reviews

  • Wendell MacRae

    Witkin Gallery

    The WENDELL MacRAE show was a labor of love on Lee Witkin’s part. A forgotten commercial photographer who was busy in the ’30s, but hasn’t worked since the late ’40s, MacRae was discovered by Witkin a few years ago. The show was subsequently arranged as an homage, complete with a handsome 30-page catalogue and a gala opening which MacRae attended. Witkin’s enthusiasm for MacRae is hard to resist because there’s no taint of hype in it. (I doubt that Witkin expects ever to make money from MacRae’s work.) One would like to think that no matter how much status photography acquires in the art world,

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  • John Willenbecher

    Hamilton Galleries

    In a hushed light hang six “paintings” by JOHN WILLENBECHER, each made up of three panels. In each. a thick rope hangs from two pegs, suspending spheres, cones, and, in one work, tetrahedrons. Both the panels and the volumes are speckled in a way that is ethereal. Kitschy.

    Rope? Let’s see. Willenbecher has used drapery before—maybe he is concerned with things hung. suspended crucified? In the poster for the show, a reproduction of Saint Serapion by Zurbaran, the saint is shown martyred (he preached the Word to the Moslems), hung by the wrists from rope. arms raised in a Christ-like gesture. which

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  • Mario Merz

    Sperone Westwater

    MARIO MERZ presents in this show more “objects passed through by neon” but the objects now are canvas and burlap tacked on the wall with pictorial images (mostly of reptiles: a crocodile, a lizard) painted in metallic paint and charcoal. Immediately one is struck by the juxtapositions of fragile and raw materials, and of their connotations. Cool and hot at once, neon is the sign of packaged desire, whereas burlap and charcoal are rough and rejected stuffs. Though as cultural symbols, neon and burlap contrast sharply, neither is a “fine art” material.

    Germano Celant describes Merz as a “nomad,”

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  • Sylvia Stone

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    SYLVIA STONE’s reliefs made me “turn upon myself” and look again. At first they appear cooly aware, smart in the sense of stylish. Made of plexiglass planes and bits of metal, they are lean and elusive—reliefs that know how to look . . . like “the latest” in reliefs. They know how to talk, too: they refer to Stella’s relief “paintings,” cite Morris’ mirror works, and converse generally on Constructivist relief. That is, Stone makes the important references at a glance (as far as pedigree and peers go) but summarizes, paraphrases—reviewing, rather than revising. I thought Stone recouped relief

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  • Jonathan Borofsky

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    In 1927, referring to Proust’s then uncompleted Remembrance of Things Past, E.M. Forster commented: “The book is chaotic, ill-constructed, it has and will have no external shape; and yet it hangs together because it is stitched internally, because it contains rhythms.” The same might be said of JONATHAN BOROFSKY’s recent installation which, although wildly eclectic in its components, and intentionally unruly in its execution, has an emotional coherence and an intellectual vigor reinforced by the repetitive and emphatic properties of rhythm.

    Borofsky is both cursed and blessed by facility; he

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  • Anne Sperry

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    One of the installations at Wards Island this summer was ANNE SPERRY’s raggedy row of steel flowers aimed like gooseneck lamps at the East River. The flowers were reminiscent of the cute, literal, unusable playground sculpture that tired landscape architects select from mail-order catalogues. The work contradicted its pastoral, water-oriented setting, becoming an exercise in the kind of lawn decoration that cries out for aquamarine-painted tire planters filled with geraniums.

    Reduced in scale, varied in composition, and removed to a gallery setting, Sperry’s sculpture gains some authority. It is

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  • Jacqueline Monnier

    Betty Parsons Gallery

    JACQUELINE MONNIER’s exhibition of kites, sculptural assemblages and mixed media paintings is the first American show for this French-born but New York-raised artist (who now lives once again in France). What is immediately striking about the examples on view—all made between 1968 and 1980—is their beauty and the particular attitude which the pieces in each category take toward their own beauty. As is true of much contemporary art, attitude—here involving beauty—is at issue. In other words, having beauty in 1980 is no longer enough; instead it’s all in how the individual work of art wears it.

