reviews

  • George Brecht

    Onnasch Gallery

    George Brecht is an artist whose special capacity is to extend the bounds of the iconographic. Brecht, who was involved in the Happenings of the 1950s with Kaprow, Dine, and the others is at his best when he establishes a milieu that seems slightly anachronistic in its imagery. Brecht approaches the post-Hiroshima world through icons that seem lodged in the age of Surrealism rather than of Pop, in the age when the bowler (derby) hat still stood for both the clown and the capitalist. That age was the one that saw the end of European domination, in the arts as elsewhere.

    One is inclined to think

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  • Eva Sonneman, Paul Mogenson and Lucio Pozzi

    Bykert Gallery downtown

    The kind of “first, second” sequence that Douglas Huebler uses in Duration Piece #7 is basic to Eva Sonneman’s work, which consists of pairs of photographs. These are taken in the same place—although not from the same position in that place—and then printed simultaneously. From one frame to the next an enormous variety of changes occur, in the action caught by the camera, in its field of vision, and also as in Family Portrait, Chicago, 1969 in the physical quality (the focus and light) of the photography itself. Sonneman’s way of working is highly intuitive, there is no set time between shots,

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  • Howard Buchwald

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Howard Buchwald is also concerned with painting as a thing in the world, as, in his own words, an object to be looked at. His new paintings—all made very recently—are small in contrast to the piece he exhibited in the Whitney Annual a couple of years ago, but are similarly involved with an achieved equilibrium between “opticality” and objectness. I find the new paintings much more successful than the larger, earlier work, which involved a large orange field surrounded by squares of varying size. My take on that was that not enough seemed to happen in the middle of the painting that could respond

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  • Frank Stella

    Knoedler Contemporary Art

    Frank Stella continues to make paintings that involve a literal equivalent for modernism’s shallow pictorial space. As with his other work of the last couple of years, the new paintings employ a variety of materials, in particular masonite, cardboard, felt, and wood.

    To begin with the support, I find it intriguing that during the period in which he’s been making his work in this way, Stella has consistently inserted three layers of corrugated cardboard between the stretcher bars and the surface. The sort of alternation between hard and soft that occurs across the front of these pieces is built

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  • Ad Dekkers

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Ad Dekkers’ work—in common with Buchwald’s and Stella’s—sets out to make pictorial space literal. And that’s as far as any similarity between his work and that of the other two goes. Dekkers is Dutch, and, according to the catalogue of his show, has from the first (1960) endeavored to literalize the space of painting as that is represented—exclusively—by the work of Mondrian. Furthermore, Dekkers is interested in Mondrian sans Mondrian’s color.

    The catalogue relates Dekkers’ work—which is either white or, in the case of the drawings, translucent—to a painting Mondrian made in 1918, Losangique

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  • Robert Moskoswitz

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    This continuum is an underlying premise in Robert Moskoswitz’ work as it is in Dekkers’, although in a different way. Moskowitz begins his paintings by drawing a perspectival space that’s then either (1) rendered vague by the use of close-valued, atmospheric color, the whole space of the painting then being reactivated by little dabs of thick paint that sit on the surface, or (2) is virtually obliterated by—predominantly—black paint, on top of which he then paints a small image. An example of the latter type is White Hat, 1973. These paintings seem to be about flatness as a property that can

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  • Ken Greenleaf

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    Ken Greenleaf, like Michael Steiner, is one of a large number of artists for whom art history seems to stop in the mid-’60s. Or, if that’s not the right way to put it, for whom Anthony Caro’s example—a modernist, pictorial elimination of real space—remains a viable option for sculpture in the 1970s. I have suggested elsewhere that it doesn’t, and that Caro’s own most recent work tells us why (Artforum, September, 1973). Briefly, I feel that the sort of sculpture now made by Greenleaf and the others turns out, after the articulate ambivalence achieved by Caro in his work of the mid-’60s, to be

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  • Arman

    John Gibson Gallery

    Whatever my problems with the work of Greenleaf and Chirino, I am in no doubt that they’re serious and sensitive in what they do. But if there ever was a time when Arman could be taken seriously it’s certainly not now, which perhaps explains why he’s recently exhibited not once but twice.

