reviews

  • May Stevens

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    In 1967, May Stevens painted Prime Time, a tight composition pinned down by the figure of her father seated before a TV set. Arms folded, face screwed up, this closed and stolid posture might indicate the man’s reticence about being portrayed. But the portraitist’s interaction with a subject isn’t the point here. Over the years, Stevens has relentlessly posterized this image, working it through a series of paintings and drawings as Big Daddy, the leftist assassin’s ideal target. She draws symbolic connections—head like bomb, man like bulldog, American flag costume—that’ve been cliches for

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  • Paul Mogenson

    Bykert Gallery, uptown

    Between 1968 and 1970, Paul Mogenson painted monochromatic rectangles that were organized upon the wall in ordered subdivisions of rational wholes. The parts were deduced from processes of regular subdivision—whole, half, quarter, eighth. They reminded me of Carl Andre’s Cuts in which the artist covered the gallery floor with bricks, wall to wall, then removed some of them, brick by brick, to create rectangular hollows.

    In 1970, another principle of order emerged in Mogenson’s work, though one still based on an external icon, the target. I believe this image, codified for us in Johns’s Targets,

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  • Esteban Vicente

    Andre Emmerich Gallery uptown

    Just as recent Christensens can be substituted for recent Olitski’s, Esteban Vicente is now painting in a manner interchangeable with, say, that of Stamos. In short, the danger of adherence to formalist painting is revealed not only in Vicente but throughout that group of artists we take as representative of the position. The danger of formalist painting is its inherent reduction to “ten-flavors,” a certain number of rigid pictorial components that must be preserved in order for formalist painting to survive. What has happened is that such painting stopped evolving beyond the point of mere flavor

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  • Grace Hartigan

    William Zierler Gallery

    Which brings us to Grace Hartigan. If raw imagery equals form for the naive artist, then that is where Hartigan has gone. Because she recognized the sexism implicit to New York painting at the time, Grace Hartigan rose to prominence 20 years ago under the name George. In so doing, she drew attention to the male focus implicit to Abstract Expressionism. Hartigan’s work then derived from that part of Matisse in which thin color struggled with the analytical standards set by Matisse’s awareness of Cubism. Hartigan’s text of the ’50s was Matisse’s Bathers by a River of 1916. By degrees, vestigial

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  • George Trakas

    Graduate Center Mall, CUNY

    One of the fascinating exhibition spaces in the city is the midavenue thoroughfare connecting 42nd and 43rd streets, running beneath the refurbished office building that houses the City University’s doctoral programs. It is a cold place of grained flagstone, striated concrete, and chunky fundamentalist architecture. Its exhibition program has been remarkably sympathetic to contemporary art, and has served a valuable public function by exposing various art options to a random, largely office-working public. No exhibition, Iodate, in my view was as successful as the installation of George Trakas’s

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  • Saul Ostrow

    Bykert Gallery, Downtown

    Saul Ostrow’s An Introduction to an Indoctrination (For B. Brecht) is a spare didactic installation with audio tapes, an attempt to embody a moment of political consciousness through a simple series of choices you make about how to approach the work. Coming into the gallery, you get a choice of two doors facing each other across an alcove inset into a temporary wall. There’s a tape playing here too: “You are free. You are free to choose from what is offered.” Ostrow calls it “a cluing device, a comparison between an absolute and a conditional.” I thought it was vestigial since I don’t need to

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  • Arman

    John Gibson Gallery

    In a crowded performance entitled Conscious Vandalism, the nouveau realiste accumulator Arman busted up two rooms of furniture comprising, he said, a “typical bourgeois apartment.” A decorous announcement in wedding-script type set the tone of pretended gentility. Then Arman, alternately wielding a razor, two axes, and a sledge hammer, proceeded to destroy the mock living room and bedroom constructed along one wall of the gallery. The audience was roused to especially loud cheers for the masterful battering of a liquor cabinet, a TV set, and a Dali print hanging above the bed. After the performance,

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  • Susan Heinemann

    Artists Space

    The major configuration in Susan Heinemann’s installation is a chevron formed by doubled black footprints made with charcoal and running from the comers of the room to a point somewhere in the center. If the prints signified many people standing abreast, they’d have formed a flying wedge. But it looks more as if the footprints were made by hopping. There’s a series of chicken wire cylinders, starting in one corner of the room and descending in height, each of which encloses a pair of prints. The first is about five feet high, about human stature. The others are folded back like potato sacks,

