reviews

  • Robert Lostutter

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Robert Lostutter’s birdmen are voluptuary creatures produced by a wondrous metamorphosis of the human into an eroticized ornithological world. Always tense and alert, his figures sport exotic plumages that advertise sexual availability. This decidedly hothouse esthetic infuses Lostutter’s depiction of a world in which the appearance of things reflects an obsession with the sexuality lurking beneath the surface: leaves start to ripple with labial rhythms, and tight buds of flowers take on penile erectness only to burst open like little paeans to sexual desire.

    Lostutter’s use of a visionary and

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  • Frank Stella

    Knoedler & Company

    Art-historically retardataire in its extravagant acknowledgment of junk sculpture and assemblage, Frank Stella’s series “New Work: Projects and Sculpture,” 1992, nevertheless represents an “advance” in terms of Stella’s own oeuvre: a continuation of his violent dismemberment of the flat painting constructions that originally made his reputation. The seemingly infinite play of textures in the new works is hypnotic, creating a chillingly brittle sensuality—as “manufactured” and subliminally macabre as that of the early painting constructions. It is as though each sculpture were a damaged, discarded,

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  • Richard Diebenkorn

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    Ultimately, Richard Diebenkorn’s reputation depends on the “Ocean Park Series,” 1967–88, of which this exhibition gave us 11 paintings selected from at least 150 works. Begun in 1967, the same year Robert Motherwell began his “Open” paintings—and apparently catalyzed by two, virtually objectless, grandly rectangular 1914 paintings by Henri Matisse, Open Window, Collioure and View of Nôtre Dame, depicting interiors with aborted exterior views—the works in this series depict a similar oscillating space. In general, Diebenkorn’s paintings summarize and refine the modern tradition of spatial handling

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  • Richard Tuttle

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The Whitney Museum’s 1975 Richard Tuttle exhibition cost Marcia Tucker, its curator, her job. Asked to leave in the wake of the controversy that ensued, Tucker survived the debacle and went on to found the New Museum. The show was decisive for me as well: I’ve always remembered it as an almost euphoric moment. I was in college, and had few preconceptions about contemporary art—Pop was part of the landscape of my childhood in New York, so it didn’t yet demand any thinking. This, however, did. And that, more or less, is how I turned into a critic—though it took a few years more to turn any woolly

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  • Jan Groover

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Whereas Jan Groover’s earlier black and white still lifes captured the reflective surfaces of stainless-steel cooking utensils with an etched clarity reminiscent of constructivist photograms, her recent images, cast in ethereal tones of faded silver and printed on thin translucent tissue paper, seem to be shrouded in a veil of diffused light. The effect is as delicate as a thin coating of ice on a leafless tree.

    As in prior photographic projects, the details of individual objects are obscured in favor of their overall form: bottles and tin cans are stripped of their labels, animal jawbones are

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  • Christopher Wool

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Christopher Wool’s painting is synonymous with major attitude, so much so that his new “FUCKEM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE” paintings seem immediately and perhaps overly familiar. Indeed, talk on the street has been along the lines of “enough already, we’ve heard it too many times”—a reaction his stiffly stenciled, vehement retorts seem eagerly to have anticipated. While the rancorous flippancy remains darkly adversarial, and the bent of the black-and-white-lettered text is still provocatively industrial and illiterate, the voice has gotten a lot louder and much more combative. Whether or not it’s

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  • David Bowes

    Sperone Westwater

    To visit David Bowes’ plein air visions was to catch pictorial history on the wing: to see life and art from an ever shifting array of vantage points. The clarity of focus of Bowes’ most arresting image—a moonfaced, nearly life-sized female figure in a capuchin gliding through a Venetian piazza—balanced the tumbling blur of light, air, and color that overwhelmed some of the other works. Though he brought an energy, a subtlety, and, most of all, a sense of joy to the sweeping double-sided triptych Greetings from Blue City, New Model Sculpture Screen, 1992, and to the equally vibrant Midsummer

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  • Lawrence Gipe

    Blum Helman Warehouse

    “WE’RE THE RISING TIDE/COME FROM FAR AND WIDE/MARCHING SIDE BY SIDE ON OUR WAY/FOR A BRAVE NEW WORLD/TOMORROW’S WORLD/THAT WE SHALL BUILD TODAY!” Painted on the wall, these words bore down on you at the entrance to Lawrence Gipe’s show “The Century of Progress Museum.” A nearby video monitor blaring “Rhapsody in Blue” showed old black and white footage from futurist urban-propaganda films. You were supposed to get that machine-age-world’s-fair feel. Before you went any further, you could take a button—just like at the Met—except that it was emblazoned not with the museum’s initials but with a

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  • “Camera As Weapon”

