reviews

  • George L. K. Morris

    Hirschl and Adler Galleries

    The retrospective of George L. K. Morris was worthwhile, even though the work was not very good. Morris’ paintings are typical of so much American painting of a somewhat earlier generation, the generation of Dove and Joseph Stella, in being cerebral and emotive in almost equal measure—in which respect they are truly a kind of Abstract Expressionism. It may be my temperament, not Morris’, but I think it is the emotivity that keeps the work from being better than it is. After all, Morris is an intelligent painter, and in addition the abstract models to which he looks are both homogeneous as a

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  • Gilbert and George

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Gilbert and George are two Britons who, for want of materials and ready cash (we are told), turned in upon themselves to find the technical and formal solutions of their sculptural problems. George, taller and blonde, wears the blue dotted tie and Gilbert, shorter and darker, the brown tie; both stand upon a table in the middle of the gallery. The exposed parts of their bodies—heads, hands—have been rubbed with metal powders, bronze, aluminum, and gold, daubed and patinated as their jointly executed and foldable drawings are maculated and stained. Slowly, ceremoniously, they transfer articles

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  • Lynda Bengalis

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    More and more Lynda Bengalis strives for theatrical effect. At the opening of the new Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, charcoal black polyurethane foam projected from the wall, creating an environment which was cavernlike and prehistoric. This theatrical thrust in her work was intensified at a similar installation at the Milwaukee Art Center at which vast, plastic foam reaches were embedded with phosphorescent color. After exposure to light they glowed in the dark, giant decomposing organic matters calcified within stalactites.

    In the present installation at Paula Cooper’s Gallery, sprawling

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  • Kurt Seligmann

    John Bernard Myers Gallery

    In the sixth issue of The Tiger’s Eye (December 1948), given over to a painters’ and critics’ discussion of “the sublime in art,” Kurt Seligmann described his emotions in front of the great works of art of the past as akin to “the Norwegian fisherman in Poe’s tale of the Maelström. Plunged into the colossal whirlpool, and seeing no possible escape from certain annihilation, he sets aside his anguish, aware of his pettiness amidst the grandiose, the unheard of spectacle. His only regret is that he cannot return to his fellowmen and tell of the Sublime which he had witnessed in the abyss.” So

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  • Ten Young Artists: Theodoron Awards 1971

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    The Theodoron Award are purchase awards (now in their second year) made to young artists on the advice of a committee of the Guggenheim curators. Since all of the artists in the present exhibition were born in the decade of the 1940s and many are just out of art school, the likelihood of their striking new notes—granting the modernist idiom that they choose to work in to begin with—is unlikely. They begin where all contemporary artists of interest begin, in the inherited syntax of the immediately preceding vanguard. This includes, for example, color abstraction, post-Minimalism, and reductivist

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  • Robert Duran

    Rykert Gallery

    These lines form a postscript to my more extensive remarks concerning Robert Duran’s work, made earlier this year, (Artforum, March, 1971.)

    The problem which Duran continues to attack in his paintings (or is plagued by) is one of figure and ground. Since the application of thin color in near-arbitrary displacement tended to render the figure-ground relationship ambiguous, Duran has emphasized several pictorial devices of great subtlety to confirm frontality and planarity. Allowing the initial level of color to dry he isolates quasi-floral configurations in the center of the canvas, identifying

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  • Peter Plagens

    Reese Palley Gallery

    Peter Plagens, a West Coast-based contributing editor of Artforum, knows a lot, especially that he is going to be taken to task for his large craypas pastel and acrylic paintings. Not only because they border dangerously on being beautiful for beauty’s sake, but also because he cannot fail to be aware that this kind of asseverated painterliness is at this moment in contemporary art an almost untenable position. Plagens is, in part, a victim of the very artistic consciousness of which he has been a vital reformer.

    Plagens’ color is apt to be highly grayed, thinned out in broad, chalky fields. In

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  • Robert Wade

    Kornblee Gallery

    Working with thematic material related to an oblique yet connected view of Texan culture and a sentimental attitude toward the freakish, Robert Wade takes his family picture of Roy Rogers and Trigger, or shots of cattle mating, or dead coyotes—not to mention the tattooed lady, or the lady with stretchable skin—and blows them up large, printing them up on canvas prepared with photographic emulsion. The job is done in a cursory manner, with brown stains and unsteady values. These in turn are pinned directly to the wall. The pictures are about adolescent sentiment, about the tyranny of photography

