reviews

  • Robert Morris

    Leo Castelli

    Robert Morris has been a reliable monitor of the art world’s pulse for 25 years. At one moment in the ’60s, he wanted the work of art to be perceived as an object in its brute materiality. Soon, however, in rhythm with the mutating taste of the time, he moved on to a less macho brand of art-making employing felt and a range of strategies aimed at dematerializing the art object. The ’80s saw another shift in Morris’ approach, again in sync with the tempo of the moment, to the grandiose historical mode in which he continues to work today.

    Darkly monochromatic, cryptlike, and partially filled with

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  • Todt

    P.P.O.W

    For some time now the otherwise anonymous foursome known as TODT has been taking over galleries with their vaguely militaristic and industrial environments. Part Ed Kienholz and part Fritz Lang, their esthetic is not unfamiliar; in fact, now that cyberpunk has made information rather than industry the new object of paranoia, TODT’s mock-ups of machines with unknown but clearly horrific functions have a curiously archaic feel, an air of early-century antipositivism rather than late-century apocalypse.

    Nonetheless, TODT’s work remains sufficiently menacing to disturb, and this recent installation,

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  • Tony Oursler

    Diane Brown Gallery

    Oozing blobs, leaky vessels, encrusted bits of debris, and mutant bodies have been longtime staples of Tony Oursler’s expressionist universe, a decrepit sci-fi wasteland a la Jean Cocteau, where crude props mingle with magical video effects. Here Oursler’s rich but cheesy theatrical dreamscapes serve as a perfect vehicle for the theme of pollutio—and, in this case, visions of colonial America provide the unexpected twist that brings it all back home.

    In a small house of mirrors inscribed with astrological symbols and hex signs, entitled Krypt (all works 1990), a video monitor set amidst flickering

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  • Laurie Parsons

    Lorence Monk Gallery

    A recurrent query into the nature of art concerning its object status has periodically led to the elimination of the object altogether. Does one have to make art to be an artist? Does art have to be perceptible, and if not, how does one know of its existence, let alone deal with it? Indeed, art as idea has accommodated seasonal shifts from the perceptual to the conceptual, and has manifested itself in phenomena ranging from the Duchampian readymade to the so-called dematerialized event. In the past decade, strategies such as appropriation and commodification have evidenced a shift in focus from

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  • Liz Larner

    303 Gallery

    In an installation entitled Chain Perspective Reflected (all works 1990), Liz Larner transforms the gallery into a webbed vortex of stainless steel chains. A series of ten suspended rectangles of diminishing size, constructed from lengths of chain link stretched from the floor to near ceiling and between the walls, leads the viewer toward a central focal point.

    Just as one’s eye is drawn toward the vanishing point in a perspectival drawing, one’s body is lead to the center of this literal vortex. The first openings are wide enough to accommodate the viewer and invite one to enter the described

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  • Jeanne Silverthorne

    Jeanne Silverthorne’s crudely rendered sculptural objects examine the way in which ideas take form. Acknowledging the notion that all ideas are channeled through preestablished linguistic codes, her art exploits the conventions that we employ in order to translate thought processes and biological functions into codified language.

    In many of Silverthorne’s sculptures, ideas are represented as actual objects. Thought Clouds, 1987, an amorphous cluster of black rubber globules with a stem, resembling a cauliflower, takes the conventional scallop-edged cartoon bubble used to signify a thought or idea

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  • Frank Majore

    Josh Baer Gallery

    In Frank Majore’s new photographs, women’s faces veiled by TV scan lines peer out from behind jittery patterns of light suggesting hand-held shots of traffic at night. The light scrawls read as both “modernist,” in their free-form calligraphy, their seeming record of the chance waverings of an unsteady camera, and high tech, like the jagged line of an EKG. It’s interesting that the free-form line, once synonymous with spontaneous experimentation, has come to seem decorative, even campy.

    For Majore this work represents a big shift. His earlier images mimicked the pictorial strategies of advertising,

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  • Nigel Rolfe

    Dolan/Maxwell

    Nigel Rolfe’s first solo exhibition in this country is a kind of minisurvey of his previous performances, or rather, their artifactual remains. Though these objects cannot do full justice to multimedia performances that employed projected light, electronically charged sound, video, and slides, they are all that those of us who haven’t seen the original works have to go on. What remains of Dance, Slap for Africa, 1983, is a black cloth map of Africa with a red impression of Rolfe’s naked body awkwardly embracing it. By contrast, in Going Boeing, 1985, a blue figure seems to flee from an equally

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  • Archie Rand

    Scott Hanson Gallery

    Archie Rand’s new paintings (all works 1990) are coy, cunning reprises and combinations of modernist experiments with accident and order. Works such as Double and Wisp feature seemingly spontaneous, but in fact stylized, calligraphic gesture metamorphosing into intriguing patterns. Predictable in detail, but not in their general design, these configurations spread insecurely. In other works, such as Alpha, Mat, and Rest, the spread of gesture—sometimes tightly coiled, at other times loosely brushed — threatens to overwhelm given patterns. There is more to these works, however, than their perceptual

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  • Bill Barrette

    Fiction/Nonfiction

    Bill Barrette’s carefully fabricated boxlike constructions, incorporating optical devices, early photography, and found objects, suggest early cameras, which faithfully transcribed their views onto silvered glass plates. Many of Barrette’s boxes contain photographic portraits, usually derived from daguerreotypes of nameless sitters captured in uncomfortable formal poses, in which the subject looks out at the viewer looking in. Other images include a monochromatic view of an ancient city and a red-dyed, photographic image of a 19th-century painting of a town consumed by fire. The resulting

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  • Jackson Pollock

    Gagosian Gallery

    Although Jackson Pollock has been dead for more than 30 years, we still have not succeeded in packaging his contribution and delivering it up to the confines of art history. Is Pollock’s work better accommodated by Clement Greenberg’s ’50s-style art about art approach, or the autobiographical perspective Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith propose in their cumbersome 1989 biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga? Pollock’s strongest work is simultaneously intimate and impersonal, yet we have tended to stress one aspect or the other, the romantic shaman or the formalist innovator.

