Leo Rubinfien

  • David Hockney

    David Hockney’s “Paper Pools” continue a theme that has been at the center of his work for a long time—the swimming pool, or its rippling, glistening water. The pools convey the luxuriance, sensuality and mystery that Hockney’s work generally exudes, and they also stand metaphorically as a way in which people construct their own paradise. In Hockney’s pools, people float between something primal and something extremely civilized. Some say that his pools are explicit sexual symbols as well, but I am not sure what this means; it seems to me to trivialize the pools by defining them too closely.


  • NASA Photographs

    A gallery show of photographs made in space and on the moon will inevitably incite all the usual arguments about whether a work of art can be made by a non-artist or a machine. The slipperiest thing about reviewing NASA’s pictures, though, is not the fact that they were made for technical and documentary purposes, but that what they show is so exotic and extraordinary, and without a counterpart in most of the earth’s art. Gene Thornton has commented on these photographs disapprovingly, implying that there was something devious about them since, although they purported to be documentary, they

  • Robert Zakanitch

    Robert Zakanitch makes very enticing paintings of flower and plant patterns in pale colors. His designs, if not actually taken from old chintz or wallpaper patterns, look as though they might have been. Usually he makes triptychs, one pattern covering the two end panels, a different one in the middle, so that this central one is emphasized by framing. The central panels also tend to have bolder, bigger patterns, and contrastier and brighter colors. Why these central panels are being emphasized, though, is not explained by their patterns. More dramatic though they might be, they contain nothing

  • Matta

    Of all the major styles that appeared for the first time in the 20th century, the most enduring has been Surrealism. While early Cubism and Abstract Expressionism may claim the grandest modern gestures, more artists have made Surrealistic works more persistently, and in the widest range of media, for what is now more than fifty years. The fact that Surrealism stands at the intersection of so many of the preoccupations of modern life may have something to do with this. It is as disjunctive, it wrenches reality as powerfully, as any of the abstract modes, while remaining as scrupulous about the

  • Postcard-size Art

    “Postcard-Size Art,” which was organized by Gigi Franklin, is a well-traveled group show that is enormous in volume—it contains over 740 works, all of them minute. I recognized the names of fairly few artists, though there are occasional famous ones: Harry Callahan, who contributed the small 1947 portrait of his wife, Eleanor, that is on the cover of his Aperture collection, is probably the best known. Neither Sol LeWitt, Lucas Samaras nor Bill Zulpo-Dane submitted work, which is too bad, since these artists were among the first contemporary workers to produce a great deal of small-size imagery,

  • Richard Smith

    Almost from the beginning, Richard Smith’s paintings have been trying to get off the wall. In 1963 Smith was making pictures from which bright enormous boxes protruded or slithered out onto the floor, while in his subsequent, tamer works, a whole edge might peel gently away from a picture until it stood perpendicular to the wall, staring the viewer in the face. All these early Smith works seem to be straining for some kind of liberation from having to be pictures, as if being flat meant being a window (no matter how abstract the view was) and that being a window was servile and inhibiting. Smith

  • Lucio Pozzi

    An article on Lucio Pozzi by Tiffany Bell (Artforum, Dec. ’78) begins with a quotation from Hegel that has apparently been important to Pozzi. In it Hegel argues that art, as a profound and certain purveyor of truth, is dead, and that we will continue to be interested in art to the extent that we are pleased by discovering all its devices of illusion. Hegel calls for a “science of art,” by which he means a skepticism that will replace the awe cathedrals struck in medieval men. Pozzi, taking Hegel’s suggestion as an imperative, has thought of his own highly reduced art as just such a science,

  • Raymond Rogers, Steven Gilbert and Richards Ruben

    Raymond Rogers, Steven Gilbert and Richards Ruben are three painters whose pictures look quite different but are pervaded by a similar tone. The work of each is derived and synthesized from major abstract styles: Rogers has adopted the floating shapes of Hans Hofmann and the impoverished red suns of Adolph Gottlieb, Gilbert the broad blue and black bands of Franz Kline and the chaos of de Kooning. Ruben does less traceable work, but his narrow, brilliant stripes hark back to Barnett Newman. From the most sympathetic point of view these works seem to be homages to Abstract Expressionism, variations

  • Betty Parsons

    Betty Parsons made sculpture in Paris years before she opened her gallery. Today, it turns out, she is still putting sculptures together out of the flotsam that turns up on the beach outside her Long Island house. They are small, cockeyed, craftsy-looking pieces, painted chaotically. Part of their aim, I think, is to look amateurish, and most important, precedentless—to seem to stand outside the polemic-filled arena where so many professional artists feel obliged to work. They are nonetheless filled with vague references of all kinds, and also make one think of the work of certain younger

  • Ellen Levy and Susan Wilmarth

    Though Ellen Levy and Susan Wilmarth make very different looking pictures, each does a kind of abstraction that is contemporary and terribly academic. Levy’s pictures have long strips of wood (long, bare 1- or 2-by-4s) attached to them, usually along one side. Certain parts come very close to these wood strips in color, and there is usually a mild illusion that the painted parts are actually more wood, or that the wood has just been painted with trompe l’oeil precision. The remaining area is generally a field of dull beige, gray or yellow, painted brushily, or scraped so that a different colored

