• Tom Wesselmann

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    In the late ’60s Tom Wesselmann’s view of the world, as evident in his lolling, smoking, poolside nudes, didn’t seem so much a view as a type of view: flat, with a Pop-processed look, and common to many others of the day. The character Benjamin, for example, through whose eyes we were meant to see The Graduate, held it too. It was the view of the ineloquent critic, of the social critic without a social contract who had little to work with beyond a posture—innocence by disassociation, and an eye just quick enough to pick up on the low-comedy by-products of big worries like consumerism (businessman

    Read more
  • Yasuko Nagamine

    Avery Fisher Hall

    The first TV babies have given birth to a second generation of TV babies, and within ten years a third generation will be here. Physical mutations have not appeared, but cultural mutations abound. Global communications networks have provided children the world over with intensive exposure to foreign cultures, and they grow up with an unprecedented trans-cultural perspective. The results of this new sensibility are just now beginning to show in the arts—particularly in music. Access to alien visual arts is not new; familiarity with alien theatrical forms (“I Love Lucy” in Indonesia) and alien

    Read more
  • Joan Snyder

    Hamilton Gallery

    Joan Snyder has produced some of the most “loaded” paintings in contemporary American art. The 1981 and 1982 works here are enticingly “loaded,” from the tops of their densely rich, boldly built-up, mixed media surfaces to the deep-down emotive implications of their primary, signlike imagery.

    Throughout the ’70s Snyder subverted the color-field style that then dominated abstract painting. She developed a method for turning the grid, the favorite geometric form of the ’70s, as well as the zigzag into expressionist shapes. Brush strokes and drips were isolated in her compositions not so much to

    Read more
  • Roger Corbeau

    French Institute/ Alliance Francaise

    The French didn’t make a very strong showing in the New York galleries this spring. Consider Roger Corbeau, whose claim to fame is having done the production stills for movies in France ranging from Marcel Pagnol’s Jofroi, made in 1932, through Claude Chabrol’s Les Fantômes du chapelier, as yet unreleased here. It’s not much of a claim, really. The press release for the show calls men like Corbeau the “unsung heroes” of the movie business and laments the “anonymity” in which he has had to work. I think the anonymity is deserved; in fact, I’d say it’s inescapable no matter how many one-man shows

    Read more
  • Edouard Boubat

    Witkin Gallery

    The best of the French photographers in town was Edouard Boubat, whose romantic images of French life—or life anywhere, for that matter—retain a good deal of charm. The problem I had was that the images in this show are all very familiar; and while familiarity doesn’t breed contempt for such work, it doesn’t breed endless fascination either. Like so much photography of the ’40s and ’50s—Paul Strand’s and Eugene Smith’s and Robert Doisneau’s all come to mind—Boubat’s classic work is a celebration of the simple life. These photographers often sought out peasants as subjects, and always implied

    Read more
  • Cas Oorthuys

    Prakapas Gallery

    A set of pictures that brings the past into the present with more urgency than Phillips’ is Cas Oorthuys’. Oorthuys was a Dutch photographer who was sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis for taking “illegal” pictures of conditions in Amsterdam, but returned to photograph again at the end of the occupation in 1944–45. To speak of these pictures as good or bad is irrelevant. Oorthuys worked within a very narrow and dangerous range of circumstances, where even the slightest mishap could have meant not only no photographs, but no photographer. These are the only pictures that were possible, and

    Read more
  • Troy Brauntuch

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The paradox at the center of Troy Brauntuch’s pictures is this: on the one hand, the very muteness of the images provokes the viewer into trying to make them talk; on the other, attempts to get the work to confess its secrets are made to seem bruising, exertions of undue force—in effect, fascist. To begin with, although the technique is “realistic,” details are so indistinct that representations verge on or pass into the inscrutable. As with the enlargements in Blow Up, looking so hard generates doubts about what is seen; as in recalled dreams, the more intense our pursuit of a scene, the farther

