Thomas McEvilley

  • James Lee Byars

    JAMES LEE BYARS DIED in the Anglo-American Hospital in Cairo late on the night of May 22 or early in the morning of May 23, 1997. Cancer had planted flags of occupation in his body for several years, and finally claimed it all. Toward the end he said ruefully, “My bones stick to the chair.” Yet in the days and hours before his death, he was engrossed in the lingering issues, problems, and satisfactions of his life—working on a new will, speaking on the phone with friends on other continents and vigorously pursuing his artwork up till, literally, the final minutes.

    Late on May 21 a turn for the

  • Les Levine

    This survey of recent works by Les Levine covered the artist’s major projects since 1989, mostly the “media campaigns” (as he has called them) that he has waged with billboards. Send Receive, for example, consisted of 2.50 billboards erected in Vienna in 1994, each with the same image of a man and a woman kissing (this work won the Gustav Klimt prize for outdoor advertising in the same year). In Mask Change, See Face (a similarly sized 1995 installation in Bursa, Turkey), the billboards were in pairs, one showing an extreme closeup of the lower part of a man’s face, the other a frontal view of

  • “Boliw: Shrine Figures of the Bamana, Mali”

    The Boliw are the most sacred of the magical objects in the Bamana culture of Mali. Utilized in each village by a secret society of elders, these spooky little bovinelike fetishes are said to embody forces, hold court, pass judgment, and extract punishment. They are regarded as tyrants, and on them all social force depends. Villages steal one another’s Boliw to sap their strength, for a village without Boliw is, as a Bamana saying goes, a village in chaos.

    Haunting, seemingly “other,” the Boliw are composed of a remarkable set of materials: around a central core, layers are built up of bits of

  • Jene Highstein

    Jene Highstein exhibited eight large sculptures in this show, most made on site in the gallery and destined to be destroyed after the exhibition, as they were too large to be moved in or out of even this commodious space. While not a retrospective per se, the exhibition did include 1996 versions of pieces originally executed in 1972, 1974, and 1975 along with more recent work (as well as drawings based loosely on both the older and newer sculpture).

    Halves—two half-cylinders of Cor-Ten steel, 85 inches tall by 42 inches wide, facing each other—was first built in 1972 and initially exhibited, at

  • James Lee Byars

    James Lee Byars’ extensive oeuvre has tended to revolve around related sets of dualities: materiality and immateriality, the eternal and the instantaneous, heaviness and lightness. In his delicate and atmospheric performance pieces, he has often avoided any hint of weight (in his paradigmatic conceptualization of a performance piece, The Perfect Theatre, an audience at an Italian villa would see, on a distant wall, a man in a pink suit appear and seemingly disappear in an instant). More recently, by contrast, he has made works in heavy materials—marble, limestone, brass—that can depress the

  • Luis Camnitzer

    Luis Camnitzer’s work has often seemed a bit understated. His often tiny objects are graceful, yet seem to promise great moment without necessarily bringing it off convincingly. “The Book of Walls,” a linked series of 11 works, while attractive enough in its muted violence, suffers from such thinness. The work deals with the political struggles in Latin America and, in particular, amnesty laws passed to protect South American military and police officials from prosecution in countries like Uruguay, where the artist was raised.

    The individual works, with titles like El Muro de las Intimaciones (

  • Simon Shemov

    Simon Shemov is a Macedonian artist—not a Greek Macedonian, but, in official U.N. terms, a citizen of the former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia. This is an imperiled part of the world, with Serbs to the north, Albanians to the west, Bulgarians to the east, and Greeks to the south, all countries with designs on Macedonia’s borders. By the same token, Macedonia is at a crossroads: in order to get from one part of the Balkans to another you’re likely to have to pass through Skopje. Shemov’s work seems to reflect the instability of his native land and its hybrid culture in his mixing of conspicuously

  • “inSITE94”

    "InSITE94”—an exhibition of over 100 artists at over 37 venues—basically cashed in on the fence that runs across the Northern edge of Tijuana and divides it from the U.S. as if it were the new p.c. hot spot—California’s own Berlin Wall. (One of the artists actually added a graffito to the fence establishing that connection.) The heart of the show was a series of symbolic works on the border itself that purported to comment on, or somehow collaborate with, the border crossing. There were unexplained breaks in the wall through which, from the Mexican side where young men wait for nightfall to

  • Lena Cronqvist

    Extremely well-known within Scandinavia, Lena Cronqvist remains virtually unknown elsewhere. The massive retrospective of over 100 paintings and numerous drawings selected from work done between 1964 and 1994 accorded to her this fall testifies to the esteem in which she is held in her own country.

    The character of Cronqvist’s work derives in part from a period of mental illness during which she received a series of shock treatments. Grotesque, childish, shocking, often stunningly beautiful, the pictures seem to belong neither to the mainstream nor to what has come to be called “outsider art.”


    “MY WORK FUNCTIONS IN THE spaces between things,” says Pieter Schoolwerth, “between genders, between man and monster, between species, between alphabets.” In recent years many thinkers and artists have focused on the idea of the indefiniteness of recognized entities and the existence of unacknowledged categories between them, but, unlike most visual artists, Schoolwerth enters this realm of the indefinite or the in-between primarily through language—and not through poetic or metaphoric language, but through bizarrely rigorous manipulations of the alphabet.

    Schoolwerth’s work has various

  • Luis Cruz Azaceta

    Born in Cuba in 1942, Luis Cruz Azaceta emigrated to the U.S. in 1960, where he enrolled at New York’s School for the Visual Arts and developed a hard-edged approach to abstraction that he would abandon a decade later. After a trip to Europe, he shifted to a looser, more expressionistic figuration that characterizes the 22 brightly colored and dynamic paintings included in this exhibition. Drawn from the last 15 years of his oeuvre, some of the pictures can be read as allegories of life in New York City, indicated iconically by the presence of the Empire State Building, though it is clear that

  • “Western Artists/African Art”

    The “white cube” exhibition style eliminated context and focused attention on the objects, which were then supposed to enter the viewer’s field of pure sensibility completely free of associations. Recently, how­ever, the belief in such a sensibility, or in the possibility of experience without associations, has waned. Artworks, like every­ thing else, seem embedded in webs of mediation, a condition that many recent exhibitions have attempted to address.

    Curated by Daniel Shapiro, “Western Artists/African Art” presented 46 objects, mostly examples of traditional African art, from the collections