reviews

  • Ed Paschke

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Ed Paschke’s new paintings are full of art about art references—Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Diego Velázquez’s Juan de Pareja are quoted—but, as always in appropriation art, the attitude toward the borrowed imagery counts as much as the iconography itself. Paschke’s appropriations are characterized by his peculiarly lurid color and the incorporation of small tributary figures—the upper bits of angles, or the heads of black youths. Paschke has always been interested in the bizarre telling detail. The black bands blocking the eyes of his angels, which suggest they are X-rated, and the flattop

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  • Al Held

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Al Held has never been given his full due, yet as this exhibition of Expressionist abstractions from 1953-55 makes evident, his stature continues to grow. Held is a painter of tremendous force, and, equally important, of subtlety. In these early gestural canvases he restrains and structures his energy, keeping his painterly athletics from degenerating into unadulterated razzle-dazzle. What is special about these works is not their activity but their architecture; not their crudity, but their lyricism. Anticipating his migration from gesture to geometry, these paintings tend toward stability,

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  • Izhar Patkin

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Palagonia, 1990, Izhar Patkin’s installation of paintings, sculpture, and photographs, is characterized by glamorous desolation, by morbidity brought under the rule of the pleasure principle. A quasi-Baroque sculpture which, along with a shopping cart loaded with high-tech gadgetry, provides the exhibition’s focus, constitutes a kind of parable of fallen, or at least tortured, humanity. In a perverse betrayal of Bernini’s Saint Theresa, a putto thrusts a gilded spear towards the heart of a haloed figure writhing in agony. Devilish, music-making revelers with what can only be described as crapulous,

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  • Howard Finster

    Painewebber Gallery

    Fourteen years ago, in the God-bless-America bicentennial year of our Lord, the Reverend Howard Finster had a divine vision. Busy at work at one of the countless odd jobs in one of the dozens of trades he mastered over the years to support his mission and family of five, Finster, a sixty-year-old (at the time) Free Will Baptist minister, looked down at a smudge of white paint on one of his fingers, and lo and behold, a human face appeared there. From that little face came a mighty voice, and the voice spoke to Finster and said to him, “Paint sacred art.” It seems that after forty-five years of

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  • Walton Ford

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    Walton Ford allegorizes the legacy of slavery and the racism of the American South in the flattened spaces and golden tones of 15th-century painting. If the Sienese masters attempted to represent the sacred and its permutations, Ford is only interested in the profane and its ambivalence, its pettiness, its evil. In a series of portraits entitled, “The Blood Remembers,” (all works 1989), ugliness attains a level of intensity that attests to the potency of this peculiar conceit. The faces of unhappy white people, painted in his characteristic neonaive style, are pinched with nastiness and thinly

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  • News Room

    American Fine Arts. Co.

    News Room, 1990, is a three-dimensional sketch of sorts, a prototype conceived by architect Peter Fend, video artist Greg Lehmann, and computer artist George Chaikin, to bring us into an interactive relationship with the news media. Hampered by time and budget problems, the artists nevertheless managed to transform the space into a semblance of a hustling and bustling news room. Dominated by a table piled with newspapers and files of clippings, News Room was designed to encourage viewers to read and discuss the news—to use the gallery as they might a public library. A bank of video monitors

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  • James Casebere

    Vrej Baghoomian Gallery

    The scenes that James Casebere builds and then photographs have always seemed underdetermined, whitewashed and so starkly lit that it is difficult to tell how big they are or what kind of space they occupy. Though the models are in fact quite small, Casebere has recently turned to making sculptures that, by contrast, are enormous. The two room-size works exhibited here together with four prints and one light box offer a continuation of Casebere’s spare reconstructions of the past—dreams of 19th-century American living spaces, and of the peculiarly American way they have been swept away.

    The

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  • Laurie Carlos

    Baca Downtown

    White Chocolate travels the vicissitudes of memory, through stories handed down for generations and old songs that bring back a childhood. Writer/director Laurie Carlos structures the piece like a song, with recurring refrains instead of a story line. The subtext that emerges is one of racism imprinted on personal mythology. The title may refer to the way some white people appropriate what’s black or to the way some blacks try passing for white. Carlos always writes ambiguity, mutability, possibility into her work, as if mere facts just can’t evoke the ghosts.

