Tom Breidenbach

  • “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.