Kenneth Baker

  • Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Morris

    Castelli’s first use of its downtown space for screening works on film by Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Morris was poorly handled. A total of 16 films were shown, and all were screened on one long wall. Sometimes there were as many as four films going at once, making it impossible to concentrate on a single one for its duration, and occasionally causing a clash of sound tracks, though most of the films were silent.

    Surprisingly, not much came out of this show except Richard Serra’s films which have been for the most part reviewed previously in these columns. The two newest

  • Keith Sonnier at the Modern

    ONE WAY OF REGARDING modernist painting and sculpture finds in them the effort to specify certain ways in which meaning can be made, and made to persist as meaning.1 That is, the most successful modernist works not only achieve meaning, but in doing so they urge a certain concept of, or at least a precise feeling for, what sort of thing ought to count as meaning in a work of art, and therefore a certain notion of what ought to count as a work of art. What has since proven to be the most difficult and interesting tendency is that the art opposing itself to modernist aims began by viewing the

  • Carl Andre, George Segal, Larry Bell, and John Chamberlain

    I find the experience of CARL ANDRE’s sculpture difficult to describe but hardly empty. It is not just the spareness of the work that accounts for this I think, but a combination of things; the way the formal rationale of the work seems to be leading down a path toward something like pointing rather than speaking, the way the impersonality of the sculpture seems to be transferred to oneself. And when one tries to work out a way of placing Andre’s work so that it does assume the significance, “art,” one feels that the work is closely tied to the power of speech. In the best experience of the

  • Jules Olitski

    Jules Olitski’s new paintings at Rubin, like most of his earlier spray paintings, seem to deal with the nature of the presence of color. The sense arising from these paintings has been that color does not attain to its authentic presence outside painting because there is no other context in which its abstractness, which has an element of ideality about it, can be secured and used. It is probably the history of painting itself which has taught us to see the colors of things as either contained by them or as adherent to them; if so, then the claim of painting to the raw presence of color makes

  • Ralph Humphreys

    Karlynne Ejercito

    For all their straightforward beauty, Olitski’s paintings look tough and remote next to the ones Ralph Humphrey showed at Emmerich. After seeing the auroral drift of light through Olitski’s paintings, Humphrey’s day-glo wavelets are hard to take seriously. After a series of paintings which were quite spare and tense in their evocation of light, Humphrey has in the past year or so returned to using larger undulating strips of color and to shaping his canvases into tondos, kidneys and such. In the Emmerich show, a number of the canvases have also been sprayed lightly at the edges giving the sense

  • Richard Diebenkorn

    At Poindexter Richard Diebenkorn showed a series of drawings in gouache, charcoal, and ink which consolidated a whole range of esthetic cues to be found in work such as Franz Kline’s and Eva Hesse’s. The drawings are clearly related to the “Ocean Park” series of paintings, some of which comprised Diebenkorn’s last show here, and two of which were on hand with the drawings. The interest of the “Ocean Park” series seemed to be in drawing within painting, that is, with identifying the possibility of figuration with a certain technique, and then asserting the sensuous priority of paint and the

  • Films, etc.

    The Finch College Museum presented a grab-bag of ideas, images, and documented works in the form of slides, films and video tapes. The most interesting part of the show was comprised by the films, which included Smithson’s Spiral Jetty movie, the recording of Dennis Oppenheim’s Stock Exchange event, and Oldenburg’s Sort of a Commercial for an Icebag, the film made by Gemini explaining the ancestry of the giant icebag multiple. The slides were of artists, most of them still living, and their work; 75 really not very instructive in any way, they are sort of the art world equivalent of baseball

  • Bruce Nauman

    None of the art that I’ve seen that purports to deal with “information” has really seemed to answer the question as to the meaning of this term in reference to experience. Yet this would seem to be an important question because “information” already appears to be wavering between being a concept and being something vaguely experienced; and the reification of information which contemporary technology is bringing about clothes the notion with certain assumptions about the nature of the perceiving subject, most dangerously, perhaps, that the perceiver’s own nature is not or should not be an issue

  • Robert Ryman

    Robert Ryman’s white paintings at Fischbach have no space in them, but the exhibition that they comprise has a marvelous feeling of depth to it owing to the fact that it changes as one spends time with it. On entering one sees an array of paintings, all of them in white on gessoed canvas, one wall being unlighted, and they all look alike except for their sizes. But before long they begin to sort themselves out until each canvas appears as a distinct deviation from their original appearance of consistent whiteness. Pure white then comes to seem like an abstraction, something approachable only as

  • Jack Tworkov

    At French and Co. and at the Whitney Museum, Jack Tworkov showed a series of paintings done during the past three years or so which resist a systematic reading. At French there were three paintings hung on one wall that seemed to form a beautiful progression: the first had a drawn grid of squares and parallelograms emerging from a field of spiky green strokes on a red ground. The second brought the grid up so close to the surface that only one complete figure, a parallelogram leaning right, remained while the strokes became dense and showed just a few traces of a light green ground. In the third

  • Jack Youngerman

    Jack Youngerman’s recent work at Pace shows him retracing steps and stumbling a bit into virgin territory. Apparently while continuing his experiments at designing figures to be subtracted from grounds, Youngerman began thinking about how the edges of his canvases might be used to clinch the ambiguity of figure and ground and of figuration and abstraction. His latest solution is the shaped canvas; in addition to rectangles, he is now making circular, elliptical, and mandorla-shaped paintings which tend to attenuate what formerly seemed to be the seriousness of his work.

