• Eric Fischl

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    For me, Eric Fischl realizes the goal of the Real Life movement more successfully than Lawson. Fischl exposes the media fiction of eroticism by confronting it with its own implicit possibility of perversion. In comparison, Lawson’s exposé of the social fiction of personal tragedy is tentative. One might say that Fischl’s “casting” and sense of social texture, as reflected in his “lurid” handling as well as in his scenes, are more pointed than Lawson’s. Lawson does not really grasp the sordidness of the American type; he doesn’t have Fischl’s flair for the sleazy and vicious, but rather a once

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  • Anselm Kiefer

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The breadth and ambition of his vision, the operatic themes, the obsession with territory, the materials, the utter wilfulness in his sense of mission place the art of Anselm Kiefer at a turbulent point between latter-day earthworks and the oratorical landscapes and histories of, say, J.M.W. Turner. Kiefer is very much a painter—essentially a painter of landscapes, a fact that is evident in the composition and physicality of surface in virtually every piece in this fair-sized exhibition, in a smaller one here last year, and in two recent, extensive ones at the Museum Folkwang in Essen and at

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  • Mario Merz

    Sperone Westwater Fischer

    Mario Merz’s most recent exhibition in New York suggested concept fatigue and a certain loss of faith. Since he became known in Europe during the mid-’60s along with others associated with Arte Povera, Merz has constructed his art from a belief whose deities are a concrete materiality and an abstract, ethics-imbued organizing principle. This principle has developed in an additive way according to an expansive blueprint for which Kurt Schwitters’ never-completed Merzbau provides a structural paradigm, and whose “rooms” are filled with Jungian echoes, Fibonacci’s 13th-century mathematical model

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  • David Salle

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Two of the twenty-one paintings shown by David Salle here loomed large in this three-gallery show of the artist’s work over the last two years. Both follow Salle’s most characteristic diptych format and grab-bag deployment of Modern allusions, are possessed of an easy, spoiled beauty (cold with the sense of lost innocence), and are utterly, self-consciously sentimental. Titled The Monotonous Language and We’ll Shake the Bag, the first has for its primary focus a gynecological perspective of the nude, and the second is of nudes in situ, under bedsheets. Both paintings are also quite small. Salle’s

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  • Nancy Arlen

    Stefanotti Gallery

    This exhibition of new work showed Nancy Arlen to be one of the most visionary artists of the ’80s. The pieces are in cast polyester resin and are made according to the pouring process that Arlen has developed over the last few years; she transforms liquid polyester and various coloring materials (resins, glitters, Mylar, pigments) into a new category of dynamic, palpable, thoroughly contemporary art objects.

    Compared to earlier series such as the “Auras” or the “Motifs,” the present group is bigger, bolder, and even more mysterious, though no less graceful or elegant. Three Roses, 1982, for

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  • Richard Thompson

    Monique Knowlton

    Richard Thompson is one of the few younger American figurative painters to find his own stylistic way in the precarious terrain between illustration and metaphor. His ability to get down and across ideas in images was strikingly displayed in this group of recent paintings and watercolors from the ambitious series, “The Ancestor’s Dream—A Mythic Journey.”

    This work involves Thompson’s questionings about his Oregon farm roots and his speculations about his pioneer ancestors. What we see is a starkly simplified vision of reality in general and of the Great American Pioneer Story in particular—forest

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  • “Russian Samizdat Art 1960–1982”

    Franklin Furnace

    Samizdat means “self-published” in the Soviet Union, and Samizdat art consists mainly of books and magazines published and distributed by the same artists and/or poets who made them. This exhibition, showing over a hundred works by about thirty artists, was curated and designed by artists Rimma and Valery Gerlovin; it successfully revealed the strikingly intellectual, imaginative, and serious, but simultaneously playful, character of this important and vital expression of contemporary Russian art.

