reviews

  • Cy Twombly

    Castelli Gallery

    The current wave of New Realist painting makes me appreciate Cy Twombly’s “blackboard” pictures more and more, especially the most abstract ones. Who since Jasper Johns has made such a resourceful choice of an image, except perhaps Ron Davis?

    The illusionism in the blackboards is, so to speak, literal rather than pictorial; it is applied to the presentation the painting makes of itself, not just to something the painting can be seen to contain. In these pictures illusionism envelops the painting itself in almost a trompe l’oeil fashion with the result that the painting is set at a peculiar remove

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  • Michael Steiner

    Marlborough Gallery and Goldowsky Gallery

    Two of the sculptures in Michael Steiner’s show at Marlborough are very powerful, Betonica and Fleabane Marsh. Betonica, in Cor-ten, is the piece that derives most clearly from Steiner’s earlier work, such as the pieces in his last Marlborough show. Those earlier pieces, though they sat on the floor, never quite rested there; despite their rough look and undisguised material, they didn’t seem to be on the floor because they were heavy. There’s no doubt about Betonica, it’s an extremely heavy object, and the angled planes that give it a slight lift from the floor read as pictorial elements rather

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  • Kenneth Snelson

    John Weber Gallery

    I’ve never been very excited about Kenneth Snelson’s work, and I am not persuaded by his new work at Weber. The surprise of this show is that Snelson is now making objects out of nylon rope and aluminum or bamboo rods and that they hang on or lean against the wall instead of standing free in space. Again these structures are held together by the tension on the nylon cords threaded through. The basic structure is a square or rectangle and the variety among works is mostly in the way they are threaded. The one piece that really interested me is a large aluminum one in which the cord is threaded

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  • Joel Shapiro

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    The use of categories in analysis and description of art objects is often necessary, for parallels and influences are noticed, prototypes discovered, and common metaphors claimed. But it is essential to distinguish between the use of these terms in writing about art history, when the finitude of a life or work can be safely bracketed, and its use in contemporary criticism, where they behave too frequently like opaque systems which obscure the particular. It is ultimately not the rough groupings which yield insight, but the individual work.

    The problem of blanket categorization can be seen in the

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  • Mel Bochner

    Sonnabend Gallery

    A similar problem, though raised in connection with the placement of information rather than the desire to illustrate a process, is apparent in the work of Mel Bochner at Sonnabend. He has distributed sheets of white paper around the gallery floor on which lie rocks demonstrating propositions of logical necessity. For example: “If X is between A and B, X is not identical to A or B.” The pebbles are models, picturing instead of just asserting propositions. Since many artists and critics have frequently acknowledged the influence of Wittgenstein, it is not unreasonable to draw a parallel between

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  • Robert Goodnough

    Emmerich Gallery Uptown

    While the reduction in the work of many painters has been toward simpler and tougher premises, Robert Goodnough has reduced his work in the past few years to purer poetry—the flutter of light across the surface of the canvas. The small masked pieces are very susceptible to metaphorical analogies. He has used mostly shades of gray, introducing pastel colors into some pieces, although the primary sense of color is generated by the unsized brown weave of the canvas which functions as a middle ground for the highlights and shadows of the paint.

    In both last year’s show and the present one, it seems

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  • Harry Kramer

    Brata Gallery

    Harry Kramer’s current show at Brata reconfirms the importance and vitality of painting as a traditional concern—the discovery of relationships of marks on canvas. Kramer has produced work of great energy by restricting his vocabulary to straight lines and angles and by using only black, white, and gray.

    The lines of pencil and paint seem to describe the edges of planes as they emerge and intersect, fading in and out of the picture until the entire surface becomes a concatenation of angles. The variety in the quality of marks, from razor-thin lines to thick dripping stripes, appears to result

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  • Ludwig Sander

    Lawrence Rubin Gallery

    Ludwig Sander’s paintings at the Rubin Gallery seem to be attempts to enliven the formats he has been using for several years. Most of the new works, however, make use of the two basic structures he had employed in his earlier pictures.

    The first is completely frontal. In Aroostook II, for example, the canvas is divided vertically in two with horizontal lines near the corners forming narrow shapes which balance each other. Each shape is separated by narrow black lines similar to those Mondrian used, but instead of acting as area and color as they do in Mondrian’s paintings, Sander’s lines appear

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  • Doug Sanderson

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Doug Sanderson exhibits two groups of paintings at Paula Cooper. The first consists of small pieces of paper pinned on the wall, each one containing two squares painted in white, variants of white, or transparent rubbery medium. Like some of Robert Ryman’s work, they appear fragile because the paint is cracking and peeling. Yellow, mottled, they look like the test samples demonstrating paint in hardware stores. The second group is composed of larger rectangles painted or pasted directly on the wall. Based on the module of the shadow in the room, they are done in variants of the colors of both

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  • John Ferren

    A.M. Sachs Gallery

    John Ferren (1905–1970) was the kind of painter who stood on the sidelines but who nevertheless did seem to be around when something was happening. The A. M. Sachs Gallery has been showing a selection of his works, mostly from the last 20 years of his life. Ferren’s career actually goes back quite a bit further. In fact, his name ought to have a recognized place in the history of transatlantic modernism. He was active in Paris in the ’30s and Gertrude Stein says in Everybody’s Autobiography (1936), “He is the only American painter foreign painters consider as a painter and whose paintings interest

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  • The Bestiary

    Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery

    When you don’t as a rule like the idea of “theme” exhibitions built around subject matter, and then the theme in question is something you happen to dislike, chances are you aren’t going to be too receptive. This is where I find myself with regard to the show called The Bestiary at Cordier and Ekstrom. I have never liked material of this kind because in it there is an almost inevitable distraction from plastic values by fascination with the motif; in art the only subject matter more dangerous than the Interesting is the Fascinating. Works of art like these are swimming upstream, and if they get

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  • Le Corbusier

    Denise René Gallery

    Charles Edouard Jeanneret, called Le Corbusier, was surely one of the greatest architects in the history of that art. Even his stupendous state funeral in the courtyard of the Louvre in 1965 was a milestone in the record of public respect for modern art. Le Corbusier was, of course, primarily an architect and to judge him on any other grounds would be like calling Picasso to task for a fairly slack career as a sculptor. But he was always interested in the plastic arts and he painted and drew all the time. At lectures given in America he even painted and drew while he talked. He had a sculptural

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