reviews

  • Dorothea Rockburne

    Bykert Gallery Downtown

    Dorothea Rockburne’s exhibition is at once deep and serene. Numerous threads of her work derive from the disintegration of minimalist sensibility. Among them are floor dispersal, environmental clues, sheer materiality, eccentric substances and an expository presentation. Paper, cardboard sheets, graphite powder and crude oil shape the vocabulary of her work. It would appear, at first, that Rockburne organizes floor and wall units out of pure volition, a taste related both to the memory of the Cubist grid and to the amorphousness of the liquid field atmospheres one associates with Louis. But to

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  • John Storrs

    Schoelkopf Gallery

    John Storrs is a little-known genial practitioner of a style exclusively thought to be decorative in its nature. Chicagoans of a certain period were taught that the immense pinnacle figure of their Board of Trade Building was either the “first aluminum sculpture” or the “biggest aluminum sculpture” in the world. So much for provincial modern American art history. Storrs, long expatriated, had been pressed back to the heartlands to regularize the income of his father’s extensive holdings. We first find him in 1912 through 1914 in the studio of Rodin although, unlike other American students of

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  • Leon Polk Smith

    Galerie Chalette

    To the degree that we are still without a clear picture of the Mondrian-derived abstraction which came to be painted in New York City from the 1930s on, first among the now-neglected heroes of the American Abstract Artists group and then, in the ’40s, among a much wider body of converts, is an historical oversight which the Leon Polk Smith exhibition serves in part to rectify. I await the comprehensive museum survey which would attack the larger problem; or is it that the work, say, of Harry Holtzman, Fritz Glarner, Ilya Bolotowsky, Burgoyne Diller and now, we see, Leon Polk Smith among so many

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  • Sidney Goodman

    Terry Dintenfass Gallery

    The most difficult thing for me to get through in Sidney Goodman’s work is his virtuosity and mannerism. At moments his facility works against the otherwise remarkable intelligence of these cold representational paintings. The sources of Goodman’s works can easily be traced to Cézanne, Eakins and Maillol, but, even when we are strongly aware of the presence of the earlier masters’, their solutions are alluded to only because the staying power of the kinds of problems they present are still attractive to young painters. They are not there for any kind of “historical justification.”

    In a remarkable

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  • Max Ernst

    Byron Gallery

    How misserved Max Ernst is in his many exhibitions, in both private gallery and public institution, unless, of course, the failure of each exhibition must be laid to the artist’s own meddling and Victorian taste. Ernst is constantly shown as a minor Academician, pretentiously overframed, laden with gold leaf, corner scrolls, passe-partouts of all colors and illuminated in fakely dramatic shafts of light. The present installation is particularly gruesome in this respect. The impression conveyed by all this crowding is that Ernst is somehow not party to the accusations against bourgeois art which

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  • Francois Pompon

    Acquavella Gallery

    With what anticipation one went to the Francois Pompon retrospective! Students of Rodin are familiar with the name of the artist if not the oeuvre, as Pompon was Rodin’s chef d’atelier for many years and figures in numerous anecdotes about the master. Moreover, the famous life-size white marble Polar Bear shown at the Salon d’Automne of 1922 was an additional incentive. Instead, a goodly number of small-scale animal pieces in a lithe and svelte manner, but little marked with Cubist generalization, were shown. It was the Cubist simplifications that one had hoped to find but, apart from certain

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  • Erté

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Erté—the pseudonym of Romain de Tirtoff—is a transcription of the French pronunciation of his initials. Erté, Russian-born, but in Paris from 1910 on, at length came to dominate the characteristically bourgeois expressions of the arts of patronage—theatre, ballet, opera, spectacles of all kinds—particularly in the period between the two wars.

    The ultimate source of Erté’s work is Beardsley, whose drawings Erié studied as a young man in prerevolutionary St. Petersburg, when, after 1905, The Society of the World of Art, Mir Isskustva, then directed by Sergei Diaghilev, began to exhibit advanced

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  • “She”

    Cordier-Ekstrom Gallery

    Magritte’s La Représentation of 1954 depicts the pelvis of a Praxitelean model from the abdomen to just above the knees, framed in fitted gilt which exactly duplicates the profile of the Venus figure. The work appears in the enormously praised exhibition called “She,” ingeniously installed by Arne Ekstrom. The survey is based on the theme of the mystery of l’étemel féminin, the female representation in modern, exotic, oriental and so-called primitive cultures through an enormous number of ages and centuries. The Magritte, with its cool gray mounds and declivities, presents, like the clichés of

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  • Larry Rivers

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    Marlborough’s recent show made it appear that Larry Rivers has been progressively accommodating his art to the facile popular misreading of early ’60s Pop. Most of his new works are so hokey and meretricious as not even to be good clowning.

    Rivers’ best paintings of the 1950s succeeded in establishing painting as special access to corporeity. When they dealt with sex, senescence, and physical vulnerability, paintings like The Accident and The Pool always linked these subjects with the universal condition of visibility. The seemingly obsessive character of some of Rivers’ interests didn’t rankle

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  • Dan Flavin

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    Dan Flavin acknowledged the death of Barnett Newman with a modest show at Castelli in which one piece was specifically dedicated to the late master. There is something vaguely offensive about dedicating pieces of visual art to the deceased; it is perhaps like sending candy rather than flowers to a funeral. (And Flavin has just done it again in the Whitney Annual.) Anyway, one looks closely for formal justification for such a dedication. Flavin’s untitled piece was a frame arrangement from floor to ceiling with blue and red verticals facing into a corner and a pair of yellow horizontals facing

