reviews

  • William Copley

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Through 1980 and ’81, a retrospective of William Copley’s paintings bounced from the Kunsthalle in Bern to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris to the Stedelijk in Eindhoven. It was a prestigious circuit, especially for an American artist who has yet to have an institutional show in his own country. It’s not hard to understand the reason for Copley’s neglect at the hands of American curators—the work is simply too naughty, a quality not sought after by public trusts. (I can’t think of one naughty painting in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, but there are several in the Barnes collection in

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  • “Illegal America”

    Franklin Furnace

    Artists have been committing illegal actions for years, in chosen as well as unexpected contexts. Some of these have been basically generic, stemming from the artist’s role as the agent of free expression—the one who stands apart from, and opposed to, society’s institutionalized codes. Yet others have developed from esthetic aims, or have arisen almost inadvertently through the artistic magnification of unforeseen yet deeply inhering transgressions.

    In this show curator Jeanette Ingberman set out to survey the field of criminal esthetics and to raise, in the process, certain questions about

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  • “Art Lobby”

    Three Lower Manhattan Banks

    Censorship, though not directly partaking of this “discourse of illegality,” does implicate some of the same terms, since it reflects institutional opinion. It was recently activated in this well arranged and not uninteresting show which placed temporary projects by four politically active artists in the public areas (lobbies and windows) of three downtown Manhattan banks. The show was organized in cooperation with the banks; conceived by artist Jacki Apple nearly a year ago and coordinated by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, it was a model of lucid preparation. I, for one, received copious

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  • Harmony Hammond

    Lerner-Heller Gallery

    For several years Harmony Hammond has been making bulky sculptures out of ladderlike wood and metal forms wrapped in cloth and covered in Rhoplex. She paints them and groups them against gallery walls with a striking awareness of physical presences. Their textures, sizes, shapes, and colors suggest human forms with the subtlety and wit of an artist who has developed a highly economical style. Lucy Lippard wrote a year ago that “buried” in these forms is a militant feminist consciousness (which Hammond herself has articulated in writing); Lippard’s choice of the word “buried” is appropriate.

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  • James Welling

    Metro Pictures

    On entering James Welling’s show, I came to a photograph that seemed a little obscure. The top three-fourths of it were absolutely black, so nothing could be made of that part of it at all. And across the bottom there was a field of . . . or no, perhaps it was more like an activation, or even a manipulation. Whatever it was, it was white, a broken pattern of whiteness—snow on a mountain, lightning in a vacuum tube, angel dust in a crumpled glassine envelope. It occurred to me that it might just be some game Welling was up to in the darkroom. Maybe he had scratched an unexposed negative with a

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  • “Statements: Leading Contemporary Artists from France”

    Various Venues

    The whole exhibition was self-congratulatory and bureaucratic; it was a first-class example of administered culture. There was no way of separating its bureaucratic form from its artistic content, which was not only “distorted” by its management, but determined by it. But then what would “undistorted” art be, since every content is mediated by some social structure, organized by some legitimating institution? The point in this exhibition of French art, however, was that most of the art readily lends itself to its institutionalization as culture, its exhibition in government-appointed, “official”

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  • Lothar Lambert

    Collective for Living Cinema

    The Nightmare Woman is the purported story of Ulrike S., an actress plagued since childhood by a disfiguring squint. To rectify her figure, Beate M., as the actress is named in this film, undergoes four operations which she hopes will alleviate her imperfection and remove her from the churning vat of misery and despair which she finds herself splashing around in. But nothing helps. Her ex-husband was a grizzly animal who pawed her with the insistence of a neurotic dog. Her current “lover” watches television. Her younger son treats her with contempt, and his brother lavishes her with an empathy

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  • Michael Hurson

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Michael Hurson’s portrait drawings ought to be the easiest things to write about, so sociable, so garrulous do they appear. But they are not easy to write about at all. I think (and the tentativeness that is at the heart of Hurson’s work enforces a reciprocal uncertainty) that this is because the drawings are somehow fugitive, so almost not there that the crude formulations of critical language seem overbearing, threatening to lock them within impossibly immobile interpretations.

    What is most remarkable about Hurson’s work is its fluidity. It is not simply that he is extremely fluent in his means,

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  • John Clark

    49th Parallel

    If Hurson’s work has a deceptive appearance, seeming less ambitious than it really is, then something similar might be said of the paintings of John Clark. But the terms should be reversed. The paintings look ambitious, they are big, bright, confident in their painterliness; but they are extremely timid in conception.

    At their best they are recordings of local detail—a doorframe, perhaps, or the silhouette of an old-fashioned factory standing against the sky. Local detail with a certain nostalgic blush to it, a sentimentality emphasized by the lush paint as much as by the schematic allusion to

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  • “This Side of Paradise”

    Concord Contemporary Art

    At a time when style is vexed by the specter of its own superfluity, artists’ impulses toward universality must find some other anchor, some other point of departure from which to speak. Religious mythology provides a foothold in tradition, arbitrating the artwork’s passage from personal to public speech. Though Western art in this century has spoken a primarily secular language, it longs to carry the cultural and psychological weight provided by the narratives and symbolism of the Old and New Testaments, as this recent show amply proved. The six artists exhibited approached their subject in a

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