• Willem de Kooning

    Xavier Fourcade, Inc.

    Until now, one of the dilemmas expressionist painters had not resolved was how to make their painterly brushstrokes glide across the canvas with a balletic, airy grace. Until now, it seemed impossible to maintain a balance between being un-self-conscious and remaining in control. (Jackson Pollock did it, but only after he found another way to put down the paint.) Typically, the expressionist’s response to the despairing, disfiguring world has been a discordant barrage of paint. One could say that expressionists have continued to display a theatrical side more in tune with Wagner’s top-heavy

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  • Maura Sheehan

    Art Galaxy

    Dig it: an installation of 30 car windshields, each with a series of Grecian (or are they Etruscan?) urns painted on the reverse. These windshields are “found sculptural objects”; they are also broken. The gallery’s handout says, “Sometimes the cause of breakage can be surmised from the apparent impact of a stone, a gunshot, or a human head” “Surmised” is the key word. One windshield did look as if it might have taken a gunshot, but few of them appeared to bear the imprint of a skull; in fact, most looked as if they had been screwed too tightly into their frames and had simply popped from the

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  • John Moore

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    John Moore’s recent paintings add up to a revelation of sorts. Esthetically speaking, they show the critical bum rap that contemporary Realism is getting whenever it is accused of being overly dry, narrow, or matter-of-fact. To emphasize this point further, I think that even the most determined detractor of this style would have been hard put to state a case after seeing this show.

    Moore’s Augusta, 1985, a panoramic view of a small Maine town on a sunny summer day, is a painting so thoroughly steeped in the sheer pleasures of both life and art that it immediately enchants the eye and upon

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  • Annette Oko

    Andre Zarre Gallery

    A painter whose recent work shows how relevant contemporary realism can be is Annette Oko. For the last 12 years Oko has concentrated on doing paintings of different storefronts in her Upper West Side neighborhood. An odd choice, you say? Not really Since the turn of the century the storefront has come to symbolize modern urban life. During the ’30s and ’40s, it turned up as the subject or as part of the background in the work of numerous painters, most notably Reginald Marsh and Edward Hopper. After World War II, the storefront again gained the attention of the art world with the rise of Pop

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  • Nina Wiener, In Closed Time

    brooklyn academy of music

    The annual Next Wave Festival is structured on the classic avant-garde notion of collaborative projects. As with any artistic agenda, traditional or "cutting edge,” this criterion has yielded both shining moments and total misfires. Nina Wiener’s In Closed Time, 1985, was one of the flawed productions, its unevenly realized elements jostling out-of-sync in a failed attempt to achieve a Big Statement.

    As always, Wiener’s complex formalist choreography was provocative and vigorous, and superbly performed; however, its narrative overlay, clearly intended to transmit a weighty message, was not

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  • Kazuo Ohno

    Joyce Theater

    Butoh, the Japanese experimental dance-theater form, has been performed recently around the country by some of its younger practitioners, notably the Sankai Juku troupe and the Butoh-influenced dancers Eiko and Koma. The latest New York performances of Kazuo Ohno, the 79-year-old “father” of Butoh, both confirmed its status as one of the major forms of contemporary avant-garde theater and restated in emphatic terms its risky, limit-pushing esthetic. Although Ohno’s performances recalled Butoh’s origins in traditional forms of theater, they were in no way academic; his virtuosic dancing and

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  • Giulio Paolini

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    From framing a can of paint in 1961 to framing his signature in 1973, Giulio Paolini has encompassed most of the basic moves of Conceptual art and arte povera. But his special concern has always been the validity of the image, which has often taken the form of conceptual installations incorporating fragments of plaster casts of classical sculptures with overt references to the Renaissance and the idea of perspective. In general the subject of his work is Platonism, the idea complex involving an ideal mind-realized order that is mathematically precise and at the same time absolutely beautiful

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  • “The Amasis Painter and His World”

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    This is a case in which the critic must talk more about the historic significance of the exhibition than about the work exhibited.

    In ancient and primitive cultures artists did not sign their works, and the profession of painter or sculptor or whatever was usually an inherited one and socially indistinguishable from crafts like harness-making or blacksmithing. An artist was taught the canon of his tradition, and the idea of personal innovation was antithetical. In other words, art did not involve the element of self-expression that for us has been its sine qua non.

