reviews

  • Charles Arnoldi

    Robert Elkon Gallery

    Charles Arnoldi’s exhibition is his first of paintings. All seven of them—five large and two small—are identical in concept, and all are named after streets in Venice, California: Mildred, Rose, Wavecrest, Navy, Market, Pico and Ozone. They look something like thick multicolored bundles of telephone wiring. Each is composed of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of short, narrow stripes that chaotically overlap and intersect each other. Though the colors of Arnoldi’s stripes tend to be muted, they cover the whole visible spectrum and include black, gray, gold and silver as well: thus the general look

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  • Willem De Kooning

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    The image of Willem De Kooning that emerges from the critical writing of the last 15 years is that of a modern master who in his late 60s and 70s has earned the right to give free rein to every impulse and who has retained the sureness of eye and hand to do so triumphantly. There is general agreement that the impulses unleashed are lyrical, indeed bucolic; this recent style is often attributed to his move from New York City to eastern Long Island. As Diane Waldman wrote: “Exuberant, free and innovatory, [de Kooning’s paintings] are a great late flowering.” This is the summary remark of her

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  • Robert Grosvenor

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Like two malleable lumps flung against the ground, Robert Grosvenor’s new wood sculptures sag and push down to the gallery floor, corners rounded, surface smooth. The roundness is new—the solidity and bulky mass of the pieces contrast with the single broken logs previously shown. Here, rows of creosoted logs form a single emphatic shape, still Minimal in that each is a single compact unit, but with an emphasis on weight and restrained shaping. Overall the pieces are strongly reminiscent of Jackie Winsor’s concern with contained energy and compression.

    Like Winsor’s work, these pieces hint at

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  • Robert Zakanitch

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Robert Zakanitch is commonly called a pattern painter, and though he deals with repetitions of one motif, his use of an actual pattern is so far removed from anything repetitious and mechanical as to redefine the word. Zakanitch does not repeat as much as he breaks his own rules, using a motif only as a springboard for variation and nuance. Laying down a groundwork of a specific floral motif, he proceeds to counter accurate repetition with changes in color, brushwork and spatial references. Using anything from delicate, finicky nosegays to primeval foliage, he combines color with connotation,

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  • Eve Sonneman

    Castelli Graphics

    The trouble with Eve Sonneman’s photographs is their failure to give the impression of a definite point of view. Neither removed nor objective enough to read as straight documentation, they record objects and events in a before/after format without a before or after. In the case of those photos recording actions, time seems to become the subject: sculling boats ready at the docks/empty docks with rippling water; naked boat frame standing in shadow/boat frame with ribs standing in sunlight. Between the before and the after, a definite event takes place, a change has been recorded, but somehow no

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  • Barry Le Va

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Barry Le Va’s work is self-containing, self-defining, self-referring, self-questioning and self-answering. It lays down guidelines and plans according to strict information, but withholds enough of the essential facts to be, in essence, a challenge to the viewer. Those who don’t want to be challenged will probably face the work as purely visual information, linear, Minimal pieces with the artist’s inherent logic showing through.

    Those who have followed his work from the early experiments with distribution and process up to the present will probably leap to the challenge of discerning the inner

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  • Agnes Martin

    Pace Gallery

    The reductivist fashion of the 1960s was so powerful that it determined the styles of many artists who, by what one can intuit about their temperaments, might have been expected to be naturally antagonistic to it. The strongest examples of this tension were, perhaps, the strange, banked fires of Agnes Martin and Brice Marden, artists whose appeal was and remains subtly but pervasively against-the-grain, subversive in nuance, feeling, mystique: not the exactness of the grid but the tremulousness of the pencilled line bumping over the tooth of the canvas, and not the monochrome slab but the felt

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  • Rackstraw Downes

    Kornblee Gallery

    Rackstraw Downes’ new land-and cityscapes are peculiarly riveting to the gaze and linger in the mind with a peculiar stubbornness. Talking with the artist helped me think about why. Downes, who paints on site, denied being in the least influenced by photography—specifically the use of the wide-angle lens, which the look of his smallish panoramas suggests. It seems that the wide-angle effect, of a space more capacious than even the paintings’ long horizontal format would appear to make possible, is arrived at by straight perceptual means.

    Indeed, though the space of the paintings does look subtly

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  • Jules Olitski

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    For me, the typical pleasure of Jules Olitski’s painting has been in an austere, sophisticated tastefulness of design given edge by the perversity of faintly evil hues and aggressive textures. He is a forceful, acerb painter, and his sensibility is exceedingly keen, reveling in the sorts of fine-tuned ambiguity that so delight orthodox modernist taste. However, my feeling about his work is ambivalent. For one thing, Olitski’s complete identification with the mighty formalist/historicist position in American art (tyranny or aristocracy, depending on your point of view) makes an independent and

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  • Patricia Johanson

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    The wit was flying high in Patricia Johanson’s show. Only a real nitpicking spoilsport wouldn’t have enjoyed it. Johanson does a subspecies of earthworks, what might be termed “natureworks.” The difference for Johanson is that (1) she must realize that when you make very big sculptures they end up being a form of architecture, and (2) function must surrender to form, which surrenders to use. In Johanson’s work, any naturally occurring form can be turned into a manmade structure with very little transformation from nature to culture. Her drawings simulate architectural plans which in most cases

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  • Gary Stephan

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Gary Stephan’s paintings are a mystery only until your patience runs out. At first, you attempt an impressionistic reading of the forms. Is this irregular shape that floats close to the bottom of the canvas an entrance, a door, from which a kind of mysterious, suffused light is drawn out? No, for there is an arched section on the bottom near the left side. And there is a “table leg” off on the extreme right, which is attached by a small horizontal member from the top.

