reviews

  • Vito Acconci

    Barbara Gladstone Gallery

    “For Otto Titzling had found his quest ,/to lift and shape the female breast,/to point the small ones to the sky/and keep the big ones high and dry,” sings Bette Midler on her album Mud Will Be Flung Tonight!

    Mammoth plaster, canvas, and steel-cable reinforced structures, Vito Acconci’s four Adjustable Wall Bra pieces, 1990–91, spanned the gallery with the sensual grace of a garment flung across the room to land half on the floor, half against the wall, bent, twisted and possibly still warm. Acconci has long challenged the artist’s relation to himself, the space of the gallery, and his audience;

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  • John Chamberlain

    Pace Gallery, Pace Prints

    Just as John Chamberlain’s earlier works maintained the structural and material integrity of the automobile parts from which they were largely derived, so too their colors remained true to this original source. In his most recent works, however, both structure and color refer less specifically to automobile bodies and evoke, instead, forms that seem almost organic.

    The only unaltered surfaces in this new body of work are provided by chrome-plated bumpers that serve as structural cores for a number of works. From these silvery fonts spring polychromatic explosions of bent, crimped, and twisted

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Leo Castelli

    Richard Artschwager has been making Formica sing for years, not only since materials with no “integrity” were deemed classy. As usual, in this recent show the enigmatic and elegantly geeky Artschwager message was uttered through a wide variety of formats: a “mirror,” a “window” (both opaque Formica), and various pictures. An amputee cellolike “instrument,” leaning against a corner for support, was a true Beckett object; it was so round and bottom heavy it looked incapable of supporting itself and impossible to move. Another work consisted of a very heavy wooden door leaning back at a dangerous

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  • Anna Bialobroda

    Jason McCoy Inc.

    Anna Bialobroda’s oblong slivers of images from the silver screen present us with slices of unlife that don’t add up to a whole. It was Willem de Kooning who said that “Content is a glimpse,” and his remark seems at least as relevant to Bialobroda’s project as to his own paintings. In any event, it’s always edifying to discover an artist doing something smart and fresh with (figure) painting, whether or not he or she has been declared legally unconscious.

    The top parts of Bialobroda’s paintings are truncated close-ups; the bottom portions represent the darkness where we the audience would be. In

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  • Sophie Calle

    Luhring Augustine, Pat Hearn Gallery

    There is a lot of talk these days about how far art can go before it goes “too” far and passes beyond the limits of decorum. When artistic activities are exclusively confined to the production of imagery or objects, moral debate usually centers on the power of representation to effect the behavior of viewers. It’s a different matter when an artist’s activities involve the actual exploitation of others. Who counts more, the unwilling victim or the artist in quest of expression? The problem is pertinent to the work of Sophie Calle, who surreptitiously invades the private lives of strangers and

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  • David Salle

    Gagosian Gallery

    The queasiness that David Salle’s most successful paintings supposedly induce has often been cited as proof of their seriousness, even of a kind of backdoor sincerity. Thomas Lawson had some encouraging things to say about Salle’s obscene or wanna-be obscene pile-ups of incommensurable images in “Last Exit: Painting,” “Meaning is intimated but tantalizingly withheld. It appears to be on the surface, but as soon as it is approached it disappears, provoking the viewer into a deeper examination of prejudices bound inextricably with the conventional representations that express them.” Salle, in

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  • Sarah Charlesworth

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    Sarah Charlesworth describes the means by which she makes her art as being composed of equal parts work and magic. The slightly fey tone of the latter word is as good a key as any to the faint uneasiness that this show of new photographs inspires.

