reviews

  • Philip Taaffe

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    In a statement accompanying his recent show, Philip Taaffe wrote, want to escape into art." No matter how cloying the sentiment, Taaffe is as good as his word. His well-publicized life at his villa in Naples his self-imposed exile from the daily life of the New York art world suggests an escape in the grand tradition of artistic expatriation. Naples may not be Tangiers or Tahiti, but it isn’t New York either; it evokes at least a touch of the exotic. Taaffe’s incorporation in his work of Neopolitan architectural and decorative styles (a blend of Baroque and Arab influences) suggests not only a

    Read more
  • Lucas Samaras

    Pace | 537 West 24th Street

    From his Room #1, 1964, (in which he moved the contents of his bedroom into a gallery), to his mirrored Room #2, 1966, to his boxes, chair transformations, photographs, Polaroids, and bronzes, Lucas Samaras’ obsession with representing the self has been characterized by a trippiness that transcends the homespun nature of his production. His pin-and-yarn-encrusted boxes echo those of Joseph Cornell, just as his life (as seen through his work) mirrors that artist’s in its insularity and in the belief it seems to evince that all of the material one needs to create art (both psychic and physical)

    Read more
  • Jonathan Borofsky

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    In Jonathan Borofsky’s Pieces of Infinity, 1991, numbers of various sizes, crafted from woods such as oak; maple, walnut, and mahogany, are arranged in straight lines or simply spilled across the walls of the gallery. This installation harks back to Borofsky’s counting project initiated in 1969, in which he recorded sequential numbers on sheets of graph paper for several hours each day. The hours turned into months, days to years, and by the time the work was last seen in 1988, as part of the Borofsky retrospective,at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the piled pages made a four-foot

    Read more
  • Daniel Spoerri

    Zabriskie Gallery

    With the unconscious long since colonized by art and, indeed, objectified as an artistic cliché, are new dreams still possible? Can enigma redeem banality, or has the hegemony of banality itself become the mystery? Daniel Spoerri’s “Background Landscapes” respond to these questions like a Delphic oracle, suggesting that mystery and banality are inseparable. Each is recognizable in and through the other. There are still mysteries, these pictorial tableaux seem to suggest, but they are commonplace: death, Eros, and the emotions that speak in the name of these drives.

    Spoerri has described culture

    Read more
  • Anton Henning

    Vrej Baghoomian Gallery

    The surfaces of Anton Henning’s abstract paintings beckon to us mischievously. Wittily encrusted and ironically imperfect, they are a disguise: fatally cold quicksand made to look like lush tropics. The titles confirm their perversity; one mock–Kenneth Noland piece, asymmetrically divided between overripe orange and bilious black, is called Cheese Wiz and Ripe Plaintains (all works 1991), as though we were being presented, on the platter of the canvas, with a meltdown of Velveeta and rotten fruit. Become Rich, Become an Artist in Paris shows a field of cute curlicues dramatically framed by

    Read more
  • Ashley Bickerton

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Meant as double entendres that reference traditional genres (landscape and self-portraiture) and then loop back to comment critically on the emptiness of these categories, Ashley Bickerton’s flirtations with ecology, nature worship, self-identity, and sexuality have as much to say about the displacement of desire as about the refusal of art to placate those desires. One myth after another has fallen victim to Bickerton’s hard-core, cynically high-tech demystifications: nature as a preeminent force and the veracity of autobiographical data as a genuine reflection of personal experience have served

    Read more
  • Judith Barry

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    A large mirrored cube wrapped with four large rear-projection screens may not be the most common of objects, but it is, nevertheless, familiar as a seductive apparatus of display of the sort whose mega-imagery and platinum-colored surfaces denote an epitome of entertainment and authority. Whether in a sports bar, in a museum exhibition, or in corporate headquarters, such structures immediately impose a top-of-the-line presence before which the viewer is expected to submit with complete absorption. Judith Barry’s IMAGINATION, Dead Imagine, 1991, hardly offers such ready fulfillment, for the

    Read more
  • Ann Hamilton

    Louver Gallery

    Set within a context of deactivated artifacts relating to her past performances, Ann Hamilton’s new installation, malediction, 1991, is unusual if only because she seldom exhibits in a gallery context. In order to see this piece, one must first pass through a dense layer of musty stained rags wrung into wads and strewn across the gallery floor. The unsettling feeling one has with each step one takes is the product of the combined awkwardness of treading upon art (especially when it takes the form of white rags that dirty with every footprint) and walking on uneven ground.

    Malediction is an ascetic

    Read more
  • Michael Jenkins

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    One of the drawings in Michael Jenkins’ recent show is a kind of prisoner’s diary. Groups of marks, consisting of four verticals and a canceling fifth, cover roughly the upper two-thirds of a sheet of paper, suggesting a sentence commuted or in some way cut short. Or perhaps someone simply got fed up with marking time. The marks, like virtually everything in this show, were realized in Jenkins’ signature high-key yellow. Yellow signifies quarantine and the isolation of disease, but it is also associated with sensationalism, with emotive exploitation. At the end of the last century, the color

    Read more
  • Diane Arbus

    Robert Miller Gallery

    These 28 photographs taken by Diane Arbus shortly before her suicide in 1971 many of them unpublished and rarely seen together—reveal the strength and unity of her late work. They are photographs of the retarded; most of the subjects are women, some are dressed in Halloween costumes. If these images weren’t so ironically beautiful, they’d probably break your heart. Instead, you stand transfixed, wondering how the artist could bear to do the things she did—and do them so well.

