reviews

  • Jasper Johns

    Leo Castelli

    Jasper Johns’ latest exhibition was entitled “The Seasons” and consisted of four similarly sized paintings, as well as related drawings, watercolors, and prints, done in 1985 and 1986. All the works are very personal transformations of the imagery of a painting by Pablo Picasso, The Minotaur Moves His House, 1936. Johns’ “house” is his horde of images, which he must find ways to make new and useful. In the early ’80s, Johns started introducing new images into his lexicon; at the same time, in the compositions’ shallow allegorical space, one could see his work beginning to establish a coherent,

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  • Mary Joan Waid

    G. W. Einstein

    The relationship of reality to illusion remains a primary concern for Mary Joan Waid. It has continued to fascinate this New York artist for more than a decade now, and the works in her latest show make clear the deep philosophical undertones of her vision. These undertones first came through in the flower paintings she did in the ’70s and in the series of self-portraits and portraits that she began in 1980. While the group of recent paintings and pastels featured here can be considered a direct outgrowth of those earlier bodies of work, they represent a broadening of Waid’s thematic scope.

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  • Jo Baer

    Art Galaxy / Oil & Steel Gallery

    Not the least interesting thing about abstract art for the last ten years or so has been the powerful aura of taboo that has surrounded it, replacing the hypnotic appeal of the sublime that it once radiated. Recently artists have approached it armed with apotropaic utterances denying their complicity in their own action. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the last halcyon days before the taboo, the Minimalist abstract paintings of Jo Baer were among the most hypnotic. They were one of the last convincing expressions of the abstract sublime in the Minimalist mode. The blank white triptychs with

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  • William Anastasi

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    William Anastasi, like Jo Baer, has also found a way to exorcise the demon of abstraction while backing into its charismatic domain. The four large paintings shown here consist of abstract allover grounds on each of which appear the outlines of several successive letters of a word from the first page of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939). These works are the beginning of a series that Anastasi calls “bababad,” taking the first seven letters of Joyce’s word as his title. Part onomatopoeia and part complex pun, this 100-letter word is understood, in Joyce’s mythology as interpreted by Joseph

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  • Lynton Wells

    Ruth Siegel

    Since the early ’70s, when he first gained attention for his coolly intelligent analyses of the uneasy relationship between painting and photography, Lynton Wells has been a restless, independent, tough-minded artist, whose work has been nearly impossible to categorize. His accomplishment is all the more remarkable because he has neither ignored nor denied mainstream attitudes. In fact, his work embodies, among other things, one of the strongest scrutinies of Modernist and post-Modernist syntax to emerge in the last 25 years. The success of this ongoing examination is due to the artist’s continuing

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  • Ed Paschke

    Phyllis Kind Gallery / Luhring Augustine & Hodes

    Among the subjects Ed Paschke has been exploring since the mid ’60s are spectacle, glamour, fantasy, sexual and social identity, and the role played by the media in modern life. His raunchy, confrontational depictions of transvestites, burlesque queens, and lady wrestlers, done in the late ’60s and the early ’70s, anticipated the work of younger artists who depicted the sleazier side of the American psyche. During this time, Paschke was concerned with outsiders and the disenfranchised. His work implied that America consisted of clandestine societies of marginalized individuals. Then, in the late

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  • Chris Costan

    Avenue B Gallery

    Among the current developments clamoring for critical recognition, there is the curious synthesis of abstract and representational elements that now seems to be everywhere in recent painting. It includes much of the work that just a few seasons ago was being touted as “neo-Surrealist” and now is being slipped in under the increasingly popular, generic label of “new abstraction.” This development, which deserves the most serious scrutiny, is exemplified by the paintings of New York artist Chris Costan.

    In many of these, including CIRQUE and CUMBER, Sleight of Hand, Slouching toward Mecca, and

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  • Odd Nerdrum

    Martina Hamilton Gallery

    The Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum is a protraditionalist, an artist envious of the old masters. In conversation, Nerdrum told me he thought the old masters had some special mode of perception of reality that was inseparable from special techniques for articulating it. These include a subtle use of chiaroscuro, to bring out the bodiliness that makes drawing or painting seem real, allied to a sense of the ineluctable significance of the human. Above all, they had an acute sense of fate, and of art’s implication in it. One might say that Nerdrum’s art deals with the concreteness of the human body

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  • Giuseppe Penone

    Giuseppe Penone grows squash plants from seed and encloses the fruit of the plants, when young, in molds that look like primitive human faces. When the squashes have grown to maturity, he casts the plants in bronze, as in Squash III and Squash IV, both 1986. The whole effect is stunningly beautiful and ecologically poignant and ironic: the frail, transient plants are preserved in eternally durable material, a memento mori of the earth. Penone’s works allude to nature in mythological, monumental terms. The exhibition’s key work, Sentiero (Path, 1986), concerns Daphne’s metamorphosis into a laurel

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  • Lucas Samaras

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    Lucas Samaras offered us more “Chair Transformations” and ink drawings in this exhibition. If each of the objects that constitute the chairs is seen as a gesture, one can say that chairs and drawings are both made with a wide variety of gestures, from light to heavy, refined to crude. In the chairs, for example, the wire-hanger skeleton functions as a refined line, the body of which is fleshed out with objects that are more or less crude, such as a saw and a broken, lumpish statuette of a mother and a female child, in Wire Hanger Chair (Rackets), 1986. Many of the drawings, all untitled, are

