reviews

  • Leandro Katz

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Leandro Katz’s film for two projectors and zigzag-folded screen, Metropotamia, is a delirious rhapsody to city life, big city life—which means New York City life. The film is given structure by the passing of one day, from sunrise to nightfall; Katz makes no attempt to represent the passage of that time realistically, however, preferring instead to speed everything up—clouds, traffic, people all rush by, ever faster against the looming stillness of buildings and highways. The images are of frenetic activity and barely contained force—traffic hurtles toward the camera only to stop obediently as

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  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    I entered Jennifer Bartlett’s show expecting marvels. The newspaper critics had gone wild, writing of Bartlett’s ambition, energy, and verve; the exhibition had been described in the Village Voice as a “show-stopping, drop-dead extravaganza.” Those words had set me salivating, avid for esthetic innovation. What I found in its stead was a variation on a tired Modernist theme: change the medium—fiddle with paint, surface, or support—and the style is inevitably altered.

    Bartlett pursues this inquiry with impressive tenacity. Her strategy consists in taking two landscape motifs, one riverine (“Up

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  • Paul McMahon

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Two other small events from the end of last season deserve mention. Both were too quiet to attract much attention or to have much of a lasting impact, but slightness can be a virtue, and both demonstrated that. They may not have blown anyone over, but their humor and intelligence in the face of so much dull pretension provided pleasant relief.

    Paul McMahon is the balladeer of life in Lower Manhattan, singing artfully simple songs of the joys and fears, and, most especially, of the paranoias of New York’s artistic demimonde. His words are simple, his tunes are simple, his presentation is burdened

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  • Sigmar Polke

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    The crypto-naive mode is not unique to McMahon and Chunn, of course—it has been a popular device throughout the ’70s, especially with artists involved in performance. Nor is it solely American, as the performance/painting fusions of Salome, Der Kippenberger, and other German artists demonstrate. An important influence on much current European practice is an earlier devotee of the approach, Sigmar Polke, who over the years has developed a painting style that brings together a sophisticated taste for popular culture and kitsch with a spacy transcendentalism. For years Polke has luxuriated in the

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  • “The Pressure To Paint”

    This is a show not about art but about power: the power of money, the power of hype, and the power of exclusion. According to curator Diego Cortez, the first two are justified by an undisguised (if ludicrous) process of inversion: middleman becomes producer (the “new” dealers’ marketing techniques are, he writes, part of a “strategy of the soul,” and his “admiration and respect” for them “is at least equal to that of the artists and their work”); and high-powered commercial gallery becomes radical alternative space (“Yes, Marlborough for my purposes is an alternative space”). In other words,

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  • Edward Ruscha

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Lemmy Caution passes by a slot machine. He drops in change where a sign says, “Place coin here.” Suddenly out shoots a card on which is printed, “Thank you.” Dumbfounded, he flings the card in the air.

    The scene is from Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, a movie that stresses language as a system of social control and the way idiosyncratic images resist the computer because the computer programs out all traces of ambiguity, valorizing communication as an end in itself. Poetic visions as the refugees of homo sapiens become the radical opponents to this technocracy.

    Ed Ruscha’s work freezes fragments of

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  • “Natural History”

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    This is not your typical summer show of landscapes, flower studies, and breezy seaside views. It takes for its topic the representation of nature, dealing with the fact that those simple, supposedly naive scenes can never be neutrally portrayed. “Natural History” is framed against the awareness, growing in contemporary society, that our visions of nature are already appropriated by culture—that nature pertains, through a paradox, to the urban or industrial landscape, since we can only approach it through cultural representations, can only “see” or discuss it by imposing manmade conventions. By

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  • Les Levine

    New York City Subway System And "Village Voice" Cover

    In two pieces this summer Les Levine continued his work in public media. Forty-eight hundred copies of We Are Not Afraid, a placard version of his 1980 proposal for subway posters, were placed in New York subway cars during May and June in association with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Public Art Fund, Inc. (The piece was also reproduced in an ad in the Summer issue of this magazine.) And Mind, a Plasticine painting, appeared on the cover of the June 15 Village Voice special issue on nuclear disarmament. In both, Levine adopted conventions of the specific medium he was working

