reviews

  • Loren Madson

    David McKee Gallery

    With this gallery-sized sculpture Loren Madsen took what I thought I knew of his work and turned it inside out. Whereas his earlier pieces seem to be about levitation, this one addresses compression. If other work celebrates various elegant denials of its aggregate weight, this one makes its own mass and the support of that mass its central feature. Compression here has its physical correlate—a weighty oak beam running the length of the whole piece—as well as more iconographic, even autobiographical ones: glimpses of a number of Madsen’s earlier sculptures are to be had. But the composite effect

    Read more
  • Tom Otterness

    Brooke Alexander Gallery

    Tom Otterness fashioned a race of standardized cylindrical figures, genus homo Babariens, and put them around the middle space of this gallery in friezes at the tops of the walls and as an entry gate around the door leading into this space from the outer room. White as the walls themselves and suavely tucked against the soffit, these bas-reliefs of cast, squatty, distinctly Babar-like people told a number of stories simultaneously. The characters divided into female, male, a King, and some androgynous small fry. The mass of them were hard at work, mostly carrying a large spherical load or a

    Read more
  • “Artists’ Use Of Language”

    Franklin Furnace

    Is there anything noteworthy about artists’ use of language in their work? We expect it to be different from our everyday use of language, but is it different from—to propose the antipodes—that of Stéphane Mallarmé or Nikolai Lenin? Well, let’s say it’s a little bit like both, but not the way you’d expect: as exemplified here, it involves the manipulation of truisms to the esoteric end of consciousness-raising—a transformation of belief, a revolution in attitude. None of these works—from the epistemological mumbo jumbo of Joseph Kosuth to Anthony lannacci’s high school yearbook, from Jenny

    Read more
  • Gary Falk

    The New Museum

    Gary Falk’s window achieved presence through what was absent from the Franklin Furnace exhibition: a good public position (opposite a bus stop on East 14th Street, near Fifth Avenue); a bold, declarative manner, assuring instant readability; and an uncomplicated message, existing as much for the world of life as for that of art. Falk gave one neither informational nor epistemological overload—he fetishized neither his information nor its manner of presentation. He showed a rabbit chasing a carrot attached to it, a ring with an “explosive” diamond, and, on the window glass itself, a chair

    Read more
  • “OIA at Greene Space—Sculpture”

    Greene Space

    Group exhibitions are wonderful because they allow one to make invidious comparisons. The artists in them are directly competitive. Every piece in a solo exhibition can be fitted into a pattern of development, and so counts for something; a group exhibition reminds us that works of art do not exist on friendly terms, that they cannot all be fitted into some grand harmony. They differ physically and ideologically, and the differences can’t be reconciled or dismissed in the coy terms of pluralism.

    There were two main groupings of sculpture in this show, those that can loosely be described as

    Read more
  • Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus Dances

    Ethnic Folk Arts Center, sponsored by The Kitchen

    This revival has been, justly, highly praised, both as a tour de force of research and as a demonstration of the continuing relevance of the master innovative artists of Modernism. At the same time it is a demonstration of the continued difficulties of accepting at face value the claims made for their works by Modern artists. In Schlemmer’s case the dances do not create “the transcendental on the basis of the rational” he was attempting but rather read as an articulation of what in the ’30s in Germany was called the “J-type personality.” In the postwar period the identification has become the

    Read more
  • Timothy Woodman

    Zabriskie Gallery

    Timothy Woodman’s oil-painted aluminum reliefs continue to hold up a provocative mirror to both reality and fantasy. The subjects of these works, mostly from 1982, range from the grandly mythological to the merely mundane; they include figures such as Atlas and Midas as well as anonymous contemporary types—a Blind Person, for example—along with a broad array of activities as varied from each other as are Subduing a Gunman, 1981, Hanging Up a Coat, and Training a Tiger.

    Woodman cuts and paints thin curved sheets of aluminum into figures and props, which are installed directly on the wall. Visually,

    Read more
  • Gerhard Richter

    Sperone Westwater

    Gerhard Richter’s contribution to Documenta 7 was a series of bold abstract paintings in which brilliant, often acidic tones, frenetic brushstrokes, and illusions of receding space limned the dictionary of Expressionistic gestures. As arranged through the exhibition according to the installation principle of “conversations,” they seemed to be used to reinforce the pressure to paint so prominently featured in the show. But this was a distortion of Richter’s premises, which consist in a thorough demystification of the activity of painting and of its pretensions to creativity—a separation of

    Read more
  • James Biederman

    John Weber Gallery

    This show featured some of the most energized abstract art seen here this season. James Biederman’s painted wood sculptures and mixed media drawings, all executed in 1982, present an exciting new pictorial dimension of his vision.

