reviews

  • Jake Berthot

    David McKee Gallery

    Jake Berthot began exhibiting in 1970, at a time when Minimalist abstraction claimed to have purged the murky metaphysics and personal signs associated with Abstract Expressionism. In place of Abstract Expressionism’s vulnerable heroism (or heroic vulnerability), Minimalism codified asceticism and self-abnegation. Although Berthot was an abstract painter, his relationship to Minimalism and its utopian isolationist stance was tenuous. While his work from the late ’60s—the notched paintings—used a framing device to empty space out, their surfaces and hints of light evoked action painting and the

    Read more
  • Glen Baxter

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Over the past decade Glen Baxter has developed a large and heterogeneous following for his particular mode of deadpan humor. Through postcards, calendars, books, and more recently, gallery-exhibited drawings, he has elaborated a broad-reaching cultural commentary whose medium, and main characteristic, is a razor-sharp, mordant wit. In this new show Baxter shifted his established practice into a new register, with mixed results.

    On display were both Baxter’s well-known drawings-cum-texts and a new series of large-scale textless paintings. The former (all of them made of crayon and ink on paper

    Read more
  • Hermann Nitsch

    David Nolan Gallery

    Hermann Nitsch exhibited 30 works on paper here, done in a variety of media, including lithographs—for example, Crucifixion (After Rembrandt), 1956, the earliest work in the show—pencil drawings from the late ’50s, ballpoint pen drawings from 1969 through the ’80s, works combining printmaking and drawing, and 11 mixed-media paintings on paper from 1987. The paintings embody the still-reverberating aftermath of the moment when Abstract Expressionist works were first shown in Europe. In 1959, when he was 21, Nitsch saw an exhibition curated by Alfred Barr, “The New American Painting,” which was

    Read more
  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    Galerie Lelong; Josh Baer Gallery

    Gordon Matta-Clark was the focus of two recent shows, “Gordon Matta-Clark and Friends” at Lelong and a smaller solo show at Josh Baer. What was so refreshing about these exhibitions was the physical modesty of the works: that’s something to reminisce about and be grateful for.

    The keynote work at Lelong was Matta-Clark’s famous Splitting photograph, 1974, which has no doubt become emblematic of a life cut short—another artist whom we, and the “cause” of art, have lost. (Matta-Clark died of cancer in 1978, at the age of 35.) One is suspicious of such canonizing, but it signals the elegiac mood

    Read more
  • Brett De Palma

    Fawbush Gallery

    Brett De Palma works in the Surrealist tradition of the poetic object, but with a fresh sense of intimacy of scale and ease of creation—of unforced combination of incongruent (often found) objects. His works have a whimsical irony to them, as though not certain whether they wanted to be taken seriously or to function as toys. But as Charles Baudelaire reminded us over a century ago, toys are quite serious forms, even epitomizing imagination; and as Donald Winnicott has told us in this century, they are “transitional objects,” simultaneously fantasy and reality, and as such epitomize culture.

    Read more
  • Peter Klashorst

    Daniel Newburg Gallery

    In this show of oil paintings by the Dutch artist Peter Klashorst one sees glimpses of traditional landscape and the human body, and sometimes the two conflated—pink, fleshy forms that could be read either as limbs or as hills. These works (all from 1988) are officially “contemporary versions of classical Dutch themes,” but unofficially they have a marvelous painterly substantialness that completely belies their source: a recapitulative response to the flickering television image. Klashorst has said of his work, “The colors and forms persuade us to think about highlights in movies and 19th-century

    Read more
  • Stephen Laub

    Koury Wingate Gallery

    For all their pointed particularity, photographs suffer from a lack of physical presence, like creatures that are all brain and no (or virtually no) body. Abstract sculpture, on the other hand—especially when it is based on geometric forms—often suffers from the opposite problem. Stephen Laub addresses both of these potential lacks by combining the two media, making objects that, depending on one’s point of view, can be seen as either abstract wall sculptures with tiny photographs set into them, or photographs for which these sculptures serve as elaborate frames. The objects are derived from

