reviews

  • Mark Cohen

    Marlborough | Midtown

    In several instances, photographers in “The New Color” also had one-man shows at galleries. Mark Cohen’s show didn’t duplicate any imagery at ICP, though, because everything in it was black and white. Cohen’s photographs are like random violence. They’re seemingly unprovoked, unexpected assaults on their subjects. Using a flash and working in so close that he seldom gets a whole figure in the frame, Cohen produces pictures that look almost jagged. They look menacingly incomplete, like a broken bottle. Yet in spite of their fragmentation, the pictures are all of a piece. His subjects are usually

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  • “In And Out Of Power”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Throughout the past year Carol Squiers, curator of photography exhibitions at P.S. 1, has been attempting an interesting if sometimes maddening discourse on photography and its uses, without resorting to the restraints imposed by a written text. She has been using a room at P.S. 1 to stage exhibitions of the work of career photographers and of artists who use photography, interspersed with idiosyncratic selections of pictures from the mass media—mostly advertising and news. The resultant interplay of images and devices, freed from the formalities of an academic essay, has been fruitful, allowing

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  • Forrest Bess

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Artists and critics have long sought validation from wildmen, have looked for authority from the primitive and the unschooled. It was with madmen and saints that they hoped to find the key to an authentic expression. So it is interesting that the Whitney should choose this moment to revive the work of Forrest Bess, a Texas primitive who died four years ago. Interesting because of the current upsurge of pseudo-expressionism, and interesting because it demonstrates an apparent curatorial misunderstanding that might just prove to have gotten things right.

    Bess, to put it mildly, was an eccentric.

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  • Alexander Liberman

    Andre Emmerich

    From the unschooled to the over-schooled, from the oversexed to the bloodless. There is really not much to say about work like Alexander Liberman’s, since it has been emptied so relentlessly of all meaning. Eschewing all reference but the depiction of space, the work is supposed to stand on its formal qualities alone, but even these are revealed as easy gestures and easier shapes. There is no transcendent beauty here, no significant form (though we are meant to believe there is)—only the banal doodlings of a decorator sadly lacking in wit.

    The paintings here were of bright, unmixed acrylic paint

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  • Vernon Fisher

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    “Snow” is the key word in Vernon Fisher’s new triptychs of texts and images. Snow, the natural phenomenon, appears as the manifest content of two of the narratives. In one an unfortunate child, never prepared for “sharing time” in school, finally demonstrates snow by crumbling Kleenex; in another snowflakes fall, as big as “trashcan lids” and as “transparent” as “jellyfish.” Snow, the technological phenomenon—interference on your TV set—forms the latent content of all the pieces: Fisher’s use of texts superimposed on photo-derived images, each obscuring the other, invokes bad reception on the

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  • Barbara Schwartz

    Willard Gallery

    Perhaps it’s the shift from her past references to the body to her present references to the spirit that makes me nostalgic for Barbara Schwartz’s earlier reliefs. Maybe she wouldn’t even know what I’m talking about. What shift? If the titles are to be taken as in any way indicative, these new works have for Schwartz the same kinds of connotations as the old.

    Maybe so, but the sources of those titles have always been somewhat obscure. Unlike the source for the work itself: as Jeff Perrone once noted, the pieces from the middle ’70s are “humanized,” specifically, sexualized. They feature clefts,

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  • Richard Pousette-Dart

    Marisa Del Re Gallery

    Mystic or not, Richard Pousette-Dart makes some of the most sensuous paintings to be seen these days. And this at a time when there must be more paint per inch of exhibited canvas than ever before in history. Tom Wolfe once joked about getting out rulers to determine who was the flattest minimalist of all. Now that the situation is reversed, we’re going to need yardsticks. Pousette-Dart uses a lot of paint, too. At times the pebbles of pigment (yes, this is pointillist technique) grow so dense you find yourself checking the floor to see if any have been knocked off yet. He doesn’t, however, fall

