reviews

  • Agnes Martin

    Pace Gallery

    There is nothing new about Agnes Martin’s new paintings, nothing new because they do not show a departure from one style to another. There is a sense of perpetual advent to them, of something continually coming into being. She is a master at evoking temporal drama from minimal form. Landscape has influenced the work; vast ground is represented concisely in unfettered line and color.

    This show consisted of eight paintings, each 6 by 6 feet, composed of delicate horizontal graphite lines marking bands of gesso-muted, whitish colors, tinted with pink, blue and yellow. Each is untitled and numbered,

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  • Jannis Kounellis

    Sonnabend Gallery

    So different from the experience of Martin’s paintings, there is never one predictable, refined moment of recognition when viewing Jannis Kounellis’ work. The method and ideology manifest in his work pay homage to a complicated, unresolved condition. His recurring images (fire, water, animals) refer to Judeo-Christian ritual and sacrifice, and to mystical belief. Steeped in European tradition, Kounellis “paints” idiosyncratic images.

    In two rooms, lining perpendicular walls, were a series (seven in one room, nine in the other) of India ink drawings on heavy yellowish paper of repetitive, circular

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  • Michael Tracy

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The shrine: a facsimile of an adobe arch, studded with rusty nails, frames a mound of metallic excrescence which has been punctured with cleavers, cutlasses, and daggers. The relic: a bulky gold cross, mounted like a palanquin, is adorned with tin charms, girdled with a wreath of thorns, and pierced at the crossbeam by a cluster of swords. Both sculptures are sinister avatars which suggest the moribundity of El Dorado after the gold ran out and the empires unraveled. Through them, Michael Tracy fancifully conjures up the myths of the conquistadors and the fetishistic marriage of paganism and

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  • Ed Paschke

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Ed Paschke is an extremely urban painter. His jazzy, electric sensibility is perfectly suited to city tempos. His hot, dayglow colors have been informed by the Strip’s competitive commercial neons. In his portraits, the sharpies, chippies and hustlers who make up the underside of the metropolitan hustle are surrounded by a psychedelic aura which suggests a space-age halo.

    Paschke’s recent paintings forsake the street for the upholstered sewers of nighttown. His cacophonous colors coalesce into horizontal bands resembling the jagged tracings of an electroencephalogram. His eccentric lowlifes have

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  • Daniel Buren

    John Weber Gallery

    The elevator opens on a corridor a bit more than body-width, with walls of blue-and-white striped fabric. One enters and walks 90 meters to a door marked Exit.

    Exit: a work in situ by Daniel Buren: the title is a contradiction that suspends one. Is it a place or a non-place? A work of art? But where? If “Exit” here is a noun, is absence made a thing, a presence?

    One walks into Exit . . . a paradox that can’t be helped, and is not merely semantic. Or, rather, it precisely is semantic—the work questions the semantics of cultural space. One walks in and is framed—one “narrates” the work, as in a film

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  • Richard Diebenkorn

    Knoedler Gallery

    Here are more paintings in Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” suite named after the area in Santa Monica where he works. Suite? Well, more like saga—he is up to number 125, which is quite a production over 13 years.

    As usual, the washy ochres, clays and blues recall landscape, even when there is no evidence for it. The materiality of the paint contradicts any such pictorialism; the planes are not ordered as “grounds” nor do the colors recede as “spaces.” One does not look out from or even into these paintings; one looks, if anywhere, down. The paintings are flat twice over. So the paintings are

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  • Al Held

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Like Diebenkorn’s, Al Held’s paintings seem “abstract”: he too refers them back to the world or to representational art. The mediation is announced in the titles: there are four “Florentines,” three “Venetians,” Bruges I, and Padua I. However, the paintings do not specifically refer to the cities. Though each Florentine is lime and red on mauve, and each Venetian is lime on pink, there is no real reference to the two traditions called “Florentine” or “Venetian.” For that matter, Bruges I has color as “mediterranean” as the others. Only in Padua I is there a piazzalike form that may refer to the

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  • Brenda Miller

    Sperone Westwater

    Brenda Miller’s new show, a rope’n’grid installation, is a subversively anti-Minimalist piece which should bear the caveat: oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive Minimalism. The walls and the ceiling of the small gallery at Sperone are scored with a red-and-blue-chalked grid; just standing in the room makes you feel like a coordinate trapped in 3-D graph paper. Part of the room is cordoned off by a floor-to-ceiling rope grid; behind this divider are crosshatched rope filaments which successively grow more slender, and incrementally more limp and tangled. The message

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  • Nancy Grossman

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    “You should only wear leather if you mean it,” goes an old West Hollywood proverb, an admonition to make the streetfoolish streetwise. Does Nancy Grossman really mean it? Not that she wears it, but she does continue to swathe life-size wooden busts with the stuff. Naturally, leather is hide, so why not give your sculptures skin? But Grossman’s sculptures look a little more semiologically complicated than this simplistic premise.

