reviews

  • Terry Winters

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Terry Winters’ organic forms are wanderers across and within the picture planes. They stop short only at moments of realization. The twenty or so works here, the produce of the last six months, reveal a diarist’s frame of mind, and Winters’ entries on botanical and mineral subjects, if indifferent from the naturalist’s point of view, make a beautiful, studied account of the biology of painting.

    In the small- and middle-sized paintings Winters presents his specimens in varied aspects, at various stages of maturation and dissection, in unpatterned groupings, on subtle but heavily worked grounds.

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  • Gerry Morehead

    The Clocktower

    Two often contradictory tasks face any serious artist: to participate in a wide-ranging discourse that includes the formal concerns identified as the realm of the esthetic and the more topical concerns that tie art to contemporary life, and thus to history (these latter are often dismissed by formalists as merely “sociological”); and to hoist an array of baffles to disturb that discourse and to deflect the predations of those explainers who would too easily reduce the work to a package, a cipher of itself that can be used more conveniently as a token in the spectacle of cultural exchange. Gerry

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  • Leon Golub

    Susan Caldwell Gallery

    Thinking of politics in relation to Gerry Morehead’s work might seem unexpected, maybe even unwarranted, but the strength of the work lies in its ability to deflect one’s attention in such a way. Leon Golub’s work, on the other hand, insists that it be taken in only one way, as a political statement, and while that insistence is a source of charm, it is also the work’s greatest weakness.

    Golub’s recent paintings have an undeniable grandeur, a convincing simplicity of conception and execution. Working on a large scale he places huge figures against a dull red ground, his dry, scraped paint working

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  • John Willenbecher

    Hamilton Gallery

    John Willenbecher continues to intensify the iconic dimension of his vision. This show develops to new expressive heights the insights into the symbiotic relationship between archetypal forms and contents found in the 1981 series “Laureate” (reviewed in Artforum in April 1982).

    The majority of the works on view consisted of mixed-media relief paintings. Named after the persons and places of, Greek mythology—Apollo, Zeus, and Olympus are examples—each boasts surfaces painted to simulate marble, and one or more gold-leafed objects symbolic of the subject. In Apollo, a vertically disposed diptych,

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  • Miriam Schapiro

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Miriam Schapiro continues to do what she probably does best—pattern painting. The works here reveal a strikingly sharp and specific vision, able to exploit the dynamic potential of the shape on which the artist has recently focused—the rectangle—with skill and sensitivity. Though best known for shaped paintings (numerous past examples are based on various house and fan configurations), Schapiro manages to play some exciting visual games with the rectangle. Not only do her compositions bring out the elegant order and regularity associated with its framing function, but they make it enclose and

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  • “Collages and Reliefs 1910–1945”

    La Boetie Gallery

    “Collages and Reliefs 1910–1945” was a knockout of a museum-quality show jointly sponsored by this New York gallery and Annely Juda Fine Art in London. With works by such Dada and Constructivist artists as Jean Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, Alexandra Exter, and Liubov Popova, as well as Picasso, the exhibition captures the visionary conviction and intellectuality that drove the artist pioneers of early-20th-century Modernism to esthetic heights rarely matched today.

    Picasso’s and Braque’s injection of collage into their Cubist paintings of 1912 opened the eyes of many

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  • Stalker

    Directed by Andrei Tarakovsky; script by Arkady and Boris Strugatzky; produced by Mosfilm Studios

    A number of contemporary American films seem anxious to catapult humanity out of the supposed archaisms of the body into the flawlessly estheticized terrain of future time and space—a landscape of smooth surfaces, stainless interiors, and humanoid heroics. Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is a Russian view of coming attractions, but unlike its American counterparts it shows a future returned to the idea of embodiment (consideration of the physical organism). The film suggests a cyclical link between primordial ooze and the sludgy remains of a disemboweled Machine Age. Like the American variety, however,

