Lisa Liebmann

  • Lisa Liebmann


    Despite several extraordinarily good exhibitions this year of work by individual artists—NANCY RUBINS, JESSICA STOCKHOLDER, SOL LEWITT, and HOWARD HODGKIN among them—I nevertheless declare this the year of JEAN CLAIR, in honor of the Musée Picasso director’s two huge, historically ambitious, concurrent loan-show extravaganzas: “Identity and Alterity: Figures of the Body 1895–1995,” which was the centerpiece and principal justification of this summer’s Venice Biennale; and “Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe,” at the Montreal Musée des Beaux Arts.

    Both shows were a lot of



    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

  • Hip to be Square

    ALTHOUGH ARTFORUM AFFORDED itself the luxury of a 10th birthday in print, it was too hip to bother with a sweet 16th. But in 1984, actually two years late, the magazine’s third set of owners, including the Englishman Anthony Korner, who remains its principal guardian, celebrated the legal majority of their headstrong ward with the publication, by UMI Research Press, of an anthology titled Looking Critically: 21 Years of Artforum.

    The early ’80s had made for an unforgettable adolescence. A new generation of artists had just declared itself, most aggressively, and downtown Manhattan, from the East


    SAVE FOR ANTONI TAPÍES and the odd group show or pavilion exhibit, Spanish art was all but invisible outside Spain during the long period between Generalissimo Franco’s ascent, in 1939, and his death a decade and a half ago. Even the late works of Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, who were living in Spain undisturbed by the authorities, have largely been ignored. Furthermore, because of its peninsular situation, sealed off along its lone border by the Pyrenees, Spain has always tended to be a case apart from the rest of Western Europe. While the leading figures of 20th-century Spanish art form a

  • Richard Tuttle

    The Whitney Museum’s 1975 Richard Tuttle exhibition cost Marcia Tucker, its curator, her job. Asked to leave in the wake of the controversy that ensued, Tucker survived the debacle and went on to found the New Museum. The show was decisive for me as well: I’ve always remembered it as an almost euphoric moment. I was in college, and had few preconceptions about contemporary art—Pop was part of the landscape of my childhood in New York, so it didn’t yet demand any thinking. This, however, did. And that, more or less, is how I turned into a critic—though it took a few years more to turn any woolly


    Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, by Camille Paglia. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

    So far we have seen two acts of the razzle-dazzle Camille Paglia show. The first act—the exposition, as it were—was Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, a tumescent tome that ranges swaggeringly over the whole of the Western cultural patrimony, resembling in its ambitions such old-fashioned surveys as Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and E. R. Curtius’ European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, but hyped-up and amphetamized for the MTV generation. Dirty, too—Paglia’s willful

  • Robert Greene

    Diana Vreeland and the postwar glory-days of Bazaar and Vogue are to Robert Greene roughly what the court and the commedia dell’arte have become since Watteau—a paradis perdu. Greene’s fêtes galantes are usually full of nimble, affectionate portraits of fashion icons, fellow artists, and friends. In these melancholic romances, a white standard poodle always plays the part of Scapino, while a shifting cast of characters makes cameo appearances, and sets of faintly incestuous twins or even triplets of both sexes stroll about, narcissistically, in supporting roles. Gamine protagonists who suggest

  • Lisa Liebmann

    I'M TEMPTED TO WRITE AROUND Documenta IX instead of about it. Jan Hoet, after all, has built his show around rather than of the works of art he chose. David’s Death of Marat, for instance, was meant to be the keynote speaker at this Documenta, but sealed off in the Fridericianum’s ivory tower—a shrine to the “heroes, saints and martyrs” of Modern art—along with a Tahitian Gauguin, Ensor’s Self-Portrait with Flowered Hat, Alberto Giacometti’s The Nose, Barnett Newman’s The Moment, a Joseph Beuys vitrine, a white room by James Lee Byars, and one of the last paintings made by the Dutch artist Rene

  • Vija Celmins

    Vija Celmins’ paintings are dense and opaque, even when suggesting infinite galactic space. Though the night skies and ocean surfaces they so frequently and faithfully represent suggest the very stuff of which elegiac poems are made, as objects her paintings can seem bullying in their material insistence. “Lapidary” is a word that suits Celmins more, perhaps, than any artist around today, including her old Yale summer-school chum Brice Marden, now that he’s given up those smoothly encaustic, Ming-like veneers. Celmins, in fact, once made a group of trompe l’oeil pebbles (she cast them in bronze

  • Robert Mangold

    The ten large paintings in this show represent numbers VIII through XVIII of Robert Mangold’s “Attic Series,” a sequence begun in 1990 and named, in the course of its development, after classical pottery Mangold admired during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It is easy to understand the root of this attraction: recognition. As Klaus Kertess rightly asserts in his catalogue essay, “luminous dryness, incisive clarity of both internal and external contours, regimented directness of drawing, abstract coloration—all are characteristics shared by Attic pottery and Mangold’s painting.”

