Ronny H. Cohen


    ELIZABETH MURRAY IS ONE OF the few authentic pictorial pathfinders working today. Since the mid ’70s she has charted a strikingly personal and influential course through the Modernist-sanctioned yet supercharged concept of painting as colored space. Stressing eccentric geometries, deeply saturated hues, and constructively dynamic compositions, her vision has illuminated for many other artists, particularly those of the emerging generation, a way of making abstract paintings that simultaneously probe and reveal the physical and psychical dimensions of “colored space,” in a sharply individuated

  • Joan Snyder

    Joan Snyder has produced some of the most “loaded” paintings in contemporary American art. The 1981 and 1982 works here are enticingly “loaded,” from the tops of their densely rich, boldly built-up, mixed media surfaces to the deep-down emotive implications of their primary, signlike imagery.

    Throughout the ’70s Snyder subverted the color-field style that then dominated abstract painting. She developed a method for turning the grid, the favorite geometric form of the ’70s, as well as the zigzag into expressionist shapes. Brush strokes and drips were isolated in her compositions not so much to

  • Gwenn Thomas

    Gwenn Thomas is one of the most exciting younger artists working with photography and painting today. Her methods for transforming photographic images into a new, distinctive line of pictorial objects were tellingly revealed here.

    What Thomas does not do is paint over the photograph’s surface, although this is a favorite device among many artists in this arena. What she does do is create an intriguingly specific space around her photographs, a frame that permits her to keep her color Type C or Cibachrome prints intact but profoundly altered, nevertheless, by the means of presentation.


  • “Russian Samizdat Art 1960–1982”

    Samizdat means “self-published” in the Soviet Union, and Samizdat art consists mainly of books and magazines published and distributed by the same artists and/or poets who made them. This exhibition, showing over a hundred works by about thirty artists, was curated and designed by artists Rimma and Valery Gerlovin; it successfully revealed the strikingly intellectual, imaginative, and serious, but simultaneously playful, character of this important and vital expression of contemporary Russian art.

    It is helpful to consider this material in the peculiar publishing context of the Soviet Union. The

  • Richard Thompson

    Richard Thompson is one of the few younger American figurative painters to find his own stylistic way in the precarious terrain between illustration and metaphor. His ability to get down and across ideas in images was strikingly displayed in this group of recent paintings and watercolors from the ambitious series, “The Ancestor’s Dream—A Mythic Journey.”

    This work involves Thompson’s questionings about his Oregon farm roots and his speculations about his pioneer ancestors. What we see is a starkly simplified vision of reality in general and of the Great American Pioneer Story in particular—forest

  • Nancy Arlen

    This exhibition of new work showed Nancy Arlen to be one of the most visionary artists of the ’80s. The pieces are in cast polyester resin and are made according to the pouring process that Arlen has developed over the last few years; she transforms liquid polyester and various coloring materials (resins, glitters, Mylar, pigments) into a new category of dynamic, palpable, thoroughly contemporary art objects.

    Compared to earlier series such as the “Auras” or the “Motifs,” the present group is bigger, bolder, and even more mysterious, though no less graceful or elegant. Three Roses, 1982, for

  • John Willenbecher

    John Willenbecher’s deep concern with archetypal formal and thematic issues results in some of the most exciting iconic art in New York this season. Works shown here from the “Laureate” series of recent mixed-media paintings illustrate his methods and intentions. The artist brings together two of the simple geometric shapes that have long interested him and which appear throughout his work from the 70’s, the arch and the circle. Each painting boasts a painted arch-shaped wooden frame encasing a Masonite support, painted to simulate marble. A circle in the form of a gold-leaf laurel wreath rests,

  • Cynthia Gallagher

    This exhibition of five works from 1981 revealed a concentrated, constructively specific pictorial energy which expresses a thoroughly contemporary personal vision in active dialogue with the important Modernist tradition of “painterly” painting. It was an exhilarating display.

    Greased Hip is typical of the approach and the methods. Like the other works here, it employs the risk-laden additive and subtractive process that Cynthia Gallagher introduced in 1980; she starts with a rectangular sheet of paper which she cuts into and adds to as she paints it. The result is a painting whose basic elements

  • Hanne Tierney

    Marionettes, probably the most tradition-bound of the performance arts, were updated in this engaging display by Hanne Tierney. The gallery space was totally commandeered by the various-shaped puppets, which were supported by a fully visible system of strings and pulleys. These 3-D characters included not only organic, all-of-a-piece clothed figures, but also assemblages of things—a Venetian blind, ties on hangers, a pair of pants. Visitors were invited to interact with them, to make them move; and Tierney put on two performances in which the highly expressionistic marionettes played specific

  • Kathleen Thomas

    In her first one-person show, Kathleen Thomas offers a strikingly original and timely vision of small sculpture in the assemblagist tradition. Each work measures less than 10 inches across, and is put together from various surplus industrial materials ranging from electronic components—mostly from aircraft and radios—to rubber gaskets and even deactivated bullets.

    Poised between sculpture and object, the works manage to be precious without falling into the dangerous category of cute. Among the sculptural qualities asserted are contrasts in texture and color and a hard-edged specificity of form.

