• Thomas Lanigan Schmidt

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    The faux naïf icons of Thomas Lanigan Schmidt map out a territory in which kitsch jostles with folk craft and fine art references, Italian rococco collides with German baroque, and childlike play is intertwined with an almost obsessive religiosity. It’s these blatant contradictions—and their only-semi-resolved status—that make Schmidt’s work so unsettling, so provocative. Like good cake, his piled-up, heavily encrusted objects are a rich diet, one best ingested in carefully rationed portions. In some ways, Schmidt resembles a genuine naïf; he doesn’t know when to quit. By ignoring conventional

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  • Maxwell Hendler

    Asher/Faure, Inc.

    There has always been a strong ironic Pop vein running through Maxwell Hendler’s work, ranging from the painstakingly realistic still lifes and landscapes of the ’60s to more recent explorations of language as sign and icon. The early paintings and watercolors were small, almost obsessive studies of mundane objects and deserted, rundown city streets. Hendler’s intense concentration on his subject, combined with a strong clarity of representation, imbued each piece with such a private esoteric importance that the work appeared overly synthetic on the one hand, dreamlike and romantic on the

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  • Wyndham Lewis

    Washburn Gallery

    Wyndham Lewis’ first solo exhibition in the United States, 28 years after his death, came at a time when his literary star is rising. In fact, after many years of being out of print and unavailable (particularly in the United States), Lewis’ work has almost come into vogue, and several of his books have been reprinted in the last few years.

    Still, Lewis remains more or less “out” as a visual artist—a position he cultivated as “The Enemy.” It may be that Lewis’ bombastic art criticism had more to do with his ostracism from the art world than his painting itself or his boycott of painters’ bohemia.

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  • Jed Jackson


    I remember stopping when I was a child at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on the Pennsylvania turnpike and then having to leave the dining room because the Pennsylvania Dutch nudes in the paintings there were making me too ill to eat my fried clams. Those paintings walked the line between voluptuousness and grotesque flesh. When I walked into Jed Jackson’s show it was a HoJo flashback.

    Jackson paints grotesque flesh, sensuality gone wrong. His canvases are a kind of American Gothic—Grant Wood meets Stephen King. He portrays flesh tumid with gristle and dense, rippled flab or overpumped with muscle.

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  • Justen Ladda

    Willard Gallery

    It may be Justen Ladda’s outsider perspective on the English language (he is German) that gives him the enthusiasm for its multiple connotations visible in these paintings. Ladda loves language and in these paintings he explores how it works and how it doesn’t work. The show was titled “Word Paintings,” and, in fact, most of the paintings here were portraits of words or phrases.

    To Ladda the pun is a mystery of religious proportions. In the painting Buying Power, 1983, a field is covered with the black-and-white corpses of fallen soldiers; on the horizon is the phrase “cold heros.” The connection

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  • Frederick J. Brown

    Marlborough | Midtown

    Frederick J. Brown is an imaginative portraitist whose subjects inhabit the nether regions of the American psyche. Bessie Smith, Stagger Lee, John Henry, Br’er Fox, as well as two-bit gamblers, hustlers, transvestites, and other denizens of urban nightlife are among the figures populating the artist’s recent work. Subtitled “Heroes and Rule-breakers,” this exhibition included paintings from 1981 to ’85. Outlandish, elegiacal, grotesque, grim, funny, and violent were among the descriptions that came swiftly to mind. The considerable wallop packed by these paintings is the direct result of the

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  • Alfred Jensen

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    You cannot simply glance at one of Alfred Jensen’s diagrammatic works and then proceed to the next. One could argue that a large group of his works is almost impossible to fathom because each painting can be so seductive and bewildering that it leaves the viewer in a state of strangely satisfied frustration. No other artist’s work cajoles, pleases, and loses me the way Jensen’s does. He was skillful, erudite, arcane, obsessive, eccentric, and original. A late Modernist, his ideas didn’t gel until the early ’50s, when he was in his late ’40s. Everything he did up to that time can be regarded as

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  • “Vietnam Veterans Memorial”

    Vietnam Veterans Plaza

    The Vietnam war has helped to shape what America is today. The nation has never faced failure constructively and is stymied by ambiguity. The Vietnam conflict ended without resolution, and its memory continues to gnaw at the collective conscience, generating anxiety, conservatism, and a brooding frustration masked by optimism. This troubling war has generated a new attitude about honor, and about memorials; though there is no great victory to recall, there are many individuals to honor, who served both willingly and reluctantly. It is through these people, their stories and memories, that the

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  • Luis Frangella

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    Luis Frangella is a classic junk artist. That is, he grafts the essence of classic art themes and techniques onto an anthology of urban debris used as support materials, thereby updating the past and historicizing the present. But Frangella’s art is no mere conceptual exercise; his works are executed with wit, flair, and, that most currently rare quality, a sense of controlled power. Avoiding the Scylla and Charybdis of either academic fussiness or crude overstatement, his sculptural objects and paintings inhabit their space like contemporary icons, totemlike creations whose diffident appearance

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  • Dan Witz

    Semaphore East

    Despite their nominal appearance as “portraits,” Dan Witz’s modestly scaled oil-painted or pastel heads evade the convention of portraiture that attempts to project the psychology of the sitter. Spotlit but softly modeled, his “types” possess a simplicity and anonymity encountered in Flemish genre painting, focusing less on notions of individuality than on the significance of the act, or gesture, depicted.