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  • Mark Tansey

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    The allegories that generate initial interest in Mark Tansey’s paintings, for other reasons than that of admiring his technical competence, prove ultimately to be topical. There is no single “sense” to any of them, unless the artist’s sardonically descriptive titles are to be taken at face value (which I doubt). How many reversals of the Judgment of Paris are meant in the large picture of that name which shows three men scrambling over and down a log obstacle, under the scrutiny of the high-heeled 1940s-style blonde in the foreground? Likewise, whose or which kind of purity is in question in

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  • Ken Kiff

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    The bulk-oriented art diet that we have lately grown reaccustomed to makes Ken Kiff’s pictures—physically small, pictorially private—practically indigestible. Not that they are unappealing, once noticed, but rather they seem almost invisible to current tastes. Kiff does wonders with acrylic paints on paper, conjuring up a metaphysical universe as copiously endowed with color as it is with evocative personae. The interrelatedness of the paintings—each is a kind of visionary landscape populated variously with anthropomorphic grotesques and architectural/natural landmarks—is both obvious and

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  • Don Van Vliet

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Captain Beefheart, a.k.a. Don Van Vliet, first made a name for himself during the brief, interminable psychedelic era of the late ’60s. While most psychedelic music was little more than polluted blues or rock ’n’ roll with “special effects,” the music of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band was and remains truly original, built from a unique sonic and verbal viewpoint. The comparisons made by critics to Beefheart are as amusing as they are instructive: he is seen as the heir of Delta blues, the successor of Igor Stravinsky, the culmination of Dada, America’s answer to the Peking Opera . . . he

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  • Milton Avery

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    From its beginning, Milton Avery’s development was an attempt to assimilate Modernist planarity to an essentially naturalist interest—an attempt to reconcile purity of means with respect for the idiosyncratic individuality of nature’s appearances. This is a typical American interest, going back to Albert Pinkham Ryder; it is instructive to compare Avery to Clyfford Still, who had the same ideal. In Still’s work Modernism wins out; rugged nature is replaced by a potentially explosive nonobjective edge, which still echoes it. In Avery, Modernism and American naturalism seem to balance each other.

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  • “The Destroyed Print”

    Pratt Manhattan Gallery

    Jeff, a New York artist, made a print of himself seriously ill from the toxic effects of a material he was using to make his art, and sent it to some hundred artists, asking them to destroy it and to return the results. In other words this is a vanity piece, or, more politely, a self-referential piece, about the quite concrete suffering of the artist, and it gives a lot of other artists a chance to practice instant, on-the-run creativity. This is not just Novelty Art, but the worst sort of self-exploitation to achieve self-importance. A lot of the artists just tore up the piece and sent it back

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  • Bill Jensen

    Washburn Gallery

    Bill Jensen’s gouaches depend on centrifugal breakout from confining shape or on centripetal convergence of forces into a dense centrality. His organically derived figures, mythically primordial beyond their reference to a basic nature, spontaneously transform, as if living out a cosmic destiny. One has the sense of looking at a microcosm of some half-fathomable macrocosm, a natural object that is simultaneously a symbol of a larger nature and a being with a strange life of its own. These gouaches raise the question of mystical naturalism in a way that Avery’s landscapes never quite do. His

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  • David Deutsch

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    In David Deutsch’s new paintings abstraction once again becomes visionary, evoking an enigmatic world of feeling closed in upon itself. Expansive yet hermetic, his garden vistas reminded me of Roman wall painting; there is the same sense of a faded yet all-encompassing nature, subtly forceful despite its atmospheric softness, more evocative than descriptive of open space yet resolutely flat, and thereby all the more spatially complete. There is also the same sense of diminished humanity, the human hanging on at the edge yet a disturbing presence—in Deutsch the more disturbing through the machines

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  • “Faces Photographed: Contemporary Camera Images”

    Grey Art Gallery

    Most of the photographs here are portraits of one sort or another, but despite the show’s title, few have all that much to do with faces. Instead most of them employ—but do not confront—various forms of stylization, both photographic and personal, and the fictive personas created by photographers and their subjects for fashion and magazine illustration. The sitters here are mainly celebrities, models, people with exotic, “interesting” faces—but the photographs are seldom just of faces. Few tasks in photography are as difficult as to photograph a person’s face and reveal something surprising and

