reviews

  • Helen Soreff

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    The laws of Stella’s Black paintings have been working within uninspired abstract painting since 1960. Working from a dead end. Stella knew this, or he wouldn’t so desparately try anything, even confusion, to escape its consequences. Stella had just one idea, but what his countless progeny forget is that he didn’t have one format. Ideas are fine in art, but in visual art, it is the way the idea is shown to us that carries the day. The visualness of Stella’s repeated stripes exhibited a certain kind of force and power; we shouldn’t forget, however, how banal the idea really was. Stella’s idea—his

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  • Peter Archer

    Robert Miller Gallery

    It’s interesting that Peter Archer’s paintings should seem so refreshing, since in fact they represent a return to an earlier realism. Realistic without super-, neo- or photo-attached to the description, they are simply studio interiors done in a rather careful and somber style. Studious in attention to composition and detail, they also have the stylistic flavor and palette of the ’30s and ’40s.

    Archer’s affinity with the WPA style is partly due to his use of broad shadow and effects arranged through deliberate contrast of lights and darks. Producing more surface variation than depth, Archer

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  • Italo Scanga

    The Clocktower

    Italo Scanga. The name itself conjures up the Mediterranean peninsula. Not the cool, radical chic of the Milanese north, but the starker realities rooted in the age-worn landscape of the Calabrian Sila Massif. But Scanga’s works are anything but worn and barren. They reflect his career during the 1970s, and simultaneously provide this writer with a critical dilemma—intense reaction coupled with a disinclination to put it into words, resisting the necessarily deadening effect that any explanation engenders. To deal with such a powerful attraction is, however, to come close to what Scanga’s work

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  • Mary Frank

    Zabriskie Gallery

    As companions to her decayed and fragmented clay sculptures, Mary Frank’s “Shadow Papers” are gentle, ethereal, extremely intimate works. A shadow paper looks at first like a drawing, but in fact is simply a sheet that has been slit several times with a knife, then hung against a light box. The image that results varies slightly but constantly as one looks at it, in turn becoming bright and dim, formal and casual, tangible and vaporous, according to the vicissitudes of the breeze. No line in these works is actually any broader than a razor blade, but any slit can gape wide open to create an

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  • Joseph Cornell

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    From the 1940s onward, Joseph Cornell’s collages look a good deal like his boxes. They are flat rather than three-dimensional, of course, but everything from the scale relationships inside them to the specific images they employ to the gentle melancholy of their surrealism is almost the same. The boxes are superior works for many reasons, and so what was most exciting about Cornell’s recent show were his collages from the 1930s, which until recently were entirely unknown.

    It seems likely that these diminutive works—none is larger than 6 by 9 inches, and most are half that size—were exercises for

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  • Reeva Potoff

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Reeva Potoff’s Bristol Bluffs is an immense and intricate cardboard and paper cliff. It covers a whole large wall, extends four feet out onto the floor, and has ledges and crannies roomy enough to climb or sit on. A group of models and photographs were displayed along with this construction, including some of its original, natural prototype. Those original cliffs look considerably less impressive than Potoff’s sculpture, which sends them through something like a close encounter.

    In the sculpture, every element of the cliffs is so clarified and emphasized that one would be unlikely to understand

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  • Jim Dine

    Pace Gallery

    Jim Dine’s new paintings are very ugly. This is best said at the outset because I do not want to seem to equivocate about them out of deference to his reputation. Nevertheless, Dine has been an outstanding, highly intelligent artist through most of his career, and I would like to be able to think of his new pictures at least as steps in a good direction.

