reviews

  • Edgar Heap of Birds

    American Indian Community House Gallery/Museum

    Male identity in Western culture has tended to be defined in terms of relations of power that circulate around gender and cultural difference––an identity in support of which an abundance of anthropological and zoological data has been assembled to “prove” that the inferiority of women and others is the “natural” order of things. Edgar Heap of Bird's work has always recognized this situation as a problem of rhetoric, of a measure of the untranslatability between disparate entities, but one that nevertheless has had serious effects upon the psychic and social well-being of his people in Oklahoma

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  • Curt Royston

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The agenda for Curt Royston's mixed-media installation Half Light, a mélange of painted environments, real objects, photographs, simultaneous live video broadcast, was mind games: perspectival paradoxes, trompe l'oeil tricks, and ultimately reality conundrums. In the Whitney's sterile, relatively small film and video exhibition space, Royston's photographs and video images were shown side by side with the “life-size” constructions on which they were based. These funky tableaux, with their garish, van Gogh colors and confusing juxtapositions of real and painted objects, set up strange, Caligari-like

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  • Peter Halley

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Where Helmut Federle's work tells us that certain subjective possibilities are still alive, Peter Halley's work tells us about the abstract objective actuality that we inhabit. Put another way, he shows us abstract art as one more manipulation within a world manipulated by technologically inspired abstractions. In a sense, his art continues the work of technologizing and systematizing abstraction that began with Josef Albers' reduction of it to interactions of color. But Albers' paintings still had pretensions to spirituality—or at least paid it lip service through their titles.

    Halley's paintings

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  • Ida Applebroog

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Ida Applebroog's recent paintings mark a steady progression away from the storyboard-style works of the '70s and early '80s for which she is known. Gone are the curtained windows transforming viewers into voyeurs; instead, Applebroog's latest dramas surround the observer with a dense, cloying insistence. Moreover, Rhoplex has been replaced by oil paint, and cool monochromes by combinations of warm hues that often deviate jarringly from the actual colors of their referents. But the strongest change in these works lies in the new register into which Applebroog shifts her own reading of the human

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  • Elaine Sturtevant

    57 STUX + Haller Gallery

    Over the past few years myriad references have been made to this prototypical appropriator, this artist who, by copying the works of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and others in the mid '60s, anticipated the artistic discourse on originality by two decades. These discussions of Elaine Sturtevant's work repeatedly pointed to the way in which her re-creations paradoxically reduced the practices of Sherrie Levine, Mike Bidlo, and others to repetitions of a single, seminal activity. I just had to rush to see this show of work by an artist who, it seemed, had “done

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  • Joseph Amar

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    There is a small and selective following for the work of Joseph Amar, the kind of viewership that anxiously awaits each new occasion to observe the latest increment in a carefully measured practice. Amar's approach to painting is quiet and ruminative, almost languid, developing a precisely determined pictorial program and avoiding sharp changes and “major statements.” Much has been made of his relationship to Minimalism, but he lacks Minimalism's obduracy and its focus on specific objects in space. Instead, the issues relevant to Amar's paintings are restraint, refinement, and the capacity of

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  • Peter Schuyff

    This two-gallery exhibition of recent work by Peter Schuyff featured acrylic paintings and watercolors. At Castelli's, Schuyff showed six very large untitled paintings, all from 1987, and three smaller ones, from 1986 and '87. A grid underlies all nine of these paintings, although it is often distorted in some way, sometimes suggesting the complex visual effects of Op art, especially the works of Victor Vasarely. In one, the grid is painted as if seen through a fish-eye lens; in another, it is implied by a regular pattern of blazelike spots; in a third, it seems to throb subtly on the surface.

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  • Helmut Federle

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Helmut Federle makes paintings that eloquently exemplify the new subjective abstraction. His work, which continues and transforms the “metaphysical” tradition of early Modernist abstract painting, competes with the new objectivist abstract painting—for example, Peter Halley's work—for the heritage and power of abstraction. Where Federle demonstrates that abstraction is still alive and can connote the spiritual, Halley suggests that such an alternative is dead in a world that itself has become abstract. Today abstraction is stuck on the horns of this dilemma, a polarization from which there seems

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  • Graham Campbell

    CDS Gallery

    There are two schools of thought about the relationship between abstraction—the visual in its supposedly purest form—and the literary. From one point of view, abstraction is the highest stage of visual evolution, and the literary is an outgrown appendage to it, like the vestige of a tail at the base of the human spine. According to the other, abstraction is a kind of visual poetry, a term not used metaphorically but rather to indicate that, while its “message” is often obscure and untranslatable into ordinary language, abstraction is in fact a language, obscure because of its cabalistic nature.

