reviews

  • Paul Thek

    Iolas-Jackson Gallery

    Two things in particular have marked Paul Thek’s output over the years: a leveling tendency that employs a polemical indiscriminateness of sources, methods, and materials, and a compulsion to say what is generally being left unsaid. Except for their consistent medium (acrylic on newspaper) and uniform size, these new small works are no different. Thek’s personae have often been underdogs—Bo Jangles is a good example; here he uses a simile rather than a mask, but even that fights the decidedly not conceptual, decidedly phallic contemporary current.

    In The Mind as a Clitoris and related pieces,

    Read more
  • David Salle

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    David Salle’s paintings look lusher than before. The painted grounds of his canvases remain cinematic—smooth, thin stains that resemble projections—but they are more richly, even luridly pigmented. On the right panel of Painting for Eli, for instance, the contorted face and straining neck of a woman are drawn over a deep, indigo purple, while the left panel consists of a large daisy awkwardly chiseled into light wood, a concoction that is both bluntly simple and characteristically disingenuous. Post-existential eroticized angst and the emotional naiveté of stylistic awkwardness are Salle’s

    Read more
  • Helmut Middendorf

    Bonlow Gallery

    No matter what one may think of it, “neo-Expressionist” painting has become the dominant mode of art production on both sides of the Atlantic. Studios and art schools everywhere are once again dirty with the traces of much frenzied paint throwing. As a convenient label “neo-Expressionism” is the most popular because the least specific, but when considering this kind of work I think it important to separate out artists who may be less interested in reviving an expressionist ethos than in using a look for a variety of more or less interesting ends—artists one might want to identify as “

    Read more
  • Richard Bosman

    Brooke Alexander Gallery

    Richard Bosman presents a somewhat similar problem. Another painter who looked hot when he first appeared, Bosman has so far been unable to develop his starting position into anything more substantial than a good beginning. He has fallen victim to that familiar syndrome: one big hit followed by too many, too similar remakes. Three years ago the corny violence he favored in both image and handling seemed timely, exactly keyed to pressing issues centering on the debate about appropriation (itself suffering from a repeater problem). For a while Bosman, like the Berlin painters, seemed to be concerned

    Read more
  • Francesco Clemente

    Sperone Westwater Gallery and Mary Boone Gallery

    Francesco Clemente’s double show presented a different sort of problem, for the difficulty here was not that he has been content to stand still but that in seeking to develop his position he has chosen the wrong move. These two ill-conceived installations were by another artist who falls into the trap of overproduction, but who makes a virtue of his handicap, turning his fecundity into a thematic root around which an ever-expanding body of work can grow. And this body of work is nothing less than a protean discourse on the body, particularly the male body; a metamorphosis of the physical into

    Read more
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Winding towers are conveying machines—industrial structures used to transport workers and materials into, and out of, iron ore, coal, and salt mines. Alternately called “tipples,” “A-frames,” or “pitheads,” they date from mid-19th-century England, locus of the Industrial Revolution, and have spread over today’s global terrain. Their basic form consists of two elevated wheels circumscribed by cables securing load-bearing cages that ascend or descend in opposite directions. Form is generally determined by function; however, these towers exist in various regional styles, ranging from rustic, often

    Read more
  • John Hejduk

    Max Protetch Gallery

    These sixty-odd works might be among the most beautiful architectural drawings ever made, subtle arrangements of hues—limpid yellows, ochres, greens, and blues—accenting masterly pencil lines. But they are also products of an idiosyncratic vision of architecture, one that is both speculative, reflecting on its underlying nature, and critical, primed by absences within contemporary terrain. They specifically address the notion of the “program,” the relation between building and user, or space and action, long repressed under formal concerns.

