reviews

  • Meyer Vaisman

    As if by some unexpected formal progression, Meyer Vaisman has moved from representations of blown-up canvas weave to actual fabrics and reproduction tapestries. His new work is richer both in texture and in associations than anything he’s shown so far. Starting with expensive decorator tapestries, Vaisman seamlessly incorporates cartoon figures into the depicted scenes. As in a game of “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” at first glance it is difficult to tell what has been altered. In a work entitled The Making of the Wool (all works 1990) the viewer suddenly discovers a pair of cartoon laughing

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  • Will Insley

    Max Protetch Gallery

    For the past 18 years Will Insley has been exhibiting drawings and designs for a massive imaginary dystopia he calls ONECITY. Insley envisions a home for some 400 million citizens plunked down in mid-America, but while he designates its location it remains temporally unspecific; ONECITY is not so much a vision of a predicted or hoped-for future as an atemporal fiction. Insley has an elaborate, almost obsessive tale to tell about the cultural structure of ONECITY, its Byzantine forms of government, entertainment, and work rivaling those of Dante’s Hell. Although the work has changed formally

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  • Jonathan Borofsky

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Jonathan Borofsky’s gallery-size installation entitled Forms of Nature, is not only allegorical but full of magic. As a chapter heading in the giant book included in this exhibition informs us, Borofsky is a “practicing idealist.” Though the murky figures that populate the gallery look like they just emerged from a bog, searchlights projecting from their foreheads reveal their optimism. In the center of the main gallery a semicircular organ, programmed to play solemn, more or less spiritually uplifting music seems to have raised the simulated boulders that hang by threads in the corners.

    It is

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  • Leoncillo

    Salvatore Ala Gallery

    If we make a distinction between an art of material and an art of image, then what Leoncillo offers us is the ideal convergence of these separate modes. This merger results in sculpture wholly beyond the pale—mythical but without a collective context to justify it, and spontaneous, without a self to which the impulsiveness belongs. Leoncillo’s images seem to rise spontaneously out of material, and at at the same time, material appears as unfocused, inchoate image. Some of these objects suggest the pillar of salt into which Lot’s wife was transformed as she turned back to witness God’s destruction

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  • Ronald Bladen

    Washburn Gallery

    This exhibition of forgotten paintings by a well-known but marginalized sculptor reminds us that history is capricious, that it is a complex dynamic rather than a series of static events. None of the convenient art-historical models used to designate artists or oeuvres accommodate Ronald Bladen’s five-decade career very precisely. Bladen’s subtle refusal to work in a mainstream style raises a number of important questions about the way the art world admits artists into the canon. Is, for example, the course of mainstream art the result of each generation connecting itself to official history

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  • Michael Heizer

    Knoedler & Company

    Michael Heizer’s monumental renditions of paleolithic hand tools fabricated out of modified concrete, explore the fundamental structure of utilitarian form as determined by material and function. Just as his outdoor works carved out of the desert or deforested landscape represent the land as bound up with human necessity, his hand implements suggest human industry. Exploring form as determined by utility, Heizer locates the parameters within which material aquires meaning.

    Hook (all works 1990), epitomizes the conceptual framework governing Heizer’s investigation. As with all of his “object

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  • David Rabinowitch

    In the mid ’60s, David Rabinowitch planned a large series of sculptures, each to be fabricated in a different wood. Though the shapes of the proposed objects are relatively simple, the difficulty of constructing them using seamlessly joined, individually planed sections of wood is so formidable that to date few have been realized.

    One of the finest single-work New York exhibitions in memory, Open Wood Construction (Poplar), 1966, was fabricated only last fall by Tadashi Hashimoto assisted by Satoru Igarashi in the gallery where it remained on view for four months. The beauty of the object lies

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  • “The New Sculpture 1965–75”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Though one may come to this show expecting the sculpture to have acquired a patina of established reserve, instead it looks fresh and provocative. The breakthrough this work constituted in the aftermath of Minimalism remains as appreciable today as when it first appeared. ted the various passages between initial iconoclasm and individual development. Given the sparse arrangements usually encountered in contemporary art exhibitions, this slightly crowded installation evoked the artistic ferment characteristic of the period. Viewed together, the works of these ten artists captured the energy of

