reviews

  • George Segal

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    Nine years ago, in my first set of reviews for Artforum, I suggested that George Segal was “the wholly unanticipated heir of Edward Hopper.” More recently, Segal has moved from being our Hopper to our Rodin; his work recalls those French sculptors working with revived Baroque values at the end of the 19th century. The issues that have crystallized in Segal’s oeuvre illuminate not only his work, but also the current revival of figurative art generally, since they address the “content” of the nude, the meaning of the fragment, and the revalidation of academic genre.

    Segal’s preoccupation with the

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  • Richard Merkin

    Terry Dintenfass Gallery

    Richard Merkin is a signal painter, but a casualty of the style that he assiduously originated. For almost a decade, Merkin has promoted a ranging fusion between Synthetic Cubist form and a nostalgic enthusiasm for the iconography of the period between the wars. For a while, it was possible that this amalgam could obtain, particularly since so much progressive art was taking sustenance at this very iconographic source—Roy Lichtenstein’s objets d’art and paintings were ironic minimalizing conceits on Hollywood Moderne, and Frank Stella’s emerging interest in relief was stylistically prefigured

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  • Duane Michaels

    Light Gallery

    It is wrong to suppose that Duane Michals allies himself with the range of photographic Conceptualists, or “story artists” who have elicited so much recent discussion—despite the fact that Duane Michals is a photographer and does present stories to the viewer. The major distinction between artists like John Baldessari, Roger Cutforth, Peter Hutchinson, among others, and Duane Michals is that the former ally their art to formal and linguistic issues derived from recent abstraction, whereas Michals derives his sensibility from Surrealism and, beyond that, from Symbolism. He imaginatively reinvents

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  • Sol LeWitt

    John Weber Gallery

    As usual, Sol LeWitt has provided a deluge of conceptual and visual information to digest. His exhibition takes up all of Weber’s available space and is a process of education where two large pieces in particular, and LeWitt’s current preoccupations in general, are elucidated by additional drawings and sculpture.

    The development of LeWitt’s wall drawings is complex and is obscured by the fact that, although they are usually recorded, they are removed from gallery and museum walls and are most permanent only in private residences here and abroad. In the February 1972 issue of Arts, all the wall

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  • Elliott Lloyd, Gary Smith, Jack Whitten, Carol Engelson, Stuart Hitch, Gary Tenenbaum

    SoHo Center for Visual Artists

    The many interesting abstract painters who worked during the sixties, a period when painting came under heavy criticism, are being joined by others. There is a lot of recent art done on various flat or semi-flat materials (plywood and metal, as well as canvas) which qualifies as painting, reflects a re-evaluation of painting, and is or is becoming strong. But this regeneration, which has been gathering for three or four years, promises to bring out into the open more of the same repetitious work which made painting so tiresome in the first place. There is nothing to do but complain and my

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  • Brice Marden

    Bykert Gallery

    An artist’s drawings often bring us closer to him and his work. This is especially true if he lavishes the same care on them as on his larger works, or if his drawings, like pages from a diary, simply record more personal preoccupations with the landscape, with other art, with himself. Both extremes apply to the drawings of Brice Marden, sometimes both apply to the same drawing. An exhibition of 50 of Marden’s drawings from the past decade originated at Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum last January and has traveled to various museums throughout the country. As might be expected, it is a personal

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  • Fernand Léger

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    On the other hand, “An Intimate View of F. Léger” is an exhibition of works on paper which adds little to our understanding or appreciation of an important artist, although it reveals a certain diversity of activity. Posters, studies for costumes, book-cover designs contribute to the suspicion that the intimate view of someone like Léger is not necessarily the best. In any event, this exhibition would have improved had it been smaller and more carefully installed. As it is, over 50 prints are interspersed with roughly half as many pencil and ink drawings, and gouaches, as well as a couple of

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  • “Directions In Afro-American Art”

    Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

    The exhibition “Directions in Afro-American Art” occurred this fall at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The artists were chosen by a committee of four black artists: Romare Bearden, Jeff Donaldson, Phyllis Thompson and Rosalind Jeffries who also wrote the catalogue essay. The format was sensible; 28 artists were selected and represented by an average of four works each. Each of the four committee members was represented by one work. So were Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Charles White and Hale A. Woodruff, who along

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  • Alan Shields

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Looking at Shields’s recent works,one is at first overwhelmed by their insistence on eccentricity. His Peal-Peel Fume Well is a large fabric cylinder stained and sprayed in gaily colored stripes which hangs limply from the ceiling. The strangeness of this ostensibly purposeless object hints at some fetishistic function. Although the form of the object is a product of personal whimsy, in its assumption of a magical significance inherent in its existence, it becomes distanced from its creator. The very playfulness of the decorative bands of color further removes the object from an intimate connection

