reviews

  • Elmer Bischoff

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Elmer Bischoff makes it seem easy; then you keep looking and he makes it seem very, very hard. These paintings appear casually composed and they are easy to look at, but they are also extremely seductive, and once their simple charm has worked they begin to take on another life.

    In the mid ’50s Bischoff stopped making purely abstract paintings and began making representational paintings in which familiar elements seem to be dis- solving into abstraction. These paintings are about the process of abstraction in the word’s senses of drawing away from, epitomizing, reducing to a summary.

    In the mid

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  • Lawrence Poons

    André Emmerich Gallery

    It’s not often that you see a show and wish that the group of paintings would never be broken up, that they would stay together and that you could drop in on them once in a while. That was the feeling I had on the last day of Larry Poons’ show. I felt the paintings acquired an amplification from facing one another. They seemed to be alive and moving so slowly you couldn’t notice it while it was happening, but if you saw them later you might wonder if that was the way they looked last time. They also seemed to be about to grow out of their metallic frames. The frames looked as if they didn’t

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  • Izhar Patkin

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    This show consisted of wax sculptures and “reverse paintings.” The wax sculptures are unexceptional, resembling perhaps the contents of an Auguste Rodin wax museum in which the air conditioning has gone down. The “reverse paintings,” however, are quite eye-catching.

    Patkin has painted these from behind—that is, he has applied paint to one side of a screen, forcing it through the screen until a substantial texture has built up on the back, which becomes the front. The effect is not unlike those computerized tapestries that depict dogs playing cards, the Last Supper, or events in the lives of John

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  • Alex Katz

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Back in the ’60s, when many artists were emphasizing the tackling of formal ideas as plastic issues, one of the knottier formats was a dialectical setup between painting and sculpture, between the plane and the three-dimensional object, between the bounded authority of the wall and the open freedom of space. The artwork tended to be as reductive and abstract as the problem-solving activity that produced it. From Donald Judd’s boxes to Robert Morris draped felt, the iconography mirrored the philosophizing that motivated its forms.

    In the ’80s, this line of exploration has taken a literal turn in

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  • Timothy Woodman

    Zabriskie Gallery

    Timothy Woodman’s painted aluminum wall reliefs offer a more diffuse, less focused figure-scape than Katz’s. His characters are literally “little people,” an anthology of Lilliputian types engaged in a human comedy of activity, from the mundane (sharpening a knife) to the fantastic (wrestling a demon). Sometimes Woodman’s small folk are isolated as single figures; in other works, groups arestrung together in a linked chain of human activity, as in a take-off on Edward Hick’s Peaceable Kingdom which adds musicians and a ballerina to the already crowded scene of the original 19th-century work,

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  • Louise Nevelson

    Pace Wildenstein Gallery

    In the “Mirror-Shadow Series,” 1985, Louise Nevelson continues to work with materials and matrices unmistakably her own. But possession can become a curse, or a trademark. In this new series Nevelson faces both the constrictions and the security of a set vocabulary, yet her ordered and intricate world of overlapping grids, rectangular containers, secret boxes, and textural contrasts is now subject to new forces. The gridlike frame that she has often used to organize and contain her dense, introverted compositions has become the foil for a robust, random impulse suggesting motion rather than

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  • Scott Burton

    Max Protetch

    The chair functions well as a metaphor for the dialectic between esthetics and function that forces all good design. Here the essential struggle and resolution must be crystallized in a familiar scale and object. Scale can make design appear impenetrable and incomprehensible (this is often the case in architecture), but the form of a chair is directly related to proportion and sensation. The design of a good chair is both ambitious and mundane; inevitably, one is going to want to stop looking at it and sit on it.

