reviews

  • Stefan Eins

    Fashion Moda

    Stefan Eins, who founded the South Bronx gallery Fashion Moda in 1978 and was the director there until last year, returned recently as an exhibiting artist. This show displayed the fruits of his absence, an artistic hybrid that crosses urban graffiti with conceptualism. His mingling of contrasting styles and esthetic concerns in these works produces not a pluralistic potpourri but instead a fruitful crossbreeding of disparate traditions. Eins’ spray paintings on discarded boards are steeped in an urban primitivism redolent of much of the art associated with Fashion Moda, as well as of the ghetto

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  • Robert Smithson

    International With Monument

    Robert Smithson (1938–1973) is remembered for and represented by Spiral Jetty, 1970, Amarillo Ramp, 1973, and his concepts for other vast and often ephemeral earthworks, as well as for his non-site-specific gallery installations. So it was a treat to see work that predated the earthworks, that confirmed the great break Smithson made with art tradition and his own training. In these ten mixed-media drawings from 1961–63, Smithson’s facile mind and insatiable curiosity can be seen operating in a more concentrated and wittier mode.

    Smithson was obviously interested in natural history, geology, and

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  • Grace Hartigan

    Gruenebaum Gallery

    Neo-Expressionism, the style widely touted as the zeitgeist only a few seasons ago, has lost much of its cachet of late, and the word around town is that it has peaked. For many people, particularly the young art professionals who grew up with neo-Expressionism, a very important moment is at hand. They are about to witness for themselves a popular style’s passage from wild fad to the merely familiar. Since the 1880s new “isms” have risen and declined like clockwork, but each time this happens it’s still a bit of a shock for all concerned. After all, no one expects the party to end. So what’s an

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  • Rande Barke

    Gabrielle Bryers Gallery

    For his solo show in New York, painter Rande Barke presented a series of works that allowed the audience to revel in the suggestive side of abstraction.Each painting measured 32 by 25 inches; some were executed in oil wash on paper mounted on linen and others were painted directly on linen. Though both the format and method used were straightforward,the paintings were immediately engaging drawing the viewer in.Installed at chest height here, they appeared to relate to the body. On an unconscious level, then, this put the viewer in closer proximity to them, an intimacy underscored by the

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  • Jörg Immendorff

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    In Jörg lmmendorff’s paintings everything is either reified or fetishized. The inanimate comes alive, and the animate turn s to stone, a false idol. So many of his paintings appear to be cartoon so sculpture, because it literally objectifies and is so intimately connected with institutionalized homage; and cartoons, because they involve both caricature and animation. Immendorff’s figures , which include self-caricatures, are manic automatons controlled by forces outside themselves, usually either the church or the state.

    In his Versuchung des Heiligen Antonius (Temptation of St. Anthony, 1985),

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  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Brooklyn Museum

    The “problem” to come to terms with in an overview of Jennifer Bartlett’s career is the shift in sensibility that followed the “In the Garden” series (l980–ca. 1983). Up to that point, what had been most impressive about Bartlett was her imperious intellectual will. Recently less in evidence, it seems that the artist’s struggle for control has become subliminal and/or sporadic. Her more recent, multimedia series—“The Creek,” 1984, and “Luxembourg Garden,” 1985—present a deeper immersion in unmanipulated natural scene.

    This is combined with a return to rudimentary sociocultural shapes that , unlike

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  • Philip Taaffe

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Start with the fact that not all of Philip Taaffe’s paintings reach for special effects. Many are decidedly not optical illusions, although most are illusionistic. Aside from a desire to contradict Barnett Newman, why does Taaffe choose ropes to replace his zips? The spiraling construction of the ropes guarantees depth, unseating Newman’s insistence on the flatness of space and the linearity of time. But then, there are canvases here that don’t give a hang about depth.

    In 1908 a researcher named J. Fraser presented the “twisted cord illusions,” so called because one “can construct these [trompe

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  • Michael Singer

    Sperone Westwater

    Michael Singer has often been identified as an environmental artist. This classification in general has come to seem preposterous, and its application to Singer is simply unfitting. Although much of this artist’s work has occurred outdoors, it is not dependent on its immediate context; it has much more to do with construction, time, and process than environmental circumstances. What interests Singer is ritual-not obscure nature rites but traditional patterns of human behavior that have a sociocultural basis.

    In the two constructions and eight drawings in this exhibition Singer deftly balances

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  • Ann McCoy

    Brooke Alexander

    Ann McCoy’s artworks seem to be finished products, self-sufficient in their objecthood; yet they would more accurately be described as traces of a process that is itself the real work. Her images are generally found or borrowed—from Egyptian tomb paintings, Greco-Roman mystery religions, alchemical texts and illustrations, and so on-but not in the usual Post-Modem sense of quotation or appropriation. They present themselves to the artist’s attention through an ancient process that theologians have called incubation: a controlled use of sleeping to obtain dream images of special relevance to

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  • “Contemporary Indian Art”

    Grey Art Gallery and Study Center

    This exhibition, curated by Thomas W. Sokolowski, presented a small selection from the Chester and Davida Herwitz Family Collection, which, although there are still regrettable omissions in it (such as the absence of works by Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and Paramjit Singh), is the world’s premier collection of contemporary Indian art.

