reviews

  • Alfred Eisenstaedt

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    I often think of an exhibition catalogue as being like the souvenir program one buys at a football game or a rock concert. It’s an appendage to the event, a memento. This is an attitude that comes from painting exhibitions, where the point is to see the original. At the International Center of Photography, however, this attitude is sometimes misleading. In the first place, much of the work ICP shows is photojournalism that was originally shot for reproduction, and it looks better in the book than on the wall. In the second place, the book is often not really a catalogue at all. Its publication

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  • “Spain: 1936–1939”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    The legend of the photographer hero, of the photojournalist’s own life as the true subject of his exhibition, is presented more explicitly and more engagingly in another ICP show, “Spain: 1936–1939.” This includes the work of three photographers—Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour (“Chim”)—but it is clearly Capa who dominates both the show and our imaginations. Capa was born André Friedmann in Hungary in 1913. A student in Paris struggling to establish a reputation as a free-lance photographer, he invented a glamorous persona for himself as an already successful American photographer named

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  • John Batho

    Zabriskie Gallery

    In John Batho’s current color work, the most permanent color system there is (the Fresson four-color carbon process) is used to immortalize some of the most forgettable images I’ve seen. Batho’s series was made at an amusement park, mostly of the rides as they careened and whirled past the camera. The result is a great many photographs of smeary swipes of color. In some, a single, static, recognizable shape, such as the arrow painted on the side of the merry-go-round, emerges from the visual blah-blah. The Fresson process gives the pictures a graininess that looks almost pointillistic up close

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  • Louisa Chase

    Robert Miller Gallery

    The formulary repetitiveness of Louisa Chase’s paintings can get a little trying. Landscape elements (trees, lakes, mountains) are thickly brushed with bright, funky colors out of a Betsey Johnson fashion show. Background is contrastingly smoothly waxy, a thick coat of polyurethane on random parquetry floors. The only suggestion of depth comes from blunt, rudimentary shadows. Decorative motifs—a flowering bramble and a neutered, effluvial torso—recur as out-of-scale heraldic devices. The ostensible subject matter (Pool, Waterfall, Clearing, Riverbed, to cite but a few) is rendered in the clunky

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  • “Drawings & Paintings On Paper”

    Ann Ina Nosei Gallery

    What do David Deutsch’s landscape drawings and Mimmo Paladino’s still lifes have in common? And what do Mike Glier’s political symbols have to do with either one of them? Not much, I’m afraid, except that they’re all on paper; that was apparently the criterion used to select the work in the unpresumptuously-titled group show, “Drawings & Paintings on Paper.”

    Well, perhaps there was another connection; most of the works do contain representational imagery, which may be another reason for their being shown together. Imagism—ah, yes. But the images—from Jack Barth’s Gothic charcoal-and-ink scenes,

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  • Alexis Smith

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    When you walk into Alexis Smith’s rendition of what these United States are all about, or were about between the wars, you enter through an arch in a white picket fence. Silhouettes of houses, and trees, either cut-outs or painted directly on the wall, are presented with pithy excerpts from Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust. All of the pictures and the text are about American middle-class desires and illusions, as embodied in images from a mythic past. On the rear wall, there is a looming silhouette of an ocean liner from the days

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  • Timothy Woodman

    Zabriskie Gallery

    “Cute” is the operative adjective for Timothy Woodman’s painted aluminum reliefs, which depict great moments from the Old Testament and American history. Cute relief work is a medium which has been pretty much done to death by Red Grooms, who at least knows how to push the idea to the rowdy, sleazy edge where boyish enthusiasm turns into art historical satire. More recently, Kim MacConnel has shown that there is still some room for grit in the medium. His paper cutout reliefs, with their vivid process colors and slick illustrations of athletic events, suggest a tough, sophisticated alternative

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  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Rarely do contemporary artists provide as detailed evidence of their gestural processes as Jennifer Bartlett does in her recent work. As an added bonus, she cares deeply about the creative tradition that has influenced her work. “In the Garden,” an installation of 187 drawings, is very much about the landscape tradition; it is also about the history of 20th-century art—about breaking down the imitative powers of the line and imbuing them with something more abstract, more nervously emotional.

    Bartlett frees her hand to respond to such masters of the personalized line as Van Gogh, Matisse, Feininger

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  • “The People’s Choice”

    Group Material

    Group Material is a loose association of about 12 artists committed to working in the area where esthetics and politics meet. The group has existed in one form or another for about a year, operating from a storefront on East 13th Street since last July, and presenting theme shows in which the idea behind each show is considered more important than any of the pieces in it.

    The members of Group Material find the notion of production problematic when they consider the role of art objects. To keep from having that production co-opted (something very few overtly political artists have been able to

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  • Richard Serra

    Blum/Heiman Gallery

    When it is successful, Richard Serra’s work has a highly-charged presence that is strangely at odds with his neo-Constructivist, anti-Expressionist ethic. When he fails to achieve that tension, though, his work is merely good-looking, with its devices exposed as the facile tricks of a master cosmetician. Shorn of grace, his sculptures are reduced to being nothing more than public works.

    When he first started making his big wall drawings he came close to doing the impossible, because they make sense in relation to his sculpture without being in the suspect class of “sculptors’ drawings.” They are

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  • Tony King

    O.K. Harris Gallery

    The shift from Serra’s flirtation with triviality to the genuine trivia produced by Tony King is an abrupt one—so abrupt that one is likely to find oneself thinking more and more favorably of the former’s drawings. After all, they do look good.