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  • Erich Salomon

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    In the late ’20s and throughout the ’30s Erich Salomon provided a steady stream of pictures for the illustrated magazines that were then gaining a mass audience in Europe and America. Using newly invented miniature cameras such as the Ermanox and the Leica, Salomon specialized in unposed pictures of diplomats, statesmen, and other celebrities caught off guard in informal moments. His best-known photographs come from his constant coverage of the seemingly endless series of diplomatic conferences that preoccupied Europe between the wars; but, as this show demonstrates, he also photographed other

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  • Gary Stephan

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    To draw an analogy between Michelangelo, mad genius of the Renaissance, and Gary Stephan, an exceedingly rational contemporary painter, no doubt seems quixotic, but therein lies a seedling of sense. Michelangelo’s antagonism toward the act of painting is legendary—it was a process he suffered principally for the sake of costly marble, and agonized traces permeate the wracked musculatures and grimaces of his unwillingly two-dimensional subjects. The efforts of God and Adam on the Sistine ceiling, to cite the most obvious example, suggest a dual morphogenesis: the biblical metaphor for creation,

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  • Elie Nadelman

    Zabriskie Gallery

    Elie Nadelman was probably the most influential but most controversial sculptor in the school of Paris which dominated Modernist developments before World War I. A contemporary of Picasso, he shared with progressive artists of that generation the desire to create a truly renovated art expression that would be in tune with the emerging sensibility. As early as 1910 he had evolved an abstract approach to the figure; though not one to play the art-politics games that can help greatly to spread and secure fame, Nadelman was highly respected for the maturity of his vision, but the sophisticated,

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  • Henry Khudyakov

    Contemporary Russian Art Center Of America

    Since the early-20th-century avant-garde movements of Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism, clothes design has proved to be a stimulating and prolific area of inspiration for artists who aspire to break down the barriers between art and life. In a recent one-person show, “Visionary nonwearables E.S.P. ionage,” Henry Khudyakov examined the issue anew.

    The show consisted of this Russian-born artist’s personal line of fantasy fashions, including vests, jackets, ties, and T-shirts, and a group of related paintings and drawings. The fashions are based on mass-produced, moderately priced,

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  • Eric Bogosian

    The Public Theater

    For the last several years Eric Bogosian has presented two solo performances, Men Inside and Voices of America, in casual performance spaces like Inroads, P.S. 122, Club 57, and Franklin Furnace. Throughout July he performed the two as a twin bill every Thursday in the more formally theatrical space of the Public Theater’s Martinson Hall, and, as with most nontraditional performance, the import of his work shifted along with its context. These partly improvised, constantly re-ordered collections of short “bits” appeared more polished and sometimes more provocative than the downtown—Saturday

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  • Antoni Tapies

    Marisa Del Re

    Antoni Tapies offers us an extraordinarily beautiful, highly stylized Expressionism—just what Expressionism shouldn’t be. In these works Tapies is a Paganini of touch; with sure virtuoso mastery he fiddles away, simultaneously finicky and full of flourishes, and “authentically Spanish” in his dramatic contrasts. Yet there is an air of rodomontade to the whole thing, and of brilliant pointlessness, the pointlessness of purity. In German Expressionism and American Abstract Expressionism the thick text of strokes never quite became a mere compendium of all the possibilities of touch that existed.

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  • Maria Simonds-Gooding

    Betty Parsons Gallery

    This is another art of “right relationships,” as the press release points out. But right relationships are troublesome these days. They seal the work into its own narcissism, give it a false—coy—innocence, and permit us to file it away under the heading “well-made but has nothing to say” (and so finally worthless). What saves Maria Simonds-Gooding’s pictures from this fate worse than death—from being merely well-meant, like Tapies’—is their power of reference. Their pictorial delicacy corresponds to the bleakness of the landscape of the Blasket Islands off the coast of the Dingle peninsula of

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  • “Agitated Figures: The New Emotionalism”

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    We thought it was Neo-Expressionism, which at least gave some it intellectual cachet and historical resonance, but now we’re told it’s just plain old everyday emotionalism, maybe a little mannered, but like what hysterical women and jaded men have. And Richard Flood, the catalogue writer, tells us it involves the use of the figure as an “emotional signifier,” a gesture (which nicely links it with Abstract Expressionism, so as to leave nothing to chance or perversity—which would put the movement, whatever it might finally end up being called in the textbooks, outside history, where nothing exists

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