reviews

  • Enzo Cucchi

    Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery

    The rather extraordinary packaging of Italy’s “three Cs”—Chia, Clemente, Cucchi—seems to have worked. Rarely have contemporary European artists been accorded such instant éclat in the American art market. The push that started in Basel, and accelerated in Venice, has now made it to New York. The triumvirate was introduced as a group in the fall; now the solo shows have commenced.

    Not surprisingly, the major bond uniting the three artists is alphabetical. (Could Carlson, Close and Clough be marketed in Italy as an American movement?) Beyond that, allusive figuration and a shared penchant for

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  • “Lighting”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    “Lighting” was the misnomer for Brooks Adams’ modest presentation of what might have been better titled “Contemporary Domestic Light Fixtures by New York Artists.” Despite its grandly general handle, “Lighting” was one of those tight little shows that suggest untapped resources for a more ambitious survey. The lighting fixture is a commodity with modernist sculptural origins that can be cleanly traced to Moholy-Nagy’s metal workshop at the Weimar Bauhaus, where students like Marianne Brandt and Wilhelm Wagenfeld innovatively explored the design possibilities of the light fittings industry.

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  • Jack Bush

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    One looks at the work of certain established artists to learn about respectable taste. The careless drips and angry spatters of their early work sometimes freeze, in their later work, into affectation, solidify as decor. Looking at such work is a lesson about the dangers, to an artist, of too much artistic civility, of growing old too gracefully.

    Jack Bush grew old far too gracefully. He was never a great painter to begin with, though he was a competent one, who knew what had to be done at a certain time, and did it. But he never had the nerve to push that knowledge or stretch that ability, and

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  • Katherine Porter

    David Mckee Gallery

    For some time, remedies to keep the dynamics of abstract painting alive have been devised to counter the sterility of a problem-solving formalism, like that practiced by Bush. One such remedy, and one that has been attracting a lot of attention again recently, is the attempt to infuse the work (by which is meant both labor and product) with a sense of personal urgency. This means a return to romanticism and the belief that somehow the manipulation of inert matter can represent the emotional state of the artist doing the manipulating. In effect, this solution is like chasing one sort of conservatism

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  • Hans Haacke

    John Weber Gallery

    Although based on a much tougher view of the responsibilities inherent in making art, Hans Haacke’s latest work unfortunately betrays a similar pomposity, a desire to be taken seriously, but a refusal to dig beneath the surface of an appropriate look. The trouble seems to be that he has established himself as a political artist of some importance, but is now content to relax in the glow of an all-encompassing irony.

    Haacke’s work this time is about the Mobil Corporation, a wryly humorous exposé of the double talk the oil company uses in its famous advertising campaigns, which are designed to

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  • David Salle

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Wherever you look there seems to be a loss of critical energy, a blind contentment with the status quo. The situation is bad, but the only response seems to be an irresponsible retreat into a self-delusionary nostalgia. The malaise is widespread. I could be talking about politics: I’m talking about art.

    So what is a young artist committed to the idea of making significant art supposed to do? How can art destabilize conventional thought when the critical procedures validated by modernism—the distancing techniques of abstraction, manipulation of scale, and irony—seem worn out? One possibility is

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  • Eric Fischl

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    Eric Fischl shares Salle’s ambition to make art that makes a difference. Art which acknowledges its debt to the past, but is not intimidated by it. Though he is not as angry as Salle, his work has its fair share of malice, sharpened with a mordant wit which gains immeasurably from the acuity of Fischl’s observations of ordinary behavior. His main area of concentration is suburban life, within the realist tradition most often thought appropriate to depicting it.

    A typical work of his is Gals from the Office, a painting in which meanings and methods abut one another, by turns enhancing each other

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  • Ida Applebroog

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Ida Applebroog’s paintings and books of cartoonlike couples and lonely figures seeking refuge in desolate hotel rooms are about as sentimental as Saturday Night Live’s version of TV news. If at least one of the characters in each work isn’t represented as a member of the dominated or demeaned, the one-line titles suggest a narrative sequence during which someone will become a member, whether forcefully or subtly. Applebroog’s satirical targets are men and women involved in stereotypically unequal sexual relationships, or individuals stricken with paranoia and self-doubt. They all inhabit not

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  • Robin Winters

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    ROBIN WINTERS is as disrespectful as Fischl and Salle in pursuit of unsettling differences. He can almost be charged with being too consistent in his inconsistency. Winters sees himself as a joker, engaged in a humorous, off-hand terrorism aimed at causing fissures and cracks in the ideological constraints which deny us the freedom we like to think we enjoy. As it suits him, he is by turns performer, impresario, writer, painter and sculptor. Defiantly, he is not any one thing. but whatever he does becomes an anarchic obsession, a disruption.

