• Nancy Holt

    John Weber Gallery

    The campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, is now the site of many contemporary sculpture projects; one of the latest is Nancy Holt’s Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings, which was documented in a recent show in New York. The work is a compass and an observatory; there are two concentric walls or rings of rock 20 and 40 feet in diameter, with four arches on the north/south axis (as defined by Polaris) and 12 holes oriented to the other points of the compass (NE/SW, E/W, etc.). It is both a very real site and a very abstract system; somehow this makes it seem to be at once

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  • Tony Smith

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Ten Elements is the title of a recent work by Tony Smith. It’s a fine sculpture but, as it looks like a model for a larger project, it’s hard to know how it should be discussed. The case itself is not so troublesome (it’s likely that the present version is the only version we’ll see); what is troublesome is that it leads one to consider what “sculpture” is nowadays and how hard it is to come to terms even with conventional work. No one wants a strict definition of sculpture; an operational idea or two would suffice, and a few have come up. As it is, Ten Elements could be seen as either a “

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  • Alain Robbe-Grillet and Robert Rauschenberg

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    Alain Robbe-Grillet, the French author and filmmaker, and Robert Rauschenberg have collaborated on an “image-text.” The collaboration was difficult, in part because of the procedure (Rauschenberg blocked out where the text would be, Robbe-Grillet wrote it in longhand on plates, and Rauschenberg set the image down on stones) and in part because of one-upsmanship (the images, all taken from French magazines, referred to the text but had a visual logic that often intruded upon it and Robbe-Grillet would complain. Page by page this went on, mostly by mail, for six years. The tension of image and

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  • Laurie Anderson and Peter Gordon

    U.S. Customs House

    Audience participation and viewer completion are familiar enough strategies in the theatre realm: they keep spectators from falling asleep. Giving the viewers a stake in the proceedings encourages responsibility as well as responsiveness. A dividing line between object art and nonobject art is this interchange between observer and observed. In any interchange—psychological, monetary, artistic, theatrical—the rate of exchange is key to the proceedings.

    An engaging performance by Laurie Anderson and Peter Gordon prompts the foregoing. “Commerce,” part of Creative Time’s “Customs and Culture”

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  • Walter de Maria

    Heiner Friedrich Gallery

    Walter de Maria’s The Broken Kilometer invites questions about rates of exchange, principally because the 500 two-meter-long brass cylinders look like substitutes for gold bricks. The gallery had an aura of Fort Knox, what with dazzling halide lighting illuminating the five rows of perfectly spaced cylinders. The Romans were the first to alloy copper and zinc to make brass, and, not surprisingly, they used the alloy for coins.

    Is this highly polished, highly allusive installation part and parcel of the current rage for exhibitions of precious metals (e.g. Scythian gold)? At least one wag predicts

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  • Jared Bark

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    People who live in matchstick houses shouldn’t throw flames. Jared Bark does. His recent exhibition shows a continued interest in dwellings, although these new depictions are strikingly different in scale and tone from his last. What most accurately could be called collages and constructions made up the show: matchsticks mounted on blackboard slates, matchstick houses, drawings on embossed paper.

    Menace is the dominant tone. Fragile matchstick constructions have been lit and extinguished, leaving a charred, sulphur residue and the wake of flames. He plays with matches, he gets burned, the matchstick

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  • Frank Bowling

    Tibor de Nagy Gallery

    In the face of Frank Bowling’s paintings it’s hard not to feel like Darcy explaining to Elizabeth Bennett how he has struggled against falling in love with her. If memory serves, that lady’s proud and prejudicial reply runs something to the effect of, “Why do you choose to tell me that you like me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?” Bowling’s work has virtually everything I loathe in modern painting—acrylic paint, candy color, a surface that’s slick, and no apparent emotional content—but somehow it’s very affecting and I’ve thought about it a lot. This is

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  • Joan Thorne

    The Clocktower

    A timeworn but timely verse came to mind upon seeing Joan Thorne’s new work: “Waste not, want not. . . . for you never miss the water till the well runs dry.” This stanza could appropriately be the Marseiliaise of international ecology and probably occurred to me because of the prodigal use of paint that makes Thorne’s canvases look so insouciantly luxurious. In recent years there’ve been a lot of artists who are part of the thick-paint school—Joe Zucker, Mary Grigoriadis, Cynthia Carlson—but Thorne certainly deserves the position of doyenne, for her paintings are the most extreme example of

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  • Karen Shaw

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    In some languages, letters and numbers are housed in the same alphabet, offering the possibility of interchanging their functions. Gematria, the Hebrew science of cryptography, holds that the hidden meaning of a word is released through assigning significance to its numerical value. Karen Shaw uses numbers and letters as her medium, assembling, dismantling, assigning value to the valueless and unquantifiable; words, numbers, from poems, ticket stubs, supermarket receipts, become content of her art. Using the reflexive relationship between letters and numbers, Shaw constructs equations composed

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  • Robert Stackhouse

    Sculpture Now

    Robert Stackhouse’s large wooden structures are things I dimly remember having dreamt about a long time ago. Curiously, Stackhouse says that he has dreamt about them too. And several other people tell me they’ve dreamt about these same objects. All of which suggests that Stackhouse is in touch with something pretty basic.

    There were two big wood constructions in Sailors, Stackhouse’s recent installation and his second one-person show in New York. Built on the floor was a gently curving, 72-foot-long structure called Ship’s Deck. It was slightly concave although flat enough to walk on—an activity

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  • Richard Diebenkorn

    M. Knoedler

    I overheard a woman at Richard Diebenkorn’s show say to her companion, “Don’t you just love his edges.” The companion apparently did, and so do I. And I love his pentimenti, and his composition, and his sense of color too. Diebenkorn knows, perhaps better than any other living American artist, how to combine paint and canvas to maximum advantage.

    But it’s not simply technical proficiency that puts Diebenkorn at the forefront of American painters today. In all great art there is a creative leap from the mechanical to the spiritual, and it’s the size of Diebenkorn’s leap that makes his art so

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