reviews

  • Robert Mangold

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Robert Mangold has made five daring new objects, a hybrid species of painting and relief sculpture. These painted, shaped canvases are hung like paintings and stand out a bit uncomfortably from the wall by declaring it. Each of them consists of two panels joined together (a mode of presentation that has become a popular post-Modern conceit), a pair of irregular quadrilateral shapes juxtaposed in intimate yet uneasy coexistence. In four of these works, one panel is a painting with an ellipse inscribed on its surface, while the other is a painted “frame” with a not-quite-diamond-shaped opening

    Read more
  • Georg Baselitz

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Let’s take Georg Baselitz at his word: he’s not a painter of figures or figural elements but of abstract works. His use of the figure is simply his way of restoring credibility and vitality to abstraction after the standardization of its gestural and geometric modes. Baselitz was faced with the same problem as Frank Stella, but instead of trying to solve it by creating a new abstract space through sculptural/architectural artifice, he returned to and manipulated that previously rejected old bugaboo, the figure. Baselitz deliberately put this difficulty in his path to rejuvenate abstraction. It

    Read more
  • Gianni Dessi

    Sperone Westwater

    In this, his best show yet, Gianni Dessì has come into his own. His previous works had a somewhat spiritless character, reconciling the melancholy and deconstructivist modes of Modernism (a dichotomy proposed by Jean-Francois Lyotard) in a low-key way. They seemed oddly unprepossessing, intimating more than they delivered. They made a certain minor point about the subjective possibilities of abstraction, but their material means was not equal to their ambitious spiritual effect.

    The calculated simplicity of the paintings shown here (all but two from 1987) works brilliantly, jarringly. There is

    Read more
  • John Baldessari

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Over the last 15 years or so, John Baldessari’s contribution to the development of post-Modernism has become increasingly evident. That Baldessari considers his art making and his teaching to be a unified practice points up his modest pragmatism: art and ideas are to be used rather than fetishized. In a manner deceptively whimsical and open-ended, he has staked out the present modes of critical inquiry (photo deconstruction, investigation of mass media, appropriation, and allegory) with uncanny rigor.

    Out of an early affinity to John Cage’s esthetic, Baldessari works from direct, literal perceptions

    Read more
  • ACT-UP

    New Museum

    At a time in the post-Modern discourse when the political and the esthetic are all but separate, the window installation Let the Record Show . . . by ACT-UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) has been especially welcome. Throughout history, political groups have continually made use of art as a means of disseminating their ideology, for art has never been beyond the reach of a cause, sympathetic or otherwise.

    ACT-UP is a radical, grass-roots, positive-action organization dedicated to developing political and medical justice during the AIDS crisis. This nonpartisan New York group meets weekly

    Read more
  • “Fictions”

    Kent Fine Art

    Picture an alternative art history that begins in the late 18th century, bypasses Modernism but includes Modernist-influenced imagery from film and advertising, and winds up in 1987 with eccentrics like Mark Tansey, Mark Innerst, and Troy Brauntuch. This was the apparent premise behind “Fictions,” a two-gallery exhibition of 46 works curated by Douglas Blau, and the catalogue that accompanied it. I say “apparent premise” because everything about this event—from its title (a reference to Ficciones, a book of stories by Jorge Luis Borges) to the way the compulsively uniform installation made the

    Read more
  • Gerome Kamrowski

    Joan T. Washburn Gallery

    Gerome Kamrowski was born in Warren, Minnesota, in 1914. After studying art at the Art Students League in New York and the New Bauhaus in Chicago, he received a Guggenheim Foundation grant in 1938 to study with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown. Shortly afterward, he became friends with William Baziotes and learned firsthand of Surrealist techniques, such as collage and frottage. Kamrowski lived in New York from 1938 until ’46, when he moved to Michigan to teach. In addition to Baziotes, his circle of friends in New York included Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Peter Busa, Jackson Pollock, and

    Read more
  • Markus Raetz

    Farideh Cadot

    With a few bits of twig and some slightly bent sheets of zinc, Markus Raetz constructs an art pared down to a skeletal structure, a structure that is a metaphor for the poetic structure of art. His work is about art yet is neither proselytizing nor didactic, never falling into the reductive analysis of the type of deconstructive art currently in vogue. Raetz reflects the workings of art by presenting metaphoric equivalences that are layered and complex in meaning.

    Raetz’s metaphors are not literary but visual and perceptual. He rejects the linear, rational, instructive pleasures of the text for

    Read more
  • Chris Burden

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    Chris Burden’s self-destructive performances of the early ’70s left themselves open to virtually any interpretation, or to none. Unwilling to do anything more complex than play out his preoccupation with violence, he inadvertently freed his work to become a form of apocalyptic poetry for a generation that felt little affinity for art, and none at all for the gallery system. Performed seminude in private and recorded for video consumption, pieces like Shoot, 1971—in which Burden took a .22 caliber bullet in the arm—and Through the Night Softly, 1973—in which he crawled through broken glass in

    Read more
  • “Rooms With A View”

    Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos

    “Rooms with a View,” curated by Fred Wilson and designed by Curt Belshe and Lise Prown, was a richly textured, seriocomic interrogation of the cultural and esthetic codes of three types of stereotypical museum spaces, installed, with fine irony, in the old P.S. 39 building in the Bronx. The views in question were those of the turn-of-the-century Salon, the Modernist “white box,” and the ethnographic museum, addressing “the struggle between culture, content, and the context of art.” What is particularly to the point is that in cross-referencing from one space to another, a politicized ethnographic

    Read more
  • Jane Rosen

    Grace Borgenicht

    The wall sculpture that Jane Rosen exhibited last year displayed a certain kinship with Gregory Amenoff’s paintings. Each of these artists used a vocabulary of biomorphic abstraction to evoke a self-reflexive vision of nature’s forces and processes. In Rosen’s case, the cocoonlike forms seemed to be intended as metaphorical surrogates of women’s collective body, which is linked with nature because both are sites of creation. In addition to the cocoonlike wall pieces, that exhibition also included three freestanding bird effigies.

    In her most recent work, shown here in an exhibition entitled “Oak

    Read more
  • Joseph Nechvatal

    Brooke Alexander

    In a manic proliferation of communication, Joseph Nechvatal’s overmediated language streams across the viewer’s info-fried consciousness as a miasma of fuzzy, fleeting, and overlapping images. The result is something like receiving television signals from several stations and data banks simultaneously on a single screen and trying to read the tangled web of electronic blips and blobs for whatever subliminal truths can be found there. One way to look at Nechvatal’s development since his first shows in alternative spaces in 1979 would be in terms of the various media with which he has chosen to

    Read more
  • Mel Chin

    Loughelton Gallery

    It might take volumes to explicate Mel Chin’s ambitious installation “The Operation of the Sun Through the Cult of the Hand,” 1987—to explain all the careful details and their symbolic and associative significance. Although such an investigation would be justified by Chin’s complex network of references, much of the poetry of his art would be lost in the translation. The installation consisted of nine works, named after the nine planets, that represent a distillation of myriad Eastern and Western concepts spanning centuries of religious, scientific, and cultural history. Chin has delved into

    Read more
  • William S. Burroughs

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Of all the American novels to be published since the end of World War II, William S. Burroughs has written some of the most powerful. His most famous are Junkie (1953) and Naked Lunch (1959), but since then he has written nearly a dozen more among his thirty-odd books, including the trilogy Cities of the Red Night (1981), The Place of Dead Roads (1984), and The Western Lands (1987). In The Western Lands, Burroughs offers a succinct summary of his provocative, searing vision: “The road to the Western Lands is by definition the most dangerous road in the world, for it is a journey beyond Death,

    Read more
  • Nixon In China

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    When the title character of Nixon in China stepped out of the doorway of the mock Air Force One presidential jet and gave his familiar, trademark wave to the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House crowd, the opera’s conceit was overtly confirmed. The audience roared and applauded, completing the conceptual circuit between the public’s real-life love/hate relationship with the former president and its unabashed delight in seeing that connection portrayed in art. As an operatic idea, Nixon in China was one of those rare spectacles—a serious portrayal of a contemporary political subject and a

    Read more
  • Creation, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

    La MaMa E. T. C.

    Nearly 70 years after its premiere, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari continues to attract theatrical adapters. It’s not hard to see why. Structured and staged like a Jacobean revenge tragedy, the silent movie displays a dramatic range that is practically Shakespearean, from moments of supernatural horror to the larger allegorical theme of institutional power run amok. Interwoven with these classically theatrical elements are a feverish Weimar psychosexual angst and an Expressionist mise-en-scène that give this unusual art-film period piece the appearance of a quintessentially modern myth.

    As a

    Read more
  • Armando Morales

    Claude Bernard Gallery

    Although the Nicaraguan-born artist Armando Morales has spent much time during the last three decades in different locations throughout South America, Europe, and the United States, his true home has remained the realm of the imagination. Judging by the paintings in this recent show, all from 1987, his closest “neighbors” in this dreamlike region are Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Delvaux. Like them, Morales exploits the illusionistic force of painting to shake the usual rock-solid hold that reality has on our senses.

    The paintings of figures in landscapes are the most ambitious works shown here.

    Read more
  • MacDonald And Salter

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    Christopher Macdonald and Peter Salter have worked together since 1982, first as instructors at London’s Architectural Association and then as creative partners. For them as for so many young architects today, the disciplines of teaching, research, theory, and design coincide and complement each other. The most common vehicles for this quartet of constructive activities are the architectural competition and the self-initiated proposal. The competition is a particularly effective forum for testing ideas within stated and anticipated parameters of program, site, size, and community expectations.

    Read more
  • Charles Pollock

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    Charles Pollock, the older brother of Jackson Pollock, is now 85, living in Paris and reportedly ailing. Although his work was overshadowed by that of his revolutionary younger brother, there is more than a bit of the rebel about him as well. This was apparent in the group of paintings featured in this recent exhibition, which were done in 1968 and ’69, years in which abstract painting was still dominated by geometric color-field painting. The older Pollock worked in much the same kind of reductive context as such big guns of the ’60s as Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, and Frank Stella, but with

    Read more