reviews

  • Roger Brown

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    The title given to this show, “For Consenting Eyes Only . . . ,” appeared in the gallery’s back room on a cabinet door behind which was a painting Roger Brown calls Boy Startled while Jerking-Off in the Woods, or What’s the Use of Beating around the Bush?, 1985. What, indeed? Although Brown may have thought of this provocative painting as the core of his show, as the painting’s placement suggested, my interest lay elsewhere.

    The fact is that I tend to locate Brown himself not in the bushes this painting contains. Rather, the gesture most characteristic of his work for me, its spiritual center,

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  • Saint-Clair Cemin

    Daniel Newburg Gallery

    Saint-Clair Cemin’s sculpture has an unsettling way of not quite meeting one’s expectation, and the odd assortment of work he exhibited seemed to reside firmly in the gray regions of subjectivity. While the past century’s artistic invention managed to expand the boundaries of art to the doorstep of infinity, the lofty perspective of the avant-garde vision is itself riddled with blind spots. Cemin’s sculpture does not try to transcend the history of its medium, but works toward marking the structural holes in the established models of creation and esthetic analysis. What is significant in these

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  • Werner Büttner

    Metro Pictures

    Werner Büttner was as malevolent and witty as ever in this show. I tend to prefer his malevolence to his wit, since it seems truer and implies a deeper emotional engagement to the reality he deals with; his “subject” seems to be the stupidity of German daily existence. But the wit is tolerable for the bit of distance it affords and the air of amused innocence it generates.

    The malevolence is all in the paint, which looks both viscous yet corrosive, insolent but bleak, affirming yet negating—a true achievement of “duplicity.” In the act of constituting objects, conveying their solidity, the paint

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  • Sol LeWitt

    The Drawing Center

    As masterful and ironic as ever, Sol LeWitt has maximized his Minimalism by making his geometrical forms both more monumental and complex—multifaceted pyramids, sometimes truncated at the top—and setting them in an ambience of moody, smoldering color that makes them seem impenetrably dense. Apart from the complex tension generated by inscribing multiplanar “solids” in a resolutely flat wall plane, the pyramids seemed to exist to contradict and offset the Corinthian columns that demark and “support” this space. It was a perfect way to inaugurate a new space, to make it seem “miraculous” in its

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  • Morris Louis

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    This is at once a connoisseur’s selection of choice works by Morris Louis and a retrospective tracing of his development. Louis begins, in such works as Atomic Crest and Intrigue, both 1954, with paint that more or less completely covers the canvas; he ends with works, such as Hot Half and Equator, both 1962, in which the bare canvas seems as assertive—seems to exist as much for itself—as the bright color. Louis uses various strategies to achieve this result, from the relatively abrupt termination of his color before it reaches the canvas’ edge, to the sense of displacement and hovering effect

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  • Mary Heilmann

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Like many abstract painters who began exhibiting in the early ’70s, the waning days of Minimalism, Mary Heilmann is an empirical artist. What distinguishes her from the rest is the fact that her concern with process, image, and the bond between the two did not lead her to make any of the sanctioned choices. She did not, for example, return to the “what-you-see-is-what-you-see” mode developed by Frank Stella early in his career. At the same time, she neither evolved a “new image” look nor concerned herself with the zany elaborations of an Elizabeth Murray or the tamer decorative elements of a

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  • Rainer Fetting

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    German artist Rainer Fetting first gained international attention when his paintings were included in the blockbuster shows “A New Spirit in Painting” (London, 1981) and “Zeitgeist” (Berlin, 1982). He belongs to the German-Expressionist tradition, particularly as exemplified by Egon Schiele’s and Max Beckmann’s interest in portraiture. After moving from Berlin to New York in 1982, Fetting began to focus on the decadent, romantic figures who prowl the after-hours club scene.

    This shift in subject matter not only indicates to me that Fetting has gone from being a promising young artist to a mature

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    I have admired Richard Artschwager’s work for a long time. A few years ago I wrote an extensive piece on his drawings, so my admiration is not something I’ve kept to myself. Yet this exhibition, which focused on a number of his well-known early pieces, bothered me deeply. There was something all too cunning about the show’s timing and focus, and something disturbing about the slick, airless, and textless catalogue. The only point it documented was in which major collections the strongest pieces now resided.

    The point of this exhibition was not simply to show us examples of Artschwager’s early

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  • Richard Long

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    The pleasure and power of Richard Long’s work lies not only in the elegance of its execution but in the economy with which it condenses the cultural demands we make of landscape: the esthetic and the documentary (the evidence of “nature”), the romantic (solitude, wildness, transience), and the rational (order, harmony, permanence). In his photographs this is achieved without using the conventions of the picturesque; the scene is animated by the organization of materials. In his work, the inaccessible is brought, by analogy, into close visual alignment; horizontality is fore-grounded, placing us

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  • Tim Rollins + Kids of Survival

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    To a significant extent, dominant culture’s misrepresentations of others lies in our failure to acknowledge that different but equally valid ways of conceptualizing the world may exist. Romantic paradigms of the transcendental self, the creative individual, or one who possesses privileged knowledge continue to frame questions of subjectivity. Tim Rollins + Kids of Survival (K.O.S.) radically challenge these purist and elitist notions. Their collaborative art interprets culture through young people who are generally dismissed as having virtually nothing to contribute to it. Rollins has worked