    Are these two forms? Or is the background a third form? Stephan uses a darker version of the defined shape for the background (in

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  • Ed Mcgowin

    Brooks Jackson Gallery Lolas

    The iconographical motifs in Ed Mcgowin’s “Country Western Narrative” are the hat, the car, the bottle, the bed, the lamp, the table and the boot. These homely items come together under one roof, so to speak: the main attraction of the show was a 10-foot-high house of galvanized steel. This is in keeping with the latest sculptural mode: an almost ridiculous number of artists have been building little houses recently, enough to last the decade. An acquaintance of mine refers to the homes as “fuck houses”: artists reaching back into their childhoods, re-creating those hideaways where they had “

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  • Sylvia Plimack Mangold

    Droll/Kolbert

    There are images in Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s new paintings, and I mean pictorial images. No more strictly realist in her inventory of objects, Mangold chooses the landscape as a predominating image. But landscape seen a priori as a painted image.

    The titles of the paintings name seasons. The color range focuses on spring greens, light ochres, wintery grays, lemon yellows, sky blues. Even when there is no landscape image represented, the feel of an expansive, light-filled space is still very much present. We do see fields of grain, foothills, meadows. Within the givens of Man-gold’s previous work,

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  • Keith Sonnier

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    As trite as it might sound, art is not a seed, but a flowering; not a promise, but a realization over time. One-shot greatness, as in the spectacular first one-person show, is only a promise. An artist’s work gains meaning only as it matures along with the artist. There is no “ideal greatness” in art which can be used to measure an isolated achievement. And the use of art history to place unknown art on a graded curve seems to me a way of avoiding the work by comparing it to a model. Art generates meaning over time for both viewer and artist, as successive works focus attention on primary concerns

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  • Nancy Graves

    Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

    Nancy Graves’ latest assembly of bones occupies a low steel platform at the corner of 47th Street and 2nd Avenue. Those who, like myself, are fairly ignorant of natural history will not know whether these are dinosaur fossils or those of enduring animals, or even whether there is more than one species represented here. But the black, or at least twilit, humor of Graves’ piece is easy to recognize.

    One likes to imagine that the fossils belong to dinosaurs who have traveled across millions of years of time to check upon this rather undistinguished corner of Manhattan. Their hollow eyes gaze in all

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  • Joan Snyder

    Hamilton Gallery

    Joan Snyder’s collage paintings continue with concerns that have occupied her for some years, though, as of her current show, most contain literal images of one kind or another. These are either found objects—photographs or pieces of cloth, for instance—that Snyder imbeds in thick, heavy layers of paint, or words—slogans, commonly—that are painted into the corners of a picture. The complexity of Snyder’s collaging has increased in recent years to the point where some of the current works are comprised of hundreds of parts.

    It is difficult to dissociate the quality of these works as paintings from

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  • Ed Ruscha

    Castelli Graphics

    One of the curious features of Ed Ruscha’s books is that in many cases the titles coincide with the moment of their conception, and precede their making on any level. Even in light of this, his drawings (1974–77) are somewhat bewildering, as they are the very titles of themselves before, during and after their execution. Similar to Bob Wilson’s scavenging of the environment (including T.V. and the papers) for lines to be used in his plays and much resembling Ruscha’s own photos, the “title” phrases are like snaps of expressions lifted from around him. As such, they are both unpretentious (

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    Visual Arts Museum

    Ruscha’s show, working in the arena of our sensory hierarchies, is not the only one reviewed here which deals with the conflict between the verbal or rational, and the evocative or intuitive, components of the brain. Dennis Oppenheim zeroes in on the same issue as the theme of his installation Well. In a social sense, language is one of the ways we control the world, but it is also the mode of communication most used to rule us. This paradox is also true in a personal sense: language liberates, but it binds; it is a trap. And indeed, while the audio part of Well argues against the fragmenting,

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  • Hanne Darboven

    Leo Castelli And Sperone Westwater Fischer Galleries

    To tune in to Hanne Darboven’s work we must discard Oppenheim’s geometric hardware bulging with emotions, forget his ethical agonizing over the slow depletion of his potential through each formalized expression of it, and turn instead to a brand of philosophy particular to women—one with a notion of existence as something there and naturally available. It is here that Darboven’s principle of compulsive writing, counting and copying is voiced: “By doing it, it becomes not more and more, because it is already there, but clearer and clearer.” It is at the opposite end of the scale from Oppenheim’s

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