reviews

  • Heide Fasnacht

    Germans Van Eck Gallery

    Heide Fasnacht’s new sculptures mark a departure from her work of the past decade. Until now, Fasnacht has worked primarily in wood. In the mid ’80s, her precise geometric wall reliefs grew progressively rougher and more biomorphic. As these spiraling configurations evolved, they moved from the wall to the floor and increased in scale, culminating in configurations of spheres that challenged the viewer’s sense of space and balance. By the late ’80s Fasnacht had returned to a refined geometric vocabulary, with large, often brightly painted planes, cylinders, and spheres that set the stage for

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  • Ellen Phelan

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    Ellen Phelan demystifies 19th-century landscape painting, not so much by deconstructing the myths that sustain it as by demonstrating anew how the impulse to record nature is inextricably bound up with the need to project personal states of mind onto the objective face of reality. Like Joseph Mallord, William Turner, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Phelan seems to value the direct experience of landscape as well as its imaginative treatment. This can be gleaned from her approach, which is simultaneously meditative and analytical. Beginning in the time-honored plein-air tradition by seeking out

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  • Jane Goldberg

    Brecht Forum

    In Topical Tap/Rhythm and Schmooze, 1990, Jane Goldberg taps out the history of tap dancing, talking all the while of her 17-year love affair with a medium that carries the sound of its own making with every expertly placed ball, heel, and toe. Reminding us too of how, in the early ’80s, she contributed to a tap revival, Goldberg confesses to her pains in attempting to make a career out of a form inextricably associated with poverty and repression, and rarely represented by more than one media figure at a time—Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Gregory Hines. Not surprisingly, she goes for comedy to

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  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    With the development of his combine-paintings in the first decade of his career, Robert Rauschenberg permanently extended the parameters of the medium to include all classes and combinations of materials, declaring that “A pair of socks is no less suitable to make a painting with than wood, nails, turpentine, oil and fabric.”

    By 1961, he had wired a painting to accommodate an electric clock mounted on its surface, adhered a stuffed goat to a collaged wooden platform, and explored the use of chemical solvents to transfer printed media images; John Cage described Rauschenberg’s working method as

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  • Christian Boltanski

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The secret of Christian Boltanski’s art is repetition and gloom. One’s eyes have to adjust to the dimly lit gallery, and one’s mind to the repetition of photographs of faces, biscuit tins, and shaded lights. The faces are different—an individual life stands behind each—but they blur by reason of their redundancy; they become one haunting, generalized, melancholy image. This accords well with their chiaroscuro. A strange transference occurs that is conducive to introspection as we search the faces in their twilight: we see the endless number of suffering people and discover ourselves to be among

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  • Andres Serrano

    Stux Gallery

    Though at first Andres Serrano’s new photographs seem a far cry from his controversial Piss Christ, 1987, they ultimately have the same socially critical implications, and, more importantly, they employ the same high-key color, here refined to a new intensity. Serrano squarely faces the bottom-line issue of political art—how to reconcile esthetic and social awareness—and the results are brilliant.

    A number of images of the Imperial Wizard and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan are presented in one room, and a series of photographs of homeless people occupies a larger space. To my mind, Serrano’s

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  • Egon Schiele

    Galerie St. Etienne

    The adolescent erotics that animate Egon Schiele’s figural drawings have become increasingly clear over time. These works suggest sexual curiosity and experimentation; in fact, they present the body as an experimental configuration of discordant parts, and they offer no consummation, emotional or physical. The genitals seem incommensurate with the rest of the body and irreconcilable with our sense of ourselves as social, civilized beings. dn one magnificent drawing entitled Reclining Girl in Dark Blue Dress, 1910, a startled girl lifts her dark skirts (the clothing signals social inhibitions),

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  • Eric Fischl

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    In lieu of the typical essay, the catalogue for Eric Fischl’s show includes a short assembly of notes by the artist, banal jottings presented as a poem and titled “India In My imagination.” In this phrase lies the problem with the exhibition, for India is not a fictitious place, and, in any case, the artist’s imagination is none too active here.

    Fischl’s stock in trade has always been the tense narratives suggested by the poses of his figures and a sense of light that, at its best, can be remarkably effective. Neither is in evidence in this new series of paintings depicting his travels to the

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  • McDermott and McGough

    Sperone Westwater

    McDermott and McGough’s latest installment of what seems to be a lifelong project—reassessing or commenting upon the present by conjuring up campy versions of an imaginary past—is concerned once again with matters of form. These works, like the resplendent dandyism of McDermott and McGough’s public personae (the couple are often seen about town in full Edwardian attire), invite viewers to ponder the question of appearance, vivifying the Wildean valorization of style over substance and form over content.

    The first eight drawings encountered upon entering the gallery resemble either 19th-century

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  • Arnold Fern

    Feature Inc.