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  • Allan Wexler

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    During Allan Wexler’s exhibition entitled “Table/Building/Landscape,” the gallery resembled a laboratory in which the individual works appeared less as discrete objects than as the proliferating evidence of invention. The main gallery was dedicated to 30 propositions Wexler developed last spring for the DeCordova Museum Sculpture Garden. Each glass-and-wood vitrine contained a small model for an outdoor eating space tailored to the hilly museum grounds. Table and chair legs were extended with strapped-on appendages, wheels, or other peculiar amendments to accommodate the demands of the tipped

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  • Wolfgang Staehle

    Koury Wingate Gallery

    Wolfgang Staehle confronts the ways in which film and television shape our notions of framing in painting. He is an artist who cannot completely abandon the canvas for the screen, and painting persistently returns in his work as the uncanny. Staehle explores the fantasy of the screen and the adequacy of the image it frames more thoroughly than any other artist working in either painting or video today. His work speaks about the space outside the screen, the space that all acts of framing implicitly repress.

    Staehle’s tiny monitors peer out at us like techno-eyes. Installed in cardboard boxes, on

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  • Clegg & Guttman

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    The significance of Clegg & Guttmann’s cerebral art lies in the multiple visual and conceptual subtexts concealed beneath the glossy surfaces of their Cibachrome photographs. Earlier seemingly straightforward group portraits of corporate executives portrayed actual businessmen or merely actors dressed for the part. These images exploited pictorial illusionism while revealing its artifices. Ultimately the portraits served as a vehicle for exploring power and its visual representation in contemporary society. Similarly, Clegg & Guttmann’s unconventional still lifes used objects to comment on issues

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  • Donald Lipski

    Paul Kasmin, Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    In this installment of his project called Gathering Dust, 1988, Donald Lipski pinned tiny odds and ends to the gallery walls in loose configurations. From a distance, skewered curiosities—including a four-leaf clover fashioned from rubber bands, a bottle cap covered in wax, and a book of matches folded in a stepped pattern—look like fishing flies or insect specimens. Lipski crafts these items in idle moments from objects he comes across in the course of his daily rounds. The artist seems drawn to the mundane and insignificant, to the kind of objects that get shuffled to the back of desk drawers

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  • Allan McCollum

    John Weber Gallery

    Allan McCollum presented more than 2,000 framed drawings, created from some 200 infinitesimally varied and variously combined plastic templates, in a dense salon-style arrangement. Though the repealed images sat mutely one next to the other, together they had the force of an invasion. With blind fecundity, McCollum’s drawings seem to replicate without teleological intent or vanity of purpose. As in all of his work, the frightening spector of repetitive psychosis looms large. By presenting numerically limitless objects, all derived from the same host, McCollum presents a kind of user’s manual

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  • Claudia Hart

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Claudia Hart takes Jean-Jacques Rousseau, historian, playwright, social critic, and Romantic par excellence, as the subject matter for her show. Three separate titles: “Brief Lives, Part 1” “Chance and Circumstance/1” and “The Contingency of Selfhood,” explicitly open the cultural Pandora’s box of Romanticism. Intended as the first in a series of exhibits dealing with the topic, this show opens up the dialogue surrounding the theoretical foundations on which both contemporary and historical art are based. Romanticism, as a response to the post-Cartesian disjunction of a free moral mind, and a

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  • Stephen Prina

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Though historically Conceptual art protests the collusion of art and capital, at the close of a decade in which conceptual procedures have been recuperated by the market as the ultimate in severe chic, idea art often looks like the most thoroughly reified product of all. By contrast, the co-option of conventional paintings and sculptures seems an almost innocent affair. Stephen Prina’s self-consciously austere works are exemplary in the former respect: they deftly don the guises of criticality while maintaining a basically passive stance toward the apparatuses of the art industry.

    Prina rehearses

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  • Mark Tansey

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    “Dumb it down,” could be a motto for Mark Tansey’s work. Everything in a Tansey painting funnels into a one-liner. He uses writers and other artists as “straight men,” insinuating the viewer into a good-natured complicity, that only a sourpuss would spoil. At the same time, the paintings make disconcertingly large claims for themselves; Tansey aims to critique nothing less than discourse itself.

    Using Robert Smithson’s drawing A Heap of Language, 1966, as his point of departure, Tansey creates a “ground” of stenciled, rubber-stamped or rendered type from which he conjures forth his images. These

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  • Elena Sisto

    Damon Brandt Gallery

    Elena Sisto’s new paintings combine the media imagery of Pop art with a luscious, painterly expressiveness. On small canvases, each a foot or so square, Sisto bunches various image fragments culled from sources ranging from comic strips to trompe l’oeil drawings, against swirling white or pastel backgrounds.

