reviews

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Leo Castelli Gallery Downtown

    Without the wall label you might never have guessed: there are many other artists to whom you might have attributed these pieces of silky fabric entangled with sanded bamboo poles, leaned against walls and carefully draped into pockets. You certainly would have taken a while to guess that these are the latest very uncharacteristic productions of Robert Rauschenberg. At the same time it is difficult to get over a sense of the artist dressing too young, stylistically, although any younger artist who executed pieces like these would never have been in a position to do so except for Rauschenberg’s

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  • Robert Goodnough

    Knoedler & Company

    The bunches of angular pastel chips flocking their way through Robert Goodnough’s painting are clearly remnants of some sort. They imply a once-solid surface of color, excised to a few remaining shards. In Goodnough’s earlier work those shards were mostly gray and resembled the flagstones artily laid out en route to the barbecue grill in suburban backyards. At the same time their shapes and lightness and grouping suggested birds rising together. Now the pieces have brightened up a bit and lost a certain amount of kinship with the ground. The further result is an almost Oriental lightness in the

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  • Philip Guston

    David McKee Gallery

    Philip Guston’s latest work—a disparate group of eleven paintings and four drawings—omits the Klansman-like figures prominent in most of his painting since 1970. The leading figure now is a bristly, bean-shaped head with ear and enormous, pupil-less eye. The image suggests a thinking eye, the essential stripped-down painter’s eye. One other recurrent image is more familiar: the cartoonlike shoes with prominent nails in their soles have appeared in Guston’s paintings since his Artists Project days.

    The images are constantly on the edge of dislocation from the thick, lushly handled ground. Guston

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  • Stephen Rosenthal

    John Weber Gallery

    The occasion of respected dealers showing work derived from that of their better artists takes one’s breath away. Recently, at Castelli, Alan Charlton’s gray panels linked Robert Morris and Ellsworth Kelly. Now, at the John Weber Gallery, Stephen Rosenthal seems to take Robert Ryman’s dead-pan use of materials to its most absurd and obvious extreme. (Rosenthal and Ryman were featured on the same page of the first issue of Newsletter of the John Weber Gallery, a recent gallery publication, the equivalent of about a dozen press releases, written in the benignly self-satisfied tone of a nonprofit

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  • Mel Bochner

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Mel Bochner seems to be trying to prolong his status as precocious young master and to advance rapidly to the position of an old established one at the same time; his recent show took the form of a mini-retrospective, but nonetheless left one, once more, in a state of anticipation. The exhibition consisted of a large selection of previously unshown drawings from the last three years; they ranged from small fast sketches to finished works and, in total, retraced Bochner’s development since 1973. Over the past few years, Bochner has advanced from the stringent conceptuality of his earlier work,

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  • Gary Stephan

    Gary Stephan’s third one-man show, which included drawings, sculpture and paintings, was somewhat disappointing. Stephan’s painting has changed, and the four paintings exhibited here, although respectable enough, indicate that it is still in transition. Stephan has abandoned some of his cerebral elegance and is moving toward “real painting.” After working with one or two shapes painted on otherwise bare, shaped canvases, Stephan has returned to the square format and is covering the entire surface again, almost, it seems, as an investigation of the various methods of putting paint on the canvas.

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  • Robert Swain

    Robert Swain’s painting is involved, purely and exclusively, with color, with the variety and interaction of color, and with the alternation between color as opaque pigmented surface and as illusionistic light. Swain’s format is relentlessly consistent; for some time now he has divided his canvases into 12-inch squares, each painted flat and precisely with one color. The paintings in this exhibition are either seven or nine squares (i.e. feet) on a side. That’s either 49 or 81 different colors per painting, since no color seems to repeat on a single canvas.

    There’s a poker-faced intellectuality

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  • Scott Burton

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    As the light comes up on a beige stage, one sees two blond, wooden, institutional-looking chairs on small platforms and, between the chairs, a bench, also of blond wood. Two men on stage echo the repetition of the identical chairs; both men are the same height, have short, dark hair, wearing t-shirts, bell-bottom trousers, and (punning visually on the chairs) platform shoes. But the performers, unlike the furniture, are not “arranged” symmetrically. One man stands upstage right, the other midstage left; their backs are toward one another.

    So begins Scott Burton’s austere and elegant Pair Behavior

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  • Dan Graham

    Sperone Westwater Fischer

    The installation Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay is by far the more suggestive of Dan Graham’s two new works. Opposite walls of a room are mounted with mirrors; facing each mirror are a monitor and video camera. The system is looped, each camera linked with the monitor on the opposite side of the room on an eight-second delay. Wait 16 seconds and your image, bounced off the mirror on the far wall and rerouted back, will be returned to you, slightly the worse for wear. If you sprint to the other side of the room you’ll just have time to catch your first-generation image turning

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  • Alan Shields

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Rare it is in current painting to find the exuberant range of emotion that the five large pictures in Alan Shields’s exhibition unabashedly proclaim. These sophisticated panoramas, four painted, one sewn, react in confident intensity against a milieu increasingly prosaic and obscure.

