Justin Spring

  • “On the Edge: Photographs from 100 years of Vogue

    Given Vogue’s sponsorship and publication of some of the greatest photography of the last century, it stands to reason that “On the Edge” would prompt a reassessment of the magazine as an ongoing curatorial project. Unfortunately, this exhibit fairly reeks of scent inserts and self-importance, though it gives occasion to reflect on the relation between fashion and the world of “high” culture.

    Surrealism, in its interface with commerce, its obsession with fantasy and dream, provided a venue for the interaction of “high” art, fashion, and photography. As fashion magazines gained momentum in the ’

  • Dale Chihuly

    Dale Chihuly, the preeminent practitioner of art glass in the United States, has reached the point in his career at which he hardly needs apologize for his work’s proximity to craft. His recent enormous, hand-blown glass balls, entitled “Niijima Floats,” are fragile, unwieldy, expensive, useless, and completely unsuited to home display. They are also visually fascinating, technically virtuosic, and daringly ugly, as only great art glass (think of Tiffany or Lalique) can be.

    Chihuly’s previous works, including the “Basket Set” series (inspired by Native American baskets of the Pacific Northwest),

  • Kevin Wixted

    Kevin Wixted’s paintings seem lost in time and space. Though they suggest the detritus of an old country house (he employs stenciling and patterning techniques more familiar to decorators than to action painters), they also feature elements that could only belong to our moment, such as Kenny Scharf–like planets replete with painterly “drips” and Surrealist forms. Similarly, while his palette favors colonial colors Wedgwood blue and periwinkle, as well as tones of earth and wood—at times he pushes their values and adds accents (persimmon, aubergine, puce) that suggest avant-garde decor.


  • Jane Dickson

    Jane Dickson’s strongly graphic figurative paintings bear witness to a distinctly urban visual anxiety. Ranging from images of street conflagrations viewed from above, featuring car headlights and policemen casting long shadows, to rough black and white portraits of street people, not to mention more finished compositions of figures isolated in windows, these scenes, even at their friendliest, put you on your guard and make your stomach clench.

    Like many artists working in what might broadly be called a social-realist mode, Dickson seems to celebrate her homespun technique. Her sketches of street

  • Robert Harms

    Robert Harms’ lyrical abstract paintings are almost embarassingly beautiful. His palette (cerulean, bright-white, orange-orange, ultraviolet, acid-yellow, primeval-green) suggests all the naive and concentrated joy of a child with a brand new watercolor set. Harms creates his abstractions from nature: the landscapes of the Hamptons have quite clearly inspired each vision. The titles (Under the Trees, 1991, A Pond in the Woods, 1990) straightforwardly attest to this. Judged on palette or inspiration, then, the work seems far from fashionable and unlikely to surprise. It would seem to lack the

  • George Rhoads

    One look at George Rhoads’ audio-kinetic sculptures and you know you’re in for the sort of treat a gallery visit rarely affords. These sculptures (some are powered by electricity) feature balls clattering down steel tracks through a series of chutes, loop-the-loops, basins, drums, gongs, and woks. In his first show in 13 years, Rhoads (who had a previous life as an abstract painter) approaches high culture via Hammacher Schlemmer and F. A. O. Schwarz.

    As with the most ingenious toys, these works demonstrate the ability of a closed system to operate both by chance and logic—the path of each ball

  • Adam Straus

    Adam Straus’ small paintings encased in sculpted lead frames are engagingly bright, colorful, and surprisingly lighthearted, despite his avowedly apocalyptic concerns. Lightness and lead: the growing toxicity of the environment, the endangerment of the world, our civilization’s impending loss of “nature” are all packaged here in this series of pretty paintings with names such as Fresh Air and Disintegrating Man, both 1991. But what these works are saying and the effect they have are not so easy to pin down.

    While elegiac landscapes juxtaposed with words recalling the destruction of the environment

  • the Law of Physiques

    BODYBUILDING HAS ALWAYS APPEALED to teens. At the back of any DC comic, just as the bright pulp daydream gives way, a slick gray photogravure has traditionally prolonged the fantasy for just an instant longer, as Superman appears in human form to sell a fitness regimen. The bodybuilder—a male fantasy of sexual potency and physical intimidation—seduces the alienated 98-pound teen.

    Is the boy’s response erotic? Heterosexual bodybuilders deny it with vehemence (they feel embarrassed and misunderstood); homosexuals think otherwise. But even a muscle-happy gay teen will sometimes describe physiques

  • Diane Arbus

    These 28 photographs taken by Diane Arbus shortly before her suicide in 1971 many of them unpublished and rarely seen together—reveal the strength and unity of her late work. They are photographs of the retarded; most of the subjects are women, some are dressed in Halloween costumes. If these images weren’t so ironically beautiful, they’d probably break your heart. Instead, you stand transfixed, wondering how the artist could bear to do the things she did—and do them so well.

    The venues here seem to vary, as does the quality of light and image: the pictures look to have been taken at three

  • Nick Waplington

    Nick Waplington’s vision has been likened to Breugel’s, and yet, while these photographs of two working-class families at home in their Nottingham council flats have the manic ebullience and macabre aimlessness of a Dutch peasant debauch, the people portrayed are quintessentially English, and the interiors bear all the grubby claustrophobic signs of bad British housekeeping. But Waplington isn’t appalled by the overflowing ashtrays, cheap furniture, kitsch-lined shelves, and low ceilings; indeed, it is his complete lack of irony or distance from the subjects that makes these pictures so incredibly

  • Petah Coyne

    Petah Coyne’s mysterious sculptural objects have an immediacy and presence that at first sight obliterates thought: there’s a monumentality to these objects, a monolithic presence. The large, velvety-black, spun-metal objects hang from the ceiling like insects unwittingly embalmed in spiderwebs. Yet they are not just imposing or frightening, they’re beautiful too—dreadfully handsome works of seemingly supernatural craft.

    Though constructed of industrial waste—shredded car metal—these works have an organic, animal presence. Indeed, their spun-sugar delicacy belies a frightening, ominous bulk;

  • Andrew Young

    Andrew Young’s paintings are full of fascinating surface and color. Decorative and ancient looking, gestural and still, glazed and eruptive, organic and chemical, they’re all about formal elegance and painterly poise. Indeed, both his handling and his palette (saffron, licorice, burnt orange, and cinnamon) are so sophisticated as to seem almost jaded.

    How odd, to encounter abstractions reminiscent of Robert Motherwell, preserved under layers of faux-quattrocento glaze. Odder still when one considers the way these paintings meld abstract imagery with representational elements reminiscent of