    One of Sisto’s favorite sources is the late Ernie Bushmiller’s classic comic strip “Nancy.” In Sisto’s hands the frizzy-haired heroine becomes a kind of surrogate self, in essentially surrealist narratives. In Stinker, 1989, for example, Nancy pulls back a theater curtain above a pair of

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  • Elliott Schwartz

    Jayne H. Baum Gallery

    Even on the level of object identification, Elliot Schwartz’s photographs are puzzling. He depicts various odd things—a broken light bulb, a model of Rodin’s Thinker with a wedge-shaped head, a pair of bent wires—framed in such a way that they’re obviously the “subjects” of the pictures, even if it’s not quite clear what they are. Many of these images bear a nominal relationship to portraiture—there’s something that looks like a rotting baseball with a cigar in its mouth, while what might be two sticks of dynamite become a pair of eyes beneath a checkered scarf. Printed in various sizes, in

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  • Connie Beckley

    Farideh Cadot Gallery

    Though Connie Beckley is best known for her unique mixture of experimental music and performance art, the sculptures and watercolors exhibited here hold their own on a purely visual level.

    These new sculptures evidence her canny ability to incorporate properties she finds in music into palpably accessible visual form. Beckley characterizes her recent sculptures as “strained harmonies,” and indeed they evidence her preoccupation with articulating a dialectic between harmony and dissonance. Of Into and Was and Battlehymn, both 1988, relate overtly to music, and serve as a segue between Beckley’s

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  • Yayoi Kusama

    Center for International Contemporary Arts

    The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama spent the years 1958–1973 in New York where she gained her first notoriety. During that period her work shared affinities with a nearly encyclopedic range of avant-garde practices. Her large “Net” paintings coincided with reductivist abstraction, her “Accumulations”—beginning around 1962, first with collage, then as environments with stuffed-fabric penises clustered on common household furnishings—anticipated the proliferation of strange erotic objects during the latter half of the decade, and her nudist Happenings from the late ’60s and early ’70s were right in

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  • Mary Armstrong

    Victoria Munroe Gallery

    Mary Armstrong is a painter who in recent years has continued to mine the rich emblematic ground uniting nature and art. In this group of paintings she reaches new levels of profound expression in her chosen area.

    Armstrong seamlessly brings together a complex content and multidimensional form in powerful compositions with startling iconic integrity. She is tuned into the universal psychic or spiritual forces that make themselves known through physical changes in nature. Every aspect of these paintings, from the distinctive frame-in-frame format and the wood-panel surface, to the thick built-up

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  • Marianne Stikas

    John Davis Gallery

    Marianne Stikas succeeds in making the most elemental, and thus the most significant, kind of abstract paintings—the kind that literally get down to the architecture of ideas and feelings that provides the basis for pictorial elaboration.

    It is not an exaggeration to claim that Stikas is an artist who knows the lay of pictorial space backward and forward. Notable in these paintings is the clear description of the illusionistic underpinnings of pictorialism. At issue throughout these dynamic compositions is the play of receding and advancing colored form—the relationship of surface to depth.

    One

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  • Samuel Beckett

    Exit Art

    Samuel Beckett’s rigorous attention to the staging of his own plays engendered a kind of orthodoxy where their production is concerned that has only recently begun to give way in the face of new approaches to his work. Not surprisingly, this reevaluation of Beckett’s oeuvre has been fueled by his own forays into media that fall outside traditional literary genres.

    Many artists of the last 20 years have moved from performance to other artistic media that draw attention to the body’s presence or absence in various ways. In a sense Beckett’s video production is as much about performance as about

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  • Creation Production Company

    Manhattan Theater Club

    The givens are these: two characters, a man and a woman, with no proper names; subject matter culled from a cross-cultural laundry list; and a dramaturgical methodology that depends on mixed-media technology and consists of collaged vignettes separated by blackouts. Sound familiar? These are the essential ingredients of the post-Modern performance, a theatrical exercise built around a handful of by now familiar formalisms and a thesis which is no less vehemently terroristic for being the conventional wisdom of the day. The agenda might besummarized thusly: no one story is “the story,” experience

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