reviews

  • Carroll Dunham

    Sonnabend Gallery

    When Carroll Dunham turned from wood panels to a more conventional ragboard ground in his previous show, the bulbous cartoony forms, which had played off the knotholes and wavy grain of the support, suddenly seemed to face the world directly rather than getting caught up in a self-referential game. In the current show of works on canvas, the hints at bad taste, which Dunham previously leavened by thinning his strident palette and feathering his line into graceful curves, have blossomed into truly bombastic glory.

    There’s a playfulness about the images that sometimes descends into adolescent

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  • Arman

    Vrej Baghoomian Gallery

    The piece in Arman’s recent show I most liked was the only one that included the tops of the paint tubes in addition to the squeezed containers and their spilled contents. The round black caps serve as islands of control in the blaze of uncontrolled color, stable points in the shapeless flow. All of the “Monochrome Accumulations,” however, have an intensity, a dynamic that seems at once fierce and lyric, violent and tender. The sometimes random, sometimes regular arrangements are characterized by both orgiastic anality and abstract eloquence. The paint seems to become libido at its purest—which

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  • Robert Arneson

    Frumkin/Adams Gallery

    For the last decade, master of funk Robert Arneson has been obsessed with Jackson Pollock. In drawings, in paintings, and above all in some extraordinary ceramic busts, Arneson has rendered Pollock’s head, presenting him as a kind of triumphant victim, both of himself and of the world. These works were initiated following Arneson’s life-threatening bout with cancer, and he clearly identifies with Pollock’s suffering and self-destructiveness. For Arneson, Pollock is a symbol of authenticity—an artist whose work plumbs the depths of his own psyche—and Arneson has long attempted to do the same in

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  • Fred Sandback

    David Nolan Gallery

    Affirming the virtues of consistency, Fred Sandback has found unlimited resources in an austerely restricted idiom. Though for more than a quarter of a century he has made what could inelegantly be called string art, the geometric shapes he defines by stretching lengths of yarn from floor to wall to ceiling have all the conceptual weight of Platonic forms. Line that defines volume, volume that exists without opaque mass, forms that occupy space and behave like material bodies yet are imagined rather than actual—these sound like concerns of the ’60s, and in the hands of a lesser artist they would

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  • Michael Biberstein

    Lang & O’Hara

    Michael Biberstein makes fake paintings, but very earnestly. Through the forced unification of distinct historical modes—either 19th-century Romantic or early Chinese landscape painting with black monochromes—Biberstein creates works of extreme tastefulness and beauty rather than the campiness characteristic of much so-called Conceptual painting. His acts of appropriation are less those of the cynic who aims to expose the inadequacy of painting than of a grail-seeking pilgrim. Perhaps Biberstein’s dedication proceeds from blind faith in painting’s ability to reveal metaphysical truths, but his

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  • Tracy Grayson

    Christine Burgin Gallery

    Painting, of late, has been alternately despised and romanticized, hauled out of the closet and trumpeted as the savior for lost souls in one instant, only to be debased as a corrupt songster for unethical powers in the next. Is the practice capable of sustaining genuine emotion or simply generating more kitsch?

    Tracy Grayson walks this fine line and in the process gives us some of the best of both worlds. All ten of the paintings in his show are images of idyllic picture-postcard mountain scenes, standardized as 60-by-60-inch oils on wood. Like the Heidi-land fantasies that flitter in the minds

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  • Lawrence Gipe

    Shea and Beker

    Lawrence Gipe’s strange and ambiguous “Krupp Project” is named for a dynastic German munitions manufacturer, whose head served a ten year war-crime sentence after Nuremburg. A group of highly stylized industrial tableaux, these paintings of steel-smelting plants, train factories, and the like, are all rendered in a kind of hot, dramatically lit style derived from World War II propaganda films and hortatory posters. Beneath each work is a painted slogan, most often in German, extolling the virtues that, Krupp apparently enforced: loyalty to the firm, the country, and the work ethic. These works

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  • Clyfford Still

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    Of the 3,000 or so works that Clyfford Still created in his lifetime, his estate still retains all but 150. Still specified that the remaining works could only be given en masse to a single city, and he placed stringent conditions on how they were to be treated thereafter. Since the estate does not make loans, and the few pieces in private hands are closely guarded, the opportunity to see a dozen or so works by this artist in a single room is a rare event Ben Heller’s essay for the catalogue accompanying this exhibition is, for the most part, an account of how difficult it was to stage.

