reviews

  • John Duff

    Blum Helman Gallery

    I associate fiberglass with John Duff in much the same way that steel and David Smith are, in my mind, inextricably linked. Like Smith, Duff has taken a contemporary industrial material and transformed it into a sculptural material. Duff’s accomplishments and influence were among the most profound to emerge in the late 1960s. More than anticipating the concerns of many younger sculptors who emerged during the last decade, his work showed and continues to show a way past the two most widely sanctioned sculptural approaches—Minimalism’s obsession with holistic presence and the Constructivist/assemblagist

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  • “A Distanced View”

    New Museum

    The fall season gave rise to a range of acts of retribution. The most coherent and illuminating of the many exhibitions that aimed at redressing errors supposedly perpetuated by the recent blitz of German and Italian neoExpressionist art was “A Distanced View,” organized by Lynn Gumpert. “The hype of German and Italian neoExpressionism,” writes Gumpert in her catalogue essay, “has obscured our awareness of the current state of affairs in the other European countries and of artists working outside the dominant modes of painting and sculpture.” For this reason Gumpert focused on art employing

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  • Dan Graham

    Cable Gallery

    Dan Graham’s first New York show in many years seemed conceived as an ironic retrospective, one that evoked a strange familiarity in most viewers. Moving through it one encountered a project seen in this or that gallery, a model and documentary photographs for the glass pavilion reconstructed at Documenta in 1982, a videotape remembered from here or from there, and many texts and images published in the late ’60s in Arts magazine. As a whole, the exhibition encompassed models, wall works related to different video projects (Present Continuous Past(s), 1974, Public Space/Two Audiences, 1976),

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  • Oleg Kudryashov

    Albert Totah Gallery

    Russian artist Oleg Kudryashov came to the West 12 years ago with none of the publicity and rhetoric that has attended the arrival of other emigres. Since then he has continued to work in his quietly impassioned manner, using the modest techniques of drypoint and relief construction on paper. He works directly on the plate; lines of various densities, burnished or incised, build a cubistic matrix through whose volumes and planes breathes a generous spaciousness. The resultant print provides a further surface that may be rescored and reworked with additional smaller drypoints, or treated with

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  • Robert Longo

    Metro Pictures

    One work—one image—in this exhibition is Longo’s best yet. In All You Zombies (Truth Before God), 1986, we see a hermaphroditic figure, saturated with attributes/associations, in an ambiguous pose of victory and defeat, at once unhorsed horseman of the apocalypse and strident soldier of God, posturing in a quaintly archaic theater. In its macabre universality, this figure summarizes our horrific, vulgar century. It epitomizes the theatrical/performance/waxworks ambition of Longo’s art. It is a truly stunning creation in an art-entertainment world almost stun-gunned to death.

    Of all the artists

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  • Sigmar Polke

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The key to these works, which continue the Albrecht Dürer series of paintings Polke exhibited at the Venice Biennale, is the use of design motifs quoted from Dürer’s Gebetbuch Maximilian I (Prayer book of [Emperor] Maximilian I, 1512—13, also known as the “Last Knight”): two of Polke’s works are titled Gebetbuch Maximilian, and one is titled Schleife—Gebetbuch Maximilian (Bow—prayer book of Maximilian, all 1986). As Erwin Panofsky points out in The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer, the Gebetbuch is ironical in character: it is “a printed book creating the illusion of a handwritten and hand-decorated

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  • Julian Schnabel

    PACE | 534 West 25th Street

    As usual, Julian Schnabel begins with a readymade “found” practico-inert canvas, here Kabuki theater backdrops. It is important for Schnabel that the canvas be used and discarded, worn out; with his prepared canvases of broken crockery, the sense of abandonment is simulated. On these vulgarly picturesque, used and abused canvases, Schnabel starts from scratch, painting in a style that might be called profligate grandeur, with vigorous, abrupt gestures that seem to reawaken life—with an energy as peculiarly picturesque and extravagant in its own right as that of the canvas. A reciprocity is

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  • Ellen Phelan

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    “Always in a picture,” Camille Corot tells us, “there is a speck of vivid light.” Ellen Phelan’s recent work, which adopts the compositions of selected Corot paintings, invokes this idea in a series of meditations on the relation of painted light to the reflectivity of the object.

