reviews

  • Anthony Caro

    Aquavella Gallery, Andre Emmerich Gallery

    At first, the deep satellite dishes of Anthony Caro’s largest new works seem to beckon the viewer. For example, Soldier’s Tale, 1983, puts down steps from the rim of the concavity, an alien ship expecting company. Whereas this frontal hollow is framed with plates and girders, which emphasize its centered depth and create a threshold for it, the chilly rear of the construction does not so much repulse as exclude. What had seemed a shell of safe retreat is from the back exposed as a propped-up concatenation of incompletion—halved ellipses, makeshift shims, functionally redundant sheets and rolls.

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  • Jane Irish

    Sharpe Gallery

    The appeal of Jane Irish’s paintings is their economy. In general, they simply place two different examples of architecture in opposition under a blue sky and allow them to object to each other, to fight it out (stadiums recur). Battles take place between cultures (primitive versus sophisticated) and between gender symbols (steles versus doughnuts); occasionally the structures find a link to each other despite their hostility, as in Businessman’s Special, 1984, whose sports arena and skyscraper establish the intimacy of empire with the playing fields of Eton.

    The works are not exactly badly

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    Church and White Streets and Sixth Avenue

    On a wedge of concrete formed by a street intersection, Dennis Oppenheim, in a project organized by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the New York City Transportation Department, placed Rolling Explosion, 1984. The site is an odd-sized remnant created by the overlay and convergence of two street grids; it is not much good for anything except as a pedestal for public art. The metaphysical meanderings in steel, wood, and fiberglass that Oppenheim transported to this site form a curious piece which shifts unpredictably between the playful and the sinister. On a slightly elevated track, a

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  • Robert Venturi

    Knoll International

    The design of furnishings has become a testing ground for artists, architects, and designers concerned not only with the individual pieces of furniture created, but with the relationships between production techniques and invention, market potential and originality. In this century, the forces and tenets of mass production have shaped the attitudes and ultimately the designs of furniture-makers far more than any desire for richness in the working of their materials. The consequent blandness of so many office and domestic interiors causes even the most uncritical to wish for more.

    In a furniture

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  • “Art on the Beach”

    Battery Park Landfill

    It is hard not to be favorably predisposed to an “Art on the Beach” installation. On an urban island that is being stretched and inflated beyond judiciousness, the site is a magnificent aberration. One can stand at water’s edge in the sandy Battery Park Landfill and feel the rejuvenative force of sky meeting river on one side and the madness materialized of Manhattan’s distorted skyline on the other. Most of the eight installations here seemed to have been inspired by these rare circumstances.

    The entrance to this year’s “Art on the Beach” was skillfully designed by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo

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  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Blum Helman Gallery

    For years it seemed that one could always recognize Ellsworth Kelly’s work, but with this show he surprised. As Kelly’s work did of old, these 14 “Works In Wood” explore an ambiguous area between sculpture and painting, but now from the other direction: once the paintings were sculptural, now the sculptures remind us of paintings. Most are upright, of highly sanded and lightly stained planks varying from 6 to 12 feet in height, in fine woods such as teak and mahogany and more mundane woods such as maple and red oak. Each Is gently sculpted by bowing one or both sides slightly in or out. Some

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  • Tehching Hsieh, Linda Montano

    From 6 P.M. on July 4, 1983, until 6 P.M. on July 4, 1984, Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano were tied together continuously with an 8-foot rope which passed loosely around their waists and was sealed at each end. Their intention was not to touch each other except accidentally—about 60 brush-bys and one brief hug by Montano occurred during the year. They slept in separate beds a few feet apart. When one showered, the other waited outside the door, but aside from this they were never in separate rooms. Both remained celibate for the duration.The piece, entitled Art/Life One Year Performance, was

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  • Norman Tuck

    Art Galaxy

    Norman Tuck showed four kinetic sculptures of considerable range and wit. In the smallest, Magnetic Attractions, 1984, a paper clip maintained in mid air at the end of a red thread by the pull of a magnet, the movement is surreptitious; one sees the activity of the magnetic field with uncanny clarity, sensing its pull, the extent of its muscle, and the transforming nature of its embrace. The simplicity of the piece relates it to Minimalism as the mental deduction involved relates it to conceptual work. At an opposite extreme of force and feeling is Chain Reaction, 1984, in which the viewer works

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  • John Baldessari

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Of the work that falls under the rubric of “conceptualism,” John Baldessari’s has been among the most consistent and exemplary in terms of the attitudes that structured art during the late ’60s and ’70s. For this reason, a present view of his work allows us to reflect upon both the contribution that conceptualism has made to an understanding of art and our relationship to it, and something of its ultimate limitations.

