Judith Russi Kirshner


    BREAKING DOWN GRAMMAR and disfiguring words, Kay Rosen aims to encode meaning, then engender reading. Her paintings of language create a fine tension, holding together visual and verbal, sense and nonsense, in an esthetic stranglehold. At the moment you understand the language, successfully linking syllables into functional words, Rosen disrupts language’s symbolic order. Meaning is consciously liberated, altered, and even exceeded. Metonymic shifts as easy and as fantastic as that of homophobia to homophonia seem logical in a corpus where grass skirts are associated with flesh cuts.



    TONY TASSET’S SCULPTURE REPEATEDLY materializes the differences between his own works and the historical models he has chosen for his inheritance. Hirsch Perlman’s photographs analyze the differences between the visual and the linguistic processes by which we come to understandModernist architecture, invoking “the possibility of an endless manipulation of the grammar and the syntax of architectural signs.”1 Both artists comment on the historical, cultural, and commercial institutions that contain their and their predecessors’ work. Tasset transforms these institutions into ideal containers;

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Among painters working today, Anselm Kiefer is one of the few who have been able to legitimize Modernist surface presence and spectacular effects that would be somewhat suspect in the hands of artists of lesser vision. With more than 70 pieces spanning his entire career, this comprehensive traveling exhibition celebrates an artist whose cultural politics emanate from straw-strewn landscapes, pictures of cavernous interiors, and massive gray combines blistered with lead like scar tissue bearing the legacy of the Third Reich. Today, such an attempt to represent transcendence or to transmute history


    I WANT TO POSITION the work of Gordon Matta-Clark at an intersection that brings together not only sculpture and architecture but also space, light, and politics. At this intersection cells of illogical, surreal space are juxtaposed with the conventional containment of the museum; intricate photomontage, the inverse of the slicing process, can reconstitute what has been dismantled; and “nonarchitecture” premised on a critique of performed action can become a blueprint for utopian renewal, reintegrating a vision of architecture on the ruins of disorientation.

    The double-titled Circus or The

  • Barry Flanagan

    Barry Flanagan’s sculptural variations on the theme of the hare are as fecund as the symbolic equivalents this animal has evoked in images and literature since the Middle Ages. Flanagan’s contributions to the artistic dossier on the trickster rabbit run the gamut here from the droopy but statuesque Large Boxing Hare on Anvil, 1984, to the highlight of the show, Baby Elephant, 1984, which combines the speediest hare in the West poised on the head of its polar opposite—the solid, balanced elephant. In medieval imagery, the rabbit is seen as the furry beast of Venus. The animal’s overtly sexual

  • Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon

    Tony Cragg and Richard Deacon are only one generation removed from Flanagan, but the differences between their approaches and his are striking. While Flanagan models clear distinctions in traditional materials with legible symbolism, Cragg and Deacon, members of a current export category of New British Sculpture, use heterogeneous materials to question assumptions of conventional sculpture and to demonstrate that materiality and legibility are at least questionable requirements. This carefully selected exhibition exposed the obvious differences between Cragg and Deacon, but it also allowed

  • Martin Puryear

    One of the contemporary sculptors included in the recent “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art” show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Martin Puryear is unique in his ability to transcend merely morphological primitivism and to achieve the power of those works that beckon to us from beyond the boundaries of Modernism and our ethnocentrism. For Puryear natural materials, natural forms, and abstraction still have meaning which he explores, invents, and endlessly embellishes. Without relying on anthropological appropriations, his objects, which connote ritual function but of course have none,


    INCREASINGLY CONSTRAINED BY BUREAUCRATIC structures, escalating operating costs, insufficient acquisition funds, and cautious curators, museums seeking contemporary works of art face stiff competition from private collectors who can move quickly to purchase at a moment’s notice. Although dealers usually save pictures for museums, several recent shows derived from private collections suggest an exhibition strategy based loosely on something like “if you can’t beat them, borrow from them.”

    A cluster of these doubleheaders took place during the past year. In Paris, for example, the de Menil collection

  • Nancy Spero

    Nancy Spero’s “black paintings” were made mostly between 1959 and 1964, when the artist, then in her 30s, was living in Paris with her husband, the painter Leon Golub, and their children. In that the paintings are expressionistic they seem anticipatory, heralding the stylistic concerns of today, and it is in fact only in the last few years that this work has found its audience. (A second show, this one with a catalogue, recently opening at Carnegie-Mellon, in Pittsburgh). But the fact that the 25 images of lovers and mothers exhibited here are prophetic does not entirely explain their haunting

  • Michiko Itatani

    In three enormous pentagonal diptychs, each about 10 by 13 feet, Michiko Itatani unveiled a drama staged in the shadow of apocalyptic threat, a drama exploding with emotional impact and contemporary painterly ambition. This synthesis of art-historical poses and expressionist technique is not the facile recipe now widely offered for consumption; rather, it is a strange, highly personal palimpsest overlaying Itatani’s figuration on her earlier painted installations, which explored minimal programs with muted palettes and obsessive grids. Like sheets of driving rain, the earlier work’s fragile

  • Brian Longe

    In general one resists the constraints of regionalism, but sometimes one has to admit the shared characteristics of artists from a particular geographical area. It comes as no surprise that the brilliantly colored landscapes of Brian Longe are made in California. Even Longe’s interest and involvement with Oriental mysticism can be linked to a West Coast sensibility. But his picturesque visions are not representations of the California coast, and although they generally include sky, a mountain range, and a pool, this is really to do with a correspondence between three elements. All the imagery

  • James Grigsby, Sharon Evans, Carmela Rago

    Wit was the instrument by which these three gifted performers, whose styles are very different, transformed subjective revelation into public presentation in this program of three disparate works. Sharon Evans’ character recitation seemed autobiographical, while Carmela Rago’s protagonist was invented but tied to the artist’s zany charm. Only James Grigsby was more distanced in.his impersonation of performers. If the revelation of emotion was the primary agenda, a delicate balance of narrative performance and acting provided the structural framework of the three works—Grigsby’s Mummenkleid,