reviews

  • David Reed

    Max Protetch

    David Reed continues to explore variations of the lush, sweeping folds of color that have become the hallmark of his painting. On one level these marks suggest magnified, almost fetishized brushstrokes, but their swirling, bulging forms carry other references as well, from rumpled velvet to whitewashed store windows to hilly landscapes. Reed divides his compositions into rectangular sections, most of which are filled with these brushstrokes. Usually, the brushstrokes are contained within individual sections, but sometimes they continue across several of them. In many of the paintings, a section

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  • Michael Spano

    Laurence Miller Gallery

    In work shown last year, Michael Spano seemed to be following closely in the Surrealist tradition. He applied the technique of solarization, in which some parts of the image are flipped back into negative tones, to traditional Surrealist subjects: the female nude and (in a series of pictures of his wife) woman-as-romantic-mystery. Here, though, he tilted the equation by using nondescript photographs of more or less ordinary street scenes as the basis for his solarizations.

    Portrait of a Man, 1986, for example, shows a bareheaded old man on the street; the background is thrown out of focus and

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  • Raul Ruiz, Mammame

    Film Forum

    It’s always been pretty obvious that Raul Ruiz has a terrific eye, and perhaps less acknowledged that he has a great mouth. All his films (and that’s a lot) are marked by virtuoso verbal eruptions, a scripting that skids from aphorism to sophism to humorism. This is most apparent in Roof of the Whale, 1982, where he is freed from his crush on avant-garde linguistic turns and self-congratulatory dazzle and constructs a work that is at once gorgeous, grim, and gigantically giggly. So it is with much curiosity that we approach Mammame, 1986. Here is Ruiz without words, Ruiz and the document, Ruiz

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Whitney Museum of American Art; Leo Castelli

    In 1912, for the first time in modern painting, an artist simulated the textures of veined marble and wood grain. The artist was Georges Braque, who had been trained as a painter-decorator. Ever since, artists of many persuasions have used this “crafty” method of generating perceptual and conceptual paradox. Richard Artschwager, who was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker and produced furniture for a living in the ’50s, has also made simulated marble and woodgrain works, thus broadly locating himself in the Cubist tradition. Artschwager, however, has carried the method to a fresh extreme, generating

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  • Pier Paolo Calzolari

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    The six sculptures in this exhibition, all associated with the Conceptual art that flourished in the late ’60s and early ’70s, are as quietly vital as when they were first made, and now freshly pertinent. Where they were once important because of their integration of heterogeneous materials (including neon, tobacco leaves, a flute, a refrigerator compressor, candles) into a poetic antiart, they are now important because of their role as markers on a secret path to transcendental wisdom. In all of these “Keatsian” works there is a latent religiosity, a preoccupation with the notion of the divine,

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  • Eva Hesse

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    As with Pier Paolo Calzolari, symbolism is latent in Eva Hesse’s art, the basis of its expressive power. It now seems more evident than ever. Perhaps the passage of time is necessary to make the spiritual character of an art manifest, to show that its materiality serves a deeper purpose than to establish a novel appearance. In the case of art, “time will tell” means that if a work still looks purely material after it has been in the world a certain period of time—if it seems nothing but the sum of its “formal facts,” as Clement Greenberg called them—then it is worthless. The ’80s development of

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  • Art & Language

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The museum, both as idea and as physical space, is the subject of Art & Language’s remarkable ongoing series of paintings “Index: Incident in a Museum.” In recent works from this series, a group of which were shown here, Art & Language has been trying to strike a new balance between language (or concept) and art (the actual, material work—in this case, paintings), with an emphasis now on the art. The concept behind this series appears to be Art & Language’s belief that all art is intended for the museum from the start. This includes not only these very works but even the books that Art & Language

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  • On Kaware

    Sperone Westwater

    This show featured five works from On Kawara’s “Today” series: JULY 16, 1969, JULY 20, 1969, JULY 21, 1969, FEB. 27, 1987, and MAY 1, 1987. Each work in the series consists of the month, day, and year of a single date, and was made entirely on the date depicted. Letters and numbers are in white acrylic on black acrylic grounds, and are painted with the deadpan impassivity of a sign painter. Although done by hand, it is as if they were manufactured mechanically, made by following the directions in an instruction manual. For example, according to the press release: “Each painting takes eight to

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  • James Lee Byars

    Mary Boone Gallery

    For the past 20 years James Lee Byars has explored the medium of installation, usually incorporating himself into each work. His installations are thus not mere presentations of artifacts. Whether seated in a chair writing questions and reading them aloud to a spectator, or engaged in the ceremonial act of setting sheets of gold leaf on fire at twilight, Byars activates the objects within his surroundings. By including himself as part of the artistic spectacle, he reverses the conventional role of subject/object by inverting the object (that which is beheld) into another subject (a beholder).

