reviews

  • Martin Disler

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Martin Disler may look like a Johnny-come-lately in the neo-expressionist binge that is saturating New York, but this Swiss artist has been drawing and painting in an increasingly—one might say uncompromisingly—fluid way since the mid ’60s. As his drawing and painting have merged, the swift, skeletal character of the one given substance by the viscous reserve of the other, his work has become less of an expression of desire (in erotically active figures) and more of a demonstration of power. In this group of drawn paintings the figures—and there are figures within figures here, all emerging from

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  • Chaim Soutine

    Galleri Bellman

    In 1951, in a brilliant yet fundamentally wrongheaded essay on Chaim Soutine, Clement Greenberg wrote about his “astounding capacities” but “delayed and incomplete realization of these.” Soutine “set too high a value on the unimpeded expression of feeling,” discounting “to an excess the obligation to organize a picture decoratively.” From the viewpoint of this now bankrupt ideology of abstract purity, Soutine was never anything more than a “sublime illustrator,” who made the serious mistake of turning “his back on Cubism and refused . . . to like anything but the Old Masters.” “Only an outsider

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  • Daniel Quintero

    Marlborough | Midtown

    Like Soutine, although obviously working in a somewhat different style, Daniel Quintero at first glance seems interested in human expression, signs of an obvious mood. But after looking at his numerous portraits, and especially at the faces in his magnificent tour de force Windows (Ventanas), 1982–83, and observing that all the figures have the same “quietistic” expression and pensive, meditative glance, one realizes that the representation of expressive subject matter is not the issue. Quintero is obsessed with the irreducibility of space, signaled by the glance that traverses and announces it

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  • “Sculpture: The Tradition in Steel”

    Nassau County Museum Of Fine Art

    In my search for a unifying principle for understanding this important exhibition, two ideas struck me as crucial, namely, the notions that prefabrication is socially implicit in the use of steel, and that the sculpture could be classified as either the kind that accepted and utilized prefabrication into a structure, or the kind that resisted it by emphasizing steel’s materiality. This division seemed to work whether the pieces were landscape-based or not, and whether or not they utilized the standardization implicit in prefabrication for independent ends.

    Thus three of the major pieces in the

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  • Donald Judd

    Blum Helman Gallery

    Donald Judd’s singular body of work, it seems, will be brought to light little by little all over town. This show, which had things from the early ’60s through the ’70s, included some of the forebears of the surprisingly illusionistic recent wall and floor pieces Judd showed downtown earlier this season. The consistency of his purpose is as remarkable as the beauty and particularity he has been able to impart to so restrained a repertoire. For although there is an obvious, conscious absence of authorial hand right from the start, Judd’s minimalism, unlike other more conceptually derived and

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  • Mary Heilmann

    The Clock-Tower

    As these four paintings, all 1983, reiterate, Mary Heilmann’s work forms an uninterrupted link with the hard-edge abstraction that developed in the early and mid ’60s. The hallmark of that style, at least in the hands of its two ablest practitioners, Ellsworth Kelly and Al Held, was the simultaneous exploitation of a resolute, quasi-geometric drawing style and a fully explored Modern palette of nuanced public color. For whatever reasons, both Kelly and Held moved away from the loaded, almost tensile repertoire of allusive forms each refined through this period toward styles that could accommodate

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  • Sherry Millner

    The Collective For Living Cinema

    Crime Around The Collar, a film by Sherry Millner, concerns itself with the emergence of the computer criminal and the widespread incidence of corporate crime. In presenting the statistic that “for every person murdered by a thug, six workers are killed by their boss at the workplace,” Millner emphasizes not only hazardous working conditions, but also the stubborn unaccountability of corporate crime, and the boardroom’s indulgence in price-fixing, tax fraud, embezzlement, and the manipulation of the stock exchange—what Al Capone called “the legitimate rackets.” And when Millner asserts that it

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  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, Cooper Union

    This documentary exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s contributions to performance works of various types included sets, costumes, audiotapes, photodocumentation, and written description of works from the period 1954–83. The material fell into three parts. The period during which Rauschenberg worked with Merce Cunningham (1954–65) was covered somewhat cursorily through photographs hung outside the gallery itself, in the hallway. His time with the Judson Dance Theater (1963–67)—when he created nine performance pieces of his own—was the central focus of the show. Rauschenberg’s recent attempts to

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  • “Post-Graffiti”