    The works exhibited ranged over what is becoming a canonical view of the history of contemporary art in India. The older generation was represented by the vernacular scrolls of jamini Roy, the quasi-tantric abstractions of Syed Haider Raza, and the photographed billboards

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  • “New Video: Japan”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    This exhibition of 23 recent video works by Japanese artists opened with Video Letter, 1982–83, a visual and aural correspondence between the poet Shuntaro Tanikawa and the filmmaker Shuji Terayama. This feature-length work begins with the sound of a music box being wound, then the sound of a childhood lullaby. A roll of film is slowly unwound, frame by frame: the image of two young men in intimate, laughing togetherness . Then a number of blank frames of film, and the grayish photograph of a young boy. Tanikawa says, “I found old photographs of you from the 1960s.” A poem is read. The first

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  • Hanne Darvoben

    Leo Castelli

    Theodor W. Adorno has written that “dissonance . . . lets in the beguiling moment of sensuousness by transfiguring it into its antithesis, that is, pain. This is an aesthetic phenomenon of primal ambivalence. Dissonance [has become a] constant in modernism. This is so the immanent dynamic of autonomous works of art and the growing power of external reality over the subject converge in dissonance. . . . The hyper-modern response is to be wary of dissonance because of its proximity to consonance. . . . Dissonance thus congeals into an indifferent material feeling, with out an essence.”

    Hanne

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  • Alison Saar

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    Alison Saar’s works have a certain kind of sweet elegance. The debate I have with them is whether or not they make the primitive, the out cast, coyly acceptable. The work deals generally with black men and women; in their physical isolation, each is sanctified as an icon. The figures are realized in a variety of media: wood (less crudely carved than one might expect), ceramic, cloth, and graphite and collage. I preferred the statues and reliefs; the added dimension made them less blatantly illustrative. Content becomes easy to swallow by reason of its suave theatricality, a kind of vernacular

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  • Vikky Alexander

    Cash/Newhouse

    Along one wall of this narrow gallery Vikky Alexander placed a row of mirrors at eye level; just below them was a matching stretch of dark wood paneling, corporate-posh in its swirling grain. The opposite wall was covered, from side to side and from top to (almost) bottom, with one of those huge, stick-on photomurals of a beautiful mountain scene. If there’d been a desk around you might well have thought you’d stepped into the badly decorated reception area of a tool-and-die company in some anonymous industrial park.

    But these allusions to bad corporate taste were only a part of Alexander’s

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  • Harvey Quaytman

    David McKee Gallery

    In the ’60s, Clement Greenberg and others took turns being Moses come back from the mountain. They revealed to the world what the immutable laws of painting were, and they championed those who adhered to them. There was also the marketplace, where certain artists, many of whose names we hardly remember now, were all the rage. But the center, as Yeats warned, cannot hold. All along, Pop art, Conceptual art, and photography were busy spawning their progeny. Then came the ’70s and the ’80s, and another generation of truth-mongerers began trumpeting this or that, making pronouncements from whatever

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  • “The Killing Floor”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The Killing Floor, 1985, is the first in an upcoming series of films concerning the American worker. Entitled “Made in U.S.A.,” this ambitious project is the brainchild of Elsa Rassbach, who not only functioned as executive producer of The Killing Floor but also did much of the historical research, wrote the original story, and assembled the film’s formidable cast and crew. Rassbach believes that “the history of working people is very much American history,” and her proposal is to reinsert, through the documentary film, what has been deleted from the narrative depiction of America’s economic

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  • Irving Norman

    Alternative Museum

    The fact that this show was organized at all is laudable. Whereas so much new art is a novice rendition of the familiar, Irving Norman’s paintings evince a genuine oddness that even exaggerates this art center’s identification as the “alternative” museum. Furthermore, this unknown artist is aged, not youthful; lives on the West Coast, not the East River; and secludes himself in a rural cottage outside a metropolitan art community. Nevertheless, he has gained the support of urban art professionals on both coasts, including the cocurators of this exhibition,writer and arts administrator Michael

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  • Wendy Perron

    The Kitchen

    What happens when ’70s conceptual choreography—linear, task oriented, geometric—barrels head-on into the flashy theatricalism that is the standard choreographic rhetoric of the ’80s? One satisfactory answer can be found in Wendy Perron’s hybrid choreography By bringing brain power to dance theater, Perron and her company avoid the glib flourishes of show-bizzy routines that now overload too many “experimental” dances. And by adding some touches of performance pizzazz to her formerly too-diffident dances, Perron allows their intrinsic kinetic charm to shine through their conceptual conceits.

    This

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  • “The Explicit Image”

    Ex Voto Gallery

    While the debate rages about pornography—its definition, purpose, and social implications—artists continue to create a free zone in which graphic erotic imagery and art interface apart from sociological categorization. In no area are the issues more tangled than in photography; the technical capabilities of film have shifted erotic discourse away from literature, from the nuance of the written word to the bluntness of the visual image.

    “The Explicit Image: an exhibition of 55 erotic photographs culled from the 3,500 images in the Vasta Images/Books collection, was a curatorial statement about

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