reviews

  • Anne and Patrick Poirier

    Sonnabend Gallery downtown

    The givens of the exhibition—an imaginative reconstitution of the Necropolis on the Isola Sacra near Ostia Antika—point up the ambiguities currently accruing to an art almost exclusively centered on manual finesse and archeological Proustianism. Anne and Patrick Poirier, through varied techniques ranging from calligraphy to relief-making, delineate an explicitly Western and self-consciously cultured orientation of their ensemble. It is not for nothing that the artists were pensionaries at the Villa Medicis for three years as Prix de Rome recipients. Instead of emphasizing the ironies implicit

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  • Garry Rich, Charles Schucker

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    One cannot exclude a certain bending over backward, not in the painting perhaps, but in the reviewing of current Abstract Expressionist painting generally, and of Garry Rich’s work in particular. Although still in his thirties, Rich joined that body of painters who rendered the Expressionist biases of color painting in the ’60s more explicit. Their lot, it appears, has been a mean one—but there has been a certain tendency if not to think well of such work, then at least not to speak ill of it. 

    Rich is but one of many who persist in Expressionist painting. Aware that the primary feature of

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  • Wallace Putnam

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    Admittedly, the human problem of the veteran painter is painful, and paradoxically oddly redemptive. Assuming that my theoretical position were even remotely true, how then does one perceive with generosity the continued elaboration of a long devotion to a set of manual and mechanical principles thrown awry and subverted by the epistemic concerns of the late ’60s and ’70s? The answer, I believe, lies not in the works produced by these artists, but in the moral examples the artists provide in terms of a devotion to morphologies whose anachronism they could scarcely have anticipated. Wallace

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  • Lawrence Vail

    Noah Goldowsky Gallery

    My suspicion is that the more firmly entrenched our nationalist myth becomes—Abstract Expressionism as the protean style of new art—the more will grow in stature those figures who presently fill in the swells and hollows of the petites histoires. In this connection, the new positioning of Lawrence Vail (1891–1968) is exemplary. Still known by an audience of aficionados, Vail’s work is now being considered in terms isolated from the piquant details of his biography. 

    For the most part, Vail’s interest has been tied to our curiosity with the Surrealist roots of Abstract Expressionism—not so much

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  • John Ferren

    A.M. Sachs Gallery

    A last note on veterans. In an extraordinary sense, the late John Ferren’s exhibition of paintings from the 1930s greatly assists in enlarging our grasp of the intentions of then emerging American abstraction. John Ferren, who died in 1970, seemed so odd as an Abstract Expressionist; the lyrical responses to the western landscape he knew from birth led to an Expressionist formulation called in the’s0s “Abstract Impressionism.” There followed the chalice and hardedge mandala archetypes, the latter intensified by travels in India, and finally, white abstract constructions luminously reflecting

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  • Nam June Paik

    Bonino Gallery

    The recent conference—“Open Circuits: The Future of Television,” held at The Museum of Modern Art—examined the enormous number of social and esthetic issues provoked by the advent of video technology and decentralized networks in the last few years. If “Nine Evenings: Experiments in Art and Technology” in October, 1966—riddled with countervalent currents though it may have been—represents, say, the Armory Show of video films and performance art, then “Open Circuits” carries with it, in terms of the reformulation of video consciousness, polemic and epistemic ends that parallel the foundation of

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  • Cecile Abish, James Reineking, and Stuart Shedletsky

    Bykert Gallery downtown

    Painting, photography, and sculpture seem—at the moment—to be mutually informative in a special way, Painting and sculpture continue to be immersed in that concern with material documentation stimulating of the most advanced work in these disciplines for the past decade. Such concerns address themselves to a spatial and temporal distortion that is physically engendered, rather than being a function of a conceptually abstract presentation of structure. Photography is, after all, a feature of industrialism that has altered the ordinary associations of “documentation” itself, in its provision of

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  • Judy Rifka, Gerald Horn and Joshua Neustein

    Bykert Gallery, O.K. Harris Gallery, and Rina Gallery

    Judy Rifka’s paintings dominated the show. I’ve left her work until last because it has some—vague but insistent—affinities with that of Gerald Horn and Joshua Neustein, to whom I shall come in a moment. Rifka’s work is done on cardboard, which provides a soft, brown field for an image made out of one or two colors. 

