reviews

  • Ed Paschke

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    The notion of distortion has been a key idea in nearly all of Ed Paschke’s work, although its ways and means have taken various twists and turns. The early paintings, while executed in a highly realistic manner, showed physically unconventional human beings—androgynous transvestites, deformed circus exhibitionists, outrageous pinups and porno stars. The second stage of Paschke’s development continued to feature such types as pimps, prostitutes, and show people, those who only come out at night; these grotesque beauties, however, were more stylistically caricatured, and the technique of distortion

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  • Dorothea Tanning

    Stephen Mazoh & Co., Inc.

    These are grand, weird, sinister, absurd images, painted with the same ambition that gave Michelangelo his claim to terribilità, but in a lower, peculiarly more frightening and volatile key. Dorothea Tanning was Max Ernst’s wife, famous from a photograph of herself with Ernst—she looking splendidly uncensored, hypererotically charged in a world in which everything was sexualized, he like a preternaturally calm imp. In these paintings she is heir to the Surrealist magic, the keeper of its uncompromising flame. Still urgently in pursuit of the marvelous, she comes up with pictures that are so

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  • “Follies”

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    There were three aspects to this exhibition. First it presented the architect as superstar, the destiny of art on his or her sturdy shoulders; second, it raised the issue of the relationship between art and privilege; third, it offered a profound meditation on the generic nature and selfish use of art. Each aspect impinged on the others, as if to dissolve them in itself. The catalogue includes Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Landscape Garden,” which argues that only great wealth, affording one “exemption from the ordinary cares of Humanity” and freeing one from ambition, positions one to realize

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  • Chris Burden

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Chris Burden offered a star-wars fantasy in which the new-world ambition signified by Columbus’ ships (all three were here) was continuous with the ambition that leads us to explore space and make war. The way his objects swam and related in space, not just the objects themselves, was essential to this installation, which was a kind of crazy-quilt convergence of different versions of the will to conquer alien worlds—ironically, with Rube Goldberg means. It’s all child’s play, Burden seemed to be saying, while he muted the fun by the sinister sense of violence that hovered over the nonsequential

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  • Troels Wörsel

    Brooke Alexander Gallery

    The paintings of Troels Wörsel, a Danish artist living in Cologne, run a very mild-mannered rhetorical range yet convey a peculiar quality of remote pain, a pain both remotely inflicted and remotely sustained. On single canvases, on diptychs and triptychs, Wörsel places abstract fields or patterns. He does so coolly, almost distractedly, sometimes adding some offhand scrap of representation, or perhaps a discreet object such as a doorknob. His palette, until recently black, white, and gray, now includes archetypally acrylic hues of orange and green—the first colors to recede in color blindness.

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  • Michael David

    Hamilton Gallery

    Michael David’s wax and oil paintings air a Victorian heroine’s modest yet expectant certainty of homage to her beauty. Nevertheless, one comes away impressed by the intelligence which manufactures their beauty: they are so modulated, so balanced, so fair, trained to accommodate many different tastes without appearing compromised. They delight in surface but believe in form—cut-out or raised planes intersect the visceral wax buildup; they are thematically steadfast and reasonable, reassuringly reverting to an earlier concern—the cruciform—but attenuating it, discretely alluding to it rather than

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  • Rosemarie Castro

    Tibor de Nagy Gallery and Hal Bromm Gallery

    Rosemarie Castoro’s “Shrines” seem to be involved in an ongoing crystallization, angling now to the left, now the right, pulling upward, then downward in serpentine cascade—which accounts for their sometimes cockeyed balance. Facets reproduce themselves in obedience to some shifting force field, some attraction capable of raising cubed hackles on the back of a sheer cliff face, dimpling the unexposed side. These grottoes seem to have arrived, if incompletely, rather than been made.

