reviews

  • Marilyn Lerner

    John Good Gallery

    A statement by Olga Rozanova, one of the leading figures of the early-20th-century Russian avant-garde, kept running through my mind as I looked at the paintings in this show: “The esthetic value of an abstract painting consists in the fullness of its pictorial contents.” This statement, published in the catalogue of an exhibition held in Moscow in 1919, seems especially useful to consider now, some 70 years later, given the trend these days that finds a number of artists striving to put back into abstract painting what the reductive Minimal and Conceptual tendencies dominant in the ’60s and ’

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  • Roy Lichtenstein

    Museum of Modern Art; Leo Castelli

    “The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein,” a traveling show of some 275 works organized by Museum of Modem Art curator Bernice Rose, is a herculean effort, an attempt at a retrospective of the artist’s drawing practice and, through the drawings, his total production. “Given the very large size of many of Lichtenstein’s paintings,” writes Rose in her catalogue preface, “only at the scale of drawing is it possible to have a detailed view of his career within a single exhibition.” Her aim is to trace the “logical unfolding of Lichtenstein’s work,” to describe, in a coherent manner, the diversity of a

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  • Vikky Alexander

    Cash/Newhouse

    Vikky Alexander’s recent wall-hung constructions are made of rectilinear arrangements of laminated strips in maple, birch, or pine wood-grain finish. Alexander creates each composition by joining together several L-shaped segments (or concentric rectangles) in an alternating pattern of contrasting finishes. The illusionistic effects resulting from her manipulations of proportion bring to mind Frank Stella’s “Black Paintings,” 1958–60, whose relations of compositional elements to center and framing edge they mimic; and the materials she uses echo Richard Artschwager’s statement from 1965 about

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  • Aimee Rankin

    Postmasters

    For the works in this exhibition, “Ecstasy,” Aimee Rankin used a format similar to that of her last year’s show. Suspended from the wall at regular intervals were 13 boxes, the interiors of which are arranged with complex assemblages of miniature images and objects, and the exteriors covered with Formica in colors cued to their themes. Each box represents one “elemental” emotional state within the theme of passion, a division encompassing (to follow Rankin’s narrative sequence) Attraction, Bliss, Perversity, Suffocation, Fury, Sex, Possession, Jealousy, Sadness, Cruelty, Fear, Loss, and Memory.

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  • Tom Otterness

    Brooke Alexander

    Using his familiar tubby, toylike figures, Tom Otterness has created The Tables, 1986–87, a theatrical tour de force rich with sociological import. On three Cor-Ten steel tables, which are arranged in one long row, an array of cast-bronze objects is laid out in a narrative of contrasting scenes. On the first table, animals and humans live happily together in a primitive paradise, although it is already tainted with worship of the machine (a telephone), while, emerging through hinged doors that open out of the tabletop, a giant whale represents the forces of nature, whose power mankind has

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  • Gerhard Richter

    Marian Goodman; Sperone Westwater

    In these works, Gerhard Richter looks like an Abstract Expressionist, but he isn’t. Yes, the works are holistic and gestural, and there are moments of illusion in them that make one think of sublimely blurred landscapes—look at the “waterfall” in Ohne Titel 595–3 (Untitled 595–3, 1986)—but the overall effect is more one of restraint than release, inhibition than “exhibition.” The paradox of Richter’s pictures is that they look sumptuous but are withholding in effect; for all their dynamics, they don’t project. They are full of ersatz Sturm and Drang; he gives us a coy perfectionism rather than

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  • Elvira Bach

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Elvira Bach’s painterliness seems perfect for her iconography, which is summarized in her assertion, “Women aren’t like snakes, they are snakes.” She blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy, creating a mythologically effective female figure. She shows woman as lover and as mother. A triumphant young female figure often raises her infant over her head, as in All You Need Is Love, 1986. Alone or in the hierarchy of relationships, women are presented as powerful figures.

    Whether male or female, the figures are naked, suggesting their emancipation, which includes sexual “naturalness.” They

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  • Tim Maul

    Art City

    Tim Maul’s work provides a curious insight into the relationship between photography and writing. Like writing, photography is a transparent medium: an act of inscription upon a surface that effaces itself as it traces what is exterior to it. Despite its apparent coincidence with physical reality, the photograph is an image of what, strictly speaking, never existed, and as such is a hallucination. While other artists have explored this ambivalence through the manipulation of photographic technology, Maul evokes it through the imagery itself. Composed in camera, his photographs—collectively titled

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  • Pat Steir

    New Museum of Contemporary Art; M. Knoedler & Co.

