reviews

  • Frank Stella

    Leo Castelli Gallery Downtown

    In his new series of painted aluminum reliefs, Frank Stella extends ideas previously explored in his collage relief constructions of 1971–74. But he now tries to force an even greater number of formal issues and contradictions to coexist in the same work. As before, Stella creates a hard-edged version of Abstract Expressionist dynamism with deliberate manipulations of form and color that have no metaphorical intent. The reliefs are therefore intense without being expressive. Though their logic is devilish, these are rational works. Stella upsets the conventions of harmony, balance and unity

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  • Nancy Grossman

    Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery

    In Nancy Grossman’s collage paintings, monumental men are posed in positions that pit brute force against agonizing constraint. As in the Renaissance, the nude is used to convey a world view, but one distinctly tinged with 20th-century pessimism. The human condition is made all the more painful because the artist illustrates it with nudes whose ideal beauty suggests a potential for well-being. For all their brawn, however, they are not free to control their fate. Indeed, the Promethean nudes are as violently constricted as they are bristling with animal threat. Their brute strength is countered

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  • Susan Crile

    Fischbach Gallery

    Susan Crile’s six recent paintings are bird’s-eye views of places where land meets sea. Sandy spits and grassy fingers of land interlock with blue inlets and tidal ponds. She runs rivers and roads across the land, and sounds harbors’ depths with swirling arabesques of turquoise, blue, and purple. There is little of the naive specificity of her earlier aerial landscapes in these littoral scenes. Crile now takes a higher view, as if looking from an airplane rather than from a hill. She spreads her aerial geography over larger canvases, much as in other works exhibited last year, she depicted

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  • Ludwig Sander

    Knoedler & Company

    Almost to the time of his death in July at the age of sixty-eight, Ludwig Sander continued to explore intense, sometimes nerve-jangling color relationships within austere geometrical compositions. The format is derived from Neo-Plasticism—arrangements of rectangular and semirectangular planes of unmodulated color divided by thin black lines—but the effect owes much to Sander’s association with the New York School. He was a founding member of the 8th Street Club and part of the Abstract Expressionist milieu. There is a covert paradox in his art: hard-edge, geometric, carefully planned, it shares

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  • George Rickey

    Staempfli Gallery and Fordham University Plaza

    George Rickey’s kinetic sculptures are composed almost entirely of straight-edged shapes—long tapering blades and rectangular or square planes of stainless steel. But the trajectories that these rectilinear shapes draw in space are curved. The distinction is important; for Rickey, the movements of forms shaping space are of greater interest than the forms themselves. Motion, speed, and duration are the materials of sculptural form. He explores a counterpoint of visible and invisible geometry in constructions that are simple and straightforward as Shaker tools, but as mysterious in their implications

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  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Leo Castelli Gallery Uptown

    The relationship of Ellsworth Kelly’s sculpture to his painting has always been problematic. While his sculpture seemed like the logical outcome of Kelly’s particular kind of painting, it also seemed superfluous. His painted shapes, flat and taut, always looked ready to spring right off the canvas and become sculpture. But the sculpture, having “sprung,” suffered a loss of tension; it failed to achieve in actuality what the paintings achieved by implication. The paintings expanded confidently into real space; the sculpture, already there, appeared homeless and heavy.

    In Kelly’s recent exhibitions

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  • Bridget Riley

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    From Bridget Riley’s painting you gain a definite, if useless, amount of information about the optical components and reciprocal effects of colors in various combinations and patterns. These combinations and patterns might be considered Riley’s invention; they obviously result from persistent research on her part.

    In Shih-Li, wavy horizontal lines cause the surface to undulate in a series of diagonal ripples. Furthermore, with time the interwoven colors of the lines create a checkerboard of white and yellow light along these diagonals. Paean, the largest painting in the exhibition, is more rigid

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  • Marcia Hafif

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Marcia Hafif covers various surfaces: small and large wood panels, stretched canvases which reach floor to ceiling or wall to wall, and, finally, the wall itself. She covers these surfaces with different substances of various colors: vermilion encaustic, grayed cobalt blue oil paint, yellow egg tempera, ocher casein. The paint goes on in tiny, incessant strokes, one after the other in strict sequence, down or across each surface. The result is a thin single layer. Each point on the surface remains a discrete unit, the outcome of an individual gesture and point in time. Visually, I can sometimes

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  • Harriet Korman

    112 Greene Street Gallery

    Harriet Korman is about thirty; her first one-woman show was at LoGiudice in the fall of 1972. This second show is good, one of this year’s best in its own modest, youthful way. Korman’s paintings are very simple. What’s amazing about them is not that she does so much with so little but that she does much with so little with such nonchalance. And the nonchalance isn’t a negative quality, because the results aren’t sloppy or insubstantial.

