reviews

  • James Harrison

    Ledisflam

    At its best, James Harrison’s work possesses a wonderful edgy psychosis; at its worst, it looks like unedited art brut. Even at their worst, the paintings still show evidence of Harrison working out a powerful inner vision. Although he has been painting for 45 years, Harrison never created a successful career for himself. His ambivalence about exposure is very much inscribed in the introspective quality of the work. Sometimes the paintings seem to be refusing a dialogue with anything but themselves, and this intense turning inward can produce some spectacular effects.

    Harrison’s most successful

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  • James Lee Byars

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The room is darkened, there’s an object in the distance, decipherable in its geometry yet oddly indeterminate in the half light. Another darkened room, this time a mix of objects—two- and three-dimensional—on and against the wall and in exhibition cases. In still a third dark room a long white scroll is laid out. In its center is a giant black dot, imperfect in shape—a black pearl. The same dot multiplies on the folds of another scroll—yellow this time—placed upright on a high shelf. The Japanese flavor is unmistakable. The total effect is sacramental, obsessive, inscrutable: subdued yet potent.

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  • Tishan Hsu

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Tishan Hsu’s sculptures have become at once maniacally irrational and maniacally intellectual. They are strange hybrids, seemingly primitive organic creatures and sophisticated electronic machines simultaneously. Cellular Automata, 1989, looks as though it contains Frankenstein amoebas; the piece recalls the site of some successful technological operation. In the wild Feed Forward, 1989, computer-generated images that in themselves seem new forms of life receive a transfusion of human blood. The sinister red-alert emergency telephone on the wall suggests the danger of bringing such viral images

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    Cindy Sherman’s latest photographs (all Untitled, 1988 and 1989), like her previous ones,will probably be called “shocking,” as if shock were itself a brave or startling artistic gesture. Once again, people will say that she’s upped the ante on nauseating imagery, gone over the top with the grotesque, and explored psychic terrain from which many viewers would rather avert their eyes. All of this may be provisionally true, but it misses the critical point that Sherman uses shock more as a ruse or decoy than as a mere representational effect. What’s really surprising about this new series is that

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    In light of the recent infatuation with simulationist theories of art production and in the wake of his Whitney retrospective, Richard Artschwager’s work has moved from the margins of disparate artistic practices (Surrealism, Photorealism, Minimalism, and Pop) to the center of the esthetic and critical consciousness of the ’80s. It manifests a striking homogeneity of materials and ideas; tellingly, the recent objects do not look radically different from those of the early ’60s, so that Artschwager subverts the arcs and sways of artistic development and evacuates the notion of style. Still working

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  • Richard Long

    Sperone Westwater

    What we see of Richard Long’s art—his construction of rings made from alpine granite, or lines constructed of burnt timber—rarely exists outside the conventional art-viewing context of galleries and museums. However, Long’s true medium is his walks. Spanish Stones, 1988, documents a walk through Spain for 410 miles in 14 days from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, and Mississippi Waterline Walking Line, 1988, documents a walk along the coast of the Mississippi River in Illinois. The works, whether photographic, textual, or sculptural, are not representations per se, but refer to the artist’s

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  • Thomas Schütte

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    With the two sculptural projects and accompanying drawings presented here, West German artist Thomas Schütte encapsulates one of the historical dilemmas facing modern Europe: the various countries’ ongoing post-war reconstruction. With Big Buildings, 1989, Schütte presents a construction site of generic, characterless architecture in plywood and cardboard. Horizontal slabs stacked upon one another and separated by vertical posts resemble sandwiches whose meat will be its future residents. He displays these buildings as a collapsed, colorless morass of disparate, unfinished fragments. The pun on

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  • Annette Lemieux

    Josh Baer Gallery

    Rallying cries that evoke simple, old-fashioned values are predictably seductive: inconveniently, however, expedient truths usually prove inadequate to real circumstances. Though Annette Lemieux’s romance with homegrown Americana has been hailed as a brave antidote to the claustrophobic ironies that inform much contemporary work, her misty-eyed appeals to such concepts as family, country, and self-reliance seem informed more by a home-as-fort-style nationalism than by a viable response to dehumanizing post-industrial social conditions. In Lemieux’s hands, Grandma’s musty steamer trunk proves a

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  • Henry Flynt

    Emily Harvey Foundation

    One of the things that distinguishes Henry Flynt’s self-styled “Authentic Concept Art” from neo-Conceptual art is that Flynt’s concepts are a lot harder to grasp: his works are often self-reflexive, inaccessible, and adamantly difficult, and are based on theories of mathematics, philosophy, and linguistics. On the ceiling of the gallery is painted Which Way Is Up?, 1988: it consists of a formula that refutes the claim that mathematical logic can exist outside of language. This formula has different meanings depending on the way in which it is seen. The piece is certainly thought-provoking, but

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  • Li Lin Lee

    E.M. Donahue Gallery

    Li Lin Lee works in enamel on square pieces of wood or copper. His vocabulary consists of decorative patterns, allusive motifs, abstract signs, simple forms, and mathematical symbols, and his palette ranges from dusty sunset red and burnt orange to winter melon green and deep midnight blue. Spatially, the compositions can shift from depthless atmospheric fields to hard thin layers of paint. While none of these particular processes or materials are extraordinary in themselves, Lee’s way with them is another matter altogether.

