Lisa Liebmann

  • Myron Stout

    Myron Stout (1908–87) was the exemplary postwar American artists’ artist. He worked small, liked easels, and labored intimately, meticulously, and sometimes at very great length on his drawings and paintings. Henry Geldzahler described him as an “exquisite.”

    Quite a few of Stout’s modest little masterpieces—Shaker-plain abstractions, often in black and white—come with open-ended, epic dates. A painting such as Aegis, 1955–79, for example, which measures a mere 24 by 20 inches and consists of a white, shieldlike form set against a bit of black ground, apparently took Stout 24 years to complete.

  • Joan Jonas

    Joan Jonas presented two late-July performances of Variations on a Scene (a work in progress in collaboration with Jorge Zontal, an artist member of General Idea) at Wave Hill, the public gardens and former estate on the Hudson River. These were ideal surroundings for Jonas’ commensurately grand and picturesque five-part theatrical, with its cast of seven and various mixed-media effects. The audience, on folding chairs and on the grass, was initially assembled about the perimeter of a great, weeping beech tree. Its shaded, organically-curtained sanctum served as stage one. We were introduced to

  • DONA NELSON'S TIME PIECES

    DONA NELSON PAINTS LANDSCAPES, cityscapes, still lifes, figures, interiors, fireworks, seasons, and rain. In her most articulated paintings many of these genres coexist, forming poetic strata. Nelson’s work is full of allusions to memory, to an ongoing present, and to dreamlike states alike. Her pictorial syntax—simultaneously choppy and fluent, stoic and plaintive, alternately rarefied and rude of tone—suggests the plain-and-fancy flavor we taste in the writing of Wallace Stevens. Nelson draws from life on the outside as well as from what one senses, unmistakably, to be the elaborate inner life

  • Sandra Chia

    This ten-year retrospective of paintings by Sandro Chia—curated by Bruno Mantura as part of Spoleto’s annual “Festival of Two Worlds”—suggested an autobiographical, pastoral cycle concerning the coming of age of the artist. In this light, A to perfido carro (To you, treacherous cart, 1980)—a picture of a mule bucking a small carriage in a picaresque landscape—can be considered an allegory of advent. The shimmering white cross and flamboyant orange glow around the carriage hood denote the presence of a very special passenger in what we may assume to be a Holy Perambulator.

    This beleaguered traveler

  • ZARINA’S BALM

    THE MARK OF ZARINA is contemplative rather than emphatic, sensual but not theatrical, and it always sustains an impression of the earth. Zarina's subject is the earth, and one's identity on it. In her work these big, dumbfounding ideas are always brought directly home to the eye and the fingertip, where they find eloquence and gain a rare and pragmatic kind of currency: the work comforts.

    Providing solace has not been a frequent or prominent mission in sophisticated art of the last two centuries. Making art must surely serve the needs of those who make it, and seeing art satisfies some yearning

  • X marks the spot.

    COMING BACK FROM New Jersey on a bus recently, I was sitting behind a small group of black high school students, one of whom said to another, “My great-grandmother was a slave.” The friend replied, “My grandfather was one too, I think,” after which conversation broke into teenage tidbits of dating miscellanea and consumer reports about the availability and cost of personal accessories. The exchange surprised me because it had been uttered precisely the way a Junior Leaguer might say. “My mother was presented during the Christmas season,” with a socially shakier friend responding a bit too eagerly,

  • THINGS THAT GO BUMP

    LISA LIEBMANN

    Discombobulated and cacophonous, with a populist bent, Documenta 8 was almost entirely free of the lofty airs that surrounded its elegant, smug predecessor in 1982, and that to some degree hovered over many of the more ambitious and large-scale international exhibitions in the five years since. Absent, for instance, was any sense of highbrow intellectualism or formalism, and gone as well the sense of giddy congruence with recent commercial, critical, and promotional dicta. Painting, for one, seemed relatively scarce, and while classicism and mannerism, minimalism and expressionism,

  • iContact.

    FOR MANY PEOPLE, I WOULD guess, an important, early, and visceral experience of art involves being followed around a room by the eyes of a portrait. Raphael’s Baldassare Castiglione, 1515–16, in the Louvre, and Ingres’ Comtesse d’Haussonville, 1845, in the Frick Collection, are two brilliant adepts at this regard—more straightforward than their elliptical cousin, Mona Lisa. When encountered with a degree of innocence, these paintings are unyielding in their assertion of presence, clearly exercising some ineffable but absolute authority, relentless in their knowingness of what a child zigzagging

  • Fashions

    THIS APRIL IN GENEVA some unusually iconic jewelry went up at auction in a benefit for the Pasteur Institute in Paris. These were objects representing the devotion of a one-time king of England for his American sweet-heart, in what was no doubt this century’s most iconic romance. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a diptypch, were an icon of romance itself, an inflation of its positive and negative sides—the gains of romance and the cost of love. The late Duchess’ jewels visited several cities in true processional fashion before finding their way to the block, and for a few days Manhattan’s York

  • “Individuals”

    With its yearlong inaugural exhibition. “Individuals: A Selected History of Contemporary Art, 1945–1986,” Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art gives its rendition of the keynotes in art since World War II and marches into the crowded and very competitive field of nouvelle museology. Curated by Julia Brown Turrell, the exhibition occupies MOCA’s two separate buildings (the four-year-old Temporary Contemporary, Frank Gehry’s verismo adaptation of a big downtown warehouse; and the contained and highly polished California Plaza building complex designed by Arata lsozaki that opened in December)

  • Fashions

    ON THE MORNING OF SUNDAY, February 22, with the news that Andy Warhol was dead, I ran to the window expecting to hear seismic noises coming from the city outside, and to witness a transfiguration, I don’t know of what: of the back of the building facing me, of the air quality, of appearances in general—but of something. The shock of so enormous an absence would surely register, it seemed, on reality itself.