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  • Joan Nelson

    Fawbush Gallery

    Joan Nelson makes small, intimate, untitled landscape paintings that are extraordinarily lovely. They have a smoldering, luminescent atmosphere that gives them an aged, old master look. In part this is technically created. Each one is painted on panel in layers, with the paint seeping into the pores of the wood, and most are coated with wax (in this exhibition, 10 out of the 12 works shown). Sensual surface is layered upon sensual surface, creating a glazed look of embalmed beauty. It is the surface of mystery that the old masters seemed to achieve effortlessly, a surface whose gracious sensuality

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  • Neil Winokur

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    Despite their scenting lightheartedness, Neil Winokur's photographic portraits underline the close relationship between portraiture and funerary art. In these multipanel works a relatively straightforward photograph of the subject is accompanied by close-ups of various objects selected by the sitter, presumably for their personal significance. In earlier works Winokur had presented these panels in various arrangements—stacked like a totem pole, with the image of the person at the top and the accompanying photos of objects below; or arranged like a pyramid or like a cross, again with the person

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  • Philip Guston

    David McKee Gallery

    There are some who believe that society's acceptance of an artist's vision diminishes that vision. More often than not, society erodes the artist's independence by transforming artwork into a commodity, which ultimately entraps him or her in a symbiotic relationship. One approach to this dilemma is for the artist to exploit this relationship—a strategic maneuver of which Andy Warhol was a past master, using it to achieve a mass audience. Another approach, diametrically opposite to this one, is the one taken by Philip Guston, who, each time he gained approval, began to doubt himself to such an

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  • Willem de Kooning

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Willem de Kooning once said, “I never made a Cubist painting.” I believe that this is an honest self-appraisal, but there are many who consider it inaccurate. The '50s and early '60s were dominated by formalist critics who grouped together most of that period's generation of abstract painters under the rubric of Abstract Expressionism and interpreted their work in terms of Cubist principles. Although there were many painters and sculptors who consciously aligned themselves with this school of thought, and with its ideology of progressive Modernism, de Kooning's approach to painting was and is

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  • Lydia Dona

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Space: the word itself conjures up all sorts of associations. In the art world, which is but a tiny province in the universe, space has come to be a formal term. For the generation of abstract artists who came of age a decade after World War II, the fabrication of literal or empirical space and the elision of subject matter were the approved goals. If you could achieve an empirical space (or literal surface) that could also be equated with a grand theme, you were carrying the torch once held by such pioneers of abstraction as Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, and Barnett Newman.

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  • Nina Beall

    Graham Modern

    In her first solo show in New York, Nina Beall, a young Texas artist now based in Chicago, reveals herself to be a painter in the tradition of the heavily impastoed, expressionistic landscapes of Van Gogh. Like Van Gogh, Beall is thoroughly attuned to the vital rhythms of nature. She brings out their emblematic significance through repetitions of color and shape, while the variations in the planar design of the compositions build pictorial energies to intensely engaging levels of feeling and sensation. So assured is Beall's technique that she succeeds in impressing her vision even on landscape

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  • Larry Brown

    Carlo Lamagna Gallery

    Never in the history of art has painting meant more things to more people, with no clear consensus about the means to be used or the ends worth achieving. Such pluralism has contributed to painting's basically healthy state in the late 1980s. The current popular approaches cover a wide range of formal and thematic practices, from the revival of various academic and Modernist styles to an ironic strategy of simulation. This variety of options includes Larry Brown's deeply affirmative approach to painting, based on his belief in the medium as a means of miraculous communication.

    Brown's recent show

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  • Bessie Harvey

    Cavin Morris Gallery

    Despite being misused and overused, the term “visionary art” describes the art of Bessie Harvey in its most profound and moving sense, as an evocation of the connections between material and spiritual being. Her organic sculptures are realizations of invention and faith, in a form that is both physical and metaphysical. Using fragments of the trunks, limbs, or roots of trees, together with wood putty, spray paint, house paint, glitter, glass and plastic beads, feathers, dried vines, and other found materials, Harvey creates works whose meanings are layered like the inner and outer skin of personal

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  • Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel

    Public Art Fund | City Hall Park

    All of the work by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel that I have seen up to now has been in spatial contexts that were defined and enclosed. Whether in small spaces, such as the display windows of the New Museum, or large ones, such as the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, their complex but spare compositions always had a concentrated impact. The clearly perceptible limits inherent in such spaces enhanced the basic forms and kinetic elements used by these artists and their wonderful sense of materials as catalytic ingredients. I was curious to see how they would work without the restrictions of a contained

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  • Bolek Greczynski and the People of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, “Battlefields”

    The Living Museum, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center

    Traveling to the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center can seem like going to the end of the earth. It is at the final stop on one of the subway lines in the borough of Queens, and it represents a long and last stop for many of its patients who cannot expect recovery or anticipate any remarkable improvement. However, Creedmoor is not an obscure outpost but a unique and complex subculture within our collective culture. It is a community whose similarities to life on the outside are conspicuous.

    In 1984 Bolek Greczynski made a proposal to Creedmoor officials. He requested some space in this enormous

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  • Robbie McCauley, Indian Blood

    The Kitchen

    Like an orthodox neo-Brechtian performance artist, Robbie McCauley fed the stomach first in Indian Blood, 1987, her politically bent mixed-media work, by passing around casually introduced plates of fruit to the audience. But the ideological stew that followed was a half-baked dish, a smorgasbord of personal anecdotes and sociopolitical attitudes that didn't congeal. Instead of echt Brecht, McCauley gave us a well-intentioned, passionately felt, and personally meaningful exhibition that was too monotone, too diffuse, and finally too unresolved to be effective agitprop. Indian Blood desperately

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