  • Mel Kendrick

    Mel Kendrick, now in his early forties, came of age in the thrall of artists such as Robert Mangold and Sol LeWitt, whom he had occasion to meet while working as a studio assistant for Dorothea Rockburne. He is a sculptor, in other words, who hammered out his sensibilities against some of the more daunting post-Minimal precursors. To be forced, at a tender and rebellious age, to recognize among artists then entering middle age the ability to produce Apollonian structures of the utmost finesse, can be an inhibiting experience. Indeed, for Kendrick, the great Picasso exhibition at New York’s Museum


    IN A WUTHERING KIND OF HARMONY with all precedents in his work, Keith Sonnier’s El Globo (The globe, 1992), an 18-foot-long wind sock made of nylon sailcloth and animated by a fan, waves, flutters, hums, drones, lures us like some great piece of gossamer bait. Perhaps the most strangely evocative of Sonnier’s new pieces, El Globo was named after, but not modeled on, those brightly colored, kitelike paper projectiles that cross the skies in Guatemalan villages at Christmastime—a bit of ritual pageantry observed by the artist in the course of his peregrinations this past winter. El Globo suggests

  • Gary Hume

    It is a rare, bracing pleasure to see a bunch of canvases that look as if they had some reason to get up in the morning. The six geometric paintings in this exhibition, Gary Hume’s first solo show in New York, are smart, physically unself-conscious, and direct. Hume, who is 29 and English, uses enamel lacquer paint, and he applies it as if with great, smooth, slurping, dog-tongue licks. He also defines the sharp edges of his vibrant rectangles of color with foam-tape, producing what might be described as a Precisionist’s wet look. These paintings are funny, Ostensibly abstract, each work is

  • Lois Lane

    New Image painting is surely among the vaguest rubrics ever applied to 20th-century art. Isn’t any reenvisioned, reinterpreted, recast, or reseen image, by reasonable definition, “new”? The term was coined in the mid ’70s to call attention to a resurgence of figurative painting among younger artists, during a period otherwise dominated by various antimaterial tendencies, and it is in this context, if perhaps none other, that the label had some meaning. The laconic flavors of New Image painting, for instance, were distilled from Pop (and seemed to have affinities with the “minimalist” fiction of

  • Jim Shaw

    Jim Shaw’s show entitled “Thrift Store Paintings” was an iconoclast’s Cuba Libre—a salon-style exhibition of some 200 works by backyard truants, Sunday painters, and assorted others walking the unpaved byways of art. Some of these pictures were bonkers (surreal, softcore, or surfer-psychedelic)—raw material, in short, for Shaw’s own technically polished, neo-adolescent paintings. The connection between these thrift store paintings and the consciously amateurish style of many early-’80s Metro Pictures artists—John Miller’s trashcan-school cityscapes, for example, or Walter Robinson’s most sincere

  • Don Van Vliet

    Set off by the front gallery’s Biedermeier proportions, bathed by the softly filtered southern light, Don Van Vliet’s semi-automatic abstractions looked beautiful, neurasthenic, old-fashioned, and European. Here and there, the artist’s organic palette and willfully skittish, stubbily fingered surfaces reminded me of Georg Baselitz’s “Hero” paintings from the ’60s, which were seen in this very space two seasons ago. Cactus Blanch and Wrought Iron Cactus, both 1991, with their veggie-juice-bar colors and implied metamorphoses, are both cases in point. I got the feeling that Van Vliet jabbed paint

  • Joan Brown

    Joan Brown’s self-portraits from the period 1970–83 are vivid, vastly enjoyable images of a woman who seems not so much to age (however gracefully) as to flower into states of psychic flamboyance before one’s eyes. In Homage to Akhenaton, 1983, the most recent work in this show, painted when the artist was turning 45, Brown stands proudly in the foreground, a flaming red-haired, green-eyed herald for the sun deity. The god’s profile appears in the forms of the artist’s dangle-earrings and necklace, and is further evoked by a riot of Egyptoid background patterning that includes the well-defined

  • Robert Yarber

    It is common knowledge that photography today has all but replaced the sketch as a preparatory medium for painters. Even abstract painters refer to photographs in order to zero in on chromatic or compositional qualities relevant to his or her painterly concerns—Stephen Mueller, for example, who paints large stained dispersions, takes Polaroids. Among figurative artists, the dependence on everything from slide projections to photographic prints is even more common. Some, such as Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter, manage to make painting itself look like a photochemical process. Others, like Billy

  • David Storey

    Only the subtlest of changes have occurred in David Storey’s work since his previous New York solo exhibition in 1987, and these have to do primarily with chromatic pitch—Storey’s gray-blues, in particular, are getting moodier. His skittish, bebop rhythms—all wind and brass—animate this show as they did the last, and his syncopated abstracted shapes still seem to have paused for an instant on canvas, en route to the biomorph’s ball. This artist’s affection for the moment moderne has been extremely obvious for about ten years now, ever since he stopped shoveling paint around earthy imagery (during