reviews

  • Richard Serra

    Castelli Warehouse

    Stepping into sculpture as if no one were home, Richard Serra continues to systematically lay claim to the entire estate. Sawing, the first piece one sees upon entering the exhibition, comes off as a bulky scatter piece, vaguely indebted to the dedifferentiation pieces of Barry Le Va and Robert Morris. A few minutes of looking reveal the work to be in no sense a scatter piece and in no way concerned with the esthetics of the de-differentiated field. Instead, the piece reveals itself to be concerned with the problem of combining different materials in the same work in some sort of convincing

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  • Whitney Painting Annual

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    As everyone knows, there are two kinds of Whitney Annual. One year it’s painting and one year it’s sculpture. This year it’s painting, so sculptors like Robert Ryman and Richard Tuttle are rigorously excluded, while painters like Kosuth get to litter the walls with index cards. Lynda Benglis got in all right, though her impasto is a little heavy, but the Whitney doesn’t yet seem to have decided whether the work of, say Lawrence Weiner or Robert Barry is conceptual painting or conceptual sculpture, so they are kept out of both. The problem of Michael Heizer is solved with a master-stroke: a

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  • Spaces

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The “Spaces” exhibition isn’t a very interesting show. Nothing really comes off, perhaps because the show’s premises are so wildly overstated. The “spaces” involved are simply rooms, one room per artist (Michael Asher, Larry Bell, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin, Franz Erhard Walter) except for the Pulsa group, which chose the space of the Museum’s sculpture garden. Each artist did something in his room, and what each artist did, even Mr. Walther’s wrapping people up in canvas, is taken by Mrs. Jennifer Licht, the shows organizer, to constitute “examples of contemporary investigations of actual, areal

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  • Art in Process IV

    Finch College

    Mrs. Elayne Varian, organizer of Finch College’s “Art In Process IV” show, thinks it’s nice to show preparatory sketches, memoranda, notes, etc., along with the work of art, so that viewers can get some idea of the “process” of creation. She framed all the notes and sketches and instructions the artists provided, and hung them on the wall, sometimes even when there was no creation to go with the process of creation. Most of the written material consisted of letters to Mrs. Varian saying, “Yes, I’d love to be in the show. Here is how you assemble my work.” (Of these the most grateful-sounding

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  • René Magritte

    Iolas Gallery

    In January of 1967 René Magritte decided to translate eight paintings—some little known, others classic Surrealist works—into sculpture. The paintings were then “pointed up” in wax—only the academic term will serve—in Verona and cast in June, 1967, shortly before the artist’s death in August. Magritte, who approved and signed the waxes, never saw the final states.

    The present works are intensely strained transcriptions of various motifs from Magritte. In the vast scaling-up, the entirely peculiar, original sense and literary conceit of Magritte’s imagination—not to say the coolness of the

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  • Mario Yrissary and Gary Bowers

    O.K. Harris Gallery

    Two successive exhibitions at the O.K. Harris Gallery, one by Mario Yrissary and the other by Gary Bowers, point to the perplexities of ambitious painting which is still deeply attached to Minimalist precepts. Both artists, of highly differing sensibilities, evidence a central dilemma—the need to render coeval a loyalty to classicistic motifs with a more current taste for colorism and pictoriality, a conjunction which threatens to be counterproductive, at least insofar as Gary Bowers is concerned.

    Yrisarry’s solution takes the form of literalist, golden-age Minimalism, a modular painting of

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  • Ernest Briggs

    Alonzo Gallery

    The new paintings of Ernest Briggs afford striking insights into the dilemma of an artist who must have had to suddenly own up to the apparent bankruptcy of Abstract Expressionism at the moment that he might reasonably have thought that he was going to be sustained by the style. In a certain light he has, but then only after the artist has come full circle and only after much painful indecisiveness.

    In the early 1960s Briggs was seen as an interesting figure in the train of Clyfford Still. But by that time the kind of matte surface and ungiving palette-knife painting on which Briggs was dependent

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  • Oscar Bluemner

    New York Cultural Center

    Oscar Bluemner is now, some thirty years after his death, coming into a modest share of the esteem which is his due, considering his role in the history of modern American art. German born and trained as an architect (source of the agricultural and industrial architecture which is the fundamental motif of his later painting), Bluemner had traveled extensively and gained access to the most revolutionary ideas about modern art prior to most anyone else except those progressive painters actually on the spot in Paris. The worst indictment that can be made of Bluemner is that he was able only to

