reviews

  • Oskar Schlemmer

    Spencer Samuels Gallery

    For the casual American student, Oskar Schlemmer is practically an unknown, a reputation built on the fame of a single canvas, the Bauhaus Staircase of 1932. English material on Schlemmer is limited: his journal remains to be translated but the essential essay Mensch und Kunstfigur has been (see The Theatre of the Bauhaus, Wesleyan University Press, 1961). The Gropius-Bayer history of the Bauhaus emphasizes the issues covered by Schlemmer’s stage theory as do Roters’ and Wingler’s recent popularizations. Therefore, a survey of Schlemmer’s paintings, sculptures and drawings, as well as the able

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  • Sam Francis

    André Emmerich Gallery

    The new paintings by Sam Francis are wall substitutes, huge, practically untouched canvas fields edged in fresh and bled acrylic passages. The bigness of these pictures, and their facility too, has grown out of an ordered, rational development and respond to a clear set of predeterminants. It is the a priori character of the new paintings which make them seem hollow, works whose real commitment to difficulty is effected solely in terms of the actual, tangible immensity of the canvas itself. Very likely Francis is going to be accused of lifting pictorial ideas (notably from Olitski and Frankenthaler)

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  • Peter Gourfain

    Bykert Gallery

    Peter Gourfain’s exhibition would appear to have been an astonishing volte-face were it not that the drift of his present work is repeated among a wide front of artists of lesser and greater reputation—a shift in sensibility which knows no particular generational commitment either. Rejecting the elaborate fixation of his earlier arcaded registers, Gourfain opts for as intense an image as would be open to an art still based on classicizing premises and a sudden need for tactile immediacy. Instead of paint, Gourfain has taken up monochromatic pastel applied directly upon the surface of the wall.

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  • Group Show

    O.K. Harris Gallery and Paula Cooper Gallery

    The O.K. Harris Gallery, named for a wheeling zoot suiter (and forgotten affirmative locution of the early ’40s), opened spacious, bright quarters in a refurbished castfront below Houston Street. The name of the gallery, as everyone knows, is an undisguised pseudonym for but one of Ivan Karp’s many avatars. Karp’s setting-in on West Broadway after an historically influential run as Leo Castelli’s Uptown associate, attests to the vitality and importance of the whole loft area, which is, after all, where the artists live and work. The move away from the bourgeois stratifications of Madison Avenue

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  • Human Concern, Personal Torment

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Curator Robert Doty’s mass demonstration—subtitled “The Grotesque in American Art,” an act of presumption in keeping with the ineptitudes of the exhibition—is a disaster. If a death wish were made manifest then Doty’s puerile powers of selectivity, desultory catalog and insensitive installation would generously satisfy this compulsion. I can scarcely recall, at least not at the Whitney, when so much work of quality was dragged down by such mounds of cloacal glut. Not that the ideas or sentiments which inspired most of the work in this exhibition are trivial—but noble conceptions executed by

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  • Ronald Davis

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Ron Davis’s latest paintings are predominantly multipartite. They are conceived as an assembly of panels grouped on a wall with empty space—sometimes as much as 18 inches of it—separating each panel from the next. This physical disjunction between panels seems to coincide with the image embodied by each member, for in all three series of these pictorial ensembles, the theme is one of a set of containers. In the series of which Four Fold is an example, each panel is illusionistically scored to represent a box which is open at the top; in another series of panels stacked vertically, the upper and

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  • Robert Irwin

    Pace Gallery

    If Davis’s powers are concerted on a re-conceptualization of the pictorial as an experience of color which is both supported and wall-related, and a re-definition of the conditions under which the viewer comes to understand this relationship, Robert Irwin’s are not. Irwin, in his latest work at Pace Gallery, continues to take the picture’s relationship to the wall as one which automatically guarantees illusion. Therefore, although his work is no longer physically framed nor portable in the old sense, it settles itself comfortably within the traditional notion of the easel painting. Nowhere in