    In his approach to painting, Lee seems influenced by the Surrealists’

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  • Stanley Boxer

    André Emmerich Gallery

    In his paintings, Stanley Boxer addresses issues of pictorial and painterly tradition, more so than most of the artists who have worked with formalist color abstraction. He creates multi-leveled spaces comprising amorphous patterns of sensitively coordinated colors and textures, which offer an illusionistic panoply of shifting focal points.The transitory energy of these layered forms is resolved by simpler, more repetitive linear configurations that occur intermittently at the edges of his paintings; and it reinforces a sense of the flat picture plane. However, Boxer’s attention to the materialistic

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  • Guy Goodwin

    Dolan/Maxwell

    Guy Goodwin has been exhibiting in New York for a little more than a decade, during which time his work has undergone radical change. From the late ’70s until the early ’80s, he applied thick layers of paint to the smooth surfaces of shaped wooden forms, which were then assembled into high-relief painting-objects. Clearly, Goodwin was being literal in his conflation of paint and the construction of painting, yet he had more in common with Milton Resnick, say, than with Frank Stella. His work of this period was both blunt and inelegant. By the mid ’80s, he was dissatisfied with insisting on

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  • Bill Komoski

    Koury Wingate Gallery

    Bill Komoski’s recent paintings look like mechanically produced images, even though their effects are achieved through the gestural acts of sponging and wiping. His brushstrokes and smears resemble the flat, two-toned gestures of printmaking, as well as the visible pull of the squeegee in a botched silkscreen. The one truly painterly moment in Komoski’s paintings is the presence of drips moving horizontally across the sides, making it clear that these works were painted on the floor. The drips instantly contextualize Komoski’s practice within the tradition of abstract painting, even though our

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  • David Rabinowitch

    Flynn Gallery

    The five groups of concentric circles that David Rabinowitch has carved into the plaster walls here are null sets, abstractions that deflect meaning. But Rabinowitch has put these empty sets to work in spatial and material terms, using their emptiness as images to shift attention onto the conditions of the space itself. Rabinowitch refutes the traditional and persistent function of the gallery as a neutral white container by taking away from the space rather than adding to it, and by carefully controlling the light. (He designed, as part of the installation, the set of windows that provide the

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  • Marie-Jo Lafontaine

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    Marie-Jo Lafontaine’s work has been criticized for its seeming glorification of power and aggression as expressed through the physicality of the male body. Recent video installations have focused on the spectacles of boxing, bullfighting, and weightlifting. The work shown here, Victoria, 1988, makes reference to the tango; it depicts a mortal battle between two men, fought hand to hand and eye to glistening eye. Not safely didactic or even obviously subversive, Victoria plays on our romantic fascination with the primitive and elemental; it reduces existential conflict to the level of brute

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  • Robert Heinecken

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    The times appear to have caught up with Robert Heinecken. Many aspects of his work over the past three decades have now come into favor, although in altered form, in the work of the current generation of appropriationist photographers. In his emphasis on mass-media images of women and his interest in the manipulation of libido by advertising. Heinecken’s work can be seen as anticipating Richard Prince’s deadpan quotations from, or Cindy Sherman’s restagings of, similarly charged materials. Heinecken has long enjoyed a reputation as a sort of West Coast enfant terrible of photography, challenging

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  • David Row

    John Good Gallery

    There’s a barely suppressed sensuousness in David Row’s paintings, even a sense of antic play. Beneath a surface that appears at first to be reductively geometric—with its broad curves and zigzags, painted in white on white or black on black—lurk fields of color, mostly reds and blues, that Row allows to peak through incisions scratched into the surface. Not that the layer of color is independent of the surface; often the underpainting is divided into red and blue, in the same way the surface image is divided into the curving and angular forms and the spaces between them. Row further complicates

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  • B. Wurtz

    Feature Inc.