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  • Attilio Salemme

    Terry Dintenfass Gallery

    Attilio Salemme is best known for the curious canvases of Surrealist persuasion which come from the early 1950s, just prior to his death. Essentially carefully colored drawings, these paintings dispose plank-like rectangulated personages across horizons opaquely painted in cool, fruit-flavored colors. They resemble the Surrealist accretions of Kay Sage in the period and, through her, the compositions of her husband, Yves Tanguy. They speak of Noguchi’s theatre sets for Martha Graham and a great deal of forgotten graphic work, even some by Louise Bourgeois. But Salemme’s painting is more severe

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  • The Surrealists

    Byron Gallery

    The Surrealism show at the Byron Gallery is very hard to review: since it intends to be a broad survey of the movement, strictly speaking one would have first to say what the movement is all about and then consider to what extent the particular selection in this show reflected one’s interpretation of the movement. Here, it is hard to see what basis supports the selection—it scarcely seems to be a selection at all. There are only six or seven major works out of more than sixty, important artists do not figure in the show while peripheral ones do, some artists are represented by many works, others

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  • Arshile Gorky

    Knoedler

    The drawings by Arshile Gorky at Knoedler were not especially good, for the most part. In any case, I think that for everybody their principal interest is in the light they can shed on the question, “What does New York-type painting owe to them?” This, in itself, is an implicit recognition of the limits on Gorky’s quality: the idea is that, although Gorky is not especially exciting, perhaps we can say that he is historically important. And it is a fact that most discussions occasioned by the MoMA show of 1962 were of this sort, although it might be a good time for somebody to reconsider Gorky’s

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  • Louise Nevelson

    Martha Jackson Gallery

    The work by Louise Nevelson dates from 1958 and was first exhibited in 1959; the present show is intended as a kind of anniversary celebration. Surrealism, since we have been talking about that, affords an excellent context in which to consider Nevelson, since it is to Surrealism that her work owes its quality, or at least did at that time. The forms are entirely Cubist-purist, and rather uninterestingly so—they are similar to those of Ben Nicholson, for example. What is interesting is how persuasively one is distracted from their banality. This is accomplished by the theatrical black, which is

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  • Elmer Bischoff

    Staempfli

    To think that Elmer Bischoff once seemed to do work worth looking at is to realize how enormously things can change. I am sorry to have to say this: it is not Bischoff who has changed, but circumstances. When he first showed in the Staempfli Gallery he, Park and Diebenkorn were by far the most forceful representatives of a figurative style, because they had the strength that comes from not being wholly alone, because they had been working in this manner longer than anyone else, and because they afforded a kind of escape, a relief from both New York and abstraction. It is altogether fantastic

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  • G.P.A. Healy

    Florence Lewison Gallery

    Florence Lewison has performed a useful service in showing ten paintings by G.P.A. Healy (1813–94) of the artist’s family. Healy’s usual style is characteristic of the generation that followed Sully: where there is a linear rhythm it is apt to be fluid, like Sully, but the touch and in fact the vision are terribly hard and dry—shiny more than painterly, in those passages where painterliness might seem to have been called for. Ingham is typical of this style, which is not a sympathetic one. While the two earliest paintings in the present show are more or less in this manner, the others are very

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  • Will Insley

    John Gibson Gallery

    Will Insley designs vast projects which he intends to realize in concrete. At John Gibson he showed several large elevations, a five-foot-square model, and, perhaps most dramatic, a huge photo of that model—all depicting a giant 360-foot square series of concentric ridges low in relation to the whole piece, but high (12 feet) when a person will walk up and down its gradual inclines toward its center. There, 180 feet of unadorned, horizon-hiding concrete away from the world, he will find . . . more concrete, for the piece will be homogenous.

    Insley, to my mind, is an example of the Bauhaus bent

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  • Bruce Tippett

    Betty Parsons Gallery

    Bruce Tippett arbitrarily loops and buckles yards of wide, rubber floor-matting all around the gallery. Seen purely formally, as a colossal uncoiled strip, the work suggests that the giant artist “responsible” for Lichtenstein’s playful giant Brushstrokes has been at it again, his material this time not paint but a slightly more sinister black ribbon.

    Tippett’s work also has less gargantuan connotations. It draws mildly on the urge we have to follow those brightly colored sidewalk footprints into the store. Since commonly used as an indoor path, matting implies the experience of walking, is read

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  • “NER1212”

    Museum

    “Museum” is a new downtown gallery run by artists. Its second show, NER1212 (a way of dialing the time) included work by ten showing their work for the first time. Two artists’ work caught my eye. Allen Bermowitz built a small pile of light with old, clear-glass bulbs, elegant found-objects spilled nicely into a radiant hill. Painter Arlene Schloss celebrates simply but hauntingly the mystery of pregnancy. Her women are flat, vague, weightless figures, but each huge belly pushes a section of the painting’s lower edge down below the expected rim, a formal belligerence in fine contrast to the

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