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  • John Griefen

    Kornblee Gallery

    In John Griefen’s first New York exhibition, at Kornblee Gallery, one is faced with a pastiche of New York color-field painting which wavers between imitations of Jules Olitskl’s narrow, vertical sprayed pictures and the kind of work Larry Poons was doing last year, in which the painting was divided into an expanse of dark, matte stain juxtaposed to more painterly areas of higher gloss. Griefen’s work is strongest and most personal when he treats the areas of stained color as though they had been wiped onto the surface, making the washes of color seem suspended above rather than absorbed into

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  • Sol LeWitt

    Candace Dwan Gallery

    Certain art is deliberately aimed at the threshold of consciousness, at the fine line where awareness meets the void. Pointing to Muzak, the aural tranquilizer, some may claim all such art has to be pretty deadly. But the claim would be too broad. When used to challenge rather than stupefy, threshold art can render experience not duller but keener. An intriguing example is Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings at Dwan.

    LeWitt works with wide expanses of texture so fine, so diaphanous, so unsubstantial that many are close to invisible. They float on their brilliantly lit walls like yard after yard of exquisite

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  • Allan Kaprow

    John Gibson Gallery

    Allan Kaprow’s Days Off is a calendar of Happenings. Oddly, where LeWitt’s gallery work is crucial and published work at best superfluous, Kaprow’s case is just the opposite. The published work makes his John Gibson show redundant.

    Days Off is like a movie of stills. Kaprow’s fine eye and sense of pace allow him to be the director of ten consecutive “still-shorts,” some hilarious, some disquieting. In this hybrid. medium, clearly two gifts count—skill at the individual isolated image, and skill at that image in time, as one of a series, as a moment. Kaprow has both.

    His flair—or weakness, depending

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  • Larry Poons

    Lawrence Rubin Gallery

    In his new paintings at Lawrence Rubin, Larry Poons moves further away from the dot and lozenge constellations that were his trademark. A sense persists of vast imaginary places of which we are offered segments, but place’s feeling has changed, in the show’s two major paintings, from air to earth, from what often approached the spectral to suggestions of immense topography.

    In a small but prominent passage in Night Journey, painted last year, Poons had already begun to deliberately alter his canvas’s surface, in this case to blister it. He has expanded this interest. The surfaces of Dangerous B

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  • Ronnie Landfield

    David Whitney Gallery

    Ronnie Landfield’s large paintings at David Whitney repeat Poons’s interest in process, using repeated stainings so often that they are no longer read as “from the hand.” Above and below such stained areas Landfield applies paint traditionally, with hazy pastel colors above and a wide hard-edge color-band below. In bringing together such widely disparate surfaces, Landfield seems interested in both the lyrical (the stain and pastel) and the sober (the band), a blend very difficult to achieve. Landfield’s efforts are not successful, it seems to me. They tend, I find, toward the giddy and the

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  • Robert Henri

    New York Cultural Center

    The Robert Henri show at the New York Cultural Center (formerly the Gallery of Modern Art) was a mistake. I doubt that Henri is a very useful painter to study at the present time, whatever one’s persuasion may be, and as a result of this show I have even begun to doubt that he is very good—certainly he does not benefit from being seen in such large quantity, and the show was much too big. Finally, the selection was in far too many instances too odd; my opinion is that if you can’t get the works you need to do a show properly it is better not to do it at all.

    Surely the early work is the best, as

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  • Claude Monet

    Richard L. Feigen And Co

    The Monet show is hard to judge, partly because of the installation, which is extremely bad. Not many paintings of the last hundred and fifty or so years would appear to advantage in such narrow quarters, and Monet’s after the 1870s are not among them. The hanging, conspicuously without chronology, was also bewildering. The paintings had, in addition, to fight a décor of marble and metal that subdued all but two or three, which were painted in a kind of art nouveau style that is of course very closely related to the Pop art déco of the gallery. The selection is also bad—where the paintings are

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