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  • Lynton Wells

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    LYNTON WELLS is probably best known for sophisticated treatments of photographic images on canvas, but at the end of the ’70s he turned his attention to traditions of painting, focusing on landscape. His recent works are humorous versions of the academic mythological landscapes. Untitled, 1980, recalls the Old Masters in several ways; its monumental dimensions, 88 by 107 inches are typical of the so-called academic machine; the ambiguous female nude (is she human or statue?), with her upper torso disappearing into the surrounding lush landscape, brings to mind the theme of metamorphosis; the

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  • “The Page as Alternative Space, 1909–1929"

    Franklin Furnace

    “The Page as Alternative Space, 1909–1929” organized by Clive Phillpot, is an informative survey of magazines associated with several major 20th-century art movements. The show examines the modernist sensibility from a perspective which too often has been overshadowed by the dominance of painting and sculpture. Among the magazines on view are Italian Futurism’s Lacerba, Swiss/French Dada’s Dada, Hungarian Futurism’s Ma and Russian Constructivism’s Vesch. There are examples of covers and inside pages from 18 different magazines in all. Curiously, Les Soirées de Paris and L’Esprit Nouveau, two

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  • Judy Chicago, “The Dinner Party”

    Brooklyn Museum

    An interior dialogue occasioned by The Dinner Party:

    It is not a hoax, it is not hokum: The Dinner Party is a Pop phenomenon on the order of bra-burning and The Women’s Room. That is to say, an artwork that’s larger-than-life, perhaps larger even than the 1,038 lives it honors. It addresses all aspects of social, esthetic, and religious practice. From the moment of its installation at the San Francisco MoMA last year, it became, indisputably, a landmark—a monument to art and the women’s movement. I envision historians and critics of feminism, feminist art, and goddess spiritualism adopting the

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  • Eleanor Antin

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    One initially couldn’t be sure of just how seriously ELEANOR ANTIN’s Eleanora Antinova wanted us to take her. Inviting a small group of people to a typically modern gallery space to sip sherry among the potted plants and to listen to this alleged “once celebrated black ballerina of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes” share her recollections at first seemed the height of artistic contrivance. But Antin, in a discreet short black dress and pumps, didn’t perform in the predictably self-conscious manner. When the ballerina’s funny but sad monologue finished, it was, as it is with any good actress, hard to

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  • John Baldessari

    Sonnabend Gallery

    It was even more difficult to know how seriously JOHN BALDESSARI wished us to take his “Fugitive Essays”; perhaps because the confusion, even in the end, was not so bittersweet. The subject of the humor appeared to be characteristic Baldessari—banal or conventional ways of ordering information. But Baldessari’s elaborate alternative did not point us in the direction of another: the methodology misfired.

    On the gallery walls, at three different heights, were photographs of three different “types” of information, in three different types of corresponding frames. One didn’t have to decipher

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  • William Eggleston

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    The first thing one notices when looking at a photograph by WILLIAM EGGLESTON is the quality of his light. The range of tones and color in his work is impressive. He can offer a nearly monochromatic study enlivened by the subtlest of variation, and then turn around and produce a picture with intense and often unusual contrast. His prints, judged solely on these terms, are ravishing.

    But color is not everything. One must also consider the rest of the picture, for a photograph can never be entirely free of the daily reality that it represents. Eggleston’s subject matter is the South. “Troubled

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  • Sol LeWitt

    John Weber Gallery

    It may seem surprising to find a connection between Eggleston’s photographs and the work of SOL LeWITT. But there is one, and it is in the attempt which both artists make to manipulate an exquisite sensibility. Eggleston uses this kind of sensibility as a disguise; LeWitt disguises it.

    Impressed by its look of mathematical certainty, critics have tended to write about LeWitt’s work as though he were somehow making models of intelligence. The sheer beauty of many of his pieces often goes unremarked, and the sensuous appeal of many of the prints and wall drawings is denied, or at least ignored. As

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  • Richard Bosman

    Brooke Alexander

    Nothing could look more different from the refinements of these two groups of photographs than the paintings of RICHARD BOSMAN. Sloppy and garish with color that obviously owes a lot to the quality of electric light in the wee small hours, Bosman’s paintings are aggressively rude. They are also very funny—and totally pessimistic.

