reviews

  • Yolande McKay

    S. Bitter-Larkin

    Yolande McKay is an Los Angeles–based sculptor who incorporates overlooked everyday materials such as cement, soapscum, and rotting fruit into a sophisticated body of sculptural work. At first McKay’s heavy-looking oval basins, pseudo-scientific gadgets, and tableaux that seem to belong on display in a natural history or art museum, look rather institutional. On closer inspection, however, the apparent authority of each object is undermined by an inherent paradox. This is especially true of the basins, which recall sarcophagi in their imposing solidity. Sealed over with glass, and ostensibly

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  • Ralph Humphrey

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Throughout his three-decade career, Ralph Humphrey (1932–1990) neither submitted to nor reacted against the agendas of successive art-world movements. Though he began exhibiting in 1958 at a moment that can be seen to mark the beginning of the art world’s turn toward Minimalism and Pop art, Humphrey never became an orthodox practitioner of either style. By the mid ’60s, however, he had abandoned the allover gestural paintings with which he inaugurated his career, and had come to be considered, along with Brice Marden, a “romantic Minimalist.” This is the closest he ever got to the mainstream;

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  • Hans Hofmann

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Hans Hofmann is widely considered a central figure in the rise of American Modernism. Born in Germany, Hofmann came to America and for many years taught art and art theory to students who later gained reputations in their own rights. That Hofmann, like Josef Albers, was an important proselytizer who carried the torch from Europe and passed it on to younger artists eager to make advanced painting is undeniable; whether this is as central to the history of American art as historians and critics have argued is questionable.

    This retrospective, the first since Hofmann’s death, attempts to prove he

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  • Francis Bacon

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    The revelation of this carefully selected, historically self-conscious retrospective of the work of Francis Bacon is the progression over the course of the artist’s career from a loaded, murky painterliness, to a spare, even linear, handling. This evolution toward an evanescent thinness, even when color is boldy uniform, goes hand in hand with his schematization of format and figures. Usually considered vitally and uniquely individual, Bacon’s grimacing faces and tortured bodies, his general sense of the sickness of human existence, his ironic secularization (profanation?) of the traditional

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  • John Bellany

    Ruth Siegel

    There are two issues raised by the existentialist-realist point of view John Bellany shares with the Glasgow painters, to whom he apparently serves as a father figure: the validity of the expressionist attitude and the viability of the old painterly distortions for articulating it. The expressionist attitude will continue to make sense as long as life is “solitary,” “nasty,” “brutish,” (and for many too “short”), to use Hobbes’ words. On the other hand, it is no longer clear that painterly distortion has the carrying power it once did. This is not because it has been conventionalized—all languages

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  • Donald Baechler

    Paul Kasmin Galery / Baron/Boisanté

    Distinguished by their idiosyncratic infantilism and the richness of their surfaces, the compositions Donald Baechler exhibited at Paul Kasmin last spring reveal the artist as a master of the sloppy line, the crazy shape, and the deranged dot. Baechler uses collage, ink, gesso, flashe, coffee, and pencil on paper to create these masterfully messy compositions, which interpolate the flattened-out schizophrenic space of his larger works with a new delicacy and concision.

    Two compositions, each entitled Crowds (all works 1990), are the strongest in this show. In one, primitive heads made up of a

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  • Douglas Huebler

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    This survey of 12 works offers a concise overview of Douglas Huebler’s oeuvre and suggests a revaluation of this generally underrated artist. Huebler is best known as a member of Seth Siegelaub’s core group of Conceptualists, and especially for his early statement that “the world is full of objects, I do not wish to add anymore”—a manifesto some considered hypocritical in light of his subsequent output. Interpreting that stance too literally, however, overlooks its status as an exemplary conceptual gesture, as well as its broader expression of a general ecological economy. At the very least this

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  • Lynda Benglis

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Since the early ’70s, Lynda Benglis has worked in the area between fine art and industry, and, in the process, she has done much to erase the boundaries that once separated painting and sculpture.

    While relief work enjoyed a modest heyday in the early part of the century, first with Picasso and then with selective members of the Russian avant-garde including Ivan Puni, Vladimir Tatlin, and El Lissitsky, this way of working was not widely investigated in the contemporary context until Benglis reintroduced it with her breakthrough series, “Totems,” 1971–72.

    Throughout the ’70s Benglis continued to

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  • Candida Höfer

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    Like the work of other, perhaps better-known students of Bernd and Hilla Becher, such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, and Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer’s photographs perpetuate the shock of banality that is the leitmotiv of the conceptual style of photography that evolved in Germany during the ’70s. There is nothing remarkable about the public places Höfer subjects to photographic scrutiny. The lecture halls, libraries, auditoriums, lobbies, restaurants, and museums she selects are not indexed with a particular eye toward their significance as tyrannical administrative forms. No historical value

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  • “The (Un)Making of Nature”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The American pragmatist A.O. Lovejoy distinguished at least 66 senses for the word “nature.” Given the concept’s multivalence, it might be said, at the risk of rankling scores of environmental activists, that nature doesn’t exist, except as an ideological construct. Throughout history, nature has functioned as the prototypical and subservient Other: it has served as a prime term in debates in which the real is opposed to the ideal and been used to substantiate God’s existence or to sanction nationalistic claims such as manifest destiny. The title “The (Un)Making of Nature” suggests an attempt