    Subtitled

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  • Joseph Nechvatal

    Neither abstract nor representational, Joseph Nechvatal’s chaotic, layered paintings, seething with media-derived imagery, hover somewhere in between. Over the past decade, Nechvatal’s basic concerns have remained constant: our media-glutted postindustrial society and the effects of this information overload on the subject. Here, the artist’s method of production gives his paintings their decisive twist. He first creates a photographic maquette of collaged elements that include his drawings and sculptures, as well as found photographs and video stills. This composite image is then fed into a

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  • Julio Galan

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    More formally refined than in the past, Julio Galan’s recent paintings remain cryptically autobiographical, addressing key issues of selfhood—birth, love, sexuality, memory, and fantasy. A Mexican who lives in New York, Galan is openly eclectic, and his largely figurative, often mixed-media paintings reflect the influence of European and American artists such as Francesco Clemente and David Salle, as well as fellow Mexicans such as Frida Kahlo. Simultaneously pertinent with respect to current artistic concerns and somehow time-tested, Galan’s works exceed the sum of these influences.

    He draws

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  • Susan Crile

    Graham Modern

    In her recent show veteran abstractionist Susan Crile has revealed a side of her vision that was never adequately accommodated by the formal and objective currents that dominated her work during the ’70s and most of the ’80s. She has left the sphere of abstraction bound by the Hard-Edge mind-set and created a universe of plastic invention teeming with feelings and strong physical sensations, where the only boundaries are those imposed by lack of passion.

    Paintings like Shifting Shifter, 1989, Soft, Wild & Naked, 1989, Pulse Beat, 1990, Erotic Containment, 1990, and Radiant Object, 1990, reveal

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  • Harrison Burns

    E.M. Donahue Gallery

    Harrison Burns has succeeded in breathing fresh life into the tradition-bound genre of flower painting. While it was indeed possible to consider the examples shown here as simple still-life genre paintings, they are more than merely decorative. For all their electrifying colors and sensual good looks, these are intellectually rigorous pictures that bring together visuals and ideas in endlessly fascinating combinations.

    The likenesses of the individual flowers and the vases and bowls in which they are contained lit up the surface with an intense spectral glow. For example, in Tulips 3, 1990, by

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  • Brian Yoshimi Isobe

    Katherina Rich Perlow Gallery

    Minimalism provides the precedent for Brian Groombridge’s most recent sculpture entitled Within One Action There Are Many Gestures, 1990. Here Groombridge has arrived at a synthesis of form that reduces the superfluous to the necessary and immediate. Using a stainless steel I beam which projects 20 feet into the air, the artist has fixed a rod halfway up that holds two carpenter’s set squares welded together to form a rectangle. The work echoes its downtown Toronto setting that is dominated by a construction frenzy and the verticality of skyscrapers.

    Groombridge’s piece is a simple configuration

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  • Ridge Theater

    Alice Tully Hall

    Slides, flickering films, supertitles, and John Moran’s alternately soothing and tension-provoking music provided a kaleidoscopic visual and aural background for Ridge Theater’s new operatic drama The Manson Family at the “Serious Fun!” festival. Under the direction of Bob McGrath, the production managed to deal with the disturbing deeds of Charles Manson and his “family” on a substantive level. By interlacing details of the story with aspects of the once-popular television series Hawaii Five-O, Moran and McGrath not only addressed the way in which events are exploited by mainstream media, but

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  • Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe

    A repository of vague memories and unrelated activities, the still majestic Battery Maritime Building not only provides offices for several New York City agencies, housing for stray cats, and a berth for the Governor’s Island Ferry, it serves as the site for Martha Fleming and Lyne LaPointe’s month-long installation entitled The Wilds and the Deep.

    The anxious process of describing and categorizing the past is the central theme of the installation; in response to the active but deteriorated building and the nautical and social history of the harbor location, the artists explore the complex and

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  • Fred Wilson

    White Columns

    Fred Wilson’s simulated ethnographic institution entitled The Other Museum, 1990,is dedicated to precisely that which the traditional museum excludes. An alternative to “our” museum—a repository of artifacts that correspond to official History—Wilson’s installation proposes other ways of seeing, symbolized by an upside-down world map at the entrance; depending on how you look at it, north can be south; black, white; and the “other,” oneself.

    Wilson plays off the old-fashioned, 19th-century colonial museum, recording the white man’s travels among the natives and his eventual disastrous impact on

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  • “Disarming Genres”

    Artists Space Exhibitions

    Independent video’s woeful lack of distribution is matched only by television’s ubiquity; and as a result some of the best independent video examines its culturally potent mass-media counterpart. Curator Micki McGee has brought together work that draws on and analyzes familiar film and television genres. By subverting the seductiveness of media staples, the artists represented here hope to subvert the genres’ prescribed endings toward more interactive concepts of the viewer’s role.

    Dry Kisses Only, 1990, by Kaucyi la Brooke and Jane Cottis is a witty and incisive look at lesbian subtexts in

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