reviews

  • Dennis Smith

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    I thought it was odd that the most recent painting in this captivating show was made in 1982 until I learned that Smith died soon after, a young man.

    The oldest paintings here, made in 1977, are wild and fresh, witty and casually mystical, remarkably “now” eight years later, though outside any trend or groove.

    Smith combines a skilled cartoon/caricature technique with a Renaissance/Surrealist sense of symbolism and iconography. His images are odd and striking. In Beauty Farm, 1981, the beauty-treatment recipients are set upon by giants. A giant hand twirls one woman’s hair onto a fork like spaghetti;

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  • David Kapp

    Manhattan Art

    I have been an admirer of Kapp’s paintings for several years. They are attractive. They are elegant. They are not revolutionary. Sometimes I didn’t want to like them because they seemed calculated and limited, but I couldn’t get over my basic attraction.

    With Kapp’s recent show my reservations disappeared. I didn’t mind that all of his pictures were, as usual, of automobiles on city streets. This time they seemed like inevitable post-landscapes. They seemed to point out the general lack of cars and streets in painting, and the need for more of these if art is to maintain any kind of ecological

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  • Brion Gysin

    Tower Gallery

    Although Brion Gysin is best known as a writer (author of Here to Go, 1982, and The Third Mind, 1978), as an influence on other writers (William Burroughs credits him with inventing the cut-up technique of writing), and as a beatnik-society figure (he was proprietor of an odd music-club/restaurant in Algeria in the ’50s), Gysin is also a great painter. His paintings are not well-known because they are few and because Gysin was never an art careerist. But Gysin is a prophetic painter, as this retrospective exhibition demonstrated.

    Collected by Felicity Mason, most of the works in the show were

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  • Mimmo Paladino

    Sperone Westwater

    The “nice” moment when you walked into the back room of this installation and almost bumped into a figure with outstretched arms and cupped hands was emblematic of Mimmo Paladino’s entire installation. Familiarly welcoming, it beckoned. And like the encounter with the figures, it took but a moment to realize you were in a morgue. The look of this work was so nostalgic—it not only offered the stylistic accessories of every ancient civilization, it seemed to expect the same reverence. An appeal to our love of great-looking old stuff is fine—any kind of visual hook is—but it’s got to be reanimated,

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  • Luigi Ontani

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    One of the most distinctive figurative visions around is offered by Italian artist Luigi Ontani. Although best known in the ’70s as a performance artist, he has turned his attentions increasingly in the ’80s toward making pictures. Recent paintings and watercolors reveal that the source of his individuality lies in that most precious of creative commodities: imagination. Inspired by both the grand Western and Eastern traditions of poetic image-making, he finds his subjects in classical myths, in legends about the Christian saints, in themes from Italian art and literature, as well as in Hindu

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  • “Recoding Blackness: The Visual Rhetoric of Black Independent Film"

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    “Recoding Blackness: The Visual Rhetoric of Black Independent Film” was a collection of recent film and video works curated by James Snead. According to Snead, the ideological coding of blackness suggests a condition of submissiveness, lacking, and absence: a continual “otherness” that exists only to substantiate the power and pervasiveness of whiteness. And, of course, it is this very whiteness that constructs and colors the ideological code.

    The films and video presented here were divided into three programs, the first of which worked to “clarify the effects that codes have on the self-image

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  • Javier Bellosillo

    Facade Gallery

    Architecture, like other creative acts, succeeds best when reason and intuition are balanced. Reason may generate action but it is intuition that improves understanding. Often the inexplicable detail communicates best, with both mystery and resonance. The architecture of Javier Bellosillo is densely poetic and challengingly opaque. Bellosillo lives and works in Madrid, and this exhibition, his first major show in New York, was, quite simply, a pleasure. In an age of puffed-up architecture that reads like a ponderous, rambling, and predictable epic novel—its images fading at the turn of each

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  • Nicolas Moufarrege

    FunGallery

    Nicolas Moufarrege showed paintinglike wall objects made in a variety of media, especially needlepoint. He exhibited some unaltered commercially made needlepoint patterns based on famous paintings; some patterns were partially or fully filled in with needlepoint he did himself. This venerable distaff medium is making its entrance onto the stage of high an, in the post-Modern spirit of mixing images and materials usually separated and that often semiotically short-circuit one another. Kevin Franke, for example, makes acrylic paintings that look exactly like traditional needlepoint panels, while

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  • Tina Barney

    Tatischeff Gallery

    Tina Barney photographs life in WASP heaven—sprawling seaside estates in Rhode Island, a lavish Upper East Side apartment, and the like. Most of the people in her scenes have a languid, self-assured attractiveness, as if they’d just stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad. East Beach, 1984, for example, could be used in a lifestyle ad with virtually no changes: a tousled-haired guy in torn jeans and polo shin, sweater tied around his waist, roughhouses with a giggling young girl in the golden glow of sunset. Barney heightens the cloying sweetness of this idyllic picture-perfection through her technique:

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  • Battery Park City Fine Arts Program

    Battery Park

    Battery Park City is a phenomenon that merits frequent visits. On a 92-acre landfill, this ambitious residential and commercial new-town-in-town is beginning to take shape. The project’s public spaces, designated in the 1979 master plan by Cooper Eckstut Associates, may determine Battery Park City’s long-term success. An esplanade stretches for more than a mile along the Hudson Riverand is the spine of a generous network of open public areas. Where there is public space there must be art, and the Battery Park City Fine Arts Program has selected artists to work singly and collaboratively with

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  • Perry Hoberman

    Postmasters

    Hoberman’s multimedia sculptures and performances exist in a twilight zone of wry fantasy and gee-whiz-Mr.-Wizard innocence. While Hoberman directly addresses knotty philosophic concepts of media-mixing, he still allows his brainteasers to generate a bemused delight. This mixture works better in space (the sculptures) than in time (the performances). On stage, the playfulness drains away, leaving only a dry skeleton of bony thought; the inanimate sculptures are actually livelier.

    Like a whiz-kid “techie” with a singular invention, Hoberman wants to astonish the viewer, and with his amazing

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  • Barbara Ess

    Cable Gallery

    We are so accustomed to the notion of the photograph as a demonstration of “real life” or as the glamorous artifact of advertising, that it is something of a shock to encounter a photographic image whose constitutive codes are bent out of their expected alignments. Barbara Ess’ work ”reinvents" the effect of the photographic, using none of the expository devices of photomontage or textual support; by returning to the first-order image and its Simplest mode of production, some of the contradictions in our relation to the medium are allowed to emerge.

    Paradoxically, the strangeness of these

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  • Komar and Melamid

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    The works in this show could be interpreted as the frames of a film. The installation itself suggested as much, with the works arranged linearly at eye level, running the full length of the gallery walls with little space between each piece. The only exceptions were several works in the second room, arranged on two or more levels to give an effect of multivisioned projection.

    We know the name of the film’s two “directors” but who are the characters and what is the plot? The characters are the stereotypes of 20th-century painting, and the plot hinges upon a juxtaposition that is amusing, mysterious,

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  • Sue Coe

    PPOW

    Sue Coe’s paintings are fierce and aggressive, but not phallocentric; their violence comes from another source—Coe’s activism. She offers a truly psychotic realism, to use a concept I first developed in dealing with Leon Golub’s art, and which also seems applicable to Max Beckmann and Eric Fischl. That is, she develops a mad art in response to a mad world—a “negative” art of violent fantasy and grotesque illustration to protest the “negativity” of reality, as Theodor Adorno calls it. Ugliness combats ugliness, disintegration combats disintegration, in a kind of mithridatic act of appropriation.

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