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  • Group Show

    Dwan Gallery

    Flavin was represented in the Dwan group show by a single green vertical which seemed to be there so as to be seen through Charles Ross’s Model for Prism Wall Muybridge Window, which seemed to be on hand for the converse reason. While some of these pieces did collect resonance from each other, the. Anastasi and the Sand-back, for instance, even in separate rooms, the strange thing was that all together they didn’t seem to make up a complete show. There was apparently a mutual encroachment of conceptual spaces as well as real spaces which suggested that the one-man show may be the necessary unit

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  • Robert Rohm; Jake Berthot

    O.K. Harris Gallery

    Most of Robert Rohm’s rope pieces at O.K. Harris had to do with different registers of expectation: simple rope grids so predictable as to be almost conceptual were hung and cut so as to drape into various positions. The means of execution is really quite standardized, yet the compositions formed by the falling rope are only felt to be predictable in the vaguest way. It is as if a conceptual order has met with the real condition of gravity and entered a dimension of physical ambiguity. The sensuous nature of the cut grids is almost made conceptual as well, since the most sensuous aspect of their

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  • Larry Calcagno

    Royal Marks Gallery

    Royal Marks gave Larry Calcagno his first New York show in six years and even then not in response to any urgency in the work itself. Calcagno has lately been painting horizontal abstractions, sometimes consisting of several individually stretched sections. Much seems to be made of the fact that the horizontal bands of color that compose the paintings find their source in natural landscape elements. (They are most like some of the effects one sees on the horizon when flying.) But it is when the reference to landscape is most suppressed that the paintings begin to work as paintings, especially

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  • Resurrection

    The Studio Museum in Harlem

    The current show of black artists’ work at the Studio Museum in Harlem is so diverse that it is impossible to discuss in terms of visual cohesion. The show, which fills both galleries in the Museum, includes every kind of imagery—works patterned on African themes and techniques, familiar experiments in various styles of 20th-century American and European art and explicit propaganda. Few works stand alone as products of strongly developed artistic sensibilities.

    What the exhibition does reveal are some of the many ways black artists are struggling to define their identities both as artists and as

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  • Lee Lozano

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    A group of eleven paintings by Lee Lozano in the small, main-floor gallery of the Whitney Museum is disturbing. Called “wave series paintings,” they emit a feeling of compulsive, systematic control, short-circuited somehow so the resulting works are curiously idiosyncratic. All but the last four paintings in the group appear as meticulously brushed curves painted in murky oils. The complex mind-dance about electromagnetic wave theory that accompanies them via a group of explanatory drawings does not mitigate their oppressive decorativeness, nor does the amount of physical ordeal involved in

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  • Mell Daniel

    Fischbach Gallery

    Mell Daniel’s small drawings in watercolor, grease crayon and inks are the work of an older artist whose first period of intense artistic activity occurred during the second and third decades of the century. His first one-man show of drawings was sponsored by the Arensbergs and held in De Zayas’ gallery in New York City. Although the recent drawings have a certain somber attractiveness, their interest is primarily historical. This is an artist whose vision developed when American artists were making their first experiments in abstraction. These drawings are still firmly grounded in an older way

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  • John Altoon

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    Pen, ink and airbrush drawings from the “Cowboys and Indians” series by the late John Altoon, an artist with a considerable underground reputation as a draftsman among artists on the West Coast, are epic, erotic fantasies about Indians, cowboys and colonial ladies whose wit and beautiful calligraphy make them exceptionally entertaining. The imagery swings from inventive whimsy to violence—all paradoxically dried out by his fast-moving pen. There’s no violence in the sex, only in the surrounding events. Gentle, bizarre pleasures take place amidst murder and destruction. In a few drawings, the

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  • Antoine Bourdelle

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    It was an excellent idea to hold a show of work by Antoine Bourdelle, and better still to place the emphasis in it on his output during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th—after that, Bourdelle’s energies were largely taken up with huge monumental commissions of an official,not merely a public nature, and this meant that they could not be problematic works: whatever problems they might have occasioned were inevitably decided in advance by the nature of an official commission. It was requisite that they perpetuate certain values as it were unthinkingly, and while

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  • Turku Trajan

    Zabriskie Gallery

    The range of subjects in Turku Trajan’s work and their emotional and ideological weight are much the same as in Bourdelle’s—Trajan’s work embodies the great themes of earlier Western sculpture in such vehicles as the nude human figure, the heroic horse and biblical and mythological typology. But Trajan didn’t die until 1957 and he was working in New York, and those are very big differences. They meant that, while Trajan’s approach to form and theme was basically a traditional one and involved the largeness of scope that comes from the identity of values of the artist and his public, his situation

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  • Wifredo Lam

    Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer

    I’m just old enough to know I remember it correctly: there was a time when Wifredo Lam was considered an important painter. It was when Matta was, too. Surrealismhad succeeded Cubism as the dominant art movement in France, and candidates were needed to succeed Arp, Ernst and Tanguy as its leaders; Breton apostrophized Lam, and he became one of them. Lam’s themes are taken from a lot of work of the early thirties, such as Giacometti’s and Brauner’s, but he renders his motifs very differently: with a flat desiccation that comes from Analytical Cubism. Yet these flat shapes are put in the deep

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  • Man Ray

    Goldowsky

    The survey of photographs by Man Ray is worth mentioning, although I don’t have anything to say about it. Ray’s work has always been a hodgepodge of styles, and his photos are no exception. Those in the present show fall into three principal groups. The early ones, mostly portraits, are straightforwardly naturalistic. At the other extreme are the rayographs, which in this show have a markedly Suprematist character and are in any case very abstract. The link between these two groups is provided by a small group of solarization photos, in which rational or naturalistic connections between elements

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