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  • Michael Clark & Company, No Fire Escape in Hell

    brooklyn academy of music

    A rude boy of dance, British choreographer and dancer Michael Clark debuted in New York with his company in a clamor of frenzied hype. In his evening-length dance No Fire Escape in Hell Clark flaunted an ultrapunk look with earrings, futuristic fashions, and bleached, cropped hair, and loaded his choreography with equally aggressive trappings: dance in drag (Clark’s favorite costume: a tutu); upfront sexual imagery (a solo with dildo); and rock accompaniment from the far cutting edge, a “noise music” anthology sound track of grinding dissonance, distorted high volume, and furious rhythms.

    To the

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  • David Sandlin

    Gracie Mansion Gallery

    In David Sandlin’s faux fables, the Devil isn’t just riding shotgun on the Great American Joyride. He’s at the wheel, steering the dream machine through a nightmarish landscape teeming with neon-lit, canoonish tableaux illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins. But Sandlin’s sin-soaked world is a genial one. The painter moralizes like a painting prophet, but ever so good-naturedly. He may portray the Redeemer as “He-Jesus, Defender of the Faith,” but plays it for laughs; as a commentary on the debasement of faith, it’s a ridiculous truism. Overall, this exhibition of nine paintings had the chuckle-minded

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  • Ted Rosenthal

    Salvatore Ala Gallery

    Ted Rosenthal received some notoriety a few years back with his traffic-halting, bomb-squad-baiting prank of welding fake time bombs (fire extinguisher canisters with clocks) to street signs around lower Manhattan. As far as anyone knows, he has not pulled any stunts like that since, but as his latest sculptures of cut, welded, and painted steel show, he has hardly lost his strange sense of humor. In his recent work Rosenthal gives his wildest fantasies free rein. From small wall sculptures to elaborate freestanding behemoths, his work demonstrates a slickness of design and execution in contrast

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  • John Cage

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    It takes a show of such integrity and grace as this modest exhibition to reinstill one’s faith in the possibilities of greater articulation and expansion an artist may find in another discipline. John Cage here displayed the fruits of two conceptually related but procedurally different series. “Mesostics re: Merce Cunningham,” 1971, consisted primarily of some of Cage’s compositions of word/form-interplay poetry from his book M: Writings ’67–’72, nicely framed and posing as word art. The more visually stimulating language/ sculpture/silkscreen hybrid “Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel”

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  • Louise Nevelson

    Pace | 537 West 24th Street

    Two different bodies of work by Louise Nevelson—new examples from “Mirror-Shadows,” an ongoing series of wall reliefs, and works from a recent series of relief collages called the “Volcanic Magic” series—were presented in these two shows. Taken together, they not only revealed Nevelson’s furious creative drive, but pointed to some of the sources of that drive as well.

    In each series the artist has used her now familiar vocabulary based on representing the debris of 20th-century industrial culture. In “Mirror-Shadows,” shown at Pace, wooden elements are used exclusively. The boxes, slats, hoops,

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  • Helen Frankenthaler

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    No one can make you thrill to the sight of a thin yellow line meandering across the bottom of a canvas or warm to a broad spot of white placed smack in the center of a composition like Helen Frankenthaler. An artist whose dedication to her own vision is well-known, Frankenthaler has built her career on the firmest foundation, that of commitment. Since the early ’50s, when she distinguished herself among the younger generation of New York School painters, she has never gone back on her initial enthusiasms. Continuity rather than radical change has been the basis of her work. While her style has

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  • Johnnie Ross

    57 STUX + Haller Gallery

    At first glance, Johnnie Ross seems to offer a straight reprise of American color-field painting while maybe asking just a few new questions. But the colorful canvases, with dynamic quadrilateral shapes derived from both cutting into and adding to the basic rectangle, are hardly direct derivations or replays of the formalistic strains of abstract painting that dominated the ’60s and early ’70s. At second glance these paintings appear to defy the kind of data-conscious stocktaking of measurements and limits involving the statements of optical and perceptual relationships that were the special

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  • Dennis Adams

    Gallery Nature Morte; 14th Street and Third Avenue

    Advertisers relish the captive audience. There is no demonstrable proof that reception necessarily leads to perception, but at least it offers the possibility that communication has occurred. A prime target these days is the person who waits for some transaction to occur; the individual waiting for a bus or subway is particularly susceptible to the message-makers. Most who wait to get from one place to another expect, aside from the occasional public-service announcement, nothing more than another close encounter with a photo-enlargement of Calvin Klein briefs.

    Bus and subway stations are among

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  • Nancy Pierson

    Condeso/Lawler Gallery

    The figure and in particular the portrait represent a vision of art that shifts message, method, and form, and requires more than formal analysis. Regardless of the level of technical and compositional virtuosity, perception travels beyond the surface planes and pigments to construct a narrative for the character to reside in. When impeccable technique is balanced anxiously with the most discomforting, penetrating psychological content, it is an exceptional moment indeed. In this exhibition, which included six large paintings and four drawings, Nancy Pierson presented a group of characters that

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