reviews

  • James Rosenquist

    Richard L. Feigen & Co

    Over the past 20 years James Rosenquist has resided part of each year in Florida, and his ruminations on its clime have formed the context for his recent work. He evokes the tropics in lush, dank, and humid paintings bordering on the overripe, almost bursting their edges like some unnaturally forced exotic flowers. Photo-based elements accrue toward excess. As in his earlier work, Rosenquist layers and interweaves multiple images that all seem to call simultaneously for our attention, stubbornly resisting easy hierarchical or sequential reading. These are insistent pictures, scenarios that

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  • Philip Taaffe

    Mary Boone Gallery / Pat Hearn Gallery

    Ever since Philip Taaffe dipped into the archives of modern painting in the early ’80s, the commentary around his work has been sharply divided. One camp imprecisely aligned his early abstractions with the then-current wave of appropriation art that included Sherrie Levine’s rectos of classic photographs and Mike Bidlo’s irreverent simulations of landmark modern paintings. Another faction glibly ignored the plain fact that, by any standard criteria, Taaffe’s paintings looked scandalously derivative, insisting that his references constituted little more than the usual nods to admired precursors

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  • Cristopher Wilmarth

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Christopher Wilmarth was a master of what might be called expressive Minimalism, in that he searched for subjective resonance without surrendering to any predetermined sense of the subjective. In Wilmarth’s sculpture, elementary geometrical shapes—usually flat rectangular planes of glass and steel, in various combinations—possess a surface intonation that makes them seem endowed with an indwelling, unnamable, brooding aura. The central issue of expressive Minimalism is the restoration of aura—not as a spiritual radiance emerging from the object, but as a material radiance that seems to drop

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  • Paton Miller

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Paton Miller paints odd, melancholy, relentlessly morbid pictures, often featuring an animal—dogs recur—in a dismal human world. Protecting Dog, 1988, makes the point succinctly: the head of a drunken, fallen master juts toward us, while the dog, standing bare-toothed and upright over him, is the true master of the situation. Miller’s human world is one of puppetlike victims, as Public Enemy No. 1 and Red Cat, both 1988, make clear in their different ways. Both feature figures who are victims of unnamed circumstances, yet Miller seems to have no sympathy for his subjects. The Puppeteer, 1988,

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  • Tim Rollins + K.O.S

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    Tim Rollins + K.O.S. utilize books for their ideas, as well as for the material substance of their work. Their art is produced at the Art and Knowledge Workshop in the South Bronx, where Rollins and his students/ collaborators discuss major works of Western literature. After a lengthy analysis, they synthesize a story’s theme and produce an effective visual equivalent for it. In past works, Franz Kafka’s Amerika has been distilled in the image of a golden horn, the pages of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick have been white-washed, and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage has been represented by

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  • Karen Sylvester

    303 Gallery

    Karen Sylvester’s new paintings (all Untitled, 1989) are made by combining photoemulsions with oil on canvas. The images themselves are gathered from a vast photo archive at the New York Public Library, then collaged together and painted in acidic, poisonous colors. All of these images have a generically dated, media-derived look: one might be a still from an unknown Hitchcock film, another a page out of a forgotten 19th century fashion catalogue. Taking her raw material from the now inexhaustible but seemingly irrelevant image bank of modern culture, Sylvester perverts the images, violently

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  • Lea Copers

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    On walking into a room full of Leo Copers’ whirring, ringing, beating, and humming sculptures, one immediately feels de trop, in the way, an intruder among a collection of autonomous, hermetic objects. Copers, a midcareer Belgian artist who has had little exposure here, often makes works that keep viewers at bay via the use of various threatening elements—knives, nooses, machine guns, lightbulbs immersed in water. But his pieces also betray a playful element, and in his show here, with its spook-house flying tablecloth and idling motors, this element prevails, though the works remain conceptually

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  • Merrill Wagner

    Fawbush Gallery

    Merrill Wagner uses unpromising materials—old blackboard slate, rusted metal beams—to investigate formal issues such as framing and spatial illusionism. Wagner manages to drag ragged, timeworn objects into the laboratory of abstract formalism without sterilizing them. Her work deals with time and decay, and all that those forces suggest in broader human and ecological terms.

    In these most recent works, slate surfaces are often scored with faint scribbles or lines that extend onto the walls themselves; elsewhere the artist covers areas of slate with chalk or enamel. But the core of the work is

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  • “A Good Read: The Books as Metaphor”

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    Art about books, artists’ books, and books by artists have been on display all over New York in the past year, from Anselm Kiefer’s charred and molten tomes at the Museum of Modern Art to the historical survey of avant-garde books at Franklin Furnace. “A Good Read,” an ambitious show of work by 32 contemporary artists, presented sculpture and graphic work made in, on, around, out of, or about books and reading in general.

    The best works appealed both to the eye and the mind: in Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasarde (A throw of the dice will never eliminate chance, ca. 1969), Marcel Broodthaers

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  • “Glossolalia"

    Anthology Film Archives

    Hans Schuldt organized and introduced this series of six late-afternoon poetry readings, in which he participated along with Richard Foreman, Robert Kelly, Stephen-Paul Martin, Howard Stern, Paul Schmidt, and Harry Mathews. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “glossolalia” as “the faculty or practice of speaking with tongues,” meaning ecstatic religious babble. When applied to poetry, the term suggests, on the one hand, Plato’s idea, in the Phaedrus, of the “divine madness” of the poet, and, on the other, Karl Shapiro’s idea that poetry is an “antilanguage” rather than a language. In this

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  • Jene Highstein

    Wave Hill

    Like many post-Minimalist sculptors who emerged in the ’70s, Jene Highstein takes abstract forms as a point of departure, creating sculptures rich with metaphoric associations and symbolic content. His works do not adhere to laws or formulas that dictate formal perfection, but rather to the exquisite imperfection of nature. At the same time, they are not abstracted from nature, but renatured abstractions. The power of Highstein’s sculpture comes from its participation in the world, and its relatedness to the environment in which it is seen.

