reviews

  • James Mullen

    Sorkin Gallery

    James Mullen’s first solo exhibition consisted of large oil paintings made between 1983 and ’86. Like a number of other artists in his generation—he’s in his middle 30s—Mullen examines the origins of Abstract Expressionism, specifically the work of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning during the ’40s. However, rather than making “simulations” of well-known Abstract Expressionist works, as Mike Bidlo and others have done, Mullen explores such possibilities as the relationship between abstraction and figuration. Consequently, Bidlo’s work has the fashionable look of a “finished” object, while

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  • Louise Lawler

    Metro Pictures

    On the wall of the residential interior in Louise Lawler’s Paris New York Rome Tokyo, 1985 (one of a pair of photographs labeled Homes), a large framed text concludes, “Ce discours n’est pas seulement ce que vous voyez, c’est ce à travers quoi vois voyez” (This discourse is not only what you see, it is that through which you see). The discourse we are given in this artist’s work is frequently the scene of art as a formalist play on the House and Garden photograph, locating the Modernist art object in its “natural” environment of stylish furniture and decor, and hinting at the wealthy salon.

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  • Susan Rothenberg

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    In the mid ’70s, Susan Rothenberg took the “perfect” step. By raising and answering all the accepted issues with just the right twist, her paintings of horses satisfied an audience that had become bored with Minimalism but was not quite satisfied by Pattern and Decoration. Her works fit neatly into the fiction that history was an orderly unfolding. They upheld the art world’s belief that it was on a steady pilgrimage toward the utopia of what is essential to painting. This exhibition consisted of a selection of paintings that Rothenberg made between 1974 and 1980.

    Rothenberg approached Modernism’s

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  • Willy Heeks

    Beitzel Fine Arts

    In the last few years Willy Heeks has become a formidable presence among a growing group of disenfranchised young artists who reject current criticism’s definitions of post-Modernism. Rather than making work that packages the rupture between present and past, the artist takes up where he believes Abstract Expressionism left off. In the decade after Pollock’s death, formalist criticism codified various proscriptions regarding painting. And although formalism has been largely discredited, many of its attitudes are still prevalent in today’s art, such as in Peter Halley’s “neo-geo” paintings, which

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  • Olivier Mosset

    John Gibson Gallery

    The Swiss-born artist Olivier Mosset gained attention in the last two years when his paintings were included in “neo-geo” and “new abstraction” shows, but the roots of his practice go back further. It was in 1967 that Mosset exhibited in Paris with Daniel Buren, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni under the group name BMPT in the Musée de l’Art Moderne’s annual “Salon de la Jeune Peinture.” Their aim was to demystify painting, to rid it of metaphysical overtones, and to reveal paintings material, or historical, foundation as a signifying practice. Although the format of Mosset’s work has varied

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  • Mark Stahl

    Massimo Audiello

    I first saw one of Mark Stahl’s assembled wall pieces incorporating “found” bathroom accessories and fake rocks in the exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” at Bess Cutler last fall. The show’s title perfectly traced the artist’s trajectory from conceptualism to a commodity-based practice, just as the word “form” hinted at the closet formalism characterizing much current commodity art. In Stahl’s case, the visual values involve sophisticated plays on Minimalist esthetics. The works in his recent one-person exhibition, all from 1986, consisted of the same kind of “found” accessories and fake

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  • Ilya Bolotowsky

    Washburn Gallery

    An avowed Neo-Plasticist, Ilya Bolotowsky has not simply assimilated his sources but transcended them. If, as Marcelin Pleynet has argued, Piet Mondrian moved toward the disappearance of the picture into the architecture that “sustains” it (however assumed and unnoticed), then Bolotowsky moves toward its embodiment as purified, “clarified” architecture. Although Mondrian wanted to reduce the picture to a vibrant sign of elementary space by following an architectural model, presumably rooting out the connotations of the human condition that might be lurking in it, he did so in order to express

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  • Francesco Clemente

    Sperone Westwater

    To my mind, Francesco Clemente is at his best on an intimate scale, as in these monotypes, all from 1986. Together they constitute an anthology of narcissistic hieroglyphs, a kind of picaresque picture book, each page of which reads as an emblematic autobiographical statement. At the bottom of every monotype is a small, centered, bust-length self-portrait, schematized and flattened and only cosmetically varied (in no. 26 it is completely flattened out by being made featureless). This cutout-style head is placed in different situations (artistic and otherwise), much like a paper doll with a

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  • Terence La Noue

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Terence La Noue’s paintings suggest one possibility for the rehabilitation of abstract painting: to charge its surface with as much archaic content as possible-to make it seem age-old, and through this temporal depth revitalize its surface space. In The Cradle of Mankind, 1985–86, collage traces of earth-colored, half-century-old African textiles are saturated with bright painterly touches, as though to demonstrate that the seemingly worn-out soil of field painting can be fertile again. In Lord of the Underworld, 1985–86, ghostly traces again give birth, this time to structures loosely interpretable

