reviews

  • Sue Coe

    PPOW Gallery

    This month’s gallery tour took me to several galleries in parts of New York’s Lower East Side that are ordinarily visited only by outsiders who happen to be dope addicts. I actually turned back on my way to one gallery, but this one is on a safe block and it was there that I saw Sue Coe’s powerful show, a show having a lot to do with the abutment of art and junk and junk a few blocks east.

    Sue Coe paints horror beautifully, ugliness elegantly, and monstrosity with precise sanity. In a piece called It’s Like a Jungle, 1983, inspired by the Grandmaster Flash rap-realism hit song (the words are

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  • Jonathan Borofsky

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Jonathan Borofsky’s immense influence on so wide a spectrum of contemporary artists (both in this country and in Europe) derives more from the permission he gives himself to do everything imaginable (and from having the guts to do it) than from any identifiable plastic style. He may be the least stylized artist of his generation, or, for that matter, of any of the immediately succeeding ones. His decade-long count to psychic depletion has had an incomparable cumulative effect on recent art, but singling out the specific works that make up that effect remains a puzzling task. Borofsky engages in

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  • Jenny Holzer

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    From their humble origins on photocopied colored paper to their latest incarnations in state-of-the-art electronic message machines, Jenny Holzer’s home-made truisms—part homily, part syllogism, all confounding—have been the most intriguing variant on and the final apotheosis of word art. This show publicized selections from the most recent of Holzer’s linguistic suites, The Living Series and The Survival Series, both 1983, in a variety of media. Quotations such as “What urge will save us now that sex won’t’?,” “Savor kindness because cruelty is always possible later,” and “It is easy to get

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  • Juan Downey

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    By now the forms of TV are powerful as much because of their familiarity as because of their unswervingly simplistic view of things. In Information Withheld, 1983, as in his earlier The Looking Glass, 1981, Juan Downey borrows aspects of the structure of a very familiar TV genre—the cultural documentary—and proceeds to weave through them a

    The larger screen of a UNEX sign, the future, dateline 1984, with an opti richly textured argument about a subtle subject—in this case, the ways in which people use signs, and the relationship between signs and art. Moreover, these tapes are the first two parts

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  • Gary Hill

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The architecture of Gary Hill’s video installation Primarily Speaking, 1981–83, enforces a somewhat distanced response—there’s no particularly good position from which to experience the whole thing. Two white slablike structures face each other, forming a corridor perhaps six feet wide; four video monitors are mounted in each of these monoliths at a little above eye level, facing the four monitors in the opposite wall. Images usually appear on only one monitor on each side at any one time, with the other three monitors showing blank screens of color—the additive primaries blue, green, and red

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  • “In Plato’s Cave”

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    Given the oppositional rhetoric that has characterized much critical championing of so-called post-Modernist photography, it’s more than a little ironic to find an exhibition of such work here, in the House of Lloyd. But the practice and rhetoric of post-Modernism have been taking distinctly different paths recently. While critics have spoken of this work as exemplifying Roland Barthes’ “death of the author,” the “authors” themselves have been busy achieving public prominence, lending themselves not just to exhibitions such as this one, but to advertisements and magazine covers as well.

    In her

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  • Audrey Flack

    Armstrong Gallery

    Audrey Flack is one of our most important painters, but these works are not her most important paintings. Not that they’re uninteresting, but they’re more interesting because they’re Flack’s early “expressionist” work than because of anything inherent in them. This exhibition’s timing seemed to pose them as America’s answer to the European “neoexpressionists”—the Germans (who are really as conceptual as they are expressionist, using living paint to resurrect dead signs, in the spirit in which one tries to return to origins after one’s innermost ideas and beliefs have been defeated by history)

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  • Robert Beauchamp

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    When Neo-Minimalism arrives, which no doubt will be soon—for history and the manipulation of the market are one and the same these ambiguously avant-garde days—one of the neoexpressionist survivors will be Robert Beauchamp. Like Flack, he offers a tasteful expressionism, but it is mature. That is, Beauchamp manages to do two things with it that are not conventionally associated with it: he uses it to convey a state of postanxiety (reflecting his stay in the South?) if not unequivocal happiness, and through the figures that seem to effervesce out of the paint, he turns it into a kind of testing

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  • Carl Andre

    The Clocktower

    The substance of Carl Andre’s work is strategy—of choice of material, of its environmental placement, of the (usually serial) relationship between its parts. For some time Andre has been trying to find a “profound” justification for his activities, as if to offset the obvious modernist character of their matter-of-fact manipulation of a medium. He intends to counterbalance the positivistic, rational character of his work by giving it an “irrational” raison d’être. A few years ago, in Art in America, he wrote a letter speaking of the “musical,” sensuous character of his metal pieces; in a text

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  • Krieg Und Frieden/War And Peace

    Krieg und Frieden/War and Peace is a thoughtful critique of the escalation toward nuclear war. Made by a collective comprised of Stefan Aust, Heinrich Boll, Axel Engstfeld, Alexander Kluge, and Volker Schlöndorff, it joins the growing list of film and television projects that unfortunately seem to be merely prefacing the upcoming apocalypse. Combining conventional narrative segments and current-events and war footage with an unusually intelligent and facetious voice-over, it focuses on the American plan to “entertain” the “European theater”—or, in other words, on the enactment of a “limited

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  • “Still Life: Hollywood Photographs”

    Whitney Museum Of American Art At Philip Morris

    The lures of Hollywood movies, with their amalgam of stars, events, and luxuriant details, were seemingly insufficient to insure audience appeal. With the aim of cementing seduction, Hollywood studios in the postwar years churned out an endless stream of promotional stills, employing publicity departments and independent agencies to disseminate the images at large. These stills were used for posters, newspaper clips, and magazine reproduction; they displayed professional as well as supposedly intimate moments. Some show rehearsed and overheightened moments taken from feature films, while others

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  • John Heartfield

    Abc No Rio

    Since the inception of ABC No Rio, the artists who work most closely together there have been interested in generating a community involvement, getting local people to come in and participate, making art that can easily be seen to connect with the neighborhood. It is a noble strategy, but one with arguable success—too often the gallery functions as little more than a clubhouse, with attendant self-contained ennui, and a limited supply of either excitement or eccentricity.