    King has abandoned an intricately sterile brand of abstraction (in which interlocking shapes were painted to appear three-dimensional) for an equally sterile brand of representational painting, in which the artist reproduces dollar bills. Graphically, his renderings are exact, but his color is deliberately off, allowing a certain amount of painterly

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  • Ezra Stoller

    Max Protetch Gallery

    Ezra Stoller is the dean of modern architecture photography. The 85 photographs in this exhibit, taken over the last 40 years, show many of the American buildings in the modern canon. We know them well—or so we think. Actually, many of us know only the photographs. So now it is important to see how they work—as photographs, yes, but as documents, too.

    They are styled: it is as if Stoller poses the buildings as he presents them. They are made photogenic—volumes are highlighted, textures are touched up—almost photographic, as if they had been redesigned in the photographs. Somehow Stoller is able

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  • Richard Fleischner

    Max Protetch Gallery

    Richard Fleischner also works with basic forms—in whole suites of drawings. But his interest is less in image than in structure, less in the primal than in the primary. Though they do resemble houses, cages, corrals and the like, the forms in Fleischner’s drawings are not laden with associations. And yet it is significant that images of this sort are among the first that we draw as children, for these drawings investigate our first intuitions of representations.

    The investigation is fundamental—how do lines define planes that in turn form volumes that construct space? Extended form, marked space,

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  • Alain Kirili

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Eight square iron poles by Alain Kirili stand in the gallery. They are not ordered as a group nor do they conform to any one scale. Two tower above us; the rest stand below. The two tall ones, bare but for a notch near the top, are like markers with nothing to mark. Set on bases—residual pedestals—they are indirectly related to public sculpture, sculpture that commemorates a historically-important person or place. And yet the poles refer to nothing—they seem as pure and homeless as any modern sculpture.

    If the tall poles are markers without sites, the short ones are figures without human form.

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  • Antonio Segui

    Lefebre Gallery

    Through the years the Argentinian painter Antonio Segui has offered a provocative and personal interpretation of various idioms, ranging from impressionist to so-called magical genres. His recent paintings and pastels belong to the latter category. Silent, without atmosphere, Segui’s urban, jungle and beach scenes are South American/European in style, setting and feeling. Stressing a caricature kind of drawing, simplifying both the facial features and silhouettes of the figures, his work brings to mind images by Henri Rousseau, George Grosz, and Fernand Léger, among others. What’s magical about

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  • Jeffrey Lew

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Jeffrey Lew’s outer-directed paintings and prints are among the most intriguing in town this season. His attitude towards relationships among concrete elements—technique/format, materials/surfaces—is exciting because it is active. The images, large schematic representations of books, seem literally to rush at the viewer. Whether the volume is opened to display a rainbow of colored pages or closed to reveal a highly textured back and spine, as in Split Decision, the image is a metaphorical come-on, suggesting the intersection of the worlds of learning and art: This is clearly a literary, pictorial

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  • Eric Bogosian

    Franklin Furnace

    Men Inside was a 45-minute solo performance by Eric Bogosian, whose work has for several years been concerned with male/female sexual relations. Gender was the central theme in his most recent piece, which was composed of 15 short monologues describing desires, attitudes, actions and self-images of 12 male characters.

    Bogosian used no elaborate set, only a raised platform with a chair and a few other props on it. The artist was dressed in a simple sweater, suit and tie. Working with gesture, body language, voice, light and occasionally music to which he would dance, Bogosian transformed himself

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  • Elaine Reichek

    A.I.R. Gallery

    For several years, Elaine Reichek has been creating multi-media art about the tradition of “women’s work.” In a series of two-panel wall pieces begun in 1979, Reichek juxtaposed a child’s knitted garment with a schematic translation of the knitting instructions, which were also handwritten in a separate book. By illustrating the ways in which patterns—visual, verbal and operational—underlie even the most mundane family affairs, these concept-oriented works emphasized the manifold ways in which rational systems of thought link art and life as well as the intellectual and intimate aspects of

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  • Napoleon, Directed By Abel Gance

    Zoetrope Studios And Image Film Archives

    What becomes a legend most? In the case of Abel Gance’s 1927 Napoleon it’s the Francis Ford Coppola imprimatur, a 60-piece symphony orchestra, the Radio City Music Hall, and an audience with a $10–$25 investment in witnessing a masterpiece (albeit one shortened by 20 minutes and projected at sound, rather than silent, speed). Kevin Brown-low has devoted half his life to tracking down the various prints, reconstructing Gance’s four-hour-plus magnum opus, so it’s understandable that he would see it as the ultimate film: “The visual resources of the cinema have never been stretched further than in

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  • Raging Bull, Directed By Martin Scorsese

    United Artists

    It may not be saying much to call Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull the best Hollywood movie of 1980. (Aside from the scandalous Dressed to Kill, the likeable Melvin and Howard, and isolated passages from Popeye, The Big Red One or The Shining, what else was there?) But it is also the film in which Scorsese finally redeems the promise shown by his 1973 Mean Streets, an earlier composition in New York Italian jive and choreographed hysteria.

    Raging Bull is based on the autobiography of the Bronx prizefighter Jake La Motta, an unpleasant character in the film who was apparently even worse in reality.

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