    Arman likes to collect garbage, and then package it. Sometimes he casts it into a lump and sometimes he shuts it up in a plastic box. His career is bracketed, in fact, by Bourgeois Trash, Economy Size, 1960—why, by the way, is it bourgeois trash? Proles and aristocrats surely have as much use for Tam-pax and

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  • Martin Chirino

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    If Greenleaf suggests the reasons why Caro’s art tends to read as “powerful but compromised” in the context of the present situation, Martin Chirino draws attention to the problems involved in maintaining David Smith’s view of sculpture. Or, rather, not to a manipulation of materials and imagery which is related to his—and gains respectability, generic identity, from that—but now seems to be historically inappropriate. Greenleaf’s sculpture suggests an uncertainty, typical of Caro, about whether the work belongs inside or out of doors. Chirino, like Smith, demands an outdoor site for his work.

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  • Christian Boltanski

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Christian Boltanski is French. This, his first New York solo exhibition, dealt with his life, his previous art and exhibitions, with the lives of others, and also with the lack of distinction between any of these things, if only for the reason that they all, by virtue of being exhibited together at this time, became Boltanski’s most recent work. The contents of a number of vitrines reflect this kind of mixture. A random sampling includes: a book in which the adult Boltanski reconstructs scenes from his childhood; pieces of clay which represent 11 attempts to reconstruct a compass he used as a

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  • Mario Merz

    John Weber Gallery

    For several years Mario Merz has used the Fibonacci mathematical progression in his art. The work is fairly opaque without a general understanding of the progression, which involves adding a certain unit to its predecessor in order to derive its successor. Since nothing precedes the first unit, it is added to zero and the second unit is therefore equal to the first; the third is the sum of the first two, the fourth the sum of the second and third, and so on. Merz begins with 1 and so the progressions goes 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. This is as far as he takes it for this exhibition. (For the

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  • Power Boothe

    A.M. Sachs Gallery

    Like much contemporary painting, Power Boothe’s work involves a precise, systematic method resulting in a total accumulation which is more or less evocative and mysterious. This aspect relates his to the painting of Robert Irwin, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, and Brice Marden. Boothe’s use of the grid increases his relation to the last two. Another common aspect involves a definite sense of time, a slowness with which the paintings reveal themselves to the viewer. In Boothe’s case what finally emerges is not only the visual complexity of the work, but also the changes which take place square by

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  • Leon Polk Smith

    Galerie Denise René

    Leon Polk Smith’s recent exhibition of some 24 paintings spanned more than a quarter-century. The work has been consistently abstract and geometric, although it has run a gamut of styles. It is difficult for me to know how accurately this exhibition represents Smith’s achievement, but taken at face value it seems very uneven. Some of the earliest work is best, particularly Black-White Repeat which dates from 1953, but is similar to Red-Black from 1946-47. Together they establish Smith’s interest in combining shapes so they are equally and ambiguously positive and negative. However, others from

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  • Jules Olitski

    Knoedler Contemporary Art

    According to Hilton Kramer, Jules Olitski, the sculptor, “belongs to the new wave of sculptors who concentrate their attention on low-lying forms that hug the floor beneath our feet.” The idea of announcing anything like a “new wave” is bad enough; when it concerns an idea which has appeared in a lot of strong and disparate work for the past ten years, it is ludicrous. The artists responsible are very visible; most visible are Andre, Judd, Morris, Serra, and a number of others. I like Kramer’s writing and respect him in many ways, but his N.Y. Times review of Olitski’s recent sculpture reflects

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  • Jack Sonenberg

    Fischbach Gallery

    Jack Sonenberg’s work consists of innumerable canvas-covered elements painted black which lean against each other and the wall. They are often tall L-or H-shaped beams; others have less legible notches, projections, and holes. They are arranged randomly and chaotically and are consequently difficult to distinguish and suggestive of some vague function. That these elements are made of painted canvas is not immediately discernible, but is partially responsible for a peculiar elegance and weightlessness which the work has. The three pieces, each occupying an entire wall of Fischbach’s totally white

