• Anselmo

    Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

    If I hadn’t read the accompanying text, Anselmo’s exhibition would have simply looked like 14 pencil-on-paper drawings of a compass needle and its shadow. Loved the drawings, resisted the text. The drawings are smallish, installed at eye-level, on wood planes resembling basketball boards—mounted about four inches away from the wall. The planes can be slightly rotated and tilted so they don’t exactly rest parallel to the gallery walls. This gave the impression that, like some flora, they would turn their face to the best light in order to create the most advantageous shadow. The shadow of the

    Read more
  • Raymond Rogers, Steven Gilbert and Richards Ruben

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    Raymond Rogers, Steven Gilbert and Richards Ruben are three painters whose pictures look quite different but are pervaded by a similar tone. The work of each is derived and synthesized from major abstract styles: Rogers has adopted the floating shapes of Hans Hofmann and the impoverished red suns of Adolph Gottlieb, Gilbert the broad blue and black bands of Franz Kline and the chaos of de Kooning. Ruben does less traceable work, but his narrow, brilliant stripes hark back to Barnett Newman. From the most sympathetic point of view these works seem to be homages to Abstract Expressionism, variations

    Read more
  • George Segal

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    For the past few years George Segal has been painting his plaster figures with colors that are highly unreal, but the effect is hardly garish. The paint deadens the sculpture, intentionally so. To me Segal’s work is a reflection and a critique of reification, passivity, vacuity. Too often in the white sculpture Segal allowed each attribute (or non-attribute) to be subsumed by its corollary: reification lapsed to a stoicism, passivity to a godly indifference, vacuity to a serenity. This was due, in part, to the white material: as if the sculpture blanched in time, like Greek statuary, to the

    Read more
  • “Beyond the Canvas . . . Artists’ Books and Notations”

    Touchstone Gallery

    “Text or pretext?” is the question to ask of the annotations accompanying so much art on view. This isn’t to determine where the art ends and the commentary begins, but is to probe why words are essential to a proper reading of the work. Narrative is the watchword in currency—what with exhibitions of narrative works last year in Houston and this year in Miami—but it’s as though narrative is a relatively new concept in art. Before abstract art, it was expected that every picture tell a story.

    Ready explanations for the presence of text abound: nonrepresentational art can be read several ways, but

    Read more
  • Romare Bearden

    Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery

    Another place where text isn’t necessary to flesh out the artist’s intentions, but functions as an enhancing motif, is in titling and captioning. Romare Bearden’s collages are accompanied by captions chalked on the gallery walls. Bearden’s words don’t suggest meaning in the work that isn’t manifestly there; rather, they present witty takes on the story-in-progress.

    The 28 collages on view tell the story of Bearden’s early years. Called “Profile/Part I: The Twenties,” it’s a first installment of a projected pictorial autobiography. What better medium than collage to express the accumulation of

    Read more
  • Cy Twombly

    Heiner Friedrich Gallery

    A lot of art seeks validation by its affiliation with a preexisting text (or preexisting artwork or arithmetical system), and while there are many exciting elements to Cy Twombly’s 50 Days at Ilium, of no interest are the aspects that are getting most of the attention: that the ten drawn panels constitute one painting, that the painting is based on Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad.

    My operating definitions of painting and drawing are obviously at variance with Twombly’s. Drawings are generally executed with some styluslike implement, usually on paper, and typically are involved with

    Read more
  • Leandro Katz

    John Gibson Gallery

    The preexisting texts Leandro Katz invokes read like a graduate reading list. His artifacts appeal to a sensibility stirred by the universally recognizable: a teepee, a film of the full moon in every appearance from 1974 to the present, photographs of interiors from many lands. But the texts to which he refers, with which he annotates! Hegel! Habermas! Levi-Strauss! Lacan! Chomsky! Derrida! Drop that name! Name that hypothesis! These appeal to a sensibility stirred by theory. There is an ambivalence here, unless you choose to read it as bivalence: he equates preliterate semiology with intellectual

    Read more
  • Richard Smith

    Hudson River Museum, Kornblee and Bernard Jacobson galleries

    Almost from the beginning, Richard Smith’s paintings have been trying to get off the wall. In 1963 Smith was making pictures from which bright enormous boxes protruded or slithered out onto the floor, while in his subsequent, tamer works, a whole edge might peel gently away from a picture until it stood perpendicular to the wall, staring the viewer in the face. All these early Smith works seem to be straining for some kind of liberation from having to be pictures, as if being flat meant being a window (no matter how abstract the view was) and that being a window was servile and inhibiting. Smith

    Read more
  • Lucio Pozzi

    John Weber Gallery

    An article on Lucio Pozzi by Tiffany Bell (Artforum, Dec. ’78) begins with a quotation from Hegel that has apparently been important to Pozzi. In it Hegel argues that art, as a profound and certain purveyor of truth, is dead, and that we will continue to be interested in art to the extent that we are pleased by discovering all its devices of illusion. Hegel calls for a “science of art,” by which he means a skepticism that will replace the awe cathedrals struck in medieval men. Pozzi, taking Hegel’s suggestion as an imperative, has thought of his own highly reduced art as just such a science,

    Read more
  • Hilla and Bernd Becher

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Hilla and Bernd Becher take photographs of set kinds of things (grain elevators, blast furnaces, coal bunkers, water towers, etc.) under set conditions, so that the subject of each (composite) work is uniform and the position of each image is uniform: an equal discrete unit of equal discrete units. Two horizontal lines (of up to eight photographs per row) present specimens of each object-species (the biological analogy is oddly apt) in such a way that each image in the top row corresponds to the image directly below in the bottom row.

    Iconic boldness and presumed sameness delay analysis—the images

    Read more
  • Sharon Gold

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    The six paintings and seven drawings in Sharon Gold’s show look much like the work of last year: thick skins of dark, near-black paint, textured with palette knife, so as to obscure zones of primary color (in the paintings) and earthy color (in the drawings). Lines scratch the black and expose red, yellow, blue: the shock of the gesturalism is such that it devalues the vibrant latency of the color (which is nonetheless intuited).

    Gold is wary of color but also outraged (outrageous) with it. It’s as if she fears its conceits, much as writers fear linguistic norms that couch false consciousness.

    Read more
  • “Architectural Analogues”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    If you can imagine a head-on collision between Bernard Rudofsky (curator and author of Architecture Without Architects: The Prodigious Builders) and Ludwig Bemelmans (creator of Madeleine and Bemelmans’ Bar at the Carlyle Hotel) then you can imagine the spirit of the eclectic presentation at the Whitney Museum’s Downtown Branch entitled “Architectural Analogues.” This incongruous array of objects, models, drawings, photographic documentation and film, with a cast of characters ranging from Red Grooms to Joel Shapiro, exposed the pitfalls of exhibiting many specimens of recent art. These problems

    Read more