    Carlos plays the central character

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  • Mary Kelly

    New Museum

    Remarkable both in its ambition and in its radicalness, Mary Kelly’s gallery-size installation Interim is divided into four parts: Corpus, Pecunia, Historia and Potestas. The first section, Corpus (Body, 1984-85), consists of a series of coupled panels. One half of each pair features white handwritten text on a black background with occasional red highlighting. Phrases like “a presence much like hers” or “Look at my body” highlight an individual woman’s physical transformation over the years. The other half of each diptych consists of a silk-screened photograph of articles of clothing arranged

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    Cindy Sherman’s most recent show—a series of photographic glosses on Western art-historical subjects from the 15th through the 19th centuries—was interesting primarily as a case study in the mass reception of contemporary art. Transformed by the crowds that poured into the gallery, the vast space resembled the Impressionist wing of the Met on a busy Sunday. For three successive weeks Sherman’s show was written up in the New York Times, according it the kind of cultural legitimation usually reserved for traditional Masterpieces. The hype surrounding this show made it difficult to discern exactly

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  • Walter Dahn

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    When Walter Dahn last exhibited in the United States five years ago, his reputation was closely identified with the then recent influx of German neo-Expressionist painting. At that time, his work was discussed in terms of its painterly style rather than its critical content. It is only now that the hype surrounding neo-Expressionist painting has subsided that we are able to grasp Dahn’s larger conceptual project. His recent exhibition of paintings and sculpture interweaves sociopolitical commentary with art-historical subversion, demonstrating the range of his critical agenda.

    Dahn’s artistic

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  • Gary Stephan

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Acknowledging Alexander Pope’s dictum that an artist’s freedom lies within the framework of convention and rule, Gary Stephan constructs all of the imagery in his new paintings from a limited set of three curvilinear templates. Their true scale and shape are visible in the painting Mantle (all works 1989) and in the upper registers of Interior with Window, where Stephan presents their silhouettes as if they had been stenciled on the canvas’ surface. From this finite vocabulary Stephan generates infinite pictorial possibilities.

    The templates have no intrinsic symbolic meaning, nor are they treated

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  • Robert Yarber

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Robert Yarber’s lurid nightscapes treat all the obvious aspects of postindustrial anomie. Mismatched couples quarrel in swank restaurants or lie catatonic in the room-with-a-view luxury of resort hotels. Lonely people drift about in quest of romance, only to wind up bewildered beside motel pools or gaudy strips where neon signs advertise life’s most hollow pleasures. In Rex, 1990, and Expenditure of Excess, 1989, faceless, Hopperesque organization men seek distraction in oppressively overlit casinos.

    Recently Yarber’s subject matter has moved up a social notch. Roadside motels and tacky eateries

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  • Jan Groth

    Diane Brown Gallery

    For the past thirty years Norwegian artist Jan Groth has been producing drawings and tapestries characterized by bold, sparse compositions. In the drawings, single black crayon lines score vast fields of white, while in the tapestries (executed with the assistance of Benedikte Groth) the scheme is inverted. Here Groth presents five recent tapestries from his “Sign” series, dominated by single hooks and V-shapes suggesting proud, oversized calligraphic signatures. It is the four smaller crayon drawings, however, that steal the show. In these modest efforts one senses Groth’s edgy, troubled hand

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  • Michael Banicki

    Feature Gallery

    For the past ten years or so, Michael Banicki has been producing “Ratings,” drawings and paintings in the form of seemingly objective graphs or charts, recording his subjective preferences within categories ranging from North American Birds to World War II Planes.

    Some of Banicki’s subjects, such as early jazz tenor sax players or the artists mentioned in H. W. Janson’s History of Art, fall within fields that place high value on cultivated discrimination. In other cases, the artist deliberately explores categories—Chicago Telephone Exchanges or the numbers between one and one hundred—in which

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  • Guillermo Kuitca

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Argentina’s relative political stability during the late ’80s has occasioned a return to painting as a means of personal as well as political expression. Guillermo Kuitca is a member of this new generation, yet his penchant for choreographing fiction and metaphor, apparent in his New York debut, harks back to the theatrical experiments that established the New Figuration artists of the ’60s as a force of radical dissent in the face of a series of oppressive dictatorships.

