Nancy Stapen

  • John McNamara

    John McNamara is, in the time-honored phrase, a painter's painter, and, more than that, a viewer's painter. His works demonstrate a wholehearted engagement with the sensuosity of paint, the expressive potential of line, and the plays of illusionism—in short, an unabashed, old-fashioned affirmation of paint's beauty.

    McNamara emerged on the Boston scene a decade ago with large, ambitious abstract landscapes featuring boulderlike forms composed of striated layers of paint. Celebratory and sensual, these won immediate, lavish local praise, putting McNamara in the forefront of a newly energized Boston

  • Holt Quentel

    As proliferating “neo” movements attest, ours is an era of reaction. Post-Modernism revels in recycling, each “new” style an unabashed pastiche of the past. Yet Western culture has hardly renounced its claim on (or addiction to) originality. Snared in contradiction, the ’80s artist confronts the dilemma of creating work of heroic invention in an era of nothing new under the sun.

    This was the first solo exhibition—and the first Boston show—for Holt Quentel, a young Chicago artist who deftly treads this precipitous line with work that is equally reverential and desecrating toward the past. Quentel’s

  • Jod Lourie

    Jod Lourie’s porcelain reliefs grow ever more bizarre, fantastic, and grotesque. Her previous efforts in this medium have addressed the confluence of a repressed Italian Catholic girlhood and emerging female sexuality. Now in her 40s, Lourie appears to have worked through most of that tortured post-adolescent conflict. At midlife she has added a forthright confrontation with death to the heady mating of religion and sex.

    In all of these most basic human experiences the self is transformed. In religion, the self is abandoned to spirit; in sex, to the other; in death, to nonexistence. Lourie’s

  • Jim Goldberg

    Jim Goldberg is known for his series of photo-texts that contrast the wealthy and the poor in San Francisco; these incorporate his subjects’ own comments beneath the photographs he took of them. Goldberg employed a similar methodology for “Nursing Home,” his new series of photo-texts, currently being shown in a traveling exhibition. For this series, commissioned by the Cambridge Arts Council in 1985, he spent seven months visiting the Neville Manor nursing home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Goldberg first spent three months getting to know the elderly residents and then photographed them. After

  • Mela Lyman

    In previous exhibitions Mela Lyman has shown herself to be a virile draftsperson with an architectonic command of space. This intrepid muscular quality is also present in her current work, a series of large-scale pastels of swimmers under water in indoor pools. It is not farfetched to link these to the subject matter of Lyman’s earlier works, which included antique typewriters (with strong figurative overtones) and panoramic views of bridges over waterways. From these antecedents, a direct concern with an object/figurative presence and aquatic environs has developed.

    Lyman’s current focus on the

  • Michael Kessler

    Despite refined paint handling and sophisticated technique, Michael Kessler’s paintings speak of innocence—albeit indirectly. Emerging from the 19th-century American landscape tradition, they suggest that nature may still act as the repository of the Divine. Kessler, 33 years old and urban educated, lives on a farm in the rural Pennsylvania of his birth. An isolated lifestyle has, perhaps, enabled him to bypass the apocalyptic cynicism and despair of so many of his contemporaries; however, his aspiration to a purer sensibility does not translate as naïveté. In an era when popular culture has

  • Ralph Helmick

    Ralph Helmick initially explored heroic male figures pierced by laserlike striations, and his work was interpreted as classicism set to an MTV beat. But this New York debut, which expanded Helmick’s recent forays into the realm of the ardent female figure, made explicit his dual homage to carnal love and the grand traditions of figurative sculpture.

    Several Boston shows, two years’ inclusion in the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Art’s “Boston Now” exhibition, plus the celebrated Arthur Fiedler Memorial (a massive bust of the beloved maestro installed on the Charles River in summer 1984)

  • Rainer Dissel

    This first American exhibition of works by the 33-year-old German painter Rainer Dissel proved an auspicious debut. Dissel is one of those artists with a “touch,” an innate ability to invest line, surface, and form with poetic conviction. Not merely facile, his paintings enter the realm of things sensed but unrevealed. Dissel’s work was recently included in the exhibition “Dimensions IV: New Painting in Germany,” which originated in Berlin and traveled to Munich and Düsseldorf.

    Dissel studied at the Städelschulc the art academy of Frankfurt, with Johann Geyger, one of the practitioners of the

  • Doug Anderson

    This was Doug Anderson’s fourth and strongest show at this gallery. Gone are the cutesy cartoon characters, which offered at least a pretense at viewer identification. Instead, Anderson deepens his exploration of the crisis of meaninglessness in contemporary culture with an ever more opaque constellation of imagery. He suggests that the current disorder and lost credibility preclude (while ironically encouraging) the comforts (or dogma) of interpretation.