    Abstract

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  • Adolph Gottlieb

    Knoedler & Company

    Though this selection of eight major paintings from the last five years of Adolph Gottlieb’s life (1968–73) hardly constituted a survey of his career, it did encapsulate the breadth of his artistic vision. Five of these works, completed only two years after his disabling stroke and one year before his death, when Gottlieb was dependent on studio assistants to execute his ideas, brilliantly displayed the artist as an intellectual painter rather than an angst-ridden, hands-on gesturalist.

    While Gottlieb’s first mature works consisted of primitive pictographic forms compartmentalized in two-dimensional

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  • Burgoyne Diller

    Whitney Museum/Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Burgoyne Diller belongs to that group of American artists who, like Fritz Glarner and Ilya Bolotowsky, were inspired by the geometric abstractions of the De Stijl movement. From the ’30s until his death in 1965, Diller restricted his palette to the primary colors, along with black and white, which he arranged in rectilinear compositions. In Diller’s current retrospective, which juxtaposes his paintings with representative works by De Stijl artists including Piet Mondrian, one is afforded the opportunity to compare Diller’s paintings and drawings with those of his more celebrated precursors.

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  • Susan Silas

    Fiction/Nonfiction

    This show of Susan Silas’ work presents us with something rare: art that is funny. Yet the work is also thoughtful, and the questions it provokes remain in mind long after the laughter fades. The exhibition begins with a piece (also illustrated on the postcard/invitation) that confronts through self-mockery: “Miss Silas,” the 55-by-58-inch oil on linen reads, “this is your lucky day.” Though this stylized self-deprecation is tinged with solipsism, perhaps it also bespeaks a larger awareness; this is clearly “art about art,” but it’s not the self-conscious nature of the rumination that surprises

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  • Eugene von Bruenchenhein

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    Incised on a plaque above the kitchen door of his modest Milwaukee home, the artist’s description of himself reads: “Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Free-lance Artist, Poet and Sculptor, Inovator [sic], Arrow maker and Plant man, Bone artifacts constructor, Photographer and Architect, Philosopher.” A full-time baker by profession, Von Bruenchenhein (1910–1983) was a secretive, self-taught artist whose entire oeuvre (paintings, sculptures, photographs, music, ceramics, and poetry) was dedicated to one person, his wife Marie. Shortly after he married Marie in 1943, he began taking erotic photographs of

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  • Thomas Ruff

    303 Gallery

    In his photographic series of portraits, houses, and stars, Thomas Ruff reprises genres that have dominated the medium since its infancy but with an irony that undermines their apparently straightforward descriptive meanings. Regardless of a plethora of details, Ruff’s photography remains mute. Whereas Paul Nadar created sensitive character studies, Ruff produces what appear to be enormously enlarged passport photos or mug-shots drained of psychological affect. Whereas Maxime Du Camp and Félix Teynard lovingly dwelled on the ruins of ancient Egypt with their melancholic resonances, Ruff

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  • Kathryn Clark

    Twining Gallery

    California-based artist Kathryn Clark’s recent exhibition features three separate but compatible installations. The show’s title, “Something Personal,” signals her approach to political issues such as genocide in Central America and AIDS. In place of staggering statistics, Clark has attempted to personalize these crises—to bring them down to a human scale—with mixed-media works that combine intimate photographs and handwritten texts.

