reviews

  • Georg Baselitz

    Matthew Marks/The Pace Gallery/Michael Werner

    In the hands of Georg Baselitz the figure becomes an unholy landscape. Alien and ambiguously monumental, it seems to disintegrate at the very moment it is declared heroic: the psychosocial space of his paintings is one of irreparable suffering. Despite this turbid content, it remains fashionable to talk about Baselitz’s paintings as abstractions, as though the perverse act of reversing the figure—the works at Michael Werner, from the ’70s, include some of the first examples of this practice—were merely a technical matter, and as though his painterly explorations were mere attempts to stretch

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  • Willie Cole

    Brooke Alexander

    “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it” was Jasper Johns’ characteristically poker-faced suggestion to young artists. If Willie Cole has taken this advice, he has also taken it to another level, fusing formal repetition with a critique of the repetitious drudgery that has too often remained the province of African-Americans since their forced immigration here almost four hundred years ago.

    In these terms, the best works in the show are the 12 ironing boards Cole has seared with a variety of irons and leaned against the gallery wall. Entitled “Domestic Shield I-XII,” 1992,

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  • Pat Adams

    Zabriskie Gallery

    An ongoing issue in the tradition of abstraction is the amalgamation of the geometrical and the spontaneous, the axiomatic and the organic, in an “image” that makes fresh emotional, as well as intricate visual, sense. The point is not to outflank predictability, but to generate a sense of intensity that resonates with “meaningfulness.” To create an abstract art that offers too particular a reading sells its evocative possibilities short, while to create an abstract art that seems all too generally “profound” is to make it almost altogether meaningless. The most intriguing abstraction hovers

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  • Jacqueline Humphries

    John Good

    Jacqueline Humphries’ paintings take abstraction in a direction that seems entirely opposite to that of Pat Adams. Instead of being subliminally symbolic in import—tropes for internal object relations—Humphries’ works appear to be hyperob-jectifications of the abstract, emphasizing the materiality of the painting’s surface in order to articulate, as she says,“what one can only approach and never represent.” In other words, Humphries, fashionably, wants to represent the unrepresentable; but the unrepresentable has long since become an abstract mannerism, and can be signaled by painterly

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures/Vivian Horan Fine Art

    Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits exist in a referential never-never land; neither pastiche nor camp, they lack the specificity of referent so dear to both. Her early “film stills,” in which she dons various outfits, have less to do with fashion and the languages of representation that serve it, and more to do with the use of clothing as props. Creating characters out of sophisticated forms of dress-up (like the horsey gal she conjures out of jodhpurs and a polka-dot sweater in Untitled #118, 1983), Sherman “regresses” in front of the camera. Crucial to her oeuvre, these “fashion photos” constitute

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  • Jeff Wall

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Three exterior sites comprise Jeff Wall’s recent exhibition of his trademark fluorescent-lit and aluminum-framed Cibachrome transparencies. An Encounter in the Calle Valentin Gomez Farias, Tijuana, 1991, the most naturalistic of these, records a scene of stark, rural poverty: shacks line a steep, eroded dirt track that diminishes to a vanishing point on a high horizon line. More hallucinatory than other Wall photographs, Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol near Mogor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986), 1991–92, is a sprawling, gory tableau of shell-shocked soldiers, oblivious

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  • Elaine Reichek

    Grey Art Gallery

    Irony is readily apparent in Elaine Reichek’s “Native Intelligence,” an exhibition that juxtaposes Western images of Native American Indians and domestic crafts traditionally synonymous with “women’s work.” Among the many 19th-and 20th-century references to the indigenous cultures of the so-called New World Reichek employs are reproductions of historical photographs by Edward S. Curtis, who traveled the American West recording vanishing tribal life. Reichek presents objects in tandem (two-dimensional shapes of tepees in grainy black and white photographs with three-dimensional knitted tepee

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  • Jack Risley

    Postmasters

    The only thing more gratuitous than making art is talking about it, and there’s something beautiful in that. In a recent Vogue memoir of his friend Francis Bacon, John Russell expressed dismay at the meager attention Bacon paid to his commentary: “‘It’s very good,’ he [Bacon] would say when one had knocked oneself out over this exhibition or that . . . ‘but, after all, what is there to say?’” When the work is working, it evokes silence, when it doesn’t, words can’t fix it. “There is no sexual relation,” according to Jacques Lacan, and there is no relation between art and art writing.