    Some of Scott Burton’s pieces look like or seem inspired by chairs, others are in

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  • Sarah Charlesworth

    International with Monument

    As opposed to Sarah Charlesworth’s earlier work, which explored the thematic terrain of passion and desire, her recent subject is what we loosely describe as “nature,” Lush green and black backgrounds support photographed images, all taken from geographic or travel-and-leisure magazines, of varied plant, animal, or ethnological scenes: an owl, snakes, or a Iamb crowned with flowers as if for some village festival are examples of Charlesworth’s purposefully reduced motifs. Coexisting with these are a Gauguinesque island woman, a seated Buddha sculpture, and other images that imply a kind of

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  • “Disinformation: The Manufacture of Consent”

    the Alternative Museum

    Surely it belongs within the experience of all viewers of art to be so moved by a lousy review as to rush out to see the show. An exhibition so bad, goes the logic, can hardly lack interest; one is moved to discern the prick, the prong that provokes such extremes of passion. So, after reading Michael Brenson’s words in The New York Times of March 22, 1985, I scurried over to see (I quote him) “the kind of exhibition that gives political art its bad name.” What I found in "Disinformation: The Manufacture of Consent: organized by Geno Rodriguez, director of the Alternative Museum, was something

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  • “Our Marriage,” directed by Valeria Sarimento

    "New Directors/New Films"

    Valeria Sarimento’s Our Marriage (1984) is a film about a father who marries his daughter. But not really. Actually, it’s a scrutiny and demi-reenactment of filmic melodrama which works to expose how the genre’s soggy machinations perpetuate convention. But not really. Actually, it’s about a man who sells his daughter because he can’t afford her hospital bills. Well, not really. Actually, it’s about all this and more. Like the films of Douglas Sirk, Our Marriage partakes of a type of contextual mutation, a chameleonic procedure which varies greatly from spectator to spectator, from venue to

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  • Owen Land

    The Kitchen

    Few supermarket icons exert the fascination of the Land O Lakes butter box. At once an old-fashioned vision of the American Eden and a funky pop M. C. Escher, the Land O Lakes trademark is a buckskin-clad Indian maid kneeling ecstatically on a sun-dappled green hill above a tranquil expanse of blue water. This smiling Pocahontas is as resonant a figure as the Statue of Liberty; she seems to perch on the horizon, and the “o” of the logo that fills the sky tops her head like a halo. Between the braids that fall to her waist she’s holding a box of Land O Lakes butter, on which, of course, a miniature

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  • Les Levine

    Millennium Film Workshop

    Another practitioner of smart art, Les Levine recently exhibited a trio of new videotapes, all venting his sense of art as feedback signifying the social role of the artist at any given moment. “This kind of tape coined the expression ‘boring video art.’” Levine disarmingly explained in his introduction to Anxiety, Religion, and Art, 1985, in which seemingly random shots of the street life in San Francisco’s Mission District were accompanied by a 25-minute conversation between Levine and a painter named Malcolm.

    Unveiling his theories of meditation, landscape, and psychoanalysis, Malcolm is

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  • Joseph Kosuth

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Joseph Kosuth’s “Protoinvestigations,” first exhibited in 1972, made contributions both to the conceptual-art vocabulary and to certain elementary combinations of the units of that vocabulary. In those days conceptual art, perhaps still feeling roots in Minimalism, felt constrained to stress simplicity and unity. Nowadays one wonders whether conceptual elements and procedures will build into more complex structures perhaps less puritanically reductive.

    In his recent show Kosuth showed six photographs entitled, after a famous passage of Freud, “Fort! Da! 1–6.” Each 6-by-10-foot image, mounted on

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Richard Artschwager has been an improper Minimalist, a warm Minimalist, which by definition is a contradiction in terms. His continuous reference to the object (furniture), his attention to materials and texture (Formica), and the possibility his work articulates for correlations and interrelations between these two concerns set him apart from his colleagues as far back as the ’70s. Then, his Duchampian irony imbued his work with warmth, as did his refusal to moralize and his benevolent skepticism, which at times was transformed into an amused and amusing sarcasm. Artschwager’s Minimalism could

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  • Hans-Peter Adamski

    Sonnabend Gallery

    The most sensational, nasty, cynical work in Hans-Peter Adamski’s exhibition is the painting entitled Die Musikanten II (The Musicians II, 1982–84). Two colloquial German expressions seem to me directly relevant to this work, as well as indicative of the general “colloquial” basis of Adamski’s (and other German painters) imagery: “hier liegt ein Musikant Begraben!,” which roughly translates as “I am stumbling over something,” and “da sitzen die Musikanten!,” which roughly translates as “there’s the rub!” What Adamski’s proverbial German musicians, generally symbolic of the (unmistakably military)