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  • Jim Dine

    Sonnabend Gallery

    One somehow expects that an exhibit of Jim Dine’s drawings will concentrate on the depiction of tools. Tools for Dine have become a personal emblem for the nostalgic poetry of everyday objects. In this sense, his recent drawings contain no surprises. Generally the tools are rendered vertically in a row across the paper. Scrapbook remnants and ordinary things are tacked on at various intervals—dated postcard images, cut-out magazine photos of vegetables, an HB pencil, torn bits of paper, an old toothbrush. The tools themselves are lovingly modulated. They disappear behind a squiggle of lines or

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  • Ralph Steiner

    Witkin Gallery

    A certain kind of nostalgia is engendered by Ralph Steiner’s photographs. It is a nostalgia read into the work due to one’s comprehension of the photographic image as an instance of time captured and preserved. And yet Steiner does tend to subvert such a reading with his emphasis on formal concerns and the possibilities of picture-making with the camera image. Thus, while his various photos of billboards from the ’20s and ’30s recollect through “pop” advertisement another era, they also function abstractly as found collages flattening out the tangibility of their surroundings. Similarly in

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  • James Newberry

    Light Gallery

    A different use of the photograph to extend a basically pictorial sensibility can be seen in James Newberry’s work. There is a Surrealistic drama to his depictions of tiny nude women threatened by the fantastical landscapes of giant boulders or enormous chunks of driftwood which surround them. Yet it is one’s knowledge that these are photographs rather than paintings which makes them so disturbing. Despite one’s realization that manipulation of the focal angle can create distortions in appearances, one still believes in the truth of the photograph. And it is this implicit acceptance of the

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  • Georgette Batlle, Nancy Siegel-Burson

    Rina Gallery

    Georgette Battle uses photographs of trucks in conjunction with silkscreened color as a referential base for abstraction. Her solid blocks of color accentuate the flatness already present in the frontality of her photographs. In Bills Doors, for example, the saturated reds laid over the three building doors and the rectangles of green and blue in the intervals in between insist on the planarity of the wall structure, while utilizing its form as a compositional armature. Other prints focus on the closed back doors of trucks which reiterate the flatness and rectilinearity of the paper surface. By

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  • Frank Gillette

    The Kitchen

    In his early work, Frank Gillette set out pyramidal banks of monitors playing didactic videotapes that were intended to bespeak natural orders and systems. Since I’ve always suspected that massed monitors reiterate the hierarchies of Minimal sculpture at the expense of the images presented, I could see Gillette’s early work only as pseudoscientific bombast that wished it was sculpture.

    Gillette hasn’t junked the sculptural format in his new installation, but he no longer insists on it. He has set out four front-facing monitors, three lined up in front and one some ten feet behind. Although the

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  • Carl Toth

    Light Gallery

    I was immediately attracted to Carl Toth’s tiny collages made from 2 1/4” by 2 1/4” contact prints because the sprawling polygonal shapes of his works resemble Gordon Matta-Clark’s photo-documentation of Splitting (1974). Toth references this evidentiary mode of reconstructing a site in several scenes made from what look like shots taken inside holes in the ground. But he incorporates this mode into the broader genre of landscape photography and 19th-century panorama—landscape, cityscape, and group photos.

    Both uses the discontinuities that arise in piecing photos together, discontinuities

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  • Italo Scanga

    112 Greene Street

    On two facing walls of the gallery, Italo Scanga hangs handsomely framed reproductions of kitschy religious paintings spattered with red paint. Before these, he places glass urns containing spices or grains, and occasionally leans farming implements, a rake or a hoe, against the wall. At the rear of the gallery, he hangs large bunches of dried herbs. Scanga constructs a kind of ritual space which resembles a series of ambulatory chapels in a cathedral, each with its own devotional image. One has to kneel to examine the paintings closely, since they are hung so low to the ground, and from there

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  • Richard Nonas

    Rented Space

    There is some way in which the effort to reduce and control the elements in an artwork becomes an effort to control the spectator’s reaction to it. This effort, particularly in sculpture, can in turn become an attempt to seize and marshal the spectator’s sensibilities. Cowboy Minimalist Richard Nonas rented the O.K. Harris space before that gallery moved in, and installed his piece Boundary Man. He laid 11 strips of rectangular steel end to end in two lines that span two rooms diagonally. Walking around a work, apprehending its position in space and realizing yourself in relation to it, is a

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  • Peter Hutchinson

    John Gibson Gallery

    In his Alphabet Series (also published as a book by his gallery), Peter Hutchinson tries to be funny and by and large he succeeds. Handwritten jokes and stories caption lush color photographs, and both hang beneath large letters upholstered in different materials. Like many comic writers before him, Hutchinson uses the alphabet as a containing device, a format for his storytelling.