    Inclusion in last year’s Whitney Biennial and several solo New York shows (one running concurrently to this show) have won a wider audience

  • Adam Cvijanovic

    Adam Cvijanovic’s meteoric rise in the art world began with his surprise appearance (youngest artist included) in the 1984 Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibition “Emerging Massachusetts Painters”: and continued with a series of splashy sold-out shows in Boston and New York (where the artist recently moved). Add the drama of Cvijanovic being entirely self-taught. and you’ve got Boston’s Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    The romance of the wunderkind is paralleled by Cvijanovic’s juxtaposition of rapturous love against a backdrop of urban dissolution. As love transcends the city’s savagery, so the brilliant

  • “Expressionism in Boston: 1945–1985”

    With art historian Pamela Allara as consultant, and a catalogue essay by critic Theodore Wolff, this exhibition constituted the first scholarly overview of the art produced in Boston in the postwar period. As such, it was welcomed. Unfortunately, both Allara and Wolff predicated their theses on a single, seriously flawed premise, arguing unconvincingly for a conceptual continuum among three generations of Boston artists. (As one member of the current generation commented privately, “When we were in school, artists like Jack Levine were mentioned with a sneer. We were looking at Jim Dine, or the

  • Jon Imber

    Jon Imber is a young Boston painter who began to attract attention in the late ’70s. Graduate study with Philip Guston exerted a lingering influence; Imber’s emotionally charged early work, which cast his family and friends in mythological dramas, was characterized by anatomical and spatial distortion. Because of this, he was mistakenly classed under the catchall rubric of neo-Expressionism, a term whose inappropriateness became increasingly clear as Imber shed exaggeration in favor of imagistic veracity through a series of huge, empathetic portraits.

    This show included large-scale oil paintings

  • Joyce Kozloff

    In the mid ’70s Joyce Kozloff’s name was synonymous with the Pattern and Decoration movement. P & D threw down the gauntlet to Minimalist austerity; however, within the kaleidescopic progressions of the Post-Modernist art world, it was rapidly subsumed, accepted as another branch within the pluralistic thicket. For Kozloff, the flourishing of that shoot lay in the arena of public art, a logical extension for an artist who had progressed from painting, through an exploration of printmaking and craft forms, to an ever more encompassing multimedia environmental art. Between 1979 and 1985 she

  • Harold Tovish

    Harold Tovish is considered one of Boston’s most accomplished sculptors, yet this was his first major gallery exhibition in 13 years. Certain highly gifted postwar sculptors, among them Tovish, found themselves in a historical predicament mistakenly interpreted as a failure of talent. Trained in an academic figurative mode, they were mismatched with an art world hostile to naturalistic realism. The figure’s status throughout the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s reads like a premature obituary: challenged by Abstract Expressionism, cynically re-appropriated in Pop art, and negated by Minimalism and

  • Gerry Bergstein

    Gerry Bergstein is usually classed with a younger group of Boston figurative painters (Doug Anderson, Jon Imber) to whom he actually bears little relation. A seasoned artist in his early 40s, Bergstein's identity was formed under the mantle of Abstract Expressionism; he internalized Modernist angst through the traditional Picasso-to-Pollock lineage, absorbing along the way such third-generation influences as Gregory Amenoff.

    Yet Bergstein has always had an alienating bent. If he has quoted the New York School's spatial organization and lush painterliness he has also mocked it, employing a form

  • John Hejduk

    John Hejduk’s New England Masque Anti Masque, 1984, was an eerie, brooding installation which transformed the windowless space of the second-floor gallery herewith connotations of tragedy and darkness. This was a collaborative effort involving over-life-sized architectural and sculptural constructions by Hejduk (who also conceived the work as a whole), Abstract Expressionist paintings from 1956 by Anthony Candido, a video tape by the poet David Shapiro featuring a dialogue between him and actress Connie Beckley, and atonal music by Morton Feldman. Although the components were ranged around the

  • Magdalena Abakanowicz

    Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the traveling Magdalena Abakanowicz retrospective afforded the North American audience an overdue opportunity to view the mature work of this major international sculptor. The exhibit spanned the ’70s and early ’80s, when the artist developed an innovative exploration in fibrous media of the traditional concerns of sculpture—the expressive potential of the body. Although Abakanowicz recalls such artists as Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, and George Segal, the isolation and turbulence of her esthetic growth separates her from her more familiar

  • Bonnie Biggs

    Bonnie Biggs dives headlong into that transformational sea of conflicting desires and free-floating expectations that threatens to engulf women in their mid thirties. She creates a literal but germane feminine metaphor for what is, in fact, a generic predicament. Biggs’ personal heroine contemplates surfacing from the confined coziness of a womblike underwater world; smothered yet embraced by the tutelary prison of the past, she considers the rigors of an uncertain future, which she may still avoid through inaction. Liberation or disaster? This perplexity engages the viewer in a female dilemma

  • Doug Anderson

    Though Doug Anderson is barely out of art school, his career has skyrocketed in the past two years, and he’s on an inevitable track toward New York. Yet the remarkable invention and charged ambiguity of his paintings dissolve our usual distrust of the wunderkind. Anderson is on to something; what it is remains unclear, but it is exactly this elusive, ungraspable quality that suffuses his work with extraordinary seductiveness. It encapsulates the fractured confusion of a culture caving in on itself, and stimulates the ironic paradox of viewer identification with inversion and disassociation.

  • James Hendricks

    Esthetically perceived cognitions are often substantiated by science. Thus Giotto’s apprehension of weight, mass, and perspective were given “objective veracity” by Renaissance scholarship, while Freud generously acknowledged that poets and philosophers had recognized the unconscious before his own divination of it. A similar interplay of analytical theory and sensed perception activates James Hendricks’ new paintings, which intuit new theories of physics with a taut energy.

    Grand unified theories suggest a web of connections among all things in the universe, beginning at the first moments of