    What one wonders now is what will happen to our unruly inventory of images, without their editor in chief, their framer, makeup man, and gift wrapper, in the wake of this utterly disorienting

  • David Hockney

    With his Polaroid photomontages, David Hockney rescued Cubism from the living grave to which excessive reverence and often sullen reference were busily consigning it. Now, with the help of office copying machines, he has plucked the visions we have of Henri Matisse’s and Raoul Dufy’s sun-struck Nice out of nostalgia’s amber, and out of France, and transposed them to Southern California. The 35 “Home Made Prints” that were in this exhibition, in editions ranging from 25 to 60 photocopies, are irresistible for quite a lot of reasons.

    First of all, they fling fistfuls of Tinker Bell dust into our

  • knowing who your friends are.

    And, gasping to begin some speech, her eyes

    Became two spouts; the fury spent, anon

    Did this break from her: "Good Antigonus, Since fate, against thy better disposition,

    Hath made thy person for the thrower-out

    Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,

    Places remote enough are in Bohemia,

    There weep, and leave it crying; and, for the babe Is counted lost for ever,

    Perdita, I prithee, call’t.”


    —William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, act 3, scene 3

    PLACES REMOTE ENOUGH ARE IN in Bohemia, and bohemia has itself never seemed more remote. With the arrival of a commercial class of artist employers,

  • HARLEQUINADE FOR AN EMPTY ROOM: ON DAVID SALLE

    A CLOSE FRIEND OF MINE, a lapsed Midwesterner in New York, once said that he could always detect other Midwesterners, however well camouflaged, however suited they might be to the small patches of sky and tight corners of the Northeast or Europe, by a certain little emptiness holding forth at the core of their being. This is an all-purpose zone of absence. It can work interchangeably and even simultaneously as receiver, transmitter, projector, screen, filter, cushion, and psychological room to spare, one protected by a lock. To put words in my friend’s mouth, it replaces the traditional chiaroscuro

  • Artboriculture. Making mulch of labels.

    When leaves are collected, pressed, and dried—eventually varnished, even bleached, and sometimes also dyed or painted—they provide a most welcome enrichment of any color paper collection.

    —Josef Albers

    I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO teach myself how to identify trees this autumn, with the help of their changing shades. The blurry Monet-ishness of spring is of little mnemonic use, and summers, like the paintings of Veronese, suggest principally the suffused and suffusing pleasures of rich, established green. Fall foliage is by far the most vivid didact. Like others of my kind this century in cities, I

  • SUN RISING IN CALDER

    FOR QUITE A LONG TIME it seemed as though it were nearly impossible to look closely at a Calder, never mind see one. A Calder, whether standing still and stopping traffic or looping around in some institutional daylight, had become just that, “a Calder” and the artist himself had become Our Calder of the red and black mobiles, an official greeter to visitors of cities, museums, and corporate headquarters, ultimate pavilion man in a world with a better tomorrow. Calders might have been just the things to soothe community boards, chief executive officers, acculturating urbanites, and, of course,

  • Fashions

    PARIS FASHION IS CURRENTLY IN its Meiji period. Like the former city of Edo, old Lutèce, the capital of esthetic orthodoxy, has seen the dissolution of its shogunate—the grands couturiers—and has flung its arms open to the trade winds. For some time these have been blowing from America, first through the space program (the NASA influence on Courrèges and Cardin) and Pop (Saint Laurent’s Tom Wesselmann-style designs), more recently from Latin and black American street styles, the fetishes of suburban teenagers, and our Seventh Avenue Superwoman fantasy of the sexy working sportive shopping mama.

  • Fashions

    THE STAND-UP FACE OF THE ’80s smokes a stogie. Sean Penn, Julian Schnabel, Mick Jagger, David Salle, Robert De Niro, Eric Fischl, Joan Rivers, Gary Stephan, and David Letterman are just some of the many artists and performers who have recently been meeting the press with a cigar stuck between their teeth. (Frank Stella met his cheroot some time ago.) While clinical explications for this behavior may seem obvious (and cigarettes are on the wane), the image is still at first surprising. Despite pictures of Picasso puffing topless, and with apologies to Una, Lady Troubridge, the cigar has never

  • Vienna and Her Sisters. A parable, with strings.

    FOR A LONG TIME, I have gone to bed late, and, not sleeping the sleep of reason, have produced no monsters. Where I awake each day, though, is another matter. I awake in a place that supposedly no longer exists. Robert Musil, in The Man Without Qualities (1930), calls this place Kakania, and it is a place where

    the Superman was adored, and the Subman was adored; health and the sun were worshipped, and the delicacy of consumptive girls was worshipped; people were enthusiastic hero-worshippers and enthusiastic adherents of the social creed of the Man in the Street; one had faith and one was skeptical,

  • THE IMAGINATION IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING

    No dog is more intelligent or more sociable than the French poodle, nor has any lent itself more freely to the ornamental whims of mortals. A poodle at a dog show seems not so much to compete with other breeds as to measure itself against standards of comportment and topiary design established at Versailles. So much culture, so much style, yet only the chihuahua is more often ridiculed. When it comes to undisguised artifice—wagging pompoms, say, or too much millinery—unaware of stigma or unimpressed by it, we are on the defensive, guarding our individual conceits and credentials, our private