    His sensibility of excess is given form by the skimpiest

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  • Hollis Sigler

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    If Ida Applebroog is a soft-spoken commentator on urban affairs, then Hollis Sigler is a closet interpreter of suburban life. Her new series of paintings, “Poisoned,” depicts a set of unpopulated rooms cluttered with the tiny material objects and emotional residue of one dominant male who was “hungry for power,” and of one dominated woman who was “always devining [sic] to be loved.” Their mock-sentimental tale of woe, told through the delicate captions that are painted onto these paintings, is not nearly as interesting as the varying collections of tiny doll-sized objects that clutter the

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  • Leon Krier

    Max Protetch Gallery

    “The Reconstruction of the European City, 1967–1980” is a project of drawings and manifestos by Leon Krier; it is also an extraordinary critique of modern architecture, indeed of modern capitalism. The drawings show the European city (specifically Paris, West Berlin and Luxembourg) in detail and in total, in neo-Beaux Arts cityscapes and town plans. The “reconstruction” of each city is according to street, square and quartier (the prototype does seem to be pre-Hausmann Paris). More importantly, it calls for seeing the classical architectural mode as the only standard. Such, in brief, is the

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  • “Sequences”

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    “Sequences” is not a program like Krier’s “reconstruction”; it is an investigation of method. In the projects of five young architects we see how the sequence is used to (re)present and reflect on architectural activity. Bernard Tschumi, who curated the show, adds a Barthes-like essay on the concept of the sequence, which, he says, is basic to architecture “insofar as it allies notions of route as well as ritual, movement as well as method, program as well as narrative.” Many of the thoughts that follow are his.

    A sequence may be based on transformation—on a set of ordered and reordered elements.

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  • Charles Fahlen

    Frank Kolbert Gallery

    As seen in models, plans and photographs, the work of Charles Fahlen relates equally to site-specific sculpture of the present and commemorative sculpture of the past. Three of the five proposals here seem to be for public works in the conventional sense. These proposals—one for a J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial in Los Alamos, one entitled Major for the American Postal Workers House in Philadelphia, and one called General Grant for Chester Springs, Pennsylvania—all honor public figures or services in public places, and all allude to their subjects with their forms. For example, the cubistically

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  • Lewis Baltz

    Castelli Graphics

    Park City, Utah, was once a mining town and is now the site of a ski-resort development. It is a thoroughly used place. In 1978 and ’79 Lewis Baltz was there to record its development, and “Park City,” a portfolio of 102 photographs, is his record. As seen in these photos (which are free of any rhetorical protest), Park City’s physical dislocation is a psychological one as well.

    We first see Park City from above, but it appears as a panorama without prospect—as part landscape and part site. Our very introduction dislocates us. In the next photos we are down at the level of the site, but on its

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  • Patricia Johanson

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    If Lewis Baltz’s theme is Landscape Lost, Patricia Johanson’s is Landscape Regained. In drawings and models she renders natural forms (a leaf, a flower, a fern) as landscapes. “The leaf becomes the earth in microcosm,” she writes, and its design becomes that of the landscape, a topography. The result is not merely a leaf or a fern writ large: the grand scale turns the leaf into a site. Not only does the leaf (stem, veins, edge, etc.) become a thing like a cliff or terrace, island or bridge, but the whole should also evoke old ruins, Japanese gardens, burial mounds. One should not see the design;

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  • Michael Loew

    Marilyn Pearl Gallery

    To review Michael Loew’s paintings is to review, in précis, a tradition of modern painting, one that is based in Cubism and refined in neoplasticism. There are passages in the work, but the grid does not allow for revolutions. This latter observation is a criticism only if one assumes that development necessarily means refinement.

