reviews

  • Judy Pfaff

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    From the early ’70s to the early ’80s, Judy Pfaff made installations that were disassembled after the exhibition was over. Consisting of all sorts of pieces of machine-cut plastic, paint, tubing, wires, and cheap mass-produced items, these installations, in their impermanence, implicitly critiqued consumer culture. In the mid ’80s Pfaff shifted her attention from site-specific installations to wall reliefs; in music terminology, she went from improvisation to composition. While this change delimits to some extent the parameters within which Pfaff works, it also provides her with a better

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  • Malcolm Morley

    Pace Prints | East 57th Street

    Malcolm Morley’s works could be regarded as a skewed contemporary development of Maurice Denis’ famous assertion that “a painting—before being a war horse, a nude woman, or some anecdote—is essentially a plane surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.” While Morley has vehemently disavowed Greenbergian formalism, the considerable power of his work inheres in the tension between his usually mundane and even hackneyed representational imagery and a quintessential Modernist idea of the picture-plane: Cézanne’s desire for the creation of three-dimensional perceptual experience on a

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  • James Nares

    Michael Klein, Inc.; Fawbush Gallery

    James Nares has had a varied and busy career in New York’s downtown scene since the mid ’70s. In the highwater years of punk he cofounded the artist’s collective Collaborative Projects, Inc., played guitar in a “no-wave” band called the Contortions, and worked on numerous underground film and video projects. In his own best-known Super-8 film, Rome ’78, he directed a troop of downtown celebrities (among them David McDermott, John Lurie, and Lydia Lunch), depicting them as power-crazed egomaniacs in a deliriously ignoble imperial Rome.

    It’s a long way from the barely controlled hysteria of Rome

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  • Andres Serrano

    Greenberg Wilson Gallery

    With TV systematically reducing the world—good, bad, and incomprehensible—to easily digestible images and sound bites, it’s only natural that artists would go out of their way to invest commonplace objects with mysteriousness. The ongoing deconstructivist infiltration of the photograph—from John Baldessari’s transcendental eye-oriented puns to Stephen Prina’s pristine, historically askew confections—has produced a set of visual rules at once overly familiar and barely recognizable. Andres Serrano’s photographs are sophisticated and ironic enough to seem part of this ongoing study, but they’re

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  • Martin Wong

    Exit Art

    So often have the discarded, lowly, kitsch, and despised artifacts of our daily lives been dredged up by artists to shock, disturb, amuse, or contradict our sensibilities that it’s easy to forget a rarer spirit of esthetic and political passion that is wholly unlike the prominent strategies of camp, transgressive, or political art. In the flood of media-fried pop, politicized urban expression, and confrontational excess that was rapidly consumed in New York at the outset of this decade under the moniker of East Village art, it was maybe inevitable that the delicacies of a few artists, such as

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  • Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trülzsch

    In their latest show Vera Lehndorff and Holger Trülzsch confronted viewers with an installation of two dissimilar kinds of work—one that accordingly resists ready interpretation. There were the photographs for which they are best known. In these, Trülzsch paints the otherwise naked Lehndorff so that, when photographed, her body disappears—here into an amorphous backdrop of rags and cloth cuttings. This device, though obvious, has proven to be consistently effective for the artists. Opposed to the photos were a series of comparatively hermetic sculptures: tall, narrow wooden boxes which contained

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  • Christian Boltanski

    New Museum of Contemporary Art; Marian Goodman Gallery

    Let’s forget Christian Boltanski, the master of melancholy and penance, the genius of gloom, commemorator of the Holocaust, and look at him in a different, strictly stylistic light: as a Minimalist redivivus. His work in both exhibitions shows a striking redundancy of rectilinear form. Box after box, face after face, candle after candle, cutout after cutout—Boltanski gives us classes of objects, not individual ones; typical forms, not particular ones. This is made especially clear by the wall of neatly arranged children’s clothes at Marian Goodman Gallery. Here, Boltanski’s art is systemic, his

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  • Jean Michel Basquiat

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    What struck me in looking at this memorial exhibition of Jean Michel Basquiat’s paintings—at least in regard to the best works here—is how neat they are: how organized, calm, concentrated, and coherent, for all their gestural flourishes. This self-contained and unified quality suggests that Basquiat’s improvisational fervor (characteristic of the graffiti idea) was under the control of a strong will. The paintings done under the strict regimen of black and white make the point succinctly: Basquiat was capable of restraint, of channeling his energy. He was not just another new fauve, full of

