reviews

  • Arnulf Rainer

    Grey Art Gallery / Galerie Maeght Lelong

    Arnulf Rainer is an Austrian artist in his mid 50s. Long a major presence in European art, his substantial and varied body of work remains almost unknown in America. Since this discrepancy is not an isolated case, it suggests that ignorance haunts both sides of the Atlantic, creating problems for someone viewing work for the first time. The two Rainer exhibitions offered a glance at the tip of the iceberg, an introduction that left me wanting to know more.

    Rainer’s work could be divided into three groups—Ubermalungen (Over-paintings), gestural hand and finger paintings, and photographic

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  • Richard Stankiewicz

    Richard Stankiewicz (1922–83) is a major American sculptor who never attained the status of greatness and its accompanying accolades. No big books exist about him, yet I don’t think Stankiewicz’s accomplishments are as minor as some critics would have us believe. One reason for this judgment is based on the notion of influence. David Smith’s work led to Donald Judd’s, or so we’ve been told a million times; Stankiewicz’s work, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as fertile and didn’t lead to anything else. But I’m not so sure this judgment remains valid. Doesn’t Stankiewicz’s work anticipate renewed

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  • “What It Is”

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    This survey show organized by German critic and curator Wilfried Dickhoff, was one of those zeitgeist readings that often seem so significant when seen outside of New York or in Europe, but which tend to come off as willfully self-important in a New York gallery context. What would probably have registered at a distance as an idiosyncratic ideological sampling of trendsetting artworks looked, at first glance, more like a fast-food buffet of chic names when viewed up close in Soho. But if you looked beyond the “what’s hot” aspect of this eclectic assemblage, you could parse out a meaty question:

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  • Norman Catherine

    Area X

    From a comfortable vantage point, it’s almost too easy to say what the response—and the responsibility—of art created inside a brutal, unjust social system such as South Africa’s should be. Certainly we expect an intellectual stance against injustice and racism, and an emotional frisson of vicarious horror at an impending apocalypse. The mocking ghost of George Grosz seems to hover over such situations, and whether directly summoned or involuntarily invoked, the angry laughter of Ecce Homo haunts the graphics and mixed media works of South African artist Norman Catherine like a raucous poltergeist

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  • Anne Turyn

    Art City

    Like most structuralism-inspired artists, photographer Anne Turyn picks modest, basic literary genres on which to work out theoretical conundrums. The formats and subjects are usually clichés, and the more ordinary—even banal—they are, the better. The point is to show how information is structured by perception and social convention, and to let information (i.e., story, conversational tone, conclusions) seep out through the cracks between various linguistic codes. Beginning with her first “photo nova” Dear Diary, 1979, which consists of photographs of an open notebook with diaristic jottings,

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  • Martin Disler

    ACA Galleries

    What I find extraordinary about Martin Disler’s paintings is the way they sustain themselves as pure libido over enormous stretches of space—as though the space would run out before his libido did. The overtly erotic figures that emerge in many of the pictures, perhaps most conspicuously in Garden of Desire, 1986, appear incidental to the flow of paint, which seems not simply to overcome obstacles but to dissolve them, converting them into the knots and densities of its own substance. Disler seems to have arrived at that magical moment when representation does not know its own name, the moment

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  • Mark Kostabi

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Mark Kostabi is struggling to put his anonymous, featureless gray figure, robotic in import, to new use. But this figure remains his real achievement, not the scenes into which it is coyly dropped; there it merely functions corrosively, lending them its hollowness. Kostabi diminishes the master art-historical scenes he starts with, which for all their cliched character remain both artistically and humanly salient. In trivializing Edward Hopper’s famous counter scene (from Nighthawks, 1942), in Greenwich Avenue, 1986, or George Segal’s postromantic couple in bed (Couple on a Bed, 1965), in his

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  • Philip Evergood

    ACA Galleries

    Philip Evergood (1901–73) was never really a true social realist; rather, he revealed all too clearly the romantic underside of social realism. In Evergood’s case this is not expressed in a secret heroism of ordinary types (as it is in Thomas Hart Benton’s), but in a peculiar, erotic sense of American life. This eroticism makes Evergood almost worth looking at again after all these years. It exists in his eccentric line and his sense of nature, and perhaps most overtly in his treatment of the female. Whether in the obviously social-realistic Turmoil, 1943, or in the allegorical fantasy of Moon

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  • Niele Toroni

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    In his first one-person show in New York in more than ten years, Niele Toroni followed the same format and mode of application that have characterized this France-based painter’s practice for two decades. In each of the show’s three works, near-identical marks of a paint-soaked brush were deposited on wall or canvas at regular intervals to comprise uniform configurations of rectilinear colored dots. The title of the show (which also describes Toroni’s method of production) summed up the effect achieved: Empreintes de pinceau no. 50 répétées à intervalles réguliers de 30 centimètres (Marks of a

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  • “Cinemaobject”

