reviews

  • Zush

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Zush sounds like a nom de tag, like the signatures that are becoming as familiar to gallery-goers as to subway riders, but Zush is not a graffiti artist from New York, he’s a psychedelic artist from Spain. Apparently he took the name after a mental patient called him “Zush!”.

    Like many mental patients Zush inhabits a world of his own, but he makes sense of that world by recreating it and articulating it in his art—in paintings, drawings, and books. Zush’s world is an imaginary nation, the Evrugo Mental State, for which he has created a flag, currency, postage stamps, an anthem, and a language.

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  • David Hockney

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    When I first saw this show I thought David Hockney was going more Cubist. I also thought how much his art would be envied by most of the up-and-comings in lower Manhattan; it has everything it is right to have and more. The work is expressively formed, ultracool, wild but pretty, historically prepped. If these paintings were hung down in funky town and signed by an up-and-coming, they would be a sensation. But although they are sensational, they seem less than a sensation because Hockney is a known. Known is out.

    After I saw the show someone told me that the Times had said that Hockney had gone

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  • Will Insley

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    Will Insley’s world is the product of a remarkably constant, devoted, rigorous imagination. His grand designs are fanciful but severe. His vision is a trip through the looking glass into Alphaville.

    Since 1972 Insley has been developing the concept of “Onecity” and the “Opaque Civilization.” Onecity is a vast conceptual labyrinth, a squared spiral centered in Kansas, an underground complex buried in the same area as those missiles that rose from the plains in The Day After. It would occupy a 675-by-675-mile square; its population would be 400 million. The Opaque Civilization is the hypothetical

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  • Anne And Patrick Poirier

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Ruins are debris through which original plans become visible. Their uncertain status—partaking of idea and actuality, before and after—continues to inspire the phenomenological research of Anne and Patrick Poirier, a poetic speculation of gathering complexity, its stages marked by periodic shifts of attention from one architectural site to another. The recent work involves a turn to the fictitious and the bizarre: visions of Greek myths, featuring fragmented human bodies, monsters, arrows, swords, eyes, snakes, and ruined cities. Unsystematic yet regular cross-referencing of images occurs. A

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  • Markus Lüpertz

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    These 26 paintings on canvas by Markus Lüpertz constitute a kind of mini-retrospective, including works from 1970, 1976, 1980, 1981, and 1984. Though Lüpertz is inevitably associated with the current German neo-Expressionists, his case is not that simple. His post-Modernist, trans-avantgardist gestures show an art-historical subtlety beyond the stronger and more directly expressionistic work of, say, Georg Baselitz. The series “Alice im Wunderland,” 1981, of which 12 pieces were exhibited here, contains overt references to classical Cubism in the shape and size of the canvases as well as in

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  • Iris Rose

    The Pyramid

    No one tames the Pyramid club like Iris Rose. She is famous here, and rightly. Audiences used to constant playing about sit still and watch and listen intently. As she did in her House of Jahnke, 1983, in Camden Rose has taken for her subject a news story of violent crime within the American family—the story of a woman in Camden, New Jersey, who drowned her four children in the Cooper River. Rose’s texts, at once intelligent, compassionate, and clever, frame such events within a relentless net of ambient conditions which makes them appear almost inevitable. Her people are real, but they are not

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  • Larry Kurowski

    El Pueblo Gallery

    This laid-back neighborhood space has had high moments before. Last August saw a free art event here almost every night, and in May a select group, who will not soon forget their karma, saw the completely straight text of the medieval play Everyman performed with all sincerity in the garden. The installation of kinetic sculpture by Larry Kurowski was another high point. Nine large pieces made entirely of 1-by-2-inch pine boards and small, unconcealed rotary motors filled and activated the space extraordinarily.

    The largest piece, called Movement Room, contains eight sets of eight motorized

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  • Jedd Garet

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Maybe Jedd Garet is putting together a hornbook for estheticians with this latest series of paintings, a handbook of the phenomenological and historical building blocks of picture making. If true, this is fascinating; if not true, little enough whets the appetite in these deliberately rigid works. Garet’s painting has always been graceless but usually has still carried a graphic punch. Not so at the moment, but then the dryness alone may be a sign, whose fallaciousness is for now beside the point, of “intellect at work.”