    It is helpful to consider this material in the peculiar publishing context of the Soviet Union. The

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  • “The Atomic Cafe”

    Film Forum

    In Reflections, published in the New Yorker (February 1, 8, and 15, 1982), Jonathan Schell writes that “The right vantage point from which to view a [nuclear] holocaust is that of a corpse, but from that vantage point, of course, there is nothing to report.” For the mass detonation of nuclear warheads would result in the almost total annihilation of not only human life, but of nearly all forms of life on earth. There would be no reportage on evacuation procedures, no emergency health-care centers, no radio or television transmission of civil defense information. Just the simplicity of nothingness;

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  • “The Vietnam Experience”

    Arsenal Gallery Annex

    “The Vietnam Experience,” an exhibit of work by Vietnam veterans and Vietnamese emigres, closed on December 6, 1981. I wanted to write something about it back then, but couldn’t. Part of the problem was that the show really had very little to do with art. More than that, I felt stuck for something to say that would make sense of my totally emotional response to it. Well, time has passed and I’m still back where I was in December except that I’m convinced of the need to honor the importance of the effort and the potency of the accomplishment.

    Now as then, I am hard put to single out one piece of

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  • Helmut Newton

    Marlborough | Midtown

    In Emile Zola’s Nana, the critic Fauchery pens a vitriolic article for Le Figaro in which he likens the fabulous whore of a heroine to a golden fly: “And it was at the end of this article that the comparison with a fly occurred, a fly of sunny hue, which had flown up out of the dung, a fly which sucks in death on the carrion tolerated by the roadside, and then buzzing, dancing, and glittering like a precious stone, enters the windows of palaces and poisons the men within by merely settling on them in her flight.” Count Muffat, Nana’s guilt-ridden protector, reads Fauchery’s piece while covertly

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  • Alex Grey

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Recently it seems that antinuclear art has been proliferating at a rate surpassed only by the megatons of destruction that occasion it. This is as it should be. There can be no such thing as media overkill on this subject, the dangers of media sensationalism and trivialization notwithstanding. But those dangers do exist, and if such work is to avoid them it must cut through the dulling layers of packaged metaphors and images produced by the mass media.

    Though it was part of a show entitled “Space Invaders,” there was no futurist fantasy involved in the subject matter of Alex Grey’s installation

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  • On Karawa

    Sperone Westwater Fischer

    After Lawson and Fischl, On Karawa looks dated, naively objective. His work also uses old strategies combining chance and seriality, as well as a Minimalist sense of environmental placement. Dates seemingly chosen at random—March 20, 1981, April 3, 1981, and May 26, 1981, in one series (three dates constitute a series)—are painted on canvas and arranged at regular intervals on the walls of an otherwise empty room, whose space is thus thrown into compelling relief. The pieces themselves—their color seems lovelier, more silken than usual for Karawa—become hypnotic despite being matter-of-fact (

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  • Sandi Fellman

    Elise Meyer, Inc.

    When I was at Sandi Fellman’s show, I asked the gallery for a vita sheet, a checklist of the exhibition, some reproduction prints—the usual stuff I request at any show I attend. When I went through the material from Fellman’s show later, however, I realized that what I had thought to be copies of pieces about her were actually about the 20by-24-inch Polaroid, the camera with which all the pictures in her show had been made. This struck me as somewhat peculiar. I couldn’t imagine any of the contemporary 8-by-10-inch photographers throwing in a piece on their Deardorffs. Would an Henri Cartier-Bresson

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  • Thomas Lawson

    Metro Pictures

    Thomas Lawson is the theorist of the “Real Life” movement, which means to analyze the “ideological myths” that constitute the “fiction” of “real life.” More than that, it means to sabotage them; its art is a self-consciously “perverse provocation” which intends to expose the style of contemporary “realistic” representation as “the near-transparent tool of a repressive ideology.” (Unless rhetorical, quoted material is from “Too Good to be True,” by Thomas Lawson, Real Life magazine, Autumn 1981.) This style is the media-derived instrument of social belief. Thus those sentenced to “real life” are

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  • “Italian Art Now:An American Perspective”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    This exhibition consisted of the work of seven artists: Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Nino Longobardi, Luigi Ontani, Giuseppe Penone, Vettor Pisani, and Gilberto Zorio. It provoked numerous questions, but furnished no answers or conclusions about the current Italian art scene. The choice of only seven artists seems to me excessively limited; the changes that took place in Italian art during the ’70s, seen in the transition from Arte Povera to New Image painting (the two poles represented in this show), assumed numerous forms through a process both more subtle and more polemical than this show