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  • Roman Opalka

    John Weber Gallery

    Roman Opalka’s work makes me shudder. This was the second installation I’ve seen of his 1 – ∞ (one to infinity) paintings of white numbers on a gray ground exhibited with an audio-tape of his sonorous counting in Polish. His enterprise is so immediately apparent, and the look of the installation is so funereal, that I was quickly scared out of the gallery. It’s simply macabre, a yeady Kafkaesque fantasy. Opalka makes On Kawara seem like an artist of infinite variety doing work that’s positively rich with allusions to the moment and conditions of its making. At least with those paintings of the

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  • Jon Borofsky

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Jon Borofsky’s enterprise is the same but the inverse of Opalka’s. They both count, but for Borofsky it’s not simple continuation, but a containing device for an effusion of drawings, paintings, and small sculptures he makes to explicate his dreams. He marks each with the number he’s reached in counting. This, he told me, situates the work in his time, and also serves as a signature. The stuff in the show seems unselected, not weeded out, almost as if the transit from studio to gallery was direct. It’s like a year in the life of Borofsky. The gallery is cluttered from floor to ceiling with his

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  • Paula Longendyke

    112 Greene Street Gallery

    Paula Longendyke’s show disturbed me. It was weird and ugly, as if somebody had been given a couple of hours to put together some kind of sculpture using a staple gun and the light construction materials left over from a loft subdivision. One artist said it looked like the culmination of the 112 Gallery’s formal funk esthetic, jerry-built but nonreferential. Still, I liked Longendyke’s white corner, a tall construction she did near the pipes in the back of the gallery. Loosely laid and fractured tiles lay within a white painted square on the floor. Venetian blinds, hunks of plasterboard, and

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  • Alan Saret, Kirstein Bates, Gerard Hovagimyan, Scott 
Billingsley, Willoughby Sharp, J.B. Cobb, Scott Johnson, Gianfranco 
Mantegna, Dick Miller, Stefan Eins, Lee Fer, Julia Heyward, Dara Birnbaum, 
Michael McClard, Dan Graham, Robin Win

    Loft show at 597 Broadway

    For years now downtown artists, particularly sculptors, have been premiering their work outside commercial galleries, be it in public-funded spaces like 112 Greene Street, Artists Space, The Kitchen, and The Clocktower, or in their own or a friend’s loft. (This isn’t the same as the cooperative gallery scene, which has lost vitality and media attention, and is limited to artists with some cash.) This season, Stefan Eins opened his studio, the 3 Mercer Street Store, for nine modest shows. At the same time, a group of artists brought together by Gerard Hovagimyan, Scott Billingsley, and Lee Fer,

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  • Agnes Martin

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    Agnes Martin left here in 1967 and moved back to New Mexico. She felt that an artist could survive only ten years in New York. At that point, she also stopped painting, and both events tended over the next few years to make her something of a legend. Her work was visible and widely admired. Elkon continued to show pre-1967 paintings and drawings, and in 1973 she had a retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Later that same year she exhibited a portfolio of 30 lithographs, On a Clear Day, her first new work since 1967, at The Museum of Modern Art.

    At the time of the

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  • Mel Bochner

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Ideas and appearances do not have a comparable interest in Mel Bochner’s recent work, but they may come together in the future. I am not overwhelmed by much of this new work. I sometimes feel that I am looking at the products of a genius who has decided to make puzzles. Nonetheless I respond to Bochner’s ability to stick with, develop and elaborate a given idea or structure. I’m willing to engage with his mixed results in order to gain a clearer notion of the thoroughness of his mind. It is a mind which seems to shift increasingly toward intuitive, visual decisions and to be considering all the

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Richard Artschwager, over the distance of 40 ink drawings, subjects six objects (door, window, table, basket, mirror and rug) to an incredible number of permutations and arrangements. The variety, like the crevices of Artschwager’s mind, seems infinite. A multitude of pictorial, philosophical and spatial points of view are covered, and the implications are wicked.

    Things start out simply enough; it’s a little like rearranging the furniture. Baskets go on tables, beneath them, or on rugs; they are big, little, cylindrical, squat. Likewise, a rug can be on the floor or the table, if one can take

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  • John Duff

    John Duff’s casting is definitely post-Minimal, incorporating aspects of painting and sculpture into a single method, employing new materials, achieving a form which is both organic and geometric. Duff builds a form of plywood, paints the interior and then coats it with fiberglass. The paint and even a little of the plywood come off on the fiberglass, coloring and texturing the outside surface of the piece. The single color used this year is deep reddish brown. You sense that the outside of each piece was once mysteriously the inside of something else, and that its current inside is also not

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  • Michelle Stuart

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    Is it that as the end of the art season approaches, I become more and more jaded? Art and more art. And I find myself tiredly, haphazardly niching works into categories. Excitement lost. This is not so much a criticism of the particular artists I happen to be reviewing, but more a feeling growing about the art scene in general. Is there nothing which startles, disorients, blocks the accustomed analysis, requesting another language, a different approach? Is it all the same? A rehashing of established art “problems”? But perhaps there are clues, here and there. Times when the usual vocabulary no

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  • Pat Steir

    Fourcade, Droll, Inc.

