reviews

  • Mike Kelley

    Metro Pictures

    Mike Kelley makes cheerfully perverse art out of the discarded refuse of unromanticized childhood, the childhood of unwanted effluvia, seepages, feces, and spit. That the stuffed animals he uses have so obviously borne the depredations of infantile play (they are dirtied, bitten, and sometimes mauled beyond recognition) suggests that once again Kelley is engaged in the caricatured transgression of idealized forms and contents. The treacly idealization of childhood frequently cloaks the most coercive ideological programs; children are typically sanctified as either beyond or before sexuality and

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  • Julian Schnabel

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    Is there such a thing as a hyped art object—not hype about art, but an object that is inherently exaggerated? Can the spirit of hype invade the art-making process itself? Etymologically, “hyperbole” alludes to excess, to overshooting the mark; we begin to doubt the claims made for an art when we no longer know what mark it means to hit, when the postures it strikes seem purely rhetorical. Julian Schnabel’s new sculptures in the inaugural show at The Pace Gallery’s Greene Street space perfectly exemplify this condition; they have internalized several important characteristics of hype understood

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  • Margalit Mannor

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    Is it possible that abstract imagery can serve as social critique? Margalit Mannor’s photographs suggest as much. Ostensibly studies of a museum on an Israeli kibbutz, Mannor’s deft photographic manipulations of this stereotypically modernist-rationalist building amounts to an ingenious damnation of its anonymity. At first glance the photographs look as serene and reasoned as the architectural structures they depict. We seem to be in an elegant world of geometrical clarity, made all the more hermetic by Mannor’s isolation and intricate articulation of the flat white wall planes and unadorned

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  • April Gornik

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    April Gornik has stuck to the initial attitudes toward both content and style she developed when she first began exhibiting regularly in the early ’80s. Though viewers familiar with Gornik’s work may take comfort in the assurance that no sign of habitation will spoil her open landscapes—that her untrampled fields, clear skies, and dramatic natural effects will remain constant—it is difficult to know how to respond critically to the work of an artist who has neither questioned her initial premises nor strived to master her materials. For the past decade, Gornik has depicted open vistas seen from

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  • Anselm Kiefer

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Though Anselm Kiefer’s paintings based on themes from Jewish mystical thought are without question remarkable, the impulse behind them seems misbegotten. The exhibition’s centerpiece, a massive wall-mounted construction of sandwiched lead books with shards of broken glass spilling onto the floor entitled Bruch der Gefässe (Breaking of the vessels, all works completed in 1990), refers to the shattering of the containers of God’s emanations that Kabbalists believe preceded the creation of the material world. The seven canvases that fill out the show trade on the same faith. So one piece is called

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  • Mark Dion with William Schefferine

    American Fine Arts

    In consultation with the staff of the zoo in Belize, Mark Dion has designed a series of ten signs to serve as guides to the animals housed there. A newly reorganized, English-speaking democracy in Central America, Belize is rich with rain forests and wildlife. The zoo, as Dion explains in an accompanying statement, is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the country’s animal population, and accordingly, the signs are both instructive and cautionary. Both the Spanish and the English names are supplied for each animal and together with standard “naturalistic” line drawings, matched with a less

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  • Robert Ryman

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    Marked by an ascetic denial of such traditional artistic devices as facture and narrative, Minimalist sculpture and painting emphasized the absolute qualities of materials, rather than what the artist did with them. Frequently focusing on the interplay of random or found arrangements with the sensuous qualities of industrial materials, Minimalism reacted to the self-conscious emotionalism of second-generation Abstract Expressionism, positing the artist as a sort of Zen factory worker.