    At first a figure painter, Loew soon came under the influence of Mondrian. Even today he works from life—abstracts from figurative images to self-referential forms. Such a passage can be seen not only within the stages of each painting (as it proceeds from sketch to

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  • Janis Provisor

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Janis Provisor’s new paintings are both the largest and the most iconographically complicated she has made. One of two formats, either a 5 1/2- by 6-foot horizontal or 7- by 2 1/2-foot vertical canvas, and a monochromatic ground are common to all eight. Her palette is stridently up-to-date. It’s lush, acrid, neon- and fluorescent-derived, assuredly chemical, completely “artificial”: pink, turquoise, bright yellow, purple, red. She also uses lots of white and black. The surfaces of the paintings are equally as distinguished. Uniformly built up from edge to edge with modelling paste and gesso,

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  • Marian Zazeela

    Dia Art Foundation

    Marian Zazeela’s The Magenta Lights offers a particularly intriguing point of view, one located in the wondrous realm of spectral energy. She transforms material into pure and intense color sensations, and makes a perceptual encounter a spiritual experience. The Magenta Lights is an environmental piece in every sense of the word.

    The high, wide and handsome space of the former New York Mercantile Exchange Trading Floor, a landmark example of 19th-century American public architecture, with its massive standing columns and a catwalk extending halfway around the room, is totally empty except for a

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  • Lynn Hershman

    Annina Nosel Gallery

    Lynn Hershman is a California-based artist whose various activities include environmental projects, photography, film, and narrative printed matter. This group of works clearly represents her interests, which center around cultural and sociological issues. Among the examples on view, the ones dealing with fashion and American heroes are the most provocative. In this group, collaged and painted photographs are manipulated to comment critically and in some cases humorously on America’s collective aspirations, as defined by the mass media. One of Hershman’s favorite topics—judging by the fictional

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  • Michael Kirby

    Seoul, Korea: Duk Moon Publishing Company

    Photoanalysis: A Structuralist Play is a re-creation, in book form, of a play by Michael Kirby, first performed in November, 1976. Kirby, who is best-known for his involvement with Happenings and avant-garde theater since the late ’60s, chose a dramatic format in which three actors—a man and two women, positioned respectively in the center and on the two sides of the performance space—spoke directly to the audience and illustrated their words with a series of black-and-white slides projected onto screens behind them. The actors spoke alternately, each showing slides that related to his or her

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  • Rita Myers

    The Kitchen

    Since the mid ’70s, Rita Myers has been integrating sound, videotapes and sculptural forms into installations that probe the intangible aspects of the tangible world. Investigation/Observations, 1975, for instance, re-created an ordinary room that nonetheless was imbued with mystery when cited as the scene of an unspecified crime; Barricade to Blue, 1977, featured two female actors in an installation that examined the complex emotional knots underlying human identity and relationships. In her latest work, Dancing In The Land Where Children Are The Light, Myers extended her explorations of the

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  • Robert Frank

    Light Gallery

    The Robert Frank exhibition, which is of “Unpublished Vintage Prints,” shows what a pitiless and smart editor of his own work Frank was. Several years ago Frank sold a large body of that work to a company which has since been selling the prints to dealers. Frank did this so that he would have both the time and the money to pursue the career as a filmmaker for which he gave up still photography 20 years ago. But the arrangement leaves the dealers free to exploit the Frank archive, to show and offer for sale work such as we see here—the work Frank himself decided against when he was the one doing

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  • Wright Morris

    Witkin Gallery

    Wright Morris is a photographer not unlike Robert Frank in temperament. So was Walker Evans. Evans often said that photography is by nature a literary art, or at least an art for which a literary turn of mind provides a ready instinct. Morris is of course more celebrated as a writer than a photographer. (His current novel, Plains Song, has been nominated for an American Book Award this year.) And it was through writing that he originally turned to photography. When he came back from a year in Europe in 1934, he kept a journal that soon moved from his trip and the present to reminiscences of the

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  • W. Eugene Smith

    Photograph Gallery

    One cannot help admiring W. Eugene Smith, who was a man of extraordinary integrity and courage. That does not mean I have to like his photographs, though. I think that it’s possible to have too much character, too resolute and clear a vision of human experience. Art, at least, requires something less positive. A little ambivalence is helpful. In order to be worth reading later, even the memoirs of a saint have to be full of doubt, dissipation and all the other complexities of real life that come before the conversion. The greatest photographers to me—Eugene Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans,

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