sofas that look for all the world like the work of a paranoid interior decorator who’s decided to “circle the wagons”—that is, the seating is arranged in a perfect square, permitting no point of access. More recently Lum has been making signs out of nonsense words (wordlike letter combinations that belong to no language). In these, the graphic stylization cries out for a response that the absent “text” frustrates.

    With its brusque collision

  • John Baldessari

    Over the last 15 years or so, John Baldessari’s contribution to the development of post-Modernism has become increasingly evident. That Baldessari considers his art making and his teaching to be a unified practice points up his modest pragmatism: art and ideas are to be used rather than fetishized. In a manner deceptively whimsical and open-ended, he has staked out the present modes of critical inquiry (photo deconstruction, investigation of mass media, appropriation, and allegory) with uncanny rigor.

    Out of an early affinity to John Cage’s esthetic, Baldessari works from direct, literal perceptions