    How else but as rubrics are we to take the isolation from canvas to canvas

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  • Sherrie Levine

    Nature Morte Gallery

    Sherrie Levine patches us into “1917,” her new installation of drawings and paintings after Kasimir Malevich and Egon Schiele, with an aphorism worthy of Jenny Holzer: “We like to imagine the future as a place where people loved abstraction before they encountered sentimentality.” It’s not news that the future is a prefabrication of the past, or that many of those fabrications later confess to being substandard. Rather, it’s the way the arch of the sentence, from eager hope to deflated defeat, is echoed in its subtle hierarchy of tenses, the way the leap forward from a happy present (“we like”)

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  • Helen Frankenthaler

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Helen Frankenthaler has been on cruise control for nearly a decade, or ever since she began further refining her already generalized, economically composed paintings of the middle ’70s. Her recent works take no chances, make no attempt to explore other possibilities. Frankenthaler has become intellectually lazy, content to go over old ground; at best, the modest-sized works on paper she chose to exhibit here are smaller, less demanding versions of her paintings from the ’70s. They are like margarine—substitutes for the real thing. Elegant parodies allowing Frankenthaler to reach down to a

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  • Bruce Nauman

    Sperone Westwater

    Bruce Nauman’s work is important for proposing a departure from that impasse of conceptualism, the belief in the self’s authority over language, in its ability to control and define. Since the late ’60s, through punning and anagram pieces contemporaneous with works involving physical forms, Nauman has explored transformations in language that problematize meaning, revealing the arbitrariness of its assignment to words. These seemingly playful works demonstrate the abstractness of the sign, indicating that it has no inherent relation to a signified. In his more recent practice Nauman appears to

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  • “For Presentation and Display: Ideal Settings”

    Diane Brown Gallery

    At the back of the gallery, Allan McCollum and Louise Lawler composed a critical installation, a reflection on the limits imposed on art by the gallery under capitalism. Lawler and McCollum are friends, and, as artists, share certain concerns. Their decision to work together can thus be seen as exemplary for collaboration, describing an area of intellectual coincidence rather than the kind of market combination that characterizes most recent endeavors.

    “Ideal Settings” appeared to take the form of a monument, a reminder of and commentary on the place common to those transactions that we describe

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  • “Fury Is A Feeling Too,” written and directed by Cynthia Beatt

    Collective For Living Cinema

    Fury Is a Feeling Too, 1983, is a film about the mouth and eyes of a foreigner. The mouth must re-form itself by embracing new sounds and sometimes uncomfortable modulations. The eyes view apparently familiar social phyla which on closer inspection disclose specifically different national histories. It is this position of “foreigner” that Cynthia Beatt seems to occupy. A British subject born in Kingston, Jamaica, she lived in the Fiji Islands, was raised in England, and moved to Berlin in 1975. Fury Is a Feeling Too, which she directed, wrote, and appears in, is a semiautobiographical encapsulation

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  • Richard Prince

    Baskerville + Watson

    Richard Prince’s work, broadly described, is a deviant breed, something of a cross between Robert Heinecken and Erving Goffman. Its sexuality, however, is more equivocal and complex but less unabashed than the former, while its sociopsychology is less systematic but more subversive than the latter. By this crude rendering we do not mean to ignore Prince’s debt to deconstructive theory. Indeed, one cannot get very far with the work unless its relation to such thought is understood.

    The exhibition consisted of an unbalanced mix of pieces from three series: “The Entertainers,” “Gangs,” and the to

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  • Cheryl Goldsleger

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    The elaboration of visionary spaces has fascinated artists for centuries. Most imagined spaces convey a strong allegiance to romanticism—somehow, what is not real is presumed to be broodingly romantic; Cheryl Goldsleger’s drawings and paintings perpetuate this tradition, but with a slightly revised interpretation of the fanciful. Nothing about her work is real, yet nothing is romantic either. These carefully constructed, ambiguous drawings and paintings are calculated investigations which seek comprehension in dreamlike and obscure landscapes of interior and exterior space.

