reviews

  • Daisy Youngblood

    The expression of contemporary Western culture’s relation to the dead, and to what lies beyond the world of the visible, takes other forms than those of the ethnographic fetish. Without privileged access to the cultural codes through which the fetish object acquires its meaning, our perception of it remains mediated by anthropological texts and museums, where the object is autopsied. Here, the object is petrified, patronized, estheticized, and circumscribed by another topography which alters its value. If Daisy Youngblood’s earlier clay manikins, with their stick limbs and real hair, caused some

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  • Robert Longo

    Brooklyn Museum

    Robert Longo is the Francis Ford Coppola of the art world. With his extravagant conceptual claims, his bombast and sentiment, his epic scale, and his autobiographical insistence, Longo’s work either puzzles or inspires: there’s no middle ground. Like Coppola, Longo gambles that he can move not just an individual consciousness but an entire zeitgeist. That’s an outsized goal, and it’s finally transcendental in the great-white-whale-seeking tradition.

    Not that these lofty ambitions always translate so clearly. Sometimes Longo’s combine sculptures are so overdetermined, so packed with meaning, that

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  • Carl Toth

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    For an established American photographer to use color and black-and-white Xeroxes immediately begs notice. Carl Toth’s new still life assemblages constitute a fascinating critical discourse on the esthetics of contemporary photographic vision. Unlike most artists interested in the pictorial potential of Xerox, he chooses to explore its ability to duplicate rather than to distort. Toth’s approach to Xerox is blatantly photographic; in a recent text, he described the Xerox machine as “a special kind of high technology camera.” He Xeroxes objects—ranging from camera parts to hardware items—by

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  • Harry Soviak

    Pam Adler Gallery

    As revealed in this special memorial exhibition, Harry Soviak’s approach to art was at once joyful and poignant. Educated at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the late ’50s, Soviak displayed extraordinary sensitivity to materials throughout his career. This was apparent as early as the mid ’60s, in a group of collage constructions made of various combinations of string, paper,wood, feathers, and canvas. In Black Trapeze, 1964, Black Cloud, 1965, and Double Window Still Life, 1966, he explored certain Minimalist notions in the air during those years: the picture plane both as structure and as

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  • Will Mentor

    Wolff Gallery

    Will Mentor’s “The Eight Spheres of Yoga,” 1985, consists of seven paintings, all distinctly quotational in mode. At the center of each is a classically Surrealist bonelike shape with a central hole allowing a view of various things in an illusionistic space beyond. Other shapes—like partly furled cloths, or folded papers—spread out from these centers with intricate, sometimes paradoxical overlaps. Within these shapes one catches glimpses of further illusionistic spaces, as in the work of René Magritte, and somewhat like the chroma-key effect in video. Most commonly, the background revealed

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  • Susan Rothenberg

    Willard Gallery

    Like some other painters of her generation, Susan Rothenberg seems tofeel the need to rediscover painting from the ground up, more in a structural than a historical sense. Her earlier images are studiedly childish; the crudely outlined heads and hands have something in common with graffiti in the unengaged way they lie on the canvas ground. In her earlier work, the paintings’ vertical division (like an open book), the x-ing out of the image of the horse, and the fragmentation of the human figure all seem to suggest a reluctance to represent—a denial of the validity of canons of representation,

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  • Francesco Clemente

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    The ways in which Francesco Clemente is a post-Modernist painter include his widespread quoting; the awkward, unfinished look of some of his surfaces; his apparent overproduction; his work’s overt, if somewhat inchoate, content, much of it based on dream sources; and his cool display of versatility as he moves from one medium to another, one genre to another, and one style to another.

    Some major works were included in this three-gallery show, beginning with the large untitled painting to the left of the entrance at the Castelli gallery. This picture seems to represent the Hindu monkey god Hanuman

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  • “Photographs from the Sam Wagstaff Collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum”

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    The great photo-market boom of the ’70s remains to be chronicled, although, in the end, probably no single explanation will be adequate for that giddy time. Sam Wagstaff’s photography collection, along with Arnold Crane’s and André Jammes’, was one of the most renowned products of that era. Now major portions of all three have been bought by the Getty Museum; this exhibition offered a chance to see works from the Wagstaff collection before it migrated west.

    In this context, the show was most interesting not for the individual photographs, but as a cross section of the acquisitions of an influential

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  • Anthony Hernandez

    Carter Burden Gallery

    In his newest work, Anthony Hernandez reconciles photojournalism and so-called street photography, the genre of art photography that since emerging in the ’30s has numbered among its practitioners Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand. By choosing to photograph Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, Hernandez is able both to document an extreme manifestation of consumer culture, and to find scenes whose significance seems more personal. This juncture of different photographic genres—photojournalism’s implicit attempt at objectivity combined with street photography’s diaristic, interpretive

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  • Elvira Bach

    Gabrielle Bryers

    Is the sensual female with symbolic snake in Elvira Bach’s hyperexpressive paintings the true “liberated woman”? Yes and no. No, because the idea of woman as temptress is a regressive, preliberation one. Yes, because Bach’s temptress is sufficiently narcissistic to seem self-determined—or at least to be on the verge of transcending woman’s traditional role of existing for man before she exists for herself. Seductiveness both masks and manifests this conventional role; it signals woman’s power, but over man, not herself. It is in the ambiguity of the female figure’s meaning that Bach’s work finds

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  • “New Public Architecture: Recent Projects by Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki”

    Japan House

    Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki are unquestionably the two major internationally recognized Japanese architects to emerge in the last ten years. They were paired in this exhibition because of the significance of their work, and because of their contrasting intentions in mediating a course between the weight of tradition and the promise of technology Each architect’s work was represented by three major projects—an art museum, a sports complex, and a mixed-use facility; for each architect one building was completed, one was a project under construction, and one a project in design development and

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  • “Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier: Architecture, Urbanism, and History”

    Beyond all doubt, this exhibition confirmed that architecture has become a form of mass culture; its presentation and analysis are discharged with the staunch passion of a prime-time television series. Architecture is searching for an audience that will provide it with rationale and legitimacy. The pairing of Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier was an example of curatorial imagination that, in the end, failed to make architecture or urbanism more comprehensible. The differences between these two Modernism-rejecting architects are so plain that intersecting dialogue is virtually impossible. There were

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  • “Women Surrealists”

    Jeffery Hoffeld & Company, Inc.

    They say that “God is in the details?’In this revival of women Surrealists’ works from the ’30s to the ’50s the jewellike precision of the smallish paintings does give them what René Passeron calls Surrealism’s ”sacred construction," although the tone is mystical rather than religious. The sense of the miniature added to the exhibition’s mood of treasured discovery, but begged for an explanation because the traditional association of women artists with small work is so strong, and the finely wrought, even spidery quality of these works is so open to dismissal.

    If these canvases suggest illuminated

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  • Rachel Gellman

    Computer Design Consultants

    Rachel Gellman uses computer programs to generate the images in her large Cibachrome and C-prints. Gellman’s pictures are imagistic and, because of the nature of the computer’s scanning grid, they resemble very tight pointillist technique, or—because of their perfect regularity—fabric design or needlepoint.

    Gellman goes in for puns; her Body/Building, 1985, depicts a body and a building. The building has a classical Greek facade, the body resembles a classical nude torso. In Brush and Variations, 1985, a series of color program variations on a basic design looks like a linoleum pattern for neo—art

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