reviews

  • “Social Spaces”

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    The unpredictable dynamics of the social space make it volatile, unceremonious, covert, and frequently asocial and irrational. It is often the site of inconsistencies rather than ritualized conventions—the space where it becomes clear which contradictions between thinking and action are tolerable and which are not. For these reasons, it is a charged locus for cultural critique. This exhibition of installations by five artists—Perry Bard, Michael Byron, Stephen Glassman, Ann Hamilton, and Henry Jesionka—focused on just such issues.

    Michael Byron’s House for Winnie Mandela, 1987, consisted of almost

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  • Pedro Perez

    Marilyn Pearl Gallery

    In 1966, when Pedro Perez was 15, he and his family moved from Cuba to Florida. Unlike many exiles and refugees, he chose not to assimilate, though not out of nostalgia for his past. He studied art in college and graduate school and pursued a career as an artist. Although his work has gone through several phases since he began exhibiting in New York in 1982, he has continued to make paintings and sculptures that are expressive investigations of being an exile from both Cuban and American culture.

    The five mixed-media sculptures shown here were made between 1985 and ’88. The most recent of these

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  • Allan McCollum

    John Weber Gallery

    Individual Works, 1988, Allan McCollum’s recent installation of rhetorical objects at John Weber Gallery (running concurrently with the artist’s exhibition of other works at Annina Nosei Gallery and Julian Pretto Gallery), consisted of more than 10,000 plaster/Hydrocal castings displayed on a broad, velvet-lined pedestal, like a gigantic banquet table, that spanned the length of the gallery. This large structure aggressively theatricalized its surroundings as would a quintessentially Minimalist sculpture à la Michael Fried, but the real drama here lay in the suspect individuality of the castings

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  • John Hilliard

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    John Hilliard’s images are evocative, sometimes enigmatic, and frequently suggestive, in the sense of the gamut of meanings that may be culled from their sexual root, ranging from the sensual and erotic to the overtly sexist. During the ’70s, the subject of his investigations was the structural analysis of photography by means of images, a project he shared with many others. In his work, Hilliard exploits the language of photography, self-consciously manipulating and distending its technical and structural characteristics to extend and complicate the metaphoric narratives that he relates.

    Hilliard’s

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  • Jane Dickson

    Brooke Alexander

    Beyond the valley of the Stalinist haute-couture philosophical object manufacturers, securely this side of the luxuriously lined abyss and well out of reach of the solipsist documentary tag-team matches sadly engulfing our earnest referees, there is still, undiminished, painting. Not to mention rhythm, melody, soul food, and business as usual.

    Beauty is a necessity of life and it always finds its own venues, in art and elsewhere. Sometimes things get too hot for beauty so it has to keep moving before it gets run out of town or the art world. A very popular hair product ad pleads, “Don’t hate me

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  • Mark Bidlo

    Leo Castelli

    In 1967, in a brilliant talk on “Critical Schizophrenia and the Intentionalist Method,” Max Kozloff called attention to the “sensibility” of ‘Warholism,’ in which nothing has to be proved or justified, and that is designed to invalidate“ critical consciousness, with its apparatus of subtle distinctions and discriminations. ”Aggressive" Warholism is still with us, and alive and well in Mike Bidlo’s art. By neutralizing the critical spirit, a Warholistic art gives itself unconditional validity and sovereignty. It caters to our gullibility, our unconscious wish to be taken in, to believe

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  • Roy Lichtenstein

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Whereas Bidlo’s Picassos show him as a “parasite” on Picasso, sapping his host of all his vital juices, Roy Lichtenstein is a transformer of Picasso, continuing Picasso’s own project of modernizing the art of the past, making it fit for contemporary consumption. Lichtenstein does not reproduce Picasso but brings out certain possibilities latent in his style and the attitude to his subject matter that it implies. In contrast to Bidlo, who trivializes Picasso’s work by swallowing it whole and giving it back undigested—cannibalizing it and capitalizing on the recognition factor of Picasso’s