    Reflection on the relation between architecture and the

    Read more
  • Malcolm McLaren

    The Roxy

    The Roxy is a large roller rink done up in the height of disco decor, a sort of Studio 54 on wheels. In the last year it has been dispensing with wheels every Friday night, presenting evenings of dancing to rap music and performances by rap artists and such affiliates as breaker dancers and double-dutch rope jumpers. These Friday nights have been the hottest (i.e., the most chilling) social scene in town. Uptown or outer-borough rap shows draw virtually all-black crowds; the Roxy accommodates a large contingent of the usual rap audience, but it draws an equally numerous crowd of whites, most of

    Read more
  • Martin Silverman

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    However much Thek embraces clichés and funk, his shrug of a technique preserves the results from being “cute.” That epithet seems to be reserved for clichés and funk that are carefully, pains takingly rendered. Somehow the lavished attention is diagnosed as the symptom of an infatuation with the subject. I suspect that Martin Silverman is curious to see how far “cute” can be pushed—it may be the only taboo left to contemporary art.

    In his preceding show the laborious, hokey figures were foiled by their own return-of-the-repressed sexuality. There was pathology in that homely ’30s stockiness.

    Read more
  • Enzo Cucchi

    Sperone Westwater Gallery

    In Enzo Cucchi’s paintings and drawings the nature/nurture argument reaches its predictable impasse. Mythically overexposed, Italy the cultural construct, as preserved in house and city, strains to overcome its adamantine imperviousness and to merge with the entropic ooze of Italy the physical, almost scatological landscape. It’s a kind of post-Modernist death wish, impossible to fulfill because the social and intellectual forms are rocklike in their obdurate persistence. Only cosmic, not historical time can grind such boulders.

    Heads and skulls are synecdoches for impotent human presences and

    Read more
  • Luigi Ontani and Joan Jonas

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Both Luigi Ontani and Joan Jonas rummage in folklore, fairy tales, and finally world culture as if shopping in a flea market of the collective unconscious, looking for items to combine with autobiography to create contemporary mythical personae. Both use mixed media, costumes and masks, and environmental constructions to present this old wine in new skins, imagistic formal containers which are intended to re-ferment their elemental psychological contents. And both recently presented performances that showed some of the problems this promising idea seems to be stumbling over.

    Ontani’s neo-myths

    Read more
  • Laurie Anderson

    Brooklyn Academy Of Music

    One could claim that Laurie Anderson is a second-generation, card-carrying conceptualist by simply sketching the outline of her United States Parts I–IV, a six-hour anthology of 78 performance bits from her last seven years of performing. “Numbers count,” this double-talking allusionist might say, and in this epic case they add up to both more and less than their large sums.

    Since her first significant performance, As: If, 1974, Anderson’s work has been remarkably consistent. Like all major artists she repeatedly, obsessively treats a handful of themes: technology, urban daily life, alienation,

    Read more
  • Christof Kohlhofer

    Protetch McNeil

    Christof Kohlhofer is a real wunderkind—a genuine wild man, an authentic German-American hybrid, utilizing the perverse best of the two modes: cockeyed commentary on a cockeyed world, and the use of visual hype to show up the media hype in terms of which we think we live our lives. His surfaces are febrile and fierce, and at the same time frivolous, as though the horrific images he traffics in are one big decorative throwaway—the only way to make them push their way to visibility in a world already saturated with the visible, a world in which all appearances seem fake and nobody knows what a

    Read more
  • Donald Baechler

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Donald Baechler is supposed to be the latest wunderkind. He’s a pseudo-German with a heavy touch of Americana—the graffiti mode, stylized into a cuteness that may be the only mature thing about his art. More precisely, his credentials consist in approval by Jiři Georg Dokoupil, one of the stars of the Mühlheimer Freiheit group in Cologne; an appearance in New York magazine, as one of a number of properly attired young hopefuls; and, in the elegant catalogue words of Robert Pincus-Witten, a “studied increment of inaccessibility.” In other words, Baechler is the latest hope for novelty. He represents

    Read more
  • Julio González

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Julio González is, in David Smith’s words, “the father of all iron sculpture of this century.” He is conventionally connected with yet differentiated from Picasso, as in Margit Rowell’s catalogue words: “we react initially to Picasso’s sculpture as a subject, a legible image, and only later does our focus shift to his material and formal invention. By contrast, González’s sculpture always solicits us first as an abstract structure . . . which only with time can be read as an anthropomorphic figure.” This makes him more “advanced” than Picasso, because of the absent referent, and because of

