reviews

  • Imi Knoebel

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    Imi Knoebel’s work is a purposive reinvestigation of geometry as a living tradition for abstraction today, unlike the melancholic and parodic simulations of, say, Peter Halley and Sherrie Levine. Their lineage is Warholian (that is, they are serious about unseriousness), whereas Knoebel’s is Beuysian (very serious indeed). Knoebel was, in fact, one of Beuys’ most illustrious students. This distinction already tips us off that “Germanness” is a large part of Knoebel’s import. As a student of Beuys, Knoebel continues his practice of “social sculpture,” but within an even more dauntingly hermetic

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  • Mary Ann Currier

    Alexander F. Milliken

    Mary Ann Currier is one of the most daring and original figures in the field of contemporary realism. Working in recent years with the medium of oil pastel, she has developed the still life into a powerful vehicle of personal expression. Her ability to capture appearance with uncanny precision, using a style of meticulous rendering that is nevertheless highly gestural, gives her forms a tremendous vitality.

    In her latest series of still lifes, Currier charges the element of viewpoint—the angle and scale of presentation—not only with the twin tasks of shaping space and framing the subject, but

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  • Nigel van Wieck

    Tatistcheff & Company

    In seeking to make feeling the basis of a new contemporary narrative art, Nigel van Wieck has developed a highly suggestive mode of image-making, one of patently seductive appeal. Working in a forthright, descriptive realist vein, the artist presents discreet glimpses of the private side of human relationships in this group of recent pastels. A keen observer of life, he bases the compositions partly on his own experiences. Yet van Wieck uses models, so his compositions also have a somewhat staged quality. Most of his work focuses on the themes of sex and romance.

    American Landscape, 1989, has

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  • Rebecca Purdum

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    In shifting the palette of her large abstractions, Rebecca Purdum has managed to avoid the too-easy transcendence that her earlier work seemed to threaten. The paintings in Purdum’s last show, with their brushy bunched-up clouds of blues and whites and grays, suggested nothing so much as swirling turbulent mists of color about to part and reveal—what? Any answer seemed doomed to anticlimax. Now, though, Purdum has brought a broad range of color into her work, from reds and oranges to purples and greens. As a result there’s a new sense of emotion in these paintings, some of which seem impressionistic

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  • Jiří Georg Dokoupil

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Jiří Georg Dokoupil’s new works are made from the gentle trace of black soot left by a flickering candle upon the surface of a white gessoed canvas. Through this unorthodox drawing technique, Dokoupil parodies art’s sanctity. By using soot instead of charcoal, he makes punning reference to the Old Master tradition of chiaroscuro drawing. Dokoupil also constructs various correspondences between the image represented and the unusual mode of rendering. Trafic (Traffic, 1989) depicts a highway traffic jam. The layers of candle soot mimic the shimmering effect of heat rising from the automobiles. In

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  • Kenneth Noland

    Salander-O'Reilly Galleries

    If, at the beginning of the ’60s, Kenneth Noland seemed to be riding the crest of history, with Clement Greenberg celebrating the artist’s early efforts as the apotheosis of recent American painting, today his endeavor looks decidedly more parochial. Noland borrowed his stain technique from Helen Frankenthaler, but discarded her gestural calligraphy. As with Frankenthaler, Noland’s best paintings are animated by an unabashed estheticism. His early targets, with their simple concentric rings of paint stained directly into unprimed canvas, enabled color to breathe with a heretofore unprecedented

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  • Ashley Bickerton

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Laboring in Andy Warhol’s long shadow, Ashley Bickerton came of age in the early ’80s as part of a whole new wave of artists that made its own aggressive assault on the art market the focus of its artistic endeavor. Treating the art world as a structure that could be mastered and exploited, they “worked” its mechanisms, coaxing them to visibility at the level of content. Bickerton’s early wall pieces—fitted with handles for easy moving, covers for protection, jokes on the back to entertain the art handlers, documentation of the origin of the materials used and abused in their fabrication, and,

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  • Louise Fishman

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    Like a number of other current painters, Louise Fishman makes brushstrokes themselves the figures of her paintings. But where David Reed, for example, sculpts his fetishized brushstrokes into smooth, sinuous forms, Fishman keeps her marks raw, direct, seemingly unmediated in their record of their own making. Brushy, with hints of undercolor coming through their broken-up surfaces, these broad strokes—usually limited to verticals and horizontals, echoing the edge of the canvas—necessarily suggest veils. Like membranous planes, they separate the painting’s surface (where the image resides) and

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  • David Reed

    Max Protetch

    In 1974, David Reed began investigating the brushstroke in a series of vertical paintings. Between 1974 and 1980, he worked on a number of two-paneled, horizontal paintings. In many of these, he would make a white stroke against a black ground in one panel, and repeat it in the next one. In other paintings from this period, he would juxtapose one panel (dark against light or vice versa) with another (a monochromatic plane). If Reed’s early paintings were not always successful, it was not because they were lacking in ambitiousness, but because their seams were too apparent.

    Since 1980, Reed’s

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  • Sue Coe

    Galerie St. Etienne

    In the 60 drawings comprising “Porkopolis,” Sue Coe, who in the past has created works dealing with politically charged subjects from the Ku Klux Klan to rape, turns her considerable energies as researcher and graphic artist to this country’s meat industry. Coe intends the project to update The Jungle, Upton Sinclair’s 1906 literary account of the same subject. Though Coe focuses on the animals rather than the factory workers as victims, her images argue that things have only gotten worse for both.

    The black and white watercolor-and-graphite images, many done from life (Coe visited farms and meat

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  • Ida Applebroog

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Over the last few years, Ida Applebroog has been moving away from her signature non-narrative comic-strip works showing featureless figures to larger, more painterly panels and more complex compositions. The large paintings shown here reflect this shift: certain scenes are reminiscent of her early work, but often, as in Lithium Square, 1988, figures emerge from tight frames and enter the larger panels, as though the artist were eager to blur the boundaries of the two phases.

    Applebroog’s small and large figures include men, women, kids, and animals, often engaged in actions so ordinary—sipping

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  • Roy Lichtenstein

    Mary Boone Gallery / Leo Castelli Gallery

    Roy Lichtenstein’s mirror paintings, executed between 1969 and 1972, reflect nothing: as such, they are both cruel and true. These mirrors do not offer easy narcissistic gratification, allegorical meanings, or narrative logic. They do not tell us that we are the fairest in the land; they do not flatter us with false promises of referentiality or content. They are exultant images of an emptiness endemic to American popular culture. Lichtenstein as an artist refuses to comment on this emptiness; like Warhol, he absorbs it and reproduces it with a kind of vacant intensity whose beauty has not faded

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  • Bruce Nauman

    Leo Castelli Gallery / Lorence-Monk

    Bruce Nauman can be regarded as an emblematic figure, for he makes clear what one complex strand of ’60s—art variously and often simultaneously Minimalist, Conceptualist, and performative—was all about: the sense of entrapment, and the difficulty of springing the trap, even by dadaist means. Untitled, 1986—a circular floor piece resembling a closed tunnel—makes the point succinctly: one goes round and round, blindly caught in a system. Even when the system is structured by contradiction, it still remains closed. This, I take it, is the implicit point of the artist’s language pieces, where letters

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  • Lawrence Carroll

    57 STUX + Haller Gallery

    Lawrence Carroll is a major new presence in sculpture. It would be easy to classify his work as expressive minimalism, in that his ostensibly simple geometrical constructions are given subtly textured surfaces. (The texturing is so subtle that the works seem simultaneously refined and raw.) In some pieces the structure is seamed and collaged, in others a small section of it is removed to reveal an interior emptiness. The way that emptiness is glassed in leads us to expect to see the relic of a saint, but there is none. The works tend to the monumental, as in The Words Aren’t Mine and No Patience

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  • Rainer Fetting

    Raab Gallery

    In the center of the gallery’s main space was the “objective” key—a real goldfish bowl, full of real goldfish—to this highly opinionated exhibition. It was a statement of attitude, at once cynical and whimsical, on the goldfish bowl of the art world. The walls were covered with painting after painting of fighting or prowling fish, some with human heads, all looking rather truculent. Two little paintings—New York Fish Bowl (all works, 1989), of a bowl full of goldfish, and Empire Fish, of two fish fighting, with the Empire State Building in the background—made the point as explicitly as possible.

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  • Gretchen Faust

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    In her five performances, enacted over five successive Mondays, Gretchen Faust subtly transformed different areas in an open, semi-raw loft space, using objects fabricated or arranged for each event. Prior to the first performance, one could see the various areas as fixed sculptural installations. A row of 100 shovels was laid along one wall and a wooden crib lined with moss and green velvet was placed against another. At one end of the room, sheets of tin covered the floor, and a large circle of black silk lay in the center. A white silk scarf several yards long was wound between two windows.

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  • Dorit Cypis

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    Dorit Cypis has gained a well-deserved reputation for her provocative composite photographs, as well as for her performances and multimedia installations. Cypis’ photographs often consist of an erotic image of a female body juxtaposed with a differently biased image of a body, such as from a medical textbook. Each of the two images presupposes the subject’s relation to the body in a different way; within one composite photograph, Cypis transgresses the borders separating both image types. Her goal is to reclaim the body from existing representational codes.

    This installation, called The Naked

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  • “Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and The Mask”

    Julie Saul Gallery

    “Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and the Mask”: curious title for an exhibition of photographic portraits depicting (according to the press release) “one of the greatest contributors to the arts during the heyday of the French avant-garde.” French fag, very busy with his hands—all that decor to arrange, in order to fill up those empty, chilled white rooms of his. [Delete previous sentence. Could be construed as moral judgment leveled against sodomites. Also, ambiguous use of word “white.” Could be construed by white populace as being unnecessarily aggressive. Private agenda inappropriate in this

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  • Ton van Summern

    David Beitzel Gallery

    The Greek philosopher Empedocles was the first among Western scientific thinkers to propose that the universe was composed of four distinct elements: earth, air, fire, and water. His theory survived in various forms at least until the 16th-century and still holds powerful symbolic, if not scientific, sway over the imagining of nature today. Ton van Summern investigates that theory’s attraction in this collection of five altered black and white photographs.

    The central images, enlarged from the pages of science books, depict each of Empedocles’ supposed four elements as they appear when placed

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  • Ilona Granet

    P·P·O·W

    Ilona Granet is best known to the public at large for a series of metal street signs that she designed and hung in New York last year. The signs borrowed the authority of city parking instructions and used it to try to make life for women here a bit more tolerable: “Curb Your Animal Instincts” said one in English and Spanish, over a schematic drawing of a beast straining on a leash towards a woman in a short dress. Another said “No cat calls, whistling and kissing noises.” In this show Granet presents two more public projects, one a group of signs that ABC/Capitol Cities commissioned last year,

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  • Matt Mullican

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The absence of a universal lexicon of symbols is something utopians and mystics bitterly regret. To give birth to an internal system of signs with such simplicity and directness that their truth is evident to all: such has been the goal of cosmologists from Pythagoras to Monty Python. Matt Mullican is known for his own complex system of emblematic signs. But his recent installation here steps through another dimension. Through the use of a device called "Connection Machine–2,” Mullican has created an imaginary world city, presented as though ready for a future real estate agent’s sales pitch.

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  • Ronald Gault Jirado

    Annina Nosei

    Toss a Burger King wrapper in front of an artwork and see how the work holds up. If it doesn’t lose its cool, it’s safe to say that it has something to do with life as it’s lived in this half of the 20th-century. If it suffers much in comparison, odds are that it’s quagmired in some retrograde idea of beauty. Ronald Gault Jirado’s installation—which offered, in the artist’s own words, "a reconstructing of Eastern/Western customs and ceremonies of philosophical and religious idealogies [sic]”—flunks the Burger King test. It looks alright at first, but it’s pretentious.

    Like so many other artists

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  • Yuriko Yamaguchi

    Penine Hart Gallery

    Eight of Yuriko Yamaguchi’s cryptic wall assemblages are featured in this show. Each is made up of an arrangement of strange, possibly symbolic objects, made of stained or polychromed wood. All are presented either directly on the wall or against backdrops that seem less like frames than breeding grounds for elementary life forms. Yamaguchi offers us undeciperable hieroglyphs, masterfully allusive configurations and clusters of shapes that escape definitive readings. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud distinguishes between the latent content of a dream—the dream itself—and its manifest

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  • Richard E. Prince

    49th Parallel

    This show presents five of Richard E. Prince’s works from the past seven years. All but one are accompanied by perfectly finished, small-scale models. In the mid ’70s, Prince made stage sets that depicted natural phenomena (such as wind) as theatrical devices. These little machines, contained in cases of wood or glass, showed the artist’s early interest in simultaneously creating and revealing illusions. This interest continued in a series of freestanding nude sculptures that drew attention to their dual reality as both inanimate objects and representations of human beings. By the early ’80s,

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  • Can We Dance a Landscape?

    brooklyn academy of music

    The brand of Japanese dance-theater called butoh has typically been performed on an empty stage, a dark void penetrated only by noirish light that underlines the metaphoric idea of earth as a nightmarish environment. For Peut-on Danser le Paysage? (Can we dance a landscape?, 1989) performed by Min Tanaka and his butoh group Maijuku, Karel Appel created a visible context of hellish surroundings in the form of several backdrops and a few drop-in flats. With large-scale, slashing brushstrokes and blunt, blaring colors, Appel’s quasi-abstract hilly landscapes were an appropriate visual realization

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  • Dream Bardo

    Franklin Furnace

    From the apocalyptic imagery of its sets and costumes to its eccentric hillbilly music, Lambs Eat Ivy seems to embody southern-style outsider art, as if it were the performance counterpart of the Reverend Howard Finster. And, like Finster, this trio has definitely found a universe in its particular grain of sand. The group’s subject is mythology, from kundalini to Christ. The show at Franklin Furnace, Dream Bardo, 1989, documented a librarian’s journey through the Bardo state (the period between death and rebirth described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead). The trio (Nancy Andrews, Emma Elizabeth

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