New York

Duane Michals

Sidney Janis Gallery

The desire to create a situation which leaves the viewer uneasy is of course a recurring motif in the Dada/Surrealist tradition in which Duane Michals claims to participate. In his most recent show, optimistically titled “New Ideas in Photography, Painting, and Photograph/Drawing,” he sought to unsettle the accepted perceptions of art by manipulating in tandem, two separate codes of representation—either photography and drawing, or photography and painting.

This kind of juxtaposition requires wit, partly because it is no longer a new idea. And wit seems to be an attribute which Michals possesses in small quantity. His work often has charm, sometimes humor, but it never has enough bite to be truly witty. There is a fatal timidity, a refusal of the extreme, that constantly renders the work merely cute.

An example of his shying away from the possibilities of extreme positions is the series

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