reviews

  • Gregory Gillespie

    Forum Gallery

    Do you think that during the 15th century art critics went around saying, “He was born 15 years too early”? I don’t either. But there are painters today who, if they were just starting to do now what they were doing 15 years ago, would be riding high on the fame bandwagon.

    Gregory Gillespie is famous but he is grossly under-famous. That’s what happens when you go so much against the grain. Then again, the grain has a way of catching up, especially to talents that ignore it completely and hang in there.

    Gillespie had many things on display here, in different media and different modes. I am particularly

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  • Jasper Johns

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    The Jasper Johns curriculum of life and art is a series of double binds, but the ultimate nonchoice here is between death and madness. As the words in Racing Thoughts, 1983, warn (in French and German, “Beware, Falling Ice”), the glacier of Johns’ reserve is breaking up and uncovering an intense paranoia. Whereas formerly fragmentation was limited to the extremities of the body, now it is the center that will not hold. Breakup is most elaborated on in this canvas, which echoes a precedent, Mathias Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, ca. 1510–15—itself dispersed during the French Revolution and

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  • Isamu Noguchi

    Max Protetch

    Isamu Noguchi’s customary concern with the slow burn of revelation turns, for now, into the strobe of edge flashing into plane. The new sculpture, all done in 1982–83, is best described as origami in steel, and one imagines the brooding gravity of Noguchi’s stones having eventually collapsed under their own heft and somehow come out the other side into a weightless, bright fourth dimension (which can only be defined as some confabulation between the second and third). Density has compacted into a cartoon; in fact, some of these pieces, particularly ones like Giacometti’s Shadow and Root and Stem

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  • Lucas Samaras

    Pace Gallery, Pace/Macgill Gallery

    Lucas Samaras had three shows open at once. At the Wildenstein Gallery he showed pastels from four decades. Today his pastels from the late ’50s look like the very best of the latest thing, which they actually are in retroactive fact: Samaras was way ahead of the time by being outside it. Spatial isolation is easy; temporal isolation is like magic, and it’s only part of Samaras’ pastel magic. That magic is the modern moves in a time-capsule nutshell, semi-self-buried and now sprouting wildly in the work of Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, a cast of thousands, and himself.

    The all-new stuff

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  • Duncan Hannah

    Semaphore Gallery

    The return of figurative picture-painting has created something like a physics problem—for everything beautiful there is an equal and opposite ugliness.

    Duncan Hannah finds himself in the very modern predicament of painting pictures that seem infuriatingly attractive. He has been called “the Barry Manilow of the New Wave” and the prophet of “the Age of Valium.” For some the only calm is sedation, but this is not the case with Hannah. His natural serenity is strong enough to egg on a critics’ frenzy which cries out for angst relief. No doubt there is a vocal and influential, if not large, group

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  • John Feker

    Civilian Warfare

    Most messages hit us in the time of the street, the compact, instantaneous, assaultive visual moment offered by car travel or the pedestrian’s rapid scan. To this is opposed the time of the book, or of the artwork as conventionally phrased, each of which presumes a distended, contemplative circuit, capacious in its trajectory. Television and video occupy the former zone; despite their interior locale they have an immediacy, a narrow “frequency” of message alien to the protracted wavelength of the latter. Over the last few years John Fekner’s work has occupied this temporal range, as he has

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  • Margia Kramer

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Margia Kramer also traffics in well-trodden terrain, but the strength of presentation, or the information compiled, lends moving power to her work. Progress (Memory) is a three-monitor video installation dealing with the distribution and control of information through advanced technology. Each monitor occupies a separate space, or sphere of activity, determined by the parameters of an oblong hooked rug. One screen is “driven” by an individual peddling a stationary bicycle; a second, featuring computerized music, is activated by a viewer seated on a piano bench; in the third space—a somewhat