    At least since the publication of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, 1857, the image of the flower has shouldered symbolist overtones that distinguish it from the other so-called natural subjects. Artists as diverse as Vincent van Gogh, Odilon Redon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Lowell Nesbitt, Robert Kushner, Judy Chicago, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gilbert and George, Colette, Jim Isermann, and Christopher Williams have exploited this distinction. Even if most floral depictions can claim no special significance, an outright convergence of beauty and sexuality makes the image of the flower seem less

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  • Nancy Barton and Michael Glass

    American Fine Arts

    We all have our pet “bad objects,” whipping posts that we condemn in order to make ourselves feel better. In this show Nancy Barton and Michael Glass explore the complex psychic mechanisms by which these scapegoats are designated, showing how the ego produces a denigrated object in order to maintain a fantasy of unity and coherence. “Bad objects” all serve the same purpose—the consolidation of power for a dominant group; thus racism, misogyny, and homophobia can be understood as different manifestations of this psychic mechanism. By presenting a white woman and a black man figuratively and

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  • Jon Kessler

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Jon Kessler’s theatrical son-et-lumière contraptions do not advance theses; they are not, even in today’s loose parlance, “conceptual.” Though many of his works include elements that allude to technology, TV, sci-fi, and kitsch, it would be a serious mistake to locate their earnest gee-whiz tone within the media and commodity discourses that dominated art practice in the ’80s. To suggest that, because Kessler relies on mechanical apparatuses in his works, they are hence “about” technology, the myth of progress, or the postindustrial era would be fatuous—rather like saying that because Bernini

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  • Michael Joaquín Grey

    Petersburg

    The Space Age began on Friday, October 4, 1957, at 6:00 A.M., when Sputnik 1—a thermometer, radio transmitter, and battery in a 20-inch aluminum ball—left the surface of the Earth. Two replicas of Sputnik have lately appeared in New York: one was presented in 1987 to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Nassau County, Long Island, by the USSR ambassador to the U.S.; the other was exhibited by Michael Joaquin Grey in his recent exhibition. Both of the shiny, silvery models are representative metaphors, yet their values are differentiated by their relationship to the informational structures and

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  • “De Kooning/Dubuffet: The Women”

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Though the debate over abstraction versus figuration lost its steam long ago, the paintings of women by Jean Dubuffet and Willem de Kooning of the late ’40s and early ’50s ferociously rage on.

    Dubuffet mounted an attack on the bourgeois demand that art satisfy the desire for pleasurable looking in his notoriously anti-cultural and barbaric art brut style. Inspired by the strength of psychopathic art and graffiti and manufactured from mud, sand, and cement, Dubuffet’s “Corps de Dames” (Women’s bodies) series added insult to injury by hideously desanctifying and deeroticizing the traditionally

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  • Mark Tansey

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Mark Tansey translates the language of art history—particularly terms with scientific and military origins such as “avant-garde,” “revolution,” “discoverer,” and “pioneer”—into literal scenarios that mock the discipline’s self-importance. His Action Painting II, 1984, which depicts a party of plein-air painters outfitted with easels and folding chairs sketching an atomic bomb exploding across the desert, sets the studio-bound heroics of the Abstract Expressionists against the devastating potential of contemporary technology. Elsewhere Tansey presents the postwar migration of artistic energy from

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  • Sean Landers

    Postmasters

    The ’80s fascination with success has lately given way to explorations of failure in the work of artists such as Nancy Barton, just as high-gloss cool has been replaced by rude, crude, and messy manners in art by the likes of Mike Kelley. Sean Landers, who previously exhibited sculpted heads floating in resin cylinders, has recently been presenting the ruminations of imaginary alter ego Chris Hamson in the form of letters scrawled in ballpoint on legal paper. Hamson is the artist-as-failure, confused, full of self-doubt, and given to explosions of rage at his pitiful position on the bottom of

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  • Willy Heeks

    David Beitzel Gallery

    Willy Heeks continues to display a laudable, even thrilling ambition in his paintings, with each successive show pushing into fresh abstract territory. His snarls of thickly applied paint from a couple of years ago, with their science-fiction overtones suggesting dangerously pulsating molecules, seemed to burst off the canvas, like a chain reaction run amok. Now Heeks has dispersed this same energy over the surfaces of his paintings, moving from a distinctly figurative style to a more allover mode. The new images suggest networks, traffic grids, electronic circuit boards, on the one hand, or

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  • Jan Groover

    Robert Miller Gallery

    At a time when many photographers are primarily concerned with subject matter, Jan Groover’s insistence upon the centrality of the formal, visual aspect of the medium is salutary. As she remarked in a handout accompanying this show, “It is the forms and the attitudes and the space of things which make meaning for me.” Nevertheless, in the work presented here, Groover edges increasingly toward the theatrical, presenting tense arrangements of objects that are associatively as well as formally evocative within a shallow, stagelike space. The backgrounds are painted in muted pastels and carefully

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  • Ted Serios

    Marta Cervera Gallery

    In a world in which every dark corner has been exposed to merciless scientific scrutiny, we yearn for evidence of a different reality. We crave the outrageous—we want to defy reason, explanation, and categorization. In short, we need romance, and photographs of something that our logic tells us is impossible or unbelievable satisfies this thirst.

    Although as yet unchronicled on the Phil Donahue show, Ted Serios has attempted to answer this need for decades (he is now 72). A self-defined alcoholic living out of a pickup truck with his canine companion, somewhere in Colorado, Serios provides the

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  • Alan Scarritt

    Lorence Monk Gallery

    Over the past 15 years, Alan Scarritt’s concerns have remained remarkably stable, though his means of investigating them, ranging from his performances of the ’70s to his current work in photography and sculpture, have evolved radically. Initiated during the height of Conceptualism, his project of blurring the boundaries between order and chaos, language and image remains pertinent in today’s neo-Conceptual milieu. Scarritt became known early on for his multimedia investigations of the disintegration of sound that often employed several audiotapes at once to layer and distort recorded text. This

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