    Her ten new busts look dressed to kill. Three are eyeless, blindfolded by leather hoods. They look about as harmless as sharks: two have bared teeth, the third a spiked

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  • Jamie Dalglish

    Braathevn-Gallozzi Contemporary Art

    Jamie Dalglish epitomizes the crisis in abstract painting. Each idea (allover markings, contrast of high-key color, figures that are almost iconic yet nonrepresentational) in Dalglish’s work has been in currency for at least 30 years—each has been well-spent by Pollock, Newman, Krasner and Gottlieb. Not that novelty is essential in itself, but it seems that Dalglish’s renegotiation of old territory is listless. uncommitted. As Jean-Luc Godard recently responded to Paul Schrader (who had approached him to admit that he had lifted some Godard scenes from A Married Woman for his American Gigolo),

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  • Frank Young

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    Frank Young recently exhibited abstract paintings and wall sculptures. There was no apparent logic connecting the two enterprises except their shared feebleness. The paintings: largish, on unstretched canvas, oil paint (thick, applied in the current pastry-school fashion) serrated on in vortexes. Flaccid orphism, in both senses of the adjective. The wall sculptures: swaddled and wrapped bundles, ranging in size from shoulder bag to fair-sized backpack made of packaging elements like foam rubber, nylon duffel bags, stray drop cloths, and other detritus.

    Of the two kinds of work, the sculptures

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  • Gabor Body

    Bleecker Street Cinema

    When we think of East European avant-garde filmmakers we usually think either of directors who have developed formally radical strategies (Miklos Jancso, Vera Chytilova) or of those whose subject matter expands the perimeter of the politically permissible. Despite the existence of “amateur” camera clubs, an underground or counter-cinema has not yet surfaced.

    There is, however, another sort of state subsidized avant-garde in Poland and, to a lesser degree, Hungary—although “experimental” would probably be a better word to categorize its more-scientific-than-expressive output. The Hungarian Gabor

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  • Betzy Bromberg

    Collective for Living Cinema

    The most promising first show I’ve seen this season has been Betzy Bromberg’s at the Collective for Living Cinema. Bromberg’s three 15-minute films embody a sensibility somewhat akin to the anarcho-punk feminism of the super-8 filmmaker Vivienne Dick, though less angry and more fragmented. Petit Mal, 1978, is a raw, everything but-the-kitchen-sink movie: choppy street scenes, a girl clowning, subway sequences enlivened by artless overexposures and split screens. What holds it together is the strong and unobtrusive audio track, a melange of confessional rapping, nondescript mood music, and slyly

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  • John Walker

    Betty Cunningham

    New York has certainly been seeing a great deal of European art this season, and what has been most interesting about it all is the intensity with which European artists seem to be involved in a resurgence of that old favorite avant-garde debate: the continuing validity of painting. At one extreme a figure like Jannis Kounellis still finds it necessary to display the charred remains of a palette next to an installation of drawings which on their own have sufficient authority to generate excitement. Or again, younger Italian artists like Sandro Chia and Francesco Clemente have turned to painting

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  • Bernd Naber

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Nothing could look more different from Walker’s paintings than the rolled canvases of Bernd Naber, yet the young German painter proves to be working with a very similar set of ideas and achieving similar results. Trained as a Minimalist, Naber has gradually been feeling his way toward a less premeditated, more directly sensual art. As a result he now sees a dichotomy between the painterly process and the reason that the process is activated, between the work and the idea. The most important aspect is once again the actual working, the manipulation of paint; the conceptual framework for the work

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  • Gerhard Merz

    Sperone Westwater Fischer

    Gerhard Merz’ work is up to date, but not contemporary in the accepted sense. He refuses to care about the kinds of things that inspire painters like Walker and Naber. He wants to make work that makes you think, and that looks good, looks snappy. And he succeeds. He makes paintings that are aggressive visually and intellectually, that make you look and keep you thinking.

    Merz has no faith in the authenticity of the individual gesture, no trust in the notion that a painter expresses himself directly and uniquely through the handling of paint. He has no conviction as far as technique is concerned,

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  • “Une Idée en l'Air”

    Various Locations

    Too many group shows come unstuck because of a weakness in their theme, or a failure to carry it out. It is therefore always a pleasure to come across a show that is foolproof in that respect. A show put together on a strictly geographical basis may still be a failure, but it will then be a failure on the part of the art, not of the curator. And if it is a success it will enable the public to see a variety of work hung together regardless of the usual stylistic strictures which order most exhibitions.