    All of them are still lifes, composed mostly of the classic still-life elements—vases, bottles, glasses and fruit. These objects are extremely abundant: there are more than fifty in one painting. Amid the swarm one can sometimes find a grisly

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  • Mary Lucier

    The Kitchen

    Climactic changes in the artistic and economic environments have had notable impact on the development of video art. A number of galleries have abandoned what they found to be the unprofitable practice of trying to sell or distribute artists, videotapes (they never had the commodity appeal of unique art objects or even photographs). At the same time, nonprofit arts organizations have become aggressively involved in cablecasting artists' video, advancing collaborative approaches to the medium and a higher awareness among artists of its social functions. The few museum showcases for video, such

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  • Esti Schur

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    By comparison, the recent video installations of the Israeli artist Esti Schur achieve less through more. She is one of a number of artists who have come to video as a means of realizing ideas generated through involvement in other art forms—in her case, dance. Translated/Translocated is a nine-minute, three-channel black and white videotape presented on three monitors. Monitor three (on the left) reveals a close-up image of the body of a dancer—back muscles, limbs, filling the screen. The figure is attempting to “translate” what Schur calls “directive sounds” from the tape on monitor one (on

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  • “Roseland”

    Composer’s Forum

    The main idea behind Roseland was the novel use of video monitors to present a quartet playing music. The novelty was that the four musicians were one and the same, having been prerecorded on tape and played back on monitors on stage along with the musician himself, Peter Rose. In effect then, Rose sat on stage with three monitored Roses, playing lyrically on all of their recorders. As a clever visual gag the idea worked well and was greatly appreciated by the audience.

    The gimmick was developed by the composer Jude Quintiere, who had already composed a score for Rose based on his unique ability

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  • Pat O’Neill

    Film Forum

    Pat O’Neill’s experimental films carry the exploration of collage into a dimension only implied by static pieces. Yet dealing with movement and image devoid of storyline is no easy task. Movement itself is attention-getting, compelling, hypnotizing—the difference between looking at a picture of a leaf and following its journey downstream. Movement immediately adds an increased attention-span, a fascination with a course of action.

    The artist-filmmaker speaking in abstract symbols has a lot of time in which to capture his viewers, and also more than enough time to bore them. Nothing is so distressing

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  • Alan Sonfist

    Laguardia Place

    Two months after its April planting Alan Sonfist’s new forest appeared to be growing quite nicely. Only one beer can littered the scene and already one parakeet had been lured away from some urban home to resettle in the wild. Surrounded by a high cyclone fence and decked out with plaques giving credit to funding organizations, however, Time Landscape is a slight bewilderment.

    Supposedly recreating the life-cycle of a precolonial forest, the small plot of land has annoyed some local residents who complain of it as a dark, dangerous corner at night and claim it was built without the community

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  • Alan Green

    Susan Caldwell Gallery

    Since the phrase “bad painting” has already gained a certain notoriety lately as a pseudo-critical category, I hesitate to use it to describe the artists’ paintings I review here. The new “bad” has signified nonmainstream, crude, raw, personal, naive, different. Different from what? From what we have come to expect of professional New York City art —a certain look, finish, touch, casual but studied, honed, honest, just on the sincerely refined side of slick. Difference from this norm or model called for the word “bad,” as if being different were somehow “bad” But this new “bad” has quotation

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  • David Novros

    Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

    David Novros’ paintings have changed very little since he gave up working with strict modular units. Some things, like his use of dull color, have not changed at all. He shares his latest style with a host of other painters engaged with mammoth size, dark, unrelieved color and absence of imagery. The move occurred when they all gave up Newman for Still, dropping control for indecisiveness.

    In one of the new paintings, Novros introduced a very definite architectural element into the old, meandering ensemble of rectangular shapes, trying something “new” at the risk of looking “bad’” The alien

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  • Robert Petersen

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Is there anything left to do within the traditional conventions of reductive abstraction? I wonder why Robert Petersen paints a painting white onthe ends and black in the center (that’s it) like a blow-up of a magazine reproduction of a Newman. Some of the paintings are paralyzed by their division into four squares—one horizontal and one vertical through the midpoint makes four—all determined by the facts of the support (or course). The visual “interest” appears in certain areas which go from more to less black. Other than implying that paintings can supply feeble illusionisms, I don’t know what

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  • Al Held

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    I remember some of Al Held’s earlier, large, solid, simple-shape, colored paintings. His work has changed a lot since then, even though some things remain, such as his preference for difficult figure/ground relationships. The changes he’s gone through haven’t, in my opinion, made him a better painter. The move away from color was probably his most drastic mistake. Before this show, I had never really seen any of the black-and-white paintings except as illustrations. I was taken aback by the new ones because others of similar type looked so much better in scaled-down, generalized reproduction.

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