reviews

  • Vija Celmins

    McKee Gallery

    Vija Celmins’ paintings are dense and opaque, even when suggesting infinite galactic space. Though the night skies and ocean surfaces they so frequently and faithfully represent suggest the very stuff of which elegiac poems are made, as objects her paintings can seem bullying in their material insistence. “Lapidary” is a word that suits Celmins more, perhaps, than any artist around today, including her old Yale summer-school chum Brice Marden, now that he’s given up those smoothly encaustic, Ming-like veneers. Celmins, in fact, once made a group of trompe l’oeil pebbles (she cast them in bronze

    Read more
  • Donald Lipski

    Galerie Lelong & Co.

    At the heart of the oddly durable appeal of the found object is the pleasure of liberating something from circulation, ending its empty utility in a society organized on the principle of maximal instrumentalization. We love to contemplate such raids on the trash cans of Exchange As Usual and the beauty unwittingly generated by so profound an indifference to beauty. There is also the related seduction on an allegorical level: these gray, preterite objects, otherwise indistinguishable from countless others, have been found—mysteriously graced by election to the privileged class of the art object.

    Read more
  • William Bailey

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Whereas the objects in Giorgio Morandi’s paintings tend to dissolve into an equivocal haze, William Bailey’s still lifes are characterized by a clarity and distinctness that seems to stretch the taut cloth of consciousness surrounding them to its limits. Morandi’s muted tonal planes depict objects as though they were caressed by a hood of light; they sit in an indefinite space, frequently articulated only by their shadows. In contrast, Bailey’s objects are brazenly determinate; they seem tailor-made for the uniformly bright space they inhabit. It is hard to say whether the silence of Morandi’s

    Read more
  • Jiri Georg Dokoupil

    Robert Miller Gallery, Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Jiri Georg Dokoupil stretches technique to the limit. At times, he seems to give us expressively meaningful images and forms; in other instances mere visual meandering—ironically ineffable marks. Thus, he seems to be working in the paranoid-critical vein of Modern art. But there is a difference: he is not attempting to tease a preconceived unconscious into showing its perverse self, but, rather, to make us conscious of the ordinary perceptual tricks we play on ourselves. In this thinning of meaning to a mindless minimum, he shows himself to be post-Modern. He seems to be saying that we do,

    Read more
  • Ray Smith

    Sperone Westwater

    Ray Smith’s mural-size paintings and mock figural sculptures have a witty, aggressive edge. At the same time, they are profoundly philosophical and allegorical—peculiarly somber conceptually—for all their strident, almost garish coloration. The grand Mexican odalisque of Baño Turco (Turkish bath, 1991–92) is Smith’s answer to Ingres’ lily-white, idealized whores. Her intense sensuality, seen in three views, transcends theirs to embody a more vigorous, realistic, accessible sexuality. It is as though Smith were contrasting cold European and warm primitive woman celebrating the latter as erotically

    Read more
  • Komar & Melamid

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    In Komar and Melamid’s current show, “SearstyleTM with Psalms,” the artists aim their barbs at the latest adventure in utopia: the New World Order, as buttressed by the Bible belt and old-fashioned American consumerism. In Komar & Melamid’s POLCOM, 1992, a video that drones on continuously like the TVs in Sears’ electronics department, the artists have made a “pol-com” (like a sit-com, but political) by adding a jacked-up laugh track to the recent State of the Union address. Mirth erupts not just after the president’s pathetic jokes about Barbara and vomiting, but during every pause. Could the

    Read more
  • Arman

    The Brooklyn Museum, Marisa del Re Gallery, Sonnabend

    Arman seems to have striven throughout his career to reduce the artistic process to two simple operations: plus/minus, add/ subtract, accumulate/annihilate. These three exhibitions (the Brooklyn retrospective is Arman’s first major exhibition in a U.S. museum since 1974) make these two poles of his production clear: in series like the “accumulations” and the “poubelles” (trashcans), Arman’s assemblages are made by amassing and hoarding different objects of various worth; in series like the “colères” (tantrums) and the “combustions,” they are made, respectively, by smashing and burning objects.

    Read more
  • Christopher Sasser

    Feature Inc.

    The recent tendency in painting to churn out Modernist memorabilia, trumped-up and hailed as a return to abstraction, constitutes little more than a negligible whimper in the medium’s history. Yet it does corral and heighten fundamental ideological problems that have haunted abstract painting for the last two decades to the point that the “new” abstraction may partly exorcize the practice of its demons. Christopher Sasser has found a path into painting that is refreshingly defiant with respect to the current codes of the field. He even manages to make light of the tired dichotomy between “

    Read more
  • Polly Apfelbaum

    Amy Lipton Gallery

    From the late Gothic to the Baroque, drapery was the vehicle of expression par excellence, abstracting the emotional and sensual passions of the bodies it enveloped as pure form. Think of Saint Theresa’s painfully sweet ecstasy made palpable by turbulent, untamed drapery. Today drapery rarely signifies more than a humble domestic framework, and so perhaps, it is fitting that Polly Apfelbaum arrays her lush, crushed-velvet cloths on the floor, working from the ground up in reestablishing the expressive potential of drapery to signify the body.