    The artist’s gallery installations of the early ’70s

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  • Mike Glier

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery / Wave Hill

    In these two exhibitions that coincided briefly, Mike Glier engaged two traditional subjects of art, the landscape and the human face. He makes a particularly strong case now, as he has with his earlier work, that figurative, representational art can be endowed with intensely challenging, disturbing content.

    At Barbara Gladstone, the artist showed a series of 31 small charcoal drawings of human faces. Entitled “Satisfaction,” 1989, they are part of a book of portraits in which each subject offers his own description of satisfaction. The subjects encompass a wide range of ages, facial structures,

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  • Paul Ludick

    Bernice Steinbaum Gallery

    In his installation piece here, Paul Ludick achieves a very tenuous balance between solemn concern for serious environmental subjects and a sense of humor with which to guide and stimulate consciousness. O Zone, 1989, is an arrangement of 31 identical chairs placed casually through the front area of the gallery. On the back of each chair the name of a city is painted in black; different typefaces suggest regional differences. Places as far-reaching as Uppsala, Tokyo, Missoula, and Thetford are represented in Ludick’s idiosyncratic cartography. On each circular seat, a selection of ten pounds’

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  • Kunst Brothers (Alison Saar and Tom Leeser)

    Creative Time

    In an effort to place art more broadly throughout New York City, Creative Time has started a new series in which artists not only propose a particular installation or project, but suggest a specific site in which to develop the work. In creating a mobile work that was transported to various neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs, the Kunst Brothers created a piece whose content and context were the scope and rich variety of the city itself.

    Automotive Votive, 1989, consisted of a wooden, gender less, royal blue figure enclosed within a Plexiglas display case and mounted on the back of a small

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  • Gregoire Ferland

    14 Sculptors Gallery

    Essentially disquieting and strangely foreign, Gregoire Ferland’s welded assemblage pieces explore the core of our being, our biological essence, through animating form. These are obtuse creatures, whose primordial gestures mimic the incantations of our daily routines; they move hesitantly, with an implied anxiety that mirrors the anxiety of our progress in a post-industrial world. They seem like distant cousins who have adapted to another specific environment. Mouvement Primitif (Primitive movement, 1988) consists of an elongated metal screen supported by a sequence of rods; some of these rods

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  • “America Worked. The 1950s Photographs of Dan Weiner”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The photojournalist Dan Weiner had only a brief career: most of his work was done in the decade before he died, in 1959, at the age of 39. Nonetheless he achieved a wide reputation for his graceful photographs, which were made using the small, lightweight cameras that other postwar photojournalists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank employed to similarly insightful effect. Weiner’s photographs demonstrate his great ability to capture fleeting but telling expressions and gestures, and to reveal the underlying drama of everyday events.

    Like W. Eugene Smith, who also achieved his greatest

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  • Seymour Fogel

    Graham Modern

    This retrospective covering five decades in Seymour Fogel’s career revealed the artist’s grand passion for self-expression. Born in New York City in 1911, Fogel shared in the searching spirit of his generation. His progressive bent appeared early when, in 1933, he worked as an apprentice to Diego Rivera on the latter’s Rockefeller Center murals. His portrait of Frida Kahlo from this period, together with his drawings for murals, show Fogel’s mastery of the monumental style of realism popular in the ’30s and early ’40s. In a number of respects, the abstract vocabulary that Fogel developed in the

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  • “Erotophobia”

    Simon Watson Gallery

    Some non-Western cultures have developed an erotic art designed to enhance and intensify orgasm. We in the West have, instead, a science of sexuality; we dissect our desires the same way we dissect cadavers. In addressing “erotophobia” through the visual arts, what the organizers of this group show attempted to create was an atmosphere in which we could examine our own sexual phobias—according to the press release, this was a “forum of sexuality” designed to open up a “dialogue.” Fear, however, took a back seat, making eros seem a bit too facile.

    In some ways, what one saw was less a show about

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  • Annie Sprinkle

    Harmony Burlesque Theater

    Annie Sprinkle, the self-described “feminist porn activist” and ex-porn star, seems to embrace a role many feminists have fought to undermine. With her coquettish manner, pretty smile, and very large breasts, Sprinkle presents herself as the complete sex object and clearly finds that role more empowering than demeaning. However, her performance of Post-Porn Modernist, 1989, at a lower-Manhattan burlesque theater made it clear that it was never simply the role that empowered her, but her own sexuality.

    Sprinkle evaluated her years of work in the sex industry with some detachment and wit. She first

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  • John O’Keefe

    Second Stage Theater

    John O’Keefe’s Shimmer, 1989, a monologue about life in a juvenile home in the mid ’50s, is a singular concoction. It is as sociologically acerbic as Eric Bogosian’s sketches yet with an affecting autobiographical edge; as emotionally revealing as Spalding Gray’s performances yet more complexly dramatized. O’Keefe plays several roles and performs his script with an athletic exuberance. The piece filters its Huckleberry Finn theme of escape from oppressive civilization and its Beat-era humor through a fine mesh of haunting magical realism. Like its title, which refers to a homemade philosophy in

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