reviews

  • Greg Colson

    Sperone Westwater

    At first sight Greg Colson’s sculptures look like yet another instance of the currently stylish approach that someone dubbed “stonewashed Minimalism.” His objects—made of lunch boxes, inner tubes, and scrap boards that are chipped, rusted, dented, and faded—bear conspicuous signs of aging and decrepitude. But upon closer inspection Colson’s work reveals delicate intrusions that seem to be at the core of his concerns. Various ordering systems are inscribed on the distressed surfaces of his found objects, in an apparent effort to control or deny the entropic forces of time. In Newark, 1989, an

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  • Lewis Stein

    Paula Allen Gallery

    Lewis Stein’s new photographic works operate somewhere between the imagistic cancellation of Roy Lichtenstein’s mirror paintings and the horror vacuii of Allan McCollum’s surrogates. The specificity of influence would completely bog down a less focused esthetic proposition, but here, where the work intimates its own disappearance, specificity becomes a distinct advantage. Stein’s method is simple. He first selects reproductions of mirrors from mail-order catalogues. He then photographs them and blows them up to life-size, laminating each print to a thin board which has been cut to match the

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  • Andrew Stevovich

    Coe Kerr Gallery

    More than a bit of a romantic, with a touch of the classicist about him, the painter Andrew Stevovich is one reason the field of contemporary figurative realism has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance of late. Stevovich has a genuine flair for symbolic statement, for bringing out life’s metaphorical significance, not in any heavy or didactic fashion but in the most enchanting of terms. In this show of recent paintings Stevovich revealed quite a keen eye for the quiet drama of daily existence. He showed the timeless element behind the commonplace encounter, the elemental forces of love and desire

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  • Robert Greene

    Robert Miller Gallery

    There is something very American about Robert Greene’s paintings. Although his Arcadian landscapes—peopled by a plethora of dogs and tiny figures in airs of distracted contemplation, eccentric activity, or self-inflated beauty—hearken back to 18th-century French Salon painting, stylistically Greene can be linked to Marsden Hartley, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and even Arthur Dove. Beneath the decorative amiability and vanity of his paintings is a foundation of angular compositional rigor and a bare-bones, encrusted-oil-on-board surface, as opposed to the compositional swirls and luminous varnished

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  • Marilyn Minter

    Max Protetch

    In the mid ’80s, Marilyn Minter situated herself among postwar European and American artists who made use of pop images while critiquing pop culture. Often, these critiques were light and off-handed, humorous and generous, rather than cool and parsimonious. The difference between Minter and the Europeans—Sigmar Polke, say—is not simply a matter of age and stature; it has to do with the way each thinks about painting. Polke or Jiri Georg Doukopil, for example, looks back to European history; each is trying to revive what essentially died (call it imagination or culture) in World War II. Minter’s

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  • Shirley Jaffe

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    This is the 60-year-old Shirley Jaffe’s first show ever, but her work looks eternally—and I don’t mean cosmetically—young. The brightness of color, the diversity of unresolved, quirky shapes on the canvas, and the tendency toward quick, succinct statement suggest a determination to remain innocent, perhaps to make a kind of sophistication or cult out of innocence. Jaffe’s pictures seem to take as their point of departure Matisse’s cutouts. Her shapes are the product of a similar process of essentialization, and her colors seem derived directly from those of Matisse, even seem to be a play on

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  • Annette Lemieux

    New Museum

    The subject of memory has been central to Annette Lemieux’s investigations. Her recent exhibition, called “The Appearance of Sound,” consisted of six paintings which use memory as a mechanism to mediate between visual and auditory communication. Lemieux avoids the tired formalist activity of comparing, differentiating, or translating these distinct sensory modes. Instead, she focuses on the associative power of memory to conjure and make concrete the otherwise ethereal and temporal sensation of sound. All six paintings employ nostalgic imagery, which generates familiar associations. Each work

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  • Dara Birnbaum

    Josh Baer Gallery

    Dara Birnbaum couches her recent video installation, Break in Transmission, 1990, in the fervent language of private recall and public censure. Intercutting clips from news reports about demonstrations in Tiananmen Square with images of Chinese singers in a recording studio, Birnbaum offers a subtle yet overpowering rendering of the massacre of student protesters in China. She shows how the fragile lives of individuals, filled with intricate moments of moral yearning, were not merely ripped apart, but simply negated: quietly and completely nullified.

