Kenneth Baker

  • Lucas Samaras

    Some years ago I saw a book covered with pins that Lucas Samaras had done and I looked up some other things he had done and thought I saw an interesting theme in them. The pin-coated book seemed to be about denying vision as a means of grasping things. Each pin seemed to take a point on the book’s surface and extend it to invisibility; the contours of a book are ordinarily quite clear and graspable, but the contours of this book led one outward in every direction until they disappeared in a shower of pinpoints. The book had been dematerialized in some sense and yet it had a tactile aggressiveness

  • Ronald Bladen

    RON BLADEN’S WORK IS SURPRISINGLY difficult to talk about. Most commentary on it has been terribly bland, stopping usually at description. This apparent foiling of criticism can’t be a function of the Minimal character of the work because people seem to find it easy enough to discuss Robert Morris’ work or Tony Smith’s. At the same time my feeling is that Bladen’s best pieces are the ones that are hardest to talk about. Writing about the difficulty of writing is a ruse I resent when other people do it, but I think that the way Bladen’s art poses this difficulty really has a lot to do with how

  • Cy Twombly

    The current wave of New Realist painting makes me appreciate Cy Twombly’s “blackboard” pictures more and more, especially the most abstract ones. Who since Jasper Johns has made such a resourceful choice of an image, except perhaps Ron Davis?

    The illusionism in the blackboards is, so to speak, literal rather than pictorial; it is applied to the presentation the painting makes of itself, not just to something the painting can be seen to contain. In these pictures illusionism envelops the painting itself in almost a trompe l’oeil fashion with the result that the painting is set at a peculiar remove

  • Michael Steiner

    Two of the sculptures in Michael Steiner’s show at Marlborough are very powerful, Betonica and Fleabane Marsh. Betonica, in Cor-ten, is the piece that derives most clearly from Steiner’s earlier work, such as the pieces in his last Marlborough show. Those earlier pieces, though they sat on the floor, never quite rested there; despite their rough look and undisguised material, they didn’t seem to be on the floor because they were heavy. There’s no doubt about Betonica, it’s an extremely heavy object, and the angled planes that give it a slight lift from the floor read as pictorial elements rather

  • Kenneth Snelson

    I’ve never been very excited about Kenneth Snelson’s work, and I am not persuaded by his new work at Weber. The surprise of this show is that Snelson is now making objects out of nylon rope and aluminum or bamboo rods and that they hang on or lean against the wall instead of standing free in space. Again these structures are held together by the tension on the nylon cords threaded through. The basic structure is a square or rectangle and the variety among works is mostly in the way they are threaded. The one piece that really interested me is a large aluminum one in which the cord is threaded

  • Rafael Ferrer

    Rafael Ferrer’s installation at the Whitney did not strike me as very successful, though I must admit I’m not yet sure what a successful Ferrer would feel like. He was given the small gallery on the first floor of the museum and made use of the whole space for a single piece. To enter it, one had to crawl through a tiny opening which took the place of the gallery doorway. (This immediately called to mind Keith Sonnier’s piece at the Modern last spring which made use of a diminished doorway. Perhaps Ferrer saw that piece and was impressed by it because I hear that his recent show in Philadelphia

  • Paul Pechter

    Paul Pechter came up with the ideal show for the holiday season: you get part of it in the mail and then decide whether you want to see the rest at any one of five conveniently located galleries about the city. The announcement card contained the key motif in the show, a line drawn on the front from the top left corner to the center of the right side and continued on the back from the center of the left side to the bottom right corner. Depending upon which way you rotate the card, the line on the back appears either as a repetition of the one on, the front or as a continuation of it; in other

  • Ray Parker

    I saw some of Ray Parker’s early paintings for the first time in the show at the School of Visual Arts and they’re not what I would have expected. They reminded me most of Magritte’s pictures of floating rocks such as The Active Voice. Parker’s paintings have areas of paint somehow doing the same thing that Magritte’s rocks do.

    Parker’s canvases are rectangular, predominantly vertical, white fields with one, two, or three lozenge-shaped areas of fairly dark color placed close to their centers; done between 1960 and 1962 they appear to form a sort of series though no mention was made of this. In

  • Jim Huntington

    Jim Huntington may be veering into the territory of difficult sculpture, to judge by his show at Max Hutchinson. The problem with most of the pieces in this show is that they depend too much and too obviously on attachment to the wall and floor. These pieces involve rectangular sheets of colored masonite that are kept warped into arcs by having their edges abutted to pieces of lumber tacked to the wall and/or floor of the gallery. At least one of the wall/floor pieces also uses notched timbers to help keep the masonite bent, and that looks like a toughening element at first. But used in conjunction

  • Don Eddy

    There is one painting in Don Eddy’s show at French and Company that I think is first-rate. The fact that it is based on a photograph seems quite justified by the complexity of its illusionism. BMW Showroom II is a picture of two BMWs under some bays of fluorescent light behind a showroom window which reflects with great clarity cars parked and a furniture store over the viewer’s shoulder, as it were. The whole image is an acknowledgment of illusionism, because it is an image of a literal occurrence of illusionism. There is also acknowledgment of the painting’s surface carried by the showroom