    To its credit, Apfelbaum’s installation is quite

    Read more
  • Renée Green

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Multicultural good intentions aside, some things never change. Under the fleecy cover of humanism, the Other is still “exotic,” the colonizer is never us, and the privileged lines of access to sensitive subjects, languages, and images are as segregated as any greasy lunch counter melting under the summer sun in Forsyth County, Georgia ever was. Though we can see beyond territorial lines, they nonetheless remain steadfastly drawn, and the problem of representing “multi-culti” interests and salvaging the artist’s/curator’s role from that of the colonizer/conqueror can be approached only on the

    Read more
  • Hans-Peter Feldmann

    303 Gallery

    Hans-Peter Feldmann remains virtually unknown in the United States, but he is something of a cult figure in German art circles. Between the late ’60s and late ’70s, he produced a diverse body of work—photographs, books, and found objects—that in some respects anticipated much of the “pictures” and commodity-critique art that dominated New York art in the ’80s. Feldmann broadly indulged consumer kitsch, advertising, and reproductions without originals in a manner not unlike Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Haim Steinbach. The crucial difference is that Feldmann always eschewed high-gloss finish.

    Read more
  • Dale Chihuly

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Dale Chihuly, the preeminent practitioner of art glass in the United States, has reached the point in his career at which he hardly needs apologize for his work’s proximity to craft. His recent enormous, hand-blown glass balls, entitled “Niijima Floats,” are fragile, unwieldy, expensive, useless, and completely unsuited to home display. They are also visually fascinating, technically virtuosic, and daringly ugly, as only great art glass (think of Tiffany or Lalique) can be.

    Chihuly’s previous works, including the “Basket Set” series (inspired by Native American baskets of the Pacific Northwest),

    Read more
  • Kevin Wixted

    David Beitzel Gallery

    Kevin Wixted’s paintings seem lost in time and space. Though they suggest the detritus of an old country house (he employs stenciling and patterning techniques more familiar to decorators than to action painters), they also feature elements that could only belong to our moment, such as Kenny Scharf–like planets replete with painterly “drips” and Surrealist forms. Similarly, while his palette favors colonial colors Wedgwood blue and periwinkle, as well as tones of earth and wood—at times he pushes their values and adds accents (persimmon, aubergine, puce) that suggest avant-garde decor.

    Though

    Read more
  • Catherine Murphy

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    With the exception of Jasper Johns’ Fool’s House, 1962, we have seen little in the past few decades that has anticipated the intersection of art and life in Catherine Murphy’s tightly framed realist paintings. Like Johns’ juxtaposition of broom and smeared surface, Murphy’s Moiré Chair, 1991, proposes a witty relationship between doing and seeing, particularly with respect to domestic routines. Indeed, to say that she is a realist painter is to miss all the ways in which she uses abstraction, the picture plane, and the odd angle in order to defamiliarize what is familiar—to make the scenes she

    Read more
  • George Horner

    Arena

    Silly Putty is George Horner’s signature medium, and in his hands, this common material continues to yield uncommon results. He uses his own Xerox technique to transfer inked text and images onto multicolored, two-dimensional (if lumpy) Silly Putty surfaces. While previously Horner’s montages of appropriated mass-media flotsam lampooned politics and art history, he has now turned his attention to what can best be described as smut—low-level sexual humor. Each of these ten medium-size works (all from 1992) features the kind of “dirty” jokes—cartoons, puns, anecdotes—found on redneck T-shirts,

    Read more
  • Robert Feintuch

    Daniel Newburg Gallery

    Although Robert Feintuch’s eight predominantly black paintings initially suggest the somber notes of a Gregorian chant, they eventually reveal the subtle complexity of a fugue. These works are very much about listening, but also about painting and the connection between the two. Six of the eight are massive, vertical rectangles, and they all contain between one and three images of disembodied ears that hover in various arrangements. Small, flat, and white, these ears and the random visual blips that surround them emerge from the dark fields with the anonymity of Xerox reproductions to become

    Read more
  • Tom Duncan

    G. W. Einstein

    That Tom Duncan’s wall-mounted assemblages and larger, freestanding polychrome dioramas of found objects and materials resemble altar panels and reliquaries is appropriate, considering their function—to teach and preserve important events in the artist’s life by means of both symbol and narrative. At first glance,these busy scenes, populated by tiny figures, animals, buildings, and landscapes, recall the folk-art subgenre known as “memory painting,” yet a closer look reveals that, instead of gentle reminiscence, Duncan’s project is nothing less than an intense reimagining of his life, in which

    Read more
  • Janine Antoni

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    Compulsive eating, and the whole alarming catalogue of self-destructive habits now grouped under the rubric of “eating disorders,” are, like any oral fixation, about substitution—about filling in for what lacks. And, like all compulsive behaviors, they mask anger or rage that might otherwise overwhelm the individual. Artmaking, too, is about substitution, physical surrogates, and creating one’s own world in lieu of an existing one perceived to be inadequate or unbearable. Artmaking also often involves compulsive activity, whether or not such behavior is ultimately productive, is open to question.

    Read more
  • James Winn

    Sherry French Gallery

    James Winn is an artist with a mission: to create a paradisiacal vision of nature. Taking as his focus the Midwest farm belt with its endless cultivated acres topped by broad swatches of sky, he has captured the spiritual side of the outdoors. In a sense, he is pushing the American tradition of transcendental landscape painting, associated with such 19th-century luminaries as George Inness and John Frederick Kensett, into a contemporary arena.

    Working in acrylic on paper, Winn has developed a style as rich in detail as it is suffused with feeling. He has managed to be meticulously convincing

    Read more