    On exhibit were ten laminated Cibachromes of collages, in which figures from reproductions of various Old Master paintings had been isolated, combined, and then rephotographed against a monochrome background. A piece entitled Transfiguration (all works 1991), showed figures from Piero della Francesca, surrounded by silhouettes filled in with folds of

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  • Sue Coe

    Galerie St. Etienne

    Granted, the world is a rotten, inhumane place. Blacks are oppressed and brutalized, the meat industry manipulates us almost as much as the military-industrial complex, and the United States is a neofascist aggressor; yet it is not the message in Sue Coe’s art that interests me. All of her characteristic complaints would be propagandistic dross if it wasn’t for her visionary esthetic, which eloquently conveys the suffering she is at bottom obsessed with. This esthetic recapitulates the expressionist sense of abysmal space; uncomprehending human beings are dropped into its infinity, where they

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  • Alexander Kosolapov

    Ruth Siegel Gallery

    I like the flat bright wit of Kosolapov’s paintings, which make both artistic and politically critical sense. Andy Warhol’s serial monotone gets a new lease on life when it is used to display tin after tin of Russian caviar. A Kasimir Malevich painting as a Marlboro design may be irreverent, but it reminds one, with eloquent directness, of the way advanced art necessarily becomes conformist imagery in order to survive in the world. McLenin’s, 1991, with its combination of McDonald’s golden arches, Lenin’s profile, and the full-faced Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel (three instantly recognizable

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  • Henry Flynt

    Emily Harvey Gallery

    SAMO© appeared as a cryptic message scrawled across the sides of buildings and trucks in downtown Manhattan as the ’70s drew to a close, and Henry Flynt photographed the graffiti because it must have moved him somehow. Eleven years later, after the rise and fall of the ’80s art boom and the death of SAMO©’s primary creator, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Flynt’s images function as documents of a moment in recent art history.

    Straight photography is quite a leap for Flynt. Based on difficult principles of mathematics and optics, the work of this early Conceptual artist is known for its stubborn obscurity.

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  • Susan Leopold

    John Weber Gallery

    Susan Leopold shows boxes that contain miniature scenes visible through small fish-eye lenses mounted on their exteriors. Her subjects are predominantly urban themes such as indoor swimming pools, stairwells, doorways, and windowed interiors. While painstaking craftsmanship and careful lighting make these scenes look realistic, the fish-eye lenses render the typically coherent, rational perspective one expects extremely subjective.

    A curious psychology of model making informs Leopold’s project, but her relationship to that tendency is largely unreflective. Ultimately this work falls short to the

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  • Bill Jensen

    Washburn Gallery

    Bill Jensen is one of the most significant painters of his generation, and his work—particularly during the late ’70s—exerted a profound influence on younger artists. Whereas the then-fashionable neo-Expressionists combined images pastiched from eclectic cultural sources with a loose painterly style, Jensen renewed the symbolist impulse that fueled the work of late American Romantics and early American Modernists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Marsden Hartley without resorting to parody or kitsch. He gambled that his painting would be able to absorb, transform, and revitalize what many had

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  • Nell Blaine

    Fischbach Gallery

    Nell Blaine’s recent still lifes and landscapes come at you like some enchanting refrain. They reverberate as if with the theme of a paean in praise of painting, proposing a harmony between art and life. What has enabled Blaine to achieve this in her oils and watercolors is the very personal path she has navigated between two of the major factions of 20th-century art. Blaine studied with Hans Hofmann in the mid ’40s, was fascinated by Piet Mondrian, and was a member of the collective American Abstract Artists. By the late ’50s, however, she turned toward the world of appearances with a fresh

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  • Colin Thomson

    Lieberman & Saul Gallery

    In Colin Thomson’s intensely exuberant painterly world, the elegance and austerity of ’50s high abstraction confronts the gaudy colors and whimsical shapes of its old arch-rivals, design and decor. What, Thomson seems to ask, can serious painting do with Avocado, Tangerine, and Harvest Gold?

    Thomson’s color schemes (like his forms) are consistent from painting to painting, and their cumulative effect is dazzling, like stepping off a plane into bright Florida sunshine. His shapes—a large private vocabulary of forms and references—seem almost hieroglyphic. While they are not easily deciphered, one

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  • Collier Schorr

    303 Gallery

    Collier Schorr’s haunting and nasty debut show expresses the relationship many of us have to its subject, childhood. Schorr’s installation reminds the viewer that childhood is frequently more troubled, and for that reason troublesome to remember, than the never-never land represented in picture books and photo albums suggests. Though forever behind us, it remains a puzzling constellation of memories that animates our adult lives.