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  • Muntadas

    Kent Fine Arts

    The stadium provides the thematic conceit around which Catalan artist Muntadas organized his quasi-architectural installation entitled Stadium V, 1990. The fifth version of a project that has been installed in various cities, the structure consists of an oval of columns spaced so closely that one cannot pass between them; on the floor within the colonnade, a circular projection like the light beam of an oculus shows films of spectators’ faces as they respond to unseen performances. Moving around the periphery, one is bombarded by slide-projected words and images, as well as fragments of speeches,

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  • Christopher Wool

    Christopher Wool initiated his cautious, self-conscious investigation of painting, and more specifically, of abstraction, in the mid ’80s. Starting from a conceptual ground zero, Wool initially employed chance techniques, including Zen-like pours and allover Pollock-like drips to combat creative inertia. Next he introduced decorative motifs applied with patterned rollers, and later stamps. These paintings evoked wallpaper in their uniformity, yet despite the mechanical nature of his techniques, Wool’s paintings revealed imperfections that evidenced his touch. In recent years, he has incorporated

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  • Edward Weston

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    By focusing on Edward Weston’s work in two traditional photographic genres, the portrait and the nude, this exhibition offered an unusually complex view of the photographer’s work. Best known for his pioneering abstractions of natural forms—peppers, halved cabbages, seaweed, and the like—Weston produced a wide range of work in which subject and form assume equal importance. Throughout his career, Weston devoted special attention to nudes and portraits; the work assembled here, from his early pictorialist work to his late, ironic tableaux vivants, allows viewers to see the shifts in his vision

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  • Richard Ross

    Lieberman & Saul Gallery

    Richard Ross is no stranger to dusty corners and out-of-the-way places. Like his previous “Museology” series, which catalogued the strange world of museums, his new photographs again seek to capture the eerie, free-associative chaos created by casually jumbled inanimate objects lost in sepulchral space. This time, however, Ross has turned away from the rarified world of the museum and wandered into the dusty back lots of pop-culture Hollywood. A stuffed horse from Camelot starts at its reflection in the mirror; the flying saucer from My Favorite Martian sits propped beside a hot-dog cart in a

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  • Lenore Tawney

    American Craft Museum

    Lenore Tawney is one of those rare innovators who, through the powerful example of her own work, helped to open up an entire field. As this long overdue retrospective demonstrates, contemporary fiber art received a giant boost when Tawney introduced her revolutionary woven forms in the early ’60s and set the craft on the ambitious esthetic track that still characterizes the field’s most enlightened corners today.

    Tawney’s woven forms can be as sublime as a Mark Rothko, as meditative as an Agnes Martin, and as life enhancing as a Henry Moore. Tawney transcended the limitations of the craft by

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  • Michael Kessler

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    For Michael Kessler, painting is both a symbolic expression and an affirmation of self. Since the early ’80s nature has served as a source for his organic abstract vocabulary.The paintings in this recent show reveal a striking new clarity of vision. Working in a large vertical format on wooden supports, Kessler has succeeded in breathing a refreshing vitality into his images. The associations with landscape elements so prominent in the early work have become part of a broader visual vocabulary touching on complex visceral and psychological concerns. This was as much the case for Helix Patriarch

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  • Tom Finkelpearl/Bolek Greczynski

    New York Transit Museum

    The city’s musty subterranean subway is something that all New Yorkers love to despise. The system’s imperiled condition, frequent breakdowns, and episodes of crime threaten a vast urban area’s vitality, diversity, and fragile moments of civic connection. There is no experience comparable in concentrated anticipation to the everyday passage from the subway up dingy, urine-saturated stairs to the light and air of the city street above.

    With the support of the New York State Council on the Arts through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Tom Finkelpearl and Bolek Greczynski developed a subway

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  • Kazuo Katase

    John Gibson Gallery

    Born in Japan into the tradition of Jodo Shin Shu Buddhism (Buddhism of the pure land), Kazuo Katase moved to West Germany in the ’70s. His work combines elements of both European and Asian culture, particularly the sacred arts of Buddhism and Christianity. Katase filters these traditions through contemporary technology in order to express a meditative bridge between two different ways of encountering the world. The resulting mood is perhaps more philosophical than religious.

    For his gallery-size installation entitled Nightwatch, 1990, the walls have been painted red, the lights turned off, and

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  • Barbara Steinman

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Montreal-based artist Barbara Steinman employs photography and video in installations that address the epistemological concerns around iconographic representation. A specially constructed room on the third floor of the museum provided the site for her recent installation. Upon entering, one was immediately confronted with a life-sized photograph of a Renaissance Madonna and child. An abrupt 90-degree turn led into a small antechamber on the far wall of which hung an identical image, somewhat obscured by its variegated Plexiglas surface. Diffused light and subdued sound emanated from behind a

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  • Joan Jonas

    Wave Hill

    Joan Jonas presented two late-July performances of Variations on a Scene (a work in progress in collaboration with Jorge Zontal, an artist member of General Idea) at Wave Hill, the public gardens and former estate on the Hudson River. These were ideal surroundings for Jonas’ commensurately grand and picturesque five-part theatrical, with its cast of seven and various mixed-media effects. The audience, on folding chairs and on the grass, was initially assembled about the perimeter of a great, weeping beech tree. Its shaded, organically-curtained sanctum served as stage one. We were introduced to

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