    In fact, they are objects of emergence in another sense: these cocoons are empty. The shrugged-off carapace of the

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  • Mary Beth Edelson

    A.I.R. Gallery

    I may be imagining it, but it seems to me there’s something newly humorous about Mary Beth Edelson’s latest notes on myth and ritual. Things seem serious enough as one checks off the budget of stock m & r icons: woman as lamia (bronzes of woman-headed snakes and spirals), woman as goddess (ruins of Greco-Roman busts), fire and water as purifying elements, journeys through caves as rites of passage, and so forth. At the same time, though, Edelson presents these as both melodramatic and petrified (or perhaps melodramatic because petrified). The legendary instruments of triumphant climax—the

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  • Kazuko

    A.I.R. Gallery

    Kazuko designates pattern-making as the impulse that unites humankind. Her point of view has shifted, however, from the first person, that of the individual pushing the impulse to its most refined expression (her complicated geometric string constructions from the period 1972 to 1979), to the third, an almost socio-anthropological tracing of the persistence of the urge to pattern among different cultures and in seemingly adverse circumstances. These improvised arrangements correlate rural and urban primitivism: Austrian folk ritual and Lower East Side nightlife. Their obvious disparateness

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  • Richard Prince

    Baskerville + Watson

    The recognition of a shift in our view of reality from a somatic spatial model to a specular field transmitted via media representation began to take form in the work of certain West Coast-based artists about a decade ago, and since then, through his use of the advertising image, Richard Prince has become its most didactic exponent. Like the majority of advertisements, the Marlboro-cigarette image which is the source of Prince’s recent body of photographs, “Cowboys,” is designed for the casual glance that cruises the street or the pages of a magazine, so that the information is received by

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  • Francis Picabia

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    It has become possible to speak about Francis Picabia’s later work only in the light of the current postmortem on Modernist values, since what was previously unspeakable was its apparent subversion of one of Modernism’s most sacred canons: the artist as unique individual engaged in a problem-solving activity from which would develop an original “style,” a heroic myth that is currently enjoying a revival. Picabia’s work is not original in this sense; it stylistically defeats attempts to determine a unified “vision,” confiscating the image in favor of the signature as the sign of authorship.

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  • Joseph Nechvatal

    Semaphore Gallery

    Joseph Nechvatal, like Picabia, traces figures from Renaissance art, a strategy of quotation that is fast becoming so repetitive as to render it a meaningless gesture except insofar as it indicates the impoverished language of a reality unable to represent itself other than by a doubling back to the myths and icons of the past. Nechvatal does attempt to forestall this closure by also incorporating into his drawing images of American media icons and objects of modern technology. We are guided, therefore, into a reading of power and exploitation, impotence and alienation, that nevertheless is

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  • “New Expressions”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    The central characteristic of current neo-expressionist painting is its desire to collapse history into a shallow field of references. Parodying the techniques by which the mass media manage to deny difference, these painters work to render all things equivalent; styles, images, sources are processed through the art machine, reduced to a more or less interesting mélange and packaged with the signatures of figures made legendary by exposure in fashion magazines. There is a certain legitimacy to this, one which derives from a particular history, the history of conceptual and performance art in

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  • Kiely Jenkins

    Fun Gallery

    To approach this gallery after the German show was to move from an attempted sublime to the most deliberately ridiculous. Kiely Jenkins’ deranged dioramas and sick taxidermy are simply a lot of fun. Sure, they have a rather obvious “message” about life in the big city, but the point is made with such obvious relish that it doesn’t seem heavy-handed in the least. Indeed, the pleasure of the work lies in the lightness of the touch that spreads that very obviousness. Jenkins’ trophies take Christy Rupp’s wholesome urban ecologies and sour them with a frat-house humor, a smarty-pants mixture of

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  • Ron Nagle

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Besides really big pictures, will the ’80s also be remembered for the return of really small objects to mainstream consideration? After all, much attention has been focused on the sheer physical ambitiousness of recent really big pictures by, say, Julian Schnabel and others. Still, current artistic tastes also run in a decidedly intimate direction whose peculiar concerns were tellingly addressed by West Coast artist Ron Nagle in his show of small ceramic sculpture.

    Born in San Francisco in 1939, Nagle studied with Peter Voulkos and Kenneth Price. Like them, he can turn traditional ceramic materials

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  • Donald Lipski

    Germans Van Eck Gallery

    Donald Lipski called this ambitious, multiple-piece installation “Building Steam.” The title, according to the brief statement in the catalogue accompanying the show, refers to James Watt’s invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, “inaugurating the Industrial Age which is now drawing to a close.” But the phrase also clues us into the compression and release of the artist’s creative energy as the source of the fascination of the 62 works here, which filled two rooms. The display was a daring tour de force examination of the materialized spirit of 20th-century consumer culture.

