Tom Breidenbach

  • Edwin Dickinson

    It’s a pity Edwin Dickinson (1891–1978) isn’t more widely recognized as a master of painting and drawing. The reputation is deserved not only because his canvases exhibit relentless, focused experimental drive and a command of expressive techniques belonging to more familiar European predecessors and contemporaries; or because the artist anticipated by decades the dynamism of Abstract Expressionism; or because his landscapes capture the aura of oceans and beaches with a fidelity that seems to defy account. More directly, all these aspects contribute to a breadth of feeling and a capacious

  • Richard Ballard

    The oeuvre of Richard Ballad, a Paris-based British artist who’s spent considerable time in New York, can be read as a progression from lyric figurative expressionism to a pared-down, even brooding exploration of mostly natural forms. The tenor of his later paintings is hermetic, reflective of a meditative bent that comes to inhabit Ballard’s aesthetic in as passionate a manner as natural forms inhabit his early work. The thirty-seven watercolors in this retrospective of his paintings from the past two decades fall into six series. he earliest are airy and Matissian. Odalisque in a Dream, 1981,

  • Andrew Young

    Andrew Young has the eye of a naturalist, to use a nineteenth-century term appropriate given the Victorian-looking patina of his paintings and collages. In his recent works, ten of which were on view here, he pastes meticulously handpainted images—birds, plants, flowers—on variously textured papers, interspersing them with monochrome Asian prints, postage stamps, and fragments of pages from Chinese newspapers and magazines.

    At first glance Young's works can seem muted, almost timid. Yet even from a distance a discreetly animated quality competes with the flatness of the stylized graphic

  • “New York ca. 1975”

    All bad art, Oscar Wilde once observed, is sincere. Yet it's hard to imagine a more sincere or necessary statement than Wilde's own De Profundis. When it comes to art's directly addressing life's dire exigencies—war, social inequity, prejudice, human misery in general—sincerity, like that others word, happens. How long such art can be of anything more than historical interest is another question. Judging from this show of work made in New York in the '70s, it's got at least another fifteen minutes.

    Dan Graham's tentatively expressive Performance Audience Mirror, 1977, encapsulates one's

  • “So Long Ago I Can't Remember”

    MICHAEL COUNTS'S So Long Ago I Can't Remember—a divine comedy was an evening-long collage of successive performances that led the viewer ever deeper into a renovated warehouse in Brooklyn. It added up to a phantasmagoric satire of such lamentable passages of Western history as Nazi Germany and the Inquisition, as well as a glimpse of the human tendencies that underlie such episodes of destruction. Based loosely on Dante's epic poem, the performance took the audience on a lavishly set and lit walking tour of the nine circles of hell to visit lost souls—from mobsters, fascists, and the

  • Enrique Martínez Celaya

    For Enrique Martínez Celaya, as for the Romantics, imagination is a faculty of perception, one that unlocks the mysterious world loosely referred to as spiritual. Apprehended in rare moments, the forms of this world are at once allusive and singular, familiar and private, perceptible and fleeting. “Unreal” in the rationalist sense, they are nonetheless the portents on which the quality of our living seems most deeply to depend.

    Celaya’s recent exhibition, “Drafts of a Landscape,” featured large, primarily white paintings on black velvet, as well as more intimate works on paper. A master of texture,

  • Acharaya Vyakul

    It would be a mistake to read Acharaya Vyakul’s luminous work as naive or folksy. Vyakul, who died in May at sixtynine, was no “outsider”; he was a tantric scholar and Sanskritist, a learned and avid collector of devices used in magic and ritual, and a founder of what has become the richest private museum of folk and tantric art in India. Though initially unassuming, his paintings are serious, sensual, even interrogative; from a Western standpoint, they are successful, spare abstractions (loosely akin to Klee’s or Kandinsky’s) in which chance operations produce subtle details of stroke and

  • Mark Manders

    Dutch artist Mark Manders’s recent installation at the Drawing Center’s Drawing Room was one of the most unassuming and compelling exhibitions of contemporary art in recent memory. Simple graphite drawings were tacked to the walls; strips of masking tape, some with bits of text, were interspersed throughout; and a thick pile of drawings, wrapped neatly with string so that all but the topmost were unavailable for viewing, lay on the floor. The drawings, like the installation itself, had an expressive, direct, childlike quality that complemented the artist’s mythic and metaphysical preoccupations

  • Ignacio Iturria

    IGNACIO ITURRIA'S CHARACTERS ARE NOT SO MUCH PAINTED as built out of paint; smeared browns, umber, and drab typically run up against blush and pastel flesh forms in sometimes inches-thick globs. It's as if murky roils of brackish cloud, grime, and earth had congealed in varied textures to form the artist's animals, leaky faucets, airplane-dotted skies, moldering furniture, and figures. These paintings can be enjoyed on many levels: A graceful sophistication underlies their vastly playful surfaces. The near-abstraction of his blotchy characters combined with a quirky symbolism invite a spiritual

  • Ross Braught

    “Ross Braught (1898–1983): A Visual Diary” reintroduced a little-known yet remarkable figure in the history of American art. The paintings, drawings, and lithographs on view charted the development of a highly original and thoroughly modern talent. Called by his friend Thomas Hart Benton “the greatest living American draftsman,” Braught owed more to Van Gogh than to nineteenth-century American painting. Gestural landscapes and boldly colored, sharply angular depictions of organic forms make up much of the work from the ’20s and ’30s. From 1936 to 1946 the artist lived in the British Virgin

  • Robert Jessup

    Robert Jessup creates bizarrely torqued grown-up fables that unite the everyday and the strange. With their thick, icing-like paint and candy-inspired palette, his canvases are both seductive and slightly off-putting. The symbolism of any indi-vidual element is refracted by the other associations he sets up, so that every scene inspires a host of dynamic readings mildly at odds with the others. Like the cartoon reality in which straightening a crooked picture only makes the room itself tilt, Jessup’s world is that of domestic space gone weird.

