reviews

  • Cecile Abish

    Alessandra Gallery

    Cecile Abish seizes the floor and subverts it to her purpose by using it as an integral part of her sculpture. Her marbles, boards and bare spaces constitute a simple, bold statement whose clarity and purpose is conveyed by the implications of its process. Marbles spread across each defined area; hardboards placed directly on the floor leave bare spaces beneath when they are re-placed on top of the marble layer. Each element is treated with equal concern, contradicting the notion of separateness or emptiness of the contrasting layers.

    The title refers to the circular existence of the three

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  • Shigeko Kubota

    Rene Block Gallery

    A self-portrait of Shigeko Kubota might picture her as an explorer, out to conquer the art world a half-inch at a time with a Porta-pack on her back. Kubota’s writings reveal a wry sense of purpose about herself and her video work, often comparing the equipment to her body, joking about the hardships of carrying so much dead weight around. Her recent show, entitled “Meta-Marcel,” consisted of three “video sculptures,” plywood structures which housed T.V. monitors. The show’s title is, of course, a bit of homage to Kubota’s hero; her work represents a continuing effort to restate or perhaps

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  • Eleanor Antin

    M. L. D'Arc Gallery

    For those of us who were not in the cast, the performance of Grand Nurse Eleanor Antin Nightingale’s The Angel of Mercy was mercifully short. Many cramped spectators on the gallery floor remained frozen in position as Queen Victoria hung a medal on Eleanor, praying for a finale but unsure if the performance was to turn into an endurance test. The grand finale, as it indeed turned out to be, drew very little applause, a large silence and then a grateful surge toward the elevator door. Random reactions indicated a reigning confusion and doubt as to whether there was another act, or if the “play”

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  • George Nick

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    George Nick’s new paintings render realistic detail with a broad painterly application and brushstroke. His subjects are houses, either singly in close-up or caught in rows on long streets and alleyways. At times a concern for light and shadow prevails, at others strong spatial planes dominate. His interest may vary from painting to painting; this slight hesitancy over which technique is crucial is the only distracting element in these pieces.

    124 North Shore Drive exemplifies the split concern, where the strongly angled magenta roof on a blue house begins to define its space in very sculptural

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  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Leo Castelli Graphics

    Ellsworth Kelly has never been a hard-core hard-edge painter. He has never accepted the square and the 90-degree angle as god-given. His color, never reduced to a set of primaries, has always been luscious and natural, prismatic without being systematic. Taken as a whole, his work sacrifices logic and rationality for a chance to bend a line, curve space, and charge color with worldly reference. His handsome canvases have never succumbed to intellectual pretense or justification for communication, and formal explanations have always seemed way off mark. Kelly doesn’t map out an itinerary beforehand;

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  • Pinchas Cohen Gan

    Max Protetch

    I wonder if I am wrong thinking that Pinchas Cohen Gan is basically a whimsical, dryly humorous, childlike spirit. Is the informality and offhandedness disguising something more serious? Is the seeming naiveté willed or natural, and an end in itself?

    Art History A is a pile of small canvases in the middle of the room. Why am I attracted most to the Crayola-like colors and the self-depreciating mockery, and not the analytic dissection? Proposition Painting with a Real Copy of an Orange is made of two panels: one, that classic bad-taste color, thalo green with white; the other, a tacky fuschia.

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  • Rafael Ferrer

    Rafael Ferrer’s show proved how hopeless it is to experience certain kinds of art within the modern gallery space. That space, even though it is blank and empty, can be a distraction if it is in direct opposition to the spirit of its contents. Ferrer usually disturbs the “white cube” by turning the whole room into an environment where every element derives its meaning from its place within the total ensemble. Any material can be made to work: neon, twigs, paintings, canoes—as long as the basic antagonism between work and space is obliterated. And Ferrer has often been quite successful at overcoming

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  • Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

    Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s new paintings have dropped their previous affinities with Bochner and Rockburne and place all their chips on Mardenesque reductive abstraction. The symptoms are easily detected: square panels arranged in grids. One panel, one color. Grid empty of everything save color. No marking. No image. No painterliness. All deadpan, flat handling. Tasteful, arbitrary color. Here, color includes the latest Marden-inspired “shocking” juxtaposition of complementaries along with the de rigueur dark, dark greens and grays mingling with not-quite whites. We’ve seen it a thousand times.

    The

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  • Laurie Anderson

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Laurie Anderson’s 24 tunes in the jukebox were available for 25 cents a play except for Thursdays, when they were free. Ten plaques on the wall represented lyrics, musical notations, photographs, and stories about the genesis of some of the music—but they were no substitute for the music itself, which, I’m told, is due to be released by the gallery as an LP.