    By persisting

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  • “Psycho”

    Kunsthall

    When did the Bates Motel supersede Bellevue as the locus classicus of madness in America? Is this a paradigm shift? Has the Romantic cult of madness gone pop? If so, did curator Christian Leigh capitalize on this pop madness when he organized a show around Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho? “It was my thought,” says Leigh, “that if people come to an exhibition thinking it is about something they already know, then, even if they reject that information, they still have to come up with an alternate reading that is subjective as opposed to a purely formalist one.” In the past, Leigh has used films such as

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  • Barbara Ess

    Curt Marcus

    Certain photographic traditions cannot be found in Beaumont Newhall’s canonical The History of Photography. Those odd spiritualist photographers who thought that the camera was the perfect medium for capturing supernatural phenomena are conspicuously absent. Apparently, Newhall found their images of floating heads and ectoplasmic emissions too gimicky to warrant a position in history, for his work did much to define photography in the positivist and modernist terms in which we speak of it today. Yet, if you had to fit the work of Barbara Ess into a tradition, it would lie somewhere between

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  • Curtis Mitchell

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Much recent art that poses as a critique of commodity culture instead reinforces our collective fetishization of the object world. By fabricating slick, seductive, high-gloss objects, artists with ostensibly subversive intentions play into consumerist demands so adeptly as to collapse opposition into identification. At the other extreme are found-object artists who salvage old, often decrepit items. Such work falls into an adjacent trap, appealing to those drawn to the “nostalgia” of objects with a history.

    Between these two in strategy, but with an end-product entirely off the scale, are the

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  • General Idea

    Stux Gallery

    Art about AIDS often focuses on the suffering of individuals caught within the health-care system, and between inadequate government programs, reiterating a by now well-known list of grievances: lack of research funds and of affordable treatment, and artificially elevated drug prices. Rather than thundering polemics or emotional manipulation, the Canadian.collaborative trio known as General Idea attempts an alternative strategy that leaves the door open to multiple interpretations. This deliberate ambiguity has caused some problems for the group. While many viewers praised their transformation

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  • Walter Anderson/Arthur Dove

    Luise Ross Gallery

    Both Walter Anderson and Arthur Dove can be counted among the scores of 20th-century American artists who have been especially drawn to the medium of watercolor. Each had a distinctive way of using the medium to represent inner truths based on the close observation of nature and the external world. Pairing the celebrated Modernist Arthur Dove with the relatively obscure, Mississippi-based Walter Anderson. this show brought out the formal and thematic affinities between their separate bodies of work.

    Anderson’s work evinces a total absorption in the watercolor process, and a sensitivity to the

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  • “On Hold”

    The Architectural League

    The “Young Architects Forum,” an annual juried exhibition of the work of recent architecture program graduates, purports to present the new, creative participants in the field of architecture, one characterized by glacial innovation. This year’s program featured the double-edged title “On Hold,” exhibiting both constructed projects and theoretical proposals. Taken positively, it might suggest a time of reevaluation, an opening to diverse practices and theories. More grimly, it speaks of a moment when architectural practice is stalled by a depleted economy. Sadly, many architects are “on hold”

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  • Anthony Joseph Salvatore

    Cavin-Morris

    Anthony Joseph Salvatore’s lyrical abstractions recall the canvases of early American Modernists such as Arthur Dove, glowing with the inner light of stained-glass windows. These 13 medium-sized works in oil and acrylic on paper unfold like so many parts of a greater whole—in each, organic-looking blue and green fields are punctuated by quasi-figural and abstract forms of red and orange. This restless interplay of abstract shapes hints at a hidden, underlying order. Each title cites a specific passage from the Bible, which, instead of providing easy explanations, requires the viewer to

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  • Tzvi Ben-Aretz

    Ape Gallery/Dooley le Cappellaine Gallery

    Tzvi Ben-Aretz, an Israeli-born artist working and living in New York, became known in the late ’70s for his photo-documented performances featuring his own inert body in a variety of settings. In the tradition of Ana Mendieta and Joseph Beuys, these “live installations” were staged against the stark, urban backdrop of New York City, or in galleries, as part of sculptural ensembles with both natural and industrially fabricated components. His was a unique synthesis of body art and Minimalism—two very different modes of challenging the border between life and art culminatingin a number of “

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  • Ron Vawter

    The Performing Garage

    Throughout the ’80s, the likes of Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, Karen Finley, and Holly Hughes developed a genre now referred to as performance monologue. With his current work, Roy Cohn/Jack Smith, Ron Vawter joins this group. In retrospect, Jack Smith (1932–89) can be viewed as the progenitor of these contemporary monologuists, with their emphasis on the performer’s own writings, and on personal or larger cultural references that provoke rather than amuse their audiences.

    Smith’s hesitant monologues, delivered from self-made sets, were as seemingly haphazard and individualistic as a heap of

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