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    A seductive neologism, this show’s title soon palled, deluding the viewer. Whatever it might have meant of a rupture in stance or sensibility was negated, for “Post-Graffiti,” to judge from the catalogue blurb, denoted a simple shift from subway to canvas, from impermanence to permanence, from the milieu of the street to that of the museum or gallery. It signaled, then, a change in material ground, serving to legally and artistically legitimize what was once “outsider” art. Not that the emergence of graffiti in this spatial and cultural situation is unprecedented, as Keith Haring’s and Jean-Michel

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  • Keith Haring

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Strangely, the “old masters” in “Post-Graffiti” presented mostly tepid work, as if desiring more focused spotlights, unmindful of that great group show that is the subway. Downtown, Keith Haring one-upped current fashion by staging a two-gallery, two-level show, his computer-age circuits overflowing ground floor and basement, their digital jag moving from this gallery to the space behind the former Blimpie’s up the street. Haring’s familiar gang—the radiant children and angels, the lunatic TV-lookers and extraterrestrial forms—were in full force. In the Houston Street environment they populated

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  • Barry Flanagan

    Pace Gallery

    It’s as if there were two shows of Barry Flanagan’s sculptures here: one a bestiary, the other abstract. In the first we are obviously in the realm of myth: the gilding tips us off, as does the emblem of the unicorn. In the second we are in the realm, one might say, of (natural) science, since the overwhelming number of these abstractions are travertine-marble carvings which resemble artifacts such as bleaching bones or worn carapaces, and which are numbered like so many inventoried fossils or geological samples.

    If in the first arena there are elements faerie, in the sense of having once existed

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  • Daisy Youngblood

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    A bald head lies like an egg in a nest of dried grass, evoking shades of Constantin Brancusi but remaining far from his aerodynamism, more like the post-Surrealism of Jonathan Borofsky’s and Enzo Cucchi’s bulging craniums; bodies wither to mere trunks or twig limbs, stumps. Both heads and bodies are meshed in nature, the arms and legs of half-metamorphosed Daphnes, the heads approaching the status of skulls, shrunken, but caught on their way to the natural state, i.e., on their way to death. In Daisy Youngblood’s figures the pull to earth is almost gravitational, the lower parts reaching there

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  • Barbara Schwartz

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    It’s inevitable that Barbara Schwartz’s new reliefs will be viewed as part of the revival of botanic abstraction which includes Nancy Graves and Gregory Amenoff and which derives from Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Burchfield, who comes in turn out of Van Gogh’s animistic landscapes. That canalization is fairly clear. But although the individual parts of Schwartz’s works refer to nature, the way those parts are put together is cultural, artificed, which is to say decorative. As with Amenoff, each of Schwartz’s leaves has distinct vascular grooves, each variety its characteristic markings. Schwartz’s

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  • Nancy Spero

    Willard Gallery

    A year ago I spent an afternoon that ran into evening with Nancy Spero looking at nowhere near all of her work. We unrolled several scrolls that ran almost the length of the room, including Codex Artaud, 1971–72, Torture of Women, 1976, Torture in Chile, 1974, and The First Language, 1981—all previously exhibited in and around New York, notably at A.I.R., a feminist cooperative with which Spero has been involved since its inception over a decade ago. The poetry of these scrolls has something to do with the rarefaction of the paper, but much more to do with the innate grace that moved Spero in

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  • Shigeko Kubota

    White Columns

    Rivers, mountains, time, death, and Marcel Duchamp have been the primary elements of Shigeko Kubota’s work for most of the last twenty years—first in Tokyo, where in 1963 she met John Cage, then a year later in New York, where she almost immediately became “vice-chairman” of Fluxus. Since 1975 she has been making video sculptures of a very blunt lyricism, which poses some great gaga-metaphysical questions: “Are we dancing still on the gigantic palm of Duchamp, thinking it is a big continent and ocean?” “Can we communicate with the dead through video?” “Is video vacant apartment?” “Is video

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    Many of Cindy Sherman’s new color prints, most of them larger than lifesize, bring back memories of the photographic layouts that fashion magazines used to run of actresses wearing clothes keyed by the movies that had put them in the big time; Faye Dunaway wearing “Bonnie” outfits was one such memorable instance. A few others suggested old Life and Look features on actresses in their Bel Air lairs. Sherman’s images, though, are anything but nostalgic, and they are not campy. Jauntily enough, accurately enough, they consecrate a renewed marriage, telling us that fashion has for some time been

