Justin Spring

  • passages February 12, 2019

    David Beitzel (1958–2019)

    I NEARLY ALWAYS SAW David Beitzel in a dark-blue suit and tie, as if he came from the world of banking or investments. But David was no stuffed shirt. A painter turned art dealer, he had just set up his first gallery in a storefront on Greene Street when I first met him, around 1989. Only three years later he moved to the second floor of 102 Prince Street and was showing a full roster of promising and established artists. His vision for the gallery clearly developed out of his early experiences as a painter at Bennington College, where he had lived and worked largely in solitude during his MFA

  • Ismail Merchant

    FEW OF THE TRIBUTES written about Ismail Merchant—the producer half of the well-known Merchant-Ivory partnership, who died last year at age sixty-eight—have done more than celebrate his charismatic personality and his uncanny business acumen. While everyone is familiar with Merchant Ivory Productions’ meticulous adaptations of classic English and American novels, such as The Bostonians (1984), A Room With a View (1985), and The Remains of the Day (1993), and while early Merchant-Ivory films like Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and The Guru (1969) have rightly developed their own cult following, hardly

  • Wayne Thiebaud

    IN 1962, Wayne K. Thiebaud was forty-one. Recently divorced and remarried, he had just taken a job as assistant professor of art at the University of California's sleepy Davis campus. Over the years, he'd worked as a commercial illustrator, layout editor, and cartoonist, and for the last ten years as an art instructor at Sacramento Junior College. His first one-man show outside Sacramento, held the previous November at Art Unlimited in San Francisco, had produced no sales and only one review, a dopey feature in the San Francisco Chronicle that called Thiebaud “the hungriest artist in California.”

  • Richard Misrach

    Since 1983, Richard Misrach’s ongoing photographic explorations of the American desert have been organized into bodies of work he calls cantos. Misrach feels that his images, like Ezra Pound’s poems, are “free-associative,” and that, like an anthology of poetry, his collected work adds up to a greater whole. The artist recently exhibited large-format color photographs selected from three new series: “Desert Canto XV: Skies,” 1992–; “Desert Canto XXI: Heavenly Bodies [sic],” 1995–; and “Desert Canto XXII: Night Clouds,” 1994–. These radiant and technically accomplished images bridge the gap

  • Paul Cadmus

    MERCILESS CARICATURIST, gruesome fantasist, homoerotic moralist, and above all maker of wonderfully crafted drawings and paintings: Paul Cadmus worked in many modes throughout his life and created so many surprising and often disturbing varieties of art that even those most passionate about his work are seldom unequivocal in their assessments. About Cadmus him-self, however, all agree: This enormously talented artist was also the kindest, gentlest, most self-deprecating of men.

    A scholarship student at the National Academy of Design, Cadmus became a printmaker, following in the steps of the Ashcan

  • Maria Martinez-Cañas

    Maria Martinez-Cañas often derives the layered, complex imagery of her photographs from old maps, customs documents, and other items relating to her Cuban heritage. However, in “Traces of Nature,” her most recent show, the inspiration came not from her memories of Cuba but from her own backyard: On view were photograms—shadowlike images produced by placing objects between light-sensitive paper and a light source—made with plants, leaves, and other organic forms taken from the Miami-based artist’s garden. Used since World War II in the creation of maps, the photogram has also been a favorite mode

  • Adam Cvijanovic

    Adam Cvijanovic’s Monument Valley, 1999, is a full-gallery installation, a floor-to-ceiling, seventy-six-and-a-half-foot-long landscape painting spanning four walls, ostensibly portraying the desert terrain where Arizona meets Utah, a region familiar to anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood Western. This handpainted rendition of an exterior region meant to be experienced as interior art recalls the popular cycloramas of the nineteenth century, which afforded spectators three-hundred-and-sixty-degree painted vistas of a given landscape. But unlike a typical panorama, there is no seamless

  • Hiroshi Sugito

    The second New York show of twenty-nine-year-old Hiroshi Sugito featured paintings of extraordinary delicacy that came, playfully, in two sizes: tiny and enormous. While many of this young Japanese artist’s contemporaries have been enthralled with mass-media imagery in the form of Japanimation, video games, and advertising, Sugito clearly finds his inspiration elsewhere. Drawing on the fantasies of childhood, he fashions dainty renderings of imaginary animals, dreamlike stage sets, bizarre machinery, and gargantuan buildings. The artist approaches this strange and charming subject matter with

  • William Turnbull

    William Turnbull’s first New York exhibition in nine years, which included seventeen bronze sculptures dating from 1980 to 1997, proved this British sculptor to be a master of his form, with work remarkable for its cosmopolitan sensibility, open-ended simplicity, and elegant craftsmanship.