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  • Woody Allen, September

    Woody Allen is perhaps the most important filmmaker currently working in the English language, a true auteur. Unlike so many of his American colleagues, he is not interested in big budgets, all-star casts, or high-tech special effects. His films are ultimately highly personal statements about life, death, love, and relationships. Like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, his spiritual mentors, Allen has devoted much of the past 20 years to creating a rich visual landscape with a team of technicians and actors and a strong repertory of characters, concerns, plots, and themes.

    Allen’s films generally

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  • Jean-Luc Godard, King Lear

    Jean-Luc Godard’s new film, King Lear, 1987, is first and foremost an “approach,” as its intertitles frequently remind us. At one point, in the guise of a shaman/professor, the director says, “An image is not strong because it is brutal or fantastic, but because it is distant and true.” Thus, the aim of the film, like most of Godard’s work, is to approximate the subject/text rather than to limit it. The intertitles, the sketchiness, the home-movie quality, the deliberately fractured narrative of King Lear are linked to a persistent esthetic. Like Two or Three Things That I Know About Her, 1966,

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  • Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler

    Wolff Gallery

    “Dark on That Whiteness,” a show of four related new works by the young sculptors Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, had the fastidious tone that is virtually a prerequisite among the new generation of Conceptual artists who have come out of California Institute of the Arts. What distinguishes Ericson and Ziegler’s collaborative efforts—and, to a lesser extent, the pieces they’ve been making individually since 1980—is their unabashed continuation of deconstructive modes at a time when so many intellectually inclined artists are romancing viewers with imagery again. This duo wants it both ways, and

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  • Joni Lee Mabe

    Franklin Furnace

    Some of the scariest films have been in documentary form—Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, Robert Frank’s Cocksucker Blues, Frederick Wiseman’s High School. In gallery-oriented art, the job of documentation is usually done through photography. Occasionally a social-critic-cum-artist like Hans Haacke will be taken at his word, although reinterpolating cultural logos is hardly the same thing as editing and framing the world. Joni Lee Mabe’s installation of collected and homemade Elvis Presley memorabilia was such a magnanimous critique of the phenomena surrounding the dead singer that it

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  • Wallace & Donohue

    Postmasters

    Gallery hopping these days can be a little like trying to watch the scrambled signal of a cable-movie channel; the fragments are too distorted in themselves to hold one’s attention, and what they add up to is probably fairly banal anyway. So Joan Wallace and Geralyn Donohue’s highly theatrical and rather fun-loving display of self-critiquing abstract wall constructions seemed to be exceptional—if only by virtue of the fact that it took certain viewers’ suspicions about current art into account.

    What they showed here were seven large works, queer combinations of paintings, wooden frameworks, and

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  • Allen Ruppersberg

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    Allen Ruppersberg’s installation here included some framed examples of what appear to be autograph letters written by notable authors. He retrieved these unpublished letters from obscurity in 1976 by hand copying them and then exhibiting the copies. Displayed in a new context, juxtaposed with some of his more recent work, these letters were in effect re-rediscovered, re-recycled, or more aptly, re-reinvented. While there is a fundamental difference between Ruppersberg’s first purloining of these letters and his recent use of them as already produced art objects in an entirely new show, the nature

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  • Richard Prince

    Times Square

    Over six years ago, Public Art Fund Inc. initiated an unusual project in Times Square. With the cooperation of Spectacolor, Inc., they began to sponsor programmed spots by artists on that company’s large electronic signboard, which is prominently positioned on the north side of the marble-clad office building at 1 Times Square. Since the inception of “Messages to the Public” in January 1982, 77 artists have presented projects there. Generally, each one runs for about 30 seconds and is repeated every 15 to 20 minutes during its month-long run. Sandwiched between advertising and public service

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  • Nancy Cheairs

    Schmidt-Bingham Gallery

    In this, her first show in New York, Nancy Cheairs, a painter from Memphis, Tennessee, demonstrated a talent for creating vibrant symbols. Cheairs is gifted with the power to get at life’s truths and express them in bold visual terms.

    Her forms and compositions are kept to the essentials. In Procession, 1987, for example, the composition consists of four dresses hung on a clothesline suspended between two trees, which are planted right at the horizon line and framed by a red sky. What comes across at first glance are the painting’s comic overtones, magnified by its large scale, stark frontality,

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  • Ken Lum

    Nature Morte

    For at least the past six years Ken Lum has concerned himself with a meditation on closure. His installations have consistently featured arrangements of modular sofas that look for all the world like the work of a paranoid interior decorator who’s decided to “circle the wagons”—that is, the seating is arranged in a perfect square, permitting no point of access. More recently Lum has been making signs out of nonsense words (wordlike letter combinations that belong to no language). In these, the graphic stylization cries out for a response that the absent “text” frustrates.

