reviews

  • Stephen Mueller

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    For anyone who considers the idea of an artistic canon to be more than apolitical blasphemy, the question inevitably arises of where to plunk the adherents of Formalism, after the movement’s fall from ideological grace. There are a number of ’70s painters diligently exploring pictorial space within the well-defined limits of formalist abstraction, most notably Joan Snyder, Louise Fishman, Thomas Nozkowski, and Stephen Mueller. Work by other painters with similar artistic pedigrees, such as Elizabeth Murray and Mary Heilmann, represents a more twisted variety, whimsically playing with the

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  • John Lindell

    Tom Cugliani Gallery

    John Lindell takes on some very heavy subjects—all of which have to do, in one way or another, with stereotypes of masculinity. Consider, for example, the tradition of Conceptual art and the certificates issued by Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, and Donald Judd, among others, redeemable for authentic works of art. Think of how quickly a great idea was submerged by territorial disputes over who had it first, and of the guns fired in the legal battle several years back between Judd and Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, when the latter cashed in his certificate and made a Judd without Judd’s

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  • Lorna Simpson

    Josh Baer Gallery

    The strength of Lorna Simpson’s work is its ability to plumb states of passivity: images submit to text; anonymous female figures to labels announcing their servitude; politically and sexually charged contents to the formal constraints of cool sterilization. In comparison to the simplicity of her black and white series, the rich color, the props, and the florid, somewhat erotic texts of her recent large-scale Polaroids suggest a more complex narrativity. Yet Simpson’s facility for understatement remains, reinforcing the cataleptic drama of her work.

    Rigidly posed, faces cropped out of the frame,

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  • John Virtue

    Louver Gallery

    One would hardly know it from their morbid blackness and dramatic, gestural swirls, but John Virtue’s works are actually bound to a particular, somewhat isolated place in Devonshire. Indeed, images of specific sites exist underneath, and are sometimes visible through, the painterly turmoil, but they are injected, almost to the point of overdose, with the bleak intensity of Virtue’s own temperament. Taking earlier work as a point of departure—works in which unit after unit of a usually giant grid is filled with scene after grim scene—his latest paintings convey both his deep sense of isolation

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  • Jorge Tacla

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Since Cézanne, landscape painting has involved two seemingly disparate tasks. One is to demonstrate that perception cannot take the most ordinary appearances of nature for granted. Indeed, analytic painting dissolves the apparent self-evidence and solidity of the natural into a matrix of unanticipated, inarticulate details, revealing an utterly alien reality. Such “depth” perception is dizzying; it foregrounds the permanent strangeness, the indifference, the “supernaturalness” of the natural. On the other hand, the best avant-garde landscape painting also demonstrates, however unwittingly, what

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  • Alberto Giacometti

    Yoshii Gallery

    In this curious exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s “Études,” ca. 1934–48—a virtual case history of fetishization—the great artist’s most casual production was treated as an object of commercial veneration. Nonetheless, Giacometti’s study-drawings—largely of sculptures, ranging from Michelangelo’s works in the Medici Chapel to ancient Egyptian statuary—afford great insight into his working method. Art about art, they not only tell us a good deal about his attitude to sculpture, his primary medium, but they also reflect his later obsession with the two-dimensional. In fact, one drawing is of a

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  • Zoe Leonard

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    In a recent interview about her AIDS activism in Texte zur Kunst, Zoe Leonard was asked whether she really thought it was possible, given the contradictions of capitalism, to bring about change in society. “I don’t know,” she replied, “if we can change ‘the immanent antagonistic character’ of society. Am I cynical? Yes. Am I simultaneously hopeful? Yes.” This ambivalence about the effectiveness of activism provides a conceptual framework for her most recent work.

    In most of these black and white photographs, Leonard strives for critical effect, often in the form of an institutional critique à la

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  • Matt Heckert

    Germans Van Eck

    Matt Heckert’s Mechanical Sound Orchestra, 1989-92, bears about the same relation to music as the shrieks emitted from the Brazen Bull, an ancient torture device in which a victim was roasted alive. (The screams emitted from this brass effigy of a bull were meant to approximate the beast’s bellowing.) Heckert’s two-hour performance was not necessarily unenjoyable, though by the end of it I found myself grinding my teeth.

