reviews

  • Valerie Jaudon

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    Valerie Jaudon’s paintings have long been rationalist anomalies amid the sensualist extravaganzas of the so-called “pattern and decoration” group. Like her peers Robert Kushner and Kim MacConnel, Jaudon was a protégé of the late Amy Goldin, the American critic who almost single-handedly posited a theoretical alternative to the ideological stranglehold reductivism had over advanced art in the late ’60s. Radically unlike the other two painters, however, Jaudon has been an abstractionist in all her work. Her affinities seem to have been more for certain aspects of Frank Stella’s early-to-middle-period

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  • John Duff, Robert Mangold, Bruce Nauman

    Blum Helman Gallery

    Although there is no perceptible link between the work of these three artists, each of them was formed in a climate more ostensibly attuned to conceptual concerns than is today’s, and their work shows it. Both Bruce Nauman and John Duff came to the forefront of their generation with the surge of so-called materials-and process-oriented artists, Nauman as a neo-Dadaist high-jinkser, Duff as a sculptor of nonrepresentational forms. Robert Mangold, somewhat the oldest of the three and a bona fide reductivist, stands apart from them in the “no-hands” look of all his paintings; whereas Nauman and

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  • John Torreano

    in the artist’s studio

    During the 12 years that John Torreano used glass jewels in his paintings their role evolved from a collaborative to a dominant one. First employed as specific sources of light within painted fields, they gradually became the entire encrusted, sparkling surfaces of his works. Over time Torreano developed a kind of ersatz pointillism, one that incorporated the obligatory fragmentary marks of painted color but relied for the most part on the faceted planes of the jewels and their pigmentation for an optical mix in the pictures. In choosing jewels as a material he created for his work an a priori

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  • Susan Rothenberg

    Willard Gallery

    Susan Rothenberg’s oil paintings are attractive, in the sense the term conveys when describing a room full of casually well-dressed people. They are remarkably and quite unfailingly good-looking, and they function as visual and intellectual balm as one surveys them. They have social ease, are intelligent and well-educated, pleasant and serious. They are beyond reproach. Attractive through the mouthpiece of a well-bred jaw; money with class.

    What has long bothered me about Rothenberg’s work has something to do with a homogenizing system through which data—art-historical throughlines and conventions

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  • Judith Shea

    Willard Gallery

    Judith Shea’s sartorial themes make for elegant, witty sculptures. Whether she casts a dress in bronze, iron, canvas, or any more traditional haberdasher’s material, she winds up with a modern figurative archetype and a succinct accommodation of our two abiding formal referents, human anatomy and the exposed esthetic of minimalism. Shea never strays far from the dressmaker’s dummy or from the standard sectional organization of sewing patterns, which also places her work within shouting distance of the altered ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp and, surprisingly perhaps, a mere whisper away from some

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  • Allan McCollum

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    For several years now Allan McCollum has been building little model paintings. Each has a central plane painted a monochromatic black or brown; a mat, usually off-white; and a raised, framelike border in brown or tan. The works vary in size but all are small, none much larger than 16 or so inches high. They are generic paintings, and McCollum often hangs them together to make generic installations and exhibitions. His work has always been funny, with an oddly embarrassed, rather sardonic air. In this show it became almost savage in its humor, tremendously aggressive, and yet surprisingly likable.

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  • “The Apocalyptic Vision: Four New Imagists”

    Galleri Bellman

    “The Apocalyptic Vision: Four New Imagists”

    The observation that most of what passes for art criticism is little more than lists of worn clichés is itself a commonplace. But this familiarity does not make it any less true that art writers prefer to use resonant phrases which originally had little meaning and now, through overuse, have none. The popularity of such phrases rests in their utter inability to communicate any specific thing, idea, or emotion; thus they free the writer (and the patient reader) from any obligation to look at or think about the art in question. The upsurge of an

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  • Keith Sonnier

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Keith Sonnier’s mastery of neon signals his awareness of our society’s technological destiny—his sense of its destiny being dependent on its means, not its ends. The question in Sonnier’s art is whether these technical means can be made to emblematize a universal goal of transcendence, an almost Buddhist mirage of ultimate meaning. His art depends on the swift mental conversion of object into image into sign into symbol and back into object; it is only the completion of the circle that allows for transcendence. This hermetic completeness, generally coded in bipolar terms, makes his pieces the

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  • George Segal

    The Jewish Museum

    George Segal’s The Holocaust shows 11 figures, one alive and standing with eyes closed and a hand on a barbed-wire fence strung between two thinpoles, and ten dead and strewn on the black floor. The whole was set in a gray-painted room, with a text on the wall giving a statement from Segal about the work and explaining its purpose—a memorial to victims of the Holocaust, to be installed permanently in bronze on a site in Lincoln Park, San Francisco, near the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum. The figures have Segal’s familiar bleached-out form; they are cast from life, then manipulated

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  • Jack Tworkov

    Jack Tworkov enjoyed an exceptionally long and productive career. A charter member of the New York School, he first made his reputation as an Abstract Expressionist painter in the ’50s. In the mid-’60s, however, he turned away from the subjective, emotional bias implicit in Abstract Expressionism in favor of a clear-cut structural approach that he continued to develop until his death last year at the age of 82. The work in this show, dating from 1978 to 1982, reveals the power, persuasiveness, and pictorial probity of Tworkov’s late vision.

