reviews

  • Rammellzee

    Gallozzi-LaPlaca Gallery/Stellweg-Séguy Gallery

    Ralph Waldo Emerson considered hieroglyphs, Ezra Pound went back to pictograms, William Burroughs rethought collage. Periodically, theorists have proclaimed their dissatisfaction with tainted language, dreaming instead of an ideal storm of communication that would heal the breach between visual and verbal. Perhaps the myth is indivisible from the entire project of American Modernism: to locate a concept of the avant-garde within the myth of the Fall, promoting a fiction of the embattled artist as Adamic exile. Restoring the communication system of a supposed prelapsarian age underlies Rammellzee’s

    Read more
  • Peggy Cyphers

    M-13 Gallery

    One mark of artistic vision is the ability to create a pictorial world in which everything looks distinctive and nothing appears contrived. This is a mark difficult to attain, but it has been hit, and right on target, in the recent work of Peggy Cyphers. This young New York abstract painter seeks that critical edge where form emerges with feeling, space suggests situation, and image turns into idea. The means she uses are both visual and conceptual. The energetic material qualities of Cyphers’ pictures make them resound as physical and perceptible things, and in the process liberate the paintings’

    Read more
  • Judith Shea

    Willard Gallery

    Judith Shea offers the most exciting and significant sculptural vision of the figure seen in New York this season. Her latest works are capable of arousing the deepest feelings in their audience. Although best known for her pioneering achievements in bridging the gap between art and fashion, Shea’s current pieces are very much in the sculptural mainstream. Remaining true to her distinctive way of seeing, she continues to make forms related to clothing, and to turn toward personal objectives the value of clothes as cultural signs; however, her means and ends are directed to the major challenge

    Read more
  • William Dole

    Staempfli Gallery

    Collage is a medium capable of incorporating elements of drawings, prints, photographs, and paintings, and as such it is probably the most enigmatic and elusive means of expression in 20th-century art. The technique offers endless formal and thematic possibilities, and it is a demanding discipline which tests both an artist’s imagination and his or her powers of communication. Still, many collages today are only pleasant to look at or only interesting to think about. Rare are the examples that move us intellectually and emotionally in the way that good drawings, prints, photographs, and paintings

    Read more
  • Eric Fischl

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    For those of us who have come to expect a daringly inventive, anxiety-riddled realism from Eric Fischl, this exhibition was a huge disappointment. Despite Robert Rosenblum’s name-scattering attempt to invoke historical precedents in the catalogue essay, the paintings conclusively proved that we need to wait a while longer for the second coming of Manet. Gone are Fischl’s disquiet ing observations of ordinary behavior, and the disturbing eroticism and resonant emotional power emanating from his choice and placement of familiar objects. Rather than continuing to discover an excruciatingly accurate

    Read more
  • Jack Bush

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Jack Bush is one of a handful of Canadian abstract artists to have gained prominence in America. Well-known in Canada by the late ’40s, he experienced a severe emotional crisis which eventually led him to reject his earlier work and become a member of Painters Eleven, a Toronto-based group interested in abstraction. By the late ’50s Bush had worked his way through such influences as Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Pierre Soulages, and Nicholas de Staël. He had also begun a lifelong friendship with Clement Greenberg.

    That Bush gained attention in America is due, I think, to his friendship with

    Read more
  • Sam Messer

    Ruth Siegel Ltd.

    Images of fish and stuffed birds, a woman gazing thoughtfully beside a mirror or daydreaming over a bowl of apples, a skull grinning nastily out of a man’s inward-gazing face—everything in Sam Messer’s heavily worked paintings seems to exist in a forlorn, uncomfortable realm. No hint of sunlight, no view of the outdoors offsets the isolation, even through a window. Instead, views of the artist’s studio, his tenement room, and a bar make for cluttered interiors in which the stench of mortality prevails. Empty wine glasses, conch shells, and crucifixes are evidence that life is nasty, brutish,

    Read more
  • “Subjects in Pictures”

