reviews

  • Kenneth Noland

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Kenneth Noland’s last show here, in 1983, featured tall, irregularly shaped canvases whose areas of color were applied with various types of painterly expressiveness. As much as new explorations, the shapes seemed allusions to Noland’s own earlier work in irregular polygonal shapes; they seemed, in other words, both a post-Modern reference to classical Modernist icons and a self-referential formalist evolution. The dilemma posed by these two types of statement is equally present in the new work, which is both more familiar and more beautiful than the last, though misgivings and ambiguities remain

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  • Nancy Graves

    Knoedler Gallery

    Nancy Graves has engineered some of the most memorable sculptural events of the past twenty years or so. In addition to such pieces as Totem, 1980, which prodded our memories of this in the Museum of Modern Art’s “‘Primitivism’” show last fall, there were the “Camels,” 1968, the Ceridwen bones on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 1969–77, and the thicket of Variability and Repetition of Variable Forms, 1971. Although Graves has long been recognized, perhaps she has not received her full measure of praise.

    The works that have been viewed critically as the most problematic are the forays into bronze shown

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  • Kenny Scharf

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Kenny Scharf is the true heir of Surrealism; he shows where it went. It went to the movies, particularly to cartoons and the monster and cowboy-and-Indian films. André Breton’s doctrine of blending dream and reality was found to be easier to realize among children; this was found unconsciously, of course—it was an unconspiracy.

    Scharf’s paintings show the powerful connection between Yves Tanguy and Hanna-Barbera, between Joan Miró and the Smurf, between Breton and Cabbage Patch. They show the psychosocial developments that have taken place. There is no beauty in today’s surrealism or in Scharf’s

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  • Nancy Goldring

    A & M Artworks

    Nancy Goldring’s title for her exhibition, “Recurrences,” is a direct explanation of a theme that fascinates this artist and that has determined a direction in her work for over seven years. In order to understand how things appear over time, Goldring has devised a unique art process combining drawing, projection, and photography. Through this process her current work explores the idea of place and the roles of remembering, forgetting, abstraction, and time in the recollection and description of an environment. The moment one leaves a place, subjective interpretation and imagination take over

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  • John Altoon

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    Henry Geldzahler’s recent exhibition “Underknown,” at P.S.1 last fall, was another example of the current trend of reevaluating artists who didn’t quite achieve major recognition during their lifetime, or slid into obscurity after death. The absence of the Los Angeles abstractionist John Altoon from the show was symptomatic of his continued neglect by the East Coast establishment. Although Altoon’s drawings and prints were the subject of a posthumous retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971 (Altoon died in 1969, aged 44), his paintings remain more or less unknown in New York.

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  • Randal Rupert

    Artmart

    Randal Rupert is one of the few artists delving into the relationship of image and idea, structure and sensation, who is notoverwhelmed by either the magnitude of the issues or the difficulty of the content involved. Since the late ’70s, Rupert has been developing an original, boldly suggestive brand of representational painting which penetrates on the deepest level the distinctive way that urban people see today. Rupert’s paintings are active, indeed confrontational pictures which demand attention. The means used is a unique fast-time presentation which instantly changes form into information,

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  • Holly Hughes

    Piezo Electric

    Although strongly identified with the much heralded revival of figuration, the ’80s, I predict, will also be known for innovative abstraction. Approaches toward abstraction are changing, particularly among artists currently younger than their mid 30s. Compared to their colleagues who entered the art scene in the ’60s and ’70s, this group is generally less involved with spinning theories or elaborating formal dos and don’ts, and more interested in exploring and heightening the visual aspect of their art. A new sort of abstraction, which I would call sentient abstraction, has emerged, and it

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  • Michael Klier

    The Kitchen

    It takes a while to get the central metaphor in Michael Klier’s 82-minute-long videotape Der Riese (The giant, 1983). The opening scene, a high-angle shot of planes landing and taxiing around an airport in a misty gray dawn, could lead equally to a familiar narrative—cut to the arrival area, where someone is waiting to meet someone—or to a series of shots celebrating the diversity of urban life, as in the city symphonies of ’20s film. The swollen, melodramatic mood music seems to promise one or the other. The only thing out of place is the camera movement: crabbing, mechanical pans, never anything

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  • Berenice Abbott

    Marlborough | Midtown

    This small show included only a sampling of Berenice Abbott’s photographs from the ’20s and ’30s, and only a few pictures from after 1940; nevertheless it managed to suggest the work’s importance in the development of Modernist photography. It was only after returning to New York from Paris in 1930 that Abbott turned to the documentary cityscapes for which she is best known. Although she was a successful portrait photographer in France, the examples of this work here show that despite a good sense of gesture she was fairly conventional as a portraitist; these pictures are distinguished largely

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  • “The New Capital”

    White Columns

    This show seemed to promise more than it delivered, though not from problems in structure or conception. Instead, its difficulties appeared intrinsic to the task of mapping an interesting but indefinable region in the relations between esthetics and culture.