    Alphabet Series is a kind of ambient autobiography. It includes anecdotes about art-making and the art world, about the artist’s travels, and many funny stories about plants and animals (perhaps in ironic reference to

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  • Robin Van Arsdale

    Hundred Acres Gallery

    suppose it comes down to my preference for art that happens to be funny while doing something else. Like Synthetic Cubism. Sometimes the joke isn’t much of one, or it’s abstruse, but it’s effortless. Robin Van Arsdale’s series of waggish snipes at the formal conventions that govern art on the wall are witty in almost that way. He twists a few of the obvious issues of modern painting into quips by reiterating them in degenerate idioms.

    He alludes to Kenneth Noland’s colored stripes and thin grids by hanging a small aluminum frame with glass and paper on the wall and drawing a grid through it with

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  • Rachel Bas-Cohain

    A.I.R. Gallery

    Rachel Bas-Cohain also moves from jokes about modernist composition into a hard tackle on the same problems. Bas-Cohain builds two models of the Cubist grid. One is small and made from refrigeration pipes, and the other is large, spanning the width of the gallery ceiling, and made from thin cold water pipes. Thepun (as Bas-Cohain unfortunately points out in an accompanying text) is about the grid as the compositional basis—the plumbing—of much modernist painting. The first grid she builds is covered with ice crystals, and the other with droplets of water that fall on people as they enter the

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  • Patrick Hogan

    Michael Walls Gallery

    Patrick Hogan’s work engages one’s attention in a way that, in some respects, seems to have affinities with a use of materials like Eva Hesse’s. The hairiness of Hogan’s paintings at their edges, combined with the irregularity of the perimeter’s line, hints at a kind of choice I associate with Hesse: the selection of materials which are in themselves implicitly indefinite, or incompletely controllable.

    Hesse seemed to use fiberglass because that material guarantees unpredictable nuance and vicissitude. Its ragged edge and uneven surface matched her intuitive—but not unprogrammatic—way of working.

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  • Sanford Wurmfeld

    Denise Rene Gallery

    Sanford Wurmfeld’s paintings, made over the last couple of years, present one with a very different attitude to the pictorial object from Hogan’s. If you want to talk about conventionalized impersonality, this is definitely it. And there is one sense, too, in which Wurmfeld’s attitude and Hogan’s can be seen as simply, but diametrically, opposed. In actuality, the relationship between the two kinds of work can only be thought of as indirect and convoluted—and not unaffected, perhaps, by the distance between the East Coast and West Coast. But it might be worth observing that, while in Hogan’s

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  • Frank Lobdell

    Martha Jackson Gallery

    Frank Lobdell, born in 1921 in Kansas City, Missouri, has spent most of his artistic life on the West Coast. This shows only in the slight influence of California light in his sense of color. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the development of his painting, but the works I’m reviewing here seemed academic in the fullest sense, which is to say that the references they make to Matisse are at least accompanied by a high degree of technical control. Otherwise, these pieces of work reveal a tendency to articulate a cliché and then persistently lapse into it—the same curved line seems to control a

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  • Patrick Caulfield

    O.K. Harris Works of Art

    I refer to the following quote from Christopher Finch’s book about English Pop art Image as Language (London, 1969), to get at the critical ambiance which has typically surrounded Patrick Caulfrield’s art:

    Of the painters discussed in this book, Patrick Caulfield is the most specifically European. He has learned from the Americans but remains firmly within the European tradition. It is true—though not the whole truth—to say that the subject of his paintings is the European tradition. For him the greatest benefit of contact with the new American painting has been that it has given him a more

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  • Gary Hill

    South Houston Gallery

    Gary Hill’s wire constructions come in two sorts. The floor pieces look like they’re based on the work of Anthony Caro. One of these was accompanied by a small split screen, showing two—simultaneously projected—details of wire surfaces. This piece was also accompanied by a sound recording, of wire being vibrated or shaken or possibly raked with a tuning fork. The wall pieces, which are more open and also more regular in their construction, more resemble Don Judd’s work. All the work is made out of strands of thick wire, welded together at the ends—where the plane changes—and must have been

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  • Peter Bardazzi

    Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery

    Talk about commodity objects leads right (not to make a pun) to Peter Bardazzi’s paintings, compositions in which piles of curvilinear and conical abstract shapes topple into and away from one another, never fail to depress. The paintings are completely involved with nostalgia for the period immediately around the First World War, in particular—as far as the paintings are concerned—for Futurism. They are abstractions in Bloomingdale colors that literally, which is to say pictorially, take place in a void.

    The collages are just as bad. Untitled Collage, 1974, features a variety of referents to

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  • Louis Finkelstein

    Larry Ingber Gallery

    I’ve saved Louis Finkelstein’s paintings till last so as not to have to end on a sour note. Finkelstein is another artist who’s been around for a long time, but whose work I don’t know well. In his paintings of France and New York he seems to take a hard-line, late 19th-century position. At the center of the painting there’s a crossing over of two spaces, so that one moves from front to back by reading the object from the bottom left to the top right and from the bottom right to the top left. The landscape is studied for reflected light, the alternation of lights and darks, and the transition

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