  • Abbie Zabar

    Abbie Zabar makes pictures that look like pale and precious watercolors out of bits of cut paper. They are all landscape, for the most part near freeways or quiet remote airports, but occasionally they include views of open, rolling countryside in England or France. As far as I know, Zabar has not exhibited often, and there is much about these pictures that is amateurish: their benign subject matter, perhaps primarily the association one can’t help making between them and the traditional genre landscapes of the amateur Sunday painter. Nonetheless, Zabar’s pictures are a good deal more intelligent

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Robert Rauschenberg’s six “Publicons”—“public icons”—are box-sculptures hung on the wall and meant to be manipulated, not just looked at. Each piece begins as an inscrutable, blank white cabinet which unfolds, usually in several directions and very colorfully. The inside of each, where most of the work is, is a collage of patterned fabrics and utilitarian objects typical of Rauschenberg. Also typically, these items—an oar, a bicycle wheel, makeup mirrors on extendable brackets—appear in odd contexts or unusual colors, and hence become objects of irony.

    The central device with which the “Publicons”

  • Hamish Fulton and Richard Long

    How the work of Hamish Fulton differs from that of his friend and occasional walking companion Richard Long is not as easy to say as it first seems. What one has in the gallery, of course, are different kinds of souvenirs from the cross-country hikes Fulton and Long make in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as in Australia, Iceland, Africa, Peru and the Himalayas. Having made a walk, each artist will provide a photograph of some aspect of the country he has traveled through, and will caption it with information about the route, length and duration of the trip. In addition, Long will sometimes

  • Richard Avedon

    Although I would like to, I cannot deny that Richard Avedon’s photographs are brilliant and often beautiful. Where I might disregard most fashion photography on the ground that it is shallow, and compensates for its general lack of mystery and insight with a theatricality that is silly at best and obscene at worst, Avedon is masterly at avoiding the pitfalls of this genre. At least this was so until the onset of the 1960s, when his work changed substantially. The pictures he made in cafes, parks, casinos, restaurants and limousines, before he retreated to the studio, are filled with a very

  • Paul Brach

    Of his newest paintings of horses running beneath mountains and mesas, Paul Brach wrote last summer, “During the 9 years I spent in California, my paintings evolved into abstract landscapes evoking the silent spaces of the Southwest. Upon my return to New York, the covert landscape became overt. These new paintings are about a dreamspace—mountains, mesas, grazing and running horses—an ideal place distanced by reveries and memories of boyhood summers on a ranch in Arizona.” We can infer a good deal about these pictures from the fact of Brach’s return to New York, which seems bound up with their

  • Simone Forti

    Simone Forti is a dancer and sometimes performance artist whose work has involved such movements as young children and animals make. I have not seen her perform, but by most accounts there is a good deal of the primitive in her dancing, as it employs and describes motions that are supposedly un- or precivilized, and in her talk as well, where she refers freely and eclectically to various mysticisms.

    Her recent show (produced with the technical help of Lloyd Cross) consisted of holographic images of her, lit by candles and mounted on the wall or, in the central and best piece, on an orange crate.

  • Mary Frank

    As companions to her decayed and fragmented clay sculptures, Mary Frank’s “Shadow Papers” are gentle, ethereal, extremely intimate works. A shadow paper looks at first like a drawing, but in fact is simply a sheet that has been slit several times with a knife, then hung against a light box. The image that results varies slightly but constantly as one looks at it, in turn becoming bright and dim, formal and casual, tangible and vaporous, according to the vicissitudes of the breeze. No line in these works is actually any broader than a razor blade, but any slit can gape wide open to create an

  • Joseph Cornell

    From the 1940s onward, Joseph Cornell’s collages look a good deal like his boxes. They are flat rather than three-dimensional, of course, but everything from the scale relationships inside them to the specific images they employ to the gentle melancholy of their surrealism is almost the same. The boxes are superior works for many reasons, and so what was most exciting about Cornell’s recent show were his collages from the 1930s, which until recently were entirely unknown.

    It seems likely that these diminutive works—none is larger than 6 by 9 inches, and most are half that size—were exercises for

  • Reeva Potoff

    Reeva Potoff’s Bristol Bluffs is an immense and intricate cardboard and paper cliff. It covers a whole large wall, extends four feet out onto the floor, and has ledges and crannies roomy enough to climb or sit on. A group of models and photographs were displayed along with this construction, including some of its original, natural prototype. Those original cliffs look considerably less impressive than Potoff’s sculpture, which sends them through something like a close encounter.

    In the sculpture, every element of the cliffs is so clarified and emphasized that one would be unlikely to understand

  • Jim Dine

    Jim Dine’s new paintings are very ugly. This is best said at the outset because I do not want to seem to equivocate about them out of deference to his reputation. Nevertheless, Dine has been an outstanding, highly intelligent artist through most of his career, and I would like to be able to think of his new pictures at least as steps in a good direction.

    All of them are still lifes, composed mostly of the classic still-life elements—vases, bottles, glasses and fruit. These objects are extremely abundant: there are more than fifty in one painting. Amid the swarm one can sometimes find a grisly