reviews

  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    Do you remember Diane McBain? No? Well, I’ll give you some hints. In the early ’60s, she was Warner Brothers’ answer to Grace Kelly. She had a featured part in the television series, Surf-side Six. Her best movie, Parrish (1961), was set in the tobacco fields of Connecticut where she and Connie Stevens were rivals for the hand of Troy Donahue. She was tall, slim, blue-eyed and blonde; but her features were more pointy than chiseled and she had a flat, unaccented voice utterly lacking in nuance. When her career went down the tubes, it was as though she had never been there. Compared to Diane

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  • Jack Goldstein

    Metro Pictures

    Jack Goldstein’s paintings don’t have much to do with the act of painting. They do, however, have quite a bit to do with composition and subject matter. Most of the canvases are combined in diptychs and triptychs that are deployed like story boards. The relationships established between the coupled canvases are graphically sophisticated and pictorially direct. Working with simple, visual declaratives similar to comic book panels, Goldstein never leaves room for any doubt about what’s going on. It is as if there was a big exclamation point tacked onto every painting.

    A tiny, white missile launched

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  • Ping Chong

    La MaMa Galleria

    Phase One: In Manhattan, a foreigner with a withered right arm makes a plea for financial aid to his country. The man’s garb is contemporary; his speech is anachronistic.

    Phase Two: In South America, in the 1800s, a plantation owner gives his young daughter a miniature tea set and a knife. He also shows her a series of pictures of animals preying on each other. Years later, the plantation owner’s daughter rejects a South Carolinian suitor’s proposal of marriage. Ultimately, there is a revolution. The daughter’s slave, Berinthia, has been present in each of these scenes. In the final scene,

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  • Fashion Moda

    New Museum

    The series of three group shows, collectively entitled “Events,” that The New Museum is staging this winter—of which Fashion Moda’s is the first—raises at least two interesting problems that may or may not be related. The first is about the liveliness, and continuing viability, of well-established alternative spaces. The second concerns the more wide-ranging issue of curatorial responsibility; the meaning of certain kinds of display.

    To quote from the press release: “The New Museum has invited Fashion Moda, Taller Boricua, and Collaborative Projects, three New York based independent artists

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  • Antonio Gaudi

    Brooks Jackson Gallery lolas

    By making an overall sense of style more important than the individual objects on show the directors of Fashion Moda (and of Collaborative Projects, for that matter) use techniques of display in an attempt to begin a certain kind of subversion. An entirely opposite strategy, taking utilitarian objects and elevating their importance as cultural signs, can also be used to similar effect. This seems to be, in part, the intent of artists making furniture as art.

    A decision to forge a direct link between making art and making useful objects stems from the Arts and Crafts movement. Thus it was an

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  • 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

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  • “The Russian Revolution in Art—3”

    Rosa Esman Gallery in collaboration with Adler/Castillo, Inc.

    The more examples there are of early 20th-century Russian avant-garde art hanging in one place, the better it all looks. This group show of work from 1914 to 1925 includes familiar names from the pioneering generation (Alexandra Exter, Kasimir Malevich, Liubov Popova), a few of their younger colleagues (El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko), and others who have become best known for their relationships with Malevich (Vassily Ermilov and Ivan Kliun, who reflected Malevich’s influence at different stages of their own careers, and a few of his more orthodox Suprematist followers among the Unovis

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  • James Biederman

    John Weber Gallery

    In his first one-person exhibition since his initial solo outing at Artists Space in 1974, James Biederman shows sculptures and works on paper that recall Russian Constructivist interests in spatial issues.

    The painted, wood sculptures, with their “I am what I am,” bare-it-all structures, stressing parallel and counter-balanced elements, and their object-like good looks, bring to mind the spatial constructions of Alexander Rodchenko and the Obmokhu group. His works on paper, executed in gouache, pastel and charcoal, suggest the line constructions and architectonic drawings by Rodchenko and

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  • Lucas Samaras

    Pace Gallery

    “Is there progress in art?” is the question on everybody’s minds as we inexorably enter a new decade. From the look of things, there’s certainly regress in art: rediscoveries of Expressionism, Constructivism, Realism and Surrealism abound. Some people call that evolution, others devolution, and yet others are able to transcend this limiting question and understand the less transient meanings underlying it all. What would you call Lucas Samaras’ new work, now that he’s practically relived and reworked his whole career in his latest show? Progress? Stasis? Or some other kind of dynamic?

    A Real

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  • Ad Reinhardt

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    While Lucas Samaras rediscovers that subject equals object, about 20 blocks uptown the specter of Ad Reinhardt, flickering through the Whitney’s “Concentration” of his works in their collection, must be chuckling at contemporary art’s rediscovery of the obvious, its reinvention of the esthetic mandala. There’s probably no other 20th-century artist as exasperating to decipher as Reinhardt, no other artist who had it so well figured out that Cosmic Truth wasn’t much more than a Local Statement. He once asked himself, in a celebrated 1965 Artnews “Autointerview,” “Are you still saying the one thing

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  • “Three by Four”

    Blum/Helman Gallery

    The underlying concept of “Three by Four,” to feature four important artists by showing, for each of them, three disparate works made over a period of time is interesting, especially since all of the artists, Richard Diebenkorn, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella, have made drastic or subtle changes that make you rethink the question “what is progress?” But what results here is simply a series of star turns. Whatever pleasure there is in seeing the paintings, there didn’t seem to be any motivation behind the exhibition—save for the obvious.

