reviews

  • Willard Boepple

    Acquavella Contemporary Art

    During the ’70s Willard Boepple made sculptures from welded steel, cutting, bending, tearing, and, finally, arranging shapes in formally complex configurations. The works were based in a structural rhetoric by which spatial frameworks were built from counterpoints of rhyming and discordant parts. Some articulated inner space, stressing the century’s great sculptural discovery, while others were constructions of massed planes that accented solid rather than void. But all were allied by their internal complexity, favoring part-to-part over simple relations in the manner of the Bennington School.

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  • Gerald Incandela

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Gerald Incandela works in the kind of photographic idiom that won’t remain within “normative” conditions, but always pushes toward art. Or toward painting, because the changes crafted through superimposed negatives, cubistic layered planes, textural flourishes, and the strokes of undeveloped fixative masking the edges of these unique prints all move toward its illusionary realm. Yet the photograph is Incandela’s origin and end point, as his artifices both extend and critically return us to the camera eye. His images chip away at monocular vision, stressing the falsity of perspective before seeing

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  • John Gutmann

    Castelli Graphic

    When John Gutmann fled Nazi Germany to settle in San Francisco in 1933, he began working at photo journalism, disseminating images first to a German public (through the Presse-Photo agency in Berlin), and later in American and European magazines (through contract with New York’s Pix). At the time Gutmann was a neophyte—a jobless painter with an unused camera, a hungry mouth, and an unerring eye. He recorded America in all its diversity, focusing on ethnic groups and automobiles, on Depression breadlines and parades, on graffiti, gambling dens, and the native surrealism of the streets. But one

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  • Christof Kohlhofer

    Max Protetch

    Christof Kohlhofer is a master of reverberant collisions. His imagery releases an exhilarating stream of consciousness which courses through popular culture, “high” art, current affairs, consumerism, politics, and the hagiography of crime. A seemingly expansive sentimentality acts as bait for what is ultimately revealed as mordant social satire, the essence of which conforms to what Samuel Johnson termed “discordia concors: a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.” One senses in Kohlhofer an artist reveling in the programmatic abandon

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  • Earl Staley

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    In the New Museum’s “Bad” Painting catalogue from 1978, Marcia Tucker relates an anecdote concerning a visit that she and others made to Earl Staley’s Houston studio: “When we left the studio, one of the visitors commented that his work ‘needs editing’ in order for one to see and appreciate it.” Wandering through Staley’s recent show, I could sympathize with that anonymous visitor’s reluctance to commit. The selection of work ranged from 1977 to 1981, and while it is definitely of a body (his pointy, jaw-intensive characterizations and hyper-Latin palette are highly distinctive), the focus of

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  • Frank Young

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    At last . . . real expressionist paintings. Just when everything from graffiti to a faucet with a drip is being described as expressionistic, there arrives a body of work that recalls the earlier, uncompromised meaning of the word. Frank Young’s paintings have a raw intensity that seems wrenched from a truly uncensored impulse. His six large canvases (most of them roughly eight by six feet), convey a sense of gestural violence only barely held in check by a mediating figurative concern. The surface quality is lush and, odd as it may sound, sophisticated. Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, and Willem

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  • Georg Baselitz

    Various Venues

    Georg Baselitz’ “upside-down” paintings have lately engendered some peculiar critical responses in this country, for different reasons than they have in Germany. Several New York publications have summarily dismissed Baselitz on the grounds of this “conceit” or “gimmick” of his: a glib parallel was made to the art-school cliché of turning paintings upside down “the better to see their form”; one critic admitted to virtually standing on her head in the gallery and came up with the conclusion that the work was “less interesting’ seen from that angle. If the German ”national character“ has typically

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  • Martin Silverman

    Hamilton Gallery

    Martin Silverman’s sculpture is positioned at the cutting edge of a peculiarly American morality. His human figures, modeled in clay, cast in bronze with patinas, are always shown in action and have the earthbound, clubby look that our popular culture has deemed fit for prototypes of national innocence: the baggy-suited men in Frank Capra movies, Gene Kelly’s sailors, the figures in WPA bas-reliefs. But Silverman manages to subvert our expectations of public propriety without attempting to subvert the innocence of his subjects.

    Eden is a little girl in pigtails and dress, sitting in a typically

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  • Barry Gerson

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Arteries can harden and get clogged. Not Barry Gerson’s Arteries, though—meaning in this installation of film and sculpture is so fluid as to make the work virtually hemophilic: at the least poke it leaks out all over the place. That “arterial” may denote “a channel with many branches,” according to Webster, seems appropriate. When puzzling out the implications of the work, the viewer is faced with so many choices of indeterminate outcome that it’s possible to lose all sense of direction and end up going in circles, like the blood in the body human, which stars in this spectacle. Could that be

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  • Michelle Stuart

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    For all of those who shuddered every time Ramar stepped out of the clearing around his house and into the jungle, Michelle Stuart’s Correspondences is reassuring armchair exploration—of the Yucatan rather than Africa, however. Palms and bamboos are contained in burlap bags and silver-painted baskets; the potentially hackle-raising chatter of monkeys, insects, and parrots is defused by the soothing voice of a narrator and the lull of flutey, Mayan music. The lights are low, and, while sitting on the chairs provided, you face a wall of what appear to be terra-cotta tiles inset with two images: on

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  • William T. Wiley

    Allan Frumkin Gallery

    Maybe because I have not spent enough time on the West Coast, William Wiley’s work just looks tiresome to me. I know it is supposed to be funny, but it demands so much work that all the fun is gone by the time you get to the punchline. You have to look at a lot of stuff, decipher a lot of scribbling, and the returns just are not all that rewarding. We are supposed to think kindly of Wiley’s productions, taking them as down-home shaggy dog stories which deflate high-art pretensions. But their dogged quaintness is a pretension, and a sentimental one, for these works seem relentlessly coy in their

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  • A.R. Penck

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Pictograms are often considered to have a sacred quality, and art that contains them is often treated with a special respect. This is because these signs are seen as primitive marks only part way to writing; they are seen to stand in a closer relation to the world they represent, to be more truthful, more original. Since few genuinely preliterate societies survive today, the holy moment before the advent of writing is now sought in the drawings of children, madmen, and “inspired” artists; it is there that our poets now seek the real.

    The paintings of A.R. Penck seem to participate in this kind

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  • Joe Zucker

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    In Joe Zucker’s new painting series, “Combinations,” patterns amount to considerably more than mere patterns. In these 15 works hung frame to frame, which dramatically overcome the gallery space, arms and boxing gloves jump and converge lyrically. The subject, a 15-round boxing match, is immediately clear from the red gloves and arms that appear in most of the pictures; but Zucker’s forms are silhouettes, two-dimensional abstract shapes that emphasize surface and are painted in a limited, repetitive palette. Zucker further accentuates the importance of surface by using heavy Rho-plex, painting

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  • Salomé

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Salomé’s painting is much more expressionistic than Zucker’s, but he, like Zucker, depicts frenetic situations lyrically, and in a style devoid of personal emotionalism. In his new canvases Salomé’s figures are more detailed than in previous work, but no more individual. Naked male figures, in groups of five or six, twist, bend, and posture in what could be either joy or pain. An occasional figure will appear walking, looking over his shoulder and wearing pants; and a leaping, clothed figure, shown from the back, appears in more than one painting. Space is distorted; the figures are piled on

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