    Birnbaum, known for her videos duplicating

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  • Bernd And Hilla Becher

    Sonnabend Gallery

    I am not sure that the Bechers realize how peculiar plainness looks. August Sander is their model, and Sander understood the force of plainness: its implication of socialization, to the point of rigid conformity. All the buildings the Bechers show are militantly plain. Form does not follow function in them, but overwhelms function with its ordinariness. The Bechers are not so much documenting architecture, whether industrial or domestic, as showing how devastatingly ordinary it can be. At the same time, they show—perhaps without realizing it—how plainness is self-defeating, comes apart at the

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  • Peter Hujar

    Grey Art Gallery

    In this recent retrospective of Peter Hujar’s photographs, curator Thomas Sokolowski included not only the well-known self-portraits and portraits—those of Ethyl Eichelberger, Susan Sontag, and David Wojnarowicz, for example—but also images of animals, which resonate with the same particularity and clarity as those of people. Sokolowski suggested the affinities between the two with intelligent sequencing, as in the pairing at the gallery entrance of a 1981 image of a Great Dane with a 1975 self-portrait. The dynamic operating in both photographs is the same; it is always dignified, never contrived,

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  • Anthony Hernandez

    The Opsis Foundation

    In his cool studies of the unseen corners where Los Angeles’ homeless sleep, Anthony Hernandez adopts the stance of an archeologist, or maybe a police photographer. In only one setting is the resident at home—a blanket-covered figure sleeps under the Hollywood Freeway surrounded by his collection of junk. These sites have the air of transient ruins—the residents scrabble together walls out of cardboard boxes, old car seats (this is L.A., after all), and broken-off planks, scrunching their possessions into the spaces beneath freeway overpasses or simply spreading out a soiled blanket in a bower

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  • Manipulation and Photography

    The Gallery

    The title of this show is simplistic: there isn’t a photographic image that isn’t manipulated or manipulating. In fact, curators Kathleen Cullen and Dan Appel brought together work that deals not only with manipulation but with abuse, loss, and violence. The artists seen here also seem to be expressing a deep ambivalence about money. This is a refreshing position for a viewer weary of tongue-in-cheek, disingenuous attitudes toward greed and mercantilism in the art world.

    Simon Leung’s Father’s Journal, 1989, is a photocollage of found black and white images (mostly medical photographs from the

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  • Hans Danuser

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    For some years now Hans Danuser has been taking photographs of the interiors of laboratories and industrial plants. Three series were on display here: “A-Energie,” 1982, scenes from various atomic power plants and research facilities; “Medizin I,”1984, observations of pathology and anatomical instruction labs; and “Chemie II,” 1989, views of genetic engineering labs. The black and white prints are not so much studies of work environments as landscapes of a world, depopulated and half-dark; not illustrations of the life spent in the acquisition of knowledge, however odd and arcane, but portraits

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  • Sean Landers

    Postmasters

    The plaster casts Sean Landers uses in his works are cheap copies, commercial reproductions of famous or popular sculptures sold as bookends or piano-top knickknacks. The head of the great Laocoön appears in one, a Roman sculpture of Agrippa in another, and there are portraits of Shakespeare, of Marie Antoinette, of Pan, and of an anonymous French aristocrat. Landers takes the casts, puts them in deep cylinders, and submerges them in a translucent brown polyester resin. The block that emerges is then placed on a pedestal of Landers’ own making.

    Landers seems to be fascinated the way contexts

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  • Simon Faibisovich

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    The meticulously rendered patterns of reflective and transparent glass in the paintings of Muscovite Simon Faibisovich have led many to associate the artist with Western photorealism. But in the present show Faibisovich employs a range of styles and compositional strategies, and the constant lies in his subject matter: ordinary people in uneventful moments of ordinary days. Faibisovich’s past series have included people riding on or waiting for public transportation and people waiting on line for food and other consumer goods. The new paintings continue the waiting motif, though it is seldom

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  • Ilya Kabakov

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Ilya Kabakov is known to American audiences for elaborate installations such as Ten Characters, 1988, in which the artist constructed an almost life-size Soviet communal apartment inhabited by characters such as “The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment.” The range of imaginative strategies employed by Kabakov’s invented characters read as parodies of various modes of avant-garde art, from collage to process art, for each character left physical traces of his guiding obsession.

