reviews

  • Bernd and Hilla Becher

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Bernd and Hilla Becher have devoted their creative energies to a limited area of activity, but the narrow channel has not led to a cul-de-sac. They photograph still-used and abandoned industrial buildings, arranging the stark black-and-white photographs in groups of 3, 4, 8, 9, and 12. In this exhibition, the typological groupings included multiregional examples of a specific building type, similar structures from one geographical area (Pennsylvania coal tipples), and multiple views of a single building (the magnificent and decaying Ohio Works blast furnace in Youngstown). In every instance,

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  • Vito Acconci

    Brooklyn Museum

    Vito Acconci’s interpretation of public art is unique. Beginning with the most mundane of premises, on which he then skillfully layers content that may be interpreted any number of ways, he is able to realize his personal inclinations while satisfying public sensibilities. Acconci’s constructions appear to remain essentially desensitized—not the consequence of self-conscious actions by the artist; he operates as a magician, becoming the interloper between illusion and reality. He also seems to be in absolute control of each situation and the quality of information that is delivered; all possible

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  • “Figure in Architecture: Michael Graves, Edward Schmidt, Raymond Kaskey”

    John Nichols Gallery

    This was an exhibition with an idea and a commitment to its investigation, but the boundaries were too circumscribed and the material too spartan for any conclusive evidence to appear. It did, however, focus on an aspect of Michael Graves’ work that is frequently passed over in favor of more controversial issues. It examined the use of the human figure in contemporary architecture through the involvement of two artists, Edward Schmidt and Raymond Kaskey, in the realization of several of Graves’ recent public and private projects. Kaskey made the 35-foot-high hammered-copper figure of Portlandia

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  • A.R. Penck

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    To this reader, the meanings of the signs that populate Penck’s cosmography have always been rather arcane, not least because they themselves draw upon the symbolic systems of aboriginal or Paleolithic art. Some of the more abstract of these signs almost certainly can be read as representing male or female principles, and Penck has used them as such in the past; other configurations, like the grid of dots, the double or triple bar, or the counterclockwise spiral, seem to suggest life-organizing principles that are not a part of common currency.

    The anxiety of interpretation here is that, in the

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  • Doug Anderson

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    As a newspaper critic in Boston, I watched Doug Anderson’s painting develop for almost a decade. I was pleased to see that his New York debut was the strong showing I always expected he would make.

    Anxious to impress my admiration for his work upon people who had never seen it, I used to find myself saying things like, “Anderson is going to be the next David Salle,” knowing that was not what I really expected or wished to see happen. I see Salle as a conceptual artist—a sort of critical neo-Dadaist, to revive an old term—who paints only in order to drain the activity of painting of whatever

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  • René Daniels

    Metro Pictures

    Rene Daniels’ paintings refer to art, music, literature, performance, and architecture; they demonstrate the dilemma of delineating perspectival space in two dimensions. The antithetical spaces depicted in these paintings—diagrams of an archetypal “gallery”—solicit suggestions for breaking the perspectival dead lock; impasses are experienced, but solutions—here being a referral to cross-discipline—remain speculative.

    Daniels abridges the essential means of painting with a linguistic/iconic discourse to tell a story about formalism—an oxymoron that would damn formalism were it not that the visual

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  • Sylvia Plimack Mangold

    Brooke Alexander

    In the late ’70s, Sylvia Plimack Mangold decided to get away from the precision that characterized her earlier, somewhat mathematical paintings. So she switched to landscape painting, and her canvases have since been smeared and glassy, like specimens on lab slides, smudged over their trompe-l’oeil tape edges as if by a big thumb. Imagine that land scape images could be vaseline with out losing their legibility, that they could be glazed like marmalade over the white bread of the canvas. The effects are as mixed as these metaphors. On the one hand, Mangold detaches natural scene from nature and

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  • Adam Füss

    Massimo Audiello Gallery

    Adam Füss starts photography over from scratch with his pinhole camera. There is no lens; there is just a tiny aperture and a large piece of film. Füss uncovers the hole for a few seconds or for several minutes, depending upon the light on location. By reducing technology to ground zero, he trans forms technique into something almost physical; he makes the photograph an attitude with endurance. The camera can’t measure anything precisely, so Füss “shoots from the hip.” The pinhole is his remote “third eye,” and he must imagine what it sees as he finds his angle and range and gauges light. The

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  • Robert Barnes

    Artists' Choice Museum

    Robert Barnes is an accomplished painter, and this show, a “mid-career survey” including works dating from the mid ’50s to 1984, made it easy to trace his development simply by following the chronology of the gallery walls Barnes’ development has not been in response to the fashions of painting; his works have remained, at all times, outside mainstream art. His earliest work is as finely made as his latest, but for me, this show was bouncing from one formally interesting early canvas to another, then walking into another room, a room of more recently made paintings, and boom. Just what this boom

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  • Scot Borofsky

    Mokotoff Gallery

    Faint, garbled, yet pervasively discernible in Scot Borofsky’s painting and sculpture is a mystical impulse striving to find a contemporary voice. This urge is un usual to current urban culture, and strikingly so when the work is examined with in its immediate context—the East Village, with its often youthfully cynical or callow esthetic, and its literal environment of residential ruins, which one must pass to reach this new gallery at the eastern edge of Manhattan. Borofsky’s previous major work (and the genre with which he is most strongly associated ) was a group of 20 murals on the Lower

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  • The Birth of the Poet

    Brooklyn Academy Of Music

    This “opera” was the wildest collaboration yet staged in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s pack-happy Next Wave series, since the production’s principals—director Richard Foreman, librettist Kathy Acker, composer Peter Gordon, and set-and-costume-designer David Salle—would admit to no collaboration at all.

