reviews

  • Don Van Vliet

    Michael Werner | New York

    Set off by the front gallery’s Biedermeier proportions, bathed by the softly filtered southern light, Don Van Vliet’s semi-automatic abstractions looked beautiful, neurasthenic, old-fashioned, and European. Here and there, the artist’s organic palette and willfully skittish, stubbily fingered surfaces reminded me of Georg Baselitz’s “Hero” paintings from the ’60s, which were seen in this very space two seasons ago. Cactus Blanch and Wrought Iron Cactus, both 1991, with their veggie-juice-bar colors and implied metamorphoses, are both cases in point. I got the feeling that Van Vliet jabbed paint

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  • Jonathan Lasker

    Sperone Westwater

    Like most willful acts of artistic repetition, from Warholian or Minimalist serialization to Agnes Martin’s slow crawl through the grid, Jonathan Lasker’s relatively stable morphology may befuddle more restless souls. Though Lasker’s works hardly constitute heroic models of painterly innovation, his manipulations of a relatively fixed vocabulary of discrete abstract elements—his signature pudgy crayon-colored impastos and dense black calligraphic snarls—coupled with his extreme reduction of painting to simple relationships between figure and ground, somehow always prove exciting.

    Lasker’s paintings

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  • Man Ray

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Man Ray’s “Natural Paintings” offer a pictorial variation on the Surrealist technique of automatic writing. He began producing these works during the ’50s by squeezing colored paint directly from the tube onto a board in a haphazard manner. He then applied even pressure with another board or sheet of paper, spreading the paint out to create irregular amorphous shapes. Unencumbered by preconceived notions of composition and design, the “Natural Paintings” extend the Surrealist impulse to produce works of art without self-consciousness or calculation.

    Like the indexical imprints of his earlier

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  • Al Held

    André Emmerich

    Viewed together, Al Held’s watercolors constitute an amazing tour de force, both by virtue of his use of the medium and their geometric pyrotechnics. In these works, Held uses simple geometrical forms, three-dimensionally rendered and brightly colored, to more irrational effect than ever. He tumbles and crowds the elements until the dense configurations that result all but block out the space horror vacui carried to a disorderly extreme. And yet, despite the generally claustrophobic effect of these works, the luminosity of the forms creates a certain openness the forms look lighter than their

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  • Donald Judd

    Donald Judd’s new sculptures have an air of sterility that testifies to the fact that he has become so much the victim of his own history that he can only reflect and repeat a stagnant identity. He continues to produce perceptually catchy works, but his art no longer has the edge of significance it once did. Since he came into his own in the ’60s, he has been moving contentedly in a more or less straight line. Materials have varied, and with them textures, but the artistic principle has remained the same. His geometries seem more limited and simplistic in their logic than ever, despite obvious

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  • Barbara Bloom

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    It was that great master of manners and lover of women, David Salle, who, in a laconic text from 1977, compared Barbara Bloom’s practice to that of an ironically self-aware hostess, a perfect, gracefully accommodating hostess. Seductive in its civility, Bloom’s work has been championed for its clever innuendo and “twist of the knife” approach. Past efforts (particularly the excessive installation The Reign of Narcissism, 1989) combined a delicate conceptual rigor with the suffocating veneer of the 19th century in a complex critique of the signs of bourgeois femininity and the historical weight

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  • Thierry Kuntzel

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Death, so silky and seductive, has fueled centuries of visual art, from innumerable transcendent bleeding Christs to the gorgeous fatalistic flights of the Romantics. Thierry Kuntzel’s projected video triptych Winter (The Death of Robert Walser), 1990, the second section of his series “Quatre saisons moins une” (Four seasons less one), partakes of the legacy of art as mourning and melancholia. Ad Reinhardt’s paintings—so vast and glacial in their embrace of the end of everything—were concurrently exhibited at MoMA, offering an unexpectedly futile point of comparison for Kuntzel’s installation.

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  • Andreas Gursky

    303 Gallery

    Do Andreas Gursky’s photos estheticize the banal? And is this nauseating decadence or is it actually interesting? Yes, these images really capture boredom, at business, at leisure, but mostly in between. “Genoa” is a parking lot, where you get a glimpse of some ships in the background but mostly see the rear ends of autos packed with vacation gear. What he captures here, like an eternity, is that tourist feeling you get when you’re waiting for the rush that you’re “there”—but you’re stuck in some lackluster intermediary place like a parking lot or charmless café. Only the place-name remains, “

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  • Dan Graham

    Dia Center for the Arts

    The fingerprints, smudges, scratches, reflections, and other side effects of display that accumulate on the surfaces of works of art constitute a life of art that is habitually denied. I remember a particular Rodin male nude, a hulking, seated figure positioned on a landing of a well traveled stairwell of Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, parts of whose bronze anatomy glowed with a polished sheen bestowed by thousands of furtive caresses, the sort of reach-out-and-touch response that institutions forbid, but viewers nevertheless indulge. The lesson of the statue’s favored golden finger is that there

