reviews

  • Bryan Hunt

    Blum Helman Gallery

    “Artificts”: a name for recent artworks intentionally crafted to look like artifacts awaiting ethnographic investigation. They are fictions resembling freshly unearthed objects from bygone civilizations. What distinguishes artificts from art? Certain tentative, hazy qualities: an oxidized look that translates into rust or mist, the twin assurances of timelessness and timeliness, a fraudulent aura of mystery.

    Who makes artificts? Nearly everybody. Painters, sculptors, conceptualists. Why are they proliferating? Object worship—out of style during a spate of anti-object art—is coming back with a

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  • Ed McGowin

    Sculpture Now

    Slightly east of the Schnabel site, our team discovers—can it be?—an excavation of an excavation?

    Ed McGowin’s “Inscapes” are monumental artificts. “Inscape” I take to mean “interior landscape.” There are two huge inscapes on view, one called A Working Man, a second called Aging. Both are roughly 10 to 12 feet high, structures one must peek inside of to understand their meaning.

    A Working Man is a three-tiered pyramid that’s slightly skew. That is to say it doesn’t seem to be an equilateral pyramid, but a right-triangled one.The exterior of this concrete pyramid is graced with a copper crest, with

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  • Beverly Pepper

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Another dig due south of Bryan Hunt’s artificts: Beverly Pepper’s new work. This is an exhibition that could appropriately be called “Totem and Taboo.” Tabletop sculptures carefully arranged like cemetery gravestones. Nonrepresentational arrangements of welded steel, this makes our investigation team wonder, does this society have a ban against representation?

    Beverly Pepper’s small-scale work deserves some award for sincerity in installation: the rusted-down sculptures are on tabletops of some roughhewn wood—probably shiplap. Thank God I’m not an anthropologist and I operate under art appreciation’s

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  • Julian Schnabel

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Further south, a proliferation of sites for study. Julian Schnabel’s paintings threaten to divide opinion among the researchers. Secular or religious objects?

    A friend, Jonathan Crary, remarks that Julian Schnabel’s canvases look “excavated.” What better description of an artifict? There’s something fetishistic about Schnabel’s treatment of the canvas: he digs holes, covers his tracks with paint, the terrain looks as if a dog’s been hiding a bone. Anything could be buried beneath those liberally painted surfaces. Schnabel’s color, apropos of artificts, is a rusty, musty oil.

    He betrays his love-hate

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  • Irving Petlin

    Odyssia Gallery

    Irving Petlin’s artificts are made with pastel and are unique among the species because of their delicacy and the constant threat of smudging. In this sense, they are like cave paintings which threaten to decompose in your presence. You’re afraid to breathe on them for fear a change of atmosphere would dissolve them.

    They also have a pictographic quality because they are allegorical. The allegory of Petlin’s The Drawing Lesson: the artist’s tools are over-scale and too big to wield; chairs are adult-scale, bodies are child-scale; there are no interior spaces—everything is exterior. Nothing’s the

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  • “Generation”

    Susan Caldwell Gallery

    I think we’ve reached a crisis in abstract painting. It’s ironic that I should feel this after seeing “Generation,” because most of the 19 painters in this show organized by Michael Walls are good ones, and most were represented by strong examples of their recent work.

    The 19 artists were: Jo Baer, Frances Barth, Jake Berthot, Jerry Buchanan, William Conlon, Stuart Diamond, Porfirio DiDonna, Ron Gorchov, Tom Holland, Ralph Humphrey, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Elizabeth Murray, Doug Ohlson, Robert Ryman, Joan Snyder, Frank Stella, Robert Swain and Joan Thorne.

    Any attempt to generalize about

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  • Charles Ross

    John Weber Gallery

    Applying the same criteria to Charles Ross’ work as to abstract painting—that the importance of the work of art depends as much on the importance of the ideas as on how well the artist has handled them—I would have to rate Ross’ work highly. Light and time—in a universal sense—are Ross’ themes. Light is not only the source of energy, it’s pure energy, and considering that life wouldn’t exist without it, one certainly can’t accuse Ross of being trivial.

    In this show, The Colors in Light, The Colors in Shadow, Ross exhibited six eight-foot-tall prisms, each a few feet from a painted column of

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  • Stuart Diamond

    David McKee Gallery

    How much should one's knowledge of the artist's life affect one's evaluation of his work? I used to think the two should be entirely separate, and that still seems like a good rule of thumb when dealing with Morris Louis, Frank Stella or Kenneth Noland––artists who make very formal work. But with more idiosyncratic work, knowledge of the person may shed light on the work.

    The seven wildly painted constructions in Stuart Diamond’s recent show trace their art historical ancestry directly to Schwitters’ Merz constructions of the early ’20s. Like Schwitters, Diamond collects pieces of wood, broken

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  • Kenneth Snelson

    An aborigine, when shown a photograph of an elephant for the first time, can’t make heads or tails of it. We can, because after seeing millions of photographs, we’ve learned how to translate their flatness, limited scope and small scale and see in our mind’s eye the object photographed. Looking at Kenneth Snelson’s 360-degree panoramic photographs of Paris, I felt a little like that aborigine. The panoramic photograph is so unfamiliar that the mechanics of how one is made kept getting in the way of my really seeing it.

