Lane Relyea


    The f-word is getting tossed around again. “Formalism is back and better than ever,” gushed David Rimanelli in these pages a few months ago. The recent encore performance by the Bennington Bunch (Olitski, Noland, et al.) at Emmerich in New York, to which Rimanelli was responding, proved that, yes, Color Field painting can still thrill audiences young and old. But the phenomenon extends much further: galleries, particularly those in Los Angeles, have been mounting more than a few exhibitions by newcomers who also traffic in precisely defined shapes and high-keyed, immaculate colors. Numerous

  • Toba Khedoori

    It’s not often you run across an 11-by-25-foot painting that could be characterized as subtle, but that’s true of all five works in Toba Khedoori’s first solo museum show. Although Khedoori’s pieces are scaled to the wall, it’s hard to label her a muralist. Unlike the well-populated, briskly narrated wallscapes of, say, Nicole Eisenman and Lari Pittman, Khedoori’s paintings are devoid of human actors. In fact, the enormous fields she presents are mostly devoid of imagery.

    Not that they’re blank. Khedoori tears sheets of paper torn from a six-foot-wide roll and covers them with a thin layer of

  • Bedhead

    Strum by emotive strum, a kind of music is coming out of Portland as pungent and ethereal as steam from morning espresso, recalling the lachrymose folk confessionals of ’70s troubadours like Nick Drake or even Carole King. Weepycore would be forgettable enough if the cooing of northwesterners like the Spinanes and Elliot Smith didn’t represent some of the past year’s most indelible sounds. Their esthetic may be self-absorbed, but as much spleen as heart adorns their sleeves.

    BEDHEAD are not from Portland, but fans of weepycore will still find the band an exquisitely unhappy dream come true. Their

  • Lari Pittman

    Two themes dominated this mid-career survey of Lari Pittman’s painting: one was sexual politics, the other, more surprisingly, was Pittman’s Americanism. Opening shortly before the July 4 weekend, the show felt like a collision between a fireworks display and a gay-pride parade. Along with the ample breasts and parted butt cheeks, the gaping sphincters and vaginas, the little fleur-de-lis erections and the teardrops of cum scattered across this 13-years-worth of paintings, there also appeared picket fences, pilgrims in tall buckled hats, praying hands beside parted books, and quotes from the

  • John Baldessari

    The same guy who, as legend has it, dramatized his conversion to Conceptual art in the mid ’60s by setting fire to the traditional canvases that marked the beginning of his career has returned to painting. Perhaps, thirty years later, Baldessari is following the path taken by many famed senior artists: retiring from his post as guiding light to indulge, at last, in those quaint, modest pleasures prohibited by the constraints of leadership. Or maybe, as many of his fans are insisting, he’s just pulling another fast one, that is, these aren’t really paintings at all but, rather, a “deconstruction”

  • Lane Relyea


    The cocktail lounge that serves as a camp reliquary for bands like Stereolab, Love Jones, and Combustible Edison has been miraculously refurbished as a pure slice of smoke-filled, dimly lit heaven, thanks to Chicago’s THE SEA AND CAKE. Half of 1995’s best moments were spent there; the other half came from an open tomb deep in America’s mythic backwaters, where bands like Palace, Son Volt, and THE GERALDINE FIBBERS were giving voice to spirits that refuse to stay dead. “I run like blood through open doors,” sings the Fibbers’ Carla Bozulich, the desperation in her throat having aged

  • Cast Against Type

    THE FOLLOWING IS a public-service announcement: “The true artist,” reads a neon sign Bruce Nauman clicked on in 1967, “helps the world by revealing mystic truths.” Scripted in sky-blue lettering with a pink underline, the sign extends not horizontally from left to right, but in a spiral, hooking clockwise from inner to outer circle, as if it were unfurling like a maypole, spreading its apparent goodwill, its promise of enlightenment, in all directions. Wait, however, before you give Nauman a hug. Two years later, as a participant in a group exhibit at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art,



    Make It New
    Bruce Nauman retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Bad news from the studio, but real news nevertheless. Twenty-five years of pieces, each of which seems to have arisen out of a condition of sudden panic—out of the terror of not knowing, of having forgotten, willfully, day after day, what art is and what an artist might do—of having forgotten, even, what an artist is. A fountain? A source of mystic truths? A cruel instructor? A tortured clown? We get one brutal, last-ditch guess after another, and the whole practice of “artmaking” is reinvented, again


    SHAUN HAS ARRIVED FOR HIS CHECKUP. Looking perhaps ten years old, he poses in front of a seamless monotone backdrop dressed only in his Jockey briefs. His creamy, seraphic body, blushing with the first signs of maturity, has been taken hostage by a monstrous infection: marble-sized blisters trail down from the right corner of his mouth, cluster above his left knee, and overwhelm the left side of his stomach.

    But check this out—the peculiarly opulent backdrop is colored the same sea green as Shaun’s eyes. This amplifies the look of familiarity he trains on the viewer, but doesn’t grant us laymen

  • Lisa Yuskavage

    Not since the days of “bad painting” has someone tried as hard as Lisa Yuskavage does to make a travesty of the medium. In her saccharine portraits of prepubescent nymphets, girlish innocence and sexual awakening are given thoroughly ham-fisted treatment. Yuskavage mobilizes the entire cutie-pie repertoire—big eyes peering through thick bangs, plump cheeks, pouty lips, upturned noses—to doll-up a field of semiclad and naked bodies swollen as much by baby fat as sexual ripeness. The result is a litter of Hello Sex Kitties. Garish background color catapults each figure toward the viewer, and even

  • Jason Rhoades

    Not satisfied with the visionary and the genius, the ’70s art world began marketing a new line of action hero, a kind of AWOL. G.I. Joe who staged reckless experiments using improper materials (polyurethane, loaded guns, raw meat) and whose antics were greeted by much horror and excitement. Critics outfitted this basement scientist with a beret and some structuralist vocabulary and announced the discovery of the bricoleur. Today, with a bookish art scene eager to prove it’s still crazy after all these years (or perhaps imports from France have gone beyond theory to love of Jerry Lewis?), that


    KEITH MAYERSON GETS JERKED around. Out of school and on his own, he finds himself the butt of irreconcilable demands—to remain true to himself and yet to conform, to challenge society yet simultaneously to beg its approval. He is unsure whether to explore or deny his most intimate desires. Keith would like to straighten out his life, but it’s a struggle—particularly because he’s not straight.

    “Pinocchio the Big Fag” is Mayerson’s story, a suite of some 48 modestly scaled drawings and watercolors in which Mayerson restores to Walt Disney’s celluloid distillation of C. Collodi’s 19th-century