    Read more
  • Arman

    Marisa Del Rey Gallery

    Arman is known for his assemblages—grand, collagelike works that look like orderly junk piles of the world’s remnants: spools of thread, typewriters, camera parts, all the pieces of a single smashed chair, and so forth. As a primary member of the Nouveau Réaliste movement of the late ’50s and early ’60s, Arman made works that were occasionally interesting and sometimes even enchanting, but in the short-lived period of French Pop art that followed, the works that he produced were simply anomalies. Here, in a return to the medium of paint for the first time in twenty years, Arman presented a

    Read more
  • Rosemarie Trockel

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Drawing exhibitions provide an artist with a singular opportunity: to present the inner workings of an inspiration, the seed of an idea or concept. Drawings and the act of drawing have served artists in different ways at different times. Nowadays, we have come to view drawings as maquettes for larger works, a game in which size and scale are given greater consideration than either eloquence or clarity. In the past, artists such as Eva Hesse and Joseph Beuys have been successful in extending the reach of their respective projects to include drawing; and more recently it could be said that Enzo

    Read more
  • Günther Förg

    Luhring Augustine & Hodes

    Like many of his German contemporaries (Imi Knoebel, Gerhard Richter, the late Blinky Palermo), Günther Förg has been trying to salvage abstract painting from its decorative fate by exploring the material and architectural basis of an image rather than the veneer of its surface. In his first solo exhibition in New York, Förg presented eight paintings on copper and on lead-covered wood panels, and five unique reliefs cast in bronze. The bronze reliefs and the two largest lead paintings were shown in the main room, installed conventionally as individual works, whereas the works in the rear room

    Read more
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Since 1956, the West German team of Bernd and Hilla Becher has been photo documenting the edifices of the Industrial Revolution: a cement plant in Neumarkt, Bavaria; a steel plant in Steubenville, Ohio; and other regional attractions not on the typical tourist's route. Although the Becher do not transform the sites that they visit, their work, like that of their Conceptualist contemporaries Daniel Buren and Christo, is produced under strict narrative and esthetic constraints, in their case yielding a photographic language so consistent that their work to date can be read as a carefully articulated

    Read more
  • Rodney Graham

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    From the early ’80s to this show of his latest works, Rodney Graham, an artist from Vancouver, Canada, has developed within Ian Wilson’s genre of “nonvisual abstraction.” In 1984, Wilson, an early member of Art & Language, described Conceptual art as an extension of poetry, literature, and philosophy: one that “takes the principles of visual abstraction, founded in the visual arts, and applies them to language.” Wilson places linguistic Conceptual art in a hierarchy above other so-called physically bounded art forms: “True conceptual art moves beyond visual and physical execution of ideas no

    Read more
  • Hunt Slonem

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    Hunt Slonem’s earlier works described a paradise in which the social and the spiritual converge with the panoply of the natural world. In these large, brightly colored paintings of the last few years, the vitality of Slonem’s flat but juicy brushwork serves the double purpose of weaving an apocalyptic, albeit charming, jungle around emblazoned icons of the endangered and deceased—groups of exotic animals, usually surrounding a healer or saint. His faux-naive manner appears to stem from a romantic attitude about painting that celebrates the resurrection of man and beast in terms of this world

    Read more
  • Susan Hiller

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    If Susan Hiller’s recent exhibition here is any indication, there is currently a strong potential for a nostalgic revival of late ’60s and ’70s Conceptual art. The show included a portion of “Dedicated to the Unknown Artists,” an ongoing series that she began in 1972 consisting of framed arrangements of old postcards and statistics that she has compiled and cross-referenced (the section on view here was from 1972–76). This work maintains its potent communicative powers and makes the current spate of derivative abstraction seem wan in comparison. Hiller’s anthropological approach to gathering

    Read more
  • George Condo

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    The most depressing thing about George Condo’s new work is the artist’s age, 30. If these rehashes of Picassoish and Gorkyesque motifs were the products of a failing yet powerful imagination, maybe the raging talent evident in their brushwork would be something to celebrate in print. Condo can paint distinctively, no argument there. But at least on the evidence of this show, it’s a skill that is growing flabby and lackadaisical while the artist unwinds with nostalgia.