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  • Frank Bowling

    Center for Inter-American Relations

    Frank Bowling showed ten paintings from this year, some of them very large. He deals in juicy coloristic delectation; rich stained hues soak into expanses of canvas, settling the pigment in delicate but vivid deposits. Masked rectilinear bands, sometimes heightened by metallic paint, introduce an organizing armature without repressing the flow of pigment and its velvety residue across them. Other means of paint application involve more conventionally Expressionist dripping and splattering, but the fluid play of paint against and across the taped bands is more to the point. It is a virtue of

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  • Turku Trajan

    Zabriskie Gallery

    Turku Trajan’s art is not the kind of thing I expect to like, but I was pleasantly surprised. Trajan’s (1887–1959) idiosyncratic sculpture was contemporary with Abstract Expressionist painting in New York. As with Ryder in earlier painting, one deduces a reclusive turn of mind and an impatient ignorance of the properties of materials. The sculptures here, some of them quite large—Pietà measures over five feet—are made of Keen’s Cement, an all too crumbly substance that takes on added overtones of melancholy from the coexistence of ephemerality with massiveness—like Ryder’s thick and heavy, but

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  • Gene Davis

    Fischbach Gallery uptown and downtown

    Gene Davis’ show of recent paintings filled both the uptown and downtown Fischbach galleries. That in itself I am beginning to notice as an issue. There is a certain 57th-Street imperialism in many of these colossal, uptown and downtown shows, at the expense of the Soho ideal. This is not just a question of price and marketing, but, less visibly, it is a matter of access to exhibitions for new artists and of a bearish withdrawal of confidence from unfamiliar art in general. Perhaps this became apparent to me at this point because of problems that have always bothered me in Gene Davis’ own art.

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  • Hans Richter

    Betty Parsons and Denise René Galleries

    The career of Hans Richter is so long and distinguished that if we think of him as a filmmaker, a historian of Dada, and then remember his own work as a Dadaist, we still may not acknowledge his present-day activity. Two exhibitions of Richter’s work ran in late November: one of earlier work, at Denise René, and the other of recent work, across the street at Betty Parsons.

    Richter is one of the ranking draftsmen of his time, his crayon Abstraction of 1919 (illus. in his Dada; Art and Anti-Art) being one of the outstanding drawings of this century. The Denise René show included a large array of

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  • Liliana Porter

    Hundred Acres Gallery

    As yet more evidence of artists’ increasing willingness to cross ideological lines within single shows, Liliana Porter’s wall drawings, photographs, and prints are as interesting for their category breaking as for their reticence. Porter’s work not only jumps the barrier normally taken for granted between figuration and abstraction, but she does it convincingly. It’s really a question of ideology. For if ideology in a broad sense is “the widest range of meanings present in a society,” on a narrower level it refers to the beliefs peculiar to one social group. Throughout the ’60s the dominant

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Castelli Gallery uptown

    I was surprised to learn that Richard Artschwager had been making—in one form or another—acrylic on cellotex paintings of the kind he’s showing now since 1964. Surprising, because although over the last five or six years I’d seen his different sculpture and Conceptual work, I’d never realized he’d been painting as well all along. And unusual paintings they are, looking so much like drawings it’s hard to believe they’re painted. All are interiors or parts of interiors, some fairly large and most divided into sections. A curious feature is why the views are sliced into sections. For the slicing

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  • Gilbert and George

    Sonnabend Gallery downtown

    Consistency is hardly an issue, but if you’re to take Gilbert and George at their word their latest show is a lot of rubbish. Calling their new work “Modern Rubbish” is typical of their ambivalent stance which, on the one hand, mocks the art system and yet, on the other, profits by being taken seriously by it. Using Gilbert and George’s language, I would say as a preface to my comments their work has never kept me awake at night breathless with a love of art waiting to see their next move. Sociologically, however, their position is not without interest. For in an art world bent on creating a

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  • Rosemarie Castoro

    Syracuse University, Lubin House

    Rosemarie Castoro’s work takes on an autonomy drawn both materially and thematically from her earlier development. In 1970–71 Castoro worked on environmentally scaled panels covered with charcoal hatchings. In 1971–72 she exhibited large flat graphite “broom-strokes.” More recently she has been concerned with what she calls “exoskeletal auras”—usually figures or their outlines (radiating auras) in crowd situations, for example groups at an exhibition opening or units marching in a parade. In her current show she again deals with people; however, the forms are no longer figural representations