    Goldsleger starts by

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  • “Alvar Aalto: Furniture and Glass”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    This exhibition very elegantly reminded us that Alvar Aalto was a skillful synthesizer and “total” designer. At a time noted for dogma and inflexible Modernism, Aalto demonstrated that Modernism was not simply one route but many paths. He was fascinated with the interior life of his buildings. His search for architectural and environmental consistency, and for a fusion of exterior and interior spaces, led him to design chairs, furnishings, fabrics, glassware, and other domestic items. While he always sought to satisfy specific conditions, all his furnishing designs had a broader application;

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  • Yhuda Porbochrai

    Concord Gallery

    Today’s figural painters are not really at ease with the human figure. They don’t have the cognitive interest in the body that might be indicated by a thorough knowledge of anatomy; they are not Renaissance men (or women). They are not bothered by the fact, as Paul Valéry was, that “every society of men is composed of bodies almost entirely covered, manifesting as little as possible in word and gesture of their strongest feelings.” They make no effort to show the naked body as the vehicle of these repressed feelings. Instead, they understand it purely technically, as an allegorical trope;

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  • Horst Antes

    Horst Antes’ “Votives” are the most innovative, important sculpture I have seen for a while. Flat little figures, generally in gold, are grouped together pristinely in Plexiglas cases mounted on white pedestals. The pieces have an air of extraordinary purity. Diminished in size, they become all the more potent; constituting a residual microcosm of Weltinnenraum, they seem bewitched. They are not unrelated to Jonathan Borofsky’s equally flat, if more mechanical, giant figures. Both offer, in a world that doesn’t want it, an elementary, survivor’s sense of selfhood. The figure is a trope for

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  • Werner Büttner, Martin Kippenberger, Albertoehlen, Markus Oehlen

    Metro Pictures

    I admire these artists quirkiness, irreverence, and contempt. I first saw their work several years ago in Germany, and I’m glad to see they’ve become still more perverse or saucy, to use a word they like. One can label their work neo-Dadaist, which suggests that their attitude is more important than the objects they make. Certainly they seem to aspire to become sacred monsters, although that’s nothing you can work at, even when you have command of seemingly limitless reserves of (Dadaist) disgust; the world makes your monstrousness happen.

    However large the range of their activities—they write

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  • Futura 2000

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Theodor Adorno has written, “Vulgarity has no history because it undialectically imitates social debasement in its invariance; graffiti are among the phenomena of eternal recurrence. Maybe in art no subject matter will ever be beyond the pale as being too vulgar. In any event, vulgarity is not a fixed taboo but a relation between the subject matter and the public one addresses. But vulgarity has meanwhile expanded its scope, becoming a totality, and in so doing it poses a threat to anything that goes on pretending to be noble and sublime. This is one of the reasons for the demise of the tragic.”

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  • Carmen Cicero

    Graham Modern

    The grand tradition of Western symbolic painting lives on, although sharply redirected toward decidedly personal ends, in the work of Carmen Cicero. At 58, this New York artist offers one of the freshest figurative visions around. With an approach that is allegorical in a purely visual rather than any literary sense, Cicero emerges as more the suggester and the seducer than the storyteller. The kind of artist who seems to relish the challenge of tackling difficult-to-describe situations and feelings, he is capable of striking through to the complex and contradictory sensations at life’s core.

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  • Ramiro Llona

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Ramiro Llona offers a truly sentient vision, one resoundingly in tune with the aggressive visual sensibility of the ’80s. He is a powerful painter in the daring, don’t-play-it-safe tradition of a Pablo Picasso or a Willem de Kooning. With his intense palette and his ability to evoke mood through high-keyed color combinations and to suggest situations through ambiguous forms, Llona pushed his painting to new expressive heights in this show of recent work.

    These paintings and drawings feature a shifting, fractured, multifaceted space, which plays in sometimes startling but always engaging ways with

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  • Nicholas Nixon

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    Among other things, photographs offer a license to stare. Nicholas Nixon’s recent photographs of very old people in nursing homes, made with an 8-by-10-inch-format camera, invite a cruel scrutiny. The details of the physical deterioration caused by age are given up to us to examine at our leisure. In the aseptic presence of the photographs, we are free to speculate on visual correspondences suggested by the facts of the scenes, qualities drained of human meaning: to notice, for example, that the skin of very old people can resemble (in a photograph) the crispy, translucent skin of a roast turkey;

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  • “The Territory of Art”

    “The Territory of Art,” a series of 16 half-hour radio programs about contemporary art, has impressive packaging. (Produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the series is being broadcast by public radio stations around the country; check your local listings.) The intro theme, by John Adams, is a sharp electronic ululating pulse. The credits for many of the shows are announced by the up-and-coming Whoopi Goldberg. The trailers for succeeding shows are provocative, tantalizing.

    All of which is good. Packaging is important in any attempt to put art on the air—or anywhere else, for

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