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  • Thomas Lawson

    Metro Pictures

    On one wall, a heavy scent of Thomas Mann—four mountain landscapes, two with The Magic Mountain in their titles. In each of them an overall pattern of oil-paint flecks screens the imagery. Without these quasi-pointillist veils, the pictures would coincide with a number of Romantic, even sentimental precedents with which the 19th century abounded. In View from the Burghof, a girdle of dark pines is supported and crowned with the cyclamen–and–indigo aurora of a northern winter’s dusk. A lighter, western vista spreads horizontally from a balcony’s view in Purple Mountains Majesty, whose title is

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  • Colab, “A More Store”

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Prices so low they cannot be advertised—remember that one? I always get nervous in discount houses and stereo and TV stores where the goods aren’t priced, or aren’t priced so that the customer can read them. They are coded. This makes me suspicious. Do they have one price for a guy in a suit and one price for a guy in overalls? I like the price right there where I can see it.

    You never see prices in galleries, except in the ones that advertise “thousands of signed original oil paintings—new shipments arrive daily,” or in restaurants with paintings on the walls. It’s as if art is something they

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  • Stephen Lack

    Gracie Mansion Gallery

    Paintings, like people, had better be smart if they aren’t beautiful. Then again, there’s the old expression that nobody likes a smart ass.

    To me Stephen Lack’s paintings here, all 1983, are smart-ass paintings. They certainly aren’t beautiful—but I don’t think they know it. They have the vain vanity of a bad drag queen.

    Standing in a gallery in a neighborhood where art galleries are starting to push out shooting galleries, I felt like someone in “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies.” I’m taking notes and an East Village Idiot comes up and asks me if I’m an art critic. I tell him I’m a sportswriter down

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  • Rachel Rosenthal, “Traps”

    Franklin Furnace

    The noted California performance artist Rachel Rosenthal made her first New York appearance here, and her multimedia solo Traps not only proved a compelling performance work in itself, whether of Californian or any other stripe, but outlined a model for how the genre can adapt itself to a more demanding performance context. Rosenthal added some skillful, sophisticated theatrical devices and techniques to performance’s basically antitheatrical foundations (authenticity, directness, a kind of homemade quality) to create more of a “show,” an entertainment in the largest sense of that word. Further,

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  • Robert Whitman and Sylvia Palacios

    519 W. 19th St.

    This double bill by a husband-and-wife performance duo featured separate performances that were distinctively different, but that shared a set of assumptions not often seen on today’s performance circuit. Generally, both Eclipse and Irregulars present imagistic, surrealistic events organized around complexes of visual and aural effects. These playlets align themselves squarely with a party line of esthetic and philosophical tenets from ’60s performance (rather than with the more audience-aware, explicitly social, and altogether “hotter” ’80s version). While interesting in this out-of-synch way,

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  • Aaron Siskind

    Light Gallery

    Aaron Siskind is now 80, but, as this show demonstrated, he continues to work with undiminished force: two-thirds of the 100 photographs here have been made since 1980. The rest included examples of various themes he’s worked on over the years, ranging from his social-reformist documentary work of the ’30s, through his radical discovery in the early ’40s that the formal allusiveness of objects could be startingly intensified by using the photographic frame to isolate them from their surroundings, to the work of the ’50s and ’60s in which he explored the implications of that discovery. Siskind

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  • “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell”

    PBS And The Kitchen

    Why is it that when I think about “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell,” the video variety program broadcast live (via satellite) between Paris and New York on New Year’s Day, the first thing that comes to mind is yodeling? Perhaps because of the yodels and near-yodels that appeared on the hour-long interactive broadcast, conceived and organized by Nam June Paik and coproduced by WNET in New York and FR3 in Paris. First there was Mitchell Kriegman’s banal “blues yodel,” whose echo was supposed to be its retransmission from Paris, delayed by the one second it takes for a signal to go up to the Bright Star

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  • Robert L. Bracklow

    The New York Historical Society

    The implicit inference some critics seem to draw from the existence of vast numbers of vernacular photographs whose makers have been forgotten—that these images have somehow come into existence of their own accord, by a kind of technological parthenogenesis—is a misleading one. However stereotypical a photograph, somebody decided to take it, in more or less that particular way. Amateur snapshots, weather photographs, surveillance photographs—all result from acts of human intention, even if those intentions may now seem obscure or inscrutable.

    Robert L. Bracklow, a devoted amateur photographer in

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