    Recently there have been signs that things have been-changing; new faces, new attitudes seem to have generated a collective

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  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    I have always found Jennifer Bartlett’s reliance on pictorial device, her emphatic desire to prove the artiness of her art, terribly arch. The sectional pieces, with their diagrammatic representations and schematic indexing, suffered from the tension of wanting to be seen as intellectual. The later screens appeared more relaxed as they played around with a look of casual funkiness, but too often remained merely coy. The new paintings are still burdened with such problems, still rely too much on obvious devices like repetition and internal rhyming within a tripartite format. But they are saved

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  • Mac Adams

    Freidus/Ordover Gallery

    Narrativity has been an element central to Mac Adams’ work since the photographic “Mysteries,” 1972–80. In these (usually) composite images Adams constructed mise-en-scènes based on typical crime fiction genres; objects “innocent” or without meaning in themselves, through their contexts, became clues or signs loaded with a sinister significance. A particular configuration of such signs—a disorderly bathroom, for instance—could be narrated as the afterimage of a criminal or violent act. The work spoke about the nature of interpretation, or, more specifically, about our desire to organize the

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  • David Wojnarowicz

    Hal Bromm

    Until comparatively recently David Wojnarowicz was best known for his street-art activities (including his involvement in a show on a pier on the Hudson this summer), although he is now emerging as a serious writer. Some of his recent art work is in collaboration with fellow artists Mike Bidlo, John Fekner, and Kiki Smith. With the exception of a few paintings on garbage-can lids, and a selection of brightly colored driftwood “totems” accompanied by an audiotape of jungle sounds, the work here was paint and collage on masonite, the images having been stenciled or drawn in a crude comic strip

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  • The Bad Sister

    The Kitchen

    Laura Mulvey’s and Peter Wollen’s film The Bad Sister, 1983, is a fantasy thriller based on a novel by Emma Tennant which was, in turn, a reworking of a 19th-century Gothic tale. Tennant switched the genders of the major protagonists, resulting in a narrative that came down in favor of the Devil/Vampire rather than God, contrary to the conventions of the original. In the film, Jane is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy landowner. Along with her mother, she is disowned and expelled from his estates. She subsequently makes a new life in London, but becomes obsessed with memories of childhood,

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  • Born In Flames

    The Film Forum

    Born in Flames is a feminist film which examines the cultural place of women from a sociopolitical rather than overtly psychoanalytical perspective. The action takes place in New York of the future, ten years after a socialist revolution. Although promises of women’s social equality have been made, they have not been realized. The mise-en-scène does not present a futuristic world of sci-fi fantasy (an implausible fiction), but one which is all too bleakly like the present—a lack of difference which is not wholly successful, since we must constantly be told, rather than be shown, that it is future

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  • “Cubist Illustrated Books In Context”

    Franklin Furnace

    Though hardly a novel notion, recognition of the importance of graphic media in spreading artistic ideas has only come into its own in recent examinations of early-20th-century “isms.” Through the ’60s, the American approach stressed painting and sculpture as the main signposts of visual development, and relegated drawing, prints, and particularly the design media to the back burners. All this began to change with the emergence of the issues of the ’70s; as contemporary concerns shifted toward the alternative media, we started to look for new things in the past.

    One of the major legacies of the

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  • “Monumental Prints”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Both artists in this show, Georg Baselitz and Rolf Iseli, offer a distinctive vision worthy of inspection in its own right, but the subject of this discussion is the general/issue that both address here, namely, “monumental prints.” It is no secret to art audiences today that paintings have gotten larger; so too have prints and drawings. While the reasons for this can vary according to the individual artist, the development toward big, bigger, biggest is related to a heightened interest in the pictorial. Transcending media, this sensibility helps to blur the traditional distinctions between

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  • James Grigsby

    N.A.M.E. Gallery

    James Grigsby is a Chicago performer whose works are distinguished by precision and polish. Usually highly crafted combinations of narration, movement, and sound compositions, they often achieve a near-perfect balance of ingredients. “Rust Never Sleeps” is not as ambitious a piece as previous ones, yet Grigsby manages to make it memorable despite the lack of music or movement. There were no sets, no costumes, only the artist and a chair; dramatic lighting was provided by Alicia Healy, who followed Grigsby around with a handheld, heavy-duty light, capturing fragments of his face or creating

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  • Douglas Abdell

    Gallozzi-La Placa Gallery

    This show was an eye-opener on several levels. It displayed the formidable painting skills of an artist who first made his mark in the early ’70s as an abstract sculptor, and it underscored the need to consider the spiritual as a major issue in the art of the ’80s.

    Douglas Abdell’s deep and abiding interest in language, and particularly in the relationships between words, images, sounds, and shapes, are evident throughout these recent paintings. Working on wooden panels constructed from found packing frames as well as on canvas, he creates unforgettable pictures of energized visual poetry. Abdell

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