    Grey Art Gallery

    Flies crawl across a sleeping baby’s face; a massive unemployment line unfurls beside a building inscribed with the graffito “Wählt Hitler” (Vote for Hitler; the year is circa 1933, the place, Hannover); a child writes “Streik” (Strike) at the bottom of her exercise book; a sign at the edge of a wood proclaims, “Juden sind in unsern deutschen Wäldern nicht erwünscht” (Jews are not wanted in our German forests); peddlers hawk lemons, shoes, chestnuts, anything they can. Images such as these were being published by workers in their own periodicals long before Walter Benjamin—in his famous 1934

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  • Candida Höfer

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    If, as is often said, we live in a post-Enlightenment culture, it is only in the sense that new techniques with which to manufacture order (like the computer and television) have been invented. So while the classificatory systems of the Enlightenment, such as the archive, the library, and the museum, are becoming increasingly outmoded inventories of our “knowledge” of the world, they continue to operate as distinctly public sites of sociocultural organization.

    It is in this respect that Candida Höfer’s work can be understood as having emerged from a lineage of German artmaking that remains firmly

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  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Piet Mondrian painted flowers; Ellsworth Kelly draws plants—has done so regularly since the late ’40s. The selection of “Plant Drawings” in this show included works from 1960–69, and from 1980 to the present; apparently Kelly did fewer of these in the ’70s. There is little sense of development over time in these works, which only adds to their air of objectivity, to the feeling that they are exercises in something other than style. What draws “absolute” abstractionists to the botanical? When Kelly says, “I found an object and ‘presented’ it as itself alone. . . . It had to be exactly as it was,

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  • Andrew Young

    David Beitzel Gallery

    At first they seemed simply handsome and restrained, but over time, Andrew Young’s paintings do act on the mind gradually and indirectly. They reveal themselves to be much less stable, much more complicated and disturbing, than they at first appear. Almost aggressively elegant, calm, and self-possessed, each work keeps rather determinedly to itself, exerting an atmospheric influence. A viewer is tempted not to get too involved since the paintings seem so preoccupied with one another, so much of a piece. And besides, the particular representational conceits of the paintings—their windowsills,

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  • Abraham Walkowitz

    Zabriskie Gallery

    For Abraham Walkowitz art was never less than a religion, and the artistic profession akin to a sacred calling. In 1906 he left New York for Paris, where he fell under the spell of Paul Cézanne, Auguste Rodin, and Henri Matisse, whose work greatly influenced his rendering of the figure.

    Walkowitz met Isadora Duncan in Paris, and he was so captivated by her dancing that he made her a central focus of his art. For him, she was the embodiment of the esthetic that drove his work: the notion of the artist as vital creator. Walkowitz was hardly alone in his admiration of Duncan. Numerous artists, from

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  • Jessica Diamond

    American Fine Arts

    At first glance, Jessica Diamond’s installation seemed unusually straightforward, especially for an artist whose work has often been seen as being intentionally indecipherable. In a series of works on paper, Diamond has referenced the work of the Japanese conceptual and performance artist Yayoi Kusama, presenting images and text lifted from Kusama alongside her own large wall drawings. Though this inscription of a female and Asian artist can be seen as a commentary on the male-dominated history of conceptual art, the more one learns of Kusama’s life and work, the more Diamond’s invocation of

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  • Hirsch Perlman

    Feature Inc.

    Hirsch Perlman’s project The Layman’s Practical Guide to Interrogation offers strategies for questioning others, including the one outlined in “Silent” Technique (all works 1992) whereby information is elicited simply by staring down one’s interlocutor. Large sheets of paper (later to be collected in book form), some framed and hanging on the walls and others spread out on a table for the viewer’s perusal, feature handwritten texts accompanied by loose gestural drawings that ostensibly illustrate those texts. The drawings depicting two people in conversation recall old detective movies: anonymous

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  • Leonardo Drew

    Thread Waxing Space

    Many contemporary artists who attempt to articulate African-American experience rely on photo-based techniques (Lorna Simpson’s studies of racist/sexist stereotypes and Carrie Mae Weems’ intimate narratives take the form of cool, almost clinical images, while Pat Ward Williams and Danny Tisdale frequently re-present racial hate-crimes using found photographs of events long past). By contrast, Leonardo Drew’s recent sculptures evoke African-American history using the actual materials of plantation agriculture: unprocessed cotton and cotton fabric, rusted metal, and rotting wood.

    Drew’s abstract

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  • Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

    Steinbaum Krauss Gallery

    Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s latest show offered a timely and articulate response to this year’s quincentennary celebration of Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World. In a sophisticated, post-Modern idiom, this series of mixed-media paintings speaks to the politics of Native American identity.

    Each relatively large painting presents a busy field of fabrics, newsprint, advertisements, and comics, covered with dripped and splattered paint, a mode that owes not a little to Robert Rauschenberg. Unifying each composition is a single iconic image in black outline, traditionally associated with Native

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