Peter Schjeldahl

  • Susan Rothenberg

    Susan Rothenberg has always been the most “formalist” of the painters lately and arbitrarily grouped as “New Image”; as of now, she is also one of the most advanced down the seemingly inexorable road to a new flat-out Expressionism. This makes for an interesting tension, to say the least. I’d like to call the very powerful impact of her current work “visceral,” but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. The paintings hit higher than the viscera. Their effect is both frenetic and icy, a frozen violence very much of the head—without being heady, because they are so firmly composed and cannily painted.

  • Alexis Smith

    A friend of mine has a term for the continuing spate, in art, of miniature sculpture (particularly little houses), born-again tacky decor, “bad” figuration, videotaped dog acts, verbal/visual one-liners, rhinestone paintings, all the varieties of post-Conceptual, post-everything cuddliness and whimsy. He calls it Cutism. This implies that the stuff is all a lollipop plague, and I don’t agree, but you don’t have to agree with a good, bitchy crack to find it useful in sorting out your responses. You can start testing for work that fits the letter but eludes the mean spirit of the designation: Are

  • Laddie John Dill

    My favorite works by Laddie John Dill were made around 1972–73: long, narrow cast wedges of cement in which are inserted troughs of glass holding cement wedges that slope in the opposite direction. The cement members blend into each other at the ends. The unit, which looks as if it weighs at least a ton, rests on the floor. Works of an airless but conceptually tough elegance, the wedge pieces balance brute physicality and precise cerebral ambiguity. For instance, does the bottom wedge contain the glass which contains the top wedge, or is the glass contained, sandwich-fashion, by the cement?—in

  • Ken Price

    The Ken Price exhibition called “Happy’s Curios” (Happy is the artist’s wife) was a critical riddle to which the wrong answer is given, bravely, in the first sentence of Maurice Tuchman’s catalogue introduction: “ ‘Happy’s Curios’ is a work of art about pottery.” The (or a) right answer, it seems to me, is that “Happy’s Curios” is a collection of pottery that provocatively moots the question of art. But what does this mean?

    “Happy’s Curios” comprises hundreds of cups, plates, jugs, bowls and other mostly functional ceramic objects, with supporting drawings, posters and a tapestry, the pottery

  • Richard Jackson

    Richard Jackson’s recent show comprised, besides the standard selection of project-proposal drawings featuring the standard scrawly elegance, one mammoth, room-filling work, a clever process/environmental gesture that managed to touch base simultaneously with painting, sculpture and architecture. There was a diamond-shaped (parallelogram) configuration of canvases stretched over plywood, about 32 by 19 feet, and a rectangular configuration, about 19 by 19 feet. The diamond rested face-up, ramplike, with one end at the bottom of a wall and the other at the top of the opposite wall (16 feet high)

  • Agnes Martin

    The reductivist fashion of the 1960s was so powerful that it determined the styles of many artists who, by what one can intuit about their temperaments, might have been expected to be naturally antagonistic to it. The strongest examples of this tension were, perhaps, the strange, banked fires of Agnes Martin and Brice Marden, artists whose appeal was and remains subtly but pervasively against-the-grain, subversive in nuance, feeling, mystique: not the exactness of the grid but the tremulousness of the pencilled line bumping over the tooth of the canvas, and not the monochrome slab but the felt

  • Rackstraw Downes

    Rackstraw Downes’ new land-and cityscapes are peculiarly riveting to the gaze and linger in the mind with a peculiar stubbornness. Talking with the artist helped me think about why. Downes, who paints on site, denied being in the least influenced by photography—specifically the use of the wide-angle lens, which the look of his smallish panoramas suggests. It seems that the wide-angle effect, of a space more capacious than even the paintings’ long horizontal format would appear to make possible, is arrived at by straight perceptual means.

    Indeed, though the space of the paintings does look subtly

  • Jules Olitski

    For me, the typical pleasure of Jules Olitski’s painting has been in an austere, sophisticated tastefulness of design given edge by the perversity of faintly evil hues and aggressive textures. He is a forceful, acerb painter, and his sensibility is exceedingly keen, reveling in the sorts of fine-tuned ambiguity that so delight orthodox modernist taste. However, my feeling about his work is ambivalent. For one thing, Olitski’s complete identification with the mighty formalist/historicist position in American art (tyranny or aristocracy, depending on your point of view) makes an independent and