reviews

  • Robert Kushner

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Robert Kushner has turned to hard bronze, seemingly moving far from the soft textiles that aided and abetted the intimate effect of his previous work. Precious transience–—the poignant effect of a fabulous flower in full bloom so characteristic of his fluid, relaxed figures–—seems to have been replaced by eternal durability. Does this signal a hardening of purpose, a didacticism of the decorative, a polemicizing of the charismatic figure? I think not. By creating what he calls “negative cutouts,” and by continuing to use abandoned materials (now “an inventory of cast and wrought iron pieces,

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  • Ti Shan Hsu

    Leo Castelli; Pat Hearn

    Can the technological be made expressive? Is the technological inherently expressive, much as we think the organic is? Has the “modem” task of art been to draw out this “new” expressivity, in celebration of the dominance of technology in our lives? These are the questions Ti Shan Hsu addresses. They are not new questions. They emerged with Constructivism and were sustained by Minimalism. What is new is that Hsu’s technologically oriented, geometrically conceived objects–among the most innovative (some would say eccentric) that I have seen in a while—are ambivalent rather than affirmative about

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  • Kevin Sinnott

    Bernard Jacobson Gallery | New York

    While the technological imperative has become increasingly tarnished, the old imperative of human expressivity seems to have been going through a revival of sorts in recent years. One can understand Kevin Sinnott’s pictures as part of that revival. One of their distinctions is that they focus expressivity not through the single figure, whose physiognomy is exploited to often grotesque effect, but rather through the tension in human relationships. This tension is made palpable not simply through intense glance and gesture (although that is half-satirically evident in Fame, 1986), but through the

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  • Taro Suzuki

    Daniel Newburg Gallery

    Through the use of figure/ground illusions in his new work, Taro Suzuki questions the “truth” of human perceptions. The fantastic character of Suzuki’s earlier art, especially the organic surrealism of his lava lamps, has been largely preserved in his latest efforts, but in a tone remarkably more austere and direct. It is as if, by creating streamlined versions of his science-fiction fantasy objects, with a more precise rendering of effects and an almost laboratorylike reduction of all extraneous elements, he has been able to convince us that these new, purer models are absolutely scientific.

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  • Fred Riskin

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    The myths of a day are invisibly woven from the subliminal threads of that which lies beyond understanding. Fred Riskin’s recent installation of Conceptual art, Sub Rosa: A Psychic Journey, 1987, created just such a modem fable of unseen powers, vague and superhuman. It is a decidedly narrative sort of tale, an engrossing international spy story of intrigue, danger, and extrasensory perception. Captivating as a thriller should be, it works as an atmospherically dense web of photographs, text, and sound. The sense of mystery that pervades the installation arises out of the sinister shadows of

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  • Barbara Kruger

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The gallery show is usually an occasion to display the year’s latest products, the newest, hottest items off the assembly line of an individual artist’s practice. However, in this exhibition Barbara Kruger eschewed the convention of showing only recent work, preferring to arrange a selection of works from 1981 to the present. The central characteristic of her work–the photograph cropped, enlarged, and juxtaposed with strident verbal statements or phrases–was evident in several forms, ranging from her now “classic” red-framed black-and-white works to variations using lenticular screens, color

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  • “FAKE”

    New Museum of Contemporary Art

    Some ideas defy representation in exhibited form. “Large” questions –the kind that comprise what we might term a cultural condition–are too diffuse, too densely reticulated, too “fundamental” to resolve themselves easily into images; the museum or gallery effort generally seems puny (at best) or illustrative (at worst). These problems beset “FAKE,” curated by William Olander, an exhibition designed to evoke the waning of the real in contemporary art practice.

    Olander’s topic, bluntly stated, is the erosion of originality. His intention was to conjure up, through the work of 17 individual artists

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  • Ann Preston

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    This first New York one-person exhibition by California-based Ann Preston revealed the artist to be a master of the quizzical object. The impulse behind her roundelay of sculpture, paintings, and drawings seems to be the transformation of a limited number of formal motifs, which are first reduced to linear elements and then varied according to the different materials and techniques employed. In this case, two motifs predominated: the eye and the profile. The eye, of course, is sexless, while here the profile is sexed in the feminine; indeed, Preston reduces and refines this basic form until it

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  • 1987 Biennial Exhibition: Film and Video

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Even though this year’s Whitney Biennial seemed like a return to normalcy, the film and video component wasn’t relegated to the back room entirely. Bruce Nauman’s video installation The Krefeld Piece: Good Boy/Bad Boy, 1985, was given pride of place in an alcove off the main lobby, while other video works—the Grandmother and Grandfather, both 1986, from Nam June Paik’s Family of Robot, made of old TV sets; Grahame Weinbren and Roberta Friedman’s interactive videodisk The Erl King, 1986; and Judith Barry’s First and Third, 1986–mingled with the rest of the invited guests. But both in the front

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  • Howard Buchwald

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    For more than a decade, and largely unacknowledged as a pioneer, Howard Buchwald developed a painterly approach that simultaneously examined the Renaissance and Modernist notions of illusionism and literalism. Derived from the discursive paradigms that each of these periods codified in order to look at and discuss art, Buchwald’s examinations arose out of a carefully defined two-step process. In the first, the artist decided upon the paintings shape and then carefully plotted out and made a series of linear cuts, demarcated curving bands that would remain unpainted, and drilled angled holes into

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  • Gregory Amenoff

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Gregory Amenoff has been exhibiting regularly since the mid ’70s. He is considered to be in the forefront of the ranks of abstract artists who address the mythic qualities of landscape while aligning themselves with early Modernists such as Arthur Dove and Charles Burchfield. Although his work has received a big boost by being seen in this context, such a reading leads to tepid generalizations and easy assertions. Critics and curators alike have tended to emphasize the artist’s use of organic shapes and earth colors, as if he is content with revising the accomplishments of the visionary landscape