    Four of the pictures are made on rough, heavy canvas, hemmed and grommetted like sails or flags, and one is painted on thick, woven sisal. Their colors are often pale and uneven, but they strive for a deliberate brightness that appears occasionally as luxurious surrender, or ironically, in embarrassment about

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  • Joseph Cornell

    Leo Castelli Gallery Uptown

    The Q44A bus goes past Utopia Parkway, Joseph Cornell’s old neighborhood. The houses are of a sameness: two-story domiciles of brick, separated from each other by a cement driveway or a sparse patch of grass. There is a small shopping area nearby, featuring a Kosher deli, cleaning store, pet shop, bakery, dance studio, dress shop, etc.; nothing resembling Utopia here. Cornell had to make his own Utopia, but why did he seal it in boxes—create his coffinlike, stop-action environments? Strange for a man who was claustrophobic! Strange that he was compelled to trap objects and memories in a place

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  • Martin Ramirez

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Art pulled from the minds of the seriously disturbed, the retarded, the disjointed mute marauders of the unconscious, still has, in some cases, a delicacy and mythology that raises it above and beyond pathology. Van Gogh was an artist first, a madman second. Others are first mad; then, in order to help the doctors, they are given materials (as if they were children) in order to reveal themselves and at the same time to remain calm and tractable. Given this opportunity, the mentally ill person sometimes proves that he or she was an artist all along—but without port-folly-o. Yes, art is a folly

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  • Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid are really funny and really brave. They are smart as only middlemen can be. They play with notions of art and nationalism. They are comedians of an absurd situation: police-state citizens allowed to tune into news of the art world. The risk they take makes the really accomplished Gilbert & George look effete. These Russian artists, who work as one sensibility, maraud through art history inventing, parodying, and tipping over every icon, Eastern and Western, they can get their mitts on.

    They improve Pop art with their blowtorch burnt offerings. Indiana has never

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  • Louise Nevelson

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    Louise Nevelson does not preside over her Moon Gardens, she puts them in our way and leaves. We arrive in the dark, except for certain strategically placed spotlights, and expect to be invited in . . . but the Moon Garden is not open . . . it leans against the wall of night, all boxed in . . . no room for visitors . . . and it whispers flat, black promises that we believe.

    The work is monumental, composed of many compartments and shapes, given unity with a good paint job. The paint is black. When one steps back to see the whole thing at once, it is almost impossible: the eyes get caught in this

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  • Joan Snyder

    Carl Solway Gallery

    Joan Snyder is a feminist artist; that is, she is trying to define her work within a boundary of female concerns. There are many others, among them Miriam Shapiro and Mary Beth Edelson, who do this: Mary Beth Edelson by examining the great goddess myths, cycle of life, etc., and Miriam Shapiro by using material on canvas as if it were some great abstract ceremonial robe. Ms. Snyder gets down to many of the physical aspects of a woman’s body, suggesting blood, female pods splitting open, seed, and sphincter. Her paintings are rich in pigment and consciousness: e.g. a wilted wedding bouquet that

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  • Robert Kushner

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    It’s hard to tell if Robert Kushner’s painted and sewn textiles and performances are a funky, high-camp spoof of haute couture, a traveler’s hommage, or the making of art/craft “objects” balanced between static two-dimensional design and its dynamic presentation as three-dimensional masses in motion. The truth probably lies in some combination of the above. Kushner has been known for his “fashion shows” and tableaux. Probably the most famous was the one based on food. Nude models wore, for example, carrot necklaces, scallion aprons and red cabbage headdresses. Partially because of his extensive

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  • Carolee Schneeman

    The Kitchen

    Carolee Schneeman is an underestimated multimedia artist and filmmaker. Her recent performance of Up To And Including Her Limits is a work-in-progress which has been developed through a series of six two-day performance installations over the last two years at the University Art Museum, Berkeley; London Film-Makers Cooperative; Art Meeting Place, London; Artists Space; Anthology Film Archives; and recently at the Kitchen. Each installation consists of five parts—a performance area where Schneeman hangs in a rope harness and draws; Kitch’s Last Meal, a double super-8 film; sound tapes; a bank of

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  • Morris Kantor

    Zabriskie Gallery

    We seem to be reviving and reappraising the work of many of early American modernists with an almost Bicentennial fervor. The early work of Morris Kantor (1896–1974) makes a fine rediscovery; 28 of his charcoal and pastel drawings and paintings from 1918 to 1924 were exhibited at the Zabriskie Gallery. Kantor came from Russia in 1910, at the age of 14, and supported himself by working in the garment district. In 1916, he had accumulated enough money to enroll in the Independent School of Art, run by Homer Boss. The school’s training eschewed such typical Academy ideals as drawing from plaster

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