    Set in three “traumatic” periods of history—New York City in the near future after a nuclear-plant explosion, the falling Roman empire, and modern-day Iran—the various elements of The Birth of the Poet mimicked the anarchic subject matter by their complete independence of one another. The result

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  • Jonathan Scoville

    Condeso/Lawler Gallery

    With much poetic sensitivity and considerable painterly flair, Jonathan Scoville is renewing one of the most overworked themes in the history of Modern art. The landscape, in his paintings of the sky and countryside surrounding his home in Cornwall, Connecticut, is given fresh significance as both a metaphoric representation and a symbol of personal consciousness. The products of a unique marriage of two distinct traditions in landscape painting—which can be generically labeled the objective and the subjective impulse, respectively—Scoville’s paintings immediately trigger associations. More

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  • Lynn Chadwick

    Marlborough | Midtown

    By offering New York audiences their first major exposure in 15 years to the powerful vision of Lynn Chadwick, this exhibition had the ability to teach us all a valuable lesson on sculpture in general and contemporary sculpture in particular.

    With this selection of 29 works, dating from 1973 to 1985, Chadwick could be seen as more than deserving of his high reputation as one of England’s greatest sculptors. Ranging in size from small maquettes to monumental sculptures, all in bronze, the examples of single figures and of seated or walking couples were breathtaking to be hold. What is so special

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  • “FSA: The Illiterate Eye”

    The Hunter College Art Gallery

    The argument that much of the photographic work done for the Farm Security Administration in the ’30s and ’40s was simply propaganda for New Deal farm policies has become a critical commonplace. The work of this Depression-era documentary group has long been celebrated as an example of the use of photography to achieve social reform as well as an important attempt to depict the full scope of society. In recent years, though, critics and scholars have pointed out the editorial control exerted by Roy Stryker, the economist who directed the Historical Section of the FSA. Stryker not only sent out

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  • “The Art of Memory/The Loss of History”

    New Museum

    This exhibition succeeded insofar as it intended to present works that make us conscious of time and to demonstrate the workings of memory; but it failed, becoming inadvertently comical—a self-satire—in that it presented these works as socially and esthetically “radical.” They don’t live up to that self-made claim because they are informed by a hackneyed sense of what is radical. It’s comical to show Martha Rosler’s 1985 video installation Global Taste: A Meal in Three Courses, a neo-trendy conjunction of the subjects of colonization, the self, and the media/advertising, as advanced, or even

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  • Lucio Fontana

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    It was wonderful to see an exhibition of subtle an that has withstood the test of time—to see “paintings” that stretch the limits or our assumptions about painting without destroying them, and without turning painting into a masochistic joke. Lucio Fontana (1899–1968) made artworks that seem materially “incredible”—are extraordinarily, sensitive to the medium—without undermining their credibility as paintings, and that generate “miraculous” effects without thereby making art seem like a game in which the rules change arbitrarily.

    The oldest painting shown was an untitled work from 1953; the most

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  • Tom Fellner

    White Columns

    Tom Fellner’s exhibition of paintings at White Columns was part of a continuing curatorial series of solo shows of relatively unknown artists that are held in the White Room, a modest-sized room off the central exhibition space. In the few years since its assumption of this role, the White Room has served as a suitably proportioned gallery to view an at once sizable but not overly ambitious quantity of work by an emerging artist. Fellner, an artist still in the academic throes of development, was carefully articulate in exhibiting only six paintings from a single series, not straying with a

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  • Lorenzo Bonechi

    Sharpe Gallery

    This was Lorenzo Bonechi’s first solo exhibition in America. Although substantially younger than Sandro Chia and Mimmo Paladino—fellow members of the Italian Transavanguardia—and still relatively unknown in America, Bonechi is by no means a fledgling artist. Like these artists, he has discovered his obsessions, developed a formal vocabulary, and evolved a mature, romantic style. If there is anything that will block Bonechi from becoming as well-known here as they, it is only the possibility that the American audience, so in love with grandiose rhetoric, will mistake his sophistication and quietude

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  • Bill Traylor

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Bill Traylor (1854–1947) was born a slave on the Traylor Plantation, near Montgomery, Alabama; after the Emancipation he continued to live and work there as a farmhand until 1938. By then he was 84; both his wife and his employers had died, and his 20 or so children had moved elsewhere. In 1939, the young artist Charles Shann on saw Traylor drawing near a fruit stand in downtown Montgomery. Shannon befriended Traylor, brought him poster paints and paper, and listened to him relate the experiences depicted in his drawings. (It is because of Shannon’s efforts that Traylor’s work and life have been

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  • Chuck Connelly

    Chuck Connelly is attempting to forge a distinctly contemporary art from early-20th-century American painting. His method can be characterized as conservative in the best sense: he is trying to discover what is savable and therefore usable. Consequently, he is pragmatic rather than programmatic in his relationship with the past. Instead of limiting himself to the work of an early abstractionist (such as the younger generation’s current darling, Arthur Dove), Connelly tries to find ways to make use of Synchronist, Precisionist, and Regionalist art, as well as of the “machine paintings” of, say,

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