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  • H. C. Westermann

    Allan Frumkin Gallery

    Always outside of the seasonal flux of trends and “isms,” H. C. Westermann maintains his unique position as the magical creator of subtly satirical effects in varied forms. His constructions, block prints, and watercolors on view at the Frumkin Gallery were a thorough delight. Like the best science fiction films, or the comic books you doted on as a kid, they combine a marvelous, obsessive craftsmanship and a personalized technology with a novel sense of the fantastic—all finally, and finely, wrought in to a special blend of deadpan reality and irrational dreamstuff that emerges as more than

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  • Neglected Nineteenth Century

    H. Shickman Gallery

    When I reviewed the first installment of the Shickman Gallery’s the Neglected Nineteenth Century, I tried to make two general points. The first was that these artists are not really “neglected” any longer. The second was that the dichotomy that is usually posited, and that the show perpetuated, between academics on the one hand and modernists on the other, is untenable in the face of the facts, whether the facts are taken to be the paintings themselves or the professional activity of the artists when they were not painting. This second exhibition of similar material, which is on the whole not

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  • Brassaï

    Robert Schoelkopf Gallery

    The Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, continuing its attentiveness to photography, has had a survey of the work of Brassaï. Brassaï’s problem was that of all the successors to Degas, whose work, in spite of its medium, represents in epitome what can be called the photographic esthetic—to try to reconcile a flat pattern with deep, or at least plastic, space. Only occasionally, as in the Marchand de journaux of 1947, does Brassaï succeed, and since so many other photographers were able to do this perfectly well, the question is why? I think the reason is that Brassaï’s idea of lighting, and consequently

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  • Richard Lindner

    Spencer A. Samuels

    The watercolors by Richard Lindner are not up to this artist’s best level, but they mark another step in the recovery of his work. Until about the mid-’50s, Lindner had achieved some remarkable things, which fused the deep space necessary to basically figurative erotic images with a flatness and schematism of design that translated in fascinating manner the fixated quality of that eroticism and the rigidity of the conscience that repressed it. They were also beginning to combine the eroticism, which until then had been highly personal, with images of a more public nature, into which the artist

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  • Frank Roth

    Martha Jackson Gallery

    A group of recent paintings by Frank Roth is on view at the Martha Jackson Gallery until October 16th. They seem rather deliberately unlovely, as though the painter were carefully testing some notion of Ehrenzweig’s about art as the defeat of esthetic expectation. The works consist of a dark, inky field with patches of color interrupting this ground and distributed fairly closely across the picture surface, bleeding off the edges. The actual patches which do this interrupting seem at first like brushstrokes, but brushstrokes copied or imitated, as though the neural immediacy of the single stroke

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  • Mike Bakaty

    Paley and Lowe Gallery

    Some half a dozen new works by the sculptor Mike Bakaty were on view at the Paley and Lowe Gallery during late September and early October, six unique works and two works in multiple editions. All are made of clear fiberglass, in the following way: a piece of canvaslike cloth is drenched in a resin and shaped in the desired fashion, and then the resin acts chemically to change the entirety into a modeled piece of solid fiberglass. There may be an analogy with painting—when you put pigment on a canvas it changes into a picture—but the sense of fix and arrest here is more to the point. And because

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  • Modigliani

    Acquavella Galleries

    Modigliani was the first painter who turned me off. Suffice it to say that at whatever age I saw my first Modigliani I was artificially traumatized. I still think Modigliani weak, easy, shamelessly mannered, and irredeemably bourgeois. He seems to have the lowest IQ of any modern artist except Rousseau (who loved beauty) or Chagall (who at least looks like he enjoyed painting). The only thing by him I have ever liked or respected is a beautiful figure drawing owned by Columbia University, which is well-knit and done with verve. Otherwise I have so unwaveringly disliked Modigliani that whenever

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  • “Masters of Early Constructivist Abstract Art”

    Galerie Denise Rene

    What Western painters did with the Constructivist esthetic can be seen in a show called Masters of Early Constructivist Abstract Art. Mondrian is the real center of gravity, but a variety of other approaches helps place him in the context of what was a vastly international and largely—considering its principles—surprisingly individualistic movement, revealed in the exhibition through canvases and reliefs by American (Diller), Belgian, Czech, Dutch, Flemish, French, German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Swiss artists. Sometimes the style seems to pull thin as it stretches across the Continent,

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  • Friedrich Vordemerge-Gildewart

    La Boetie Gallery

    One of the Constructivists represented in the Denise René exhibition is shown at La Boetie—Friedrich Vordemerge-Gildewart (1899–1963). Vordemberge was a German Constructivist painter who started his career as a cabinetmaker, and it is no joke to say that his pictures are as firm and smooth as good woodwork. The circle and the square are favorite motifs of this artist, who joined the group called Cercle et Carré in 1930, although in the major painting here, Constructed Red (1924), they were essential elements six years before. In its actual “construction” this work is remarkably close to the

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  • Joseph Kosuth

    Castelli Gallery

    One of the things that Conceptual art reminds us is that contemporary artists tend to read a lot. If Joseph Kosuth had been honest enough simply to exhibit his summer reading list as his latest work, I might have been amused; it might have been a clever, if trivial, political gesture. But he didn’t stop at that.

