reviews

  • Jim Nutt

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    I never was a little boy who got particular delight out of dangling wormy creatures above mommy’s head, so the mischief of doing “bad” images and displaying them in stodgy places where only “proper” things should be shown—i.e. art galleries—fails to give me vicarious fascination. Nor am I real amazed at stuff that wants to jolt me from my middle-class values, make me blush in front of my friends, or generally show me that everything in a world I thought was virtuous either stinks or is subject to human ridicule.

    Jim Nutt’s fiendish images drawn on paper don’t really look so fiendish, and, no,

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  • Lucas Samaras

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    I’ve long thought that I’d like to see a show of latter-day Surrealist-tinged American art in conjunction with orthodox European Surrealism: Lucas Samaras, Arshile Gorky, Edward Kienholz, Marisol, John Graham, Joseph Cornell and so on, next to Tanguy, Ernst, Dali, Masson and company. Oldenburg, in his drawings, could even be our Magritte. It would be an edifying exhibition, stirring whatever drops of jingoist blood may be flowing in my veins.

    The recent Samaras show at Pace showed clearly both his amazing technical range and his main limitation. The limitation is one of scale. Samaras is basically

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  • Frances Barth

    Susan Caldwell Gallery

    Frances Barth’s paintings from her last exhibition inflated a rather personal geometry beyond a credible scale: various shapes, usually two separate triangles, occupied a large field of color, tending to look like objects in space. The shapes, the paint handling and particularly Barth’s somber slightly discordant colors were all emotionally convincing, but a little out of hand. Underneath their obvious seriousness was an edge of indulgence, something that kept the paintings disconnected and imprecise. In the six new paintings here, Barth has a new kind of control, and in two paintings in

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  • Rafael Ferrer

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Rafael Ferrer is an expressionist whose art contains a recurring cluster of private symbols. Despite some earlier linkages with Process and Conceptual modes, he remains more a kind of latter-day Max Beckmann than a Robert Morris. His latest show contained four continuing series of works: a group of painted and drawn-over maps hanging on the wall; a group of boat sculptures suspended by wires; a series of open-form assemblages; and an environment containing a number of works lit dimly by variously colored neon tubing. It was a powerful exhibition.

    Born in Puerto Rico, a onetime drummer in Latin

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  • Roy Lichtenstein

    Leo Castelli Gallery downtown

    The paintings of Roy Lichtenstein have probably never been surpassed in sheer pitiless glitter. His recent show consisted of two groups: a series of horizontal paintings of entablatures and a larger group of satires of earlier 20th-century painting styles and procedures. Lichtenstein’s most characteristic stance is that of satirist. His humor has been consistently cold and sardonic. Sporting with the likes of Matisse or Carrá or Mondrian raises a series of moral problems, since it is a case of a declared modern artist savaging other artists. The issue is a little like that of certain Jewish

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  • Dennis Ashbaugh

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    In all but one of Dennis Ashbaugh’s eccentrically shaped paintings, the major axes are horizontal and vertical. The exception, a striking red painting, which nowhere contains a horizontal or vertical, is still so rectilinear and flat—so wall-like—that it is completely at ease with the others. Ashbaugh is young and his works display some resemblances to earlier paintings; the most obvious connection is with Al Held’s paintings of the middle ’60s. They touch on Held’s bluntness and power, yet they are not so distilled. Instead they are open, being physically made up of sections fastened together,

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  • John Grillo

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    One of the unspoken rules of painting in the ’50s was that beauty, alone and resplendent, was not to be tolerated. God forbid that it should be consciously pursued. John Grillo happens to be an artist of great painterly skill whose paintings, then and now, are extremely beautiful. In fact, beauty seems to be what they are mainly about. This was a mixed blessing in those macho times. On the one hand, his work appeared to lack the requisite Cedar Bar toughness, and instead brought to mind people like Bonnard or Renoir whom we were not supposed to think much of. On the other hand, his work occupied

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  • Richard Tuttle

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The architecture of the Whitney Museum and the art of Richard Tuttle make strange bedfellows. This essential fact remains, regardless of what else (good and mostly bad) has been said about his exhibition there. Ten years of Tuttle’s work, presented as “a major examination” (not a retrospective, but major nonetheless), were seen in a series of three installations designed, it was stated, to expose much work, yet allow each piece the large quantity of space it required. There were about 25 pieces on view at a time. About ten of these formed the core of the exhibition and were visible, although in

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  • Carl Andre

    Sperone Westwater

    Carl Andre’s new work comes out of the cardinal series (the beginnings of which were exhibited at the John Weber gallery in 1972) and out of pieces which appropriate, rather completely, the entire space of a room (as did work shown here early in Andre’s career, and work shown since then in LA, at the old Dwan Gallery and Ace Gallery, an in Europe). The new pieces are called Triodes, a word that Andre derived from the combination of the Greek words tri and hodos (meaning “three” and “path” or “way” respectively). The Triodes are like the Cardinals in tat they project from the base of a wall out

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  • Jared Bark

    Idea Warehouse

    In five evenings at the Idea Warehouse, Jared Bark alternated a performance piece from last year, Lights: On/Off, with a new piece titled The Neutron Readings. This was appropriate, since the two are closely related and the first provides a gauge to the growth, the improvement and the problems of the second. All of Bark’s work, including his photo-booth pieces and his paintings made by firing a BB gun at sheets of glass, involve a number of similar elements: performance, often humorous, if not downright vaudevillian; the misuse of a technique and consequently an amateurish or crude kind of

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  • Mary Miss

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Much of Mary Miss’s recent work is based on spatial progressions, which provide her with a method of staking out and defining sculptural territory. A new piece shown here recently, as well as a film of a second entitled Cut-Off, executed in Flint, Michigan, in the fall of 1974, enlarge upon her previous investigations with considerable success.