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  • Wassily Kandinsky

    My thesis is simple: that in the last decade of his life, from 1934 to 1944, Kandinsky became more of a stylist and less of a spiritualist. The original motivation for the development of abstract painting had come and gone, brilliantly effecting its purpose: the creation of a medium for the delivery of religious meaning. While many critics regard the messianic language in which the younger Kandinsky expressed his determination to create a new art as more megalomaniac hyperbole than genuinely religious, I think he faced the same problem as many visionaries at the turn of the century, introspective

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  • “The Box Transformed”

    Imposing artificial limits as metaphysical truth, containment is the ultimate fiction of control. Alfred North Whitehead notes that for Plato the Receptacle is one of the seven irreducible concepts that constitute our basic sense of the world. It signifies “the essential unity of the Universe conceived as an actuality, and yet in abstraction from the ’life and motion in which all actualities must partake. If we omit the Psyche and the Eros, we should obtain a static world.” (Psyche is “Soul,” and Eros is “the urge towards realization of ideal perfection.”) The problem addressed by the sculpture

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  • Peter Campus

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    At the center of half a dozen of Peter Campus new landscape photographs sits a boulder—huge, impassive, unmoving and unmovable. The boulder in one of these pictures appears in sunlight filtered through the pines around it; a whale-shaped boulder, in another picture, broods in shadow. This is a tremendously rich symbol, one that I read as Campus’ own view of the process of making art: the artist tries to get to the heart of the world but inevitably ends up describing the mystery, not solving it. It’s not irrelevant to this interpretation that the boulders all look like brains.

    The fact that the

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  • Larry Burrows

    Laurence Miller Gallery

    Even when they were made, Larry Burrows’ photographs of the Vietnam War seemed anachronistic. Burrows, who photographed in Vietnam on assignment for Life magazine from 1961 until his death in 1971, worked in the heroic mode that photojournalism had borrowed from painting and periodically updated. This style, in which war is hell but of a noble, macho sort, received perhaps its fullest expression in David Douglas Duncan’s gung ho photographs of the Korean War, but it can be found equally in official historical painting of World War II; a more recent example is Frederick Hart’s statuary group of

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  • Dorothea Rockburne

    Xavier Fourcade

    As an abstract painter Dorothea Rockburne is in a class by herself. Going beyond the mere act of fixing form in space, Rockburne has found a way to a higher sentient realm in which constructive art is synonymous with heightened consciousness. Paintings like Extasie, 1983–84, Narcissus, 1982–85, Capernaum, Gate, 1982–85, and Guide, 1984–85, all featured in this exhibition, are truly breathtaking.

    At first glance, the irregular geometries of these paintings appeal directly to our sense of reason. But the more we take stock of the harmony Rockburne makes of these shapes, with their multiple edges

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  • Roxi Marsen

    CDS Gallery

    Although many still prefer art made the idea-oriented, Modernist way (and I put the media appropriators in this bag), the ’80s have seen a growing dissatisfaction, even an uneasiness, with much of the predictable, overly derivative fare around, the inevitable product of programmatic thought. Yet the notion that art should be meaningful is as strong as ever, with people seeming to want more and not less from art. This may explain the growing interest, particularly among younger artists, in primitive and other pre-Modernist sources. Giotto, for example, has become one of the hot topics and influences

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  • Thomas Lawson

    Metro Pictures

    An allegorist’s need to fix a one-to-one correspondence and a synthesizer’s need to elide those correspondences into some ultimate final term strain against each other in Thomas Lawson’s paintings. Looking at them, one is reminded of Alberto Giacometti’s complaints about the inconstancy of vision, about how there is nothing but “granules moving over a deep black void . . . to fix ones gaze upon” in a “Sahara” between “one wing of the nose and the other.” Nevertheless, Giacometti presents us in the sculpture with the very seeable result of the inability to see, whereas Lawson makes that instability

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  • Walter Robinson

    Metro Pictures

    In a way it’s as if Walter Robinson and Lawson, who showed together, are anxious to prove that they really can paint, in the old-fashioned sense of “render” They seem to be straining to be normal, competent, and well-behaved against the current of their own deep-dyed rebelliousness (a combination often misread as cynicism), but the rigid perfectionism of their “normalcy” is merely the logical outcome of turning that rebellious fault-finding inward. Take the bowl of sugar cubes that initiated this round of depicted objects. It was out of context in that almost every other painted item here would

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