    The sculptures are made of different-sized, angled wedges of wood screwed together in diagonally aligned, accordion like cascades. Installed at about eye level, these twisting, turning objects have a pictorial dynamism (a direct result of the fast-time specificity of their structures) which creates strong and immediate sensations of forms in jet-propelled flight. The

    Read more
  • Jackie Ferrara

    Max Protetch Gallery

    Since the early ’70s Jackie Ferrara has carved a niche for herself among the post-Minimalist artists investigating the relationship between sculpture and architecture. Working with narrow wood slats—pine, poplar, and birch are recurrent favorites—she has fashioned a category of forthright integral objects.

    These recent works offer Ferrara’s most challenging vision to date. In structural terms, A233 Borbek, 1982, like the other pieces here, lays itself out to the viewer. Distant observation reveals the precisely proportioned stackings of parts, while a close examination shows the heads of the

    Read more
  • Duane Michals

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    Among the 41 works in this exhibition were examples of most of the varieties of photographic work for which Duane Michals is known. The roster was a diverse one: celebrity portraits (Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Downey) and portraits of friends and others; three photographic sequences, including one nine-part work, I Remember Pittsburgh, 1982, with marginal commentary written in Michals’ familiar spindly scrawl; multiple-exposure images—here frequently portraits in which each side of the frame is used as the horizon for each of four different exposures of the sitter; a dozen black and white

    Read more
  • Alfred Stieglitz

    Terry Dintenfass Gallery

    This show had the air of a family celebration about it. Timed to coincide with the publication of a new biography of Alfred Stieglitz by Sue Davidson Lowe, his grandniece, the exhibition was co-curated by Ellen Lowe—Sue Lowe’s daughter, and thus the great-grandniece of the photographer and entrepreneur extraordinaire of Modernism in America. Moreover, the elder Lowe, as a young girl, appears in many of the photographs by Stieglitz that made up half the show.

    For those in them and those who make them, family snapshots are artifacts of emotional moments—mementos of specific personal relationships,

    Read more
  • “Image/Process 1 and 2”

    The Kitchen

    Judging by the work by 21 artists included in this two-part anthology, much recent video that relies on electronic image processing and manipulation draws its inspiration not so much from the Fluxist undermining of the image pioneered by Nam June Paik as from the computerized slickness (and emotional shallowness) of rock video and TV commercials. In fact, many of the tapes in this series (curated by Shalom Gorewitz, himself a video artist known for his electronically processed work) seem to be built up from a single formula, varied according to the individual predilections of the artists.

    Read more
  • Fred Sandback

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Fred Sandback’s presence has been recognized for a decade and a half, a period during which he has exhibited frequently and widely but relatively little has been written about him. His work, and to some extent his own terse, hard-to-argue-with statements about it, have been efficient prophylactics against verbal excess. His pieces, he says, are not illusionistic. Indeed, simple linear geometries on paper or in space, realized with metal rods or colored string, offer few illusions, and in fact belie the usual equations made between horizontals and landscape, verticals and the figure. Nor, he

    Read more
  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Castelli Gallery, Sonnabend Gallery, Museum of Modern Art

    Robert Rauschenberg’s ruminations on East and West in these Japanese clayworks, Chinese paper works, and the “Kabal American Zephyr Series” turn on a series of elaborate puns that reduce both realms to the terms of fluid mechanics, the flow of liquids and gases. The Orient, in an essentially trite but complexly conveyed notion, is a weightless, watery domain traversed by corrupting currents from the West; America is both the west wind and its cessation, the crash to earth of the previously airborne but always gravity ridden.

    Hydrants, fish, scenes reflected in pools or puddles, and one claywork

    Read more
  • Diamanda Galas

    41 Cooper Gallery at Cooper Union

    Music is both a way to form the soul (Plato) and a force to get the mojo working (Muddy Waters), and the history of wordless vocal music is the record of a persistent, pure form of these impulses to rock the spirit. From the songs of Homer’s Sirens to Ella Fitzgerald’s scat, the idea of the naked voice uttering abstract sounds in viscerally rhythmic patterns has seemed to offer a visionary distillation of music’s ultimate power. The ritualistic keenings of Meredith Monk, the spontaneous utterances of Jana Haimsohn, and the complex sounds of Joan LaBarbara are specifically female expressions of

    Read more