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  • Creation Company

    Ohio Theatre

    The ’80s haven’t been a good decade so far for collaborative performance groups; today’s collective-oriented energy seems to have ended up in art rock bands. The Creation Company, founded in 1977 to produce performance/theater works that explore a crossover area between visual arts, video and film, music, dance, and poetry, is one of the few such groups active. Like its ’60s and ’70s inspirations, Creation operates as an ensemble in which permanent members (Matthew Maguire, Susan Mosakowski, and Vito Ricci) are joined by a flexible group of collaborators; the group’s most recent effort, The

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  • Dara Birnbaum

    Anthology Film Archives

    With The Damnation of Faust: Evocation, Dara Birnbaum has moved to a consciously narrative work. In retrospect the narrative implications of such earlier installations as Kojak/Wang, 1980, and P.M. Magazine, 1982 (the latter shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art recently), are more apparent—Kojak did seem to be shooting at the woman sitting in front of the computer, and the little girl in P.M. Magazine was certainly the heroine of the piece. But those installations, with their process flashiness, repetitive editing, and intensely rhythmic synthosound tracks, seemed more importantly to be

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  • Mary Lucier

    Chase Manhattan Plaza

    A big question in any video installation is what to do with the TV sets. At this point in the development of TV technology the equipment that generates the illusion can’t be physically separated from the image itself.

    In Ohio at Giverny, her video installation in last year’s Whitney Biennial, Mary Lucier hid the work’s seven monitors behind a white wall—a simple solution that made the piece look like a series of pictures hung along the gallery, the “series of portholes” that exhibitions of perspective-based paintings were dismissed as by some Modernist critics. In Winter Garden, installed in a

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  • William Wegman

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    William Wegman without his weimaraner Man Ray is like Dean Martin without Jerry Lewis, or Edgar Bergen without Charlie McCarthy. Wegman wrote the scripts for the skits the two put on, but much of their success derived from the dog’s personality. He was the perfect naif, hilarious and touching because emotionally transparent, incapable of dissembling, endlessly patient no matter what folderol Wegman put him through: an alter ego any self-deprecating artist would willingly accept.

    No doubt Ray’s spirit will hover around Wegman’s work for a good while longer. But in the 20-by-24-inch Polaroids shown

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  • James Casebere

    Diane Brown Gallery, Sonnabend Gallery

    James Casebere’s photographs seem to aspire to the condition of language—or at least to its generality. Stripped of detail and reduced to simple white forms, the objects he carves out of wood and arranges in his setups are carefully unspecific. They aren’t even themselves; instead they allude to recognizable generic forms—flower pots, detergent bottles, teddy bears. His constructions, several of which were shown at Sonnabend, are doll-sized, like architectural models for the Pillsbury Dough Boy, but in themselves they’re fairly uninteresting. It’s only when he photographs them, choosing emotionally

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  • Patrick Ireland

    Chase Manhattan Plaza

    With this three-dimensional rope drawing, Patrick Ireland further enunciated certain of the conditions of his previous projects in this genre while contradicting others. Though the self-consciousness and physical self-awareness he invites were stressed perhaps more than before, the earlier ambiguity set up between viewer and object(s) was on this occasion all but eliminated.

    The strings themselves were still stretched and suspended by only semi-visible supports, giving them a feeling of being airborne. The viewer’s experience, however, used to be analogous to this metaphor for freedom; earlier

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  • Peter Bömmels

    Sonnabend Gallery

    In the brave new conceptual art world of semiotic orthodoxy and reductionism—of semiotic stereotypes—is there a place for the German painter Peter Bömmels, with his Grimm’s-fairy-tale world of horrific metamorphosis and his preoccupation with death and dissolution? In trying to escape “the code” and its supposed neutralizing effects, does the work only become more victimized by it, and self-neutralizing? Bömmels’ Gothicism might be thought merely another part of “retro fashion” and the culture of nostalgia and quotation, another dumb effort to “rehabilitate the referential” and to create presence

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  • William Baziotes

    Blum Heiman Gallery

    William Baziotes offers us 19th-century American luminist paintings modernized by quotations from the “experimental” works of the early-20th-century masters. From today’s perspective he looks like the master of the misshapen sign, the sign all too calculatedly odd, stylized in its eccentricity; eccentricity, of course, is always being reinvented, since any form of it easily becomes another “look” available for esthetic consumption.