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  • “Precursors of Postmodernism: Milan 1920–30s”

    The Architectural League

    Hidden histories have unmistakable allures, as does finding unnoticed antecedents to “ruptures” in architectural or esthetic time. But what this exhibition of buildings constructed in Milan in the ’20s and ’30s suggests is not only that a body of remarkably similar work was produced half a century before architectural postmodernism, but also that the Modernist movement was not the seamless fabric it is conceived, retrospectively, to have been. For it was only in the early ’60s that people began to speak of architectural Modernism, and to extend the cool reductions of the International Style so

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  • Ida Applebroog

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    The irony of Ida Applebroog’s two-part exhibition is that the actions motivating her withdrawal of the Past Events installation from its context, the Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce, perfectly illustrated her themes. Applebroog’s obsession with vulnerability, with awkward or impeded communication, and with alienation, as they color the spectrum of social relationships, was in this instance brought into play in the terrain of artist’s rights. And the specific gist of her gallery showing—the massive conservative revival now invading and altering our culture—was reinforced by the

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  • Sylvia Plimack Mangold

    Brooke Alexander

    Analyzing Van Gogh’s Crows over the Wheat Field, Meyer Schapiro describes the lines of perspective as “the paths of Van Gogh’s impetuous impulse toward the beloved object,” then goes on to note that in this painting as in most of the later work “this flight to a goal is rarely unobstructed or fulfilled.” In Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s canvases from the early ’70s a similar dialectic is at work: a pronounced convergence in the floorboards she typically rendered is frustrated by various painted-in devices—a mirror, rulers that “prove” space is not shrinking though it appears to be, etc. At the same

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  • Frank Stella

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    The question has been “what will Stella do next” for so long that, lately, getting over disappointed expectations delays entertaining the possibility that Stella, at least, may have changed the question to “what has Stella done?”. If the flashy French-curve reliefs that so disturbed the peace in 1976 seemed, at the time anyway, to break with what came before, and were among the first Stella pieces to signify as individual entities independent of serial context, the newest work apparently aims to reinsert all the reliefs back into that series. The pieces are a coda, in a way, a formal autobiography.

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  • Ann Magnuson

    Danceteria

    Ann Magnuson, prime mover of the early Club 57 performances, queen of theme-night events around town, and curator of variety shows like last season’s “Performance Rites” at P.S. 1 (four Sundays of “serious fun” with some hundred performers), has lately been perfecting and presenting a repertory of solo pieces. These “characters” are caricatures of female roles drawn from pop culture—more specifically, from pop media. There’s “Tammy Fay,” a gospel singer modeled after the PTL “Praise The Lord” Club TV hostess; a foul-mouthed Hollywood starlet; and a rock chick who fronts a heavy-metal band called

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  • Bruce Davidson

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    Art World goes to Europe. Art world goes to so-called ethnic cultures. They’re both pseudo-events and encourage separations. Rather than embracing everything together it is still the view of the “other.” Who is the “other” in a subway? It’s obviously the photographer, obviously Bruce Davidson. I find it curious that a transportation system is used as a container for “types”. When you have journalist tendencies but you’re also a self-appointed arty “humanitarian,” you become a paparazzo of the underdog, invading the private sector, rather than documenting the homegrown performances of the

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  • Dondi White

    51X Gallery

    Totally unlike Bruce Davidson, with his ethnocratic descent into the subway, and defying as well the myopic delight of current supporters of graffiti as being merely ethnic, Dondi White informs us that graffiti culture is a state of mind. In his affectionate depictions of personages, motifs, moods, styles, and activities of kids who claim the subways, streets, and parks as theirs—the breakers, the graffiti writers, the gangs, the DJs, and the spray masters—we find the ethos of the Beat Boys.

    In our society, where the individual is supposed to be the ittiest treasure, there is still no provision

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