  • Janet Fish

    I’m still wondering why the human figure doesn’t make more of an appearance in New Realist painting. Janet Fish, showing at Kornblee seems to be painting objects that are meant to stand in for the human figure—Windex bottles, olive oil bottles, gin bottles, and such—all standing in little groups usually with their labels averted. There is an essential atmosphere of ,intimacy about these paintings which in fact distinguishes them from what is gathered under the term New Realism. They are far more intimate than Chuck Close’s new portraits, say, from which human expressiveness is eliminated almost

  • Tony Smith

    Tony Smith has taken another step backward with his new piece 81 More at the Modern. This sculpture is somewhat similar to Robert Morris’ arrays of boxes of the mid-’60s, only Smith has made his array into a place, not just an ensemble. 81 More is an equilateral triangular platform made of 81 smaller similar triangles, 15 of which are the bases of triangular pyramids occurring regularly in the platform pattern. One immediate difference between Smith’s piece and, say, Morris’, is that Smith’s is decidedly abstract and one feels unmistakably that its geometricity is meant to guarantee its

  • Howard Buchwald

    Howard Buchwald’s paintings at French and Company are larger than the ones he showed last year at Bykert and the new works benefit from their size. Instead of a network of discrete threads of color such as comprised the earlier paintings, the new ones have fuzzier areas of color which approach the discreteness of threads only as a limit. The present paintings are filled with overlapping areas of pigment which look something like raveled soft yarn, only with a shiny finish. It is much clearer in these paintings that Buchwald is after some sort of all-over treatment of the canvas which will not

  • Robert Mangold

    I can’t think of when I’ve seen paintings look as undramatic as Robert Mangold’s do hanging in the Guggenheim Museum. The works in his concurrent show at Fischbach make it clear that his paintings need to be seen in a sort of intimate situation in order to state themselves properly. The sense of how they need to be seen fits with my feeling that his best works are those in which drawing is most clearly an issue. His curved shaped canvases are somehow undermined by their own smoothness. The ambiguities in them arising from the combination of painted lines and the open intersections of canvas

  • “Two Aspects of Illusion”

    Two Aspects of Illusion is a two-man show at Finch College of paintings by Michael Mazur and constructions related to paintings by Paul Gedeohn. The more interesting work is Gedeohn’s. He stretches clear plastic sheets over wooden canvas supports and paints spare geometric configurations on the plastic.This results in the painted lines appearing to bring the wooden stretcher forward so that the work as a whole seems to sit in an illusionistic space. The best are those painted in black with the lines running to the edge of the plastic surface. The kind of illusion generated by Gedeohn’s compositions

  • A Note on Dan Flavin

    IN 1954 JASPER JOHNS MADE his famous Flag, a painting whose surface is entirely taken up with a flat even image of the American flag. One of the things that painting demonstrates is that the subjects in figurative paintings have a very peculiar literal nature: they are visible absences. Johns made this apparent by using an image that would be as closely congruent as possible with the physical presence of his painting. One no longer feels in looking at Johns’ Flag that there is any fictive distance between oneself and the depicted object; pictorial space has been squeezed out altogether. It is

  • Chuck Ginnever

    CHUCK GINNEVER’S TWO PIECES shown at Paula Cooper are the most interesting new sculpture I’ve seen this year. They are modernist in character, but they do not seem to exploit a common sculptural vocabulary. Instead they appear to be trying to correct something; I think they may have been done in response to the kind of work Morris and Judd were doing in the mid-’60s.

    Morris saw that it was possible to regard the factual routine of a spectator’s encounter with art in a gallery as a sort of culturally programmed exercise in primitive phenomenology. What counts in looking at art is one’s consciousness

  • Gary Stephan

    Gary Stephan’s work at the Whitney is a reminder that it is currently easier to make art about painting than it is to make good paintings. Stephan’s work might be quite strong if it left us some doubt that it is not painting. What Stephan does is make irregular patterns of colored shapes in polyvinyl chloride. They hold together thanks to the cohesive nature of the material and hang unsupported from the wall. Apparently the last step in making these pieces is cutting holes in the various colored shapes, holes which often echo the shapes they penetrate and which allow the wall to show through in

  • Pier Paolo Calzolari

    Pier Paolo Calzolari does not speak English and I do not know Italian, so I was not able to ask him what he intends his work to be about. In his show at Sonnabend he uses a lot of neon and a lot of sound. I take it that he’s interested in different registers of information—visual, auditory, linguistic, tactile, and even perhaps olfactory in one piece involving tobacco leaves. The show contains such things as a row of mattresses on the floor, each of which supports a couple of words or phrases (in English) spelled out in neon, e.g., “My own hand—my free one.” Then there is a neon triangle traced

  • Thomas Bang

    A CERTAIN CONTINUITY BETWEEN SOME modernist and postmodernist art is hinted at when the term “pictorialism” is extended to sculpture. The sense in which this term seems properly to be able to link modernist painting with some recent three-dimensional art is examined with fine intelligence in the new work of Thomas Bang shown at O.K. Harris.

    “Pictorialism” implies something that sculptures do or may have in common with pictures. What I intend by the word is not a description of certain sculpture as linear, or organized in a single plane, or atmospheric (as, say, Eva Hesse’s work is often called),