    49th Parallel

    This exhibition, organized by Philip Monk, presented the work of six Toronto-based artists. Its title involves a play on words, for, as Monk notes in his catalogue essay, it can speak of both content and individuality, “subject-matter and subjecthood.” In the latter, Monk is dealing with one of the capital topics of our era, for the representation of individuals in any work extends beyond their simple figuration to encompass reflection on the forms of subjectivity in society. To “picture” individuals in and as images is to comment on the social relations their appearances imply, and on the means

    Read more
  • Michael Kessler

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Michael Kessler’s first solo exhibition in New York was an auspicious debut. One quibbles with certain aspects of his paintings, but his overall level of seriousness, accomplishment, and belief in the continuing possibilities of abstraction set him apart from most artists of his generation (he recently turned 30). The artist has spent much of his life in relative isolation in rural Pennsylvania, and his highly evocative abstractions evolve from his constant contact with nature.

    Kessler works in oil on modest-sized pieces of Masonite. All the paintings here also incorporate a heavily worked wood

    Read more
  • Les Levine

    Ted Greenwald Gallery

    As a self-described “media artist” Les Levine operates in a gray area of his own whimsical design, shuttling his deliberately simple concepts back and forth between the modern media’s polar extremes—advertising and fine art, unique objects and magazine covers. billboards and videotapes. In this show alone, large-format Polaroid portraits, plasticine constructions, and giant watercolor scenes alternated as vehicles for Levine’s particular brand of Zen-like attitudinizing. Lurking behind this restless media-mongering is a latent sense of impatience with art: Levine is more attracted to ideas than

    Read more
  • Sankai Juku

    City Center

    Sankai Juku is a Japanese performance group representing the third generation of a Japanese dance/theater genre called Butoh, an art distinguished more by an attitude than by any technique or form. Emerging from the social turmoil that swept Japanese culture in the ’60s, Butoh was a reaction against the mores of the time, which were formal and rigid both in the traditional Japanese performing arts and in the society at large. Butoh was brutal, assaultive, and sensational; its images and tone projected disaster and despair, a state of mind familiar to the postwar, postnuclear generation. And

    Read more
  • “Forty Deuce,” directed and adapted by Paul Morrissey from the play by Alan Bowne

    the Gay Film Festival

    The transposition of a play to the cinema or television can be a tricky one trading in the static long view of the theater for the cuts and framing alterations of film and video. In the case of film the conversion all too often results in a distanced picturing of expository speech and gesture, while video performs a relentless process of miniaturization, setting tiny actors adrift in the text of a play in the same way that it turns almost all practitioners of dance into minuscule Thumbelinas. There are exceptions, of course, two of the more recent being Robert Altman’s cinematic adaption of

    Read more
  • Athena Tacha

    Max Hutchinson

    In this exhibition Athena Tacha chose to show projects for public places, some of them memorials to major atrocities of this century. All are ambitious proposals that exploit Tacha’s interest in cascades, steps, and inclines, and in the rhythms these forms activate. While Tacha does not stretch her ideas about form in these projects, she makes an earnest and significant effort to combine iconography with kinesthetic patterns in the search for a contemporary memorial that concurrently honors, mourns, and informs through direct confrontation and involvement. She is seeking a monumental idiom that

    Read more
  • Frank Gehry

    Metro Pictures

    Frank Gehry had a hunch, and it was a good one—to combine Formica, light, and the forms of snakes and fish to make a series of lamps. These fantastic, glowing beasts formed a menagerie in the darkened gallery, demonstrating that a place still exists for informed intuition in art and design. Gehry is not reaching for complicated territory in this series, or for any polemical peak; he has simply taken a material and applied it unconventionally to create shapes and images with personal resonance.