    The Scottish-born, seventy-six-year-old artist studied in Paris from 1948 to 1950, where he met and absorbed the ideas of Giacometti and Brancusi. Like these European modernist sculptors, he appropriates a formal simplicity from a range of early sculptural traditions. The works on view quote eclectically from

  • Richard Kalina

    It’s hard to get past pleasure with Richard Kalina’s latest exhibition, the fifty-two-year-old artist’s first in nearly three years. His most recent paintings, made up of layers of material, possess a vibrant and wacky kind of beauty, like Miró or Matisse by way of Jefferson Airplane. Starting with an unprimed linen base, Kalina uses black-and-white copies of the early nineteenth-century botanical prints of Pierre-Joseph Redouté as an underlayer for the paintings. But he also uses the Redouté prints in cutouts that float on top, of the painting, adding depth and symbolism. These cutouts are in

  • Philip Smith

    The eight works in Philip Smith's recent show featured a technique that has become his signature: the artist spreads a colored surface of oil and beeswax on an underlayer of the same media, then—working without preparatory sketches—scrapes through the top coat with a sharp instrument to reveal the contrasting color beneath. Smith has made paintings this way, sort of like a child's scratchboard drawing, for years; new in this group are the exclusively solid ground colors, which (unlike the grids, stripes, and polka-dot grounds of earlier efforts) bring simplicity and clarity to the densely packed

  • Peter Dreher

    Peter Dreher’s second solo show in New York featured three distinct bodies of work, each comprising paintings of a single subject. Twenty-one small images of a drinking glass belong to his series “Tag um Tag ist Guter Tag” (which roughly translates as “Every day is a good day”); seven large nudes came from a series called “The Naked Ones,” which Dreher began in 1990; and a group of medium—scale (each 17 1/2 by 23 inches) works entitled “The Large Poster in Watercolor” depicted rectangular sections of a single image, a bouquet of spotted pink azaleas bearing the slogan “Einfach so” (Simply

  • Tom Butter

    In his recent show, Tom Butter presented eight works described as kinetic sculptures. But their kinesis was amusingly elusive. Only one actually seemed to earn the name: Night Train (all works 1997), a large steel wheel suspended by a perpendicular column sheathed in fiberglass, revolved just perceptibly.

    A light touch, however, set the piece into smooth, sure rotation, and it turned out that all but two pieces, Two States and Dive, could be activated by a bit of manipulation (though some had such a limited range that they seemed barely to jiggle). Observatory, for instance, consists of a rounded,

  • Javier Marin

    Javier Marin, a thirty-five-year-old sculptor from Mexico City, made his New York gallery debut with a show of fourteen unglazed figurative works that showcase the artist’s taste for eclecticism, expressing a distinctive, playful vision that synthesizes disparate ideals of beauty from a number of cultures. The sculptures—nudes and portrait busts—feature an intriguing mix of characteristics: generally high cheekbones; slanted or almond-shaped eyes; the archaic smiles found on Greek or Egyptian statuary; rounded faces; voluptuous lips; and noses that are sometimes flat, with flared nostrils, and

  • “The Hansa Gallery Revisited”

    “The Hansa Gallery Revisited” celebrated a space founded in the early ’50s as a collaborative effort: a gallery that served not only as a launchpad for artistic talent, but also as a stage for encounters among artists, writers, and critics. The Hansa Gallery was a vital, continually evolving, and sometimes rather chaotic space that showed artists as diverse as George Segal, Jane Wilson, and Lucas Samaras. This tribute limited itself to five artists—three now deceased, two who consulted on the installation of the works.

    Jan Muller’s art grew out of German Expressionism; his love of bright, vivid

  • Stephen Barker

    The twenty-two untitled photographs in “Selections from Nightswimming, NYC, 1993–4,” the first solo exhibition of Stephen Barker’s work, depict men either having or looking for sex. These dark images—selenium-toned gelatin-silver prints—have a formal beauty that stems from their velvety blackness; this, and their regular spacing around the room, made the show resemble a repetitive installation of dark Minimalist canvases, severe and imposing. So uniformly dark are these pictures that only by lingering and squinting could one eventually begin to make out the human forms captured within them. The

  • “PaJaMa”

    This recent exhibition of the “PaJaMa Photographs,” a collaborative venture of the three painters Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret (née Hoenig) French, suggests that their painterly work drew upon a wealth of knowledge gathered with Margaret French’s Leica over the course of a decade. They also suggest that contemporary ideas about art have changed in the years since the pictures were taken: these intimate and informal works, with their slightly surreal compositions, their youthful, often nude subjects, and their recurringly narcissistic, homo-erotic themes, now seem precursors to the

  • Richard Stankiewicz

    “Richard Stankiewicz: The 1950s” was the sort of curated gallery exhibit one rarely finds these days: a well-chosen survey of a brief, crucial period in an artist’s career, selected and mounted so convincingly that it actually changed one’s sense of the work’s origins, intentions, and art-historical significance. Stankiewicz’s dealer from the early ’70s until the artist’s death in 1983 presented his sculptures in an atmosphere of subdued elegance that at first seemed at odds with the works, which are compact, slyly animated assemblages of rusty urban iron-and-steel junk. Amid these elegant

  • Manuel Neri

    With the large number of Neri’s works on prominent display at the Corcoran, and a hefty full-color catalogue, the recent “Manuel Neri: Early Work, 1953–1978,” shown together with an exhibition of five of his recent marble sculptures, could have been mistaken for a major retrospective. Neri’s early work is figurative, lifesize, usually constructed out of plaster, and augmented frequently with wire, wood, canvas, or other support materials. The sculptures, sometimes partly painted, are often lifelike enough to suggest a rough and perhaps damaged George Segal plaster cast, (e.g., Seated Female

  • Ursula von Rydingsvard

    The crumbly, blackened edges of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s often monumental cedar sculptures suggest they may be composed of half-burned logs, but in fact they are hacked and chiseled wood rubbed with graphite. It is the sculptor, not fire, that has effected the transformation. Von Rydingsvard’s relation to her materials is subtle and complex, as sustained examination of any of her pieces soon reveals. Most are abstract, and all rely on the curious sculptural technique of chiseling down and reconstructing the wood. Some of the pieces reveal a conceptual engagement: at least one of the works in