reviews

  • David Storey

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Only the subtlest of changes have occurred in David Storey’s work since his previous New York solo exhibition in 1987, and these have to do primarily with chromatic pitch—Storey’s gray-blues, in particular, are getting moodier. His skittish, bebop rhythms—all wind and brass—animate this show as they did the last, and his syncopated abstracted shapes still seem to have paused for an instant on canvas, en route to the biomorph’s ball. This artist’s affection for the moment moderne has been extremely obvious for about ten years now, ever since he stopped shoveling paint around earthy imagery (during

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  • Peter Schuyff

    Kasmin Gallery | 515 27th Street

    Peter Schuyff’s work was first received in the early ’80s among a host of ironic gestures, which included Philip Taffe’s appropriation of exhausted styles in decoupage, Meyer Vaisman’s reduction of the painting to a cartoon of the surface it is wrought on, and Peter Halley’s minimal cells. What separated Schuyff from the rest of these artists was a bat’s squeak of traditionalism. His work allowed for a degree of less mediated painterly pleasure and a transition from painting to painting predicated on overtly formal issues. Schuyff had no specific bone to pick with formalism; instead, he honed

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  • Robert Mapplethorpe

    Robert Miller Gallery

    The efflorescence of “gay art” in recent seasons has taken a number of forms: political agitprop, neo-Conceptualist critique, and, often, straightforward representation. Not surprisingly, this last category probably has the greatest appeal for a specialized and yet general audience: gay men and lesbians who are largely unfamiliar with the tangled determinations that inform contemporary art, but who know a cute butt when they see one. It might be argued that positioning such explicit representations within precincts not traditionally overly hospitable to them is a political achievement in itself,

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  • Craigie Horsfield

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Like anyone who is doing anything interesting, Craigie Horsfield uses his medium to escape the tedium of self-expression. The man has spent quite a bit of time in bleak environments, in London and in Poland. His subjects are empty lots, and friends in sparse dreary rooms staring deep through the camera. The images are black and white, large and lonely. They are matte-finished. The large formats both pull you in and repel you with a physicality not so common to this kind of contemplative photography, which usually isn’t about imposing its presence in the room. A party scene strikes you as soon

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  • John Armleder

    John Gibson Gallery

    With virtuosic artlessness, John Armleder achieves Zen summits (and/or pits) through the manipulation of household objects—removing traces of himself and leaving a generous residue of wit and poetry. His recent show evokes oxymorons like “elegant poverty,” “brilliant stupidity,” “seductive lameness”: I’m a total fan. I love the chandelier on the floor. I love the plywood thing. I love the Mamas and the Papas (at least here). The show, in short, is good. Neither decorative nor formally replete, his furniture sculptures seem oddly expectant, like they’re stuck in an existential holding zone that

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  • Howard Halle

    Randy Alexander

    Though some have referred to Howard Halle’s work as neo-Conceptual, no less likely moniker could be found to describe what he does. Forget explorations designed to reveal or challenge mechanisms of meaning in art; Halle’s work amounts to little more than a thin form of social realism for the ’90s. Its focus is the middle-class, suburban milieu. As if we didn’t know this already, Halle seems bent on telling us that all is not right in the bucolic ’burbs.

    His re-creation of this environment, vaguely reminiscent of the make-believe habitats created in putt-putt golf courses, is tastefully sparse

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  • Marlene McCarty

    Metro Pictures

    Consider these misogynist one-liners: “IF IT’S GOT TITS OR WHEELS IT’S GONNA GIVE YOU PROBLEMS,” “NOTHIN’ LIKE A PIECE OF PUSSY ’CEPT THE INDY 500,” “BEND OVER. I’LL DRIVE.” These, and some 30 other such gems, lifted straight from various media sources (car magazines, coverage of the Gulf War in the New York Times, etc.), were the subject of Marlene McCarty’s first one-person exhibition. Each phrase was emblazoned in a narrow stripe horizontally bisecting a series of stretched canvases that were installed edge to edge around the walls of the gallery. The ribbon of misogynist and sexist language

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  • “Seeing Through ‘Paradise’”

    Drawing Center

    Mass media accelerates a culture’s ability to rewrite history even before it is codified as such: witness the yellow flag factories and invisible Iraqi casualties of the (perhaps gently forgotten) Gulf War. Politics continues to inform both “high” and “low” cultural production overtly as well as covertly, and though much contemporary work attempts critically to unmask (or at least name) this dynamic, more still remains symptomatic of unquestioned ideological agendas. That elusive gaggle dubbed the “New Right” has seized the means of representation for its purposes; we know altogether too well

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  • John Heartfield

    Kent Fine Art

    This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition brings together virtually all of John Heartfield’s photomontages for the communist publication A.I.Z. (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung). Made in the early ’30s, the works take a political stand against fascism and for communism. As Anthony Heilbut has written, they “combined surrealism and satire, merging agitprop and the avant-garde,” in the process giving “the tactics of what [Walter] Benjamin called ‘advertising, American-style’. . .a new ideological content.” As art historically fascinating and socially provocative as they are, however, they look a little

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  • Gonzalo Fonseca

    Arnold Herstand Company

    Gonzalo Fonseca’s limestone sculptures are simultaneously primitive and elegant, like the ruins of an archaic world. Inserted into their structures are parts of petrified bodies, reliquary objects, and geometrical shapes that seem both to belong and not to belong. In Anthro, 1988 and Pleroma, (Explosion of light, 1990), little steps in pueblolike structures lead nowhere, as though rituals in themselves. In Terrazas (Terraces, 1985-90), grander steps—suggesting a section of a Yucatan pyramid—are covered, at discreet intervals, with ritual objects waiting to be used in magic ceremonies, the exact

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  • Medrie MacPhee

    Philippe Daverio Gallery

    Focusing on the industrial machinery that provided the base on which the economic wealth of North America was originally built, Medrie MacPhee’s recent show succeeded in breathing fresh life into that well-worn 20th-century theme—the relationship of man and machine.

    The more service-oriented societies such as the United States become, the more curiously exotic common devices such as pipes, tanks, conduits, conveyers, and containing walls seem; MacPhee’s approach to her subject, which is part objective—mindful of appearances and functions—and part romantic, plays this quality up.

    The harbor

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  • Viola Frey

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Subtle shifts in an artist’s oeuvre can be as easily missed as the movements of the hour hand across a clock’s surface; this is particularly the case with Viola Frey’s large-scale ceramic figures, which have evolved at a slow but steady pace since the late ’70s. Approximately one-and-a-half times bigger than the average viewer, Frey’s clunky effigies of middle-class Moms and Dads have an eerie presence: These towering zombies—hybrids of ceramic experimentation that combine Bay Area figuration, expressionistic brushwork, and a fauve palette—continue to evade esthetic categorization. Yet for all

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  • Fernando Melani

    Salvatore Ala

    Italian artist Fernando Melani was somewhat of a Modernist anachronism. In 1945, at the age of 38, he embarked on an ambitious program to link abstract art with experimental physics. He pursued the project until his death in 1985, and his efforts yielded thousands of artworks and a substantial body of theoretical writing.

    Melani carried out his “research” in his house in Pistoia, converting his living quarters into an artistic laboratory, eliminating all typical domestic props, and taking his meals at a local restaurant. Melani’s output was prodigious and, over the course of forty years, the

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  • Clemens Weiss

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    In Clemens Weiss’ recent exhibition, entitled “installation & logic/fragment & object,” an amalgam of boxes, pedestals, and frames, crudely constructed from glass sheets and shards, suggests the furnishings of a glass palace. Indeed, everything is mediated through glass. Works that hang on the wall are faced in glass, and freestanding pieces are placed upon an armature of glass columns or inside glass boxes. While the edifices invoke memories of the utopian idealism associated with Modern architecture, they are, in fact, the result of a more subjective, hermetic practice.

    In a series of gray

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  • Peter McClennan

    Germans Van Eck

    In his large color photomontages, Peter McClennan gives the old cliché of photographing sleeping derelicts a surrealist slant. McClennan cuts the recumbent figures out of their squalid backgrounds and places them against new, more pleasant backdrops—leaves, beds of moss, or sandy beaches. In some cases, he simply transposes the sleeping men onto softer bowers, while in others, he turns the figures 90 degrees before printing them in pastoral settings. Presented vertically, the men seem to writhe and twist like Michelangelo’s slaves, floating in dreamy, Edenic scenes. Several pictures are almost

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  • T. F. Chen

    Lucia Gallery

    T. F. Chen was born and grew up in Taiwan’s ancient capital city Tainan. He was educated in Paris, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne in which he compared Eastern calligraphy with Western Modernist painting, arguing that the similarities between them foreshadowed the eventual convergence of East, West, and other zones into a universal culture. For 16 years he has lived in the United States—lately in SoHo—practicing a conceptual mode of painting that shares considerable affinities with post-Modern pastiche. Third world artists often feel that post-Modernism is a peculiarly

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  • René Pierre Allain

    Julian Pretto Gallery

    Without sentimentality or romance, René Pierre Allain’s paintings refer to flags, emblems, and abstracted floor plans of military fortifications. Heavily constructed of plaster, burlap, and steel, they do not speak of glorified testosterone and the stalwart virtues of dominance. Instead, Allain seems to be trying to negate the message of militarism associated with flags and heavy steel the references are clearly not approbatory.

    The deflation of these aggressive signs is accomplished through his use of materials. Each thin layer of pigmented plaster is carefully sanded before the next layer is

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  • Jaime Franco

    Yoshii Gallery

    Abstractionists working in a painterly, post-Minimalist manner—an approach that combines a pared-down, abstract vocabulary with either expressive brushwork or Pop art’s theatricality—can be divided into two groups: those who are demonstrating abstraction’s continuing vitality and those who are simply nostalgic for its high-toned rhetoric.

    Jaime Franco—a young abstract artist who lives and works in Colombia—is neither reverent nor cynical with respect to achievements of postwar painting. He contributes to abstraction’s renewal without proclaiming himself as either its savior or its liquidator.

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  • Stan Allen

    The LeRoy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University

    Stan Allen contributed a challenging new installment to “miniseries,” a continuing forum for innovative work by young architects. He used a small, awkward space to intensify the productive disturbances that constitute his inquiry. Allen’s “Between Drawing and Building” examined this area through historical and cultural images as well as through several recent projects by the architect. That Allen’s selected architectural projects were all galleries in lower Manhattan provided a decisive twist. The programmatic implications of the designed, meticulously detailed art space tapped into a generous

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  • Richard Elovich

    Performance Space 122

    In his new performance piece entitled Someone Else from Queens is Queer, 1991, Richard Elovich tells the story of a character named Felix Kater. As Elovich speaks in the first person virtually throughout, one assumes that Felix’s story is based on his own. The piece revolves around Felix’s relationship with Gordie Benjamin, a former schoolmate from Queens with whom he meets up later in life and falls in love. Except for flashbacks to Felix’s childhood, revealing strained parental relations and a fixation on Williams S. Burroughs that began in teenage years, the story of life with Gordie has a

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