reviews

  • Lenore Jaffee

    Hundred Acres

    “Outside Quebec we picked up a couple of fella hitchhikers, and all the girls got excited and said, “Wow, this is really going to be fun!’ ” a young black guy wearing an engineer’s cap tells you casually from a video monitor in an otherwise empty gallery. Hitchhiking stories like this, and stories generally, are what Lenore Jaffee’s delightful ten-minute video loop Mistrips is all about. Four different people tell stories for her—and you. That’s it!

    The black guy tells of two disappointing hitchhiking experiences as “hitch-hikee,” meaning he drives. The first with the two men he picked up “for

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  • Robert Ryman

    John Weber Gallery

    Because of immense differences in the way surface is achieved in individual works, which make each painting affect experience in a manner that I’m obliged to describe as unique, Robert Ryman’s exhibition will almost certainly turn out to have been the most varied show of the year.

    What unites this body of work, in my opinion, is a preoccupation with the mediated interaction between the painted surface and the wall in front of which it hangs. By this I mean that Ryman’s use of white paint—different kinds of white paint, and different applications of it—draws one’s attention to the conventional

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  • Richard Serra

    Castelli Gallery uptown, School of Visual Arts

    Having said that, let me add that I regard Richard Serra as a sculptor whose work stands comparison with any from the past or present, and that it is’ with this in mind that I’m going to express certain reservations about his drawings. Serra’s sculpture presents one with an incredibly beautiful dislocation of physical space by steel. However, when this dislocation becomes the subject of a two-dimensional work, other elements seem to intrude that undermine the efficacy of the piece. Serra’s feeling for steel seems to oblige him to work in a way that transfers, or wants to transfer, that material’s

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  • Robert Swain

    Susan Caldwell Gallery

    Robert Swain is one of those who insisted on continuing to paint after the medium’s death was announced in the late 1960s. His canvases are all divided into one-foot squares, each of which is differently colored. Usually—but not always—there’s a black or almost black square in the top right-hand corner, and one that’s white or almost white at the bottom left. (Or, as I shall soon say, so it seems.) Between these extremes of value, in which the role hue plays is severely reduced if not entirely absent, are a series of progressions established by the chains of colors set up horizontally and

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  • David Hatchett

    Michael Walls Gallery

    David Hatchett chose to advertise his show with a photograph of himself superimposed upon his largest work, a remarkably poor blow-up of a Cézanne. One is aware that there is such a thing as suburban art, and this is it, a consistent reliance on timidity presented as cleverness. Some of the paintings are of wooded landscape, and these seem to grow out of another group of—slightly earlier—art school abstractions. Both are painted in a style that might be termed “translucent Orphism.” A third group, painted, if you like, more “boldly,” depict tents, those sacred reductions of architecture in which

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  • Ruth Vollmer

    Everson Museum of Art

    In the exhibition “Ruth Vollmer, Painting and Sculpture, 1962–74,” there is nothing that I would characterize as painting, and very little that sustains itself as sculpture. As Sol LeWitt has written about Vollmer’s work: “These pieces are not sculpture; they are ideas made into solid forms.” This suggests the predicament of Vollmer’s work, which is that regardless of how tangible the work becomes, it is always the ideas which remain the most substantial present part of the work. The exhibition, which is spaciously, almost casually installed (many drawings are simply pushpinned directly onto

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  • Robert Cronin and Robert Lobe

    Zabriskie Gallery

    The light, tentative quality of Robert Cronin’s work, on the other hand, is a specific, deliberate physical quality. His small sculptures are made of thin, natural reed which turns, twists, circles and is tied into linear wall pieces. Cronin’s material allows him total freedom from weight and materiality, yet the pieces have a real, physical energy and sufficiency, as if they generated themselves. The continuous line and the ways in which the pieces change when viewed from different angles create the impression of movement, as if the generating process were ongoing. The configurations are suited

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  • Jim Roche

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The title of Jim Roche’s installation, which fills and virtually oozes out of the small first floor gallery, reads as follows:

    This is the Sand, Rock, Shell and Seed, Power Pole and Money treed, Dual Catenary X Ascension, Eagle Lite and spirit recension, Graven Image to the land; all in my background: Piece

    This is scrawled on the wall outside the piece in Roche’s crude, fat cursive, and more or less says it all. Like Late Gothic Flemish painters, Roche’s work is an obsessive accumulation of meticulous detail (there is no aerial perspective here either—even the details have details) which serves