    Like other painters who chose their “look” in the heat of the neo-Expressionist vogue, Condo uses a stormy texture to strut his

    Read more
  • John Miller

    Metro Pictures

    If a child smeared a handful of feces on a wall by his crib, his parents would have to be pathologically esthetic to try to interpret the “work” that resulted. Of all the bodily functions, defecation is the most taboo in our culture. The Marquis de Sade was perhaps the first intellectual to study its possible meanings, although quite a few artists since have referenced it on occasion to make superficial, usually comic points. Back in the ’60s, Piero Manzoni sold his feces in cans as art (at least, that’s what he claimed; to my knowledge, no one who bought one has ever opened it, although a few

    Read more
  • Kathe Burkhart

    Greathouse

    Print ads for Elizabeth Taylor’s recent autobiography featured a word from the actress. Her toughest role, she said, had been playing the “new” her. By “new” what she actually meant was her legend, the most famous aspect of which she has recently regained with the help of a crash diet and some flattering makeup—this after years of distinctly unlegendary behavior. Alcoholism and obesity may have threatened to demystify her allure, but they also provided a far more complex entertainment than her characters in National Velvet or Cleopatra ever had. Certainly these problems, and the enigmatic subtext

    Read more
  • Daniel Levine

    Jeffrey Neale Gallery

    If there’s anything more powerful than seduction or revulsion in art, it is ambivalence. It has been a frequent strategy among 20th-century avant-garde artists, who have generally used it as an aggressive perceptual gambit and/or a mannerist affectation. In Daniel Levine’s art, ambiguity is expressed as something poetically sublime. His is an art looking at art, a culture looking at culture to a point of reflection psychically split between self-identification and critical distance. It is a reflexivity magnified beyond its conditional terms, brought to a level of distraction. Like mirrors facing

    Read more
  • Judith Shea

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Judith Shea is one of a key group of younger American artists who have been exploring the humanistic foundations of sculpture, which lie in the figurative tradition, without resorting to either a slavish imitation of or a radical break with the past. In Between Thought and Feeling, 1988, she succeeds in reinvesting the lap, one of the oldest structures in figurative sculpture, with genuine symbolic weight. Here a bronze sculpture of a headless and armless female figure clad in a tight-fitting sheath sits on a large cast-stone cube, and on her lap is a large bronze bust of a man’s head. The

    Read more
  • Margery Edwards

    St. Boniface Chapel, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

    Margery Edwards, rather than situating herself in that distant theoretical zone in which painting is burdened down with the weight of calculated conceits, freely explores the suggestive powers of form, color, and light to articulate what appear to be certain truths about our experiences in both urban and natural environments. The two monumental dark forms that dominate compositions such as N.Y. 712, N.Y. 741, N.Y. 742, and N.Y. 743, all 1987, and the way these vertical forms overlap at oblique angles—or sometimes don’t close the gap but leave just a slice of polar field between—recreate for the

    Read more
  • Kodō

    City Center

    Severe disciplines serving mystical visions; exotic instruments, costumes, and techniques; unusual staging contexts—these are what Western audiences have been conditioned to expect from the Eastern performing arts for years. And then there’s the “authenticity” factor, which charms contemporary audiences into suspending the usually modern filters—i.e., irony, detachment, etc.—when they witness performances that fit no Western categories. In the 1930s, Antonin Artaud was outlining ideas for the performance of the future based on his search for “the real,” a theoretical leap that led him to declare

    Read more
  • Jim Dine

    Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

    It was high time for the return of the prodigal son. Cincinnati is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary, and the most prominent artist the city ever produced had never had a major solo show here. Jim Dine’s tall bronze Cincinnati Venus, 1988, was being installed in a public square, and he was willing to lend a number of drawings from his own collection that had never been exhibited before. Curator Sarah Rogers-Lafferty selected 78 mixed-media drawings from the most profoundly productive period of the artist’s career, in the medium that by his own admission is “the backbone” of all of his

    Read more