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  • Jean Michel Basquiat

    Annina Nosei

    Surprisingly, though Jean Michel Basquiat comes, infamously by now, from a graffiti tradition (nom de spray: Samo), his colliding opposites are much less anarchistic than MacConnel’s. Whereas MacConnel’s ironic stance allows him to endorse nothing publicly, Basquiat’s reversals are not those of his own irony but of the unintended situational irony of a system he would like, one surmises, to see work, if only it could. His tone, as compared to the Flaubertian one of MacConnel’s slice of commercial low life, bears the accent of disillusionment: if MacConnel presents the way it is, Basquiat tends

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  • Kim MacConnel

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” is a likely initial take on Kim MacConnel’s new fabric hangings., At first glance, he seems to be coasting. At second glance, darker thoughts about rank opportunism furrow the brow: what new elements there are here—bombs, missiles, planes—seem to have him jumping rather belatedly on the protest bandwagon. Suspicions, unfortunately, are like warts—uninvited and ugly, but hard to get rid of.

    A third, more thorough look should put moralists at ease, at least on the score of exploitation. If there’s anyone MacConnel is pirating, it’s himself, and there’s a

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  • Bernd Koberling

    Annina Nosei

    The first wave of “violent painters” from Berlin—Rainer Fetting, Helmut Middendorf, Salomé, and Bernd Zimmer—were of some interest, because they were so sophisticated in their use of style. They seemed to make references to a national culture (German Expressionism in particular), but did so in order to link that culture and its trappings in a provocative way to that of America of the ’60s by keying their allusions to color field and stain painting, Pop, performance, and rock ’n’ roll. The work came from Berlin, but attested to the Americanization of Europe in as sly a manner as possible by making

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  • Michael Smith

    We are now used to the idea that everyone wants to be a star. It is the dream of fame, and the wealth that is supposed to accompany it, that sees us through disappointments and dreary jobs. Everyone wants to be a winner, and daytime television, with its game shows and talk shows, has long provided a framework to contain that wish for a great many people. It is a cruel fantasy, but a potent one, and one that will inevitably become ever more available with the new surge of activity surrounding cable television.

    Such a world of momentary celebrity is the one reluctantly inhabited by Mike, the sad-sack

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  • Judy Rifka

    Brooke Alexander

    An urge to join the real, basically figurative world to the esthetic demands of abstraction is evident in Judy Rifka’s recent works. All have hybrid forms; these are paintings that are also constructions, built of panels layered out, or projecting from supporting walls. And all have multiple forms, with fields of pink, aqua, and bright orange-red inter-cut by raw canvas shapes. Confettilike dots punctuate the surfaces, further animated by Rifka’s characteristic quirky lines. But most important are her characters—a veritable New York cast. Most step out of the rock clubs; there are dancers,

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  • “Robert Smithson: Sculpture”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    This exhibition arrived at the Whitney near the end of its tour, which began at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell (Autumn 1980) and will culminate in the United States Pavillion at the Venice Biennale (Summer 1982). It followed the publication of Smithson’s writings (New York University Press, 1979) and the steady extension of his cult, and came with its own excellent, amply illustrated book. And it also came with a lofty ambition: to provide a “comprehensive view,” in just over sixty works, of the man who “gave” us entropy and the dialectical landscape, who battled against the object,

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  • Vincent DiGerlando


    Photography is a medium that attracts too many would-be artists and not enough cartoonists. Duane Michals is the only example that springs to mind of someone who has seen the potential the medium has for cartoons. Like the best cartoonists, Michals is able to cross over from funny to sober. His photographs have wit, but also a loneliness and melancholy that are as importantly human in their way as Saul Steinberg’s philosophizing is in its way. Vincent DiGerlando’s photographs aren’t that good—not yet, anyway—but they are cartoons of the sort one might find in the pages of the New Yorker. DiGerlando

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  • Jennifer Bolande

    The Kitchen

    Excessive art direction is not something of which Jennifer Bolande will ever be accused. Her color photographs are the opposite of Fellman’s in every way except one: I don’t like them either. Bolande’s tiny, pale, grainy images have intentionally been made to be crude. They also come in a bizarre assortment of shapes. In some instances, this is a result of their having been printed from different parts of the same negative. A view of a path in one of the public gardens in Paris or at Versailles, for example, yields at least five of the prints in the show—two extreme verticals, one horizontal,

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