    In a way, Pat Steir’s paintings focus attention on the readiness with which one classifies pictorial meaning. As I’ve indicated before (Artforum, December, 1974), her works provoke questions, reflections on one’s assumptions of intended significance. Looking at Song. A penciled grid dividing the canvas into 16ths, stanzas of the whole. One’s eye jumping from square to square, top to bottom, side to side. In the center three lines of color—red, yellow, blue. Drawn around this a circle, partly painted out. At the edges, in the corners: A a red rose shape thinly painted over in white, a thicker

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  • Michael Malloy

    3 Mercer Street

    Another clue found in Michael Molloy’s Shelves. For it’s difficult to pinpoint why these works fascinate me. Ostensibly they’re shelves. each containing a group of collaged objects with an accompanying text. A set of instructions, imperatives, dictating how to manipulate these things and what to expect. But here there’s a disjunction. Perhaps fantasy is the word I want. The objects seem familiar—everyday utensils: a tea strainer, a lock, a flower pot bowl, photographs. And the language prescribes known hand actions—placing, grasping, touching. Yet the projected results, although stipulated

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  • Beryl Korot

    The Kitchen

    In describing Beryl Korot’s videotape Dachau, I could concentrate on the elaborate structuring of the piece. Four monitors flicking on and off, changing vistas at different intervals. The threads of a tapestry, weaving the fabric of narration. In fact, several diagrams hung on the walls illustrate this intertwining of relationships. But somehow that seems unimportant, an addendum (conceptual justification maybe?). Watching the tapes what comes across is a sense of endless time, repetition and sameness punctuated by the blinking on and off of the image. A kind of relentless rhythm which complements

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  • Hank Stromberg

    Foto Gallery

    Trying to pinpoint when it is that a gimmick takes over. Hank Stromberg’s earlier photographic work includes such iconoclastic gestures as leaving a trail of photographic cockroaches behind on a tour of the White House or posting Mr. Subways contest announcements on the trains, much to the MTA’s consternation. In his current show the gesture is subdued. A View of My Grandmother’s Place. Cutout black-and-white photos of the objects which adorn the walls of a home cluster on the gallery walls. The pots and pans, the worn utensils of a kitchen, a housecoat, an apron, an old-fashioned radio. One

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  • Carol Kinne

    Soho Center for Visual ARtists

    I’m not sure how I feel about Carol Kinne’s paintings. Bob’s Double Decker Yellow Draw most definitively indicates the use of a system. A grid and divisions of its sections are drawn on a yellow ground. In each section an area is filled in in one of four hues—the fifth, a bright orange, appears as the wild card. For, as the title suggests, Kinne “draws” cards, number and suit ostensibly determining the shape and color of the filled-in areas. The exact rules of this process are unclear, but they don’t seem important. What stands out is the use of a method which circumvents esthetic choices of

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  • Diane Karol

    55 Mercer Street

    A related question arises with Diane Karol’s work. Is this a symptom of my jadedness? I’m tempted to describe Karol’s pieces as three-dimensional landscape paintings. Flying over Grass consists of tubes covered in stained fabric and suspended in an irregular arc from the ceiling. Below on the floor stand similar cylinders, varying in height, again wrapped with stained fabric. The colors are mainly yellow to green, arguing for the landscape reference. And I can’t get away from the sense of a pictorial notion transferred into space. As if placement in three dimensions were a guarantee of renewed

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  • Cusi Masuda

    Azuma Gallery

    My question isn’t restricted to painting. Cusi Masuda’s sculpture seems to depend on the dictum of eccentricity for interest. True, the whiteness of the strange plaster objects filling the gallery carries an expressive import. The Death Sand title hinting at possible associations. But the meaning isn’t clear, sensed. And I return to the objects. Most of the space is taken up by stacks of plaster window frames. The indents or windows sometimes closed off with plaster, sometimes left open as holes, sometimes covered with glass. On the floor in front, connected by a rope attached at either end and

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  • “A Response To The Environment”

    Rutgers University Art Gallery

    It’s not that I want to arbitrarily label and categorize artists. In a sense, that’s my major objection to the pretense of the large group show “A Response to the Environment.” That it picks up on surface similarities among artists, tying diverse works together around a tenuous connection. That the theme becomes just an excuse for a show. And that instead of attempting to define or reveal a constant, the exhibit simply grasps a broad, vague term and amalgamates a hodge-podge of works which make some nodding reference to the chosen designation. A response to the environment. What does that mean?

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