reviews

  • Enzo Cucchi

    Blumhelman Gallery

    In 1990, in a tour de force homage to the city of Rome, Enzo Cucchi produced nearly three dozen small paintings. Butted up next to each other to form a fast-moving stream of images, they are noteworthy for their whimsical method and general air of ironical fantasy. Certain motifs—skulls and black birds, for example—proliferate ominously (sometimes in collage form). Jinnilike figures perch on famous monuments, and grimacing ghosts and cosmic signs populate the otherwise deserted streets. Cucchi’s eternal Rome is home to a horde of spirits that appear impulsively like stray thoughts. Indeed, the

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  • Stanley Boxer

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Stanley Boxer’s paintings give me pleasure. Not only do I find them a relief from the sophomoric ideologically oriented work pervasive in the art world today, but they serve as a reminder that the pleasure principle, with its primitive promesse du bonheur, is inescapable in art. Boxer is a virtuoso of sensual surface, mixing gestures and encrustrations with masterful bravura, abandon, and wit. Wild titles, such as Paradisicalsuccors, 1990, and Abraizedfondle, 1991, reflect this. Yet Boxer’s attitude to the erotic—the erotic act of painting as well as the eros generated by paint—seems ironical

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  • Alan Belcher

    Josh Baer Gallery

    Alan Belcher’s exhibition of photographic portraits of Liberian blacks exists in the name of a noble cause. Part of the money from the sale of the works will be donated to the World Food Programme’s international emergency relief operations. The portraits were made in Monrovia, where Belcher traveled, with United Nations status, to observe the program in action. In other words, the images are premised on grim environmental and sociopolitical circumstances. However, many of the faces shown are smiling, and only a few seem to belong to starving people. The confrontational stares of some of these

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  • Pruitt • Early

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    Pruitt • Early’s Red Black Green Red White Blue Project could be the “nigger drawings” of the ’90s. Two white artists, whose previous works drew on the stereotyped iconography of teenage white trash, now turn their attention toward American black culture with dispiriting results. The artists have covered the floor and walls of the gallery with gold foil, a stylistic gesture that the handy press release informs us “comment[s] on the status emblems in black youth culture and the historical links to the African gold trade as symbolic of the reemergence of a denied history.” These gift-wrapped walls

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  • Jörg Immendorff

    Michael Werner | New York

    In the early ’80s, when German neo-Expressionism surged through American galleries and museums, the venemous attack mounted against the new painting (most notably by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh) alternately took exception to the young painters’ lack of authenticity, and to their decadent style and regressive politics. The unfortunate side effect was a cementing of already stratified perceptions of postwar German art: the “good” German was the benevolent Professor Joseph Beuys, whose blending of mythology, mysticism, and social idealism atoned for past nationalistic sins; the “bad” Germans were the

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  • “1969”

    Daniel Newburg Gallery

    Group shows are a dime a dozen and usually they do little more than showcase gallery artists; but in curated exhibitions, ambition is always on the front burner. Chemistry is the measurement of success, whether between particular works in their circumstantial union or between works and words. As title, catalogue text, thematic or theoretical proposition, the curator’s words shape perception, coax forth contents, and promise insight. Some curators are known for overkill, others barely make their presence felt; some sew a show up so tight that it suffocates, others orchestrate intriguing puzzles

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  • McDermott & McGough

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Q: Why did the man throw his watch out the window?

    A: He wanted to see time fly.

    The joke depends on the assumption that it is absurd to defenestrate a timepiece. But perhaps it only appears absurd to us because we are unused to questioning time or challenging the conventions it informs. Walter Benjamin pointed out that during the July revolution of 1830 the insurgents began, spontaneously and independently of one another, to shoot at the clocks in Paris’ towers. Although most of us synchronize our watches, time has its dissidents as well: McDermott and McGough have never subscribed to any regnant

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  • “The Hybrid State”

    Exit Art

    A fun-house rite de passage serves as introduction to “The Hybrid State.” The door to the gallery opens onto a small black-lit vestibule. Written in white on a door to a second chamber is the word “COLONIAL.” Banging your head on the “colonial,” which turns out to be a trick door (the upper half doesn’t open), you become wary. A door to the left is locked. A door to the right won’t open. In front of you the word “POST-COLONIAL” is written on Door Number Three—another booby trap—but by this time you are savvy enough not to hit your head. On a final door is the name of the exhibition. No tricks

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  • Ana Mendieta

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    This show, which documents the first seven years of Ana Mendieta’s career, supplements spotty appearances of her work in group shows during the last few years and participates in a general revisioning of her career. Not only was her reputation thwarted during her lifetime, by her position as a Cuban born female artist in a white, male dominated art world, but her work has subsequently been upstaged by the victim status imposed on her as a result of her premature and much-publicized death in 1985. Starting with works made just after Mendieta graduated from the art program at the University of