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  • Marsden Hartley

    Vanderwoude Tananbaum Gallery

    Now that issues of identity, and the artist’s identity in particular, have again become fresh sociocultural issues—when we are testing art by the sincerity of the artist once more—Marsden Hartley’s paintings, especially those of the last decade of his life, are freshly pertinent. Faced with the same conflict between internationalism and “roots” that confronts artists today, Hartley forged an identity that remained separate from both in the very act of utilizing them. Thus, in Waxenstein at Hammersbach Garmisch, Bavaria, ca. 1933–34, he returns to the German world of his early Modernist work,

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  • Steve Miller

    Josh Baer Gallery

    The message and methodology of Steve Miller’s art have always been interesting, and with his most recent show he has succeeded in bringing together these two elements with intelligence and grace. Ideologically, Miller is making the same sort of criticisms in 1988 as he has since 1980, when he worked as a trading adviser in the commodities market. His concerns, like those of many artists in the postindustrial era of global economics and politics, are about the reduction of art to a commodity, and the potential for cultural truths—from the hierarchies of artistic value to the semiotic certainties

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  • Milan Kunc

    Robert Miller Gallery

    That was not the right thing to say. A man with artificially waved hair pointed a long index finger at her. “That’s no way to talk. You’re all responsible for what happened. You, too. How did you oppose the Communist regime? All you did was paint pictures.”

    ––Milan Kundera,

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being

    Like Thomas, the protagonist in Kundera’s novel, Milan Kunc has experienced the effects of politics on one’s life and project. In his work, Kunc, a Czech defector to West Germany, has always revealed an acute political sensibility, mixed with a certain whimsicality that takes his art past the

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  • Walter Martin

    P.P.O.W.

    Walter Martin’s project as an artist involves the sculptural remaking of mundane objects associated with a nostalgic view of the commonplace. Martin’s interest in time and its random manifestations brings an imperative resonance to his ambitious new works. Here, Martin offered a bizarre lopsided grand piano and a multipartite work aptly titled Mechanical Operation of the Spirit, 1987–88, which consists of six extraordinary grandfather clocks. Although the piano was the first work a viewer would have seen when entering the gallery space, the grandfather clocks were clearly the central focus of

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  • Steve Keister

    Blum Helman Gallery

    A stalemate of contradictory forms is the primary achievement of Steve Keister’s uncommon new sculptures. Within the context of the gallery space these pieces resemble the last of an endangered species, preserved in a formal presentation. Indeed, animal forms are the rough precursors of Keister’s more modified, regimented visions. Keister always combines two specific sculptural elements: spandex armatures stiffened with resin, Bondo, and fiberglass, and the metal frameworks of Bertoia, Eames, or butterfly chairs. Each individual piece represents an isolated moment of structural conflict that

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  • Richard Wentworth

    Wolff Gallery

    André Breton’s Surrealist “object lessons” did not go unlearned. The British sculptor Richard Wentworth, like certain other contemporary sculptors (such as Edward Allington, Antony Gormley, Eric Bainbridge, Jennifer Bolande, and Saint Clair Cemin), has learned them well. Working with found objects, altered objects, antiquated objects, or forms that look too much like familiar objects to be truly nonobjective, these sculptors create a simultaneity of appearance-linked familiarity and abstract estrangement.

    The found and fabricated objects that Wentworth uses to compose his sculptures are reminiscent

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  • Georges Rousse

    Farideh Cadot Gallery

    Georges Rousse photographs abandoned buildings—either the outsides or, more commonly, the empty interiors—shortly before the buildings are to be torn down, after first altering these derelict spaces in some way. In one untitled work from 1985, for example, he painted an illusionistic rendering of a squared-off spiral across the corner of a room before photographing it; in another untitled work, this one from 1982, he painted a series of human figures along the wall of a staircase, as if they were the ghosts of all the people who had climbed those stairs in the building’s lifetime. Depending on

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  • Margaret Bourke-White

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    Throughout most of her career, Margaret Bourke-White’s status as a media star overshadowed her photographs. It’s telling that even the picture used to advertise this show is not by her but of her, sitting in a demure skirt and fashionable hat on a girder of an unfinished building, clutching one of the bulky press cameras of the day. Life magazine, for which Bourke-White worked for many years, was happy to exploit her reputation as an intrepid photojournalist, continually risking danger to get her picture—“Life’s Bourke-White Goes Bombing” proclaimed the headline for a 1943 story featuring photos