    Stella was the most intelligently

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  • “Pictures and Promises”

    The Kitchen

    Doubtless the most provocative show during January was “Pictures and Promises,” “gathered” by Barbara Kruger for the Kitchen. It’s the kind of assembling that can be viewed many different ways, depending on what propaganda you marshal to describe the visual propaganda. For those who argue that art is in a crisis, on a trajectory hurtling towards devolution, this collection of images, which includes art “information” by Hans Haacke juxtaposed with advertising “information” by Seagram’s, can be used as propaganda on behalf of their argument—in this show, “art” and “commerce” are indistinguishable.

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  • Max Kozloff

    Holly Solomon Editions

    When Jean-Luc Godard went from writing film criticism to making movies, he said that he saw no essential difference between the two. In most mediums this is true, or at least possible. The core of the criticism has often been written by the artists themselves anyway (think of how T.S. Eliot’s essays on poetry shaped literary criticism in general in this century), so those involved in the field move naturally from critic to artist and back again. But in photography, this has not been the case. The reason this medium doesn’t have a rich tradition of criticism is not that there’s nothing to be said

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  • “Four Photographers”

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    Two of the “Four Photographers” at Bertha Urdang deserve at least a mention, even an honorable mention. They are Barbara Sonneborn and Sherie Scheer, both of whom toy with the photographer’s illusion of reality the way a cat toys with a mouse.

    Sonneborn’s large color-prints do so by a calculated pairing and balancing of visual effects in what seems to be a casually arranged scene. Next to the matte blue walls and the motion-blur of an oscillating fan blowing a diaphanous curtain, the sharp, precise shadow that a ladder casts on white paper becomes so intense that it detaches itself from the scene.

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  • Wolf Kahlen

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Wolf Kahlen is a man whose story is more interesting than his photographs. From them we get no shock of impact as momentous as the one that sunk the boat Kahlen was on last summer. But we’ll get back to the sea saga in a minute. Kahlen’s photographs come in long, fold-out books, and are all done in series. One book/series, for instance, shows what three different cities look like when photographed once an hour from the same vantage point over the same 24-hour period. (During eight of those hours all the prints are of course pitch black, or would have been if one of the cities hadn’t been Reykjavik,

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  • Jerry Uelsmann

    Witkin Gallery

    At the heart of any photograph I like there is bound to be a paradox, such as the way a seamless realism creates a world of pure fantasy in Jerry Uelsmann’s work. It is an indication of the depth of Uelsmann’s vision that the work hasn’t changed much in the last six years. The world Uelsmann has created out of his own imagining is vast. It has needed this extensive exploration. In some ways the terrain in this world resembles the state of Florida, where Uelsmann has lived and taught since 1960. Basically, though, this is a private, impenetrable world, one as unknown and misunderstood by us as

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  • Sandy Skoglund

    Castelli Graphics

    For the past year and a half, Sandy Skoglund has been creating fantasy environments and using them as backdrops for photographed dramas. These large color pictures often depict one or two people trapped in spaces that have been overrun by common objects or domestic animals. Skoglund’s latest extravaganza, Revenge of the Goldfish, is a 30- by 40-inch Cibachrome print, which was exhibited together with the “stage set” that it depicts.

    Skoglund’s wit, energy and imagination were evident in the 18-by 18-foot installation: a scale model of a rather nondescript bedroom, its furnishings and walls painted

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  • Roger Welch

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Roger Welch is best known for works in which he uses photography or film to examine how images shape our perceptions of the world. Drive In, a film and sculpture installation curated by Leandro Katz, focused on the myths that surround popular film. A 18-by 6-foot model of a Rolls Royce, made of twigs and branches tied together, faced a screen—a sheet draped across two large sticks—that stood in a corner of the room. Onto this screen Welch projected a continuous stream of movie shorts: theater announcements, junk food advertisements and previews for six films from the mid-1950s. The installation

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  • Leandro Katz

    The Clocktower

    I’ve always felt that the tower room at the Clocktower has a ritualistic, almost sacrosanct feeling. Because of this, it was the perfect setting for Leandro Katz’s “Lunar Alphabet Series.” The show consisted primarily of two 100-by 90-inch panels, each of which included 72 black-and-white photographs arranged in a grid format, and one 60-by 5-foot roll of black paper covered with line drawings in white oil pastel. The subject matter of both the photographs and the drawings was the same: the face of the moon during the various phases of its monthly cycle.

    At first glance, the pictures seemed to

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  • “Further Furniture”

    Marian Goodman/Multiples

    In recent years quite a few artists have begun to explore the implications of this shift in meaning, by making art which takes the form of furniture. For the most part work of this kind only looks functional, and in fact is really produced for esthetic purposes rather than everyday use. The artist may intend it to participate in its owner’s daily life, but by its very nature it is too significant to be treated as ordinary furniture. Art of this sort inserts itself mischievously into most of the hoary old debates about artistic practice: that the inner structure of a work of art should refer only

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