    Quieter than Pop art, Minimalism, rather than reveling in the circus of consumerism, ignored the ambient noise—or

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  • Ted Stamm

    Lorence Monk Gallery

    Until his death in 1984, Ted Stamm practiced a fairly rigorous kind of reductive abstraction: always painting in hard-edged black, and almost always on substantial-sized shaped canvases. Emphatically flat, and painted with a severity of purpose, Stamm’s canvases constitute the epitome of surface elegance; solid masses interact with one another to compose subtle statements of material fact. Regardless of the vehemence or oddity of the shapes, the pieces themselves pose no threat and reveal no vulnerability. Even in the small framed drawings inflected with visible markings, the theme remains one

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  • Cary Smith

    Koury Wingate

    Cary Smith’s seemingly minimalist paintings differ subtly from the mainstream model in both undercurrent and appearance; to look at Smith’s work is to be inaugurated into the world of the symbol: abstract, diffuse, and potent. Though Smith’s paintings are based on the rich yet austerely symmetrical designs of early Americana, in his hands they become separated from the folk culture of which they were originally a part. Smith lifts his patterns from the world of the usable, culturally embedded object and inserts them into the abstruse world of art, yet his work is not conceptual in the Duchampian

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  • Donald Judd

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Donald Judd’s artistic project seems increasingly to depend upon the temporality of perception and experience rather than the immutability of objects. Regardless of their emphatic materiality and simplified modular construction, both his outdoor work at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and his recent indoor sculptures seem calculated to destabilize the viewer’s experience of their seemingly static quality as objects. Situated in a vast open field, one outdoor installation of 15 large sculptures, each comprised of two or more rectangular concrete boxes, constantly changes as the sun moves

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  • Federico Guzmán

    Brooke Alexander

    In an age where FAX machines and modem-linked computers are as common as telephones, John Donne’s pronouncement that “No man is an island” rings truer than ever. It is the role of the individual in an environment characterized by the proliferation of telecommunications systems that provides the predominant theme of Federico Guzman’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Just as the planet is wrapped in a network of fiber-optics, many of Guzman’s pieces are composed of jumbled tangles of electrical wire, telephone cords, and strips of shredded rubber.

    Islario (all works 1990), is a four

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  • Perry Hoberman

    Postmasters

    Perry Hoberman’s new interactive installation, entitled Faraday’s Garden, featured dozens of used household appliances, arrayed across a waist-high counter. Spanning an entire room, the platform was cut through with a circular path, carpeted with mats equipped with pressure-sensitive switches. As viewers made their way through the “diorama,” their footsteps automatically triggered appliances ranging from hair dryers and electric knives to film projectors. Turned on inadvertently, the appliances seem almost autonomous, inspiring the childlike fantasy of a living garden of consumer goods.

    Electricity

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  • Tod Williams and Billie Tsien

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    As an alternative to the predictable selection of drawings and models, architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien chose to treat their exhibition as a temporary event, presenting a second version of an installation that first appeared at Walker Art Center as part of the series “Architecture Tomorrow.”

    Williams and Tsien designed the Whitney Downtown’s underground exhibition space several years ago, and a spectacular stairway and smart reception desk evidence their passion for materials and sensitivity to detail, as well as a wisdom about the rational and sensual codeterminants of spatial experience.

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  • Brodsky & Utkin

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Soviet architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin escape the often suffocating constraints of conventional practice by concentrating on speculative drawings and the fabrication of artifacts. Their fantastic visions first became familiar to the international architectural community through their proposals for the annual Central Glass Competitions in Tokyo. Obsessive, psychological drawings and bizarre structures provided a vivid contrast to the surprisingly sober speculations of other “paper architects” responding to similar frustrations with the limitations of building.

    Brodsky and Utkin pack

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  • Dennis Adams

    Kent Fine Art

    Frequently installed on city sidewalks or in outdoor urban spaces, Dennis Adams’ sculptures derive their subversive edge in part from context. In his series of structurally distorted, marginally functional bus shelters, for instance, back-lit images replacing the usual advertisements depict political events related to local life and history. A Toronto shelter was graced by a photograph of Native Canadians whose society was displaced by industrial development, and his project for the city of Münster incorporated an image from the Klaus Barbie trial in session at that time. Even when Adams moves

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  • “Illegal America”

    Exit Art

    Chris Burden lies down on a California freeway surrounded by emergency flares; Gordon Matta-Clark carves a hole in the facade of a warehouse on the Hudson River; Louis Aragon writes an ill-timed poem about the Russian Revolution; and Charlotte Moorman plays the cello topless. Each of these acts, and many others staged by the 36 artists included in this thought-provoking exhibition, was deemed “illegal” by the reigning authorities. In some instances their creators were arrested or fined, though in most cases charges were dropped as prosecutors wallowed in a mire of slippery terms and legal