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  • Menashe Kadishman

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about Menashe Kadishman’s paintings and sculptures is their relentlessly rural imagery. What makes the works even odder is the fact that this imagery—the paintings show sheep, the sculptures a bird and snake—is presented with sophisticated urbane means, if the use of rather routine—when not mannered—Modernist styles is still urbane. The sculptures are uncomplicated constructions—contrivances is a better word—of flat planes, the paintings are tepidly gestural. The figural elements remain schematic symbols, whether covered with a skin of Cor-Ten steel rust or

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  • Bo Bartlett

    PPOW

    Bo Bartlett’s paintings are a moving synesthesia of two very different things: the space of monumental figurative painting and the disaster of contemporary life in all its violence and banality. In About Reality and the Sky, 1988, a young man with a shaved head stands wrapped in a sheet against a dusty sky. The brown flat landscape behind him is interrupted by a tent, a wisp of smoke, and what may be telephone poles. Is this some strayed Hare Krishna? A madman recently released from an asylum, a serial killer on the morning of his next murder? The emptiness in the young man’s eyes can be identified

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  • Paul Georges

    Anne Plumb Gallery

    Paul Georges’ recent paintings are huge and unabashedly allegorical. In all of them, a naked Diane, usually suspended in the firmament, pursues an earthbound Actaeon. The figures and the landscapes are oneiric—half fantasy, half nightmare. Georges uses a particularly vibrant, saturated red, sometimes streaking the sky with it or using it as a bloody backdrop. But he is not at all Actaeon-like as a painter; he is too much a master of the situation. His facility with brushwork served his previous paintings well, giving his color a distinctive density and texture. But in these paintings his mastery

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  • Emily Cheng

    Lang & O'Hara Gallery

    In her new paintings, Emily Cheng combines fragments of images of different sorts, whether the flat shapes of Modernist abstraction or perspectival representations.Her paintings appear to be layered, with some forms in them suggesting bulbous shapes of organic Surrealism or geometric icons, as well as others that resemble folds of cloth or twisting tubes. All are presented using an extensive vocabulary of illusionistic devices—transparency, overlap, contingency, reversal of figure and ground. In their formal play, in the indirect nature of the clues they provide the viewer for reading them,

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  • Michael De Jong

    Rastovski Gallery

    In the works on display here, Michael De Jong takes reproductions of paintings from several periods, sometimes leaving them intact, sometimes cropping to focus on specific details, and burnishes them onto canvas so that they have the texture and appearance of real paintings. De Jong then covers the images with sheets of Plexiglas bolted onto the canvas and applies objects of everyday use onto these surfaces. Included here are reproductions of paintings by Goya, Manet, and Hopper, and objects ranging from rulers and flashlights to adhesive tape and air fresheners, all of whose shiny newness

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  • Hannes Brunner

    Vera Engelhorn Gallery

    Hannes Brunner manages to translate musical movement into static sculptural form. He creates casual groupings of paper-and-cardboard instruments that evoke sound unfettered by the constraints of orderly composition. Pausenstück (Intermission, 1988), the most powerful work in the show, is an entropic heap of paper keyboards, drums, wind instruments, guitars, and lyres, in parts and wholes, randomly strewn across folding chairs and loosely contained within a two-sided frame. The whole piece, from the layered curves of its almost cubist guitar to its leaping keyboards, suggests a musical jumble of

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  • Alan Uglow

    Lorence-Monk Gallery

    Alan Uglow can claim neither the sanction of history, long accorded like-minded peers such as Robert Ryman and Brice Marden, nor a direct line on the zeitgeist that empowers the ’80s-style abstract simulations of Peter Halley or Sherrie Levine. Yet unencumbered by the embalmed readings that inevitably attach themselves to the star-status signature, his paintings make a refreshingly convincing case for the palpable if rarefied pleasures of his particular brand of formal painting.