    Entering a rather small gallery the viewer is confronted with a crude, fence-like structure made of painted plank, propped up with 2 x 4s. Since it’s a bit higher than eye level, it can’t be seen over, and the first impression is of a rather formidable

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  • Jackie Ferrara

    Max Protetch

    Progressions also provide the basis for Jackie Ferrara’s work, but they are executed with a mathematical precision which places them at the opposite pole from the open-ended spatial investigations of Mary Miss. In Ferrara’s stepped plywood and masonite constructions, Conceptual and post-Minimal esthetics intersect, exploring the processes of stacking and building. Her work of the past couple of years is related to Smithson’s stacked glass and mirror pieces of 1969, though many of the new pieces exhibit a far higher degree of complexity than is present either in her earlier work or that of

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  • John Baldessari

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Much so-called Conceptual art, regardless of the form it takes, is monumentally humorless. The smallest, most incidental occurrence, when singled out as a subject of artistic concern, assumes an intellectual gravity and importance that stifles any urge to smile. John Baldessari aligns his work against such current, facile high seriousness. His repertoire of fragmentary, puckish gestures cuts across most Conceptual territory and celebrates “unimportance” with irony and humor.

    His recent show contained evidence of this quicksilver intelligence, but it also signaled, perhaps, a slight change in

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  • Eugène Atget

    Witkin Gallery

    Berenice Abbot, Eugène Atget’s great champion, made over a hundred new prints from Atget negatives to be exhibited with a few vintage prints at Witkin. Many of the images were familiar ones, but others were from less interesting or even damaged negatives which are not frequently seen. There are few of Atget’s wonderful views of parks and statuary, and the show concentrates instead on views of shop windows, interiors, and Paris streets.

    The most interesting of Atget’s pictures suggest stages without the actors. As Walter Benjamin noted, many of Atget’s photographs resemble photos of the scene of

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  • Hugh Kepets

    Fischbach Gallery

    Hugh Kepets showed paintings and drawings of windows with fire escapes and their shadows, and of architectural details. Some of these were life-size or larger. Most of them seem to have been seen—as some of the titles indicate explicitly—from the artist’s studio window. The illusionistic force of the pictures is such that in some cases the canvas seems actually to be shaped around the projection of a form in the image but at the same time it is also work clearly stylized in the manner of architectural rendering, in a way that differentiates it from photo-Realist work. The shadows and highlights

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  • Hans Namuth

    Leo Castelli Gallery uptown

    Hans Namuth showed photographs of old-fashioned tools seen against black velvet backgrounds. The photos were without labels or titles; except for this they could have been illustrations in a book on technology or archaeology.

    Namuth seems interested in the raw facticity of the objects, free of social meaning. He has intentionally chosen older tools, many of which are not even familiar to contemporary viewers. And the items which are still in use—the scissors or the scythe—are shaped just differently enough to share this sense of alienness. The familiar objects also tend to flirt with a symbolism

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  • Ben Vautier

    John Gibson Gallery

    Visible at the entrance of Ben Vautier’s show was a large red banner which proclaimed, “Life Is Made Out of Details.” It was a title of sorts for works around the walls supposed to represent or otherwise embody a few of those details. There were photographs of Vautier doing or holding something, accompanied by white scripted captions. The idea was that these works presented odd and incidental facts about the world, such as: Vautier happens to look like this, his house in Nice happens to look like that, or a piece of glass photographed from the proper angle allows us to see not only Vautier behind

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  • Alan Sonfist

    Galerie Ariadne

    Although most of the work in Alan Sonfist’s recent exhibition has been shown before, certain aspects of it have not been previously brought into as clear a focus, and the show warrants their discussion. All parts of the show, including that beautifully monstrous artifact Autobiography of an Abandoned Animal Hole (a 20-foot plaster cast of an abandoned muskrat hole), may be seen either as a suite or a single work, in a manner similar to William Burroughs’ practice of poetic composition. Burroughs begins with a core text; passages are selected from it and grouped into separate poems, parts of

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  • “Homage to the Bag”

    Museum of Contemporary Crafts

    Bag—A receptacle of flexible material open only at the top (where it can be closed); a pouch, a small sack.

    If one took a simplistic view of the boundaries of art, it would be easy to dismiss a show of bags at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts as being merely about craft. One could see it as sheer haberdashery, like the recent men’s clothing show at the Brooklyn Museum. But what is a bag? The exhibition reveals that bags are important carriers—the pun is intended—of content in society. On its most basic level a bag is something we put things in when we can’t or don’t want to carry them in our

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  • Jan Dibbets

    Leo Castelli Gallery downtown

    In his recent show of photographic grids of sections of forest and field, Jan Dibbets is working within a more painterly tradition than is generally evidenced in his work. Although they are not the only possible antecedents, a comparison with two earlier field painters, Monet and Pollock, is germane to discussion of Dibbets’ current work.

    There are many one-to-one parallels between Dibbets’ photographs and Monet’s late water-lily paintings. In each, the artist begins with a fixed view of a horizontal surface seen from the roughly 45° angle of vision of a standing person. The horizontal plane is

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  • Frantisek Kupka

    Denise René Gallery

    In the retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum and the concurrent exhibition of drawings at Denise Rene, graphic work emerges as an important element in Czech-born French émigré pioneer abstractionist Frantisek Kupka’s oeuvre. Throughout most of his career he partially supported himself through realistic black and white book illustration in the Viennese Secessionist style. These illustrations, plus studies for his early figurative paintings, are seen only at the Guggenheim.

    In the early years of the 20th century he made an extensive series of drawings for his first abstract paintings—The Fugues

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