• “Buildings for Best Products” and "Siteten

    The Museum of Modern Art; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

    It is much easier to get away with being outrageous in art than in architecture—when the imagination not the body is responsible for coping with the results. Outrageous buildings are, for the most part, hard to take in the flesh. They intrude upon—in fact control—our physical space, so their power to offend, their ability to disappoint, is greatly heightened.

    Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s brilliant analysis of Las Vegas, and Venturi’s earlier, even more brilliant explication of “complexity and contradiction” in architecture have, I suspect, damaged the practice of architecture as much

    Read more
  • “Panel Discussion With Joseph Beuys”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Arm-twisting, bad blood, blind adherence to the faith propelled this panel discussion over logistical humps into a new decade. Prolonging the agony of an idea whose time is passing may have attracted an audience, but it could not hold its interest for two hours. The event enforced the Guggenheim’s reputation for openness to contemporary art dialogues and reinforced rumors that Joseph Beuys had agreed to not make political trouble during his show at the Guggenheim. The discussion took place at the museum on the evening of January 2, after the show officially closed.

    The exhilaration produced

    Read more
  • Zeke Berman

    Soho Center For Visual Artists

    When you walk into my apartment, the first two photographs you see are ones taken from roughly the spot where you are standing. The first photograph is a two-section color panorama of my living room in which I appear in both sections, but in different clothes and at different times of day. The other photograph is a view of the world you can see just outside the living room. This picture has been reproduced in a stat and cut into fifteen parts, each part framed by the mullions separating fifteen panes of glass in an upper dormer window which hangs on my hall wall. Only one of these photographs—the

    Read more
  • Hope Sandrow

    Soho Center For Visual Artists

    This is what Hope Sandrow tries to do, sometimes with genuine results. Ms. Sandrow’s black-and-white portraits look at first glance like the photographs people take of their friends with Instamatics. In fact, her compositions look so much like that, they’re a little disturbing. They cleverly exaggerate the kind of effect which comes from lack of control in a snapshot. In snapshots, for instance, a peculiarity of the background which the photographer hasn’t noticed often distracts us from the subject. In Sandrow’s work, the background purposely steals the show. An urban skyline rises incongruously

    Read more
  • Jan Staller

    Soho Center For Visual Artists

    Color photographer Jan Staller should also be mentioned for his West Side Highway series. The truth is that the subject Staller has chosen—the elevated portions of the roadway now being demolished—has a potential he has only begun to discover. For the highway is such a dramatic subject that it is realized effectively only when it is treated as a vantage point and not as the subject at all. Only when the abandoned highway appears to be an incidental part of the picture does it have the impact Steller wants it to have. In his best shot, old commercial facades are seen out on West Street in the

    Read more
  • Ralph Steiner

    Prakapas Gallery

    A troubling question always raised by strong beginnings like Zeke Berman’s is, what can he possibly do next? In the last issue of Artforum I wrote about Clyfford Still, a painter who has made an entire life’s work out of a single idea—almost a single image, really. Photographers as different as Atget and CartierBresson have done essentially the same thing, working out as style the one photographic idea with which they began. It may be that Berman will also be able to go on and on and on exploring the conceit upon which his first photographs are based, revealing continually new implications in

    Read more
  • Ida Applebroog

    Printed Matter Windows

    Was it Robert Motherwell who said he wanted to make paintings that would be windows on the world? His “Open” series certainly establishes the painting-as-window analogy, but it’s hardly new to art: common to some Quattrocento paintings, Dutch vanitas of the 17th century and American 19th-century trompe l’oeil is the use of a window as framing device to interior action. Windows are back again, but not as an analogy; rather as a method of display. Printed Matter, the artists’ book emporium, inaugurated its window dressing a few months ago, as did The New Museum and the Monique Knowlton Gallery (

    Read more
  • John Ahearn

    The New Museum Windows

    Applebroog’s window-trimmings transform the spectator into a voyeur, but John Ahearn’s cast plaster and painted busts make the observer feel she is being unduly ogled, because these faces look out of the window to give deep eye-contact. Fourteenth Street in Manhattan (locus of The New Museum windows) is the official border between regular Manhattan and “Downtown,” and like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, it’s the site of a thriving bordertown industry. Street vendors, con men, wig saleswomen, creators of improbable floral arrangements dot the boulevard, simply using the thoroughfare as an open-air

    Read more
  • Colette

    Elizabeth Weiner Gallery; Rizzoli Gallery

    Members of the art photographic community have been very successful of late in convincing the broader public that photography is as valid an art form as painting or sculpture. This victory seems to me to be a Pyrrhic one, since most photographers intent on proving that their images can conform to the conventions established for “art” have chosen to overlook—indeed to reject as irrelevant—the larger issues raised by the medium’s diverse roles within our society. Ironically, these very issues are now being explored by contemporary artists known for work in other media. Three such artists—Colette,

    Read more
  • Les Levine

    Marion Goodman Gallery

    While Colette parodied media stardom by milking self-promotion, Les Levine, in his exhibition “ADS” used the art gallery as a marketing platform for photographic projects designed to be billboards and media campaigns. Each of the objets d’art on view was for sale—but with a hitch: the conditions of sale dictated that the buyer shoulder the costs necessary to convert them into mass-produced images and place them in public spaces.

    The show consisted of eight large, mostly multiple-image works that mimicked advertisements, and several composite photographs that depicted the projected works in situ

    Read more
  • Carla Liss

    The Kitchen; Stefanotti Gallery

    Carla Liss, in her “Secrets of Three Mile Island” installation at the Kitchen, used photography as the medium—and the metaphor—for a political work based on a well-known recent event. In April of 1979, shortly after the “accident,” Liss (whose previous work in sculpture and film was concerned with landscape and environment) decided to use this incident as the focus of her next project. The artist felt that she should make her statement with X-rays, though she had no experience with this type of photography. “I wanted to use radiation photography to photograph a place with radiation,” she explained

    Read more
  • Diane Blell

    Stefanotti Gallery

    Discovering the nature of reality through its appearance is an essential human drive. The modernist point of view places more value on the way things look than on what categories they fit into or what they might seem to represent, and believes that this awareness increases human potential in many ways. It is surprising then to discover an aspect of human expression in which we have not yet fully acknowledged the importance of appearance.

    Such is the case with fashion and clothing—paradoxically so since appearances would seem to be primary to the nature of both. Where the looks of most phenomena

    Read more
  • Pat Oleszko

    The Kitchen

    Rather than exploring fashion on its own terms, artist Pat Oleszko uses the techniques of absurdity and burlesque to point out the limits and controls these stereotypes have over our lives. In her films, performances and sculptures (“using the body as armature”) she assumes a stance almost directly opposite to Blell’s. For her, the artist is a misfit, a freak rather than a model to be idealized and emulated, and her concerns are those of physical (scale) and psychological (role) aberrations. She sees us as ultimately trapped in a standardized world and finds these standards inappropriate for

    Read more
  • Theodora Skipitares

    The Performing Garage

    When Theodora Skipitares took The Mother and the Maid and The Venus Cafe to Amsterdam earlier this month, the audience loved Mother and hated The Venus Cafe. “I’m not sure why,” said Skipitares later, “but I think they expected more acting.” The audience mainly had theatre backgrounds, and seemed to accept certain conventions of the performance easily: the acid green wall of Venus, the props acting both as sets and costumes. Ingredients that an art crowd savor were taken for granted by an acting crowd. She thought perhaps that Mother was less autobiographical and that had something to do with

    Read more