    Read more
  • Peter Campus

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Peter Campus’ videotapes and installations from the mid-’70s had a riveting, obsessional quality. In an especially memorable group of tapes he used the familiar video technique of chroma keying, in which a blue surface drops out of a video image and another image is “keyed” into the space it leaves. In one tape from this group Campus held a card onto which he’d chroma keyed an image of himself; he then set the card on fire. In another he applied blue makeup to his face, gradually disappearing into the video background. At the time these works attracted attention for the reflexive nature of their

    Read more
  • Vija Celmins

    David McKee, Inc.

    Despite its dour, reserved appearance I have come to understand Vija Celmins’ work as celebratory, as an intense, specific recreation of the joys of seeing. The graphite-on-paper drawings, painted cast-bronze rocks, and prints of this show confirm my feeling. The drawings, views in various scopes of phenomena in outer space, extend Celmins’ concerns of the last decade or so. Products of protracted, pointillist labor, they radiate the energies they ostensibly depict. The painted bronzes, each shown paired with a found rock which it exactingly duplicates, bring sight back to earth in an abrupt

    Read more
  • Cheryl Laemmle

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    The sympathetic specter of René Magritte floats around Cheryl Laemmle’s paintings. Illusionistic, handsomely painted, and “realistic” in ways reminiscent of the demure work of the Belgian fantasist, her work similarly is based on a set of images laden with associations. But unlike Magritte, Laemmle seems not to engage these symbols as parts of a larger rebus. There seems to be no narrative, no cumulative meaning to her paintings. They are enigmatic, but they are not puzzles.

    That each is in itself a small drama Laemmle makes pointedly clear. Elaborately rendered frames are painted on the faces

    Read more
  • “A Question Of Silence”

    The agenda of narrative film seldom allows for any impertinence or surprise, for any disruption in the representation of dominance. Thanks to a number of canny minds still at work in commercial cinema both in America and Europe, we can catch slight glimpses of slippages, but their best chance of congealing into broader representations is probably within the framework of independent film. A powerful example of this mode of dislocation is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, an extraordinary gaze into a social (and unsocial) life. Another is A Question of Silence

    Read more
  • Robert Longo

    Leo Castelli Gallery And Metro Pictures

    Fascination is the key to Robert Longo’s work. The fascinated gaze of the viewer awaits the falling figure’s end—his death.

    Since Longo’s use of a single Rainer Fassbinder film still in the late ’70s, through his images of men fighting (the “Men in the Cities” series, 1979–81), to the more recent Corporate Wars: Walls of Influence, 1982, an overriding concern in his work has been the seemingly continuous image of “the fall.” This image has almost entirely preoccupied Longo. We move with him from the verticality of the early, single silhouettes of men to the horizontal ity of the later fallen men

    Read more
  • Roman Opalka

    John Weber Gallery

    In stark contrast to those chameleon-like artists who seem to change directions at the first drop of a new trend stands Roman Opalka, whose career is a paradigm of relentless, singleminded, creative pursuit. Since 1965 Opalka, a Pole now living in France, has followed a strictly determined course: his aim is to make paintings and related photo- and audio-documentation based on the progressive listing of numbers. His activities over the last 27 years have been governed by a rigorous, rule-oriented, and repetitive method.

    The paintings, which Opalka calls “details,” are the product of a series of

    Read more
  • Lydia Masterkova

    Contemporary Russian Art Center Of America

    This show and its sister, “Russian Women Artists: 1930–1980,” both curated by Margarita Tupitsyn, have introduced to New York audiences a new, exciting group of Russian women artists, including both colleagues of and successors to the talented likes of Alexandra Exter, Lyubov Popova, Olga Rosanova, and Nathalia Goncharova. What links these artists is the desire they share to use art as a serious means of self-expression, as a revelatory key to emotion and self-awareness, but never—and I must repeat never—as the propaganda arm of the official Soviet style and sensibility of Socialist Realism.

    Read more