    Despite the jukebox and the polished sound-studio work behind the songs, this was not another rock-in-art’s-clothing effort. Anderson translates personal sensibility into layers of technique independent of the 45-rpm market and, indeed, often

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  • Yvonne Jacquette

    Brooke Alexander

    Van Gogh painted his own copy of Sudden Shower at Ohashi by the Japanese painter Hiroshige. Both painters used landscape as the ground for perception’s incomplete representation floating on paper’s or canvas’ perfect blank, as does Yvonne Jacquette. Jacquette copies from her own work, painting and drawing multiple versions, and often making monoprints from originals. Some pieces are oils on canvas, others are oil, pastel, gouache, or watercolor applied to glass or paper and transferred onto fine paper.

    Jacquette takes her views as much from city as from country. Out of earlier, almost Photo-Realist

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  • Merce Cunningham

    Carl Solway Gallery

    An installation of Merce Cunningham’s dancing is surely a contradiction in terms. Cunningham’s own notes and notations, a videotape, and photographs spanning much of his career provide some approximation of Cunningham and his dance company’s vitality and precise movement. “You have to love dancing to stick with it,” Cunningham wrote in Changes: Notes on Choreography. “It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold. Nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady

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  • Susan Crile

    Fischbach Gallery

    A structure’s joint, the point of greatest potential for weakness, for buckling and collapse, can also be the point of its greatest strength. No doubt this principle holds true in any art. In writing, the white between two words can make them comrades for what they share or strangers for the ocean which separates them. The four corners of the painted canvas can likewise be considered “joints,” the points articulating the meeting of two powerful forces—the horizontal and the vertical. They too can be dislocated or tautly joined, depending on how they are approached with form and color. Susan

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  • Don Celender

    O.K. Harris Gallery

    Though a consummate buffoon, the emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” mandates a truth to which all his subjects must submit. The little child does not yet know to be obsequious; it is he who proclaims the “naked” truth. Shaken for a moment, the emperor regains his royal composure by insisting nonetheless that the “show must go on.” By continuing to play in what has proven to be a fiction, the emperor proves that the absence of objective truth not only doesn’t topple his authority, it may well reinforce it.

    Things are because of what they are said to

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  • Peter Hujar

    Marcuse Pfeifer Gallery

    The Roman Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus objected to having his portrait made, saying: “Is it not enough to carry about this image in which nature has enclosed us? Do you really think I must also consent to leave, as a desirable spectacle to posterity, an image of an image?” Peter Hujar, a photographer of human and structural architecture, encloses enclosures and makes images of images in his “New York Portraits.” What defines these photographs as “portraits” is both the animate and inanimate subjects’ willingness to be depicted and their need to break out of the medium in which they are

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  • Lee Hall

    Betty Parsons Gallery

    Lee Hall’s large acrylic and small watercolor landscapes are tissuelike, translucent, jagged-edged masses of color slipped over each other to make water-ridges and luminous peaks through the overlap. They are described by names of places—Uxbridge Hill, Providence Fragment, Rhode Island Facade—and by times and states—Night Edge, Afternoon Distance, Morning Edge Contemplation. Initially the composition of these paintings concurs with the most conventionalized imaginings of what an abstract landscape should solicit from nature: a mountainous form, a horizon line drawn or inferred, distance, light,

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  • Mark Cohen

    Leo Castelli Gallery uptown

    Mark Cohen’s photographs equate close framing and abrupt truncation of images with mysteriousness and an aura of special insight. His subjects, however banal they really are, claim to be of extraordinary significance and ultimate metaphorical possibilities. For example, he’ll isolate a plastic bag containing an abandoned pimiento jar lying on the sidewalk. The close framing argues a fascination with this object—argues that we should be fascinated by it—and the overall grayness of the picture ironically compounds the sense that something very special has been singled out. The picture asks our

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  • Larry Rivers

    Marlborough | Midtown

    Larry Rivers’ drawings, especially when seen in a huge number as in his current retrospective, are at once interesting and empty. They are not quite seductive and emotional; neither are they hard-headed and calculating. It is as if Rivers has undertaken all the characteristic devices of modern painting (particularly those of Matisse, de Kooning, Rauschenberg and Hockney) and reduced them into an altogether tame, too palatable melange. It becomes a layman’s version of the 20th century, sort of a Classic Comic book of modernism.

    One of the most frequent Rivers devices is the blank eye; Rivers will

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  • Giulio Paolini

    Sperone Westwater

    Giulio Paolini’s work is, in contrast to Larry Rivers’, hermetic at the same time that it is about being hermetic. Perhaps appropriately, his current show begins with two plaster reproductions of Praxiteles’ head of Hermes. Atop twin pedestals the two heads face each other off, while behind them two white metal Corinthian columns, part of Sperone’s old loft building, stand like dueling seconds. This kind of face-off, which Paolini can weight either as a confrontation or as a mirroring, occurs in the majority of the pieces in his show, and in all of the better ones.

    The Hermes heads recall that

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