reviews

  • Antony Gormley

    Salvatore Ala

    It seems that for Antony Gormley the drawing is not a premeditative step toward his sculpture but rather a distinct entity operating within its own set of terms. It is, nevertheless, in the exchange (or difference) between the two mediums that a common field of meaning may be illuminated.

    Gormley’s generalized but life-sized sculptures of the male figure bear little relation to the autobiographical body of Expressionism and may be more fruitfully considered as part of an “alchemical metaphysics” alongside the work of, say Joseph Beuys or Jannis Kounellis, where matter and spirit are engaged in

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  • Robert Yarber

    Sonnabend Gallery

    If in the last decade artists have rediscovered painting as a projective screen for personal stories, those works that sustain attention transfigure the narratives into larger-than-(private)-life metaphysical discourses. Robert Yarber’s paintings derive from the realms of fantasy and illusion; they share the fantastic dislocations of figurative imagery that are intrinsic to dreams. Yarber’s theme, repeated obsessively over the past few years and amplified by a flourishing lushness, is a fascination with the “Other” side of quotidian consciousness, where heightened desires, fears, and hostilities

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  • Robert Irwin

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    This exhibition contained drawings, photographs, and maquettes of Robert Irwin’s site-specific installations from 1977 to 1985. Fourteen projects were documented, of which eight have been realized (two of these were temporary works), three are in limbo, and three have been abandoned. There was also a chain-link construction that surrounded the gallery’s winding staircase and an adjoining area in which Irwin planted, under Gro-Lites, a patch of the decorative shrub called lobelia.

    Works in the Light and Space tradition—perhaps the outdoor works especially—are notoriously difficult to approach

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  • Alberto Giacometti

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    This was a major show of works by an artist who, although dead 20 years, is very relevant today in context of the return of figuration and calculated angst. In Alberto Giacometti’s classic paintings of his wife Annette and his brother Diego, the figures are sharply attenuated. They melt into their backgrounds, hidden in swirling lines that do not quite coalesce into faces or postures, their identities uncertain; yet their presence as living realities in the artist’s mind—and in the viewer’s—is nevertheless undeniable. The work expresses a kind of elementary existential questioning of human

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  • Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal

    brooklyn academy of music

    The Pina Bausch performances at BAM this year were typically varied and unexpected. The Seven Deadly Sins (1976), an evening of selections from the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill collaboration of the same title, restaged and choreographed by Bausch, asserted her sense of continuity with the early 20th-century German avant-garde, just as The Rite of Spring (originally staged by Bausch in 1975 and performed at BAM in 1984) served to relate her to the modern dance of Martha Graham. These works are, for Bausch, comparatively conventional dance theater. It is the works that are entirely her own—such as

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  • Omar Galliani

    Arnold Herstand & Company

    After the almost dizzying pace of activity during the last few years, the current New York art season is providing a welcome period of stock-taking. Look around: abstraction is on the rise; derivative neo-Expressionism is certainly on the wane; and there is the continued fascination with figuration, particularly in painting. The proliferation of styles in Europe in the ’20s offers the only parallel to the current stylistic diversity in figurative painting. However, the subsequent course of modern art has added a somewhat new element to today’s situation that differentiates it from the past. That

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  • David Bates

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    No trendy themes or flashy formal devices for Dallas-based figurative painter David Bates. Instead, his own experiences provide his content, and his forms derive from his distinctive way of seeing reality The impact of his vision results from the mesmerizing power of an inspired imagination. With this group of recent oil paintings and painted wood reliefs, Bates established his position in the vanguard of American visionary painters.

    A recurrent theme in this show—found in such affective paintings as Four Flags Trail and Kingfisher, both 1985—was man and nature. Four Flags Trail is a haunting

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  • Martin Wong

    Semaphore East

    Martin Wong’s exhibition in 1984 was dominated by the landscape of Manhattan’s Lower East Side: abandoned buildings, their brickwork distorting out-of-square, their windows vacant; twisted wire, the skeletal remains of cars. People were small details. In Wong’s most recent paintings, however, the human figure is front and center. Wong’s brickscapes have become a backdrop, but they still have meaning. Their angles seem to map out images, like the constellations Wong outlines in his paintings. But Wong’s people are beginning to dominate their stars rather than being ruled by them; they are champions

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  • “The Knot: Arte Povera”

    MoMA PS1

    “The Knot: Arte Povera” was the latest in P.S. l’s admirable series of exhibitions exploring recent historical “isms” and regional European art, this time tying both strands together. Arte povera not only originated in Italy, it is post-Minimal, and so a logical successor to their preceding review of ’60s abstraction. At the time the term “post-Minimal” was introduced, in the late ’60s, it was defined as a continuation of the Minimal esthetic—nonart materials with a reductive bias—but with a new allegiance to complexity and an abandonment of clean high-tech materials for more visceral ones:

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  • Ken Price

    Willard Gallery

    I miss the element of class-consciousness that once informed Ken Price’s work. The sociological exposés of “Happy’s Curios,” 1972–77, were sincere in their tribute to an ethnic, proletarian art, while the ceramic “gemstones” of 1983 were insincere in their exaggeration, jewels from the bowels of the earth hound for the upper crust. With the latter, Price applied Freudian theory to his Marxist critique: looking like glittery chunks of excretory matter, “anally retained” in glass display cases, their needlessly repetitive forms suggested the motive that lies behind the accumulation of wealth. In

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  • Alexander Archipenko

    The Edith C. Blum Art Institute, Bard College Center

    Alexander Archipenko (1887–1964) is the most recent example of an early 20th-century Modernist whose late work is being reexamined in a Post-Modern context. Although he has been recognized as an innovative force in Modern sculpture, he also has had his share of detractors. The argument goes like this: he simply recast Cubist principles in sculpture, and his work subsequently declined in the late ’20s. Add to this the fact that he is not known for working in steel; that he continually returned to such art-historical subjects as the odalisque and the still life; that he never “evolved” into a

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  • Cply

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    In the history of postwar American art, this artist’s long and distinguished career remains an anomaly. Since he first began painting, in the late ’40s, Cply (the pseudonym of William N. Copley) has adamantly refused to deal with any of the “big” issues, such as abstraction (or formalism) or the validation of the object. His art can be described as a cartoony extension of Surrealism and its concern with erotic pleasures. His figures, mostly women, are voluptuous and curvilinear, while the ground tends to be made up of flat, patterned planes that are often layered in a deceptively simple manner.

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  • “The Topsy-Turvy World: Moral Satire and Nonsense in the Popular Print”

    Goethe House

    This exhibition of popular prints on the theme of the world turned upside down—a world in which animals play human roles, and vice versa, and in which in general everything is duplicitous—reminds us that high art must remain in touch with common sources, if not so much to sustain its esthetic sublimity as to retain its cultural point, without which it becomes vacuous. While most of this work is illustrative and garrulously communicative, and as moralistic as it is funny it also has the ambition to be art—to take us into a world of images that have an integrity of their own. The caricatural

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  • Judy Rifka

    Brooke Alexander

    Judy Rifka’s is an opportunistic art. All of the current trends in contemporary painting come together in it with terrible ease. Most of the works are lushly painted female nudes triggering allusions to high art as well as to commercial pinups and soft porn. Hybrids of painting and sculpture, they mock flatness yet are far from standardly structured reliefs. Canvas is stretched over an erratically built armature, creating an arch awkwardness; crudity, once the defiant sign of authenticity, becomes another effect cleverly manipulated to harmonize with slickness. This determined mix of the primitive

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  • Oscar Nitzchke

    Cooper Union

    There are many creative artists who receive little recognition but whose activities constitute an important bridge between individual and collective energy The work of Swiss architect Oscar Nitzchke (who has escaped great fame for reasons that would be fascinating to analyze) constitutes such a bridge. His long career has included multidisciplinary collaborations with Auguste Perret, Jean (Hans) Arp, Sophie TaeuberArp, Theo van Doesburg, and Alexander Calder, among others. Nitzchke’s abstracts were inventive and often anticipatory. Many of the projects documented in this exhibition are cues to

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  • Jody Pinto

    Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza Sculpture Garden, Hal Bromm

    The installation of Jody Pinto’s Structure: For Dürer’s Barnhand, 1985, one of an ongoing series of temporary installations in the small bilevel plaza adjoining the United Nations Building, proved a successful temporary insertion into a not uninteresting but problematic site. In contrast to the sleek Modernism of the plaza and adjacent building, Pinto built a rough wood structure, reminiscent of regional vernacular architecture, that ran east-west along the plaza, visually connecting its two elevations. The west end of the work was a raised pier much like the boardwalks used in Venice when the

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  • Lenora Champagne

    Art on the Beach, Chambers and West Streets

    For the last seven years Creative Time has sponsored “Art on the Beach,” one of New York’s most unpredictable exhibition and performance programs, on the Battery Park landfill in lower Manhattan. This season marks the end of this innovative summer series of cross-disciplinary collaborations, since the high-rise condominiums and office buildings long planned for the site are now scheduled for construction. That’s a shame, because the stunning setting—the banks of dunes beside the Hudson River; the sweeping view of the harbor; the flanking wall of skyscrapers, dramatically lit (the performances

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