    Korman’s method is immediately apparent. She goes over the surface of each painting three times: first she makes a series of horizontal lines a few inches apart,

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  • Ron Davis

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    To say that this year’s Ron Davis paintings are an improvement over last year’s is not saying much. What he is doing now looks like typical “early” work which theoretically might have preceded his more daring paintings of the mid-’60s. Those paintings were made of polyester resin. They were isometric shapes whose perspectival illusionism was countered by their overt materiality and eccentricity. Davis had in effect lifted shapes out of paintings, cast them, and put them, bold and a little raunchy, right on the wall. This year, Davis has simply put the shapes back into the canvas and once more

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  • Budd Hopkins

    William Zierler Gallery

    Where Budd Hopkins used to combine several kinds of painting, about three, on the same canvas, he is now laying them out separately, each on a different panel. Hopkins’ work has always spoken too completely of his admiration for other artists. He sought to combine the painterly blacks and whites of Kline with a Neo-Plastic geometry. In previous work, a central circle would be interrupted by a chevron of AE painterliness or diagonal bands of color. Now the bands, the painterliness and the circles are all on separate panels in much the same relationship. Panels of stripes and black-and-white

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  • Roy De Forest

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The Bay Area artist Roy De Forest has said he thinks of himself as a “classical American painter with some correspondence to American primitive art and people like George Caleb Bingham and Edward Hicks.” Over the past 20 years, De Forest has been pushing his primitiveness to a point of polished sophistication. The process is traced in a thorough, compact retrospective which traveled to the Whitney from the San Francisco Museum of Art where it was organized by curator John Humphrey, who also wrote a brief, rather insufficient catalogue essay. The exhibition included paintings, drawings, and

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  • Jerry Buchanan

    Michael Walls Gallery

    For his first New York exhibition, Jerry Buchanan showed paintings from the last five years. Pleasantly enough, the most recent work is more interesting. Buchanan’s earlier work is self-consciously eclectic; pictorial conventions and styles are subsumed within a technique so facile it is ultimately cloying. Buchanan plays around with various contradictions between the image and the frame. Each is, variously, pictorial space, flat surface, decorative surface, carpentry, craft, you name it. Thus Buchanan paints Basement, a small landscape in the style of Cézanne, and paints the wide frame around

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  • Jannis Kounellis

    Sonnabend Gallery

    For three consecutive Saturdays Jannis Kounellis, a Greek artist living in Italy, sat astride a black horse in a corner of Sonnabend Gallery. Wearing street clothes, Kounellis covered his face with a plaster mask, a classical face. (The horse wore a saddle but no bridle.) A small lamp was one a nearby wall. The entire gallery was painted intense, egg-yolk yellow. Kounellis is the art historian’s dream: a contemporary artist with iconography. His work sets up all kinds of reverberations between the past and the present (gallery) situation. Experiencing the work can almost become a trivia quiz:

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  • Jo Baer

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    In her catalogue essay to the Jo Baer exhibition Barbara Haskell presents Baer as a “radical painter” dealing with “issues of Minimalist theory.” The 25 paintings in this exhibition, which spans from 1962 to 1975, suggest that if Baer is anything she is eccentric and not in a very profound way. In all of Baer’s work sensuous, nonintellectual experience is frustrated or denied. Her art can seem at times blatantly didactic, at other times arbitrarily and meaninglessly decorative. These aspects undercut rather than elaborate each other. Baer spells out “pictorial” characteristics so simplistically

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  • Daniel Buren

    New York City, sponsored by John Weber Gallery

    Since 1966 Daniel Buren has been painting identical vertical stripes, varying only the colors which alternate with white and the location in which the work is presented. A specific work, Seven Ballets in Manhattan, was performed around the city on seven successive days last May and June. Five “dancers” walked in line, carrying picket signs of printed paper vertical stripes (all equal size). The stripes covered both sides of the sign, their colors shifting from day to day, sometimes from sign to sign. Looking at the piece, I ask what is there? Vertical stripes. Yes, I can see that, but what does