    Two themes are presented. One describes an isolated head in a tinted-gray textured field. Occasionally grimacing, these strange lotus blossoms nonetheless seem to stay afloat by the buoyancy

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  • “Insignificance,” directed by Nicolas Roeg

    The current spate of kid movies and grotesque patriotics has been momentarily interrupted by a film in which Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein meet in a hotel room. Most movies use the cartoon stereotype as a reductivist device, removing the rich pleats of meaning and consolidating all information into the economy of myth. Nicholas Roeg’s Insignificance (1985) unfolds these singular mythologies and exposes the stuff that comprises our notions of history, nationalism, and biography. The film combines the solidity of act with the diffusion of fiction and turns the singularity of “significance”

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  • Cari Rosmarin

    Bronx Museum of the Arts

    There seem to be three general schools of representational painting these days. Both neo-Expressionism and the cool, calculating camp of media-referenced, Modernist-derived work are now familiar fare. But last season there emerged a growing body of work more enigmatic and elusive in character; it has already attracted such labels as neo-Surrealism, neo-Romanticism, and neo-Symbolism. While these terms do give some indication of the emphatically personal and in some instances dreamlike qualities to be found in much of this painting, fair warning about these labels should be heeded. As far as

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  • Kate Kennedy

    New Math Gallery

    At a time when so much art is downright derivative, just plain boring, and even ugly, this show was a striking contrast. Here, Kate Kennedy achieved what every young artist aspires to but few attain: she found her own way. And her way is what I would call the sentient way. Working in a bold figurative style, she deals with a suggestive content. The success of a sentient vision is determined by the degree to which it can suggest feelings and sensations not literally but visually, through form and color, surface and structure. Kennedy’s paintings, for example, are “right” in that they confront

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  • Roger Brown

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Since the late ’60s Roger Brown’s paintings have offered a distinctive vision, a way of seeing and responding to the world that is best described as dreamlike. Finding inspiration in his surroundings, in the people and places he knows, and in his own experiences, the Chicago artist has never shied away from bringing out the magical side of reality. Boldly simplified forms with razor-sharp silhouettes dominate the repetitive and rhythmical compositions he favors. The technical execution of details is flawless and precise. Through the years, Brown has continued to refine his style, to lay bare

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  • Douglas Sanderson

    John Weber Gallery

    In the Orient, death is white; here, black. When Isaac Newton first observed the color spectrum he responded with the disinterest of a scientist and, simultaneously, the dementia of a hubristic philosopher, unnecessarily limiting color to seven hues to align with the seven musical notes. Our approach to Douglas Sanderson’s severe-looking color-band paintings is fraught with shoulder-squarings, spine-straightenings, head-shakings—self-administered pinches intended to maintain attention. One feels reconfined to a boot camp for Minimalist perceptual training. But color has its own surprises.


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  • Fred Sandback

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Someday someone should write a history of the central role of paradox in minimalism. Fred Sandback stretches taut strings of acrylic yarn. So taut (there are no variations along the string, no detours, no points of interest, just the straight line) that it becomes—you guessed it—a tautology. A tautology is a disappearing act wherein one term so equalizes another that both are left without substance or meaning; they are canceled out. It’s an echo in which all point of origin is lost. It is muteness having recurring nightmares of strangled articulation.

    Sandback’s strings are self-effacing enough

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  • Donald Lipski

    Germans-van Eck Gallery

    A striking feature of Donald Lipski’s exhibitions is the sheer abundance of work shown. Here, in the front room, there were 13 wall pieces and 5 floor pieces. In the back room, 33 smaller pieces were arranged on shelves. In a private office behind this room hundreds of tiny Lipski pieces covered three walls. Actually, the whole gallery was an installation, the works organized like pebbles sifted by the waves.

    This work, made by altering and combining found objects or parts of them, has an obvious surrealist aspect. In some cases Lipski combines objects opposed in some way, as in the tactile

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  • Clarence John Laughlin

    Robert Miller Gallery

    If they weren’t so suffocatingly earnest, Clarence John Laughlin’s photographs might seem funny. To the general public, Laughlin, who died in 1985, was best known for Ghosts along the Mississippi, his 1948 book of photographs of the moss-enshrouded ruins of the plantations of the Old South; in other work he plotted a more openly gothic course, depicting such themes as veiled women in graveyards and the like. At times his work seems to touch on the dreamworlds of Surrealism; in other cases it takes on the mock-scary quality of Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

    What makes this situation all the more interesting

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