    Organized by Tricia Collins and Richard Milazzo, “The New Capital” drew together the very diverse work of some 16 artists. Its thesis concerned the role of photography (or, rather, of photomechanical reproduction) in this last fifth of the 20th century; rather than aping Walter Benjamin, it transmuted his theory into the contemporary vernacular,

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  • Laurie Simmons

    International with Monument

    Not far away, in an East Village gallery, Laurie Simmons phrased a concise reflection on the position of women in representation. “Tourism” is a series of large color photographic prints in which famous architectural scenes—Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, Gothic cathedrals, and more—are glimpsed as they are “visited” by female dolls. The dolls are tall, slender, ’60s-ish figures, color cued to their environments; similarly, their gestures and groupings mimic the features of their locales. The photographs sit flush against the wall so as to simulate “windows on the world.” Because of the way the

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  • April Gornik

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    A spirit of the sublime has long been embedded in American cultural identity. Various concepts of the sublime—outlined by Barbara Novak in her scholarly book Nature and Culture (1980)—may be traced from early-19th-century landscape painting to the idealism of minimal art, from epic Hollywood cinema to space technology. The catastrophic and the tranquil, the pagan and the Christianized, terror and transcendence: it is not surprising that the virgin horizons of the New World should have become the space against which Western man has mapped the possibilities and limits of existence. A 19th-century

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  • Jack Goldstein

    Cash/Newhouse Gallery

    In a Jack Goldstein work neither subject nor image can be domesticated or colonized. The solar eclipse, the volcanic flare, an impalpable light caught in a photographic instant—all are beyond the material assurance of direct perception. Paradoxically, despite the specificity of the “event” depicted, the image offers considerable resistance to the viewing subject’s desire to locate him- or herself in the picture. Removed behind glass, these new painted images on paper present us with little surface incident or definite horizon, no subjective content that might identify origin or place. Goldstein’s

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  • Neil Jenney

    Oil And Steel

    Neil Jenney is perhaps the most esthetically brilliant conceptualist commentator on American reality and the experience of modernity working today. The problem with the traditional conceptual art that Jenney surpassed was not that it eschewed the object for language and idea, but that its language and idea were often trivial. It did not understand how objects could become allegorical emblems—how they could acquire profound conceptual import through the character of their objectness. Traditional conceptualists thought they were purifying art in the name of a more vital destiny than that offered

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  • “Masters Of The Sixties: From New Realism To Pop Art”

    Marisa Del Re Gallery

    What is of interest in a group exhibition is not the separate artists but the idea that permits them to be grouped together. Implicitly arguing for a common quality among divergent individuals, the group exhibition undermines the notion of individual genius. It need not go to the other extreme and replace that notion with the equally vague one of the zeitgeist (another blind alley), but it should attempt to reveal the subtle, hitherto unrecognizable One that shapes the vulgarly obvious Many. In a group exhibition, heroic individualists are displaced by the generic factor that made their

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  • Steve Fagin, “Virtual Play”

    The Kitchen

    Her face adorns the cover of a book. She wears a direct gaze, adamantly askew hair, and a full, welcoming mouth, all of which are framed by a fur collar. The book is The Freud Journal of Lou Andreas-Salomé and it is she who covers it. The blurb beneath the title reads, “A fascinating glimpse at Freud and his circle in the early years of the twentieth century.” So Lou Andreas-Salomé is the one who glimpses, who (according to Webster’s definition) gives us faint, passing appearances or inklings. The glimpse is that which shines unsteadily; the intermittent glow and not the beacon. The glimpse is

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  • Spalding Gray

    The Performing Garage

    For nearly ten years Spalding Gray has been performing autobiographical monologues as an adjunct to his activity with the Wooster Group, the seminal experimental theater troupe. Unlike the work of that ensemble, which is multilayered, emotionally distanced, and relentlessly deconstructive, these solos are informal, vernacular, and, in form, an admiring direct quote of a basic storytelling mode. Wearing L. L. Bean-ish street clothes Gray appears as “Spalding Gray,” seats himself at a nondescript table, and reels off a picaresque monologue which has been rehearsed into a script. Within this

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  • Krzysztof Wodiczko

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    Krzysztof Wodiczko has been a widely traveled art provocateur since leaving Poland in 1977. In the last five years he has staged “public projections”—outdoor slide shows in which images are projected on monuments and buildings—in cities in West Germany, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Wodiczko comes off as a curious hybrid-equal parts earnest expatriate intellectual, ’60s guerrilla artist, architectural theorist, semiotician, and public gadfly. His work falls roughly into a show-and-tell teaching mode related to the civic didacticism of Joseph Beuys and the showbizzy media manipulations of

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