    Among the most characteristic qualities of Baldessari’s work has been its “chasteness” and “humanism.” Making no claims to be other than what they present, and cognizant of the

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  • Jean Charles Blais

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Jean Charles Blais’ giants hide their small heads in their hands, the swollen hands of peasants or drunks. All these sad creatures’ activity is purely physical; like workers leaving factory shifts, they seem to have no thoughts. Big footed, with overdeveloped muscles and heavy shoes, these grotesque, outsized figures are cumbersome, tired, dumb, and impassive. Filling their scenes with their bodies, they inspire no sympathy.

    The shapes of these hybrid characters are halfway between a deformation of comic-strip vocabulary and the graphics of a certain, particularly odious, French advertising. (

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  • Peter Gordon, Ned Sublette

    "Art on the Beach"

    In the latest of Creative Time, Inc.’s annual series of outdoor performances on the Battery Park Landfill in lower Manhattan, two composer-musicians rang new changes on some venerable avant-garde music-performance motifs, As if the natural setting of the “Art on the Beach” program weren’t distraction enough for an audience (acres of open sand between the World Trade Center towers and the Hudson River, with a view of New York Harbor, lying below a jet flight path). Peter Gordon and Ned Sublette also had to contend with the striking sculptural works created by artists and architects in collaboration

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  • “Endgame”

    Hunter College Art Gallery

    This modest but provocative exhibition, subtitled “Strategies of Postmodernist Performance,” brought together typical works by three artists (Robert Morris, Laurie Anderson, and Robert Longo) of three generations (the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s) as evidence for a three-part argument about post-Modern sensibility. Curator Maurice Berger’s trinitarian thesis claims first that the “ strategies” displayed deny “the mythologies of artistic expression and temperament”; second, that they use theater to introduce time into artmaking; and third, that they focus on endgames—death, doom, disaster. Following up

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  • Willem de Kooning

    Xavier Fourcade Gallery

    Of what use are these pictures? I know this is the wrong question to ask of them, but the usual art-historical questions seem much more wrong. Art historically, Willem de Kooning seems to have solved “the problem of modern painting” by dissolving it. Heinrich Wölffin inadvertently articulated that problem as the balancing of seemingly contradictory antitheses—the linear and the painterly, planarity and recession, closed and open form, multiplicity and unity, clarity and inchoateness; yet when Thomas Hess wrote that “de Kooning’s paintings are based on contradictions kept contradictory in order

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  • Richard Diebenkorn

    Knoedler Gallery

    Where Willem de Kooning refuses the geometrical option, Richard Diebenkorn takes it, but not with the rigor of Mondrian: within Diebenkorn’s “primitive” frame, any configuration is possible. And where de Kooning tries to break the frame however much he implicitly accepts it (a reluctant acceptance), Mondrian and Diebenkorn manipulate whatever comes within its boundaries into a devious echo of it. Mondrian, however, tends to remove the traces of the working process, giving the final configuration an imagistic effect—it seems a utopian icon that has sprung, like Athena (and as fully armored and

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  • John Walker

    Knoedler Gallery

    John Walker seems to see the frame not as a window but as a door, and sometimes he opens another door within it; the surprise in his closet is a monstrous savage stick figure, often with an accompanying skull. A wire chair is their frequent mediator. Primitive beings and things become studio props in a neo-Symbolist puzzle. The stick figure is an Oceanic totem come alive, and the skull no doubt one of its ancestors, perhaps the father it ate. Does the artist identify with this alter ego figure seated like a model in the barren studio? The chair is crucial: it seems to be a bridge between the

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  • Hubert Schmalix

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    “Abstract” expressionism can be conceived of as a kind of psychological trompe l’oeil. An erratic range of visual stimuli are converted before one’s eyes into psychic forces. One is deceived into believing one is watching the play of feelings, or, in the case of Hubert Schmalix’s work, their slow, grinding, precarious expression. A certain turgidity helps, suggesting the impenetrable psychic fabric. It is important to generate a sense of this overall fabric and its aggressive motion, whether fast or slow, for out of it various images may materialize as symptoms of the general emotive condition,

