reviews

  • Ed Paschke

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    This exhibition represents something of a return for Ed Paschke—a return to subject matter steeped in an invigorating and urgent air. During the past decade, Paschke has been best known for his large and scrupulously rendered paintings of vacant and depersonalized Everymen. These oversized and looming heads were of such metaphysical emptiness that their very scale seemed an affront; they came across as knowing and tired paeans to the pictorial tradition of heroic monumentality. But this exhibition of 12 paintings showed a stirring of intensity and a quickening of thought that recalled the artist’s

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  • Elaine Sturtevant

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    The viewer who has grown accustomed to looking at copies in a certain way over the past few years must unlearn this habit when looking at Elaine Sturtevant’s drawings. For the artist, making copies is not the result of some recently occupied theoretical position, it is a longtime obsession; this show spans more than 20 years of work. The cluster of ideas around replication, technical prowess, and the essential copy has paved the way for a discourse resembling a kind of transhistorical sports commentary: things begin to revolve around questions of who is ahead of whom. As a woman artist, Sturtevant

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  • Mike And Doug Starn

    57 STUX + Haller Gallery

    Mike and Doug Starn subject photographic prints to all manner of process-oriented violation, and, in so doing, turn the potentially multiple image into a unique object. Instead of granting photography a conditional, ontological specificity as a direct transcription of reality, the Starns foreground the medium’s constituent material qualities, reminding us that the photograph is not a transparent window on the world. In support of this primary conceit, they mobilize an array of formal devices. Their work at the Stux Gallery showed ample wizardry. A fractured image entitled Plant #1, 1988, is

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  • Chuck Close

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    Chuck Close continues to develop techniques for transforming photographic images into paintings, exploiting highly sophisticated formal strategies to create works of considerable visual and emotional intensity. In less skilled hands, his methods could result in tedium, in works of analytic detachment. But Close seems to use these rigorous ordering systems to control a violent energy that nonetheless seethes from his works.

    The enormous portraits at Pace Gallery were created by the mapping of photographic images onto canvas by means of grids that were then filled in with layers of color. Up close,

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  • John Boskovich

    Laurie Rubin Gallery

    In most of his works, John Boskovich groups disparate images in various media—photographs, silkscreens, found paintings, and prints—and sets them against large, solid-color backgrounds. He often places literary quotations, drawn from modern poetry, beneath or beside these images. Portrait of the Artist and his Mother, 1988, features an image of a bell, a photograph of a seated matron, a found painting of cherubs and lilies, a photograph of the artist superimposed on an aerial view of the moon, and a picture of a gloved hand wielding a pair of scissors, all underscored by a line from Rainer Maria

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  • Robert Longo

    Metro Pictures

    Robert Longo’s new wall-mounted sculptures are nominally abstract, but they retain a halo of figuration. They recall his previous pieces, the now-familiar representations of unhappy bodies and ferocious technologies. It is possible to locate these works within the recent trend of abstraction-as-representation—as the bearer of referential and historical import—a trend perhaps most notoriously exemplified by Peter Halley’s paintings. Longo makes obvious reference to both ’50s abstract painting and ’60s Minimalist sculpture. In Black Planet (all works 1988) he recalls, in almost parodic fashion,

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  • Garnett Puett

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Garnett Puett works with swarms of bees, and while there’s no moniker to credit their participation, the insects’ “decisions” play a crucial part in this diabolically pretty art. For most of these works, the artist lathered wax onto various found objects—discarded machine parts, a can full of forgotten rulers and paintbrushes, an old rifle case—then used sugar water to draw the queen bee to them. The bees were allowed to feast on the wax, and to construct hives in their choice of the object’s crannies. When Puett liked the results, the bees were smoked out. Displayed under tall Plexiglas domes,

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  • Douglas Walker

    49th Parallel

    Canadian artist Douglas Walker is one of the more obsessive visual poets of ’80s cultural debris. He has a history of documenting the accoutrements of young male outcasts—leather jackets, motorcycles, and tattoos are among the dangerous kid stuff layering his pointedly blurry photographs and drawings. Walker’s new large, untitled photographs are somewhat different. Instead of soft-selling the contents of his dream garage, he coolly presents examples of industrial architecture—factories, watch towers, oil refineries, freeway spans. Sometimes the structures have been double-printed, producing

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  • Kenneth Polinskie

    Fischbach Gallery

    Kenneth Polinskie’s work here, which consisted of watercolors and paper pulp pieces, makes new use of the still-life tradition. Rather than embrace acceptable realist styles such as photographic exactitude or gestural response, Polinskie transports the still-life convention of observing and recording into a witty and imaginative erotic realm. He accomplishes this by his integration of objects (rough-textured vases and faceted ashtrays), vegetation (blooming calla lilies and bananas), a lurid palette (magentas and blues), and an allover patterning (rows of kidney-bean-shaped coffee tables on a