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  • Robert Rohm

    O.K. Harris Works of Art

    Robert Rohm’s recent show of sculpture veers away from the theatricality of his exhibition in this same gallery last year. In the earlier show he transformed the space into what appeared to be a dormant construction site dimly lit by mechanic’s safety lamps. He must have sensed this to be a situation dangerous in its seductiveness, just as earlier he feared that his rope grids resembled the net-draped walls of a “seafood restaurant” (Artforum, April, 1970). The current sculptures deal with problems explored in the earlier work with cut rope grids and drooping latex—one that engages the wall as

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  • Ray Ring

    Ward-Nasse Gallery

    John Dewey, in Art as Experience, contends that anyone can enjoy flowers, but in order to truly appreciate them one must first be committed to understanding something about their complex nature, and eventually one can go on to enjoy an “esthetic experience.” Similarly, when I first saw Ray Ring’s paintings I felt compelled to decipher what appeared to be an extremely logical design in order to more clearly “appreciate” what I saw.

    Most of the paintings in the exhibition consisted of small panels in which an abstract proposition was stated and then methodically carried through all its possible

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  • Don Celender and John Fawcett

    O.K. Harris Works of Art

    Don Celender’s art is an entertainment. It takes the form of a one-man letter-writing campaign whereby Celender, in the name of a newly instituted art movement, contacts high officials in various organizations asking that they each execute a preposterous proposal. The proposals are written with an ingenious literary wit, eliciting responses ranging from sympathetic interest to outright anger. For example, as part of his Political Art Movement he sent a letter to Lawrence O’Brien, chairman of the National Democratic Party, asking that he “Train the orangutans at the Oregon Primate Center to master

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  • Robert Irwin

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Robert Irwin’s show consisted of a 55’-long (the length of the gallery) approximately 6’-high “barricade” or semi-wall if you will (3/5 the height of the gallery—all measurements are approximate) that divided the gallery space in half. It was painted white as is the gallery, and was devoid of any inherent trace or image of reality other than its entrenchment as wall-barricade in this space.

    No title or forewarning was given that this was “it.” People walked in, people walked out—a shame because the piece and we were capable, through an extreme investment, of generating a great deal of interest.

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  • Mario Merz

    John Weber Gallery

    The light at the end of the tunnel in this “Odyssean” search for an almost lost presence and place of esthetic, intellectual, and emotional value was Mario Merz’ show that the artist has again based on the Fibonacci series.

    Many, on seeing this show, were blind to or amused at the simplicity and clarity of such a presentation of Fibonacci’s mysterious discovery and Merz’ fiducial romance with it. I was visually comforted, mentally seduced, and emotionally informed by Merz’ presentation.

    Merz did a series of drawings and the actual tables from the drawings that would accommodate a certain number

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  • Helen Frankenthaler

    André Emmerich Gallery uptown

    She had a gorgeous, simply gorgeous, time.
    And look at the lovely shell she brought.
    In quintessential triviality for years in
    this fleshcase a shesoul dwelt.
    —James Joyce, Ulysses

    Helen Frankenthaler’s new show was about an art—no, paintings—of visual opulence, of rich, extravagant, and beautiful color. It was about the fluidity of her solutions—no, emulsions—that stick to the eye like honey. By virtue of their viscosity they coat and bind themselves to the eye. They preserve and pervert our perception of the essential “shesoul” which still lies somewhere within the artist since they were not




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  • “Photographers in 19th century Italy”

    Robert Schoelkopf Gallery

    Three gondolas with nine Americans in each, their bleached-out eyes retouched with tiny black dots for pupils, the tableau spliced onto a backdrop of the Ducal Palace so that the gondoliers’ heads are ghostlike, is offered by Paolo Salviati, Photographer, and entitled Venezia in gold letters on a black border. A nude is seen six times over, one time with her left index finger curled against a plump cheek like Ingres’ Countess d’Haussonville, another time covering herself daintily like a Venus Surprised. Then there are market scenes, crowds at St. Peter’s, and Monuments, Monuments: the Bronze

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