    Tworkov’s obvious fascination with perspectival play

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  • Robin Tewes

    Robin Tewes’ first solo show in New York was a timely reminder of her distinctive place in the ranks of younger American figurative painters. Since 1979, Tewes has developed a unique vision of people in everyday situations, notable for its searingly direct presentation of information and its strong emotional impact. She is among the small group of painters today who challenge viewers to see life as it is and not through the mitigating, cosmetic lens of the media.

    Tewes uses photographs as reminders for her work, as do many of her contemporaries. Her sources are snapshots, in some cases taken by

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  • Falso Movimento, Hesitate and Demonstrate

    La MaMa E.T.C., The Public Theater

    Remember the “theater of images,” the catchall phrase describing theater that was more cinematic and painterly than conventionally dramatic? Rooted in the nonlinear ’60s, the works of Richard Foreman, Robert Wilson, and Mabou Mines, among others, grafted the complex machinery and the elliptic, imagistic style of media technology as well as the visual look of contemporary painting and sculpture onto their respective theatrical backgrounds (Bertolt Brecht,Samuel Beckett, Jerzy Grotowski, performance art). This provocative and still vital idea appeared in its current European version in recent

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  • Mark di Suvero

    Oil & Steel Gallery

    So many things dangle in these sculptures, lures for the touch needed to set the pieces in motion, that they leave an impression of baited hooks. Cum Glass, a magnifying glass suspended from a wire in an eye-shaped opening which ultimately fans into a fish tail, only confirms an iconography of enticement. As these elements suggest, what Mark di Suvero angles for, what he wants to hook, is our retina as well as our hand, thus lending a punning depth to his repeated use of hook-and-eye hardware. In the spinning pendulum of the glass is the mesmerist’s gluttony for viewers’ souls as well as for

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  • Julian Schnabel

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Signs of empire, ancient empire, dominated here. It was as if this Julian Schnabel museum of pseudo-Egyptian and Roman finds—mummies, standards, amphorae, pot shards—were a confession that he finds contemporary life too minor in key. When he deals with modernity it is in flat, restrained paintings, wherein mechanical life-support systems, intravenous, help sustain an affectless existence subdivided into tracts of Piet Mondrian rectangles tied up with Barnett Newman ribbons. Interiority becomes a matter of tubal connections and ligations. Schnabel’s bent is elegiac; what’s curious is how that

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  • Whitney Biennial Film

    In the mid-’70s a dissatisfaction with the limitations of gallery production and what were perceived as the preponderant styles of American avant-garde film emerged in certain circles in the art world. A generation steeped in movies and rock ’n’ roll wanted out from the strictures of Greenbergian nuance and conceptual ’pataphysics, wanted to admit that they never wanted to go to the Rothko chapel, that they fell asleep watching the filmic transformation of a tree through summer, fall, winter, and spring. To these artists, the return to imagery and to the play and disruption of the narrative were

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  • Whitney Biennial Video

    This Biennial once again gave video greater prominence than it has in the rest of the art world, offering a full day’s programming of work by 16 videomakers, shown in a gallery just opposite the museum entrance, as well as two installation pieces elsewhere. Video doesn’t fit into art’s usual marketing structures, and so has remained problematic within the gallery scene, even as new technology continues to increase its significance as the dominant communications and entertainment medium of the culture. In this context of growing social importance and general art-world neglect, the handful of

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  • Barbara Kruger

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Her pen was poised when her eye spied the April issue of Artforum. There, in the review section (page 69, to be exact), critic Donald Kuspit denounces Barbara Kruger’s “manipulations of the self-evident” which (sadly) fail to “provide information . . . not available elsewhere.” A comment that is, itself, “entertaining” in that it seems to confirm the artist’s work on what Roland Barthes called the “implicit proverbs” stating “the law of society,” which are less reflections of universal opinion than of a particular vision of the world. That the vision is male, exacting powerful repressions through

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  • “Multiple Choice”

    One of the most thoughtful and inherently polemical series of photography exhibitions recently has been conducted at P.S.1 by Carol Squiers, who has avoided current squabbling over fine art, media, and artist-employed photography to direct attention toward its use. This is a curatorial practice, then, that conceives of photography discursively—as a medium operating throughout disparate, often intersecting circles within society—so as to focus on the textual, contextual, and rhetorical strategies uniting these separate spheres. “Multiple Choice” extended this stance to reveal certain critical

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  • Mel Kendrick

    John Weber Gallery

    Mel Kendrick’s new sculptures introduce a number of elements alien to contemporary sensibilities: on one hand, the pedestal; on another, direct hand-carving; and in a third instance, surface. drawing and marking, with all their connotations of pictorialism. These elements, however, are not employed for their nostalgic intimations, but as artistic means among other means, as devices that have been devalued, at this point in late-20th-century culture, to the level of the functional services they perform. Instead, these works tread significant and relatively unexplored terrain in the role they

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