    This image is the result of a procedure that begins as a way of getting from one mark to another, across the surface of the piece, and ends with the creation of a kind of envelope made out of layers of paint. In the work illustrated here, the black shape, which was initiated by tiny

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  • Duane Hansen

    O.K. Harris

    An example of such a contrast is readily at hand, if one compares Pearlstein’s Two Female Models with Drawing Table with an example from Duane Hansen’s recent show, Derelict Woman, 1973–74. Both works—to refer to Tillim once more—seem equally necrophilic and prophylactic. A picture, larger than human scale, made out of oil paint and canvas, and showing two figures and some of the apparatus of traditional art; painted with a fairly small brush and presenting an illusion of depth essentially through a Renaissance technology. A sculpture, exactly the same size as its subject, colored and dressed,

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  • Philip Pearlstein

    Frumkin Gallery

    Philip Pearlstein continues to paint large life paintings—and, now, some landscapes too—that rely on cropping, a shallow space, and the precedence of drawing over color. Reflected light intrudes only as a last resort, to make possible a complicated transition that’s got to take place in a restricted space. In—for example—Two Female Models with Drawing Table, 1973, color plays an important role only twice. In the seated figure, reflected light is used to bracket the transition from the side of her torso that’s cast into shadow by her right arm to the visible part of her left calf, which is close

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  • Richard McDermott Miller

    Washburn Gallery

    Which isn’t the case with Richard McDermott Miller, around whose work there hangs on air of nostalgia for, mostly, the representational heroicism that lost its nerve quite early on in the development of the modern bourgeois state. His larger pieces suffer, I think, from a kind of chunkiness that suggests discomfort—on his part—with the larger than life scale. The smaller pieces—which abandon nostalgia for the heroic and substitute for it a view of classicism that comes from a later stage in the 19th century, and which is more modest and naturalistic in its emphasis—seem to me not to have this

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  • Barry Flanagan

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    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

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  • Terry Fugate-Wilcox

    James Yu Gallery

    Terry Fugate-Wilcox makes sculpture that consists of packaging scientific—chiefly mineralogical—fact. His show was in three parts: works changed by the environment—by temperature, humidity, etc.; works in which diffusion is taking place, as in the sculpture made out of strips of aluminum and carbon bolted together, where the proximity of the two metals assures that electron migration between them is taking place—with consequences that will be clearly apparent to the naked eye in about 3,000 years; and works which are being eaten away by the atmosphere, which are referred to as “burning” pieces.

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  • Michael Steiner

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    From my point of view Michael Steiner’s achievement—like, in this respect, Fugate-Wilcox’s—is predicated on a dubious involvement with the question of the work as a commodity. But in his case this is a consequence of an overt, artistic choice which—because of the support system in the world at large, that is, for reasons that are only partially artistic, attendant on his making this choice—happens to locate Steiner in a milieu that I regard as compromised, rather than a refusal to engage in dialogue at all while using a common set of terms. Which is what, in the case of Fugate-Wilcox, drives

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  • Gary Stephan, Nancy Holt and Joe Zucker

    Bykert Gallery

    An involvement with the relationship between the shape of and the shape(s) on the canvas, between what Michael Fried called “literal” and “depicted” shape, is evident in much 20th-century painting from Mondrian through Newman and Reinhardt to Kelly, Stella, and Mangold. A recent, developing involvement is seen in the paintings of Gary Stephan. Like Stella and Mangold, Stephan does not always maintain a strict distinction between the two kinds of shapes; they are often combined, resulting in a third category: implied shapes. Stephan has accepted the dictum that external shape must determine

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  • “Nine Artists/Coenties Slip,” “Frank O’Hara: Poet Among the Painters”

    The Whitney Museum

    Since about 1967, the Whitney Museum has developed a rather good Independent Study Program for graduates and undergraduates in art and art history. This year two groups of the art history students have each organized an exhibition, one at the Museum proper, the other at its Downtown Branch at 55 Water Street, near South Ferry. 

    The downtown exhibition is “Nine Artists/Coenties Slip,” consisting of work by artists who lived in lofts on the two-block slip between 1954 and 1967. The names are more familiar than not: Charles Hinman, Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, Fred Mitchell, James

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  • Robert Barry

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Dear Robert Barry,

    I really liked your show. You seem to be loosening up a lot. Your work’s never bored me in the way so much “its significance-will-become-clear” Conceptual art does, but your important and early moves were on the fringes of “respectable” Conceptualism, like writing single-sentence catalysts to the imagination, say the Psychic Series of 1969, or doing meta-art things like dosing galleries as an artwork. Now, after a lot of unadorned statements, you’re using evocative visual images again. It’s the first time I’ve seen color slides, for example, and I find it very refreshing. If