    The combination of high art and lowly existence appears again in the current exhibition. For Installation I, My

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  • Perry Bard

    SculptureCenter

    While many artists appear to address major political and societal issues in their work, the roster of those who can manage the fluttering balance of social agendas and formal strategies remains quite small. Equilibrium is difficult to achieve; one objective usually rises to the diminishment of another. With this exhibition of powerful confrontational sculptures and installations, Perry Bard raises the standards for politically engaged artists. Bard’s particular focus in this exhibition was the interpretation of justice. Her work is concerned with how the esthetic vision can construct the dimensions

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  • Jerilea Zempel

    Battery Park

    Jerilea Zempel’s Excess Volatility, 1989, looks like a captured beast. Located just south of a subway station in the Wall Street area, it resides in a triangular site that is completely enclosed by a black railing. Its stalking, crouched form suggests that it has been chased and bullied onto the site and is now protected, but trapped, by the surrounding urban armor. The temporary appearance of this object does not suggest run-of-the-mill public art; there is something startling and surreal in its occupation.

    Zempel’s sculpture combines industrial and natural elements. The carcass of the piece is

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  • Alix Pearlstein

    Laurie Rubin Gallery

    Alix Pearlstein combines utilitarian objects with commercial materials to make slick wall sculptures that are replete with anthropomorphic associations. Her creations allude comically, but never overtly, to the human body and to the objects we use daily. By intermingling human and nonhuman elements, Pearlstein shows how commercially manufactured objects and materials have become an integral part of our physical existence.

    In her game of allusion, the artist often cleverly equates consumer greed with sexual desire, revealing the two to be uncomfortably if inextricably linked. More, More, More (

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  • Fred Tomaselli

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    In the early ’80s, L.A.-based sculptor Fred Tomaselli made kinetic sculptures that used technology to critique the evils of technological society. His sensibility combined Dada and hip-hop; his constructions ranged from giant pinball machines to models of homeless people that twitched violently when you walked near them. A pivotal work for Tomaselli was Shoreline, 1984, an installation that presented a sea of Styrofoam cups set in motion by a fan. This installation marked a refinement of the artist’s ability to use kinetic elements, and a continuation of his commitment to making the viewer aware

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  • Dove Bradshaw

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    Dove Bradshaw’s installation Plain Air, 1989, was shown in the living quarters of Sandra Gering’s home, which is also her gallery. The installation featured a pair of male and female ring-necked doves. A bicycle wheel without a tire was hung perpendicular to the ceiling by a single steel cable and the birds often perched on the wheel, seeming comfortable despite the tilt brought about by their weight. As days passed they redefined the room by establishing habits in it; they usually slept on the wheel, chose a perch as their favorite for eating, and so on. A stencil of the words plein air (after

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  • Max Frazee

    Susan Schreiber Gallery

    Part of the calculated dementedness of the antisitcom Married with Children is the star family’s surname, the same as that of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. What its black humor insinuates is that if psychotic derangement might leave a long and bloody trail of carnage, worse horrors fester within the cocoon of familial normalcy. In stark contrast, Maxx Frazee’s installation, called “Epitaph for Ted,” bluntly exploits Bundy as a reified cult object but offers no such insights.

    The mainstay of the exhibit is a series of pastels on Epsom board. These share a common design motif which has no

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  • Moira Dryer

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Moira Dryer’s fuzzy abstract paintings look like wallpaper or bedraggled scaps of moiré or tie-dyed fabric. In spite of this seeming inconsequence, the work proceeds, albeit tenuously, from a metaphor of abstraction as consciousness—a metaphor that has persisted with intermittent strength since the advent of Abstract Expressionism. Dryer shirks the often embarrassing rhetoric of torment that characterizes much of that movement’s constitutive discourse, but she retains a vague emotivity as the subdued referential content of her art. An absence of readily discernible subject matter points towards

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  • Bob Thompson

    Vanderwoude Tananbaum Gallery

    In these works, covering the years 1959 to 1965, Bob Thompson demonstrated how during that most culturally radical of decades, the ’60s, it was possible for a young artist to reinvest the most hallowed symbolic traditions of art with fresh significance. How? By doing what amounted to his own lyrically expressive thing. Thompson’s life was tragically brief; he died in 1966 at age 29. A visionary of a uniquely American sort, he was part of a talented circle including Red Grooms, Lester Johnson, and Larry Rivers that made up the figurative wing of the New York School. Thompson developed a style of

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  • Blue Man Group

    Franklin Furnace

    Blue Man Group (Chris Wink, Matthew Goldman, and Phil Stanton) is the latest in a line of gross-out performance artists that traces back to the Kipper Kids of the mid ’70s. Unlike the Kippers, who evince a Teutonic fondness for the scatalogical (fake-caca smearing, spitting, and fart-sound chatter), Blue Man Group is a buttoned-down version of bad behavior; their messes are cleanly executed and tidily contained, rather than anarchic and stumbling. While they don’t sprawl into redundant offensiveness, neither do they generate the inspired, squirm-in-your-seat moments that the borderline acting

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