    Heckert—a former member of Survival Research Laboratories, the techno-terrorist art gang that staged war-game spectacles of killer automata—controls his “instruments” from the

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  • “Through the Looking Glass”

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    To technological illiterati, virtual reality enthusiasts must seem as hermetic as a group of Masons, with their esoteric lingo and their rendezvous in cyberspace—hence the misperceptions, the suspicions, and the necessity for an exhibition such as “Through the Looking Glass: Artists’ First Encounters with Virtual Reality.” The parameters of virtual reality were broadly defined to include interactivity, computer-generated models, virtual imaging, 3-D spatial environments, artificial realities, and cyberpunk esthetics in general. Accordingly, there was a diverse selection of works, ranging from

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  • “From Brancusi to Bourgeois, aspects of the Guggenheim Collection”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Pairing Constantin Brancusi with Robert Ryman, Wassily Kandinsky with Carl Andre, and Jospeh Beuys with Louise Bourgeois, the inaugural exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Soho reveals an institution caught between an outdated (but not yet dead) Modernist order and an emergent, more open-ended reconfiguration of its collection. WAC’s (Women’s Action Coalition) vociferous protest over Director Thomas Krens’ original plan to mount an exhibition that would include only male artists polarized critical response. While WAC has positioned itself as the new and improved conscience of the artworld,

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  • “On the Edge: Photographs from 100 years of Vogue

    NYPL Humanities and Social Sciences Library

    Given Vogue’s sponsorship and publication of some of the greatest photography of the last century, it stands to reason that “On the Edge” would prompt a reassessment of the magazine as an ongoing curatorial project. Unfortunately, this exhibit fairly reeks of scent inserts and self-importance, though it gives occasion to reflect on the relation between fashion and the world of “high” culture.

    Surrealism, in its interface with commerce, its obsession with fantasy and dream, provided a venue for the interaction of “high” art, fashion, and photography. As fashion magazines gained momentum in the

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  • William Steiger

    Condeso/Lawler Gallery

    William Steiger’s sepia and black industrial landscapes—isolated water towers and abandoned factories against ominous, rain-filled skies—are marked by an eerie tension. With the eight paintings featured in this show, Steiger brings a new level of intensity to his ongoing project of distilling monumental, urban-industrial motifs into essential forms. Anything but realistic, these works, with their quirky formal economy, often lapse into abstraction.

    The five works that feature a single motif are deceptively simple—only after digesting the central image does Steiger’s formal sophistication

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  • Vicki Teague-Cooper

    Little John/Sternau Gallery

    Vicki Teague-Cooper’s early epic paintings pit anonymous people against the overwhelming forces of nature. These existential scenes are replete with elemental images that bypass specificities of culture and gender in favor of a kind of symbolic cosmology. This continues to be true of her more recent, smaller paintings, though the figures have vanished, leaving only symbolic-looking objects set in shimmering fields of rich color. The construction of these works is unique: small, square canvases placed on chairs and on shelves that have been covered with a patina of bronze powder. By using a

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  • Moon Seup Shim

    Sigma Gallery

    Moon Seup Shim, one of South Korea’s leading sculptors, belongs to a group of Asian artists who came to international attention during the ’70s, and whose work was viewed in the context of American Minimalism and the related Japanese movement, Mono-Ha. During that period, Shim increasingly centered his work on the relationship between art and nature—employing rocks, found pieces of wood, iron and concrete.

    His current series “Wood Deity,” 1987-1991 reflects Shim’s desire to fuse the artist and his work. Like Isamu Noguchi and Richard Serra, he displays a keen understanding of the intrinsic

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  • Mark Wethli

    Tatistcheff

    For all their attention to rendering the truth of objective appearance in meticulous detail, Mark Wethli’s paintings of interiors treat form in a highly abstract manner. Working with rooms he encountered in houses on the campus of Bowdoin College, as well as Belaggio, Italy, he demonstrates how the physical dimensions of space can be manipulated to recreate the more intangible spirit, or feeling, of place.

    Though the rooms represented in paintings like Under A Northern Sky, 1992, Blue Angel, 1992, Simple Gifts, 1992, and Como, 1991, are always unoccupied, they are suffused with human presence.

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  • Erika Rothenberg

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    “You’re a liar, a manipulator, a phoney and an adulterer! Maybe you should run for president!” With a wry eye for the interplay between art and advertising, commerce and culture, Erika Rothenberg turned MoMA’s “Projects” space (conveniently located next to the Museum’s bookstore) into an auxiliary shop, mirroring the public, commercial, and exhibition components of the Museum itself.

    Rothenberg’s installation, House of Cards, 1992, made painfully direct sociopolitical and cultural observations by mimicking the format, cadence, and sentimentality of contemporary greeting-cards. As with much of

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  • Meredith Monk

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    Bold and colorful, Meredith Monk’s ATLAS: an opera in three parts celebrates one artist’s esthetic persona and moral value system with a compendium of her signature effects: throaty, trilling vocals; performers making varied shapes on a large landscape of a stage with their flat-footed swaying; a visual narrative carried by an overriding sense of childlike wonder. The opera begins quietly, even modestly, in a domestic setting: a ponytailed teenager at home with her portly father and housewife mother. They perform on a ribbon of a stage bounded by a large wall that will soon be raised to liberate

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