    In Greece in the 6th century BC

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  • Robin Winters

    Jeffrey Hoffeld & Company

    As certain artists expand upon an earlier body of work that is perhaps sloppy and confrontational, they mute its antiesthetic edge in favor of refinement. But for all the “improvement,” its previous coarseness and fixed inconsistency are often sadly missed. It is in such a way that Robin Winters’ new paintings, which are undoubtedly as masterful and as elegant as any he has produced to date, make one wish that all promising young artists would not mature into the middle-aged-ness of ”great" art. (The broad esthetic jump from old to new was pointed up by the inclusion of Metropolitan Acquaintances

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  • Roger Deutsch, Dead People and Jews

    Collective for Living Cinema

    Before the widespread use of photography, painting (and, to a lesser extent, drawing and sculpture) was the means by which people recorded their appearance for both “now” and later. These documentations swelled the ranks of the portraiture genre and coupled the vanity of the present with a necrophilic regard for the future. Gloating in their jewels and fine tailoring, the dead stare out at us, highlights bouncing off the tips of their noses, peach light caressing their plump cheeks. But deterring us from our fascination with their subsequent rot and disappearance are the institutionalized esthetic

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  • Keith Haring

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Keith Haring is probably the most brilliant populist artist now working. What this means is not only that his imagery and style are derived from popular culture but that his intention—to reach the widest possible audience—is popular. This can be tricky, especially if one wants to have a high-art aura, for in order to reach the broadest audience one’s style must tend toward lowest-common-denominator configurations, at once instantly recognizable and comprehensible. But high art is by definition exclusionary; in a sense, it is more likely to be an oppositional art than a popular one, for it

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  • Catherine Murphy

    Xavier Fourcade, Inc.

    Catherine Murphy’s paintings look like many other Realist paintings in their constipated handling of superhuman detail, the need to “get it all in” usually producing failed passages. (All-inclusiveness, or perfection, is against the law of averages.) The major difference between Murphy and many other painters of her school—aside from her iconographic wit—is that her awkwardness and leadenness have a reason for being in her subject matter and, more importantly, in her view of that subject matter.

    Murphy warps the domestic details of the working class, composing them badly to convey the poignant

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  • Boyd Webb

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Boyd Webb’s British humor (which characteristically drew few laughs from American viewers) combines Monty Python silliness and staginess with neo-Realist postwar street settings, neo-Ovidian metamorphoses and Olympian perspectives, and the loony serenity of diaper and baby-food commercials. The operative metaphor for all of this seems to be something like “big mother is watching.” In his Cibachromes and in his blackly comedic film, Scenes and Songs from Boyd Webb, 1984, almost everyone is a mother or overtly maternal. Fertility icons obviously abound: mother’s milk in the form of dairy products

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  • Francoise Schein

    Sarah Y. Rentschler Gallery

    Most observers of urban life are intrigued with the explosion of scale that has occurred as 19th-century cities have become the metropolises of the late 20th century. Everything seems denser, vaster, and ungainly. But the most dramatic, yet less perceptible, shift in scale has actually occurred in the opposite direction, in the implosion of form and thought into the microchips of the computer-based technology that has become the principal operating force in large cities. This great disjunction of information and scale has led to a collective malaise and a pervasive sense of disreality.


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  • David Finn

    City Hall Park

    Through the sponsorship of the Public Art Fund, Inc., sculptor David Finn has proposed five installations for outdoor public sites in New York City. Two of these proposals have been realized. The first, installed throughout the summer of 1985 on a small corner lot on the Lower East Side, was a gloomy street drama of constructed figures placed in either predatory or passive poses both within and outside the cyclone-fenced site. This was followed by Finn’s second and most recent installation, People in Trees, 1985, in City Hall Park. Whereas the earlier project converged with the angst of the

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  • Raymundo Sesma

    Kerr Gallery

    Amid a continuing glut of apocalyptic shrieking—or merely lurid brushwork—by nth-generation expressionists, Raymundo Sesma’s paintings are immediately appealing if only for their subduedness. With their subtle tonalities, finely veined or mottled surfaces, and merger of naturalistic and nonobjective forms, the works’ presence is a reserved one. Inevitably, although seemingly without a dialectical intention, they serve as a counterpoint to the louder personalities of current painting. Yet the artist, a native of Chaitas, Mexico, and a resident of Milan, does acknowledge his works’ spirit by

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  • Vincent Gallo

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Vincent Gallo paints what could be called “found sculptural objects,” metal plates that look like big switchbox covers. They are rusty, formerly painted, very scraped, very artistically reduced and de-finished. These are contemporary relics, discards of ”condoed" industrial buildings. On top of these abraded metal surfaces Gallo has painted neo-Roman still lifes of tables, bowls, and grapes.

    A graffiti artist told me that he found Gallo’s grape paintings "soft.” Softness has many causes. I think in this case the graffiti artist found Gallo’s paintings too decorative, as if they were too good-looking

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