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  • Joseph Beuys

    René Block Galllery / Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

    Communication occurs in reciprocity: it must never be a one-way flow from teacher to taught. So oscillates . . . the master/pupil, transmitter/receiver relationship. So states Joseph Beuys in the catalog for “Art into Society” (ICA, London, 1974). And for three days last April Beuys talked to New York gallery-goers, uptown and downtown—this “oscillating” sculpture of verbal interchange acting as the live counterpart of his fixed object-environments, which remained after his departure. The day I sat listening to, occasionally joining in, discussion, the focal point was Beuys’s political ideas

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  • Hans Haacke

    John Weber Gallery

    It’s tempting to begin writing about Hans Haacke’s new work with a list of his art credentials. Number one, he shows at an established gallery within the conventional art-marketing system. A further listing of exhibits, museum shows (rejections) might serve as a measure of reputation/significance. And what about the number of pieces sold, prices paid, etc.? Or a bibliography of reviews and reproductions, publicity given? How much would such statistics reveal about Haacke the artist, or even about Haacke as a member of the art world with all its socioeconomic ramifications?

    The reason for these

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  • Douglas Davis

    Video Distribution, Inc., Idea Warehouse

    In an October, 1973, article in Artforum, Douglas Davis stressed the need for “a proper understanding and use of content [in art]—of symbols and meanings that point outside toward the world.” He was particularly critical of American artists’ avoidance of, or naive, often “bathetic” handling of subject matter in their tacit continuation of the formalist emphasis on “art” structure. The predominant fear he pointed to is that “by dealing in meaning the work of art may immediately absorb itself into the world, losing its privileged (esthetic) shelter.” “We are all caught in the tautology that art

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  • Roger Welch

    Stefanotty Gallery

    Humanness. The word points to the appeal of Roger Welch’s work. His recent piece Rodger Woodward—Niagara Falls Project is part of a planned series on “Near Death Experiences,” an attempt to recapture, to understand what it means almost to die. It is not the “Drama in Real Life” of Reader’s Digest fame, nor simply storytelling, but more a projection into, a sharing of, another’s experience, which reflects on one’s own. As in Welch’s earlier works, the narrative occurred in the past. One reaches it, not through distance as documented event, but through presence as remembered meaning. In July 1960,

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  • Barry Le Va

    Bykert Gallery

    As I walked around, looking at the lengths and square-points of wood that demarcate Barry Le Va’s work, I tried to piece together the visual clues, to draw a mental image congruent with its title. For, while on close examination, the wood markers themselves imply a systematic arrangement behind their at first random appearance, it is the title that provides the orientation, the information necessary to locate these points in an ordered space. Centerpoints and Lengths (Through Points of Tangency)—5 Areas in 2 Areas: Separated and Partially Included, Separated and Partially Excluded—(each area

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  • Roelof Louw

    392 West Broadway

    The difficulty I find in looking at Roelof Louw’s recent work is that it’s too easy just to read the relations between the elements, coming up with a logic for the construction, and to feel that one has therefore “solved” the piece, understood. For example, three upright sheets of steel A, B, C stand, spaced apart, like the points of a triangle. C denotes full size. A appears considerably lower in height, but by mentally adding on the two segments lying on the floor in front of A one arrives at an equal size. Similarly, one combines the fractions of B in one’s head. Having performed this operation,

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  • Dan Flavin

    Leo Castelli Gallery downtown / John Weber Gallery

    The more I ponder over Dan Flavin’s shows, the less I find to write about. Maybe that’s too harsh. Does an artist always have to exhibit new work to remain interesting? No, but there’s a difference between development, the sense of questions still being asked, and repetition, the tired manipulation of a formula to produce rather than inquire. Flavin’s recent pieces seem to side with repetition. I’m not denying the beauty of the works, or the way in which the light paints, transforming, its environment. The green glow suffusing the room of the John Weber Gallery does retain a mystery as it envelops

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  • Jacki Apple, Martha Wilson, and Nancy Kitchel

    Martha Jackson West

    In a large group show of “Conceptual” artists, the work of Jacki Apple, Martha Wilson, and Nancy Kitchel stood out. Recently, varying claims for women’s interests in art (not “understood” or denigrated by men) have been made. Often the emphasis has been on superficial connections to so-called womanly crafts (weaving) and “female” qualities (ephermeralness, fragility) or, dogmatically, on the difference of the feminine sexual perspective. What indeed intrigues me about these three women artists is their implicit (and sometimes explicit) questioning of what it means to be a woman, a questioning

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