    New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

    Film is the 20th century’s capital art form, but it is also a medium whose narrative, structural, and semiological features have been broadly exploited by contemporary artists. Sharing with television and photography the cultural impact associated with techniques of mechanical reproduction, it has become both direct reference and underlying subtext in a wide range of the last decade’s artwork. Sponsored by the Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Dance, Performance and Film, and cu-rated by exhibiting artists Dennis Adams and Steve Derrickson, “Cinema-object” came billed as the first exhibition to

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  • Richard Pare

    Sander Gallery

    It’s understandable that many of Richard Pare’s photographs would be of buildings; Pare is the curator of photography for both the Canadian Centre for Architecture and for the Seagram Collection of architectural photography Several of the large color photographs shown here are almost homages, with the title indicating not only where and when the picture was taken, but who designed the building depicted and when it was built. Not that his photographs are simple; Pare makes no attempt at the kind of straightforward, fully lit, foursquare overview of a building that is a staple of this kind of

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  • General Idea

    49th Parallel

    For well over a decade now, General Idea, the collaborative identity of three Canadian artists—A. A. Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Saia—has systematically and sarcastically invented a persuasive epic of self-referential iconic rhetoric. But the group’s satirical mimicking of the language and structure of the institutions of the culture has itself become a standard of taste. The mock grandeur of General Idea’s hoax scheme is so exact in its generic formalism that it provides its own kitsch idols to false deities as it goes about its iconoclastic ridicule of the system. The art world has come

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  • TODT

    Kent Fine Art

    The four anonymous collaborators who comprise TODT create hauntingly familiar yet unusual objects and installations in a range of media and styles. Here, they unleashed more of their personal nightmares in assemblages and dioramas that overtook the innocuous debris of civilization with the contagious paranoia of contemporary society. For all that this art is fueled by a claustrophobic private hell, the overall vision is sociologically and politically universal. TODT is ultimately effective in its communication of fear because its madness is common to society on the whole—the madness of a species

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  • The New York Film Festival

    Public Art Fund | Lincoln Center

    The New York Film Festival roster was again awash with continental sexualité; saucy tidbits ripe for American connoisseurial delectation. A glance at the menu tells it all: films about nuns in a convent or a young girl discovering their repressedly churning libidos are certainly not dissimilar to last year’s young girl discovering her newly spiraling libido. Not only is it problematic to speak of a national cinema, but it would be a mistake to categorize French films, or any other, on the basis of a few arty export flicks chosen by a coterie of festival directors and critics. But certain

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  • John Crawford

    Greathouse

    Like a number of other sculptors of his generation, John Crawford, who is in his early 30s, has chosen to work within the suggestive side of abstraction. Form carries special meaning here, or at least that seems to he this group of work’s general intention. But no matter how certain an artist’s intentions, what will always matter more is the art works themselves, which, in order to communicate, to seem more than that which meets the eye, have to speak visually to the viewer. The relationship of intention to execution was brought to mind by Crawford’s recent display of forged iron sculptures, a

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  • Augusta Talbot

    Vanderwoude Tananbaum Gallery

    For those brave enough to take the artist up on it, this show offered a fascinating way through what one might term the psychic jungle of the human mind. The kind of artist who seems to know how to unlock the hidden secrets of this mysterious place, Talbot produced a group of sculptures that could be called “tough:” but in the best sense of this by-now-overused term. Including both free-standing and relief examples, the sculptures had the unrelenting quality of a silent scream. Staged as much as composed, they continued the centuries-old popular form of the constructed tableau used for symbolic

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  • Ricardo Bofill and Taller de Arquitectura, “The City: Classicism and Technology”

    Max Protetch

    Ricardo Bofill is not another Richard M. Hunt or Daniel Burnham, but he is a great classicist and consummate planner. With each successive project, he exhibits more certitude, precision, and monumental intent, as well as less concern for human scale and the congruence of style and technology Bofill’s work is a strong statement against the ad hoc, incremental investigations by many architects and planners in the ’60s and ’70s, as well as against the organic, cumulative character of most cities and spaces. He leaves little possibility for intervention in his buildings and spaces, or for the measure

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  • Margo Sawyer and Marek Walczak, “The Bird-house Project”

    Hong Ning Residence for the Elderly

    Public art is often most successful when its objectives are limited and clear. Grand and ambitious schemes are not necessarily more communicative, inclusive, or “public” than smaller projects that alter and enliven workable spaces. Interesting pieces are frequently installed in out-of-the-way places that are neither sought out nor traveled to with any regularity These marginal sites—situated somewhere between the definitions of public and private—often provide strong settings for art. This is not particularly surprising at a time when public art’s prospects and importance are much in question.

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  • Gwenn Thomas

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    Like a good linguist, Gwenn Thomas explores both the diachronic and the synchronic in her framed Cibachromes. One might also say that her works push us through time and space, at high velocity, to a point of relativity. Note how the exaggerated corridor perspective in Theater of Memory I, 1984–85, where the converging lines of ceiling and floor extend out onto the frame with paint, is tilted, as if we were swept off our feet in a wind tunnel. The effect of speed is heightened, as when a section of this same wall appears to curve in Untitled (Diptych), 1984–86, and so is the hallucinatory. These

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