    When Baziotes first saw the work of Picasso and Joan Miró it was monstrously novel, and the biomorphic seemed profoundly destructive of the social-realist. What he

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  • Robert Grosvenor

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    To my mind, Robert Grosvenor has not had his due; one of the great masters of the “negative sublime,” he has been overshadowed by more sensationalist Minimalists, working not only on grander scale but in flashier materials. Grosvenor’s pieces convey enormous concentration, as though the infinite were compacted into the finite, the impossible made actual. I prefer this kind of metaphor—of an infinitely dense material, like the mass of the cosmos at the moment of the “big bang”—to the theoretical scholasticism to which Minimalism has usually been subject, because the metaphor makes an experiential

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  • Shirley Clarke

    Squat Theatre

    One hand on hip, drink perched precariously in the other, he declares, “I was wild, black and crazy and I had white-boy fever.” Collapsing into a confidential baritone, he whispers “I love you Richard, trust me. I’m going to fuck you up.” We are watching Jason Holiday ( Aaron Paine), a middle-aged black male hustler, as he alternates between poignant reflection and spasmodic giggling fits. Acting out for the camera like Veroushka on a roll, he is an intelligent man playing cat and mouse with his own sanity. And this Jason is not just a struggling, troubled guy, but a cinematic object, good

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  • “The Terence Davies Trilogy” and “Zappa”

    "New Directors/New Films"

    The Terence Davies Trilogy is a film in three parts, written and directed by Terence Davies. It tells of the effect of Catholicism on the life and death of Robert Tucker, a working-class man from Liverpool. Part One, “Children,” is told in a series of extended flashbacks showing us young Robby as he makes his way through the painful coercions of a Catholic education, an ordeal compounded by the brutality of his ailing father. Sullen and alienated, he is almost totally dependent on his mother, who offers him refuge from the malicious taunts of his classmates. Part Two, “Madonna and Child,”

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  • “Metamanhattan”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    New York is a symbolic center and source, as well as a material manifestation of the 20th century, for artists, architects, and curators, and “Metamanhattan” attempted to describe this metropolis which agitates so many ambitions. This group exhibition of both serious projects and fanciful proposals created in the past 25 years for New York sites included interpretive accounts of the city as well as architectural and environmental schemes which offer either to evoke or to alter the magic of Manhattan. Conservatives, revisionists, and reformers were represented; beyond the unrest Manhattan incites,

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  • Luis Jimenez

    Alternative Museum

    There is a tendency to approach public art timidly. Scale can, of course, be inflated to bravado proportions, but other dimensions are often reduced. In the search for common themes and shared associations, many artists digress to a muddled, simplified esthetic. The intentions may be good, but the works are blandly uncommunicative. No-brand, generic public art ignores everything but an anticipated majority, but the idea of a public is an abstraction; “the public” does not really exist. “Public” implies a transcendence of pluralism toward a meaningless neutrality. Pollsters perpetuate the idea

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  • Mary Miss

    Protetch-McNeil Gallery

    Mary Miss’ latest exhibition was a spartan but cogent presentation of 18 years of growth. Effectively and effortlessly combining a conventional installation of isolated sculptural work with an architectural reinterpretation of a gallery space, Miss created an environment that accommodated her past and current production, exposing both linkages and lapses. There is a need to summarize artistic careers, but in doing so, there is a troubling tendency to invent relationships and transitions, to manipulate cycles and passages so that they appear orderly. It would be impossible to categorize with any

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