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  • Jacobo Borges

    CDS Gallery

    Jacobo Borges is an illusionist; like a magician, he makes us see things we don’t believe are the case. In Portrait with Tiger, 1986, painterly ripples of water cut a figure in half. Each half seems to have a life of its own, a life only nominally—magically—connected to the other. The water has created the illusion, but in a sense it is only the instrument of the illusion—that is, of the imaginative moment in which we recognize the doubleness of our being. Borges pursues this moment relentlessly, reconstituting it in picture after picture, as though it were the only moment that matters in art,

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  • Sandy Skoglund

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    In two simultaneous exhibitions, Sandy Skoglund showed an installation (at Sharpe Gallery) and a group of related photographs and photo-derived paintings (at Castelli Uptown). Although both exhibitions were based on a theme of abandoned cars, the work in each show was strikingly different. For the installation, Neo Auto, 1987, Skoglund presented a smashed and trashed derelict auto painted a cloying shade of lavender on an acid yellow carpet in the middle of the small gallery. Twining over the wreck were an enormous number of forks, bent and twisted into odd shapes and welded together, which

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  • Barbara Kasten

    John Weber Gallery

    Barbara Kasten’s style might be called Bauhaus on acid. In her photographs she usually combines geometric forms—triangles, circles, and so on, often cut out of mirrors—with colored lights, creating intricate and deceptive spatial effects. The result has been work that combines the clean-cut progressivism of the Bauhaus with the cozy tawdriness of resort-motel decor. These two design strains, seemingly so much at odds with one another—one promising a Modernist future of rational progress, the other a past of luxury and gentility—are now tinged equally with nostalgia and have been equally relegated

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  • Austé

    56, Bleecker Gallery

    Austé’s recent series of paintings is as cunningly outrageous as any of her wickedly flamboyant work to date. In this, her third solo show in New York, Austé surely enthralled those who are already fans and further alienated those less enamored of her special sort of rococo kitsch. A bit like Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company or the films of Jack Smith and John Waters, she will probably always mark something of a break in subjective taste. One could easily follow the “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good” school of thinking and categorize Austé’s phantasmagoria as camp. Yet her fevered pitch

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  • Gladys Nilsson

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Gladys Nilsson is a founding member of the Hairy Who, the group of Chicago artists responsible back in the late 1960s for initiating the funky style now known as Chicago Imagism. For years the irreverent Hairy Who spirit of poking fun at the panoply of pretensions surrounding so-called high art has continued to inform the tone of her work, although it has never dominated the substance of her vision. Nilsson comments on contemporary American culture through insightful statements tossed off with sophisticated ease. As revealed in this group of recent watercolors, the key to her methods lies in

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  • Andrea Belag

    John Davis Gallery

    Andrea Belags first solo show in New York featured recent paintings that revealed much about new abstraction in the late ’80s. In several of these, Belag imparts a luminous energy to the surfaces that is remarkable. In Palimpsest, 1986–87, which was the largest painting in the show, the main source of this luminous energy is in the relationship of image to mark. Here the image is hung on a multipanel structure of three sections, the two on the ends wider than the one in the middle; through the use of painted lines, or fields of contrasting color, each section is subdivided into rectangular and

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  • Ana Carolina, Mar de Rosas

    Museum of Contemporary Hispanic art

    Carolina is one of Brazil’s leading female directors of feature films. Carolina uses her camera like a diagnostic tool, and her methodology suggests her experience attending medical school. The results are a brashly confrontational visual discourse on the body and its absorption into Brazil’s history of authoritarian regimes. Between 1967 and 1974 she made many documentaries that deal with the notions of political reality, for example, Anatomia do Espectador (Anatomy of the spectator, ca. 1970–72) and Getúlio Vargas, 1974. But the documentary genre became problematic for her, as she had difficulty

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  • Pooh Kaye

    Joyce Theater

    Of the many performance artists who focus on physical movement within a mixed-media format, Pooh Kaye would seem the least likely to turn toward choreography—that is, to realize her idiosyncratic kinesthetics on other bodies and to organize performing into dances. With her “wild child” persona (an infantilized female adult who scampered around topless while wearing a grass skirt), her singular unschooled movement, and her performance-as-play conceits, Kaye’s performances and films have been perfect examples of faux naïf events for nearly a decade. (Her principal mentor was another performer of

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  • Mario Botta

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    There appears to be a Mario Botta craze under way, a suspicion that was confirmed by this exhibition. Certain qualities in the architecture of this Swiss-born designer appeal to representatives of the most divergent esthetic encampments. Curator Stuart Wrede’s comments in the text of a wall panel introducing this exhibition may suggest why. He describes Botta’s work as “classical,” “modernistic,” and “vernacular,” and notes his fidelity to craftsmanship, axial organization, powerful symmetry, ascetic materials, and bold archetypal forms. This is an architecture so inclusive that it is guaranteed

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  • Lloyd Wright

    Max Protetch

    It could not have been easy being the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. Being sired by a genius sets standards of excellence that are often more dispiriting than animating. The small but significant acts of one generation can seem insignificant when compared to the great feats of the preceding generation. Although Lloyd Wright has not suddenly been unearthed from the compost of architectural lore, opportunities to see his work are rare. He belongs to a group of architects practicing from 1920 to 1950 who chose not to follow the absolute dictates of Modernism and instead pursued more idiosyncratic

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