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  • Ronald Jones

    Metro Pictures

    In the Whitney Museum’s show “Mind Over Matter,” 1990, Ronald Jones’ crisp, deadpan redeployment of Minimalist stylistic conventions seemed to grant that movement a stay of extinction in exchange for its rematerialization of grim politico-historical events. The range of his work was as impressive as it was rare: from cool, cartographic indictments of formalist self-referentiality to tear jerking memorials in which Joseph Kosuth’s “Platonic” chair doubles as the electric chair of state-sponsored murder. In each instance, politicization takes place in the mode being critiqued, setting up a kind

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  • Imi Knoebel

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    To many, the black monochrome is the quintessential Modernist pictorial gesture. It is the theoretical, material, and formal culmination of our unrequited desire for truth in painting. If the sepia tones of Analytic Cubism signaled the beginning of the end, the finale manifested itself in Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, 1915. It has been Imi Knoebel’s practice to concern himself with the fallout created by the notion of the “last painting.” His four “Schlachtbilder” (Battle paintings, all works 1991)—black rectangular paintings constructed from wood and faced with Masonite—are numbered from

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  • Lois Lane

    Barbara Toll Gallery

    New Image painting is surely among the vaguest rubrics ever applied to 20th-century art. Isn’t any reenvisioned, reinterpreted, recast, or reseen image, by reasonable definition, “new”? The term was coined in the mid ’70s to call attention to a resurgence of figurative painting among younger artists, during a period otherwise dominated by various antimaterial tendencies, and it is in this context, if perhaps none other, that the label had some meaning. The laconic flavors of New Image painting, for instance, were distilled from Pop (and seemed to have affinities with the “minimalist” fiction of

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  • James Nares

    Paul Kasmin Gallery (511)

    James Nares’ recent abstract paintings would never lead one to suspect that he not only has behind him a body of impressively quirky figurative paintings, but that he has also worked in media as diverse as super-8 film, photography, and music (in the ’70s he was a guitarist for the Contortions). Indeed, it is unusual for an artist of such diverse orientations to become entrenched in a practice that usually attracts die-hard lifers.

    In Nares’ recent paintings the constituent brush stroke becomes the image—the means, the end. Over a luminous, even, white field, textured or tinted only by an occasional

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  • Adam Straus

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Adam Straus’ small paintings encased in sculpted lead frames are engagingly bright, colorful, and surprisingly lighthearted, despite his avowedly apocalyptic concerns. Lightness and lead: the growing toxicity of the environment, the endangerment of the world, our civilization’s impending loss of “nature” are all packaged here in this series of pretty paintings with names such as Fresh Air and Disintegrating Man, both 1991. But what these works are saying and the effect they have are not so easy to pin down.

    While elegiac landscapes juxtaposed with words recalling the destruction of the environment

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  • Arte Debole

    Queens College Art Center

    Arte Debole, which means “weak art,” originated in northern Italy in 1986, when artists from Turin and Milan began to draw inspiration from the contemporary intellectual movement “pensiero debole” (weak thought). An Italian variant of post-Modernism primarily associated with the writings of Gianni Vattimo, “pensiero debole” proposes weak or non-foundational thinking as a radical alternative to the structured, foundational thought that characterizes modern metaphysics. In art, this recipe constitutes yet another counter to the hegemony of Modernism, in which expressivity is replaced by rhetorical

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  • Kathy Muehlemann

    Pamela Auchincloss

    Many of Kathy Muehlemann’s abstract paintings from the past half decade are animated by a tension between diminutive scale and an allover deployment of images. This tension is further echoed by the images that are geometric and referential at the same time; one image simultaneously suggests a glowing planetary orb and an ellipse, for example. The paintings—many are approximately the size of a typical hardcover book—convey an intimacy (they are meant to be seen up close), while the allover fields evoke an expansiveness that exceeds the scope of our field of vision. In maintaining this tension,

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  • Jane Wilson

    Fischbach Gallery

    Jane Wilson grew up in the heart of the Midwest farm belt, and, for her, nature has long been a subject suffused with meaning. After a requisite stint painting in an Abstract Expressionist style during the ’50s, she turned to gestural landscapes in the early ’60s; she has subsequently developed the genre into a personal vehicle of investigation, exploring the complex correspondences between form and feeling. This show of truly sublime landscape paintings will undoubtedly enhance Wilson’s already fine reputation.

    American Light, 1991—a powerful work bringing together the objective face and inner

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  • Duncan Hannah

    Tatistcheff & Company, Inc.

    Eschewing the predictability that comes with tying one’s career to any one set of issues, Duncan Hannah has indefatigably pursued his personal vision. While he has been discussed under any number of handy tags—neo-Romanticism, neo-Surrealism, and, of course, post-Modernism—in truth these designations say very little about of his work.

    A realist who has managed to marry the linear and painterly modes of description in a distinctive style, Hannah is a genuine believer in the redemptive powers of the visual image to illuminate life. Like the paintings of Edward Hopper and Amedeo Modigliani (to pick

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