Richard Armstrong

  • Carnegie Internation 1995

    HISTORY RECALLS ANDREW CARNEGIE as a generous philanthropist trapped by provincial tastes. The intention behind his Carnegie Museum of Art, founded in Pittsburgh in 1895, was to collect “the old masters of tomorrow”; the Carnegie International began a year later as the primary vehicle for doing so. Through most of its history the show remained grossly conservative—a Modern artist was not honored until Matisse took first prize in 1927. Indeed, it wasn’t until the ’80s that the International became a consistently important venue for contemporary art, rivaling, by virtue of its international scope,

  • Charles Burchfield

    The work of Charles Burchfield, a representational watercolorist all his life, concerns two related but markedly distinct subjects. In one, Burchfield more or less reports on the man-made landscape—from a small piece of battleships at sea done in 1915, when he was just out of art school, to a variety of scenes of industrial towns made throughout the middle of his career, that is, from the mid ’20s to the mid ’40s. In the other, Burchfield extrapolates from nature toward a mystical, symphonic fantasia which has no real counterpart in American art. As early as The Insect Chorus, 1917, he was

  • Michael Hurson

    The nearly opaque, latticelike marks that obscure and bring attention to the right side of Michael Hurson’s Motel #2, 1972, are the first signs of life in his work on paper, at least as it was presented in this survey of drawings from 1969 to the present. These pieces—many of them remarkable, all of them of some interest—often seem not quite up to full strength until this point. It is as if Hurson either does not know or refuses to confront what it is he wishes to convey. In the portraits of furniture, single sofas or room-sized suites of contemporary banalities, he willingly invests the inanimate

  • Robert Lobe

    Giving form to process has been one of the central problems of sculpture since at least the late ’60s. Robert Lobe’s work of the past few years, aluminum sheets hammered around preexistent things like trees and large rocks to assume their shape and volume, deftly solves it. Ironically, Lobe was one of the young New York–based artists (mostly sculptors) to participate in the landmark 1969 exhibition “Anti-Illusion: Procedure/Materials,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a show which in effect institutionalized process work. Lobe’s pieces in that show were constructivist-oriented floor objects


    ROY LICHTENSTEIN'S TEMPORARY SITE-SPECIFIC MURAL on the long north wall of Leo Castelli’s Greene Street gallery was welcome relief in a generally dreary season, but more importantly it reasserted all the vital signs of Lichtenstein’s art. The piece was gigantic, nimble, an elixir. Making the neo-x’s scale for scale’s sake seem gratuitous, its size (18 feet high and nearly 100 feet long) rendered it almost an abstraction, since the gallery’s relative narrowness and free-standing columns impeded the sustained lateral sweep needed for a simultaneous reading of so enormous a compendium of motifs.

  • Tony Smith

    Despite their eminence within the Minimalist community, Tony Smith’s sculptures never seem quite at home in it. Always a bit quirky and sometimes too boldly grand in a brotherhood of no-nonsense, solid citizenry, Smith’s large sculptures are the big black sheep of Minimalism. Several of the 24 drawings that comprised this show (many of them never before exhibited) help clarify Smith’s iconoclasm.

    In the drawings for such large-scale works as Hubris, 1970, Smith’s architectural training comes to the fore; these are plans, elevations, and isometric views as few sculptors care, or are able, to make

  • Richard Stankiewicz

    By the time of his death last year, Richard Stankiewicz’s sculpture had long secured a place in postwar American art. By age he was between the first generation of New York School sculptors, as personified by David Smith, and the second, as personified by John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, et al. But Stankiewicz’s esthetic put him somewhere to the side of the main developments in sculpture of the past 35 years. Although he was among the best of the period’s welder assemblagists, he only sometimes overcame the distractingly literal connotations of his chosen medium. More often than not, he seemed

  • Donald Judd

    Donald Judd’s singular body of work, it seems, will be brought to light little by little all over town. This show, which had things from the early ’60s through the ’70s, included some of the forebears of the surprisingly illusionistic recent wall and floor pieces Judd showed downtown earlier this season. The consistency of his purpose is as remarkable as the beauty and particularity he has been able to impart to so restrained a repertoire. For although there is an obvious, conscious absence of authorial hand right from the start, Judd’s minimalism, unlike other more conceptually derived and

  • Mary Heilmann

    As these four paintings, all 1983, reiterate, Mary Heilmann’s work forms an uninterrupted link with the hard-edge abstraction that developed in the early and mid ’60s. The hallmark of that style, at least in the hands of its two ablest practitioners, Ellsworth Kelly and Al Held, was the simultaneous exploitation of a resolute, quasi-geometric drawing style and a fully explored Modern palette of nuanced public color. For whatever reasons, both Kelly and Held moved away from the loaded, almost tensile repertoire of allusive forms each refined through this period toward styles that could accommodate

  • Jonathan Borofsky

    Jonathan Borofsky’s immense influence on so wide a spectrum of contemporary artists (both in this country and in Europe) derives more from the permission he gives himself to do everything imaginable (and from having the guts to do it) than from any identifiable plastic style. He may be the least stylized artist of his generation, or, for that matter, of any of the immediately succeeding ones. His decade-long count to psychic depletion has had an incomparable cumulative effect on recent art, but singling out the specific works that make up that effect remains a puzzling task. Borofsky engages in