    Phelan joins loose and liquid gestures to a muted palette of grays, blues, and browns. The resulting veils of color are hazily atmospheric and suggest landscapes. But Phelan has never been simply a painter: she has pierced each of the seven works on linen here with one or two geometric cuts. These squares, rectangles,

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  • “The Departure of the Argonaut”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Composer, novelist, playwright, and painter, Alberto Savinio was a career dilettante traveling the byways of Modernism. Born Andrea de Chirico in 1891 (the younger brother of Giorgio de Chirico), he was among the founders of the Metaphysical school of painting. He wrote his first opera, Carmela, at the age of 17, and four years later appeared in Apollinaire’s revue Les Soirées de Paris. Hermaphrodito, his compendium of stories, poems, and theater pieces, was published in 1918. Savinio continued to write, paint, and design for the stage until his death in 1952.

    “The Departure of the Argonaut”

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  • Larry Rivers

    Marlborough | Midtown

    Larry Rivers has let loose one of the most exciting bodies of figurative art of this decade. A powerful lot to consider, the new relief paintings he started about three years ago are inspired by a deep reservoir of feeling. Few artists approach the intellectual issues with which contemporary painting has become enamored since 1945 with the conceptual command of Rivers; nor do they handle irony half so well. What gives his images their sentient bite is his passionate response to art and life, compellingly expressed throughout the show. A number of the images here boasted a quality in dangerously

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  • Jonathan Santlofer

    Graham Modern

    Since the early ’80s, Jonathan Santlofer has used abstraction’s objective face to uncover its hidden subjective side. So dynamic was his approach to color and form that the shaped relief canvases of a few years ago were notable for aggressive appearances that made them seem to explode off the wall. While the approach discernible in the present body of work is still decidedly dynamic in tone, the results obtained in these paintings are wondrously lyrical, tending toward marvelous dramatic statements. A number of the paintings on view, such as Sleepwalker, The Sienna Waltz, Scenes of Heroism, and

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  • Lika Mutal

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Truly archetypal forms are rarely seen in today’s art, in which the trite is too often mistaken for the transcendent. However, Lika Mutal’s show of recent stone sculptures demonstrated that these forms can and do exist today.

    Mutal, who began making abstract sculpture in the early 1970s, soon after moving to Peru, is at home with the special ways of archetypal forms. She seems to know instinctively that they can neither be forced nor wished into being. They either are or are not, and only inspiration can bring them into existence. For Mutal, stone is a substance whose layers are suffused with

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  • John Ahearn with Rigoberto Torres

    Brooke Alexander

    John Ahearn and his assistant/collaborator Rigoberto Torres are remarkable contemporary additions to a historical genre of humanistic naturalism. Ahearn presents the vulgar masses to the cultured elite to enlighten their biased contempt and entertain their voyeurism. The strategy operating in this sort of work is essentially motivated as “political art” that avoids explicit commentary in favor of implicit reality expressed by the human condition. Ahearn and Torres have for years operated a sculpture workshop in the South Bronx, and from there they erode the stereotypes of those they depict.