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  • Robert Gordon

    Bykert Gallery downtown

    Robert Gordon also appropriates some of the extraneous objects which this nation produces. These objects share a single factor: light. Light as a pure, immaterial phenomenon, light as it is reflected by or passes through various materials, light at its most mundane, as it is produced by assorted lamps, bulbs, and fixtures. The exhibition consists of six pieces, arrangements of various kinds of objects and forms, sometimes quite casually stacked together. Initially, it all comes across as masses of raw plastic color and gaudy light, chaotic and tasteless. It takes little time for the structuring,

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  • Joan Thorne

    Fischbach Gallery

    In a different way, Joan Thorne is also concerned with locating the inner self in or on the world. Like Snyder she feels her way through varying strokes and densities of paint. However, Thorne’s activity is more frenzied, building to a definitive climax. Liquid paint drags and scrapes across the surface, colors jangle or muddle, areas fill to suffocation, fingerlike squiggles pulsate in and out from and to the edges. The whole is more a map than exploratory journal. The personal language has already been evolved. It is not the marks themselves that are in question, but their location. What one

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  • Bill McGee

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    Although Thorne’s pictorial language is given to the extent one does not speculate on why she chose her marks, it is not a priori. Her words, as well as grammar, are formulated in the course of painting in response to her activity. In contrast, Bill McGee’s vocabulary and rules of structure seem to be learned instead of found. His narrow vertical stripes on color fields inevitably invoke Barnett Newman, and it is to Newman that one refers again and again. One has seen all these paintings before. There are no discoveries, no changes in the language to make one pause and reconsider one’s grounds

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  • Julian Casado

    Touchstone Gallery

    The line between invention and imitation is not always so clearly drawn as in McGee’s work. In Julian Casado’s gouaches the vocabulary of subtly gradated color and geometric forms is familiar. It is the structuring which encompasses a personal sensibility, while at the same time adhering to known rules of picture-making. Casado first covers his surface with a network of parallel lines, changing in direction to establish an underlying geometric pattern. The narrow bands between the lines are then filled in with carefully modulated hues which articulate the interior space. Most of the paintings

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  • Sylvia Sleigh

    A.I.R. Gallery

    With Sylvia Sleigh, language becomes a game, a punning on the clichés of convention. Her awkward drawing, her self-consciously posed compositions, her horror vacui are by now typically Mannerist devices for subverting tradition while remaining safely inside it. But Sleigh’s toying with established figure painting techniques is less interesting than her inversions of accepted subject matter. In October it is the languorously reclining man with his flowing mane of hair who entices one, not the woman rigidified and upright in her pinstriped dress. While Botticelli is the direct compositional mentor

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  • Lenore Tawney

    Willard Gallery

    In general, one thinks of weaving in terms of craft and decoration. Lenore Tawney’s major contribution has been in making weaving viable as an art form. Her current works reflect back on her explorations of the early ’60s and her development of techniques to enable her to control the slitting and shaping of her pieces. For the most part, her hangings are holistic images, akin in many ways to the paintings of her friend Agnes Martin. Frequently Tawney’s forms result directly from the weaving process so that the open spaces as well as the threaded units become inseparable from the whole. In Red

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  • Michael Hurson

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    At best, this review is but a skimpy introduction to a signal body of work. Hurson, an artist in his early thirties, is not well known, although he has never really been out of the art public’s eye, at least in Chicago. Hurson’s superb paintings have been shown irregularly at transient galleries, and he has had the support of Chicago art patrons and art institutions. For example, several of the balsa wood constructions that make up this “Projects” exhibition have been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, although a major work, Thurman Buzzard’s Apartment, is here shown for the

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  • Leonid and His Friends: Tchelitchew, Berman and Berard

    The New York Cultural Center

    “Leonid and His Friends: Tchelitchew, Berman and Berard” is an exhibition that brings back much of the lost savor of the New York art scene of the ’40s and ’50s. At that time Leonid’s heady illusionism was accessible on the upholstered walls of the Durlacher Gallery and the artists here assembled again were to be seen in a special room at The Museum of Modern Art under the sobriquet “Neo-Romantics,” an empty tag first put forth in 1926 by art critic Waldemar George. Leonid and his cadet brother Eugene Berman contributed to the tone of a certain taste consciousness in New York art life, a taste

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  • Herb Aach

    Martha Jackson Gallery

    Herb Aach’s recent show of serial paintings, called The Precession of the Equinox, develops this seasonal chronometric theme in terms of circles located eccentrically within other circles. This variable induces readings indicating spiral formations that, in this instance, suggest a metaphor for solar or equinoctial movement. The circles—and leftover sectors—are anonymously filled in a full spectrum range of day-glo color. “Precessions . . . a going forward, especially the slow but continual shifting of the equinoctial points alongthe elliptic from east to west . . .” (Webster’s Dictionary).

