reviews

  • Mark Klett

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    The great landscape photographs made by Timothy O’Sullivan, A. J. Russell, and others on the expeditions that explored the American West after the Civil War revealed a desolate, awesomely beautiful land. The West depicted in these densely detailed images was a place of breathtaking panoramas, of huge, grotesquely misshapen boulders, of implausibly dramatic geological formations; it was a land that seemed to certify the Romantic idea of nature as a repository of transcendental forces locked in chthonic struggle. In a sense these photographs could be taken as proof of the very assumptions that

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  • Peter Schuyff

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Peter Schuyff’s carefully worked neo-Surrealist paintings are immediately attractive in traditional Modernist ways; they almost look naive—pre-Bomb—in their apparently sincere acceptance of esthetic canon. This 25-year-old Dutch-born painter, now working in New York, has produced large and small canvases and works on paper on canvas that are deeply involved in the activity of quoting but at the same time have their own integrity. Indefinite, loosely worked grounds in one or two colors are floatingly inhabited by bone- and shell-like biomorphic abstract shapes which immediately recall many images

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  • Stelarc

    Mo David Gallery

    In 1970 Stelarc began a series of performance pieces based on the themes of levitation and the obsolescence of the physical body. These involved suspending himself by ropes and harnesses from wooden frameworks and helium balloons. Dissatisfied with these works because his body was supported by external structures, he found his true métier in 1976, when he began the series called “Stretched Skin Suspensions.” He has performed these pieces about twenty times, mostly in Japan, where he lives, and where his work attracts little attention and thus little intervention. A “Stretched Skin Suspension”

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  • Yves Saint Laurent

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Like so many who have come to be identified with arch-sophistication, Yves Saint Laurent is not only French but a true provincial, born and raised in what was still the colony of Algeria. It may not seem surprising that one who left a sunny tropic full of shopkeepers for the city of lights and shopkeepers should wish to shield himself from the pecuniary side of things. The decades of publicity preceding this exhibition, however, and the literature accompanying it, including “A Collage of Inspiration,” written and graphically orchestrated for the catalogue by Saint Laurent’s business partner

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  • Ping Chong, “A Race”

    La Mama Annex

    Since the early ’70s Ping Chong has labored at a performance art/theater form built on the principle of bricolage. The term can even be said to describe Chong’s method homophonically: individual “bricks” of fragmented found texts, multimedia visuals, dancelike movement, and music are fitted together in a tightly mortared, sensory, theatrical collage. In the past, Chong’s version of this now ubiquitous performance approach featured striking sets and visuals, ravishing lighting, precisely stylized choreography, and an extremely flat, undynamic dramatic sense, mostly due to an overdose of chopped-up

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  • Stephen Ludlum

    Oil And Steel Gallery

    Stephen Ludlum is what you might call a Papa artist—part Pop, part Dada, but not either. I don’t usually like anesthetic painting but there’s something I like here. There’s nothing pretty, nothing particularly witty—but there is a sort of meditative removal that rings a bell in abeyance.

    I thought of a line by Lou Reed: “the absurd courts the vulgar.” In a surreal world the absurd is vulgar. Here the courtship is over, and so is the honeymoon. Beyond the absurd is a riddle.

    Ludlum’s stuff is about creative erasure, mystical delimitation, reductio trans absurdum, nuts-and-bolts mandalas. Kitsch au

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  • James McGarrel

    Allan Frumkin Gallery

    James McGarrell paints with dream logic. Time and space are flexible. Landscapes are stacked in emotional perspective. Symbols are served smorgasbord in these internally mobile feasts, symbols relieved of responsibility by their charm and good looks.

    In The Grand Mediterranean, 1982, McGarrell himself appears as a headwaiter (well, it looks like McGarrell) posed invitingly at a buffet table. His upraised tray appears to be gesturing toward two rainbows—one just inside the window, one just outside. Perhaps this is the pot of gold within the pot of gold. Scooting off the plate the artist/headwaiter

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  • Group Material

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    One aspect of recent painting that has not yet been much discussed is its obsession with collecting, and with the display of such activity. It is not simply that the work is collectible, but that in its very structure it is concerned with collecting, with amassing a fortune of detail and information with which to dazzle us. Images and styles, materials and methods, clichés and quotations are piled dazzlingly on top of piles. These great collections are then spread across a great deal of space, and in as many galleries as can be arranged at once, so that we may admire their accumulated power. On

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  • James Brown

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    These paintings are so deliciously ripe that there’s a danger they’ll turn rotten. A perfect match of European touch and American brut, they reek of high fashion, and indeed, since this successful show, James Brown’s disdainful masks have peered at us from the pages of many a fashion spread. The decadence is palpable as once again the genuine life forces of the Other are tamed within the confined area of fine painting. This time primitive rhythms are spiced with street jive as the white boy steals something from black culture (again), and renders it piss elegant in the “sensitive” manner of the