    Read more
  • Italo Scanga

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Brauntuch defers closure as if loath to confront the shame of a disingenuous looking. The irresolution of Italo Scanga’s new series of drawings is more like the ceaseless agitation of a stream of consciousness in which chunks of private, religious, and art histories tumble around with motes of the quotidian. Nevertheless the work of both expresses a will to confound. Because Brauntuch’s references are so specialized there’s a better than average chance that his audience won’t be familiar with his source photograph or drawing. Because Scanga’s iconography is so generalized an excessive number of

    Read more
  • Matt Mullican

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    You might say that Matt Mullican intends to demonstrate the difference between mystic and mystique, and in so doing to produce a literal declension of history’s passage through various Weltanschauungs. First we have primitively rendered drawings that look like woodcuts, particularly Wassily Kandinsky woodcuts, even though they are paint on paper. They are depictions of a cosmology: a flattened-out hemisphere with a triple-faced fate/god astride the top curve, a skeleton bridging hellish flames at the bottom, and symbols of the world in the middle. There’s a place for everything and everything

    Read more
  • Dennis Oppenheim

    Bonlow Gallery

    Foolishness can be a great deal of fun, and we all know the art world thrives on it. It often seems that the sillier an idea, and the more ridiculous its presentation, the more chance it has of achieving the notoriety we so often mistake for success. But while it can be dismaying to have witless inanities and opportunistic attention-grabbers paraded as the latest and best in art, it is all relatively harmless. A few tempers are lost; a few illusions broken. Occasionally, however, the foolishness gets out of hand and more important assets are endangered. One such occasion was the “activation” of

    Read more
  • Steve Paxton and Lucinda Childs

    The Kitchen/Danspace

    Choreographers Steve Paxton and Lucinda Childs, noted alumni of the Judson Dance Theater, have been known for their tightly structured studies of unusual movement events. Beginning in the early ’60s both of them choreographically scored ordinary and bizarre activity to create a radical performance mode: by just doing carefully arranged, singular physical tasks, they generated a novel, antitheatrical brand of dance drama. Recently Paxton and Childs presented solo works, on separate programs, which showed how they have altered that influential performance esthetic. Now both artists more openly

    Read more
  • Alain Kirili

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Alain Kirili’s “subject matter” is the double bind, achieved through the single bend. Essentially an ironsmith, Kirili bends his metal—with a vigor which leaves a hollow, and which in retrospect is the most exciting part of the work after the experience of the density of the iron—at what turns out to be the top or “head” of his piece. The piece peaks in the bend, which gives it a Giacometti-like figural dimension, the anonymous look of a totem from an unrecognizable culture. But Kirili’s “figures” do not locate in the empty space of a mournful European square—are not mired in their privacy while

    Read more
  • James Byrne

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    In Phase, 1981, James Byrne has arranged four video monitors inside a square metal frame so that their screens radiate from the center, like the blades of a pinwheel. Hung by one corner from the ceiling this whole apparatus takes on a diamond shape; by playing the same tape on all four monitors simultaneously Byrne creates a pulsating electronic mandala. Camera movements, replicated fourfold in this strictly symmetrical format, lose their individuality and become part of an overall pattern. Side-to-side pans and tracking shots become tangents on an imaginary circle whose center coincides with

    Read more
  • Gwenn Thomas

    John Weber Gallery

    Gwenn Thomas is one of the most exciting younger artists working with photography and painting today. Her methods for transforming photographic images into a new, distinctive line of pictorial objects were tellingly revealed here.

    What Thomas does not do is paint over the photograph’s surface, although this is a favorite device among many artists in this arena. What she does do is create an intriguingly specific space around her photographs, a frame that permits her to keep her color Type C or Cibachrome prints intact but profoundly altered, nevertheless, by the means of presentation.


    Read more
  • John Phillips

    French Cultural Services

    John Phillips is another photographer who has had quite a life, though in his case you could never tell that from the photographs being shown. As a child, Phillips played among the tables of the Café du Dome while Man Ray and Leo Stein chatted with his father, who was also a photographer. Barely in his 20s, Phillips was hired to take pictures for the first issue of a magazine to be known as Life. He became its sole staff photographer in Europe until the war, when he was one of its combat correspondents in the Middle East. There he also photographed Churchill’s meeting with Stalin and Roosevelt

    Read more