    Une Idée en l’Air” was organized by a group of French artists, headed by the artist Philippe

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  • Vincenzo Agnetti

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Vincenzo Agnetti has been active a good while now, and as a result his work seems comfortable, seems to fit. It has an ease of conception, and an equal ease of execution, that gives it a charm utterly absent from the anxious, unsettling work of many younger Europeans. Nor does he suffer from any inhibition concerning media, using whatever seems appropriate or necessary at the moment. He is equally at home making paintings or sculpture, taking photographs, performing, writing or working with combinations of any of these disciplines.

    4 Titles, the four pieces exhibited at Ronald Feldman, illustrate

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  • Tod Wizon

    Willard Gallery

    Tod Wizon has taken one of the most worked-over categories of paintings in modern art (landscape) and managed to do something fresh and interesting with it. Executed in small formats, they range from 73/4-inch squares to 30-by 40-inch rectangles.

    As images, Wizon’s paintings have a striking, jump-off-the-wall immediacy, pinning the viewer down with screaming color contrasts—sharp reds, greens, yellows—and then sweeping the viewer away with a swirl of planar rhythms. Perceptual responses give way to associative ones as each work suggests various romantic, symbolist, expressionist art sources, and

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  • Robert Donley

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    Chicago is famous for having cultivated a funky, figurative kind of painting, naively expressionist in style, weird, fantastic or vulgar in subject, and obsessive—filling the canvas completely—in presentation. The aim is to make the most outrageous vision seem uncomfortably real by assaulting the viewer on multiple associative-psychological fronts.

    Such musings are immediately brought to mind by the first New York show of recent paintings and drawings by ROBERT DONLEY, a Chicago-based artist. Donley treats the subject of 20th-century warfare in a series of synthetic landscapes. Somewhere

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  • Christopher Wilmarth

    Studio for the First Amendment

    Since the late ’60s, Christopher Wilmarth has made the emotive potential in abstract form a major issue in his sculptures. His current works, “Gnomon’s Parade,” are no exception. Like earlier examples—“Nine Clearings for a Standing Man” comes to mind—simple geometric shapes, repeated structures and serial presentation are stressed.

    Still, what separates this group from earlier fare is the more aggressive and individualistic attitudes towards the issue of emotivity.

    Tall and looking very constructed, these sculptures are made of steel and glass and have bar-shaped parts which project themselves

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  • Tom Wesselmann

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    Not surprisingly, what’s at issue in Tom Wesselmann’s recent show is a Pop art sensibility. Of course, Wesselmann, one of Pop’s really big boys, shocked audiences with explicitly sexy images, particularly in his “Great American Nude” series. However, while sex could still provoke audiences in the ’60s, it’s hardly scandalous in the ’80s. There’s a hint of Pop naughtiness—and feeling naughty is a response rarely provoked by today’s figurative fare—in Wesselmann’s treatment of the Dropped Bra. In true Pop fashion, the bra is executed in a variety of media, materials, colors and sizes. The presentation

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  • Agnes Denes

    Elise Meyer Gallery

    Agnes Denes’ recent show came as a surprise. Denes is best known for drawings that visually describe the essential structures underlying complex systems. The luscious color photographs that dominated this show seemed, at first glance, to have little in common with the cerebral yet beautiful map projections, numerical progressions, linguistic studies, etc., that viewers have come to expect from her. But for all their apparent differences, the color photographs were linked conceptually to the rest of Denes’ work, for these images were only part of a multifaceted project designed to explore life

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  • Dick Higgins, “of celebration an morning”

    of celebration of morning is the latest book by poet/artist/composer Dick Higgins, an early creator of Happenings, a co-founder of Fluxus and founder of Something Else Press. In its original form, of celebration of morning was a cycle of 80 20-by 30-inch panels which have now been gathered into a large, beautiful book whose pages are montages of photographs, photo derivations, line drawings, poems, musical scores, rhetorical questions and symbols from the I Ching. Together, these pages compose a narrative or a “poly-semiotic fiction” as Higgins calls it, about a young musician/dancer named Justin

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  • “Hotel,” edited by Reese Williams

    Hotel, a collection of writing by eight artists, is a sampling of the ways artists have used words—and word-image combinations—to express their perceptions of contemporary experience. According to Williams, the title was chosen because it seemed an appropriate metaphor for a book that brings together such a diverse group of people and works. “It wasn’t until later,” Williams told me, “that I also realized that a number of the pieces refer to rooms.” Almost all of the works are about transience—a rootlessness that is not geographical, but spiritual.

    A typically modern malaise permeates most of

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