    The venues here seem to vary, as does the quality of light and image: the pictures look to have been taken at three

    Read more
  • Chema Cobo

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Although Chema Cobo has changed strategies several times since he was discussed as a Spanish representative of the Trans-avantgarde, he is still an eclectic painter, and he continues to investigate familiar (European) neo-Expressionist issues such as the collective loss of historical consciousness and national identity. This inquiry is as pertinent now as it was a decade ago, if not more so, considering the imminent unification of Europe, and the fragmentation of the Communist bloc. Yet Cobo has abandoned his previous neo-Expressionist style for an increasingly distanced, conceptual manner that

    Read more
  • Zero Higashida

    Philippe Staib Gallery

    It is difficult to believe that this ensemble of wood and steel sculptures, accompanied by several oil paintings, constitutes Zero Higashida’s first solo exhibition. Ranging from the quietly poetic to the powerfully expressive, his work is precocious; it not only feels wise beyond its years, it literally looks old. Indeed, Higashida’s sculptures of split wood and torn metal covered by dull black ink look like charred relics. They hover ambiguously between the natural and the industrial, the found and the constructed, the raw and the refined.

    Higashida’s sculptures unselfconsciously draw attention

    Read more
  • Ann Messner

    Fawbush Gallery

    Ann Messner makes quiet disturbances, using simple forms, common objects, and often the conventions of museological display. Near the entrance to the gallery, the artist installed two adjoining steel shelves each supporting three textured. rusted canisters with raised images of open, grasping hands eerily etched on their surfaces. Five of the sealed vessels sit on top of the shelves, but the sixth is suspended precariously below; it appears to have fallen somehow through the substantial surface. Its lid is absent, and the empty interior is coated with a milky white wax normally used to seal

    Read more
  • Tadao Ando

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Tadao Ando is part of a small, distinguished roster of modern architects, including Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, who had no formal architectural education but went on to conceive and build some of the most innovative and influential buildings of the 20th century. His subtly orchestrated projects are characterized by spartan interiors, dramatic lighting, the use of tough materials, and daring siting. Thus far, Ando has worked only in his native Japan, but his growing renown will undoubtedly generate international projects.

    Ando’s buildings were the principal subject of this exhibition,

    Read more
  • Julia Scher

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    During the ’80s, many artists expressed paranoia about the ways in which our actions, thoughts, desires, and ultimately fates are monitored, manipulated, and determined by forces beyond our individual control—notably the media, advertising, corporate interests, the government, and the military-industrial complex. One of the most cogent and inspired artistic embodiments of this fear has been Julia Scher’s knowledgeable manipulations of one manifestation of such forces, the security systems now used everywhere from convenience stores to high-tech laboratories to limited-access government institutions.

    Read more
  • Suzanne McClelland

    Stephanie Theodore Gallery

    Instead of contenting herself with the revelation of the stale perception that the mass media have emptied language of meaning, Suzanne McClelland combines words and paint to evoke the degree to which we are determined by words and the fictions they embody.

    On a formal level, McClelland utilizes charcoal, acrylic, gels, clay, and rabbit-skin glue to investigate the conditional relationship between drawing and words, between painting and writing. Within these formal parameters, however, she pursues a more speculative and ultimately more engaging investigation of the zones between conventional and

    Read more
  • Vulto

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    Smoke emerges, accumulates, and dissolves. It usually exists only if something is being destroyed, which is why it also stands for the transformation of matter into the immaterial. Though smoke is always intangible, it permeates everything. Indeed, it is these traces that Vulto pursues.

    He smokes fish, whole fish or just their heads, loose fish, and also fish that are gingerly wrapped in cloth, which makes them look injured and bandaged. These fish are then lined up in boxes and vitrines, hung up close together on strings stretched on a wooden frame, or suspended very casually on threads attached

    Read more
  • Michael Peglau

    Arthur Roger Gallery

    In his new paintings, Michael Peglau does something fascinating with the figure in landscape, a subject too often employed in the service of banal expression, by critiquing a number of impulses symbolic, narrative, and voyeuristic—that this subject has traditionally served. Peglau animates his archetypal Western sites with sensuous paint handling, rich color, and radiant light effects. Instead of simply providing contemplative images of nature’s beauties, however, he takes a more provocative tack, using the land-scape as a setting for situations fraught with tensions and potential dangers. This

    Read more
  • Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker

    The Kitchen

    Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Rosas Dance Company came to New York to present their latest work, Stella, 1990, with trunks full of vintage clothing, much of which was draped over wooden scaffolding across the back of The Kitchen’s dance floor, so that front stage looked like backstage. Before opening night, the costumes of the five dancers were stolen, and an afternoon’s shopping spree yielded replacements five black suits that were short-skirted, tight-waisted, sexy, and very New York.

    This company of Europeans in Manhattan’s native dress also wore signature high heels, the kind that Barbie (

    Read more