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”