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  • Raymond Hood

    Whitney Museum Of American Art At Philip Morris

    For decades the skyscraper has been a keystone in architectural practice, at once defining the scope of its ambition and determining the urban skyline. Architects have measured their aspirations against the yardstick of its forms, finding in them an image of contemporary city life. Among these individuals Raymond M. Hood occupies a central position, for it was Hood who, in 1922, won the competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower, rising from obscurity to the position of the ’20s’ most celebrated skyscraper designer. Over the next decade he was to introduce four buildings that altered mid-Manhattan’s

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  • Terry Fox

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    This recent exhibition by Europe-based performance and sound artist Terry Fox consisted of two parts, a suite of 21 drawings/constructions and an installation. Both seemed concerned with the issue of language, as if exploring its trajectory through social, political, and artistic spheres, and tracing the transmutations thereby incurred. The former works, entitled “Catch Phrases,” are mixed media objects in each of which three layers of phrases are superposed. The first layer, penciled over a 3-by-5-foot paper sheet, transcribes the emanations of newspapers and radio broadcasts; faint checkerboard

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  • Thomas Faulkner

    Bryant Park

    An art installation in Bryant Park must coexist with an urban space in metamorphosis which offers many identities yet seeks just one. Stretching behind Carrère & Hastings’ New York Public Library, the park is surrounded by graceful architectural texture to the south and east and lumbering banal giants to the west and north. This half-block zone absorbs influences and impulses from Times Square street culture and Fifth Avenue commerce, and there is no clear trend in the struggle for territory. Recent antidotes of white garden furniture, book stalls, and kiosks are awkward amenities transplanted

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  • Daria Dorosh

    A.I.R. Gallery

    Daria Dorosh’s new paintings can be discrete objects inviting analysis and criticism in their own right, but they were not entirely planned that way, and actually evolved through an interesting permutation of collaboration between this artist and four architects whom Dorosh asked to work with her. Three of the collaborations are formal and visual, and the other is conceptual and philosophical; all four are installations involving a painting and a three-dimensional object. Although each action followed its peculiar course, generally the projects included initial meetings between artist and

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  • Carnival Knowledge, “The Second Coming”

    Franklin Furnace

    Despite its seeming exoticism, pornography as a genre is distinguished by repetitiveness, by a limited range of characterization and narrative, and by a deadly seriousness. Since it is geared to prescribed expectations, it cannot describe what is outside the motor that thrusts toward sexual arousal. That in the Western tradition it privileges male phantasy over female is as important an issue, for what it reveals of the historical suppression, or even disavowal, of women’s phantasy life, as the more common debate on pornography’s reification and “violation” of the female body. “Could there be

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  • Club 90

    Franklin Furnace

    Much of the argument against visual pornography centers on the presumption that it panders to the onlooker’s desire to objectify, to “possess” or “know” the object of vision, a form of ravishment which casts the woman, who has no way of parrying the look or of presenting her own desires, in the role of victim. This demanding gaze is not of course restricted to pornography, being intrinsic to our relation to photographic representation whatever the subject, but when the look aims specifically for sexual gratification, it exposes the Western ambivalence to the separation of sex from a socially

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  • Charles Burchfield

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    The work of Charles Burchfield, a representational watercolorist all his life, concerns two related but markedly distinct subjects. In one, Burchfield more or less reports on the man-made landscape—from a small piece of battleships at sea done in 1915, when he was just out of art school, to a variety of scenes of industrial towns made throughout the middle of his career, that is, from the mid ’20s to the mid ’40s. In the other, Burchfield extrapolates from nature toward a mystical, symphonic fantasia which has no real counterpart in American art. As early as The Insect Chorus, 1917, he was

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  • Michael Hurson

    The Clocktower

    The nearly opaque, latticelike marks that obscure and bring attention to the right side of Michael Hurson’s Motel #2, 1972, are the first signs of life in his work on paper, at least as it was presented in this survey of drawings from 1969 to the present. These pieces—many of them remarkable, all of them of some interest—often seem not quite up to full strength until this point. It is as if Hurson either does not know or refuses to confront what it is he wishes to convey. In the portraits of furniture, single sofas or room-sized suites of contemporary banalities, he willingly invests the inanimate

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  • Robert Lobe

    Willard Gallery

    Giving form to process has been one of the central problems of sculpture since at least the late ’60s. Robert Lobe’s work of the past few years, aluminum sheets hammered around preexistent things like trees and large rocks to assume their shape and volume, deftly solves it. Ironically, Lobe was one of the young New York–based artists (mostly sculptors) to participate in the landmark 1969 exhibition “Anti-Illusion: Procedure/Materials,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, a show which in effect institutionalized process work. Lobe’s pieces in that show were constructivist-oriented floor objects

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  • Angela Ho

    Freidus/Ordover

    Contemporary sculpture has become a wide-open, eminently expansive activity. What has come to matter more than questions of material or technique is the artist’s ability to imbue form with feeling and create a real and most importantly a communicative object. Angelo Ho is one of the few younger figurative sculptors who can do all this and more. For the last eight years she has chosen to work in marble, and she has successfully updated this most venerable of sculptural materials into a new and relevant means of expression.