    Snelson is best known for his amazing metal tubing and cable sculptures based

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  • Robert Morris

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    In a preface to the recent show called “Mirror Works,” Robert Morris tells of how uneasy he was when the mirror insinuated itself into his work; it seemed hard to redeem, it was so “disco-degenerate.” “Later its very suspiciousness seemed a virtue.”

    Such an inversion is common with Morris: he works in tension with received ideas of sculpture to clarify just what sculpture is. In Voice, 1974, an idea of sculpture as a static and atemporal thing was used as a foil for elements more in keeping with performance. New prospects were generated for sculpture, even as it was defined critically. “Mirror

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    John Gibson Gallery

    It is difficult to talk about the art of Dennis Oppenheim, to order it into a concerted body of work, for it articulates itself in ways that defy language and that resist such ideas of order as “continuity” or “oeuvre” or even “artist.” What relates an otherwise diverse practice (from earthworks to puppet performances) seems to be an imperative to do two things: one is the desire to let (what Oppenheim calls) subliminal or “root impulses,” and the forces of the material(s) used, bespeak themselves somehow; the other is the necessity, as a major contemporary artist, to render work that is

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  • Joseph Beuys

    Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

    So much is the man, Joseph Beuys, the image and the instrument of the art that one dwells first on a portrait of him. Photographs show a face that seems to register the mind exactly; indeed, they seem so coincident that the man seems less, not more, real, like an actor or a persona that subsumes the person. Beuys looks equally like Beckett and Buster Keaton, lined and deadpan, keen to absurdity. So extreme is the picture that it seems parodistic, and one is not sure whether it constrains or frees him (my sense is that, unlike Duchamp, it constrains him). As it is, one envisions a man (again, a

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  • Jenny Snider

    Hamilton Galleries

    The reason so many of us find a lot to criticize in current art is not that we set intolerably high standards. Mostly, the art sets its own standards and ambitions and asks to be judged by them. These ambitions are likely to be bigger than the artist can handle. The challenge is rarely met. There is undoubtedly grandeur in failing at a very high level. But witnessing artist after artist banging his or her head against the wall is sad, defeating and demoralizing.

    So what a refreshing change to stumble across Jenny Snider’s small crayon drawings. Suddenly, more down-to-earth projects seem possible,

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  • Frank Faulkner

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    Is pattern painting dead? Tom Marioni has recently written that it “will end as fast as Op Art did.” A number of prominent pattern painters won’t publicly discuss the issue anymore (it’s old news) and prefer “decorative”—although even that word is losing its anti-formalist effectiveness. The really important kill-off, the signal that pattern is ready to be scrapped: one room of the Whitney Biennial is devoted to pattern-decoration-banner-architecture art (Joyce Kozloff, Kim MacConnell, Rodney Ripps). When it’s come this far in its institutionalization, hasn’t it got to be nearly over?

    Frank

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  • Nancy Graves

    M. Knoedler Gallery

    Nancy Graves is best known to me for her meticulous re-creations of camels and “prehistoric” animals. Whole rooms, like archeological sites, would be strewn with bones and skeletons. As sculpture opposing the then-reigning Minimalism, these could reclaim a certain “organic” structure, though they did so through the ancient traces of animals—an anthropologist’s view of the past. Such subject matter intensified the “primitive” aspect of Graves’ contribution to more anti-industrial post-Minimalism. The high art plugs were made quite clear: Pollock through Hesse and Smithson. It was an honest attempt

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  • James Juszczyk

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    I know an ex-art critic who’s now an artist. As a writer, he used to wail and thrash at artists’ pompous rhetoric—especially when they wrote or spoke of their “concerns.” I think that was the worst: artists explaining their “intentions” is the slipperiest of commodities. Perhaps trafficking in it should be restricted to professionals. (Art critics do, of course, a good under-the-counter trade in intentions. When purposes become dogma rather than immanent argument, critics also read like pompous, ridiculous . . . artists.) My ex-critic, as an artist, is now obliged to write of his intentions.

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  • David Budd

    Max Hutchinson Gallery

    One offers a description in a review—something that might be missed in the reproduction. The review acts within the area of possible error; what you see is not always what was there—especially in a photograph of an art object. This area may be elucidated by describing David Budd’s paintings. He has painted a set of all-blue paintings. Painted with a palette knife in thick, fingernaillike strokes from left to right, they all appeared pretty much the same, being manufactured in a similar fashion. They were about three-and-a-half, maybe four feet, roughly square. The only complication arose in the

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  • Neil Welliver

    Fischbach Gallery

    Since Neil Welliver holds a rather prominent position among landscape or realist painters today, it seems justified to point out a few reasons why someone may not like his work. Aside from the fact that it’s always pleasant to have a well-executed landscape around the house, what is it that attracts so many to his canvases?

    Perhaps it’s the very things that I find disturbing in his imagery, his application and presentation. Basically the dislike comes down to an impatience with the paint-by-number approach of putting together an image from blobs of paint. Recognizing the historical precedents

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  • Mel Kendrick

    A.M. Sachs Gallery

    Seemingly uncomplicated, Mel Kendrick’s wire mesh and wood constructions are relatively uncluttered geometrical shapes. Each wall-mounted sculpture has a clear outline. The interest comes in when Kendrick folds the single piece of wire mesh, so that shadows and lines form on the wall behind the piece. With the addition of several wood or metal bars behind the mesh, space becomes three-dimensional. The added parts cause highlights and shadows that become more and more complex as you begin to distinguish ever subtler shapes of light and dark within each piece. Painted a bright blue overall, each

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