    This exhibition of six paintings was dominated by a

  • Donald Sultan

    With such unlikely materials as tar, vinyl, Spackle, and Masonite, Donald Sultan builds up his thoroughly elegant paintings, which monumentalize such ephemera as the swirling of smoke rings or a glimpse of two birds landing. Other subjects are only somewhat less transitory, such as the close-up still lifes featuring elephantine black eggs placed amid ripening apples or within checkerboard patterns of yellow roses or half-ripened tomatoes. In these, Sultan seems concerned with the impressions made by organic surfaces, whose contours and colors he often renders with a delicate-looking, waxy opacity.

  • Fred Otnes

    Fred Otnes’s intricate collage-paintings typically comprise fragments of reproductions of old-master portraits, plans describing ancient temples or Renaissance palaces, handwritten letters and anatomical illustrations, and pages of old books in Latin, Middle German, or English. In this, his fifth New York show (all works 1998), it is clear that the artist seems to share with Joseph Cornell a fascination for metaphysical symbols, including geometrical figures and diagrams, letters of the alphabet, spheres, circles, wheels, and measuring devices. These items are usually arranged in the shape of

  • Bill Jensen

    The coloristic nuance and variousness of handling—from the spontaneous to the highly wrought—in Bill Jensen’s recent abstractions seem to render the physical evolution of the paintings palpable. In Boy, 1997–98, a loosely triangular arrangement of wide, watery blue strokes and several smooth blue arcs seem to have been applied in swift, unrestrained gestures. Meanwhile, the work’s whitish background retains an almost archaic glaze that one senses is the result of Jensen’s having worked that surface more intensely, scraping and rubbing it to a hoary polish. Then there’s the distorted

  • Rick Klauber

    Typical of the eight oil paintings in Rick Klauber’s exhibit “The Continuation,” Six Foot High, 1998, is built up of thousands of colored drips. One nears its speckles to experience their oddly chalky luster, only to step back so as not to lose sense of the overall painting. It’s difficult to decide whether these button-size drops were scattered randomly, or if their positions have been determined with care and purpose. Their relatively consistent round shape makes the work’s abstract surface feel more meditative than visceral, yet the dynamism of their apportioning seems as if it could only be

  • Jack Pierson

    Jack Pierson has collected an impressive assortment of brightly colored commercial letters. The plainer ones might have announced the brunch special and congratulated the team above a pancake house, or broadcast messages from a portable ball-hitch sign parked along the roadside in lesser suburbia. The more stylized might have spelled the name of a small-town grocery, or written the logo of a petroleum company towering above the interstate. Some of Pierson’s letters are wood, others plastic; still others are neon, the seedily spectacular medium of nightclubs and bars, casinos and porn theaters.

  • “Bathroom”

    It’s almost certain that there’s never been a better overview of bathroom-related art than the 133 works by 82 artists and designers that writer Wayne Koestenbaum, who guest-curated the show, packed into this gallery. The exhibit felt like some kind of sideshow with an anthropological theme, a view of who we are as reflected by the attitudes we assume toward our bodily functions and the places we reserve to take care of them. It’s also part peepshow, a glimpse of the john as sexy or seedy, and it calls to mind all the things we’ve done in the only room we could lock as children. And then there’s

  • Sidney Tillim

    The colors of Sidney Tillim’s recent abstract acrylics invite some distasteful associations: muddy drabs, the chalky mauves and pinks of flavored antacids, black, and tacky-decor shades of blue (powder and baby), purple and silver, and burnt sienna. Their melanges of awkward square, triangular, and rhomboidal forms are arranged chockablock like some tattered, mildewed board game thrown out during a move. Strips of cheap plasterboard nailed to the stretcher frame some of the paintings (in Hopperland, 1997, the nails protrude through the canvas’ surface). On the evidence of these abstractions,

  • A TREE GROWS IN SOHO: ALEX KATZ'S BLUE

    Alex Katz likes to paint, and his ambition as an artist seems to consist largely in not letting anything get in the way of his actually doing so, steadily and surely. As Katz expresses it, being an artist is as much an act of will as it is the product of inspiration or abandon. “When I work I don’t ask, ‘Does the world really need another painting?’” Rather, his attitude is, “Well, let’s see what happens . . .”

    I arrived at Alex Katz’s studio midmorning on the first Sunday of spring, the only snowy day in Manhattan all year. He greeted me warmly, excited to get to the business of making his

  • Renée Cox

    Renée Cox recently introduced gallery-goers to Raje, a superhero played by the artist herself. To borrow a term from the club world she would seem to hail from, Rajé is fierce. With dreads piled high on her head, a skintight synthetic outfit in the colors of the Jamaican and Rastafarian flags, and black rubber thigh-high boots, she shows up in wrong-righting, justice—restoring situations in eleven large Cibachrome prints.

    Chief among the wrongs she battles is racial prejudice. In Taxi (all works 1998), for instance, a Fifty-Foot Woman–sized Rajé crouches over Times Square to halt a speeding