Joseph Masheck

  • “Masters of Early Constructivist Abstract Art”

    What Western painters did with the Constructivist esthetic can be seen in a show called Masters of Early Constructivist Abstract Art. Mondrian is the real center of gravity, but a variety of other approaches helps place him in the context of what was a vastly international and largely—considering its principles—surprisingly individualistic movement, revealed in the exhibition through canvases and reliefs by American (Diller), Belgian, Czech, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Swiss artists. Sometimes the style seems to pull thin as it stretches across the Continent,

  • Friedrich Vordemerge-Gildewart

    One of the Constructivists represented in the Denise René exhibition is shown at La Boetie—Friedrich Vordemerge-Gildewart (1899–1963). Vordemberge was a German Constructivist painter who started his career as a cabinetmaker, and it is no joke to say that his pictures are as firm and smooth as good woodwork. The circle and the square are favorite motifs of this artist, who joined the group called Cercle et Carré in 1930, although in the major painting here, Constructed Red (1924), they were essential elements six years before. In its actual “construction” this work is remarkably close to the

  • Tony Smith, Group Show at Paula Cooper Gallery, Sam Francis, and Larry Zox

    Having an exhibition at Knoedler’s seven years after your first one-man show must be like coming out leather-bound soon after becoming a paperback. This TONY SMITH has done, showing works from 1962 onwards—most of them centering on 1969. There seems to be an attempt to style him a genius along the lines of, say, David Smith, but much of Tony’s work—in fact the large body of it—simply doesn’t measure up to David’s. Some of these works are a hell of a lot bigger than David Smith’s, but that is actually part of the problem: Tony Smith is good at proportion but pretty shaky on scale. Basically, he

  • The Panama Canal and Some Other Works of Work

    IN APRIL OF 1882 Oscar Wilde visited Leadville, Colorado, then at the peak of its silver boom. He was taken down into the mine, opened a new lode—which the men named “The Oscar”—and presented with the silver drill he had used. The whole affair must have had a charming mutual irony for audience and V. I. P. alike. At the time the French were making a frantic but fruitless attempt to build a Panama Canal. The Transcontinental Railroad had been in operation for thirteen years: Wilde surely used it. Civil engineering in general was going strong, although it still had a walnut-panelled tweediness

  • Sorting out the Whitney Annual

    LIKE ANY PROPER SURVEY the Whitney Annual is intended to be inclusive, even at the expense of being conclusive: it shows us that in the present day there are any number of ways to make sculpture and it is up to us to decide which are most rewarding. Any advice it offers, it is the responsibility of the works of art to generate. It is a good show from the curatorial point of view; it is a bad show, from the artistic point of view, if we are looking for news. Are we?

    Three works in the Annual are not physically in the exhibition—Richard Serra’s To Encircle Base Plate, which can be found at Webster

  • Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries

    “Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries” rounds out the cycle of centennial exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum. Enough is already widely known about its general set-up, that it will be best here to steer clear of issues like the original (international) plans, means of selection, “experiments” (what can they prove?) in display, etc. For our purposes it is best to take it simply as it stands and decide, by being specific but without pretending to be exhaustive, how consistently and by what means the “masterpiece” standard is maintained.

    For whatever reason, almost all the works of art in the exhibition

  • Brice Marden

    Brice Marden is the guy who sat on Cézanne’s tombstone, as anyone who reads the ads in this magazine knows. When I first saw the photo I thought it would be much more interesting if nobody was sitting on the tombstone—that solid, crisp chunk of stone, the neat flagstones, the weathered tones of the dressed masonry behind. To have a bloke sitting there seemed to spoil the effect. Then again, was it merely flippant or insulting: is it nice to sit on somebody’s tomb, particularly (if you are an artist) that of a man who probably painted himself into heaven?

    Now that I have seen Marden’s new paintings

  • California Color

    Promising scholars and philosophers, the story goes, move to California and then just play tennis and swim for years. There is that whole shallow, indulgent, Republic-of-Trivia aspect to it which reminds us here in New York that not since the invention of bronze casting has anything of consequence happened in that kind of climate. Stories of easy love and the vision of Reagan combine to remind us that sexual freedom is often a substitute for political freedom. In short, the whole California Weltanschauung bristles us up and makes New Yorkers feel for a moment extraordinarily responsible and even

  • Robert Smithson

    Robert Smithson’s new film about the making of his Spiral Jetty, in the Great Salt Lake, informatively gives us a sense of what that magnificent sculpture, difficult of access, is like. But it is also, in itself, a beautiful thing. Smithson’s geopoetic commentary accompanies images of a road, dinosaur skeletons, maps of Atlantis, crusty landscapes, construction equipment, dump trucks dumping their loads, in such a natural rhythm that the sculpture seems to grow by some developmental necessity on the earth’s part.

    As a film the movie belongs to the ill-defined category of the “artistic” documentary,

  • James de France

    What James de France has on view are “canvases,” but not exactly paintings. They are, to be sure, made only of canvas on rectangular stretchers, and they are worked with nothing else than paint. But each work, hanging horizontally on the wall, is punctured by twenty-five (also horizontal) oblong slots through which we see the tinted light reflected off colors (painted on the back of the canvas) as it bounces off the white of the wall. We are thus made to marvel at the seeming immateriality of what we behold. The problem is in avoiding the suspicion of simple cleverness. De France seems almost

  • Albert Stadler

    Albert Stadler’s color paintings, all from this year, are sensitive, even moody. They take on the task of color—in fact, a multiplicity of color—while attempting to leave shape behind. In this way they are similar to De France’s attempt to manage hue apart from pigment, but here the optical-esthetic problem is kept under polite control, not only as far as the mechanics of the effect is concerned (the question of what new thing a piece of canvas can be made to do is impertinent here), but also in the way theory is kept in check by practice. Thus, the fact that we could even imagine Berkeley or

  • Mbari Mbayo

    Our initial interest in “Mbari Mbayo,” a show of contemporary Nigerian art, must be in it as a phenomenon. The works all come out of three art workshops held in Oshogobo, Nigeria, in 1962, ’63 and ’64, and we naturally wonder whether a likely Peace Corps ethno-sentimentality will emerge. The artists here mostly steer clear of that. Not that they push art in a new direction (art is tired of being pushed anyway): the point is that they show that an African art can be made in the present time without a lot of sweat about roles, identity, or overcompensatory nittigrittiness, and that our old hunch