    One of the circular

  • Richard Smith

    Richard Smith is one of those artists on whom one stakes hopes; the artist who first made both the shaped surface and serial canvases work together must have other great things in mind. Unfortunately, such things aren’t manifested in his latest show at Feigen. What appears to be happening in these paintings is that the shaped surfaces are being made to carry into real space the gesture implied by painterly strokes on the surface. Thus in Rule of Thumb the arching suggested by a mass of dark strokes in a blue field is realized as the bottom edge of the canvas is brought up and forward, making

  • Joan Snyder, Michael Venezia, Howard Buchwald and Alan Sondheim

    In the Bykert group, Joan Snyder’s paintings are so sensuous and assertive that they simply seduce one away from the other paintings in the show. She seems to be getting at anti-formal uses of color and impasto without resorting to the momentum of strokes. Patches of pigment are simply placed on the surface where they soak in or drip until the whole canvas gets the look of having been rained on. One of the nice things about Snyder’s paintings is that one can’t tell how much control she is exercising over what happens in them. In the larger of the two, she has incorporated a drawn band of rectangles

  • Charles Ross

    Something was still missing from Charles Ross’ “Sunlight Dispersions” at Dwan that might have made them major art; still, they were the most purposeful and interesting of Ross’s works that I’ve seen. The formal interest of his prisms has always been slight, and the use of them to connect optical and sculptural space seemingly as a foil for Constructivism has always struck me as a one-shot idea. But the dispersion events finally began to put the prisms to work.

    Ross arranged a battery of horizontal prisms to fill the frame of a window in his studio and then filmed the spectra produced by incident

  • Ray Parker

    Common to the recent paintings Ray Parker showed at Fischbach was the fact that they all tended to read inward without being spatial. Consequently they seemed to represent various strategies for getting from the edge to the center of the canvas without breaking the surface. Yet they were not really centrally focused; their concern seemed to be for maintaining that interiority of the painting’s surface which would secure the integrity of the painting as an entity, but not as an object. This they did quite well but not in such ways that one felt much to be at stake. The cutout forms that Parker

  • Herbert Bayer

    Herbert Bayer once designed some emergency bank notes for the Thuringian government, probably the best-looking currency of modern times, which became worthless a few days after being issued, due to an inflationary devaluation. Well, inflation is upon us again, though hardly as drastic this time, and Bayer, with a truly distinguished reputation as a designer, has been at work on the more stable tender of paintings and other objects shown at Marlborough (where else?). It may be safe to say that one of the things distinguishing art from (mere) design is that works of art get made for a special

  • Otto Piene, Hans Haacke, Laura Grisi, Geny Dignac, Alan Sonfist, Newton Harrison, David Lowry Burgess and Robert Smithson

    Some 67 years ago Henry James visited Boston after a long absence from the United States and, viewing the incipient effects of what we have since learned to call “urban renewal,” he remarked: “. . . if I had often seen how fast history could be made, I had doubtless never so felt that it could be unmade still faster.” Most people here have become so sanguine about the prospects for “renewal” that James’s remark would sound to them like the wisecrack of an ungrateful guest. But the process of unmaking that James saw has really come into its own in recent years, to the point where “progress” has

  • Larry Rivers

    Marlborough’s recent show made it appear that Larry Rivers has been progressively accommodating his art to the facile popular misreading of early ’60s Pop. Most of his new works are so hokey and meretricious as not even to be good clowning.

    Rivers’ best paintings of the 1950s succeeded in establishing painting as special access to corporeity. When they dealt with sex, senescence, and physical vulnerability, paintings like The Accident and The Pool always linked these subjects with the universal condition of visibility. The seemingly obsessive character of some of Rivers’ interests didn’t rankle

  • Dan Flavin

    Dan Flavin acknowledged the death of Barnett Newman with a modest show at Castelli in which one piece was specifically dedicated to the late master. There is something vaguely offensive about dedicating pieces of visual art to the deceased; it is perhaps like sending candy rather than flowers to a funeral. (And Flavin has just done it again in the Whitney Annual.) Anyway, one looks closely for formal justification for such a dedication. Flavin’s untitled piece was a frame arrangement from floor to ceiling with blue and red verticals facing into a corner and a pair of yellow horizontals facing

  • Larry Calcagno

    Royal Marks gave Larry Calcagno his first New York show in six years and even then not in response to any urgency in the work itself. Calcagno has lately been painting horizontal abstractions, sometimes consisting of several individually stretched sections. Much seems to be made of the fact that the horizontal bands of color that compose the paintings find their source in natural landscape elements. (They are most like some of the effects one sees on the horizon when flying.) But it is when the reference to landscape is most suppressed that the paintings begin to work as paintings, especially