    On his announcements for this exhibition Uglow chose to reproduce 66/68, 1968–88, a painting consisting of a white

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  • Claudia Hart

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Claudia Hart’s first solo exhibition of paintings and objects (all works 1988) employs Enlightenment themes and formats. The paintings mimic the diagrammatic layout of encyclopedic and scientific book illustrations, and the objects derive from Neoclassical themes. Each has been carefully manipulated so as to deflate its ideological basis. The Enlightenment motifs and formats are but a paradigm—a model that reflects the practices and beliefs of a given community. In the case of Hart’s project, that community parallels our own Modernist heritage, which becomes an extension of the positivism

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  • Sokhi Wagner

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    Sokhi Wagner’s recent photographs and photo-objects skittishly avoid interpretation. Intentionally obscuring her disjointed imagery, Wagner creates work with a highly cryptic presence. A series of four photographs (View from the Doorway, View from the Trail, View from the Stern, and View from the Shore, all works 1988) show her use of the medium to make images containing more mystery than information. From miles of film, Wagner edits out four stills and leaves them partially obscured, abstracting each image through obfuscation and decontextualization. Each of the tiny images she employs are

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  • Erich Mendelsohn

    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

    Architect Erich Mendelsohn (1887–1953) is commonly identified as an expressionist, but this description overlooks the nuanced qualities of his vision. He was as preoccupied intellectually with the questions of a nascent Modern architecture and its new syntax as he was with the visceral, sensual, and dynamic forces of form. A large part of this exhibition focused on his early sketches. These drawings—often spontaneous, diminutive studies—coincided with a growing interest in typology and the emergent building types of the 20th century. They explore an approach to typology that originates in function

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  • Jaume Plensa

    Sharpe Gallery

    Jaume Plensa’s ominous sculptures and works on paper have the compelling power of primordial objects and images. A ritualistic quality surrounds each piece. Plensa creates large sculptural forms from a lexicon of biomorphic and primitive shapes. Some of his creations are better defined than others, but there is no denying the essential intensity of his vision.

    Galileo (all works 1988) is a monumental cast-iron work that projects the timeless durability of a monolithic structure. The primary structure is a mound-like wall that curves in a semicircle; this arc surrounds three large conical shapes.

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  • William Stone

    Tom Cugliani Gallery

    The absurdist sculptures of William Stone confront us with an utter lack of functionality. Working with wood, brass, copper, and various domestic and industrial objects, Stone creates quirky, self-contained inventions. His perfectionist sensibility gives the work an air of importance that exceeds its actual usefulness. Stone revels in a clean, forthright style. Many of the pieces seem to embody contradictions; the newness of the wood often conflicts with the outdated machine elements. Most of the works’ references exist outside specific art-world contexts.

    Stone’s meticulous objects seem to take

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  • Jamie Wyeth

    Coe Kerr Gallery

    As the son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth is heir to his family’s style of tight, meticulous rendering. This is a legacy that, far from rejecting, he reinvests with considerable vitality. Take the farm scenes that are a famous staple of his father’s repertory. The younger Wyeth often presents an offbeat point of view in his versions of the subject. In Kinzer of Point Lookout, 1988, he creates an impressive portrait of a black ram. The animal stepping out from a thicket of sunflowers into an open grassy area is the embodiment of pride, with his prancing pose and puffed-up

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  • Kathryn Freeman

    Tatistcheff and Company

    In this show of recent paintings, Kathryn Freeman reveals how it is still possible to capture the awe-inspiring sides of human experience in one’s art without falling into the pit of self-consciousness that is the bane of so many of the figurative artists working with symbolic intents. Freeman demonstrates a visionary power and passionate poetic drive in her work; she finds meaning in even the most ordinary occurrences. Inspired by her observations of everyday events, Freeman seamlessly brings together commonplace and fantastic elements. Her pictures engender astonishment; they come across as

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  • DV8 Physical Theatre

    brooklyn academy of music

    DV8 Physical Theatre is a British dance company with a fervent mission: to set dance straight by returning it to real life. With a righteous contempt reminiscent of ’70s punk, DV8, led by artistic director Lloyd Newson, spurns the overly refined techniques and effete aims of modern dance and ballet alike in favor of blunt physical action. The company’s dances make comic-book-clear points about relationships of both hetero- and homosexual persuasion. The didactic agenda is activated through another classical revolutionary device: works told from the viewpoints of the mentally disturbed. This

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  • Doug Elkins Dance Company

    Dance Theater Workshop

    There’s little subtlety in a hopped-up hormone, so appropriately Doug Elkins’ The Testosterone Diversions, 1988, began with a knockdown drag-out duet. Two burly male dancers in coonskin caps and biker pants caromed around the stage after fixing “I dare you” smirks on the audience. They slammed into each other or thudded to the floor, as if expecting to hit a trampoline. Movements that could have passed for “dancerly” they neutralized by wiping noses with the backs of their hands. They ran the short gamut of movement possibilities between samurai and linebacker, and the sequence ended with one

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