John Yau

  • Jake Berthot

    Jake Berthot began exhibiting in 1970, at a time when Minimalist abstraction claimed to have purged the murky metaphysics and personal signs associated with Abstract Expressionism. In place of Abstract Expressionism’s vulnerable heroism (or heroic vulnerability), Minimalism codified asceticism and self-abnegation. Although Berthot was an abstract painter, his relationship to Minimalism and its utopian isolationist stance was tenuous. While his work from the late ’60s—the notched paintings—used a framing device to empty space out, their surfaces and hints of light evoked action painting and the

  • David Humphrey

    One persistent reading of Surrealist painting divides the artists grouped under the heading of that movement into two groups: the pictorialists (principally, Giorgio de Chirico from 1910 to around 1922, René Magritte, and Yves Tanguy) and the automatists (André Masson, Joan Miró, after 1925, and Roberto Matta). The automatists are seen as precursors of the Abstract Expressionists, while the pictorialists failed to give birth to a movement or style in America. The agenda imbedded in this reading is the maintenance of that old sawhorse, abstraction versus figuration. Since Philip Guston challenged

  • Pedro Perez

    In 1966, when Pedro Perez was 15, he and his family moved from Cuba to Florida. Unlike many exiles and refugees, he chose not to assimilate, though not out of nostalgia for his past. He studied art in college and graduate school and pursued a career as an artist. Although his work has gone through several phases since he began exhibiting in New York in 1982, he has continued to make paintings and sculptures that are expressive investigations of being an exile from both Cuban and American culture.

    The five mixed-media sculptures shown here were made between 1985 and ’88. The most recent of these

  • Alison Wilding

    Judith Fetterley has argued that we learn “to read like men.” This tendency is challenged by Alison Wilding, an English sculptor, who is able to shift her morphological vocabulary from the realm of the male gaze to the feminine. Using a wide range of materials (steel, brass, copper, bronze, rubber, wood, and stone), as well as various techniques (cutting, casting, carving, and chiseling), she makes work that embodies a rich re-visioning of the sculptural presentation of women.

    Nature: Blue and Gold, 1984, subtly derails the viewer’s deeply implanted patterns of association. Through her combination

  • Jake Grossberg

    Jake Grossberg belongs to the generation of sculptors who began working in steel during the late ’50s. In contrast to his peers, however, he did not adhere to a strictly formalist esthetic. He avoided the Minimalists’ reductive response to David Smith’s late work and was less concerned with the idea of an individual work presenting discrete views than with the abstract representation of natural forms. This interest in pictorialism led Grossberg to deal with some of the same problems that Smith wrestled with in the ’40s. During the ’60s and ’70s, Grossberg welded steel plates and tubing together

  • William S. Burroughs

    Of all the American novels to be published since the end of World War II, William S. Burroughs has written some of the most powerful. His most famous are Junkie (1953) and Naked Lunch (1959), but since then he has written nearly a dozen more among his thirty-odd books, including the trilogy Cities of the Red Night (1981), The Place of Dead Roads (1984), and The Western Lands (1987). In The Western Lands, Burroughs offers a succinct summary of his provocative, searing vision: “The road to the Western Lands is by definition the most dangerous road in the world, for it is a journey beyond Death,

  • Jane Rosen

    The wall sculpture that Jane Rosen exhibited last year displayed a certain kinship with Gregory Amenoff’s paintings. Each of these artists used a vocabulary of biomorphic abstraction to evoke a self-reflexive vision of nature’s forces and processes. In Rosen’s case, the cocoonlike forms seemed to be intended as metaphorical surrogates of women’s collective body, which is linked with nature because both are sites of creation. In addition to the cocoonlike wall pieces, that exhibition also included three freestanding bird effigies.

    In her most recent work, shown here in an exhibition entitled “Oak

  • Gerome Kamrowski

    Gerome Kamrowski was born in Warren, Minnesota, in 1914. After studying art at the Art Students League in New York and the New Bauhaus in Chicago, he received a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1938 to study with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown. Shortly afterward, he became friends with William Baziotes and learned firsthand of Surrealist techniques, such as collage and frottage. Kamrowski lived in New York from 1938 until ’46, when he moved to Michigan to teach. In addition to Baziotes, his circle of friends in New York included Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Peter Busa, Jackson Pollock, and

  • Nixon In China

    When the title character of Nixon in China stepped out of the doorway of the mock Air Force One presidential jet and gave his familiar, trademark wave to the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House crowd, the opera’s conceit was overtly confirmed. The audience roared and applauded, completing the conceptual circuit between the public’s real-life love/hate relationship with the former president and its unabashed delight in seeing that connection portrayed in art. As an operatic idea, Nixon in China was one of those rare spectacles—a serious portrayal of a contemporary political subject and a

  • Luigi Ontani

    Luigi Ontani first gained attention in Italy in the ’70s for photographs of himself posed in period costumes. By using the camera to explore the themes of identity and fantasy, he transformed the photograph into a container of fiction. Ontani’s investigation of fantasy, roles, states of innocent desire, and the manifestations of the masculine/feminine identity can be seen as a decisive influence on Francesco Clemente’s development. Although less known in America than Clemente, Ontani’s conceptual work of the ’70s and his evocative, fantasy-charged paintings and watercolors of the ’80s suggest

  • Porfirio DiDonna

    Porfirio DiDonna died in 1986 at the age of 44. He began his career in the ’60s, when the major issues were the fabrication of a literal surface, the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, and conflicting notions regarding objecthood, iconicity, and spirituality, and proceeded to develop his approach to painting during the heyday of Minimalism and the reign of formalist dogma. The exhibition consisted of work from the first and last periods of his career: moderate-size oil paintings done in the mid ’60s, while he was a graduate student in fine arts at Pratt Institute, New York, and large-scale vertical

  • Philip Guston

    There are some who believe that society's acceptance of an artist's vision diminishes that vision. More often than not, society erodes the artist's independence by transforming artwork into a commodity, which ultimately entraps him or her in a symbiotic relationship. One approach to this dilemma is for the artist to exploit this relationship—a strategic maneuver of which Andy Warhol was a past master, using it to achieve a mass audience. Another approach, diametrically opposite to this one, is the one taken by Philip Guston, who, each time he gained approval, began to doubt himself to such an