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  • “The New Color”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    Just as information, “The New Color” is a welcome show. A few years ago, color suddenly gained a new acceptance. The breakthrough was the show that John Szarkowski gave William Eggleston at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976. After that, old-timers who had been working in color—Harry Callahan, for instance, and Helen Levitt—received new attention. And a couple of younger photographers who were already using color, Joel Meyerowitz and Stephen Shore, quickly established themselves as the premier color view-camera photographers. “The New Color,” which appeared originally at the Everson Museum in

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  • Joel Sternfeld

    Daniel Wolf

    The Sternfeld pictures at Daniel Wolf do include all those in “The New Color,” and a couple of dozen more. Sternfeld does the nearly impossible: he uses a plate camera for candid photography. Just by attempting this he predisposes me to like his work, or at least to be sympathetic to it. But he does something with his plate camera that’s even more absurd, and rather inspired. He covers news stories. This is not just a gimmick. It makes a conceptual statement about photography, the kind of original statement that has sometimes been the beginning point for a photographer’s greatest work. The

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  • Leo Rubinfien

    Castelli Graphics

    Last, and perhaps least, is Leo Rubinfien. He definitely deserves to be in the company of the other young photographers I’ve praised, though I do have some reservations about the approach he’s been taking to color. The scenes in Rubinfien’s best photographs are smitten by light, felled at a blow before his camera. The effect is of a world that is picturesque, yet vaguely troubling. The light is at the same time both beautiful and queer. In Rubinfien’s case, however, the larger selection of pictures in the gallery show made him look a weaker photographer than he seemed in “The New Color.” Maybe

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  • Donald Judd

    Various Venues

    It is not so much a period of Mannerism that we are seeing in the arts as one that bears some resemblance to the Reconstruction era, complete with carpetbaggers, furious enterprise, fast luck, and sudden switches—reason enough to question any sense of elation at seeing recent work by an imposing and steadfast Minimalist like Donald Judd. But Judd’s giant new sculpture of plywood stacks was his most comprehensive, fluent work to date, and one that demonstrated just about every structural theme he ever devised with a magnanimity that he has not before seemed motivated or interested by.

    Judd’s

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  • Trisha Brown Company

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    Trisha Brown’s choreography has long pursued the kinds of structuring possibilities which have compelled Donald Judd: accumulating patterns: the establishment of rhythm and character (both of design and of dancers) through serial repetition of what appears to be simple, affectless motion. She too has developed earlier atavistic forms to a new expansiveness. Until now, for instance, she has largely avoided music to preclude associative colorations; that she commissioned Robert Ashley to score Son of Gone Fishin’ indicates that, like Judd, she is in consummate control of her technique and her

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  • “Developments In Recent Sculpture”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    This show looked at the ’70s, the decade of pluralism, with works by Lynda Benglis, Scott Burton, Donna Dennis, John Duff, and Alan Saret. All of the artists belong to the generation that reacted against Minimalism, hitting it where it hurt the most: where Minimalism said that sculpture should be abstract and regular in shape—think of Donald Judd’s boxes or Carl Andre’s squares—Lynda Benglis said that sculpture could be abstract and wildly irregular. Where Minimalism said that it was all right for sculpture to have and to stress the qualities of objects and things, Scott Burton said that sculpture

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  • Dike Blair

    Stefanotti Gallery

    Dike Blair’s works from 1980–81 are more strikingly aggressive about painterly and architectural qualities than those that directly preceded them. The six examples here, like the earlier ones, are made of acrylics and enamels poured and sprayed onto different materials—paper, Masonite, and glass are favorites; they are installed, similarly, flush against the wall with Velcro. But the earlier work toned down color, played up the competition among the multiple parts of the compositions, and asked the question, “Is it painting, sculpture, or pictorial construction?” The pieces in the present group

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  • Richard Bosman

    Brooke Alexander

    Richard Bosman’s new paintings are ugly like a Mickey Spillane novel is ugly. They’re mannered, gutsy, and intoxicated with the poetry of vernacular violence. Scenes of escalated mayhem are thickly painted with mean, muddy colors—lots of yucky gray and blue and red. The jagged intensity of the figures, all of which are caught in moments of impending or resolved brutality, is reminiscent of the alienated Expressionism of Edvard Munch. Bosman doesn’t have Munch’s cathartic sense of subject—he’s still thumping away on the bass where Munch fine-tuned the treble; and the work can be a little dippy