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  • Roger Welch

    John Gibson Gallery

    Dear Roger Welch, 

    Your film Welch turned me from a hard-bitten, young, New Yorker into a cry baby. The freeze shot at the end of your mother’s and father’s heads smiling into the camera—your father forty-five years older than when the film started—was so powerful and poignant I felt very moved. Your Welch is not only educating, entertaining, stimulating, but above all moving. Which is saying a lot. Within a Puritan art ethic there is the mistaken notion films and videos have to be full of “art” (jumpy spots and split screens ad nauseum), devoid of emotion, and dull to be meaningful. To my cry

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  • Lois Lane

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Dear Lois Lane,

    Never having seen your paintings before I can still understand why Jackie Winsor chose you to show in Artists Space. Your drawings and paintings have a quality of rawness similar to her sculpture: a rawness allowing you to get some of the same freshness in your big paintings as in your small drawings. I like the casual, open look of your work: the painting with the layer of badly wrinkled canvas casually stapled on top, the freehand one-shot pencil lines meandering across paper and canvas, or the mismatching of drawing and washy color. Your marks have a “take-it-or-leave-it ”

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  • Mel Kendrick

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Thinking in itself is an essential aspect of Mel Kendrick’s sculpture. Seven implicit rectangles, each about 16 inches high, lean at even intervals along two of the gallery walls. Except for one which is a complete rectangle, each of the pieces consists of two four-sided masonite halves which have different edges sliced off at an angle. The boards are painted white, and each contains a blue gray paper quadrangle which touches all four sides. Because of the smallness and lowness relative to the gallery space and one’s body height, the work at first seems self-effacing. Yet as one continues to

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  • Rudolf Baranik

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    It is difficult to pinpoint how an art object evokes a particular mood, how it touches certain feelings. While the expressive impact of art is an essentially private experience, it is at the same time generally accessible, deriving from some common ground, some universal symbol, rather than a Proustian flow of personal recollection. However, the impossibility of completely prescribing the necessary cues becomes apparent when one tries to specify the effectiveness of an artwork’s emotive content. Looking at Rudolf Baranik’s recent paintings, for instance, one is intellectually aware of his attempt

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  • Thomas Evans

    John Bernard Myers Gallery

    If Baranik’s decided emphasis on ethical content forces consideration of expressive power, Thomas Evans’ lyrical painterliness provokes reflection on an involvement with decorative surface much in evidence in current painting. Evans paints large canvases bespeckled with splatters of metallic paint, in the midst of which, patterns reminiscent of prehistoric organic remains (fern leaves, for example) seem to be imprinted. Seem to be because, while from a distance the overall regularity of the fragile shapes makes them appear stenciled on, on closer inspection the bleeding trickles of paint at

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  • David Ligare

    Andrew Crispo Gallery

    This problem of thinking arso arises with David Ligare’s large drawings of sand images. What I mean here by thinking is the continual reevaluation of established ideas, the rigorous questioning, which informs art’s dialectic. Too many artists merely play with variations on an accepted language without ever challenging the validity of its grammar. Painting is particularly vulnerable in this respect as its syntax has been so strictly explored. 

    To return to Ligare’s work—he first makes simple marks in wet sand and then records these images in detailed drawings in pencil and metallic powder on paper.

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  • Al Hansen

    Onnasch Gallery

     The gallery walls on the night of Al Hansen’s performance were hung with drawings, photographs, letters, newspaper clippings—the vagrant stuff of studio walls—and two series by other artists, Andy Warhol’s soup-can serigraphs and Eleanor Antin’s postcard series 100 Boots. The lights dimmed periodically, making it difficult to examine the work on the walls. 

    A jagged line of tape on the floor divided the gallery, acting to confine the crowd in the area of the “show.” Beyond that line the gallery was dark. The crowd was slow to grow aware of the three assemblages there: a canvas on an easel near

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    112 Greene Street

    In Dennis Oppenheim’s sculpture Recall, an image of the artist’s mouth appears on an aluminum-bound video monitor at the end of a long oil-filled pan. Oppenheim speaks slowly and disjointedly of his school days in California, and the emergence of his self-definition as an artist. The tape has a confessional aspect modeled on Vito Acconci’s monologues. Esthetic “crimes” are recounted: heromaking, eclecticism, retrogression. Loud static and deletions of names of figures he criticizes dilute the confession to mere autoreflection, with no clues offered to relate past and present. 