    Lipski’s

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  • Lee Friedlander

    Zabriskie Gallery

    The 56 photographs here included portraits from the past 25 years, covering many of the themes Friedlander has pursued—for example, one wall presented photographs of black jazz and blues musicians, while another featured photographers and artists. Overall the work was hung in a loose order, beginning with a picture of a naiadlike girl standing on a backyard swing and ending with photographs of Friedlander’s wife and children, and a final shot of Friedlander himself seen through the windshield of a pickup, hands clenching the wheel, staring wearily ahead at the camera and the road.

    To some extent

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  • Hamish Fulton

    John Weber Gallery

    Hamish Fulton’s view of nature has grown increasingly dramatic, now encompassing not merely walks through English lanes but treks across the wilds of central Australia and through the mountains of Nepal and Hokkaido. Most of the eight pieces here are panoramas made up of two or more enlargements of 35-mm frames, butted together or with thin spaces between them; in all of them the sweet rhetoric of pictorialist landscape photography—the use of dramatic lighting conditions and rich chiaroscuro, the references to natural phenomena suffused with emotional connotations—is central. In several the moon

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  • Ira Richer

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    But for Richard Artschwager’s cozy Formica monuments to enigma, veneers and simulated veneers have had little play in recent art. This is curious, not only because they are among the most ubiquitous and forthright of contemporary materials, but also since photographically imprinted laminates so succinctly embody questions of illusionism central to Modern art. What device evokes such questions better than that of a plastic-coated reproduction of wood layered over real wood? As all but one of this show’s eight large constructions from 1983 in this genre showed, Ira Richer understands the inherent

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  • George Schneeman

    "Home Plate," 309 East Fifth Street

    The small East Village storefront George Schneeman filled with his fresco paintings, ceramics, and homemade furniture perfectly suited the intimate domesticity that marks all his work. A small room crowded with his pieces seemed like an informal homecoming of civilized cousins. The storefront’s location in the parish of St. Marks-in-the-Bowery reinforced Schneeman’s close connection to a part of literary New York, namely its poets. Aside from the quotations, ranging in their sources from Dante to T.S. Eliot, that are painted around the rims of some of his large ceramic platters (with appropriate,

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  • “Underdog”

    E. 7th St. Gallery

    It’s not at all clear yet that the so-called East Village “movement” is in fact a movement at all. Is this spate of new galleries more than just more galleries? Aren’t they just filled with more paintings? Don’t many (if not all) of these paintings have recognizable counterparts or predecessors elsewhere? Yes, yes, yes. Much (though by no means all) East Village work does cohere in its small size, somewhat shabby presentation (in framing and so on), and loose working, but the question is whether these traits have anything to do with locale. The same shabbiness and looseness are found in the work

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  • Sharon Greytak

    Collective For Living Cinema

    Sharon Greytak’s Czechoslovakian Woman (1982) consists of eight filmed black and white photographs, which document a woman’s funeral in Czechoslovakia in the ’60s. Staggered pans and zooms are executed over the photographs while subtitles present a text in phonetic English. Some Pleasure on the Level of the Source (1982) follows a little girl as she jumps rope, colors a rectangle red, has her eyes covered, sits with her hands in her lap and pushes her hair back sultrily. In The Living Room (1983) we watch two women tell anecdotes about joining the marines and making magnesium bombs. This segues

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  • “The Way Of How”

    Brooklyn Academy Of Music

    Like the flat-footed takeoff on Zen in its title, The Way of How flirts with meaning but settles for effects. Created in improvisational rehearsals by a collaborative group method, this collage of aural and visual routines consists of a series of discrete performance bits strung out like beads on a string; several of the units are intriguing in themselves, but The Way lacks a strong point of view and/or a structure that would illuminate the “why” behind its collective “how.” Subtitled “a reverie,” the piece intermittently succeeds in conjuring up various vague atmospheres, drifting moods evoked

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