    With its brusque collision

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  • Jerri Allyn

    Gefens Dairy Restaurant; New Museum of Contemporary Art

    American Dining: a Working Woman’s Moment was an art installation produced in restaurants throughout the United States last winter by Jerri Allyn, a former real-life waitress and a co-founder of a Los Angeles–based performance group called The Waitresses. For Allyn, the occupation has been not simply a frequent job but a rich metaphor for the position of women in contemporary culture. She has used the idea of woman-as-ill-paid servant as a fertile springboard for ideological posturing on related issues from sexism to capitalism. In New York City, Allyn programmed the tabletop jukeboxes in a

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  • Richard Foreman, Symphony of Rats

    The Performing Garage

    “Don’t have a mind, BE mind,” says one of the video robots in Symphony of Rats, 1988, Richard Foreman’s latest Ontological-Hysteric Theater performance piece, a co-production with the Wooster Group. Foreman’s theater has consistently embodied a manic, probing mental condition, not merely reproduced attitudes and/or statements about it. His goal has been to create a vertiginous, multisensory event in which the operations of thought are the actual subject of drama. Further, he wants to instill that particular mental condition in the viewer’s mind.

    In Symphony of Rats, however, Foreman, who wrote

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  • Louise Bourgeois

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Few exhibitions have the force of emotional necessity of this show of drawings by Louise Bourgeois. Spanning nearly half a century—from 1939 to ’87—these 179 works include preparatory studies for sculptures and paintings as well as independent drawings. Although enormously varied in approach (as well as in the materials employed), they debunk much of the mystique still adhering to the notion of drawn “touch.” For what astonishes the viewer of these remarkably disciplined and controlled works is the tremulous vision of the human psyche to which they attest.

    The exhibition began with a series of

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  • “Projects and Proposals”

    City Gallery

    Lacking the broad tradition of civic cultural involvement that is common to many European countries, the United States has often been a battleground for public art. The skirmishes frequently occurring between the artists of such work and their tax-paying audiences have prompted discussions in many quarters on the possibilities of an art that might be both publicly accountable (responsive to the demands of its observers and users) and esthetically sophisticated (responsive to the needs of the specialized art community). This exhibition of 22 projects that are either currently under construction

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  • Alison Wilding

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Judith Fetterley has argued that we learn “to read like men.” This tendency is challenged by Alison Wilding, an English sculptor, who is able to shift her morphological vocabulary from the realm of the male gaze to the feminine. Using a wide range of materials (steel, brass, copper, bronze, rubber, wood, and stone), as well as various techniques (cutting, casting, carving, and chiseling), she makes work that embodies a rich re-visioning of the sculptural presentation of women.

    Nature: Blue and Gold, 1984, subtly derails the viewer’s deeply implanted patterns of association. Through her combination

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  • Jake Grossberg

    Neo Persona

    Jake Grossberg belongs to the generation of sculptors who began working in steel during the late ’50s. In contrast to his peers, however, he did not adhere to a strictly formalist esthetic. He avoided the Minimalists’ reductive response to David Smith’s late work and was less concerned with the idea of an individual work presenting discrete views than with the abstract representation of natural forms. This interest in pictorialism led Grossberg to deal with some of the same problems that Smith wrestled with in the ’40s. During the ’60s and ’70s, Grossberg welded steel plates and tubing together

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  • Mary Hambleton

    Pamela Auchincloss Gallery

    Over the last five years, as Mary Hambleton’s paintings have appeared in numerous group shows around town, she has emerged as an artist worthy of our closer attention. Her highly emotive forms have never seemed contrived; instead, they spoke of and for the intellectual integrity underlying her approach to abstraction. In this exhibition of 12 works from 1987—her first solo show—Hambleton displayed the full expressive range of her compelling plastic vision: her powers of composition and graphic descriptiveness, and her ability to charge surfaces—using the texture and weight of oil pigment—with

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  • Rocky Schenk

    Tom Cugliani Gallery

    The depiction of the female nude as a depersonalized object for viewing has been considered problematic for several decades, but only in recent times have such portrayals provoked more insistent negative criticism. Rocky Schenk’s slick, sophisticated images of the female figure dominated his recent exhibition of photographs here (all untitled, all but two from 1987).

    Taken on a superficial level, these images could automatically elicit a negative response if not for an ambiguity of intention. Schenk’s work appears to be neither explicitly sexist nor cleverly subversive. At the same time that the

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