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  • McDermott and McGough

    Massimo Audiello

    Messrs McDermott and McGough’s ongoing art project involves various components: paintings, drawings, archaic haircuts and outfits, one affected accent (McDermott’s), a rustic East Village apartment sans modern conveniences, and a lot of atmospheric rumor and gossip. Taken all together, they form a charming story: two youngish men who live and make art as if this were the 19th century, give or take a few glaring anachronisms like post-Modern irony and acrylic paint. But work whose beauty depends on an ugly art world will always be endangered. Certainly in the process of preparing this review I

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  • Dancenoise, Half a Brain

    Performance Space 122

    Lucy Sexton and Anne Iobst, known collectively as Dancenoise, create and star in big blurs of dance, spoken text, and sound-collage that critique contemporary culture while seeming to flail wildly in its maw. Maybe because their work arrives several generations into the development of performance art, it also seems to be, on one level, a kind of hyper documentary of the highs and lows thus far. In their version, deranged, logorrheic phrases and slogans, often repeated verbatim from pop music, TV commercials, and other performance pieces, are piled one on top of the other to suggest a wealth of

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  • “Representing Vietnam 1965–1973”

    Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College

    One of the problems with representing the Vietnam war is its resistance to the individual point of view. To render it as a stylized horror show is to risk fogging up a set of events of incredible detail. To present a critique of this subject in documentary guise automatically numbs us with the moral sledge hammer of raw brutality. Filmic representations have semi-solved the problem by mildly rewriting a basic likeness of war gleaned from shared sources, mainly TV news coverage. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, 1979, and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, 1987, in particular, managed to

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  • Rem Koolhaas

    Max Protetch

    The move from theory to practice is often awkward. There are countless examples of architects whose speculations are far more exciting than their constructed projects. While some of this may be accounted for by the constraints of external circumstances (budget, site, client requirements, etc.), much of the difference seems to be due to the architect-practitioner’s more limited approach, a limitation that is wholly self-imposed. As the authors of brave new visions for cities and urban sites, Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture have created an important niche for themselves

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  • Roni Horn

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    Over the last two decades, a group of scientists have independently developed a theoretical mode for describing reality, popularly referred to as “chaos theory.” Its proponents have posited a dynamic system that incorporates the nuances and effects of particularization and randomness. These variables that work independently of computable operations were once believed to be inconsequential to science’s approximation of physical systems but are increasingly being recognized as integral to any accurate mathematical or philosophical portrayal of the world.

    A similar theoretical approach underlies

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  • The Kipper Kids, Into the Box, Out of the Box

    The Kitchen

    The Kipper Kids (a.k.a. Brian Routh and Martin von Haselberg) are the original bad boys of performance art. Nonsensical nuttiness was the Dadaesque raison d’être of this Los Angeles-based duo when they practiced their acts of infantile aggression in the serious Conceptual art context of the mid ’70s. Such antics were at most taboo-threatening, as when they burst baggies of realistic-looking fake excrement over their jockstrap-clad rears, and at least amusing in their acting-out of messy-children-at-play (i.e., slinging paint, spitting up partially chewed food, etc.), but their “forbidden” behavior

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  • David Humphrey

    McKee Gallery

    One persistent reading of Surrealist painting divides the artists grouped under the heading of that movement into two groups: the pictorialists (principally, Giorgio de Chirico from 1910 to around 1922, René Magritte, and Yves Tanguy) and the automatists (André Masson, Joan Miró, after 1925, and Roberto Matta). The automatists are seen as precursors of the Abstract Expressionists, while the pictorialists failed to give birth to a movement or style in America. The agenda imbedded in this reading is the maintenance of that old sawhorse, abstraction versus figuration. Since Philip Guston challenged

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  • Nancy Spero

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    “Nancy Spero: Works Since 1950,” a traveling show curated and organized by Dominique Nahas, provides a welcome chance to see a broad selection of this artist’s work together in one place. It includes semilegendary early pieces such as the “Black Paris Paintings,” 1959–64 (of which there are five in the exhibition) and some of her major statements from the last two decades (Codex Artaud, 1971–72, The Torture of Women, 1976, Notes in Time on Women, 1976–79, and Sky Goddess, 1985), along with various smaller works from her activist, anti-Vietnam period (Helicopter Eating Victims and Shitting Remains

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