    Kuitca presents two motifs—the map and the single-family apartment plan—in a variety of formal and metaphorical contexts. The

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  • Anne Rochette

    Julian Pretto / Berland Hall Gallery

    In her show titled “Pains and Pleasures,” Anne Rochette presents works in which graphic and sculptural elements coexist in an uneasy tension. Though each arrangement addresses pressing social and political issues, she does not seem to subscribe to any of the dominant models of political art making. Rochette does not investigate the causes of homelessness, war, and terrorism, or even propose solutions to these problems, rather, she pinpoints and magnifies the way social and political circumstances, to which we often consider ourselves immune, affect us at the level of our bodies.

    Rochette’s is a

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  • Allen Ruppersberg

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    In keeping with the premises of Conceptual art, Allen Ruppersberg generates new work by deftly manipulating format and creating distinct juxtapositions within his existing oeuvre. In his recent show, this method yielded three different projects: You and Me, The Gift and the Inheritance and See For Yourself (all works 1989).

    In You and Me, a checkerboard of black and white floor tiles inlayed with a contrasting italic “poem” that combines the pronouns “you” and “me” variously (“me + you and you + me,” “me + you and you – me,” etc.), became a kind of recombinant dialogue between self and other.

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  • Ford Crull

    M-13 Gallery

    Ford Crull’s paintings suggest figures, but leave it at that. They invite the viewer not so much to ascribe one particular form to a given instance of shape and color as they do to acknowledge the possibility of figuration latent in a range of incidents across the pictorial field. Sketchy black cartoon lines frequently outline Crull’s shapes and although his gestural technique is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s neoprimitivism, where Crull’s approach differs—and this difference is telling—is in its ongoing deferment of words and explicit iconography. A palette predominantly of pastels and

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  • Philip Geiger

    Tatistcheff Gallery

    By remaining loyal to his own outlook and pictorial inclinations, Philip Geiger, a realist painter in his early 30s, has achieved a heightened level of expression in his recent show. Geiger’s mastery of appearances has become sharper and clearer even as he has honed his ability to seize the moment—to get below the surface and beyond the instant at the more substantial essence of things.

    Like Edward Hopper, Geiger is attuned to the poetic dynamic locked beneath the prosaic scenery of 20th-century America. Taking his Charlottesville, Virginia, surroundings as his subject matter, he has provided a

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  • James Winn

    Sherry French

    Concentrating on the farms and countryside of the Midwest, James Winn has created a group of landscapes that can only be described as glorious. Winn, who was born in the Midwest and lives outside of Chicago, imbues his paintings with a deep-seated sense of what might be called the divine in nature. As he recently explained: “I would like to in some measure share with the viewer that uplifting spiritual presence I sense residing immanent in the land.” To a quite remarkable degree Winn accomplishes this, and he does so by dint of the power of his images to inspire fresh appreciation of the beauty

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  • André Cadere

    MoMA PS1

    Three short documentary films by Sarkis, Ida Biard, and David Ebony, comprise the heart of André Cadere’s retrospective. Without the evidence supplied by these films, and the photographs, letters, and caricatures attributed to the Belgian artist Jacques Charlier also included in the exhibition, the dozens of colored rods on display at P.S. I would have remained enigmatic baubles or, even worse, would have been mistaken for Minimalist sculptures. The status of these objects as instruments allied to a truly unique critical practice rather than “works” in a traditional sense, would have been entirely

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  • Juan Darién, A Carnival Mass

    St. Clements Church

    Adapted from the story by the Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga, Julie Taymor’s and Elliot Goldenthal’s Juan Darién, A Carnival Mass, presented by the Music-Theater Group, demonstrates that theater provides an ideal means of expressing that duplicity between reality and magic that has come to seem characteristic of the literary production of Latin America.

    As the action begins, we are in a fabulous jungle. Darkness envelops the stage at the center of which lie a jaguar and her cub in a tangle of liana. A hunter enters, disrupting the charged atmosphere of the scene, and slays the jaguar. The little one

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  • Watchface

    Dance Theater Workshop

    While the theater world occupies itself with tricked-up British musicals, antique revivals, and the occasional serious effort, the idea of theater continues to mutate in unexpected quarters. Rock concerts, dance and performance art, site-specific sculpture, and cabaret acts are all working changes on traditional definitions of theater. Watchface is one of the handful of groups that approach theater in the classic avant-garde performance style associated with troupes like the Living Theater, the Open Theater, and Mabou Mines. The company employs a repertory ensemble of performers, and combines

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