    Bosman’s paintings have the look of great passion. The paint swirls across the canvas, rising to thick, impastoed peaks at appropriate moments. And the pictures that this paint describes are as violent as the artist’s handling: shipwrecks, murders, suicides. But this

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  • Gary Bower

    Max Protetch

    GARY BOWER’s paintings are also cliché-ridden, but it is not so certain that he knows it. Or if he does know it, it is not certain that he understands the implications of such knowledge.

    His work has an eclectic look: it is a mixture of figurative elements, gestural marks and hard-edged geometries. His paintings are very bright and cheery, untroubled. Figures and shapes seem to be present merely to give form to areas of paint, not because of any meaning they might have. In fact, paint itself seems to be the main issue, an issue only thinly disguised with a coating of expressionist Pop which looks

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  • Ericka Beckman, Out of Hand

    Collective for Living Cinema

    ERICKA BECKMAN is one of the most accomplished of younger American filmmakers. The five super-8 films she has released since 1977 can be located at the “perceptual” edge of Poststructural Punk: they’re not an absolute rejection of ’70s formalism. Beckman’s work has affinities to certain films of George Landow and the trickier sections of Robert Nelson and William Wiley’s The Great Blondino, but basically she’s an idiosyncratic original, with a full-blown style that’s completely her own.

    Like primitive cartoons, Beckman’s enigmatic allegories are filled with nervous activity and comic violence,

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  • Stuart Sherman

    Anthology Film Archives

    The progenitors of the new psychodrama (a cooler, more behavioral mode than that of the ’40s and ’50s) are Yvonne Rainer and Vito Acconci, but there are other performance artists who have taken to acting out their fantasies before the camera. STUART SHERMAN has been making short silent films to accompany his “spectacles” for the last three years. Seldom longer than three or four minutes each, Sherman’s movies resemble his one-man shows in their suggestive, rebuslike juxtaposition of gestures and props. There’s the same deadpan whimsy, but a greater degree of imagistic freedom. In Flying, the

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  • Joël Hubaut

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    JOËL HUBAUT’s performance at Artists Space was the first in a series of performances and exhibitions by French artists shown in alternative spaces throughout New York. Entitled “Une Idée en l’air,” the series was presented from late October through December. Hubaut is a visual and performance artist who sees art, language and other aspects of culture as “epidemics” of civilization, and his recent works on this theme of épidémie have been attempts to undermine conventional bourgeois forms of expression.

    On entering Artists Space, each member of the audience was handed a rectangular fabric badge

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  • Richard Minsky

    RICHARD MINSKY, the founder and executive director of the Center for Book Arts on Bleecker Street in New York, glories in self-promotion and self-exposure. His limited edition artists’ book is, above all, an amusing, informative and complex monument to his very self-conscious ego.

    Minsky in London was begun in June of 1979, and is essentially the result of joint efforts on the part of Minsky (who conceived the book, wrote part of the text, took most of the photographs, designed and bound the volume) and Pamela Moore (a friend of Minsky’s who edited the book and wrote the bulk of its text). Minsky

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  • Constantin Brancusi

    Brooklyn Museum

    In the early 1920s, CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI also came to this conclusion after he had seen some reproductions of photographs of his work done by others. It was Brancusi’s habit to do everything for himself. Indeed, total self-sufficiency was part of the legend he was carefully building around himself. He cut down trees for his wood sculptures and had his own forge in which to cast his bronzes. So when he decided he needed better photographs, he naturally built his own darkroom and, after some instruction from Man Ray, set about making the pictures himself. Nearly 600 glass negatives survived at the

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  • Photo Politic

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    “Photo Politic” is a show that brings together almost 400 images. These range through history from the Civil War to the present and over the globe from Italy and Poland to Central and North America. Every conceivable kind of photo image is included: salt paper prints done in the 1850s, and color Xeroxes done this year; photographs shot from TV screens or published by news agencies, and master prints by Edward Steichen or Gustave Le Gray. The show contains posters and books and newsprint and color prints. Scores and scores of photographers are represented in it. It fills eight separate galleries

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