reviews

  • Constance DeJong and Tony Oursler, Relatives

    The Kitchen

    This collaboration between writer Constance DeJong and video artist Tony Oursler tells the story of the fictional McCloud family. The clan springs full-grown from the image bank, where each has contributed in some small way to the history of representation: great-grandmother modeled for Albert Pinkham Ryder; grandmother worked as a Hollywood extra; an older sister dubs kung fu movies into English, and so on. DeJong stands next to a television monitor, talking to or about these “relatives” on the screen. What we see is not them, but the images they have generated. The subtexts to their life

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  • Helen Frankenthaler

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Although Helen Frankenthaler’s art-historical status is secure, it seems her fate always to be judged in the shadow of her Abstract Expressionist precursors. The designation “second generation” is for her as much a stigma as an acknowledgment. By temperament and sex as much as chronology, Frankenthaler was never a likely candidate for the full-blown deification inspired by the heroic postures of “first generation” artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Although she shares with her predecessors an allegiance to the primacy of process and gesture, the expressionist label fits her

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  • Steven Holl, Emilio Ambasz

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Both Emilio Ambasz and Steven Holl remain faithful disciples of Modern architecture. But by asserting new objectives and allowing for a good deal of invention, they overcome the constraints of tradition. Their projects are infused with vitality and a sense of enigma. While neither architect makes any great, radical acts here, both offer promising, if problematic, visions for a legacy that is still in crisis. Curiously, while an introductory didactic text drew numerous connections between their bodies of work, the exhibition plan could not have been more segregated. There was no pass-through

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  • Maura Sheehan

    Facchetti Gallery

    Play is serious. The rules, the mechanics, and the dimensions of the field or court are precise conditions. Free interpretation of the rules is not generally encouraged or enthusiastically received. The configuration and territory of play, the sobriety of the game no matter what the scale or consequences, are issues and ideas that Maura Sheehan explores incisively and, in spite of her humor, does not take lightly.

    The focus of this exhibition was a large, spare installation called Surface-Tension, 1989. The most conspicuous elements of the piece were two volleyball nets that intersected to create

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  • Sally Etta Sheinfeld

    Rastovski Gallery

    In his book The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, Reyner Banham writes about the improvements—esthetic, functional, and psychological—that electrical illumination brought to the workplace and domestic environment. Before the inventions of Thomas Edison, he argues, the life of the interior was dim, grim, and dirty. In her recent series of projects, Sally Etta Sheinfeld has chosen to focus on the object of illumination—the bulb. She explores both the functional and formal aspects of the light bulb, as well as the level of expectation that this object engenders.

    Pochoir (Grid, 1987)

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  • Ronald Bladen

    Washburn Gallery

    These heavily impastoed, abstract paintings come as a bit of a surprise: Ronald Bladen is usually seen as a Minimalist, not as an Abstract Expressionist. The works shown here, all from the late ’50s, are not entirely successful. Some are a little too thick with paint, the application of which seems belabored in its arbitrariness; others struggle too hard to undo a sense of horizon in the very act of mediating it. But the best of them—for example, Untitled No. 3 and Untitled No. 11, both ca. 1956–59—convey a kind of truculent intensity, a sense not simply of the insistence of paint, but of some

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  • Hans Breder

    Schreiber/Cutler Contemporary Art

    Hans Breder makes art that is spiritualist in intention. That is, he means to articulate an indwelling power, beyond reason and unreason, and by definition too labile to be managed. In this way he wrestles with the essential problem of nonobjective art. Like many other practitioners of spiritualist abstraction, he assumes that the necessary first step is to clear the pictorial deck of unspiritual scenery—the world of profane objects. Geometrical objects are one alternative, as is liberating gesture: the most ambitious spiritualist art attempts some union of the two. Usually the gesture accents

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  • Alun Leach-Jones

    Luise Ross Gallery

    The Australian artist Alun Leach-Jones puts cut-out shapes into an intricate relationship, all within a flattened if not quite leveled space. He has two-dimensionalized three-dimensional elements to make a constructivist point rather than a constructivist object. The point is oddly personal, as the title On the Beach at Night Alone (After Whitman), 1988, suggests. (Australia may be one of the last places where it is possible to have a Whitmanesque experience—where isolation in nature can be used to ecstatic purpose, that is, to reinforce a sense of absolute selfhood.) The work is divided into

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  • “Pre-Pop Post-Appropriation”

