reviews

  • Chryssa

    Leo Castelli

    Chryssa’s new sculptures have an airy, urbane briskness; they ingeniously fuse the architectonic sobriety of the city and its lurking violence. At the same time, by reason of their white purity, they convey a sense of lyric transcendence. It is as though, in being artistically recreated as a kind of planar script, the epic city becomes a delicate ghost of itself—unimaginable except as an esthetic mirage.

    Chryssa’s Chicago, for example, is a less physically oppressive—much more spiritual place—than Carl Sandburg’s muscular city. It is a high-tech temple of ironic materiality. Chicago Cityscape

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  • Brice Marden

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    Though Brice Marden’s programmatic series of compositions entitled “The Grove Group” echoes the tautological artistic practices of his Minimalist progenitors, the paintings also evoke classical idealism. Executed between 1972 and 1976, the series consists of five rectangular canvases of equal size and dimension. Each work is systematically divided into one of five possible variations on a single bisected or trisected canvas. Grove Group I, 1973, consists of a single monochromatic panel, and the rest of the compositions (Grove Group II–V) are either bisected or trisected horizontally or vertically.

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  • Mary Lucier

    Greenberg Wilson

    In Mary Lucier’s installation Asylum, 1986/91, natural history confronts human history against an apocalyptic postindustrial landscape recreated here as an environmental installation and re-presented in video. All natural light has been emptied from the gallery, and only the flicker of the monitors and the dim glow of light bulbs illuminate the room, which has been divided by fences into three distinct areas: a formal garden arrangement, a toxic wasteland, and a rustic clapboard shack. The interdependence of these environments is enforced by a security cage that physically brackets the entire

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  • Graham Durward

    Randy Alexander

    Graham Durward’s work is intense, and intensity possesses an integrity all its own. This artist does not flinch at the spectacle of consciousness deteriorating into flesh, though it does not make for pretty pictures. In its acutely internalized quality, much of Durward’s writing is reminiscent of Antonin Artaud’s. The painful scrawls and scribblings, the bad spelling, the penciled-in corrections in his collages, all give the otherwise baroque text an appealingly gritty feel.

    Durward keeps coming back to a few obsessive moments. He writes, “I cannot conceive of anything except in terms of my own

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  • Piero Manzoni

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Acting out in ways that were simultaneously infantile and sublime, Piero Manzoni consistently transformed his intensity and self-destructive passion into rigorous and elegant work. It is fitting that he packaged his feces in tidy little canisters labeled, aptly enough, "Merda d’artista’ (Artist’s shit, 1961). These little obscenities are gifts to the world—packaged rage.

    Reexamining his oeuvre today, 28 years after his death at the age of 30, it becomes clear that the integrity of Manzoni’s practice lies in his passionate engagement with form. Form is the site of all esthetic radicality, and, in

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  • Alfred Jensen

    The Pace Gallery | 508 W 25th Street

    For Alfred Jensen the world was reducible to systems of numbers, which is why they were magical and mysterious to him—full of archaic charge and unsystematic sensing. Via an eccentrically dense painterliness, Jensen made numerical systems sensuous—turning mind into sensuous matter—in a poignant metaphor of hope for the reconciliation of science and art.

    This golden dream animates one of his late works, Between Times in Art and Science, 1980, one of four studies for his Changes and Communication mural of the same year. A colorful grid of obscure signs hovers in a limbo of indecipherable meaning.

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  • Frank Stella

    65 Thompson Street

    Frank Stella is a virtual art-historical institution—the last great dinosaur to be consigned a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art. Supporters as well as detractors treat him as if he were already dead, and the relative lack of development in Stella’s art since the “Polish Village” and “Brazilian” painted relief series of the early to mid ’70s, which initiated his “second career,” confirms the impression of stagnation and closure.

    On the evidence of these huge and seriously unpretty new works, Stella may have embarked on career two-and-a-half. Supported by massive steel buttresses, these

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  • “Six German Photographers”

    Sonnabend Gallery

    In the ’60s, Bernd and Hilla Becher pioneered a style of documentary photography that, in its informational bent and reliance on serial methodology, was easily identified with other movements in Conceptual art flourishing on both sides of the Atlantic. Their photographs of industrial architecture, presented in grid format, played ceaselessly on the modulations of sameness and difference, prototype and variation. Aside from creating a very substantial photographic corpus, the Bechers have continued to play a prominent role in the (formerly West) German art scene as pedagogues at the Düsseldorf

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  • Judith Joy Ross

    James Danziger Gallery

    There’s an antique air to Judith Joy Ross’ portraits, a quality produced partly by the photographer’s technique—she uses a large-format camera with an old-fashioned shallow-focus lens, shoots with black and white film, prints the images on printing-out paper, and then gold-tones them to bring out subtle shades of lavender and red in the shadows. The poses of her sitters also seem to come from another era—or at least from a contemporary version of one. In the best pictures here, the people Ross photographs seem to have lost all shyness before the camera; indeed, they seem to gaze into the lens—and

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  • Duncan Hannah

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Duncan Hannah’s paintings are proof that if representational art is not dead, it is, at least in this incarnation, so diffident as to invite healthy skepticism. Though these works are heavy on narrative and atmosphere, like the best sort of houseguest, each seems content to withdraw gracefully into the background. Despite their mild demeanor, however, these paintings are far from dull. In fact, they are even disturbing in a whispery sort of way. If in the end one isn’t quite convinced of their brilliance, at least they make a palpable impression.