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  • Ludwig Sander

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Ludwig Sander is a minor abstract painter, not without interest and charm but without any sense of what is fundamentally at stake in abstract painting. What I mean by “minor” is, he offers a secondary elaboration of a primary mode, showing its serviceability but not adding anything decisive to it. As such, Sander shows little awareness of the ideological heritage of his style. To make this point in a mundane way, I’m not convinced that Pompeii X, 1963, has anything to do with the complexity of Pompeii, but I am convinced by the picture’s formal subtlety. Sander’s greatest strength lies in his

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  • David Paulson

    Prince Street Gallery

    Over and over again, in relentless repetition, David Paulson paints half-length and bust-length portraits. Out of a greenish or sickly yellowish gloom, a head—sometimes explicitly a self-portrait, more often implicitly one—emerges, like a kind of apparition. Its expression is usually grim, and frequently unreadable. Some of the figures have a faint smile, but all seem to possess a quiet anguish. Paulson’s works are frankly subjective; they have a strangely fixated, paralyzed, schizoid quality—a sense of distance heightened by the way they seem bound to the painterly atmosphere from which they

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  • Francesc Torres

    Queens Museum

    In the three installations here, Francesc Torres has created (to use the artist’s terminology) three different “trans-cultural and trans-historical landscapes.” In Belchite/South Bronx he uses one abstract architectural scenario to fuse the desolate setting of the South Bronx, which looks as though it had been bombed and abandoned, with the ruins of the town of Belchite in Spain, which was in fact bombed and abandoned during the Spanish Civil War. (The latter serves as a touchstone for Torres’ war-obsessed, death-obsessed art.) Television sets, both black and white and color, show interviews

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  • Homeless In America

    The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building | NYPL

    The homeless offer vivid evidence of the failure of government social policies in the ’80s; at the feast of apparent prosperity offered up by the Reagan era they serve as an unwelcome ghost, a nagging reminder that not everyone is allowed at the table. Both city and federal administrations continue to act as if the problem did not exist, even as the evidence of its spread can be seen nationwide, whether in the encampments of homeless across from the White House or in the growing number of panhandlers to be found in virtually every American city. The great moral force of this modest show stems

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  • Dennis Adams, Alfredo Jaar, Jeff Wall

    Tomoko Liguori Gallery

    The works that were displayed here focus on an important force in much current art work—the use of mimicry as a strategy of (mis)representation in order to destabilize the narrative, and in so doing, to disrupt in some way the flow of dominant culture. Dennis Adams, Alfredo Jaar, and Jeff Wall were each represented by a single work, all three of which involve transparencies in illuminated display cases. Like advertisements in places such as fast-food restaurants and bus shelters (or, perhaps more importantly, TV’s), they emit light toward the viewer. Because of the familiarity of the viewer with

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  • Thomas Nozkowski

    Diane Brown Gallery

    Over the past decade, the figures in Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings have grown more definite, until they now rest within active grounds of color like heraldic shields or the uncials of illuminated manuscripts. The almost Arabic quality of some of these figures is emphasized by the relatively small size of the paintings, all done on his usual 16-by-20-inch canvasboard panels. This consistency of size makes the paintings seem somewhat provisional, as if they were studies for other works, either larger or smaller. At the same time, they lend the figures the quality of written characters, whose meaning

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  • Meuser

    Koury Wingate

    For his first solo exhibition in the United States, the Düsseldorf-based artist Meuser presented a number of found-object sculptures that bore a deceptive resemblance to more conservative welded-steel compositions. He also included preliminary sketches for three of these works. As a student of Joseph Beuys, Meuser clearly gets his sense of materials from his mentor, but rather than choosing to build a grandiose myth of the self, he pursues a steadfast anonymity. In this regard, Meuser’s work sometimes proves to be more palatable than that of the mentor himself.

    Most often Meuser works from steel

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  • Loren Calaway

    Althea Viafora Gallery

    Loren Calaway’s mixed-media constructions use the vocabulary of elegant furnishings and fine carpentry. These wall-mounted and free-standing consoles contain drawers, doors, cubbyholes, marble tablets, and fine brass hardware. They are constructed in ways that play with the viewer’s expectations by reframing habitual perceptions into awkward moments of self-doubt. The closer one looks, the more one is trapped in a labyrinth of semantic turmoil. Calaway’s work invokes a kind of double-talk, where the language spoken is recognizable yet ultimately nonsensical. The functionality of fine furnishings

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  • Michael Young

    Blumhelman

    Michael Young’s recent show manifests the artist’s interest in minutiae on a grand scale. For several years, Young has been producing small, square paintings of targets, circles, grids, and crosses; the paintings are made of sand and soil affixed to canvas, and sealed with a generous application of clear resin. Young has always imposed strict limits on his own practice. He combines and recombines his reduced formal vocabulary and limits his palette (with the exception of a few isolated patches of manufactured color) to the varying colors of sand provided by nature.