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  • Jeff Way

    Pam Adler

    Elvis and Jesus: that’s electric. The King of Rock ’n’ Roll meets the Man from Galilee for a cosmic revival. Whatever Presley’s private hell may have been, his public piety never faltered; he gloried in gospel, and, when he sang to Jesus, it felt real. Even toward the end, with his melting-butter body cinched by a Bible Belt of a corset, Presley could still turn an upholstered Vegas sewer into a dusty revival tent in Tennessee.

    Jeff Way’s “Elvis and Jesus” show was an intelligent coupling of god and God. Not corny, not smartass, not easy. It could have been all of those things; instead, it was

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  • Justen Ladda

    Fashion Moda

    Comic-book characters are a staple of American childhood. Boldly drawn, garishly colored heroes and villains people the imaginations of American children, crossing all barriers of class and race. Monster comics represent the darker, subconscious side of the mythology; the monster is usually a hero, goodness personified at heart but frightful to look upon. Justen Ladda’s rendering of the Marvel comic-book character “The Thing,” presented in conjunction with Fashion Moda in the South Bronx, is a phantasmagoric site piece that encompasses these archetypal childhood mythologies as well as the

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  • Vanalyne Green

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Vanalyne Green’s latest performance, a 30-minute-long piece about job alienation and sexual discrimination entitled This Is Where I Work, took place in lower Manhattan in the lobby of the Federal Hall Building on Wall Street. Green transplanted organizing and consciousness-raising techniques developed by feminist artists like Judy Chicago and Suzanne Lacy in Southern California (where she lived until recently) and used them with a New York audience composed, in large measure, of white-collar workers from the financial district. She attracted a large number of people on lunch breaks by stationing

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  • Nineteenth New York Film Festival

    Public Art Fund | Lincoln Center

    The somewhat lackluster 19th New York Film Festival proved to be an unstable amalgam of “quality” French auteurs (Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Bertrand Blier, Louis Malle), independent documentaries, docu-drama factoids, and jingoistic piety (Chariots of Fire). Strictly in terms of film form, the festival did nothing to reverse the conservative trend of the past six years: the most conventionally successful movie was Contract, Krzyzstof Zanussi’s antibourgeois comedy of ill manners, and a model of bourgeois filmmaking. Two of the factoids—Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron (Polish workers forming

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  • John Torreano

    Hamilton Gallery

    Torreano’s abstract jewel works glittered like kitsch skies full of stars; now he has given shape to those skies by delineating constellations and galaxies on his canvases, which have titles like Orion and Helix Nebula. Those new paintings that do not refer to the galaxies refer in another way to the heavens: wooden cruciforms, studded with jewels and glass, bear such titles as Irish Cross and Diamontes en la Cruz. This incorporation of “imagery” may seem like a grand departure, but it is really more a camp meditation on the metaphorical possibilities of the jewel. What, after all, could be more

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  • Ger Van Elk

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Among artists who use photographs, the Dutchman Ger van Elk has a particular role. He was one of the early focussed practitioners: at the end of the ’60s, when his compatriot Jan Dibbets began his perspective corrections and Conceptualists flocked to a new-found tool, van Elk was already at his work. But he was never the medium’s convert. For him photography was not an “accurate” means but one of sharp transmission—a medium whose realist pretensions and cultural force made it both usable and suspect. He juxtaposed it in his work with other modes of image-making, playing different representations

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  • Carl Andre

    Seagram Plaza

    A view of siting in the urban environment is provided at Seagram Plaza, where Carl Andre has arranged 100 blocks, each 18 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches, into a small rectangular solid. The blocks are soft grey granite hewn from the quarries of Andre’s native Quincy, Massachusetts; the sculpture is entitled Fermion, in reference to the first nuclear-fission experiments conducted by Enrico Fermi in 1942. In a prepared statement Andre has stated his aim of counteracting, in all his work, this new and frightening historical relation by assembling “at a certain point in space and time, a critical

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