reviews

  • Brice Marden

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    So insistent in our life is fashion that many desire, even in painting, a new look for every new season. New Image Painting, New American Painting, NeoPrimitive Painting. . . . Despite it all, painting is still not designer clothing.

    Next to such seemingly “radical” painters, BRICE MARDEN looks conservative. In an instructive way, he is. The revolutionary, it is commonly thought, would do away with tradition. Often, however, he conserves tradition, only seeing it in an original, unconventional way. An artist may also rediscover a basis of an art in such a way as to reinvent the art. Here,

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  • Mimmo Paladino

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Not long ago, a metropolis aiming to be a cosmopolis would host a world’s fair in order to call attention to itself. Nowadays such prestige is accorded to the city sponsoring a film festival or art fair. Given the mobility of contemporary art, and the likelihood of seeing the same sculpture in Venice (Italy) and Venice (California) in the same season, it would seem safe to suppose that an “International Style” could be evolving among younger artists.

    Leading contender for International Style 1980 is the rampant New Imagism. It’s visible in Rome. In Chicago. San Francisco. Düsseldorf. Manhattan.

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  • Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, and Francesco Clemente

    Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

    This is the question to ask of the work of the Italians recently imported to Manhattan, beginning with the Francesco Clemente and Sandro Chia shows at Sperone Westwater Fischer last spring, continuing with “The Italian Wave” at Holly Solomon’s last summer, and crescendoing in the MIMMO PALADINO show at Marian Goodman plus the triple-threat exhibition of the “Three C’s” (ENZO CUCCHI, SANDRO CHIA and FRANCESCO CLEMENTE) at Sperone Westwater Fischer in October. Grumblings from various artists and interested parties had it that this October’s new Italian movement—as Arlo Guthrie said in Alice’s

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  • Lynda Benglis

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    No longer is LYNDA BENGLIS off the wall. No longer dispersed. No longer scattershot. She’s still a sculptor, however, and as such operates like Paladino the painter. While he paints real grounds and virtual figures protruding, Benglis just worries about the figures.

    Like many artists in New York, Benglis’ work was visibly affected by Margit Rowell’s Planar Dimension exhibition at the Guggenheim in 1979. Seems that after that show, lots of painters made canvases that began to grow in relief from the wall, while sculptors pushed their volumes into the wall. Benglis may be up against the wall now,

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  • Andy Warhol

    The Jewish Museum

    Mr. Merchandising, ANDY WARHOL, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse: how about a print folio of ten famous Jews? A moral nightmare, but a marketing dream. Jewploitation. Warhol had already done “The Ten Most Wanted Men,” and “The Ten Most Beautiful Women,” but these had been ironic variants on police blotter and beauty contest listmaking. Listing ten Jews(the advance on this project termed it “Jewish geniuses of the 20th century”) had no such irony, its only raison d’être was to penetrate a new market: the synagogue circuit. It also turned out to be the only way to get the Jewish Museum to show

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  • David Reed

    The Clocktower

    Art now is problematic—silence is not a response. More and more it exists as its own question; it points to itself and asks what, how, and why—but mutely. I thought that questions of good and bad were often beside the point, that even a bad work could be a good specimen (if not good art). Such sociological criticism, if done first, now seems an evasion. A critic is first a critic of an art object and only then a pathologist of culture. He must look, then pick, then argue. So to dismiss making judgments is not radical: nothing is transvalued; one is only deceived. I prefer, of course,

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  • Kathleen Seltzer

    Sonnabend Gallery

    KATHLEEN SELTZER takes black-and-white photographs whose very emulsion is style. Her tableaux are like New Yorker ads: a gloved hand here, a gowned leg there, turning elegantly on the finest satin. Cropped coyly, they are enigmatic—and posed so finely it hurts.

    The play of texture and transparency reminds one of Jan Groover, only Groover turned Princess Daisy. Whereas Groover makes a mundane object a reservoir of new vision and so redeems it from its banality, Seltzer makes the mundane as vapid visually as it is ethically—nothing is redeemed. Her subjects bear social nuances like gifts,

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  • Sheila Metzner

    Daniel Wolf

    Once photography had to be arty: to be an art it had to look like one, i.e., like painting or drama. Then came the modern purge. Photography too had a formalist rage against the impure, the theatrical. Clarity was the call: purity. Out went story, symbol, allegory.

    SHEILA METZNER revives them somewhat. For example, one photograph shows a man in profile comforting a baby in tears but, beneath a cold moon, there is no one to comfort the man. One objects not so much to the picture’s pathos as to its mode: gauzy allegory. Perhaps modernism’s puritanism is too much with me, but the mode here is

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  • Ed McGowin

    Brooks Jackson Gallery Iolas

    ED McGOWIN’s recent exhibition consisted of a small group of sculptures, which he calls “inscapes,” and related drawings. Inscapes involve painting and sculpture, the object, tableau, performance, story-telling, and conceptual/autobiographical investigations. Drawing on his experience as painter and sculptor, McGowin makes each inscape both a highly pictorial and a constructed affair. Children’s Piece, for one, is a three-dimensional pyramid with a two-tiered enamel tile base, consisting of bright contrasting colors—blues, reds, greens—and wood and plaster sides. It contains colored plexiglass

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  • Beverly Pepper

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    In contrast to her horizontally disposed “Web” series of 1976-77, characterized by dynamic and precarious-looking arrangements of welded steel slats, BEVERLY PEPPER’s new works are vertically oriented, stable and contained. Their origins are in a group of small cast pieces, made first in wood, in 1977. They also allude to ancient monumental sculpture—particularly Roman columns and obelisks. But far from aping any ancient originals, Pepper’s columns, spirals, wedges, and gateways are highly individualized and have a bold, aggressive cut and no-nonsense strength about them, distinctly American,

