reviews

  • “California Billboards”

    New York City

    “California Billboards,” sponsored by the Eyes and Ears Foundation in San Francisco, Fashion Moda, and the Public Art Fund in New York, consisted of seven billboards by artists, put up in different sections of New York with technical assistance from Foster and Kleiser Outdoor Advertising. All of the artists involved in the project are or have been based in California, and the painted canvases mounted on billboards around the city were originally commissioned by the Eyes and Ears Foundation for an outdoor exhibition on the West Coast. The artists were Karen Carson, Sri Chinmoy, Jack Frost, Masashi

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  • “Disney Animations And Animators”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Walt Disney at the Whitney promised the sunniest of meetings between popular and high culture. At last, the Diaghilev of animation was getting his entrepreneurial due. Walt Disney, after all, set standards against which animation is still measured, established a formula for family entertainment that held together for the better part of 50 years, and produced a body of work that is unrivaled in its ability to transcend the cultural and political differences of a global audience. His animation is as calculated as a NASA space probe, but the embraceable reality of his characters and the sentimental

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  • “Magazine Covers”

    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

    If you’ve ever bought a magazine because of its cover, then “Magazine Covers,” a fascinating survey of the development of this form of graphic expression, is for you. The show includes more than 140 examples of American and Western European publications from the last hundred years, and it reveals how magazine covers have responded directly and immediately to changing styles in art, to fads, and to shifts in reading habits. Magazines are very much creatures of capitalism, filling an industrialized culture’s need to know and reinforcing its understanding of information as power. Magazines also

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  • “Group Show,” “The New Dimension: Traditional Artists And Photography”

    Daniel Wolf, Inc., Prakapas Gallery

    Group shows. I hate them. And “Group Show,” was a perfect example of why. It contained 60 photographs by 36 contemporary photographers. There were silver prints, platinum prints, salt prints, and color prints. Most of them were by people about whom even the gallery knew precious little. What can you do with a show like this? Nothing. It’s chaos. There was too much material for me to get my mind around the whole exhibition, and too little to allow me to concentrate on any one photographer. Going from image to image, I felt as if I were picking lint.

    The motives for putting on such a show include,

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  • “‘I Shall Save One Land Unvisited’: Eleven Southern Photographers”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    The main thing that “‘I shall Save One Land Unvisited’” had over the shows at Wolf and Prakapas was that there were half a dozen to a dozen images by each of the 11 photographers included. It may be that I liked this show better not because the photographers in it were better, but simply because there were enough pictures by each to let me make a judgment. I know that I don’t like the photographs by John Menapace, around whom this show was organized, but I am moved by some of the other imagery in the show. Menapace’s photographs are a tribute to a dead son—the show’s title is a line spoken by

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  • “Selected 19th Century Images”

    Photograph

    Like “The New Dimension,” the show at Photograph was a historical one that contained, in many cases, only one or two examples of a photographer’s work. Most of the photographers are so well-known, at least to regular gallery-goers, that a show like this could get away with such abbreviation. (Still problematic is what could be made of the show by summer visitors who came as novices hoping to learn something about the history of photography. They left the gallery, I suspect, with their eyes rolling around in their heads.) Nonetheless, while 90 images by a dozen photographers is more tolerable as

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  • Jacob Riis

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    There’s a poem by Robert Frost that goes, in its entirety,

    We dance around in a ring and

    suppose,

    But the Secret sits in the middle

    and knows.

    Jacob Riis’ photographs occupy the middle position in modern photography, though there’s a question about how knowing Riis himself was. The central place his work holds is that not of the secret, but the paradox. No photographs embody the quirky, zany modern esthetic better than his do, or earlier. And no photographer could have been more oblivious to esthetic issues in photography. If Riis was aware of art in photography at all, it was in a purely negative

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  • Robert Moskowitz

    Hudson River Museum

    To say that Robert Moskowitz has shifted from a Platonic idealism to a phenomenological concreteness is no doubt tantamount to walking around with an unusually big and tempting chip on one’s shoulder; yet that does seem the most accurate way of describing Moskowitz’s recent output.

    The rear end of a car and an X (Cadillac/Chopsticks); a building and a cross (Wrigley Building); a cane and a hat (Retirement Painting)—the works from 1975–78 feature objects such as these floating in canvas space. This unanchored quality suggests the image seen in the mind’s eye, since only there can form be apprehended

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  • “Tableaux”

    Wave Hill

    This year’s concept for the annual outdoor sculpture show on the Wave Hill estate was “Tableaux,” a galvanizing choice because of what it excludes. One: kinetic, ecological, and participatory art—because a tableau seems to require stasis and, as participants Robert Longo and Scott Burton both mentioned in their statements, frontality and framing, thereby discouraging physical interaction between environment, viewer, and piece. Two: abstract art—because of the premodern associations of the term.

    Although these offerings neither actively engage the environment nor efface themselves in front of it,

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  • Sculpture Garden

    Ward’s Island

    First of all, it’s hard to compete with the freshness of Wave Hill. Secondly, when the genii loci are outcasts, as are the psychiatric patients on Ward’s Island (however pleasant it would be to pretend that visitors to and inmates in these hospital grounds comprise one big family), and when the bucolic aspects of the place itself are overshadowed by the steel girders of the Triborough Bridge and by industrial structures of vague import, you fight a sense of purlieu panic just in visiting the other annual outdoor sculpture show. But, thirdly, when the art does little to capitalize on this edginess

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  • “New Directors/New Films”

    Museum of Modern Art and Film Society of Lincoln Center

    Cynical folks might say that any film series curatorially committed to the plight of the international underdog must wallow in liberal platitudes. Fortunately, some of the movies included in last spring’s “New Directors/New Films” series (cosponsored by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center) helped to remedy this cynic’s jaundiced eye. In lieu of reiterating high-minded but familiar rallying cries for human liberation, nearly half of the 14 films included reflect upon intricate social ironies in calm tones and cool styles, through characters and situations that are far

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  • Wendy Clarke

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Since 1977, Wendy Clarke has made over 800 videotapes (some in color, but most in black-and-white) of people talking about their feelings on love. An edited selection of these “Love Tapes,” each a three-minute monologue by a person sitting alone before a camera, was on view at MoMA.

    In Clarke’s recordings, men and women from various age, ethnic, and societal groups display romanticism and cynicism, hope and despair; some tell of specific relationships, others discuss various kinds of love, and still others speak about love in social or even metaphysical terms. Several people present during my

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