    In a collaboration with Kirk Maxson entitled Rose Window (from A Window on AIDS), 1989, a hanging vase contains a bouquet of dead roses that droop toward the floor,

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  • Victor Mira

    Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

    Of the many quasi-religious characters and symbols that populate Spanish artist Victor Mira’s drawings and paintings, the stylite plays the leading role. Mira’s stylite is a soulful little figure with a passive, skull like physiognomy who perches on his pole or cross, gazing heavenward. Based on the legend of Saint Simeon, who spent 30 years contemplating God on top of a pole, the stylite is a symbol of transcendence through contemplation. This show was obsessively repetitive even for Mira, who is known for addressing similarly spiritual subjects—Saint Sebastian, Christ, tortured philosophers,

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  • Kristin Jones/Andrew Ginzel

    Damon Brandt Gallery

    Though the pursuit of visual delight is not intrinsically perilous, it becomes a problem when ideas are overshadowed rather than illuminated by sensational effects. In this exhibition of three new projects by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel, the meditative qualities of the work and the cosmological questions they pose are sometimes jeopardized by their lush materiality and fastidious detailing.

    At the east end of the gallery an immense aluminum saucer of pure, white talc was alternately raked and smoothed by a pair of opposing blades that together formed a rotating diameter. The predictable

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  • Vladimir German

    OK Harris

    For Vladimir German, a painter who left the Soviet Union in 1981 and now resides in New York, painting is an occasion for reconstituting the world of appearances in terms of a series of discrete impressions animated with glowing color.

    In this show German focused on bodies of water, a subject he has treated frequently in recent years, revealing, once again, his interest in multipanel formats. In Far Rockaway Seascape—Ocean, 1982–90, a central image depicting rolling waves and cloudy mists, is surrounded by side panels used to elaborate various aqueous effects; each frame focused on a different

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  • “Women in Mexico”

    National Academy of Design

    Though this ground-breaking survey of women artists active in Mexico during this century was organized by art-historian Edward Sullivan around theoretical issues of gender, identity, and nationalism, the work assembled offers, first and foremost, a riveting esthetic experience.

    The 22 women featured spanned several generations, ranging from photographer Tina Modotti who was born in 1896 to Laura Anderson, a 32-year-old artist from Mexico City. Though many of the women were born in Mexico—painters Frida Kahlo and Maria Izquierdo and photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo among them—others, such as Remedios

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  • “Fluxus Closing In”

    Salvatore Ala Gallery

    Ben Vautier once wrote that “Fluxus is a pain in art’s ass,” and though, indeed, it once was, this show did little to perpetuate this reputation. Although comprehensive—the exhibition included over 200 works dating from the late ’50s to the present—it lacked the wonderful irreverence, immediacy, and edgy incorrigibility that originally characterized Fluxus. Unlike gallery-oriented happenings, which depended on a spatial sensibility, Fluxus seems to have embodied a musically oriented temporal sensibility as well, which fueled the element of chance in the work, and ultimately affected the choice

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  • Molissa Fenley

    Joyce Theater

    Molissa Fenley has found a highly personal and effective means of making silent dances speak of social and moral distress. No narrative, no costume, no painted backdrop could better have demonstrated the possibility of spiritual healing through physical control than Fenley’s distinctive body language, poignantly accented by David Moodie’s lighting design.

    The challenge Fenley set herself was to trigger emotional responses and suggest narrative directions, using an essentially abstract form, and in her recent homage to the wildlife lost by the Alaskan oil spill of March 1989, she did just that.

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  • Fred Holland

    The Ohio Theater

    The sound of rhythmically shuffling feet signaled the arrival of the performers in Fred Holland’s current version of What I Like About Us, 1990. That Holland and co-performer Robbie McCauley were heard before they were fully seen served as an appropriate introduction to a piece based on the lives of June and Jennifer Gibbons, known as the “Silent Twins.” The twins hid themselves, especially from their own family, and their presence at home was reduced to the muffled sound of their movements in the upstairs bedroom in which they lived. Communicating in an invented language intelligible only to

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