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  • Diane Arbus, Lou Lanzano

    Robert Miller Gallery, International Center of Photography

    Lisette Model’s photography is more than a little perverse in its enjoyment of the ugliness and inadequacy in human experience. One Model photograph that has always seemed central is that of a voodoo doll large as a child and seated in a chair wearing a dress. The doll looks as if it’s alive, or was alive at one time, as if it were a mummy whose wrappings are coming undone. The photograph animates all the spookiness and malevolence in the world. The photographs appear to have an attitude toward human nature that can only be described in the language of neurosis. It is a form of “attraction-repulsion,”

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  • Lucien Aigner, Dan Weiner

    French Cultural Services, Prakapas Gallery

    Just as Model was a mentor for Arbus and Lanzano, so might LUCIEN AIGNER have been for DAN WEINER. Aigner came to photography in a peculiar way. An Eastern European journalist freelancing in Paris in the ’20s, Aigner was having trouble with the language barrier, and the camera seemed a natural way to hurdle it. Since he had none of the predispositions of the professional press photographer, he bought one of the new Leicas instead of the press camera that was customary. In those days the photographers with their big, bulky cameras were restricted to the gallery at press conferences and other

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  • Imre Koscis and Joseph Erben

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    The International Studio Program at P.S.1 seems to attract artists working within a similar vein, a Germanic minimalism that always seems to be painted matte black. There have been exceptions (Pieter Holstein is a memorable one) but on the whole, selection seems to favor sculptors with a bent for installation work, either of the sort which requires construction within the studio or, more often, the introduction of some heavy object into the room, supposedly to alter our perception of the space. The current visitors, IMRE KOSCIS and JOSEF ERBEN, both from West Germany, made use of the latter

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  • Mel Kendrick

    John Weber Gallery

    To judge from current fare in the galleries there seems to be some kind of crisis of confidence in sculpture these days. Sculpture is being made, but what is surfacing lacks any real excitement. Too many sculptors are content to work away at ideas that have already received adequate attention.

    MEL KENDRICK makes use of a rhetoric of structure, building spatial frameworks from a counterpoint of rhyming shapes. Each piece is a network of chunky wooden beams tied together by prominently displayed bolts and colored in what can only be described as painterly fashion. The application of paint is

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  • Pat Lasch

    A.I.R. Gallery

    A review is no place for True Confessions, but I’ve always been a big fan of PAT LASCH’s cakes. Her earlier undersized gateaux, bearing given names and messages of “felicitations,” made one think that there is a happy community of Dickensian friends and relatives safely nestled somewhere in the artbiz. If this celebratory network remained out of reach (who were these people anyway?), at least it generated as happy a deprivation as staring through a bakery window. Her two tiered and rosetta’d wedding cakes, one white, one black, were first shown in the windows of the Holly Solomon Gallery. Despite

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  • George Segal

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    Speaking of self-parody, of whom would you least expect it? Maybe GEORGE SEGAL doesn’t immediately come to mind, but he’s been carrying around a lot of angst all these years—heir apparent to Hopper’s alienation and despair, purveyor of the elegiac and the tragic in the Judeo-Christian tradition. No wonder he needed a break.

    It’s not really Segal’s fault that he’s wedded to the white elephant of art bathos. And it’s not really the fault of critics like Robert Pincus-Witten, who, echoed by many others, quite rightly noted the Hopper connection and the religious affiliations. In a way, Segal

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  • Larry Clark

    Robert Freidus Gallery

    LARRY CLARK is best known for Tulsa, a photo-narrative about the drug culture that was originally published as a book in 1971. In some respects, his new works—posed portraits of teenagers who live on 42nd Street in New York—continue explorations begun with Tulsa: both series describe the lifestyles, emotions and psychological defenses of adolescents. Yet the differences between these two bodies of work are crucial, since they indicate an important shift in the photographer’s perspective.

    Tulsa was, in many ways, autobiographical; even though Clark himself was present in very few of the photographs,

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  • Mary Beth Edelson

    Artists' Book

    MARY BETH EDELSON’s self-published and strongly feminist book, Seven Cycles: Public Rituals (with an introduction by Lucy R. Lippard), is, essentially, a retrospective. It documents, through photographs, working notes, drawings and explanatory texts, aspects of her work from 1971 to 1980. “Aspects” is an important word, because the book does not give equal weight to all of the artist’s accomplishments. Edelson has produced works in a number of different visual media, and though many of the art objects she has created are documented (in small photographs) throughout the book, they are not its

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  • Terry Berkowitz

    The Alternative Museum

    In an installation titled People Who Live in Glass Houses, TERRY BERKOWITZ created a disturbing psychological climate by juxtaposing and associating diverse elements that are commonplace to contemporary experience. A small plexiglass house with a three-way mirror behind it stood on a pedestal in the center of the gallery. Recognizable artifacts of American culture were attached to rope-encircled rocks and strewn across the floor; 10 pieces of unravelled fly paper were attached to the ceiling. A series of mirrors was hung on the right-hand wall, and one black-and-white photograph of a nude man

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  • Ed Ruscha

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Among all of the mannered but “impersonal” imagery with a capital “I” prevalent in contemporary painting, ED RUSCHA’s “Grand Horizontals” elicit more than detached amusement. He has taken his culturally locked signs and phrases to a larger format (some of the canvases are 13 feet wide). They still hover, isolated and ironic, but they become surprisingly personal, even intrusive, once past the humor. In the paintings without the “familiar” phrases, there are allusions to time or place, their wistfulness maximized by the emotive use he makes of the expansive canvas space. If his earlier isolated,

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