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  • Rammellzee

    Gabrielle Bryers Gallery and Barbara Braathen Gallery

    The hysterical intensity of New York’s manic pace produces in its fission/fusion of diverse cultures and social positions a mutant by-product of rational insanity that periodically manifests itself as some new cult hero. Rammellzee is just that sort of genius/madman. In his recent one-person shows he demonstrated the same ability to provoke and amuse us as he has in the past. The novelty of his apocalyptic sci-fi war fantasy may have ebbed since he first entered our mundane consciousness a few years back (and graffiti of any sort is much less revered now than during its heyday, when media hoopla

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  • Mark Cohen

    Zabriskie Gallery

    Mark Cohen’s photographs from the mid ’70s were gritty, not only in their physical qualities—black and white, grainy, usually shot with a blistering flash—but also in their subjects. Many of Cohen’s best-known pictures from that period are of street life in Wilkes-Barre, the small industrial city in north-eastern Pennsylvania where he lives. But Cohen’s work has never been sociological, even though the people and settings in his photographs—shoppers scurrying down a main street at dusk, teenagers clowning around in a park—are recognizable social types. Instead he relies on a working method and

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  • Malcolm Morley

    Pace Prints | East 57th Street

    As far as I know, no one has pointed out that among contemporary painters only two are capable of transforming their extreme sensitivity to natural light into oil paint: Willem de Kooning and Malcolm Morley. De Kooning’s place in history is assured, though I also believe that the magnitude of his accomplishment has yet to be addressed fully. For many observers, however, Morley’s place is still a matter of debate. Critics fault his work’s unpredictability and supposed lack of the “big theme.” They seem to have forgotten that Picasso and, more recently, Philip Guston committed the sin of

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  • “Building Machines”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    During most of the 19th century architecture either exploited technology for invention or erected itself as a barrier to the machine’s increasingly omnipresent nature. In the 20th century, mechanistic processes began to provide a metaphorical language, a hard-edged imagery, making buildings look as if they had been turned inside out; the guts and the service core became a new public iconography. Since the advent of the industrial age, machines have altered inorganic structure, organic life, and most of all the human mind.

    “Building Machines,” organized by Glenn Weiss, examined the implications

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  • “The Machine Age in America 1918–1941”

    Brooklyn Museum

    During the 23 years between the world wars, the United States experienced an explosive growth of mechanized industry and commodity production. The machine, not a new concept to the 20th century, was unleashed to its fullest promise. “The Machine Age in America 1918–1941” documents the unbalanced optimism and enthusiasms the machine excited. The nation’s love affair with mass production and its correlates—freedom, power, affluence, and rationalized living—was simply one strand in the tight knot of conflicting messages generated by new technologies and materials. The idea of unimpeded promise, of

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  • “Stones Have Been Known to Move”

    White Columns

    The collaborative projects of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler present a conceptual art that combines landscape, architectural space, and theory. These cross-investigations have minimal presence and lasting impact. Conceptually complex and formally modest, their work provokes a number of questions about design conventions, collective assumptions, and the material arrangements of contemporary culture.

    In this installation, Ericson and Ziegler generated ideas about the multiple histories of stones commonly used for building facings, as well as the kind of physical and metaphorical transformation of

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  • John Jesurun, White Water

    The Kitchen

    John Jesurun’s performance theater is uncommon in that it challenges its audience to think at a time when performance as entertainment or spectacle is prevalent. His productions lay out an imposing agenda of knotty dialectic—live acting/electronic presence, theater staging/media techniques, minimalist structures/melodramatic subject matter—then don’t always bother to synthesize the clashing oppositions into a tidily coherent statement. While his rigorous concepts sometimes lead to a clogged-up, impacted presentation, White Water was a stellar example of how such a heady approach can yield a

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  • Eiko & Koma, New Moon Stories

    brooklyn academy of music

    The most striking feature of the Japanese dance-theater mode called butoh is the way it melds extreme physical action and cosmic themes into tightly disciplined, wildly emotional performances. Eiko and Koma, who count butoh pioneers Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno among their teachers, do not label their collaborations as butoh, but their grounding in the genre gives their performances a typically strenuous and metaphysical butohlike intensity. New Moon Stories adapted their performances to a format similar to other recent butoh pieces; revised versions of three earlier works and a new performance

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