Robert Pincus-Witten

  • Peter Saul, The Government of California, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 68 × 96".

    Peter Saul

    The wonderful exhibition “Peter Saul: From Pop to Punk”—challenging, engrossing, troubling—which consisted of sixteen ambitious paintings and five equally ambitious drawings from the 1960s and ’70s, was woefully mistitled: There was nothing waywardly adolescent about this show, nothing punk, as I understand the meaning of both word and style. Indeed, with the passage of half a century, these paintings seem even more centered and gravely pertinent—prescient, even—given the ghastly world we now live in than they did when they were first championed by Allan Frumkin, the placid

  • Constantin Brancusi, View of the Studio: Plato, Mademoiselle Pogany II, and Golden Bird, ca. 1920, gelatin silver print, 11 3/4 × 9 1/2". From “In the Studio: Paintings”/“In the Studio: Photographs.” © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    “In the Studio: Paintings”/“In the Studio: Photographs”

    Though I am not in perfect sympathy with all of the fifty-one artworks by thirty-six artists and some 150 photographs by fifty-two photographers chosen for this hugely ambitious Gagosian doubleheader, I admit to being awed by many of the loans secured from public collections—always a challenge for a private gallery. Of them, the Picasso classical-period still lifes from the 1920s and Jasper Johns’s paintings took pride of place. Particularly subtle was the way in which the whitish planes of color and rectangular collage-like structure of Picasso’s two 1928 L’Atelier works—brought

  • Keith Sonnier, Ju-Ju, 1970, cheesecloth, black lights, glass, 7' 4“ × 12' 6” × 1' 4". © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

    Keith Sonnier

    A bit of backstory is in order. Leo Castelli’s response to post-Minimalism (notably, to the work of Richard Serra) was to arrange for exhibitions of the new style in a former art shipper’s warehouse located in west Harlem. The raw, garage-like space of Hague Movers perfectly accommodated the vastly expanded scale and the light-infused and propulsively distributed forms of the new dispensation.

    Robert Morris is particularly germane to the present exhibition of Keith Sonnier’s early work; Morris inaugurated the “alternative” Castelli Warehouse space in December 1968, as curator of the exhibition

  • Ray Johnson, Untitled (Campbell’s Soup with Cut-Out Circles), 1973–88, collage on illustration board, 19 × 17".

    Ray Johnson

    Ray Johnson (1927–1995) has been an artist of compelling interest since the mid-1950s, thanks to two premonitory Pop collages, one depicting Elvis Presley, the other James Dean. Yet for all the acclaim they have received, these pieces stand apart from the larger body of Johnson’s oeuvre, which comprises works that, over time, revealed an intricate tissue of affinities, a network made visible in his diligent Lists of Names, a particular Johnsonian genre. Such is what they are—literal lists of names, mainly those of art-world personalities, each denominated one below the other or punctuated

  • “Man Ray: Human Equations”

    In 1936, Man Ray photographed plaster, wood, string, and papier-mâché models of mathematical formulae housed in the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, creating pictures that André Breton thought of as representing the crisis of the object. Living in Hollywood during the 1940s, Man Ray used these hermetic images for a group of bluntly illusionistic paintings he called “Shakespearean Equations,” titling them after Shakespeare characters. The triangles and T squares of Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings are

  • Judy Pfaff, There Is a Field, I Will Meet You There [Rumi], 2014, steel, Plexiglas, fluorescent lights, plastic, expanding foam, dimensions variable.

    Judy Pfaff

    A half century ago, the time-honored distinctions between painting and sculpture surrendered to the forces majeures of Minimalism, Conceptualism, and their offspring. Judy Pfaff’s two-gallery exhibition reminded us of that moment in the 1960s when young artists, cued by Eva Hesse, smashed those mutually defining species together to form a single pictorial/sculptural continuum. Some five decades later, Pfaff remains the exemplary figure—the last artist of this type still standing as others (notably Lynda Benglis) have reverted to a sculpture of autonomous objects. Pfaff’s recent installations

  • Norman Lewis, Twilight Sounds, 1947, oil on canvas, 23 1/2 × 28".

    “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952”

    Compare and contrast—that indelible Art 101 injunction so central to creating meaning between the work of often incongruent and marginalized figures—is the analytical mode that this exhibition, “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945–1952,” invites us to adopt. Lee Krasner (1908–1984), daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and the wife of Jackson Pollock, was long ago reinstated as an Abstract Expressionist notable; Norman Lewis (1909–1979), an African American artist and founding member of the Spiral group, on the other hand, remains relatively underknown.

    This richly

  • Rene Ricard, Enlightenment, 2010, acrylic and marker on canvas, 27 × 20".

    Rene Ricard

    This past February, Rene Ricard, the hard-living art-world personality, died at the age of sixty-seven. He was too many things to pigeonhole solely as a poet, though the poems in Rene Ricard, 1979–1980, a slim volume of confessional free verse bound in glossy turquoise like a Tiffany catalogue, leave little doubt as to what his true vocation was.

    Flying the colors of the maudit adolescent aesthete (Arthur Rimbaud meets Raymond Radiguet), the Boston-born Ricard arrived in New York City in 1964 and was quickly absorbed into the world of Warhol’s Silver Factory, where—unsurprisingly—he

  • View of “Bloodflames Revisited,” 2014.

    “Bloodflames Revisited”

    “Bloodflames Revisited” commemorated the swan song of late Surrealism in exile. Despite much that was praiseworthy in the show, its major failing was that the work of its twenty-five artists—complexly installed in the two Kasmin venues—ignored the mad swish and sheer bliss of the original event. What intrigued, after all, was the promised revival of a feckless gay sensibility of theatricalized femininity, worlds away from gay pride, ACT UP, and queer theory.

    The first “Bloodflames” was organized in 1947 by the young Alexander Iolas, a well-heeled balletomane (and former dancer) of Greek

  • Robert De Niro Sr., Woman in Red, 1961, oil on linen, 70 × 54".

    Robert De Niro Sr.

    In certain measure, the critical task sheds light on the new as it surveys the old. While the lens and the laptop have inexorably altered our relationship to the brush, must work that reveals a dexterous, evolving hand still be taken for an oddity? The revival of the work of Robert De Niro Sr. (1922–1993) strongly suggests otherwise.

    The twenty-nine paintings and drawings in this show were made between 1948 and 1989. The earliest serve to remind us of a different Greenwich Village, a different Little Italy, and a different Fifty-Seventh Street, one along which the blue-chip galleries were situated

  • “Picasso/Dalí, Dalí/Picasso”

    A dual retrospective comparing the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí—wildly disparate artists who incarnate Spain’s Loyalist/Falangist divide—is a counterintuitive but brilliant notion. The young and foppish Dalí met Picasso in 1926 (a crystallizing moment for Surrealism), when the latter’s classicism and aestheticized Cubism were all that Dalí’s sublime handpainted dream photographs and “paranoiac-Critical” method sought to replace. With the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Picasso remained

  • Julian Schnabel, Untitled, 1990, resin and gesso on burlap, 120 x 108".

    Julian Schnabel

    Julian Schnabel’s “View of Dawn in the Tropics, Paintings, 1989–1990” exhibited twelve large—no, huge—works that reveal yet again that, for this artist, everything is up for grabs. Take, for example, the drop cloths, tarpaulins, and the paint-saturated sailcloths Schnabel used as brushes to spread paint upon his grounds—themselves fashioned from canvas or burlap or what have you—that become, in turn, new grounds or surrogate passages of paint.

    For instance, the deeply impressive Ozymandias, 1990—at thirteen by eighteen feet, rather the star of the show—recontextualizes