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  • Amy Hauft

    Berland Hall

    Over the past few years Amy Hauft has used architectural systems, maps, and time lines to examine humanity’s attempts to order and name a world we poorly understand. While in one piece Hauft investigated Southern California water politics, and in another she installed a carpet of sod in a Brooklyn gallery, her concern is not so much ecological as epistemological or even psychological. She asks what our ways of mapping say not only about what we know but about what we want to know. You Are Here, 1990, grappled with the inconceivably short time span of humankind’s stay on earth in relation to

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  • Robert Chambers

    SculptureCenter

    Kinetic sculpture, having successfully weathered its dismissal as “Novelty art” by Clement Greenberg, is generally discussed in terms of two opposing Modernist traditions, grounded in conflicting attitudes toward technology. On the one hand, artists working in the Constructivist tradition of Naum Gabo and Lászlo Moholy-Nagy have celebrated the logic of the machine. On the other, those who partake of the Dadaist lineage associated with Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, and more recently Jean Tinguely, have cynically opposed mechanization, satirizing technology by means of the irrational and the

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  • Adam Rolston

    Wessel O'Connor Gallery

    Adam Rolston’s installation Trojans, 1991, is not about The Iliad; it’s about condoms, or rather the boxes that they are shipped in. The show consisted quite simply of 1,000 cardboard containers printed by the artist with a vinyl and rubber stamp. The stamp was also presented on the wall—a sole “painting” in a sculpture show, as it were. The gallery became a theatrical venue, suggesting a warehouse with packages stacked and strewn throughout the space. The lighting was a bit dim, and the ambiance a little mysterious.

    As you may have guessed, Rolston’s installation depends rather heavily on some

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  • Sarah Seager

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    The noncolor white sustains some too obvious metaphorical resonances. Purity, innocence, origination, virginity: such a symbolic register can degenerate very quickly into weak parody. White is the color worn by dead people who go to heaven. Furthermore, to base one’s artistic project on an exploration of the valences of the color white involves a pretty heavy gloss on the history of Modernism, with maybe just a pinch of Kasimir Malevich and a whole lot of Robert Ryman.

    As Yves-Alain Bois has noted, Ryman’s “deconstruction” is not simply the work of negation, it is rather, a process “endlessly

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  • Petah Coyne

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    Petah Coyne’s mysterious sculptural objects have an immediacy and presence that at first sight obliterates thought: there’s a monumentality to these objects, a monolithic presence. The large, velvety-black, spun-metal objects hang from the ceiling like insects unwittingly embalmed in spiderwebs. Yet they are not just imposing or frightening, they’re beautiful too—dreadfully handsome works of seemingly supernatural craft.

    Though constructed of industrial waste—shredded car metal—these works have an organic, animal presence. Indeed, their spun-sugar delicacy belies a frightening, ominous bulk;

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  • Valentina Dubasky

    Without the slightest hint of overt pedagogy, Valentina DuBasky—an artist known for her evocative magical realist style featuring totemic animal images and lushly colored surfaces—has succeeded in conveying the critical need to preserve the tenuous ecological balances that guarantee the survival of life. Consider the collagelike structure that serves to bind content and form in paintings such as Rainforest, 1990, Indonesia, 1990, Nature and T Cells, 1991, and Blue Meander, 1991. Recalling ancient Egyptian painting as well as Persian manuscripts, the organization into flat interlocking sections

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  • Marlene Tseng Yu

    Yoshii Gallery

    Marlene Tseng Yu has deftly avoided the common pitfalls besetting many late-20th-century painters interested in natural beauty; she has managed to avoid the trite and tired, the conventional and formulaic depiction, and has stayed amazingly free of clichéd sentimentality. What she puts forth, instead, is a thoroughly contemporary image of nature that combines painterly and graphic values with objective and fantastic overtures. That is to say, Tseng Yu has forged an original style that conveys the spirit of nature, by working on the borderline between representation and abstraction. With her

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  • Nicholas Maffei

    M-13 Gallery

    Nicholas Maffei’s abiding interest in the relationship between light and dark (both as pictorial fact and as metaphorical presence), coupled with his imaginative articulation of organic forms, suggest the early influence of Bill Jensen more than that of either Minimalism or Pop art. In his recent paintings, however, in which he lays down thick layers of black paint and then scratches through the tarlike surfaces until the white under-painting reveales itself in slightly wavering lines, Maffei has entered a territory all his own.

    Like Maffei’s earlier works, the recent compositions are symmetrical

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  • Pina Bausch/Tanztheater Wuppertal

    brooklyn academy of music

    Set deep into the earth like hundreds of upside-down ziggurats, the breathtaking excavations at Trapani near Palermo were created by years and years of brick cutters excavating large golden blocks from its quarries. Indeed, when the cinder-block wall that entirely closed off the stage of the opera house in Pina Bausch’s Palermo, Palermo, 1990, fell backward in a cascade of masonry and dust, that town deep in the Mediterranean came back to me. Glorious, dark, and dappled with light that pours through rambling greenery, every piazza is a backdrop for the daily theater of Italian life. Church bells

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