    His show looked like this: toward the end of the gallery was a large square table with four chairs each at three sides of it. In front of each chair on the table was a black looseleaf notebook; the first row of notebooks was marked “A” and numbered one through four, the second row marked

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  • Salvatore Romano

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    The publicity given Salvatore Romano’s work at Max Hutchinson makes it sound as if menace is the point of the movement in his sculptures. But the two pieces at the gallery didn’t really bear this out. Sliding Blue, a large rectangular solid with a congruent slab floating on top of it, as though sliced free from it and rendered frictionless, has a simple minimal sort of geometry; although it is very big, its powder blue color takes away the threatening quality of the floating slab. This piece is much more touched with fantasy than its severe geometry would suggest. With the languor of its gliding

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  • Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Morris

    Castelli Gallery

    Castelli’s first use of its downtown space for screening works on film by Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Morris was poorly handled. A total of 16 films were shown, and all were screened on one long wall. Sometimes there were as many as four films going at once, making it impossible to concentrate on a single one for its duration, and occasionally causing a clash of sound tracks, though most of the films were silent.

    Surprisingly, not much came out of this show except Richard Serra’s films which have been for the most part reviewed previously in these columns. The two newest

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  • May Stevens

    Dintenfass Gallery

    With the social and political ferment now developing in the art world, political art has acquired a new focus, and for women artists a subjective one. May Stevens, who early in her career painted political attacks on American racism and then abandoned openly political art for a while, has now turned to political satire in her “Big Daddy” series of gouaches, silkscreens, and acrylics. The result is a tough and poignant feminist critique of the patriarchal power structure as allegorized in the recurrent figure of a pompous but sad, dangerously paternalistic figure, usually shown with a porcine

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  • Emilio Sanchez

    Coe Kerr Gallery and Center for Inter-American Relations

    In Latin American art, Ortega’s concept of dehumanization, originally a complex analysis of modernism, has been rapidly banalized into a deliberate convention, stylized into wistfulness, into similar mood pieces which are weak shadows of the dynamic trends that Ortega was examining. Certain effects have become clichés, say a newspaper blowing across an empty street; in fact, emptiness has been worn down into a visual topos that conveys no new information. Thus, in viewing the Cuban painter Emilio Sanchez, one feels that his painterly competence has been put in the service of a standard formula.

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  • Group Show

    Rykert Gallery

    The Bykert Gallery opened its season with a small solid Group Show that introduced a few young artists, the most interesting of whom seem to be Joe Zucker and Cecile Abish.

    Zucker offered a single set of ten vertical panels covered over with a colorful figurative mosaic of cotton balls dipped in acrylic and patterned into strong and sharded still lifes. Atomized, the individual plasticity and intense hues of the soft tesserae strain against the figurations while hinting through their placement at outlines and contrasts. The effect is one of vibrant color joy and energetic craftsmanship.

    Abish’s

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  • Turku Trajan

    Paley and Lowe Gallery

    The posthumous show of drawings by Turku Trajan is a tribute to an artist who was half-sanctified into an archetype after his death, when his life was reviewed in terms of a nineteenth-century Parisian bohème of poverty and neglect. Such an attitude unfortunately merely sentimentalizes and idealizes the artist as an elitist requiring special care and attention. It is obvious that the art world is run as a free market economy and that commercial, and thereby further, recognition is largely based on financial considerations, competitive politics, and individualistic exercise of power. To deplore

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  • Jim Sullivan

    Paley and Lowe Gallery

    In Jim Sullivan’s first one-man show at Paley and Lowe, his huge acrylics on unprimed canvas confront the antinomies that were present in his earlier work but, through a process of elimination, achieve a fresh and wholly different thrust. The painting process is lucid and strong, the subtleties and complex relationships gradually unfold. Using sticks of various sizes to apply the colors, Sullivan hints at containing the action within a suggestion of margin (and indeed, his previous works already presented a concern for edges). The colors are usually limited to a triad—such as red, blue, and

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