    For her installation at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Pat Steir had the movable interior walls taken out and the permanent surrounding walls painted with a dilute solution of India ink that was then wiped away. The resulting feathery or windblown-looking gray ground received, from the hands of Steir herself and of several coworkers, about 140 images of human facial features drawn with black Conté crayon and oilstick. These images were adopted from various books ranging in date from the 17th to the 19th centuries, mostly books about how to draw human anatomy. The installation’s title,

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  • Brice Marden

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Since Brice Marden first started exhibiting in the mid ’60s, it has been clear that he never felt comfortable with Modernism as it was defined and codified by formalist criticism and theory. Whereas Modernism started out as a search for symbols and an expression of faith, formalism dismissed this desire to reach the ineffable in favor of something concrete and verifiable—which, while it made the job of making art easier and safer, celebrated the triumph of the secular world over the spiritual realm. Consequently, the vulnerable, questioning approach of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian was

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  • David Hannah

    Ruth Siegel

    Is it possible to compose a convincing, painterly abstract realm that incorporates figuration, landscape, and spatiality? Can these elements be used to evoke psychological dramas? David Hannah’s paintings not only raise these questions but answer them very differently than the work of, say, Gregory Amenoff, Louise Fishman, or Bill Jensen. In contrast to these artists, Hannah is more concerned with the possibilities of figuration. Abstract torsos made up largely of elongated lozenge and oval shapes hover in a landscape or roomlike realm, where the complex, often contradictory mood is determined

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  • Robert Helm

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    This was Robert Helm’s first solo exhibition in New York. Helm, who is in his middle 40s and lives in Pullman, Washington, can be characterized as an accomplished artist who makes no concessions to New York attitudes or styles. If anything, his work—both its concerns and the way it’s made—can be seen as antithetical to New York’s declamations of the end of Modernism, self-consciousness, notions of grand themes, and heroic and antiheroic attitudes.

    Helm is both a painter and a craftsman. Each of the pieces in the exhibition combines inlaid wood and painted images in an inventive trompe l’oeil

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  • Jan Groover

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Since achieving recognition in the early ’70s for a series of coolly conceptual photographic pieces, Jan Groover has followed a path that has taken her deeper and deeper into an exploration of the properties of photographic depiction. Perhaps not surprisingly, Groover’s quintessential photographic formalism has led her to rely on an increasingly pared-down technique, involving the use of a large-format camera and black-and-white film to produce platinum-palladium contact prints. At the same time she has restricted her work to a narrow range of subjects, primarily still lifes composed of a limited

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  • Milo Reice

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    Art as a means of communication can be traced back in time to its roots as a narrative form. The paintings of Milo Reice have always possessed something of the simple charms of storytelling, for which art as illustration has persevered throughout the ages. The narrative structure of Reice’s work, in its straightforward description and symbol-laden imagery, most closely resembles that of the fable. The moral tone and esthetic design of the fable have become so embedded in our cultural text that Reice has little difficulty in signaling these to the viewer as deliberate strategies in his own work.

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  • Glenn Branca

    Cable

    The recent efforts of certain artists to reexplore dichotomies of emotional affect through the conventions of abstract geometric art, such as the often cited paintings of Peter Halley and Philip Taaffe, have a much overlooked conceptual precedent in the post-Minimal experimental noise rock of New York’s “no wave” music scene. The musician Glenn Branca, in his first solo exhibition of drawings, “Classical Space: Forms of Infinite Regress Within a Finite Field,” provided a connection between his music and “neo-geo” (the unfortunate label for the current proliferation of new abstraction). It was

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  • Vito Acconci

    International With Monument

    Some jokes just aren’t funny. I suspect that many observers of Vito Acconci’s recent work must feel this way—as if the author of so many magnificently perverse moments in contemporary art has finally gone too far. Acconci’s work has always sought to engage as well as confound the viewer, opening up many possible readings and feelings, including disgust. Although we have come to expect him to outrage our sensibilities—as in Seedbed, 1971, in which he masturbated while hidden under a platform in a SoHo gallery—his previous work has also stimulated us with its wit and vigor. The perversity of

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  • Judith Dolnick

    Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery

    Working with an organic vocabulary of colorful forms that she sends spinning across her canvases, Judith Dolnick reveals herself to be an action painter in the deepest sense of this term. The vision she offers is thoroughly in tune with the dynamism that is paramount in nature and that has been significant in so much 20th-century art. The paintings impress as paeans to this dynamic force by virtue of the tremendously evocative force they carry within themselves. That force is produced by the interactions among the highly integrated structures in her compositions, which, far from appearing planned

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  • David Cale, Smooch Music

    The Kitchen

    Just as performance art began to be understood by the general public as a multimedia fusion, an increasing number of performance artists seem to be choosing a completely opposite form of the genre as their preferred method of getting their points across: the comic monologue. In its simplicity, its lack of pretension, and its homemade production style, this “poor theater” cousin offers a kind of karmic balance to the complex, multisensory, and expensive-to-produce mixed-media performance. It’s no accident that many of the artists working in this reduced style have sprung from low-rent venues.

    Solo

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