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  • “The Idea of North”

    49th Parallel

    In the face of rumored budget cuts that could force it to close, this nonprofit space continues to provide a valuable showcase for contemporary Canadian art. “The Idea of North,” curated by France Morin, the gallery’s director, was challenging in the scope of its inquiries, as so many exhibitions here have been. Based on a radio program by the late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, the show attempted to find parallels in the visual arts for what Gould discussed as Canadians’ attitudes toward the vast arctic wastes that make up the northern third of Canada. Gould’s program, a collage of music,

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  • Todd Siler

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Throughout the 20th century psychology and philosophy, the brain and the mind, and cognition and perception have frequently been regarded as oppositions. Most researchers have situated themselves either in the area of observable, concrete, performance-based data, or in the more abstract, subjective region of knowledge and competence, but seldom in both. Todd Siler is one of those rare individuals who have staked out an area of investigation based on a synthesis of the two, addressing in his work the constructions and symbolic systems of both scientific and artistic thought. Siler’s work is about

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  • “Out of the Studio: Art with Community”

    MoMA PS1

    Community used to be something people found if they were lucky or built together if they were tenacious. It is also something artists can invent. In the case of the seven artists and groups of artists included in this show, the community does not simply receive the creative work of the artist but assists, in numerous ways, in the generation and revelation of often complex esthetic processes. Unlike traditional patronage, this work is based on reciprocal support; the artist is provided with a source and a context and the community is given an opportunity for self-examination through the actions

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  • Frank Bigbear Jr.

    Bockley Gallery

    Among the effects of colonization has been the perversion of the cultural signs of colonized peoples. What the colonizer regards as a positive attribute of the colonized is frequently appropriated to reinforce his own power (hence the theft of Indian names and their remotivation toward macho images of football teams and trucks), and what is deemed negative is eradicated or trivialized. Even alienation has become a cliché under dominant culture. Frank Bigbear’s work, as it searches through the morass of media clichés that entraps his people, nonetheless uncovers an intensity beyond the sign and

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  • Richard Mock

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Star Trek’s Mr. Spock had a number of distinguishing features. Television’s best-known extraterrestrial had elf ears, soaring eyebrows, a great neo-Beatle haircut, and occasionally made that peculiar Vulcan peace sign by raising a hand with the middle and ring fingers forming a V. The limb projecting from the crudely outlined figure in Richard Mock’s Uranian Handshake, 1986, appears to be making a similar gesture, only more symmetrically, since the proffered hand has six digits.

    Mock’s most recent oil paintings are replete with references to a friendly alien cosmos. Titles like Moon Ladder, Space

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  • Paul Wonner

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Paul Wonner’s precisely articulated pictures have grown, in the artist’s words, “out of . . . interest and pleasure in 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings.” Yet, while many of the things of Dutch genre scenes are present in these works, theirs is a stillness without charm or intimacy, rendered in a hard, bright, resolutely contemporary light.

    To Flora, 1985, is paradigmatic of Wonner’s sensibility. Within a bare interior space, the floor a virtually uninflected neutral gray, the rear wall nearly black, a great many containers of flowers have been placed. They surround an antique wooden table

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  • Joel Otterson

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Joel Otterson’s recent exhibition for the Museum of Modern Art’s “Projects” series worked its false charm with particular effectiveness as an insinuation of the museum’s hidden cultural agenda. Otterson’s sculpture has fabricated its authority from the alluring formalist patterns of predictability in the tall shadow of Modernism since at least 1982, with his first post-art school appearance in the then newly opened Gallery Nature Morte. His recent work, even more devilish in its impersonation of classic Modernist totemism, simultaneously harasses and pays homage to the canon of received avant-garde

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  • Luca Pizzorno

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    Luca Pizzomo’s art since he moved from Milan to New York’s Lower East Side some years back has been primitivist, in the Modernist plastic sense, and primitive, in the psychological sense of the term in cultural anthropology. Such a framework of the primitive and the primitivist is hardly an appealing one today, as it has been so abused with misconceptions and overexposure, from the appropriations of neo-Expressionist posturing to the mundane level of kitsch such co-opting has taken since the ’50s.

    Pizzorno’s gift is to use the tribal cliche in a way that shows he is aware of its colonializing

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  • Mike Kelley, Plato's Cave, Rothko's Chapel, Lincoln's Profile

    Metro Pictures / Artists Space

    The Los Angeles-based artist Mike Kelley made one of his periodic New York forays with a triple-threat show, a multiformat statement presented as a gallery exhibition (at Metro Pictures), a book (published by New City Editions and Artists Space, 1986), and a performance (at Artists Space), all with the same three-part title: Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile. The simultaneous multiplicity of media seemed to sharpen Kelley’s thought-skewers; his polytropic ideas throbbed with a compelling urgency, given form in all three media by means that were more confidently economical and more

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  • Yoshiko Chuma, The Big Picture

    Dance Theater Workshop

    As the idea of collaboration continues to enthrall performance artists, new territories are still being staked out in the vast conceptual ground between the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk and a Merce Cunninghamesque independence of elements. One popular state of collaborative performance mind might be called “performance bouillabaisse,” i.e., two or more equal parts of performance laced with a liberal dash of conceptual conceit to bind the various components together. The Big Picture, whipped up by Yoshiko Chuma and her performing group, the School of Hard Knocks, was a dazzling multi-layer cake of

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