    As perhaps befits an artist who deals quite

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  • Bo Bartlett

    P.P.O.W

    Bo Bartlett’s fastidious realist paintings feature heroic figures in lonely American landscapes that recall Thomas Eakins or Winslow Homer. This show marks a shift away from Bartlett’s cluttered depictions of political and technological disasters, toward simpler compositions that appear to draw on dream and memory as opposed to the nightly news. Yet while Bartlett’s new work is more introspective in tone, his taste for desolate land- and seascapes peopled with idealized figures engaged in mysterious activities remains constant.

    Like those celebrated masters of the uncanny, René Magritte and Paul

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  • Sean Scully

    McKee Gallery / Pamela Auchinchloss Gallery

    Sean Scully attended art school in England in the early ’60s, shortly after Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland began painting stripes. While his more celebrated precursors have long since moved on, he has remained loyal to the colored band, with modest variations, ever since.

    In the late ’60s, Scully started using tightly painted vertical or horizontal stripes, and he subsequently employed painted bands both to weave spatial effects by placing one block of strips on top of another and to reassert the flatness of the picture plane. In the early ’80s, he abandoned the taped edges, and began varying

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  • “Synthesis”

    John Good Gallery

    Between abstract painting’s mid-’70s Minimalist crescendo and the mid ’80s, when proclamations that it had reached a dead end were rampant, abstraction, and painting in general, relinquished its status as the dominant mode of postwar American art. Instead, it became simply one option amidst a range of available artistic possibilities, none of which asserted itself with definitive urgency.

    This exhibition of 15 paintings by as many artists, provided a sampling of work by lesser-known abstractionists working today. Almost all of the artists included seemed to be looking over their shoulders,

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  • Dan Hoffman

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    Though Dan Hoffman is first and foremost an architect, as his structural and spatial manipulations suggest, this exhibition positions itself between art and architecture, militantly challenging the prevailing conditions of contemporary architectural practice that have robbed it of intellectual, sensual, and creative immediacy. Though architecture, which is distinguished by its scale, ubiquity, and complexity, requires a managed approach, Hoffman resists the alienating forces of capital that exempt the architect from the creative process and turn this practice into a rote and formulaic procedure.

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  • David Hammons

    Jack Tilton Gallery / P.S.1 Museum

    David Hammons’ tough, discursive iconoclasm is fueled by an improbable amalgam of influences, including Marcel Duchamp, African-American culture, Dadaism, and Harlem street life. At The Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 Museum, a retrospective of work from the past two decades subtitled “Rousing the Rabble” illuminates the many passages this artist has traveled. In contrast, two successive installations at the Jack Tilton Gallery provide a more focused look at work completed since the artist spent one year at the American Academy in Rome.

    Hammons’ work has always tampered with the borders

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  • Susan Hiller

    Pat Hearn Gallery / Nicole Klagsbrun

    For her recent two-gallery exhibition, Susan Hiller showed a selection of paintings at Nicole Klagsbrun and a video installation entitled An Entertainment, 1990, at Pat Hearn. The paintings involved the dispersal of various pigments and inks over patterned grounds such as wallpaper; unfortunately they were estheticized to the point of blandness, leaving little to please or to offend the viewer. That, however, was not the case with An Entertainment.

    Hiller’s four-channel installation montaged excerpts from a quintessentially English genre of children’s entertainment: Punch and Judy shows. She

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  • Menashe Kadishman

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Working with cutout forms—an approach that has attracted talents as diverse as Julio González, Henri Matisse, and Alexander Calder—veteran Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman employs the Modernist idea of sculpture as drawing in space.

    The cutout brings together Kadishman’s interests in the mediums of sculpture, drawing, and painting. Cutting and bending thin sheets of steel into fantastic human and animal forms, he creates small-scale compositions characterized by his signature expressionistic style in which boldly simplified anatomies and gestural contours are strikingly pictorial. A consummate

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  • Kim Do

    Tatistcheff & Co.

    Kim Do, who works with the Hudson River literally in his backyard, has succeeded in turning the metaphysically toned objective style of landscape painting made famous by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Martin Johnson Heade to his own ends. Taking the winding creeks, mountainous terrains, and woods of upstate New York as his inspirations, he gives this “archetypal” picturesque scenery an intriguing contemporary twist, presenting icons that are at once emblematic of the awesome character of nature and problematic with regard to the idea of landscape as a form of symbolic representation.

    In other

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  • John Kelly

    The Kitchen

    Despite its somewhat lighthearted title, John Kelly’s newest work, Maybe It’s Cold Outside, 1991, was blacker than black. Consisting of an almost funerary series of dreamlike tableaux, the work constituted a sustained meditation on the terror of approaching death. That longtime company member John Beal died shortly before the opening of this production added to the poignancy of the evening.

    Kelly’s five-member ensemble unraveled a series of childhood memories in mime and slow-motion dance. In one vignette two boys mimed the familiar initiation ritual of pressing cut fingers together to become

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  • Salley May

    P.S. 122

    In Salley May’s recent performance, entitled Cradle Rock, 1990, she tackled two extremely taboo but unfortunately common domestic nightmares: incest and eating disorders. That she was able to make connections between these dysfunctions, and, not only prevent the audience from zoning out, but get them to laugh, testifies to the potential of May’s trademark blend of point-blank symbolism, offbeat humor, and deliberately makeshift esthetics.

    The opening scene was both eerie and visually stunning. The characters first appeared bobbing up and down behind a waist-high screen like decoys in a carnival

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