    57 STUX + Haller Gallery

    Any discussion of a group show curated by Tricia Collins and Richard Milazzo must be concerned primarily with the ideas they espouse and only secondarily with the various, often disparate artists they include. Collins and Milazzo’s catalogue essay for “Pre-Pop Post-Appropriation,” while predictably turgid in its prose, is nonetheless fairly straightforward in its drift: briefly, that the period between the close of Abstract Expressionism and the advent of Pop constituted a “breathless swing-moment of potential in History,” and that its discursive formations of “desire, the Body, the Human element,

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  • Orshi Drozdik

    Tom Cugliani Gallery

    In her recent exhibition called “Morbid Conditions,” Orshi Drozdik investigated the social armature of medical knowledge. She used various outmoded medical artifacts as her starting point. In several works, Drozdik employed glass vitrines to encase such disparate elements as body parts and medical apparatus, all of which bore a distinctly 19th-century look. At one time, the scientific equipment may have appeared useful and even futuristic; today, however, it has become obsolete. Ether Anaesthesia, 1988, consists of an entanglement of rubber hoses patched with cotton gauze; they meander around

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  • Marilyn Lerner

    John Good Gallery

    For an artist to develop an abstract vocabulary in which each element has both a personal and an archetypal meaning usually takes years. One could also say that a development of this sort (slow, unpredictable, and having little to do with fashionable styles) is in itself a critique both of the formal codifications of abstraction and of consumer culture’s treatment of abstraction as decorative instance. Marilyn Lerner, now in her mid 40s, shows signs of being able to sail through the Scylla (formalism) and Charybdis (decoration) of abstraction in order to reach a realm of specific meaning. Lerner

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  • Patrick Weidmann

    John Gibson Gallery

    Patrick Weidmann makes wall arrangements out of painted monochromes, frames, mirrors, objects, and photographs, grouping the elements in order to suggest the rectangular space of the easel picture. With these aggregates of fragments from art and industry, Weidmann employs familiar conceptual strategies that are neither personalized nor altered, and so gives his work the quality of a rote conceptual exercise.

    Untitled With Mirrors, 1987, exemplifies Weidmann’s generic strategizing. In this piece, four long thin monochromes demarcate a rectangular section of wall. Set into the upper-left- and

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  • Jasper Johns

    Gagosian | 980 Madison Avenue

    This exhibition brought together all but one of Jasper Johns’ map paintings, as well as several prints and works on paper. For all the attention paid to Johns’ work in recent years, there has been no attempt to challenge the widely accepted view that the artist is a hermetic formalist. Roberta Bernstein, whose essay on Johns is excerpted in the catalogue for this show, continues this treatment by stating, “The map is a subject which could be interpreted to have personal meaning, if certain areas were made to stand out from others. But Johns paints the map the way he paints all of his other works:

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  • “Street Stencils of the Lower East Side”

    Henry Street Settlement

    This exhibition was devoted to the culturally neglected and often persecuted art of the street stencil. It represents the first historical survey in New York of this vital form of expression. The show was well-executed and appropriate within the spirited, informative, intercultural, community-based context of the Henry Street Settlement. Yet it was almost completely ignored by the larger art-going public, making it one of the most lively, educational, and provocative shows the art world missed this year.

    In New York, street stencils have had a parallel development with graffiti and other forms

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  • “Fluxus: Selections from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Fluxus was fun art. Sometimes it was a little dumb, but most of the artists, and especially George Maciunas, the ostensible leader and founder, rode with skill and humor the fine line between puerility and subversion. Maciunas’ proclaimed antiart stance and his insistence on “art nihilism” enabled him to be engaged in the very serious struggle of discrediting the meaning-filled art object and of championing the action-oriented events, performances, and publications that were being produced as Fluxus. Not all of the Fluxus artists were as polemical as Maciunas, and many of them went on to greater

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  • Adam Füss

    Massimo Audiello

    Adam Füss’ photograms are closer in spirit to those of László Moholy-Nagy—with their Constructivist, scientific overtones—than to the kinkier, psychosexual ones produced by Man Ray. They also recall the organic process art of the ’60s and ’70s, continued today by Meg Webster and others, which attempts to record the effects of various natural systems. For one group of pictures here (the majority of the works are Untitled, 1988), Füss suspended a flashlightlike pendulum above a sheet of photographic paper. The images record the egg-shaped paths traced by the light as it gradually swung to a stop.

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  • Daniel Faust

    Laurence Miller Gallery

    Daniel Faust has put together a 90-minute programmed display of his photographs entitled A Slide Show, 1989, for which Dan Cameron has composed the music (some of it an eclectic blend of existing recordings) and Michael Ballou has designed two collaged panels for either side of the screen, and seating in the form of benches. The vast majority of Faust’s slides are of various museum exhibitions, with a special attention paid to wax museums—the ultimate instance, the viewer is soon convinced, of the hyperreal.

    Among the 960 images are a number of Elvis Presleys, Adolf Hitlers, William Shakespeares,

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  • David Lynch

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    This eye-opening exhibition of paintings by David Lynch enriches our understanding of this man as a multifaceted artist, previously known mainly for his darkly disturbing films, such as Eraserhead, 1978, and Blue Velvet, 1986. These works reveal Lynch’s graphic ability to hone in on his own subconscious and to purge childhood fears and impressions of the world. In both film and painting, Lynch offers a compelling vision of psychological distress and of the often frustrated urge to communicate.

    The paintings project a bizarre balance of melancholy, methodical process, and ironic childlike exuberance.

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  • Rande Barke

    E. M. Donahue Gallery

    The colorful, organic abstractions of Rande Barke resemble combinations of cloud formations, cancerous spots, and spines. Barke sets rigid boundaries to compress and contain his deep atmospheric forms. The works demonstrate a recurring conflict between intuitive gutsiness and self-conscious finesse. They evoke deep, cloudy atmospheres in which light fights to emerge from haziness. The paintings are usually restrained in tone and highly decorative.

    Barke sometimes lets the prettiness of his colors detract from a work’s overall impact. He is most convincing when he works on a large scale; then his

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  • Nancy Steinson

    Atlantic Gallery

    Nancy Steinson’s sculptures consist of polygonal sheets of painted steel framing partially visible interior spaces. Germinus (all works 1988) folds around a single volume; the more elaborate metal origami of Gayan’s Passage twists along the ground like a ribbon, or a fallen, dismembered box kite. The harsh geometric forms are occasionally relieved by wavelike curves that snake along the work’s contours. Flat, irregularly shaped steel bases echo the shadows cast by the angled masses. Though the sculptures tend to tilt and lean precariously, as though top-heavy, they are for the most part narrow

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  • Norman Lundin

    Stephen Haller Gallery

    Norman Lundin paints interior scenes in muted shades of gray, recording patterns of light and shadow in a soft-focus realism. Certain of his interiors, with their cracked plaster walls and barren surfaces, convey the narrative pathos of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, but for the most part Lundin manages to create works that are solemn and austere without being maudlin. He combines doorframes and floorboards, a plain wooden table and a folding metal chair, old sketches and empty jars in compositions of studied stillness.

    Despite the seeming verisimilitude of these paintings, Lundin does not paint from

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  • Glenn Jampol

    CDS Gallery

    In his recent paintings, Glenn Jampol succeeds at creating a visual equivalent for both the prosaic and the ineffable experiences of life. He does so by dint of the power of his imagery. Each painting presents a kind of window onto the pictorial universe of form and color. Peering through this window makes demands, not only on the artist, but also on one’s own imagination. Jampol casts the viewer in the role of active participant by setting a high premium on subjectivity.

    The pressures, stresses, and violations of contemporary urban life are evoked by the tightly packed composition of Manuel

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  • Katsuhisa Sakai

    Ruth Siegel Gallery

    The sculptures of Los Angeles-based artist Katsuhisa Sakai are made mostly of pieces of wood cut into a variety of geometric shapes and joined together almost like building blocks. These freestanding constructions have more than a touch of mystery about them. Sakai shows a true gift for imbuing abstract form with multiple layers of meaning, working within the challenging realm of what I wish to call the “articulate object.” He creates a dynamic synthesis from a number of ordinarily opposing tendencies. The individual compositions have eccentric appearances and strong personages. The rambling

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  • En Garde Arts, At the Chelsea

    The Chelsea Hotel

    The Chelsea Hotel in lower Manhattan is one of the legendary settings of American bohemianism. Its guest list reads like a who’s who of innovators as renowned for their roistering as for their art: Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix. Andy Warhol’s film The Chelsea Girls, 1967, paid tribute to the Chelsea’s history by creating a contemporary version of its near-mythic ambience, and set the conceptual stage for the hotel’s most bizarre act yet, the Sid Vicious-Nancy Spungen episode. So it must have seemed perfectly natural to En Garde Arts, a site-specific

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