    In the early ’80s, B. Wurtz’s sculpture was something like the artistic equivalent of putting two and two together and managing to come up with seven. He could take, say, one of those flimsy Styrofoam containers that cradles frozen pork chops, attach a piece of string to its center, anchor the string with a cork, and create a seductive UFO-like object with a peculiarly accentuated lack of meaning. His work showed ties to European artists such as Markus Raetz and Georg Herold, but with an original debunking wit located somewhere between the dryness of Andy Warhol and the broadness of the Three

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  • George Segal

    Sidney Janis Gallery

    In this show of recent works, George Segal succeeds in capturing the vast dimensions of the human spirit. Segal’s long-standing interest in confronting directly life’s more unfathomable aspects proved to be his point of departure from Pop art. While the gas stations and stores that provide the settings for his earlier sculptures do seem to have a Pop flavor about them, the plaster-cast people who populate them have always been quite another matter. By touching upon realism in such an eerie way, they disturb the viewer’s sense of reality. Segal’s vision has always had a universal aim, that of

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  • Julio Galan

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Julio Galan’s spherical sculptures and large, complex paintings combine figures, landscapes, and still lifes, written and applied objects, exploiting all manner of visual and verbal language. Melodramatic self-portraits stand beside often ironic renderings of religious and political mythologies. Galan’s is a crowded world. His works are overloaded, dense, but also random; by including everything, he asserts no hierarchy of values. Galan, who has worked both in his native Mexico and in New York, seems to be functioning at a complex cultural crossroads, experiencing but not assimilating a wealth

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  • Pietro Finelli

    Trabia-Macafee Gallery

    In his recent wall pieces and freestanding sculptures, Italian artist Pietro Finelli reveals a new approach. His earlier works were grids of discrete images drawn or painted on folded brown paper. The images, which ranged from abstractions to figures and landscapes, were arranged in non-narrative sequences based on visual associations and personal memories. The work was conceptual without sacrificing a strong visual quality.

    While the title of this show, “Lost Watches,” implies a continued concern with time, memory, and autobiography, the new works suggest a decisive break with the past. In

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  • Lynn Hershman

    Collective for Living Cinema

    In her multi-part video work The Electronic Diary, 1985–89, Lynn Hershman asserts that the diary “has long been a way for women to understand their private thoughts and experiences.” The use of the definite article in the work’s title is one indication that Hershman’s project goes beyond what was once isolated under the rubric “private”: she is interested in what makes one story definite and all others indefinite. Her editing, particularly in the first segment, “Confessions of a Chameleon,” often reduces what she is saying to a sound bite—without, however, hiding this through the tropes of

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  • Grace Graupe-Pillard

    Hal Bromm Gallery

    This show represents a breakthrough for Grace Graupe-Pillard. It features repeated images that act together to form political statements. In earlier works, Graupe-Pillard used pastels to make large-scale, realist images based on everyday photographs of people. She blew these images up to make overlooked people seem heroic, almost mythic. In these images, she exposes the negative flipside of such mythifying.

    Graupe-Pillard still uses pastels in rich, saturated colors, including lots of flesh tones and shades of purple. In two new pieces she employs freestanding shaped canvases mounted on wood. 10

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  • Victor Mira

    Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

    The paintings of the Spanish artist Victor Mira manifest a nightmarish sensibility. He paints in thick, textured oil; his simplified, stylized images—primarily animal figures, distorted humans, and skeleton heads—are trapped in bold, tight compositions. When Mira allows himself enough space, he can create panoramic scenes that mix spiritual refinement with a kind of primitive violence. The artist outlines his figures with thick, black contour lines. The grounds into which they are set are generally a dark reddish-brown. As a result, there is a pervasive murkiness to all his paintings, along with

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  • Gerda Meyer Bernstein

    A.I.R. Gallery

    Gerda Meyer Bernstein’s installation, Army of the Disappeared, 1989, made the reports of a ceaseless tragedy tangible for those far away from the site of devastation. It was excruciating in its directness and unrelenting in its poetic power. The project included 90 black and white photographs of men, women, and children—civilians from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua—who have been listed as missing. The images varied in dimension, format, quality, and clarity, but all were set in frames painted flat black. Scrawled in white on the back of each frame was the date when the pictured individual

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  • Leo Bassi, Nero's Last Folly

    Perry Street Theatre

    Leo Bassi began by complaining about the description of him as “Italy’s favorite clown-terrorist,” maintaining that if such a title belonged to anyone, it was Mussolini. Behind the vaudevillian veneer, however, Bassi’s show examined the power dynamic in a performer/audience relationship, revealing it to be much like that between dictator and silent majority. We, the spectators, were soon implicated in our willingness to remain passive, to be dominated. After all, we’d come to the theater knowing that in every performance, Bassi hits one spectator in the face with a cream pie and threatens to

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  • Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane & Co.

    Joyce Theater

    Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane’s signature style came out of a visual and kinetic dialectic. Jones—black, tall, and lyrically athletic—was paired off with Zane—white, short, and frenetically antic—in duets that explored the ways such extreme contrasts could connect through movement. This trademark esthetic became diluted almost as soon as it was established, becoming submerged to the point of invisibility when the duo moved on to evening-length, company-sized works. These dances seemed to sprawl shapelessly under the weight of too many ideas. Now, a year after Zane’s death, their enterprise has

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