reviews

  • Siah Armajani

    Max Protetch

    In recent works Siah Armajani continues to tread a unique path of synthesis, combining sculpture, architecture, product and furniture design, and American culture and language into a complex, articulate, and didactic formal system. (In fact, if his work were not as interesting and multiform as it is, this didacticism could seem oppressive.) Armajani’s pursuit involves the search for a uniquely American idiom that communicates the values and moral lessons of such intellectual heroes as Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Dewey. His explorations of American history and ideology inform

    Read more
  • Lucio Pozzi

    Susan Caldwell Gallery, Leo Castelli Gallery, John Weber Gallery

    Lucio Pozzi has had a strange career. One can look at it as a series either of calculated hops, skips, and jumps or of anxious fits and starts, depending upon one’s interpretative proclivities; since Philip Guston it has become permissible, even fashionable, to make such changes in stylistic direction, usually from abstraction to figuration (although an early career shift of Guston’s, in contrast to his more famous later one, was the other way round). In the mid ’70s Pozzi was a polished Minimalist, producing such tamely self-conscious works as Group Level, 1976, with its neatly duplicated

    Read more
  • Ursula von Rydingsvard

    Bette Stoler Gallery

    In five new cedar constructions, Ursula von Rydingsvärd continues an evolutionary course of esthetic investigation, reclaiming the essence of her material and contriving to return the wood to the textural imperfection of nature. The thematic consistency of this new work is exceptional and highlights a complex content. Von Rydingsvärd takes cedar beams that have been milled into standard construction modules and intently chisels, grinds, and saws a natural and almost artless character and idiosyncrasy back into each element. These beams are then assembled to create virtually seamless walls,

    Read more
  • “Mail Art Then and Now”

    Franklin Furnace

    In the primeval days of mail art, when, in about 1962, Ray Johnson was founding the New York Correspondence School and Ed Higgins was beginning the tradition that would lead, by about 1966, to the Fluxpost, mail art was conceived as having to do with Dada. It was the enemy of the gallery system; it decried all canons of taste and all attempts by would-be critics to establish themselves as arbiters of taste. Such independence was based on the unique stage on which mail art was seen as taking place: opening the mail was the exhibition, and the mail, of course, rejects nothing that is dropped in

    Read more
  • “The Business of Being an Artist,” directed by Dieter Froese and Kay Hines

    Just Above Midtown

    Projects which concern themselves with the wild and crazy (yet somberly romantic) world of art are usually humorlessly cloying homages: self-appointed executors of a demiarchic kind of bohemian royalty. Emerging out of the PBS/Bloomie’s presentational phylum, they approach their objects with an awe usually reserved for the landing of a mother ship. We are shown artists stalking their studios with the prowess of a noble savage at a theme park. What is sorely needed is a more critical survey of esthetic practice, one that places artistic activity in a broader context of economic and educational

    Read more
  • Steve Wood

    Baskerville + Watson

    Although it has been greatly overshadowed by the attention accorded neo-Expressionism and the general enthusiasm greeting other current trends of figuration, the emergence of a content-charged abstraction is the other major development of the early ’80s. Whether in two or in three dimensions, on the floor, off the wall, or in mixed media, today’s abstract art wears a new, appealing, and boldly pictorial face. Several shows in New York over the 1983–84 season indicated the widespread range of expression related to this development, including this show of recent sculptures by Steve Wood.

    Except

    Read more
  • Judy Rifka

    Brooke Alexander Cohen

    The sensibility that governs the way we see today is based on the appeal of synthetic imagery perceived in fast time. Over the years, Judy Rifka has investigated different aspects of this kind of imagery, including its media underpinnings. Her recent paintings push the sensibility into a new, epic dimension which rates close attention.

    Several examples dealing with the theme of war succeed in moving the viewer unusually powerfully. The means is a keen ability to subvert the distancing effect of the media’s instantaneous portrayals of war, an ability to build emotion into the very structure of

    Read more
  • Mabou Mines, “Imagination Dead Imagine”

    The Performing Garage

    The Mabou Mines theater company has been applying its increasingly complex high-tech sensibility to Samuel Beckett’s increasingly minimalist “dramaticules” since the mid ’60s; in recent years the group has staged the author’s brief prose pieces as well, somehow finding original, striking theatrical conceits that are simultaneously audaciously innovative and faithful to Beckett’s meticulous texts. The latest such production is Imagination Dead Imagine, one of those Latinate, liturgical fragments through which Beckett now transmits his relentless vision of life as an unending secular spell in an

    Read more
  • Nancy Chunn

    Concord Gallery

    Nancy Chunn rarely paints a likable picture, but she produces many that command a respect much more impressive than likability. At their best, Chunn’s paintings work through a system of contradiction to attain a balance of discomfort. Unassuming of aspect, they are almost domineering in scale. The dry, thin appearance of their surfaces is belied by the exactness with which colors are worked. On direct inspection they appear to tell us something easy, unambiguous, but a closer, longer look disabuses us of this illusion, and we are left with a much more complex statement, one refusing simple

