New York

Barry Flanagan

Barry Flanagan—like Shedletsky—tends to use dates for titles. And, also like Shedletsky and others, his interest nowadays seems to be in a comparably autobiographical—in his case via the exploitation of the iconographic—use of material signification. Most of the work in his show at the Modern was hung on the wall, different shapes—mostly made of canvas of various kinds—that overlap one another and are fastened at the top to a common pole. Sometimes the pieces of canvas are painted, and sometimes they’re not. The worst piece of work in the show consists of a cage with bits of canvas trapped inside. 

I found the whole thing incredibly slight, but saved to some extent by the element of wit involved. This has to do with the jolly manner in which many of the wall pieces begin, after one’s looked at them for a couple of minutes, to look like ragged Hans Hofmanns. January ’73 is such a work, and regarded in this way would tend to suggest that—temporarily funny though the association is—Flanagan thinks he’s undermining something when what he’s actually doing is disinterring it. After a moment’s thought, Flanagan’s operation seems about as prescient as selecting Harry Truman as this year’s most appropriate subject for political satire. 

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe