reviews

  • Ping Chong, Brightness

    La Mama E.T.C.

    Ping Chong’s forte is the creation of ambience, but there’s always a message behind his beautiful, staged pictures. Though his social consciousness sometimes seems at odds with his rather whimsical sensibility, Ping Chong’s Brightness, described in the program as “a theater work for the fin de siècle,” uses that very tension to generate pathos. This is vaudeville drenched in melancholy.

    A ringmaster dressed in bright white, her peaked witch’s hat lit from within, welcomes us cheerfully to “the circus maximus of the millenium,” alluding to a world of war and plague just outside. As she promises

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  • Stephen Rueckert

    Tomoko Liguori Gallery

    Stephen Rueckert’s enormous sculpture The Standard Model (Abandoned), 1989, is inspired by particle physics, specifically by the vast accelerators that shatter minute matter, returning it to some essential state. It offers no clue as to what the diminutive components of particle physics might look like, but it operates as a fictive model that implies visually how the contemporary scientific process might operate. In its synthesis of precision and shamanism, Rueckert’s sculpture suggests the complex character of invention—the way in which discovery is both an intellectual quest and an act of

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  • Daniel Buren

    John Weber Gallery

    In his latest work, Daniel Buren continues a conceptual, formal, and painterly investigation of his great preoccupation—extremely ordinary, very disciplined lines of color. His familiar vertical arrangements of stripes of color alternating with white or light-colored lines once raised tough questions about the process of painting, the structures of perception, the production of art, and the conditions of the work’s surrounding space. Buren’s cerebral line of inquiry and commonplace patterns are the blueprints for and the control group of a range of experiments that can accommodate any combination

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  • Nancy Shaver

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Nancy Shaver groups found objects, primarily domestic items like coffeepots, dishes, and decorative bric-a-brac, with paintings by naive artists and reproductions of works by artists such as Cézanne and Gauguin, creating loose sculptural ensembles. In some cases the images cluster on the wall, like the groupings seen on suburban staircases; elsewhere they spill onto the floor and out into the room. In Art (all works, 1989), a row of paintings ranging from red-on-red abstractions to still lifes to a framed reproduction of Cézanne’s card-players stretches out across the wall; a coffeepot and dishes

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  • Richard Prince

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Jay Gorney Modern Art

    Two recent shows of painting, sculpture, and photography by Richard Prince afforded the opportunity to reflect on the fortunes of re- photography (the appropriationist strategy staked out by Prince in the late ’70s) as well as on the artist’s continuing fascination with the phantasmata of American mass culture–– what he once characterized as “social science fiction.” Prince showed only one photographic work––Untitled, 1989, the largest yet of his cowboy images, installed in Barbara Gladstone’s basement space—but this signature work provides conceptual clues to the joke paintings and, especially,

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  • Peter Hopkins

    American Fine Arts, Co.

    The decay of postindustrial Western civilization is the theme of Peter Hopkins’ series, “Capital Projects,” 1989. Random Displacement Site (underpass), a photographic triptych, illustrates the artist’s critical tone. Hopkins presents three views of an abandoned underpass on the site of a former industrial complex. Discarded refuse has accumulated inside the confines of an area surrounded by a wire fence and along the edges of the underpass tunnel. The images document a natural process of change. In this defiled arena, various forces, especially wind, have sculpted an environment. Hopkins, however,

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  • Dieter Roth

    David Nolan Gallery

    Dieter Roth is a crazy, a genuine crazy, god bless him! He comes out of the great tradition of German mystic/psychotic art that verges on the void, struggling to articulate it. Thus, in his manic Six Piccadillies, 1969–70, Roth is not making a standard Warhol-type erasure of a famous presence, but is attempting to articulate the uncanniness of a peculiar public space. Roth attempts to turn this space’s essence inside out and discovers that it has no single essence. The space is bottomlessly full, uncannily overflowing with possibilities of spatiality; protean, it spontaneously changes its mode

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  • Ed Moses

    Louver Gallery

    In his paintings, Ed Moses aspires to a visionary activation of surface. He offers a dense painterliness that never quite congeals into a tight matrix, but maintains a certain airy look, for all its apparent grimness. Perhaps this is because the paint is typically applied in broad vertical (but not simplistically stripelike) bands. Moses uses sharply contrasting blacks and whites; their bleak effect is tempered by lush, squiggly red accents. One doesn’t expect a California artist to convey such intensity and forthright power, but Moses clearly has the courage of his painterly conviction.

    The

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  • Philip Tsiaras

    Shea & Beker

    This collection of black and white family photographs (Family Album, 1979–89) is perhaps the most amazing such record I have ever seen. The camera has always been an intrusive instrument, partially falsifying what it records, especially in the case of private life. It can barely do justice to the quality of emotion that binds the figures it analyzes: it cannot easily get at the connection between these figures, the core of their intimacy. The camera tends to betray the feelings it records by socializing them, making them passive signs of a public code of expression rather than active responses

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  • Gino De Domenicis

    Murray and Isabella Rayburn Foundation

    This exhibition represented the first real chance for an American audience to see much work by Gino De Dominicis. The early pieces seen here are more or less classical Conceptual art, appealing to cognition and manipulating the viewer into interior visualizations. A square of white tape lines on the floor, for example, is titled Invisible Cube, 1968; a black arm chair is titled Invisible Person: The Fourth Solution to Immortality, 1972; a rubber ball lying on the floor is called Rubber ball (from a fall of two meters) at the point preceding the rebound, 1969; and a granite rock is titled Waiting

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  • Lydia Dona

    Tom Cuglianai Gallery

    Until recently, Lydia Dona was a restless, painterly archeologist, who moved thought fully but swiftly from one site of Modernist abstraction to another. From 1985 to ’86, she investigated a spatiality that had its contemporary origins in the work of Roberto Matta and Yves Tanguy. In 1987, she began investigating the possibilities of allover composition, and her patterned space took as its departure point the early work of Larry Poons. Dona has changed her work, but this recent change––it is more of a breakthrough––is the most significant one she has made to date. She plays the viscosity of oil

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  • Joan Mitchell

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Joan Mitchell has continued to develop and to paint without relying on critical theory as a buttress for her work. Her development over the past 40 years has been marked by an increasing mastery of line, color, and placement. Mitchell’s recent exhibition included two- and three-paneled paintings, many of which are large in scale. Her inventory of gestural brushwork includes roiling strokes of lush paint, thin arid lines, juicy slaps of color, calligraphic glyphs, and knot-like lines that hover between shape and erasure. Her compositions are made up of specific strokes of color, each of which is

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  • Miquel Barcelo

    Leo Castelli Gallery

    Miguel Barcelo displayed a number of sketchbooks and drawings made on an extended trip through Africa in 1988; a dozen paintings, made upon his return to Paris, were also on exhibit. The self-absorption of some of his earlier work has apparently been mitigated by his travels; where once he had tended towards a romanticism that put himself and his work and habits at the center of attention, this body of work contains little evidence of self-reference. Barcelo remains a remarkable draftsman. The sketchbooks and drawings––all gouache on paper––present the spareseness and privation of the North

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  • Jonathan Adolphe

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    Like the codes Jonathan Adolphe uses to signal his oblique messages, the works shown here are at once full and evocative, and oddly impoverished. Using flags, sign language, braille, written English, and a cryptogram composed of stick figures of dancing men (invented by Arthur Conan Doyle for Sherlock Holmes to decipher), the artist spells out messages on half-painted, rectangular boards. Strips of lead have been sunk into the center of these so that some elements can be stamped directly into the work rather than painted onto it. The pieces seem like bits of flotsam, not just because the boards

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  • Mary Lucier

    Greenberg Wilson Gallery

    Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Mary Lucier’s three-channel video installation Wilderness, 1986, is that it implies beauty and cliché through the same set of images. Lucier demonstrates how the popular assumption that the two are intrinsically antithetical is not necessarily true. Wilderness consists of a row of seven monitors mounted variously on faux classical pedestals, tree trunks, and a fluted urn. Lucier has arranged these in descending order, from the highest on the ends to the lowest in the middle; she has also mounted all but the urn, the center element, on low risers as well.

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  • Daniel Levine

    Julien Pretto

    Daniel Levine reiterates images. Taking an arbitrary source such as a painting or print, he reproduces part of that image in black and white acrylic paint. But recognition of the original source is obviously not the desired goal, since each of his images is equally abstract; they resemble each other more than they resemble their sources. What is retained from the original is only a hinted movement, a darkened area, or a surface texture. The fact that the original sources are referred to neither in the works themselves nor in their titles underscores Levine’s interest in pursuing an arbitrariness

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  • Ed Albers

    Fawbush Gallery

    Ed Albers’ diptych canvases (all works, 1989) portray hazy worlds populated by microbiotic life-forms. From the left panels emerge faint ghostlike patterns; the right panels bear isolated microbes, set off against a flat, murky background and highlighted by an eerie light. These forms are viewed as if under a microscope, enlarged many more times than normal and rendered with great precision. The creatures seem almost familiar, like distant cousins to the tree, as in Ramosus Spiraculum (Branching airhole), or the jellyfish, as in Siliqua Viri (Husks of the men). Albers’ earlier paintings, less

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  • Nancy Fried

    Grahm Modern

    The intensity of Nancy Fried’s ceramic sculptures has always come from their grounding in autobiography. In the mid ’80s Fried was making small, painted terra-cotta works that presented isolated female figures in various extreme emotional states. Their loneliness, despair, hatred, and longing were linked to Fried’s own feelings, and represented a cathartic purging for the artist of painful early experiences. Autobiography still drives Fried’s work. Since undergoing a radical mastectomy, a bilateral ovarian cystectomy, and an appendectomy, the artist has begun making small terra-cotta heads and

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  • Teresa Bramlette

    Althea Viafora Gallery

    Banality is a powerful drug, certainly one that has not been thoroughly explored. It can make certain objects completely invisible. In this show, called “Traces of Use,” Teresa Bramlette attempts to make us see what banality obscures. The artist’s emulsion-on-wood images of bowls, cutlery, grapes, and so forth recall those pieces of wood with images of tourist attractions shellacked onto them that one finds at souvenir stores. The exhibition, while earnest, falls short of being compelling because the esthetic impact of Bramlette’s work is not strong enough to stand up to the banality of the

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  • Marc Travanti

    John Davis Gallery

    Marc Travanti shares with the Cubists and Futurists an interest in extending the scope of the picture to accommodate fragments of reality. Using the technique of collage pioneered by Braque and Picasso, Travanti works with newspaper fragments cut out from various American and foreign periodicals. The fragments are glued to solid rectangular supports, most of which are made of wood. Travanti arranges his material in rhythmical passages, with much attention paid to edge and direction, and to what possible impact the words and letters contained in the pieces of columns and headlines carry. This

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  • Liuba

    Achim Moeller Fine Art

    This retrospective, covering the years from 1963 to 1989, provided a long overdue look at the work of a leading international sculptor. Liuba was born in Bulgaria and studied with Germaine Richier in Switzerland in the mid ’40s. Since the late ’50s, she has lived in Paris and São Paulo. Judging by the sculptures and drawings that were displayed here, she is an artist who exhibits a peerless understanding of the expressive dynamics of form. There is something magical about her ability to imbue form with vital meaning. Much the same can be said of her talent for using abstraction as a means to

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  • Industrial Symphony #1

    brooklyn academy of music

    Artists who traffic in dreams run the risk of confusing profundity with silliness. Dream motifs too often degenerate into hackneyed psychobabble. David Lynch’s films, such as Eraserhead, 1978, and Blue Velvet, 1986, have resolved the problem by joining logic and illogic, thereby conjuring disorienting truths out of the most banal dream elements. For Industrial Symphony #1, his live presentation that kicked off the New Music America Festival, Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti created a large-scale operatic dreamscape that combined goofy, cartoonlike characters and actions with a deadpan

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  • Jeannie Hutchins, Gods Drop Out Of Nowhere

    Dance Theater Workshop

    It is the unpredictable in life that interests Jeannie Hutchins––what just happens, as opposed to what one plans. In her recent solo work Gods Drop Out of Nowhere, 1989, Hutchins smartly dances and talks her way through what she views as a current ludicrous yearning for exoticism. She seems to consider this desire to be borne and realized so self-absorbedly as to preclude all chance of discovery or understanding. Hutchins closes her performance confessing, “This is how I wanted you. . . . The way a hunter wants a young seal, who dives when it feels it is being followed.” The experience becomes

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