K. Marriott Jones

  • James Brown

    Reticent yet intensely seductive, the art of James Brown is poised between roughness and refinement, violence and grace. His recent works range from large, tonally subtle mixed-media pieces on stretched canvas, to pencil drawings on sheets of linen folded into rectangles, and brush-drawings on linen in luminous, transparent color. Their status as beautiful art objects is subverted by their formal modesty and their oblique invocation of ritual, which is reminiscent of the totemic motifs woven throughout his work of the ’80s.

    Brown’s occasional use of unstretched linen as a substitute for stretched

  • “Cartographies”

    The Museum of Modern Art’s 1994 exhibition “Latin American Artists of the 20th Century” divided a wide range of work according to country of origin, at the same time that it rendered much of it subservient to European and North American models. Ivo Mesquita’s recent “Cartographies,” a much smaller show, rejected the colonizing stance of its predecessor, choosing not to emphasize geopolitical divisions, but rather something more elusive: an exploration of “territories under the rule of desire, sensibility, and knowledge.” Mesquita’s curatorial scheme, in which cartography becomes a metaphor for

  • George Condo

    Running the gamut from flabby abstractions and hilariously gloomy vanitas to riffs on Picasso’s various periods, George Condo’s paintings bring an adolescent wit and bizarre morphology to appropriationist painting. His past work has at times been easy to write off as a glib attempt to give painting a quick fix—as an excuse to continue working inside what Condo has called “the living of the death of painting.” While still somewhat disingenuous, the new work adds a dose of authentic anxiety to its pastiche of Surrealist dream imagery. This time around Condo spills the fetid afterbirth of a severe

  • Dietrich Orth

    For Dietrich Orth, art yields redemption in its most minimal forms: personal satisfaction, dignity, and a generally positive mindset. His circumspect yet intensely evocative paintings—which often take the form of quasi-mystical diagrams—analyze the dangers and potential rewards, however large or small, of engaging the world’s chaos. The painstaking efforts they describe are ultimately synonymous with his process, one in which “any smaller or larger disturbances of the feeling of being undisturbed have to be corrected, sublimed, or rerouted.”

    With its queasy colors—pale pee-greens, dull browns,

  • Terry Winters

    Terry Winters has, thankfully, killed off those muddy-hued botanical and geometric forms—mute pods and polygons—one is accustomed to finding in his paintings. In much of his new work these shapes seem to have been garishly reincarnated in exploded form: what were rigid polygonal forms and impenetrable pods seem to have burst wide open, exposing the twisted membranes of strange interior landscapes.

    Whereas, for some, the earlier work was tiresomely solipsistic—driven by an obsession with the mysteries of dense paint and repetitive drawing—these new paintings, with their

  • Robert Smithson

    For Robert Smithson, photography was fraught with ontological complexity, “cameras,” he said, “possess the power to invent many worlds.” Though he made use of a range of photographic media, from serial photography to film, he was always sharply conscious of the danger of being limited by the representational qualities of a given method. He kept his use of photography as open-ended as possible, and while the act of recording a site remained integral to his projects—which were always fluid in conception and often ephemeral in form—in his careful hands it yielded infinitely more than a means of

  • Thomas Lanigan Schmidt

    Thomas Lanigan Schmidt has long made a practice of using degraded materials to invoke Catholic ritual, emphasizing its importance as a backdrop for personal experience. Much more than mere simulacra of opulent ritual objects, his installations have often evoked lived experience, reflecting, among other things, the tinselly beauty of urban life. His most recent works—the “Byzantine Neo-Platonic Rectangles,” 1986–93, which are largely abstract, though they often incorporate faux jewels in delightful arrangements made of plastic wrap wadded and “set” in foil—continue to conjure up the sensuousness

  • Rebecca Horn

    In conceiving the Inferno-Paradiso Switch, 1993, Rebecca Horn began with an erotically charged image: “two rival guns shoot each other with bullets that melt like a kiss of death.” This paranoid vision evolved into a milky drop of water falling from a great distance to form the delicate psychosexual center of her take on The Divine Comedy. This two-part installation at the Guggenheim’s uptown and downtown spaces spookily evoked the dazzling ether of Dante’s Paradiso and the “tear-soaked ground”—the rain, the mud, the depressive stink—of his Inferno. In the grimly claustrophobic downtown half,

  • Suzan Etkin

    Suzan Etkin’s work seems divided against itself: though her concerns merit a certain clarity, enigma is pursued with such anxiety that in the end it is somewhat starved of meaning. Etkin has said that she hopes to achieve “a continuing provocation, an ongoing question,” in her work, citing Marcel Duchamp as a fundamental influence.

    Of the five pieces in this show, the most compelling was Fourth Position (all works 1993), a steel spiral staircase that revolved smoothly backward to a dull hum, evoking the silent descent of an invisible nude. This ghostly presence was echoed by what seemed to be

  • Arturo Duclos

    Chilean artist Arturo Duclos makes elegantly rebuslike paintings filled with thorny contradictions. Though verging on the bloodless and diagrammatic, they are in fact resolutely sensual. Simultaneously terse and prolix, they are replete with provocative juxtapositions the ultimate significance of which eludes one’s grasp. At first glance, these paintings, which evoke hermetic allegories, seem to promise the kind of satisfaction one can find in deciphering elaborate puzzles. However, the more closely one studies their fantastic arrangements of conspicuously loaded images, symbols, and texts, the

  • Alice Aycock

    In this startlingly seductive show sculptures, drawings, and texts conspired to create an absurd parallel universe replete with desire and violence. Aycock’s work invoked a dizzying array of esoteric allusions, including references to the Hebrew Cabala and Max Planck’s theory of quantum physics. The three complex sculptures—two recent works and a “blade machine” from 1984—evoked amusement-park architecture, ancient astronomical devices, and alarmingly oversized pocket games and pinwheels. Together, all the pieces in the show meditated on our psychological investment in understanding the universe:

  • Stephen Ellis

    In his recent show, Stephen Ellis’ spare abstractions evoked various states of architectural and photographic decay, creating illogical spaces and surfaces that sometimes resembled images degraded into abstraction by excessive replication. Allying precision with imaginary structures the paintings were reminiscent of Piranesi’s severe and fantastic prison architecture, which Ellis admires. Like clear prose that astonishingly contains a complex story, his compositions revealed through loss, mirrorings, and duplication an underlying dissemblance.

    In all five paintings Ellis used a limited range of

  • Ava Gerber

    It seemed that every corner of the gallery was littered with detritus, in the form of nearly 30 filthy, scrappy assemblages. Using dirt, hair, mildewed clothing, and other repulsive materials, Ava Gerber created a stale, claustrophobic environment; the space, covered with trailing wire and strings, resembled a spider’s web.

    In several pieces dirt, the archenemy of housewives, became a metaphor for the female self, depicting the underside of femininity as hideously abject. In Head in the Clouds (all works 1992) a small “cloud” of pressed dirt hung near a larger version of the same quatrefoil cloud

  • Eva Hesse

    In a now-famous 1970 interview, her death imminent, Eva Hesse told Cindy Nemser, “In my inner soul, life and art are inseparable. . . . Absurdity is the key word. It has to do with contradictions and oppositions.” Her affinity for paradox is revealed in her art as an extraordinary synthesis of organic and geometric form, a synthesis tempered by a sharp analytic edge. Hesse’s work ended by subverting Minimalism’s extreme insularity, causing what Robert Pincus-Witten aptly called its “disintegration.”

    A recent retrospective at Yale brought together a substantial selection of works, providing a rare