Tom Breidenbach

  • “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

  • Y. Z. Kami

    Y. Z. Kami’s installation of sixteen portraits occupied the gallery space with a stately presence. Each painting is three to four feet high by two to three feet wide and depicts the head of its subject. The sitters range in age from their late teens to their seventies; about half are women, half men, and all are shown against a light earth-tone background. Although executed on linen, the paintings’ nubbly, claylike texture suggests fresco. Other writers have noted their relation to Alexandrian portraits, but whereas those works usually indicate facial and bodily features with simple, clear

  • Rodrigo Moynihan

    For much of his career, Rodrigo Moynihan was as likely to produce abstract as figurative painting, never feeling completely at home in either mode. During his last twenty years, however, the artist shifted away from abstraction, explaining that it “cut [me] off from . . . that union with something that made painting easier to do.” It seemed to Moynihan that if an object were “looked at in a dispassionate way . . . the results would be almost as unconscious . . . as in abstract painting.” What he found to look at, however, was not so much objects as light. Among the late paintings recently on

  • Helen Marden

    While Helen Marden’s watercolors are primarily abstract, they also contain tantalizing suggestions of the hues and forms of nature. In them we can glimpse a fluid, breathing menagerie of hummingbird, jellyfish, devilfish, butterfly, mantis, orchids, kelp, and reeds. The thirty small works, all 10 3/4 by 7 3/4, inches, are so delicate as to suggest that fidelity to their subjects (imaginative or otherwise) requires vulnerability, that to know something is to be at risk.

    If Marden’s watercolors articulate a sense of life’s fragility, her oil paintings hark to its fractious, dissonant aspects. Still

  • Trevor Winkfield

    Trevor Winkfield studiously depicts the glyphs of a loopy heraldry. His playfulness contrasts with a set of deeper, mythological concerns, such as the Tiresian transformation suggested by With a Thrust of the Pelvis, I Become Woman!, 1996, in which two figures that look like paper marionettes assembled from clippings of illustrated children’s adventure stories seem snared in a duel involving a pair of two-toned chopsticks. The lower character is using his left hand to grapple with a snake. The torso of the top figure is composed of an orange shield bearing a huge green gem, topped by a ruff of

  • Marcus Leatherdale

    In Marcus Leatherdale’s scrupulous Indian portraits, he posed his subjects before a dark, unobtrusive canvas that he sets up at markets or in the courtyard of his house in Varanasi (Benares). In all but three of the twenty-five works on view, he used natural light. This neutral staging of all the portraits allows differences in the religious, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds of his subjects to reveal themselves. A portrait of the dwarf Amrit Lal shows him standing on top of a small wooden table, his arms raised in the air, a key hanging from his neck by a lanyard. According to Leatherdale,

  • Pat Steir

    In Pat Steir’s work of the early ’70s, the conceptual elements commented on the natural ones. When she painted a rose, for example, she would cross it out with a thick “X,” as if to suggest that so timeworn an emblem from nature could no longer satisfy our yearning for expression. The risk for a younger artist exploring the world conceptually is that she may give short shrift to physical or crea—turely existence, and miss the surprise and transcendence that arc possible when our sensations are undifferentiated by the intellect. There are still cerebral aspects to Steir’s work, but the

  • Milton Resnick

    At first glance, the ten paintings in Milton Resnick’s recent exhibition might look dark, clotted, and vague. It was only in moving around and among them that they began to reveal their strenuous, suggestive, and delicate aspects. Each painting is titled Monument, and all but one feature tombstone-shaped objects hovering on the painted surface. (In the exception, a horizontal rectangle floats above a cloudier vertical one, suggesting a clumsy block-letter i.) These upright oblong forms are rounded at the top and are outlined in various ways, by huge globs of black paint or by more colorful

  • Roger Selden

    Roger Selden’s exhibition was organized according to the sizes of the works. A series of nine vibrant smaller pictures (approximately 15 x 19 inches each) lining a wall near the entrance to the gallery introduced, in a lighthearted manner, the visual themes explored more seriously in the larger works. Each depicts an arrangement of variously sized triangles, rhomboids, circles, rectangles, and diamonds. These shapes, in turn, might be marked with others—stripes, dots, or small squares—that elaborate the works’ elementary patterns while evoking familiar objects such as hats, pitchers, and houses.