    Gehry began this series of lamps two years ago, when the Formica Corporation invited ten architects to

    Read more
  • Vito Acconci

    Nature Morte Gallery

    For two decades Vito Acconci has been on the cutting edge of artistic experimentation and innovation while consistently addressing questions about the membranes of art and architecture. His productions have been abundantly varied, yet they have manifested a progressive, processional evolution: Acconci permits incremental discoveries and new information to inform each successive work. In the past several years he has created furniture and architecture that invite and in fact require active manipulation by his audience. The spectator must perform an action to assemble the work, and to realize its

    Read more
  • Stefano Castronovo

    Patrick Fox Gallery

    Part one of this show was a room full of Mona Lisas, eight of them titled “Devoid 1–8.” Some are medium shots, some are close-ups, some are extreme close-ups. In some of the pictures Mona Lisa is partially obscured, as in the first one, in which her face is half covered with the gold squares that also form a background. In others the image is eroded; in Devoid 8, for example, the face is peeled away with only clues remaining. The image is recognizable only from its context.

    “Devoid” could be translated to mean “from the void,” and these are images from the void of art history, from Leonardo to

    Read more
  • Phase Two

    Gallozzi-LaPlaca Gallery

    Graffiti is the only art movement of the time. It has thousands of practitioners working seriously in defined and evolving styles, and it has transformed the way things look, the way we look at things, and the way we look at art. In a way, graffiti is the first formal revolution in painting since Cubism, and in a way Phase Two is the Marcel Duchamp of graffiti. He may have done more than any other artist to transform and develop styles of graffiti, to paint the word and design the letter.

    Phase Two originated ways of forming letters and composing pieces that were adopted by legions of graffiti

    Read more
  • Leslie Greene

    La Galleria

    To paint abstract is to think big or think small, to get very far away or very close. Once it was a part of all painting; later it was enough on its own. But abstract painting was a problem for abstraction in painting because of its avoidance of content. Even token content made the abstract work easier. The token content was the frame for the real content.

    Leslie Greene’s paintings enrich token content somewhat by choosing an utterly basic subject. Most of her paintings are of overstuffed chairs, often the same chair. The paintings are not about the chair, but the chair is a better ground than

    Read more
  • Michele Zalopany

    P.P.O.W.

    Michele Zalopany’s large charcoal-and-pastel drawings on paper fall into two distinct groups. One—renderings of formal gardens, villas, and fountains—recalls a host of similar pre-Oedipal ancien régime fantasies, including Alain Resnais’ and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year at Marienbad, 1961, Kenneth Anger’s Eaux d’Artifice, 1953, and Jennifer Bartlett’s recent paintings. The other deals more overtly with notions of childhood, through pictures based on photographs. Most of the figures in these images are small girls, which suggests that the pictures might be directly autobiographical. But in

    Read more
  • Donald Judd

    Leo Castelli Gallery, Max Protetch Gallery

    One speaks of an “emerging” artist; can one speak of a “reemerging” one? Donald Judd is running very scared to be reborn, blasting other artists and critics in recent essays (Art in America, September and October 1984) that may signal the demise of the artist’s text as a useful statement of intention. (Judd’s aim is to deny anyone else’s right to an independent view). What did he give us in these shows? The same old “specific objects” refurbished in fresh materials-concrete, in the most monumentally ambitious ones-and in some instances rehabilitated as furniture and architecture (without quotation

    Read more
  • Stephen De Staebler

    CDS Gallery

    A fascination with the winged fragment has endured no doubt since the Samothracian Nike was first reclaimed. The oxymoronic aspect of an earthbound transcendentalism is appealing. Stephen De Staebler’s sculptures are the latest in a spotty filiation that includes Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913, and Mary Frank’s figures. Boccioni attempted to make his Victory whole, but the very speed with which the figure propels itself shreds it. Motionblurred, its features represent also erosion through time duré. De Staebler’s work, like Frank’s, with which it has much in common,

    Read more
  • Raoul Dufy

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    According to Raoul Dufy, all the world’s a pattern and we are merely players in a long-running hit. Repetition of a few key elements rules both narrative and scene. The use of certain pictorial devices to frame a view, as if in quotation marks, pushes the stage analogy and the sense of recycled material. Curtains in Le Prado Tiziano, 1949, and Gastronomie, 1950, create prosceniums, and balconies turn street scenes depicted on upholstered chairs into theater. Spectacle is almost always the subject matter, be it concerts, military parades, races, official receptions, circuses, or bullfights. The

    Read more