    In the work here, Ho reconciles past and present with insight and imagination.

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  • Suzanne Joelson

    Friedus/ Ordover

    Suzanne Joelson directly engages the distinctive way of seeing central to the emerging pictorial sensibility of the ’80s. Poised at the critical junctures separating abstract from figurative and image from ground, her large canvases project sparkling impressions of a mysterious and ultimately sentient space. Under sustained scrutiny the brushy surfaces come to visual life, seem to shift and shake, reluctantly yielding the fragments of recognizable imagery they contain.

    In Spot Lights, 1983, for example, an exciting cascade of pigment at the lower left reveals a panting dog. Its rendering is

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  • Jack Chevalier

    Pam Adler Gallery

    Much of the mainstream art of the ’60s, from the stained canvases of Morris Louis on, was flat. Those works and the critical thought surrounding them preached the pure virtues of flatness as the key to the distinctive nature of painting and sculpture. It took the pluralistic ’70s to shake out the reductive, doctrinaire, contained approach to art represented by ’60s abstraction, in particular of the minimalist persuasion; concomitantly, the ’70s paved the way for the current expansive approach to art represented on one level by the return of the relief.

    Relief is to the ’80s what flatness was to

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  • Jason Stewart

    Davidson Gallery

    Relief is also a major concern for Jason Stewart, who showed recent unique cast-bronze wall pieces and works on paper. So strong is the movement implied by the graceful sweeping form of Der Vogel von Kreuzberg, 1983, a bronze in which various rectangular and blade-shaped elements are arranged in contrasting diagonals, that it appears to soar off the wall. Adding to the sensation of flight is the refraction of light caused by the rough treatment of the surfaces. In A Man on Fire, 1983, the subtle interplay of overlapped edges becomes an expressive as well as a formal device; although the work’s

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  • Max Beckmann

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    This uneven little exhibition didn’t give us the best of Max Beckmann, but did reveal why he is attractive to a number of young “expressionist” painters, as well as the difficulties of his development after he came to the United States. An aura of danger—central to their sensuality—surrounds Beckmann’s figures; densely real, they and the picture space yet become mysteriously abstract by reason of the claustrophobic way the one is crowded into the other. A beautiful example of this is Woman with Cat, 1945, in which a bulky, semiclad girl, her crouching pose making her all the more erotically

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    Sander Gallery

    This exhibition consisted of recent proposals by Dennis Oppenheim for site-specific public sculpture, but most of the works—drawings and models—make sense on their own. If there is any unifying principle to the pieces, it is the idea of the dream role of machinery in our lives. A piece like Extended Fortune, 1983, with its aluminum hands from which strips of Mylar extend, blown by an electric-fan-generated wind, makes the point succinctly. Oppenheim is the major figure working within what might be called “the fine art/technology continuum.”

    At the same time—and I think this is also part of the

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  • Kenny Scharf

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Although it’s customary to describe Kenny Scharf’s recent paintings as “post”—postapocalyptic, postmutant, etc.—certainly they show as much retroactivity as prophecy, in fact maybe more past than future. The space of the paintings is oceanic or stratospheric, in any case without boundaries; each teeming element is bonded to the next in a limitless expanse (a perhaps unintentional but no less funny riposte to “alloverness”). Inside and outside migrate; in Sexadansa, 1983, there’s a universe inside each stick figure’s mouth, and the twinkles in their eyes are stars or suns of a remote galaxy. The

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  • Jules Olitski

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Until now, the times have always been slightly out of joint for Jules Olitski. To have been exploring “the painterly (or ‘das Malerische’) during the sixties,” as Kenworth Moffett put it in 1972, to have reintroduced the traditional “dramatic imbalance and marked variation and hierarchies of accent” of the easel picture, was to be a shady character during that decade.

    These recent paintings, however, without presenting any radical departures, fit into such topical, even tired, issues as, say, the poststructuralist concept of absence, the hollow core of culture. Olitski’s work has always consisted

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  • Grace Hartigan

    Gruenebaum Gallery

    The fact that flatness and edgeness married New Image and produced renegade punk-cartoonist offspring who are largely unaware of their parentage seems poetic justice for an obsession that took itself so seriously and so certainly. The survivors are truly the murderers. If flatness is “survived by” these practitioners, it is as a literary flatness along the lines of E.M. Forster’s distinction between flat and round characters. To put a figure into a color field painting is to destroy color field painting.

    That’s what Grace Hartigan has done in her paintings of “Great Queens and Empresses,” but

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