    On one wall, enlarged color photographs of black and white prints from a photo album (toddlers in backyards or on the beach) are randomly overlaid with line illustrations

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  • John Wesley

    fiction/nonfiction

    Though John Wesley was initially categorized as a Pop artist in the early ’60s. the label does little justice to the richness of his oeuvre. Like his early contemporaries, Wesley chose to work with the visual language of popular culture, appropriating and reinventing the hard-edged style and sometimes the specific iconography of classic ’50s comic-book cartoons. For Wesley, however, this language provided a point of departure for subtle investigations of form (associated with first-generation Minimalists) and content, often described as Surrealist for lack of a better term. Wesley’s paintings

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  • Luis Camnitzer

    Lehman College

    Luis Camnitzer’s first retrospective in the U. S. afforded a long-overdue look at the career of this Conceptual artist who has constantly positioned himself outside of the mainstream. Born in Germany and raised in a Jewish community in Uruguay, Camnitzer moved permanently to the U.S. in 1964 and stayed here when his country fell to a military dictatorship. For Camnitzer, art has always constituted a place from which to articulate resistance, and his work has offered a constant critique both of political oppression in Latin America and of the art market.

    First known as a printmaker, Camnitzer

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  • “Interrogating Identity”

    Grey Art Gallery

    Opening up artistic and scholarly canons, raising consciousness about the existence of others, celebrating multiculturalism (as opposed to the homogenizing “melting pot”)—such are the hallmarks of currently politically correct writing, grant giving, art-making, and other activities involving the processing of culture. “Interrogating Identity,” which focused on the work of “Black” artists (used here, in the British sense, to apply to non-Caucasians of various ethnic backgrounds), pandered to this trend while shedding little new light on the complex of related issues.

    The work exhibited consisted

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  • Helen Mayer Harrison/Newton Harrison

    Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

    For two decades the Harrisons have collaborated on environmental projects throughout the world that have anticipated fleeting moments of global consciousness provoked by various ecological crises. “Changing the Conversation,” the title of their recent show of proposals and projects in process, refers to their role as agents who stimulate a dialogue with a community in order to counter assumptions that inform widespread inertia. Their work frequently prescribes a major landscape adjustment, and it is their dialogue that guides and generates these interventions.

    The main room was dedicated to their

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  • Inge Mahn

    Diane Brown Gallery

    Though in her previous show Inge Mahn amended the exhibition space with subtle but invasive plaster architectural elements that extended the existing structural and plumbing systems, here her intervention is less determined by the specific site.

    Falling Crosses, 1991, consists of a dynamic arrangement of human-scaled white crosses, constructed of plywood, wrapped in burlap, and coated with white plaster. While some stand upright, most lean on a horizontal appendage and appear to have toppled over. In one corner, several stacked crosses nearly reach the gallery ceiling. Their instability is

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  • Richard Foreman

    La Mama E.T.C.

    In Richard Foreman’s latest production, Eddie Goes to Poetry City, 1991, the protagonist takes off on a metaphorical roller-coaster ride to a mythical destination (where “poetry melts language”), with the audience strapped in tightly behind him. On the way all kinds of words, women, and objects—not to mention buckets full of existential angst—are thrown across his path. The moment the signal is given to start the action, the audience begins to count up the objects that characteristically litter the Foreman stage, to mark off, like a silent kitchen timer, how much longer you have to go to the

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  • Merce Cunningham

    City Center

    Attempting to interpret the meaning of a dance by Merce Cunningham is probably a futile proposition to begin with. One of the few localizable aspects of Cunningham’s choreography over the past forty or so years has been its defiance of one fixed reading, and it is this nonimposing quality that makes Cunningham’s choreography so liberating. He is curious about process—as opposed to concentrating exclusively on an end result, and this focus has always saved the work from didacticism and predictability.

    Through the years, Cunningham’s idea of process has depended on the use of chance operations,

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