    Read more
  • Justen Ladda

    Artists' Space

    Lifting the curtain, entering Justen Ladda’s environment, standing in the dark and seeing a (painted) yellow figure framed in (painted) cathode rays and adjusting a (real) TV set, daring or wondering if one dare trespass into the roped-off area containing man and (real) armchair, TV set, bed, fireplace, shoes, stove, perhaps even surreptitiously fingering the pots and pans—it would take more effort than it’s worth to shake off a certain guilty thrill in this licensed invisibility. That answers a question raised by the depicted light of the large TV screen that encloses the objects and comprises

    Read more
  • Cheryl Laemmle

    Sharpe Gallery

    Cheryl Laemmle’s new paintings occupy the very constricted space between the horns of a dilemma, a space wherein any assertion of the ego is seen as murderous. It’s a very narrow interstice that Laemmle allows herself to colonize here—between culture and nature, between autonomy and attachment. The will to power of art kills nature; Laemmle paints her figures as literally made of wood—trees, to be precise, but trees in which a Daphne still lives to feel the bite of the shaping blade. The inexpressive woodenness only heightens the emotion, which leaks out of a multitude of knots rendered as so

    Read more
  • Barbara Kruger

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    The application of a “semiotic” analysis to the relationship between word and photographic image was intrinsic to the vocabulary of much American and European art of the ’70s. While some artists, like John Baldessari, played off the codes of the media to create a “slippage” of the image’s meaning, others, like Hans Haacke or Victor Burgin, drew on the practices of orthodox photography, advertising, and the bureaucratic agencies. The work brought to the surface the manipulative power of these usages of representation; it remained for feminist discourse to draw the construction of subjectivity in

    Read more
  • Robert Longo

    Metro Pictures

    While Barbara Kruger’s reference to the corporate image is filtered through an ironic wit and occasional poetic insight, it is disappointing to see that no such mitigating qualities can be claimed for Robert Longo’s work; it is the corporate image, the contemporary equivalent of late-Victorian civic sculpture in its naive eclecticism, sentimental melodrama, and grandiose materiality. Indeed, the work’s subject matter is ultimately so inconsequential that it becomes primarily “about” materiality and objectness, not in the Modernist terms of their intrinsic qualities but in those of their insistent

    Read more
  • Don Gummer

    Sperone Westwater Gallery

    Like many of the young sculptors who emerged in the late ’70s, Don Gummer mines the possibilities of architecture. Unlike his peers, however, he doesn’t combine architectural forms with narrative or fantasy. What Gummer absorbs from the vocabulary of architecture is its skeletal underpinning; in place of storytelling, he arranges his materials to form what he calls “mental labyrinths.”

    Each of the four wall reliefs that were in the gallery’s front room is comprised of three projecting layers of wood slats. Each tier is painted a different color, but is related to the others in matters of proportion,

    Read more
  • Howard Hodgkin

    Knoedler Gallery

    Howard Hodgkin’s vocabulary consists of fat wet daubs, stripes, loops, and wavy bands. He reinforces the clumsy bluntness of these marks by painting in oil on wood and board. Since the paintings are easel-sized and intimate, the marks feel big and luscious; at the same time, the wood emphasizes the smudges, scumbled patches, and splotches, the seismological registrations of Hodgkin’s wrist. Using a dry brush to move decisively across or to poke at the grainy, fast surface results in sinuous trails of marks or in smudges overlapping themselves, as if Hodgkin were tightening a screw.

    The paintings

    Read more
  • Philip Tsiaras

    Harm Bouckaert Gallery

    If one could see an aura, a modern aura, it would probably look like one of Philip Tsiaras’ “Liquid Portraits.” I doubt if our auras resemble Renaissance halos or the pastel radium peignoir of science fiction. They probably come in wild colors, like sporting socks, and maybe have six eyes on a face and two noses, one before the punch and one after. That’s what Tsiaras’ portraits look like—spiritual renderings of the demented, with all of their wild energy captured on film. Tsiaras doesn’t use any photographic technique here, but it seems as if he does; dissolving, flowing lines look as though

    Read more
  • Edo

    303 Park Avenue South

    Edo started out in fun, taking a million snapshots and a hundred thousand Polaroids of friends and parties in Switzerland and Paris and London. By the time he arrived in New York he was a professional photographer and a tourist on Earth. His work still shows him having fun, but that fun is harder work now. His eye isn’t jaded or jaundiced, it’s very demanding. He looks for a small miracle each time and quite often he gets it.

    This show contained pictures from the “new wave” period to the post–“new have” period, a white period and a black period. Edo is addicted to faces. The only faceless

    Read more