    Taking

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  • Vincezo Agnetti

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Language is perhaps Vincezo Agnetti’s trouble. I really get the feeling he wants to be Vincenzo, but his European culture wants him to be Agnetti. I’m always nervous when flyers advertise artists with just their surnames—especially artists I’ve never heard of. It’s a bit like imposing your will on history prematurely, but it’s also arrogant, and invites a few catcalls from the stands.

    Although there are interesting things trying to get out—the Vincenzo side—the problem with Agnetti’s show is that it has the look and values of puritanical late ’60s European Conceptual art. This probably shows more

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  • Gordon Hart

    Bykert Gallery

    Absolutely different from language concerns are the reductive but colorfully expressive paintings of Gordon Hart. They’re handsome objects, more to be looked at than talked about, but — although I’m sure he would deny it — Hart’s paintings operate loosely within the imperatives of serial and abstract imagery stemming from Brice Marden and Robert Ryman, with roots in Malevich and Mondrian. If you buy these very different philosophies, you get at least some criteria for discussing Hart’s paintings. The seven essentially vertical paintings, although they vary in scale from torso to man-size, and

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  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    John Gibson Gallery

    Gordon Matta-Clark went out and cut up two balloon frame tract houses in the New Jersey suburbs, split one right in half (322 Humphrey Street), and cut hunks of wall off the other one (637 Eire Avenue). Fine. But to prove that what he was doing was really art, he mounted this show of photographs and chunks of the buildings. The corners he carved off the Humphrey Street house become sculpture in the gallery—serial Minimal objects (although they face each other as they had in situ to recreate the space of the roof). The three wall sections cut from the Eire Avenue house he lined up like the panels

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  • “Slide Show,” Judy Pfaff

    Artists Space

    Although I arrived late, I saw most of the special slide show of galleryless New York artists put on by Artists Space. The audience of about 150 artists, dealers, critics, and curators all sat slack jawed as the slides flicked by. We saw 440 slides in an hour, two per artist in the time it took to say each’s name. No one in the crowd that I saw took notes, and no one asked that the presentation be held up for a closer examination of particular slides.

    Lots of interesting stuff flashed by, and a lot of academic hackwork. But then the slides were presented in such a depressing rapid-fire there was

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  • Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Geoffrey Hendricks and Ray Johnson

    René Block Gallery

    René Block Gallery, newly opened here from Germany, mounted “What’s the Time?”—an exhibition of multiples and original work by 17 American and European Fluxus artists—as “a preview of the coming season.” Fluxus is a moniker advanced by George Maciunas in 1962 from the Latin root of fluid and flux. The movement’s activities here and abroad were intended to be transient, and the artists who participated in them during the ’60s are today quite resistant to those who would corral and context them. Sixty years after, Dada has succeeded in evading historians determined to chronicle and interpret that

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  • Michael Asher

    Claire Copley Gallery

    Although there’s no contest going on, in 1971 Robert Irwin put up as an exhibition a short wall across Pace Gallery, and in 1972 at Documenta Michael Asher painted three flat surfaces of a room white and the other three black, thereby doing away with physical stuff as the space modifier. Earlier this year Irwin constructed an architectural hole, Portal, at Mizuno Gallery, and now Asher has simply removed an interior wall from the Claire Copley Gallery. Well, not quite so simple. He also repainted the gallery with an extrasoft sprayed white, removed an extraneous light track near the front window,

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  • John White

    Betty Gold Fine Modern Prints

    John White’s artistic personality is split in that his performances and sculpture are heady, probing, and, in the words of the philosopher, “create the taste by which they are to be enjoyed,” while his drawings are quite good looking, even beautiful, in the conventional modernist sense. It’s not that White wants to have it both ways—a performer with objects for sale, or an experimenter who still displays competence at art-school motor skills. It’s only that he possesses a sensitivity about the psychological harmonies and conflicts that informs what might otherwise be rather dry records of his

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  • Scott Grieger

    Mizuno Gallery

    Art strategy question: you deciphered the brand-name game of ’60s superstar art and made your initial splash parodying it with “combinations,” “impersonations,” and (sniping at hippie “sensitivity”) dog-turd zodiacs, and now you’re pushing thirty and it’s time to dump the clever-kid image and establish yourself as a serious, nongadfly artist—what do you do? Well, you can’t take up an acceptable modernist mode (reductive painting, videotape, photo-Realism, Euell Gibbons process, conceptual data) lest it imply either favoritism or simple oversight in the earlier lampoons and you get it in the neck

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