  • Jenny Holzer

    From their humble origins on photocopied colored paper to their latest incarnations in state-of-the-art electronic message machines, Jenny Holzer’s home-made truisms—part homily, part syllogism, all confounding—have been the most intriguing variant on and the final apotheosis of word art. This show publicized selections from the most recent of Holzer’s linguistic suites, The Living Series and The Survival Series, both 1983, in a variety of media. Quotations such as “What urge will save us now that sex won’t’?,” “Savor kindness because cruelty is always possible later,” and “It is easy to get

  • Steve Rogers

    The around-the-house-and-neighborhood narratives Steve Rogers draws into and sculpts out of clay in his shallow wall-hung bas-reliefs are modest, masculine affairs. In three of the best of the 13 pieces that made up this show, mostly from 1983, he portrays himself, alone, working; in another he shows himself partying in the studio. The majority of the remaining, more crowded and complex situations—on the boardwalk in Venice, or at the boxing ring in downtown Los Angeles—are depicted through Rogers’ spectatorial eyes. His is something of a solitary world, and nice and old-fashioned in its limited

  • Ira Richer

    But for Richard Artschwager’s cozy Formica monuments to enigma, veneers and simulated veneers have had little play in recent art. This is curious, not only because they are among the most ubiquitous and forthright of contemporary materials, but also since photographically imprinted laminates so succinctly embody questions of illusionism central to Modern art. What device evokes such questions better than that of a plastic-coated reproduction of wood layered over real wood? As all but one of this show’s eight large constructions from 1983 in this genre showed, Ira Richer understands the inherent

  • George Schneeman

    The small East Village storefront George Schneeman filled with his fresco paintings, ceramics, and homemade furniture perfectly suited the intimate domesticity that marks all his work. A small room crowded with his pieces seemed like an informal homecoming of civilized cousins. The storefront’s location in the parish of St. Marks-in-the-Bowery reinforced Schneeman’s close connection to a part of literary New York, namely its poets. Aside from the quotations, ranging in their sources from Dante to T.S. Eliot, that are painted around the rims of some of his large ceramic platters (with appropriate,

  • Andrew Spence

    For their sense of wholeness and resolution, Andrew Spence’s paintings are indebted to the work of the late John McLaughlin; Spence’s receptiveness to naturalist influences, both architectural and organic, recalls Ellsworth Kelly. All three artists, Spence most literally of all, understand abstraction to be abstracted from something else, to constitute some kind of parallel, plastic essence to reality.

    Only one of the eight canvases here, most from 1983, builds from the eccentric biomorphism of last year’s paintings. Though as a group I found the latter overly quirky, hence almost illegible,

  • “Other Views”

    The intellectual distance between the questions “what to paint” and “how to paint it” is not great, and neither is the intervening terrain of much interest, but it was precisely here—a part-conceptual, part-stylistic netherworld—that most of the younger artists in this group of heterogeneous landscape painters chose to locate their work. Predictably, the results were something other than fully engaging, although more of interest than yet another “psychotic-figure” show might have been. The lingering influence of conceptual art is a little-acknowledged, widely evidenced reality in today’s painting,

  • Jon Kessler

    In the six months or so since I last saw several of Jon Kessler’s automated wall reliefs in a show at Artists Space, he appears to have gained even more confidence in the wacky sci-fi possibilities of his work. The pieces that initially caught my eye are Rube Goldberg, Swiss–cuckoo clock affairs: small motors move a variety of figures and odd detritus about behind pieces of translucent Plexiglas, the ensembles lighted from their backs to make a kind of shadowbox narrative. But with those contraptions the animated drama cast on the Plexiglas is matched, sometimes overcome, by the furiously

  • Barry LeVa

    Barry LeVa’s chosen labels for the room-sized installation here, “large sculpture,” and the two different kinds of work on paper, “drawings” and “diagrammatic silhouettes,” make clear his intentions for how the aggregate is to be read. The drawings, all recent but in two stylistic variations, differ from the very new “silhouettes”: whereas the former embody the transparent layerings and sketchy tentativeness that have characterized LeVa’s work on paper for some time, these two last pieces have an unexpected, opaque certainty to them. Called, in part, “plan views,” their yellow and black paper

  • Donald Judd

    His and others’ rhetoric aside, Donald Judd’s work has begun to look to me like one long, restrained, touchingly quaint paean. With singular success, it combines an old-fashioned concern for craftsmanship and for chaste materials with a formal range of very strict limits. It is an art that celebrates inherent qualities—the simplicity of geometric forms, and the beauty of such unadorned means as aluminum and plywood. If, in fact, there is an old-fashioned air to the work, it is attributable to the strong recollections of the earlier, more optimistic times in Modern art that the sculptures evoke.

  • Peter Voulkos

    Thirty years ago Peter Voulkos, a young ceramicist from Bozeman, Montana, was invited to a summer session at Black Mountain College. After a three-week teaching stint there, Voulkos went on to New York for a short visit. There he got wind of Abstract Expressionism and met Franz Kline. The rest is better known: Voulkos imparted life into ceramics, working first in Los Angeles, then in San Francisco. His long residency in California, and his chosen medium, partly explain New York’s continued condescension to Voulkos’ extraordinary art. But another part of the lingering prejudice may be a resistance