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  • Red Grooms

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    Red Grooms is one of the few artists whose work, particularly his mixed-media collaborative installations, has attracted the attention of people who don’t ordinarily look at contemporary art. City of Chicago, 1967, Ruckus Manhattan, 1975, and Ruckus Rodeo, 1975, were both events and exhibitions, the kind to which parents were glad to bring their children. Grooms took something big and domesticated it through flamboyant caricature, painstaking detail, and an unabashed affection tempered by a wild, snappy wit. Complete with a ferryboat large enough to amble through, Ruckus Manhattan was a sprawling

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  • Barbara Kassel

    Maxwell Davidson Gallery

    At first glance, Barbara Kassel’s work seems to have little in common with current art practice and its means of addressing the problem of subjectivity. Making no appeal to the effects of mass-media culture and its fetishization of the codes of reproduction, it refers instead to much older European traditions, in which narrative painting is intimately bound to an architectural context. The form of the work is reminiscent of the modest trecento or early quattrocento predella, more often than not encountered in museums as an object orphaned from its parent altarpiece. In addition to relatively

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  • Adrien Piper

    Alternative Museum

    This retrospective of Adrian Piper’s works consisted of an uncommonly small and unassuming set of objects that took on larger dimensions and greater depth as one examined them. Most of the exhibition (which was curated by Jane Farver) featured photographs conspicuously lacking in technical splendor, videotapes in an easy and relaxed interviewlike style, looseleaf binders containing conceptual works based on mental experiments, and audiocassette players with headphones. Many of these deal with complex areas of language and thought, subjects that Piper has studied intensively for more than 15

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  • Jo Goldberg

    Leonard Perlson Gallery

    In her first show of paintings, Jo Goldberg exhibited six large, unstretched, horizontal canvases (and two small vertical ones) that hover in between abstraction and representation. All of them show a strong sense of landscape, as if one were peering into an overgrown thicket. They also demonstrate a broad range of emotional tone, from somber and stately in the earlier works to a brighter, slightly oversweet, stylized tachism in the most recent. The somber tone was achieved by using an old master palette, building up the colors in layers from ochers through greens to black. Although she maintained

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  • Huck Snyder, Circus

    La MaMa Galleria; Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage

    From Pablo Picasso’s striking, painted decor for Parade to Alexander Calder’s toylike sculpture circus, the Big Top has been raided by visual artists in this century for colorful, “low” subject matter on which to exercise “high” art techniques, with a perfunctory nod to the circus-as-a-metaphor-for-life conceit to provide an implicit philosophical rationale. In Circus, visual artist Huck Snyder and a squad of collaborators created a performance-art revue on circus themes, based on an ’80s club/cabaret sensibility of multiplying ideas and modes of performance that are thoroughly compatible with

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  • Lydia Lunch, The Gun is Loaded

    The Performing Garage

    Like her records, videotapes, and writings, Lydia Lunch’s performance monologue The Gun Is Loaded tried to fall off the edge of the rational world with its relentless obscenities, unrelieved negativity, and flat-footed presentation. What was revealed, however, was not a devastating glimpse of the abyss, but the almost total failure of the clichés of classic blasphemy to shock. Lunch’s “too much” was not nearly enough; her additions to the nihilistic vocabulary—praise of “the plague” (clearly AIDS) as population control, rape fantasies with “niggers”—were as ineffectual as the other, standard

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  • Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison

    Grey Art Gallery

    The Harrisons are an art-world anomaly who look for slippages in the world. The ongoing collaboration between Helen (a teacher/scholar) and Newton (an artist/teacher) has generated a series of productions and investigations during the past 15 years that are at once instructional, instigatory, optimistic, and accessible. It is likely that, in the early years of their collaboration, Helen’s expertise as a researcher led them to new insights into changing relationships, while Newton’s esthetic focus pushed the work beyond documentation and problem-solving to art. But it is clear that their

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  • “Room in the City”

    City Gallery

    This exhibition featured architectural models and drawings by five architects and four teams of architects who had been selected to renovate individual apartments in a tenement building on New York’s Mott Street. The nine living units ranged in size from 250 to 450 square feet, and the suggested construction budget for each unit was $15,000 (although that figure was not strictly adhered to). Fortunately, the premises of the project made this something other than an exercise in small-scale real-estate development. While the individuals and small groups worked autonomously, they had opportunities

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  • Abby Shahn

    Midtown Galleries

    In this show of recent paintings, Abby Shahn succeeds in reinventing the grid, which is no mean feat. Using primarily the vivid medium of egg tempera on paper, she turns the gridfrom a symbol of Minimalism and the reductive impulse in abstraction into a metaphor of sensualism and the exuberant tendency also implicit in abstraction. However, the exuberant side of abstraction is the very one that many artists have sought to tame, particularly those with a theoretical or conceptual bent, from Mondrian and Malevich to Sol LeWitt. Without sacrificing either the fundamental rigor of geometry or the

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  • Clyde Connell

    Oscarsson Siegltuch

    Clyde Connell’s vision is distinguished by an uncommon sensitivity to the vitalistic aspects of nature; her work goes right to the quick of things. This 85-year-old artist (who only turned to making art full-time in her 50s) deals with a multitude of experiences both pleasant and painful, from cradle to grave, revealing the fundamentals of life in forms and images that are powerful enough to impress as icons. Her instinctive understanding of the magic of art was evident almost everywhere in this show.

    A striking example of Connell’s ability to enchant is provided by Time and Space Mantis Man,

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