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  • Karen Finley

    The Kitchen / Franklin Furnace

    Mixing futurist aggression, Brechtian political performance strategies, Artaud’s sensualism, and Allen Ginsberg’s hypnotic zeitgeist-attuned chanting, Karen Finley’s work has always elicited impassioned response. Her recent performance, We Keep Our Victims Ready, and her first site-specific installation at Franklin Furnace, entitled A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much proved no exception. If Walter Benjamin were tracking the condition of art today, he might well retitle his famous essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Tyrannical Misrepresentation,” thus describing the fate of Finley’s art at the

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  • Jane Comfort and Company

    Performance Space 122

    In a new work entitled Deportment, Jane Comfort concentrates on what she knows best—choreography built on language, with its rhythms, not its meaning, providing the underlying score for her dramatic dance. The result is her most complex and confident work to date.

    Comfort probably talks more on stage than any other contemporary choreographer, yet one is never surprised or embarrassed when she or her dancers speak and act. Comfort sets the stage with words; in a dry, wry amplified female voice with heavy southern accent, she reads from Emily Post, giving calm yet emphatic directions as to how to

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  • Larry Johnson

    303 Gallery

    Larry Johnson avoids the posteverything trap of solipsistic obscurity by tuning into the voices of the American vernacular. Common language, like common sense, can be rather strange, and Johnson capitalizes on this fact, taking the fragments of contemporary American consciousness we can all hear as his subject matter.

    Johnson designs and edits these voices into a radically condensed form as paintings; in the space of a few lines, a slice of mutating consciousness is powerfully fixed. The new texts are more intensely psychodramatic than the ones in his previous show, and their authenticity ups

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  • Öyvind Fahlström

    Arnold Herstand & Company

    This show of Öyvind Fahlström, a lesser-known, but key figure in the Pop art movement, presents prints and multiples made between 1962 and his death in 1976. A dedicated political activist, Fahlström sought to make work that would inform and influence the greatest amount of people, and though his graphic output represents only a fraction of his life’s work, the multiple nature of prints served this goal well.

    Fahlström’s first major print, a silk screen of a 1952 felt-tip pen drawing entitled Opera, 1968, introduces his personal language of abstract symbols influenced by music, pre-Columbian book

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  • Philip Smith

    Jason McCoy Inc.

    It may come as a surprise to viewers of Philip Smith’s recent paintings that he was included in the ground-breaking “Pictures” show at Artists Space in 1977 along with Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince et al. His early interest in challenging the narrative function of pictures, however, made perfect sense in this context; Smith presented everyday images in unfamiliar formats, thwarting normative “readings” of them. Like his “Pictures” colleagues, Smith has always made work that jostles with art-historical tradition, yet instead of deconstructing art history and proposing revisionist

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  • Betsy Berne

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Betsy Berne’s paintings display an unerring sense of the medium’s divine power to trans-port the viewer into imaginative realms. Her recent paintings seem centered in the most primary of dimensions where the mysteries of existence reveal themselves. In a number of examples including The Deep, 1989, Red Sea, 1989, and Third Party, 1990, the enigmatic style of organic abstraction that has become Berne’s trademark proves well suited to suggesting universal themes of creation.

    The Deep, with its glowing black ground and rich atmospheric qualities, conjures up a kind of primordial darkness. Built up

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  • Betsy Kaufman

    Berland Hall

    Betsy Kaufman’s spare abstractions offer stimulating appraisals of that perhaps most crucial dynamic determining not only the visual but the intellectual parameters of abstract painting: the relationship of surface and image. Kaufman handles this dynamic with keen sensitivity to the expressive potentials of both its formal and its thematic components.

    The issue of surface is brought to attention first by the starkly declarative frame-in-frame format of the paintings. This format consists of a rectangular colored image surrounded by a white border. Almost immediately the question arises as to

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