    Young’s new work—four large

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  • Steve Barry

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    The mere thought of the interactive sculpture or environment cultivates my passivity. The anticipation of being gyrated, used, or optically illused so as to service, more often than not, some unremarkable kinetic invention is not my idea of entertainment or profundity. But it is always good to be surprised. Steve Barry’s installation in this small gallery required each viewer’s active, somewhat risky participation. Entitled Poseidon, 1988, it embraced the rich tradition of the art installation and exploited it with rare intensity, absolute thoroughness, and some daring.

    Storefront for Art and

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  • Gerrit Rietveld

    Barry Friedman Ltd.

    To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gerrit Rietveld’s birth, this gallery organized a modest, focused, and significant retrospective of this seminal architect/designer’s work, focusing on his chairs and furnishings. Rietveld was one of the major proponents of the De Stijl esthetic, whose ambitious objective was to galvanize a universal, mass-produced style—“the style”—distinguished by simple, Spartan forms and a palette of primary colors, blacks, whites, and grays. It was Rietveld who transformed the abstract, two-dimensional ideas of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg into spatial, volumetric

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  • Creighton Michael

    David Beitzel Gallery

    The elegant, minimal sculptures of Creighton Michael are isolated entities surrounded by an imposed silence. These primarily abstract works, made from such materials as wood, muslin, dry pigments, and metal screens, are mute and self-contained. Their enigmatic configurations create a certain distance for the viewer, as if they were willfully retaining their secrets and references. The work was inspired by the artist’s discovery of torn umbrellas on the streets of New York City. This led him to stretch thin sheets of metal over wooden armatures, adding to them long, extended, limblike wood pieces

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  • Ellen Wiener

    Marilyn Pearl

    Ellen Wiener’s collages are marked by an acute sense of compression. The artist seems to choose shapes, patterns, and configurations that connote chaos only to assert her control over them. The mats she uses serve an integral function as cropping devices, making many of Wiener’s complex images look like eclipsed views of infinite space. Wiener maintains a finely tuned balance between frontality and illusion. Certain elements are utterly flat and resemble ornate textile designs; others provoke a sense of deep space.

    All of these untitled pieces from 1988 are fresh, precise, and well mannered; they

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  • Elizabeth Dworkin

    Victoria Munroe Gallery

    Elizabeth Dworkin is a passionate painter, an artist thoroughly in touch with the powers of visual imagination and the special challenges they present. Working in a style that is poised on the edge between abstraction and figuration, she reconstitutes reality in the highest creative terms. M.G.M, 1988, conveys an atmosphere of bright lights, feverish activity, and intense sensual stimulation, offset by a sense of loneliness and exclusion from the ongoing drama. With its dynamic scaf-foldlike composition and synthesis of representational and abstract elements, the painting seems to express the

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  • Philippe Vandenberg

    Denise Cade-Art Prospect, Inc.

    Belgian artist Philipe Vandenberg reveals in his work a keen understanding of the importance of poetic suggestion. His paintings come across as objects infused with a special energy, and they yield a strong expressive impact. There is more to these active, multilayered surfaces than their complex interplay of color and form and their striking structural integrity. While they are essentially abstract—in this case, involved in the dynamic union of process and perceptual product—the manifold associations they evoke help them to elude the cocoon of overt formalism. Vandenberg succeeds in creating

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  • Tango Varsoviano

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

    As part of the “Next Wave” series of collaborative performances, Teatro del Sur’s Tango Varsoviano (Warsaw Tango) was an especially polyglot hybrid: an ’80s work set in the ’40s, a theater piece with almost no words, a Hispanic creation (the group is from Argentina) grounded in the French nouveau roman theories of Alain Robbe-Grillet. In this case, however, cross-fertilization produced a sterile offshoot. Warsaw Tango, written and directed by Alberto Félix Alberto, realized neither the intellectual provocation of its conceptual agenda nor the visceral wallop of its low-life material.

    The main

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  • Guillermo Gomez-Pena

    Dance Theater Workshop

    In his performances and manifestos, “border artist” Guillermo Gómez-Peña describes the fissure between two worlds that he inhabits. Geographically, that means Tijuana/San Diego, but to this artist interested in “alternative cartographies,” the more important space is metaphoric, one closer to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s “thousand plateaus” than to a landscape with mesas. In Border Brujo, 1988, Gómez-Peña wore a border-guard jacket covered with signifying buttons (political slogans, Michael Jackson’s face, toy sheriffs badges), a necklace of plastic bananas, a straw hat, and a pigtail.

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