  • Thomas Rose

    Thomas Rose reveals himself as a constructor of provocative psychological spaces in this recent group of six pieces. Installed against the wall, each large relief (the smallest measures 72 1/2 by 47 3/4 by 5 inches) mixes references to various real and ideal realms of architecture, with lively results. The piece titled it was compounded by small movements or adjustments, 1980, is telling of the artist’s approach: bringing to mind a stage set, it is rich in dramatic, intensifying relationships, both formal and emotive, among the parts. There are three main structural divisions: two large,

  • Joan Brown

    What happens when east (India) meets west (San Francisco artist Joan Brown)? In the case of the new paintings and constructions inspired by Brown's recent travels to India, some top-notch contemporary American figurative art. The enamel paintings, executed in large scale, are fresh, bold, original treatments of Indian myths, monuments, and rituals. It might enhance our appreciation of the work to know “who’s who” regarding the half-man-half-animal figures that often turn up in the company of a robe-bedecked, blue-eyed, light-complexioned woman (very American-looking—she’s probably a self-portrait

  • “Developments In Recent Sculpture”

    This show looked at the ’70s, the decade of pluralism, with works by Lynda Benglis, Scott Burton, Donna Dennis, John Duff, and Alan Saret. All of the artists belong to the generation that reacted against Minimalism, hitting it where it hurt the most: where Minimalism said that sculpture should be abstract and regular in shape—think of Donald Judd’s boxes or Carl Andre’s squares—Lynda Benglis said that sculpture could be abstract and wildly irregular. Where Minimalism said that it was all right for sculpture to have and to stress the qualities of objects and things, Scott Burton said that sculpture

  • Dike Blair

    Dike Blair’s works from 1980–81 are more strikingly aggressive about painterly and architectural qualities than those that directly preceded them. The six examples here, like the earlier ones, are made of acrylics and enamels poured and sprayed onto different materials—paper, Masonite, and glass are favorites; they are installed, similarly, flush against the wall with Velcro. But the earlier work toned down color, played up the competition among the multiple parts of the compositions, and asked the question, “Is it painting, sculpture, or pictorial construction?” The pieces in the present group

  • Douglas Davis

    Double Entendre is the most recent and the most dramatically ambitious of the highly personal performance pieces that Douglas Davis has been developing since the mid ’70s. Broadcast live from the Whitney in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris on May 16, 1981, it uses elements of theater, television, and video to investigate the nature of love. A contemporary man (played by Davis himself) and a woman (Nadia Taleb) are the main protagonists. They tell their story in a dialogue that unfolds in a sequential but repetitive narrative structure; when Davis, for example, speaks in English and a

  • “Magazine Covers”

    If you’ve ever bought a magazine because of its cover, then “Magazine Covers,” a fascinating survey of the development of this form of graphic expression, is for you. The show includes more than 140 examples of American and Western European publications from the last hundred years, and it reveals how magazine covers have responded directly and immediately to changing styles in art, to fads, and to shifts in reading habits. Magazines are very much creatures of capitalism, filling an industrialized culture’s need to know and reinforcing its understanding of information as power. Magazines also

  • “California Billboards”

    “California Billboards,” sponsored by the Eyes and Ears Foundation in San Francisco, Fashion Moda, and the Public Art Fund in New York, consisted of seven billboards by artists, put up in different sections of New York with technical assistance from Foster and Kleiser Outdoor Advertising. All of the artists involved in the project are or have been based in California, and the painted canvases mounted on billboards around the city were originally commissioned by the Eyes and Ears Foundation for an outdoor exhibition on the West Coast. The artists were Karen Carson, Sri Chinmoy, Jack Frost, Masashi

  • “Color Photography: 5 New Views”

    Within the last two decades color photography has become commonplace without losing any of its specialty. Color techniques now provide sharper, richer, truer to life images than ever before. The media have made color photography a prime player in the information game, using it to bring home—often in sublimated form (think of print advertising)—their message. Of course, what’s at the source of the appeal of color photography is its ability to show and tell more about people, places, and events—the way we were and it was, so to speak—than black-and-white photography is able to do.

    All of the five

  • “Love Is Blind”

    Love, 20th-century style, was surveyed in this large, splashy, something-for-eveyone group photography show. Arranged salonlike in vertical rows, the display was a provocative collagist juxtaposition of every imaginable love attitude and love coupling. Pieces numbered about 90 in all, and included works by photographers, portrait-machine shots, movie stills, and even a magazine cover. Both color and black-and-white prints were on view.

    Approaches toward love varied, from the documentary—E.J. Bellocq’s Storyville portraits—through the slice-of-life intimacy of Diane Arbus and the bravura theatricality

  • Wendy Knox-Leet

    Wendy Knox-Leet is a young Canadian artist who has been living and working in New York for the last year. Her recent sculptures are an engaging expression of the on-the-wall fare currently popular in New York. Additive in structure, the sculptures consist of various layers of wire mesh and other materials—aluminum, coal, acrylic, enamel, gels, aquarium sand and glitter among them. They vary a great deal in size and shape, materials, textures and colors. What the works share, however, is an attitude of “aggressive organicity,” the result of making both formal elements (flat and folded planes,