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  • “American Pictures” (part one), written, directed, and photographed by Jacob Holdt

    Film Forum

    In this era of rhetorical inversion it is no coincidence that an administration engaging the rallying points of religion, bootstrap individualism, and bodily fitness in fact works to elevate intolerance, undermine civil rights, and accelerate the pollution of the food chain. An unrelenting shower of sloganeering to exalt “optimism” and a fuzzy, unspecified notion of “the future” has enveloped the American spectator in a calculated frenzy; the intent is to erase “gloom and doom” from the public eye—to preserve the nation’s fertile fantasy life.

    One project countering this effort is American Pictures

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  • Simone Gad

    Monique Knowlton Gallery, Fun Gallery

    Simone Gad casts a bright light on one of the more pervasive yet hard-to-pin-down trends in contemporary American culture. Since the mid-’70s, this Los Angeles artist has focused on Hollywood nostalgia, turning a wry and appreciative eye on its iconic ways and glamorous means. Gad, born in Belgium, grew up in Hollywood, and worked there as an actress in the ’50s; she is well qualified to tackle the complex sensibility of Tinseltown, and to go behind both its gloss and its dross. Her recent work gets to the heart of what Hollywood represents for the baby-boom generation weaned on its TV programs

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  • Alison Saar

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    In her first solo outing in New York, the young West Coast artist Alison Saar gets to the heart of the issue of the artwork as magical object. Working with a variety of simple materials, including bits and pieces of tin, wood, sticks, wire, twine, linoleum, and pottery, she assembles freestanding, pedestal, and relief sculptures which sharply express archetypal emotions and fears about love, beauty, sex, and death. Art history and black American culture seem the major sources, but the originality of the treatments transcends influences.

    In Whodo That Voodoo, 1984, Saar represents the mysterious

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  • Norman Bluhm

    Fine Arts Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook

    Norman Bluhm’s last solo show in the New York area was ten years ago. He is 64, and belongs to the generation of abstract artists born in the ’20s—the decade between Jackson Pollock (1912) and Jasper Johns (1930). Of that generation—Gene Davis, AI Held, Alfred Leslie, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski, for example—only Bluhm and Joan Mitchell have not repudiated their origins in Abstract Expressionism. His accomplishments have gone largely unacknowledged, and given the critical rhetoric dominating the ’60s and ’70s, it is easy to see why: Bluhm adamantly refused to follow the formulas prescribed

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  • Peter Nadin

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Most painters paint what’s in their head; with Peter Nadin you are always somewhere. He gives you a view; he frames things. In the frames of 19 small paintings he gives us the views at Penistone, in the U.K. Sometimes the view is very narrow, limited visibility, of a bottleneck in a mouth, or of nose and eyes; sometimes there’s a whole figure and some country. Sometimes there’s the long tracking shot: a poplar-lined roadway from the ground, then again from the air.

    You always think about what it is you see, then you think about where it is and therefore where you are (where Nadin was.) The

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  • Viola Frey

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    I used to own a plate three feet long and shaped like a celery, so I know where Viola Frey is coming from. She has a doctorate in flea market. Her Still Life with Figurines, 1981, a sort of cornucopia out of control, sums up the spirit of 20th-century American ceramics, which has been our last frontier of folk art. But her plates are more than a display of kitsch virtuosity and camp scholarship; they are truly wild and seemingly in cahoots with the gods.

    You think of gods when you stand near her ten bigger-than-life ceramic humanoids. They are like temple deities updated for the rat race. Man in

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  • Kim MacConnel

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Kim MacConnel’s work is supposedly about the “issue of decoration.” It is true that if I had been blindfolded, given a sedative, and taken to the gallery, and if the lights had been low and people had been standing around in clusters and music was playing, when the blindfold was taken off, I would probably have been certain that I was at Danceteria or some other new wave nightclub and that it was somewhere between 1981 and 1983, somewhere between 5 and 6 A.M.

    MacConnel’s work is also meant to have something to do with Matisse. It had, maybe, once, but it doesn’t have. Once Matisse and MacConnel

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