    Since Recall was

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  • Jean Le Gac

    John Gibson Gallery

    In his show of captioned photographs, Jean Le Gac is concerned with “watching himself act” through word and image reconstructions of living memory. His narrative sequences accrete the personal in experience. They rely on evocative photographs, second-person address, and his artisthood to appeal. 

    His language is dense, fraught with constructions as faulty in English as they must have been in French. It is easy to denigrate his expositions as a species of French literary pedantry; perhaps it is more productive to view them (since they are in a gallery and conjoined with photographs) as pictorial

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  • Eric Staller

    O.K. Harris Works of Art

    Eric Staller’s show of slide projections in the back room at O.K. Harris raises the question dogging Realist painting of the urban environment: why not photography? 

    In one work. Staller chooses to photograph the angle where building meets sidewalk throughout Manhattan, projecting his images onto right-angled screens along the floor. The slide program is a kind of diary of a pedestrian’s sidelong glances, in which a painterly eye distills textural and coloristic pleasure from this urban junction. 

    Staller’s slides projected onto canvaslike white screens quote a Realist methodology borrowed from

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  • Michael Economos

    Warren Benedek Gallery

    In his Realist paintings of crushed cans lying in long grass, Michael Economos reanimates the can as an image with a nod to Andy Warhol’s 1962 torn and damaged Campbell’s cans. But whereas Warhol’s garbage is raw, and his cans ripped by human agency, Economos’ have been turned over to nature, and their rusted surfaces reveal the passage of time. 

    One painting sets up the show in a loosely cartographic way: a long aerial view of a Budweiser can lying at the end of a mud promontory which juts into a shallow stream with a grassy bank. In a corner of the work, a folded brown form appears which is

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  • Dalia Ramanauskas

    Hundred Acres Gallery

    Dalia Ramanauskas’ drawings of torn and opened cardboard cartons are Realist renderings of garbage as well. Unlike Economos’ cans, which are sited in nature, Ramanauskas draws boxes upon a white ground. She renders details with a meticulousness that makes her boxes perhaps more compelling than their actual presences. There is a stillness and an absoluteness about her objects, an outgrowth of placeless pose and consuming detail that makes them, like the still-life elements in Northern Renaissance painting, repositories of meaning. 

    Ramanauskas’ boxes are mostly relics of private correspondence,

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  • Tom Doyle

    55 Mercer Gallery

    Tom Doyle builds forms, he doesn’t pare them away. He works within a limited range of ideas about what a sculpture predicated upon familiar forms and usages can do, trading away the sculptor’s chance to make revelations in favor of clever handling. 

    Three of the small mock-ups in the show work the twin concepts of lifting and holding, the idea of anchor. Swept planes of sheet metal (like the blades of da Vinci’s helicopter) strain to raise each sculpture from the ground to which it is pegged by an angled chunk of colored wood. 

    Doyle is fond of a craftsmanly annihilation of the two-dimensional;

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  • Jene Highstein

    112 Greene Street

    Jene Highstein’s installation consists of two huge horizontal pipes, one about six feet off the ground, and the other just over eight feet. Highstein’s module is the gallery itself. The horizontal pipes address the vertical columns that support the ceiling and bifurcate the gallery; the piece acts to square the space. As information, the pipes make the gallery a metaphor—a quasi-industrial adjunct to a greater whole—like a boiler room or steam conduit. There is an irony in this: steel pipes, which perform a service function in our lives, work here to master a given space. 

    Between the expectation

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  • Guy Dill

    If it counts for much anymore, Guy Dill is the most consistent sculptor around: inventive, craftsmanlike, elegant, and reasonably witty. His two new pieces, Hume Ranch and Diaphragm, aren’t as delicate or clever as the sculpture I saw at the old Ace in Westwood (a sheet of glass tilting against a steel roll, held in place with cables, turnbuckles, etc.), but they aren’t as gimmicky, either. Diaphragm, filling the crisp, new back room, is a topless, floorless box—two glass walls and two steel walls anchored in slightly shorter concrete pillars (unbolted or glued, just slid in a slot). Hume Ranch,

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  • Robert Irwin

    Mizuno Gallery

    Robert Irwin is way past all that, so far past it, in fact, that for the last couple of years his artistic presence has comprised some reprised plastic shopping center obelisks and an ad-lib art-research lecture as rapid and entertaining as Ike and Tina Turner at Caesar’s Palace Lounge. The idea that the art-of-art resides in the flow of informed but spiritual thought in unprogrammed situations—as stirring, grand, and all-encompassing as it is—is wonderful, but the hairy thing about art is that these posttechnological Kahii Gibranisms need periodic fleshing out. And that, as any fool can plainly

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