reviews

  • Eric Fischl

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Eric Fischl’s new work demonstrates that he still has the power to provoke. His India paintings represented a falling away from his earlier perversity—or rather a stylization of it that caused it to lose all its uncanniness—but now, returning to the American scene where he is obviously at home, he has recovered his intuitive sense of devilishness. Sexuality is his theme, and it is more blatant than ever. These paintings reflect a particularly American confusion of identity—for America is the land in which we let it all hang out, but to no avail. This, in fact, is Fischl’s real theme—the theme

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  • Karel Appel

    André Emmerich Gallery

    The key to Karel Appel’s work is his amazing volume, Psychopathological Art, presented for the first time in the “Parallel Visions” exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum. Executed in 1950, during the heyday of Cobra—of which Appel was a founding member and leader—it is a virtual encyclopedia of “instinctive” images. They bespeak Appel’s sense of the madness underlying art as well as life, a madness that is at once a source of vitality and of despair. Ever since then, Appel has produced an art autre, to allude to the title of Michel Tapié’s two famous 1952 Paris shows, subtitled “signifiers

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  • A.R. Penck

    Nolan/Eckman Gallery

    This remarkable miniretrospective of A.R. Penck’s drawings creates the impression that he is a brooding, highly subjective artist, using his art to try to make sense of his personal experience. Though Penck’s famous Standart emblem—a generally glyphic, loosely primitive stick figure, supposedly representative of modern man at his most socially naked and vulnerable—makes an appearance in the works in this show, he is surrounded by haunting images. His Übergang_ (crossing-over) imagery, which articulates the danger he felt while living in East Germany and the anxiety he experienced upon leaving

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  • Jenny Watson

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    When artists paint like children should you give them a lollipops or put them over your knee? Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and the rest of the Blaue Reiter group thought they could tap some primal impulse by making art like children (and other primitives), but in retrospect all their blather about “naivete” and “innocence” seems like the by-product of some regressive psychodrama. Can the same be said of Jenny Watson? The work in her new show, “paintings with bowler hats and bottles,” is certainly more “childlike” than ever. She likes to paint little girls, little boys, orange cats, and blue

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  • Matt Mullican

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    At once rationalist and (neo)Romanticist, technocratic and ambivalently spiritual, matt Mullican’s work has consistently traced a paradox of late-modern subjectivity: the tension between a private language code (resistant to the norms of everyday communication) and the desire to feed into the logic of our regulated, postindustrial society. This now familiar dualism of consciousness continues to galvanize Mullican’s practice, suggesting that the artist has always been most interested in articulating the unstable negotiation between the rational and the irrational. This dilemma was posed in the

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  • Frank Majore

    Holly Solomon

    According to Frank Majore, “there are only three subjects worthy of making art about . . . sex, death and beauty.” as for art itself, “it should have some sort of spiritual value, and people should actually be moved by what they see.”

    In Majore’s brand-new series, “Anima Rising: The Birth Of Venus (I-IV),” 1992, sex is represented by small, black and white pictures of soap bubbles floating in blackness above soap suds. Some say that Aphrodite “rose naked from the foam of the sea and, riding on a scallop shell, stepped ashore first on the island of Cythera,” and others that “she sprang from the

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  • Philip Pearlstein

    Hirschl & Adler Galleries

    For the last 30 years Philip Pearlstein has, somewhat unfashionably, insisted on painting nudes from live models. But by stalking his subjects from skewed, ever-shifting angles—crucial body parts (a foot, a shoulder, a head) frequently slip off the frame or disappear entirely behind the scene-stealing props—he lends his workboth the spontaneity of a snapshot and the wholly contemporary coolness associated with formal or compositional values.

    Pearlstein forces his nudes to vie for space with toys, pieces of furniture, and folk art that not only outnumber or outsize the figures but often appear

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  • Maria Nordman

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Since 1967 Maria Nordman has only rarely presented her work in a gallery setting. Usually installed in outdoor, urban spaces, it frequently examines the relationship between subjective perception and architecture as a cultural production. Using common objects, reflected light, and the play of interior and exterior space, her work seeks to reveal the essential components of urban structures. In her recent show, she manipulated both scale and materials, pushing at the constraints of construction to raise questions about the spaces we live in. By underlining the fundamental elements of architecture,

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  • Mat Collishaw

    Cohen Gallery

    As far as can be told from these shores, the recent wave of young phenoms from Goldsmith’s College in London has consisted mostly of practitioners of a remote, formal, yet quirky abstraction that somehow turns out to derive from quotidian forms and materials: Angela Bulloch and her pulsing light fixtures; Gary Hume of the door paintings; Marcus Taylor with his frosty Plexiglas boxes based on appliance packaging; and Rachel Whiteread and her plaster casts of rooms. As his first American exhibition attests, Mat Collishaw is clearly up to something else.

    Called In The Old Fashioned Way, 1992, his

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  • Brenda Zlamany

    E.M. Donahue

    Brenda Zlamany’s works depict the bodies and parts of bodies of slaughtered animals, of human cadavers, and, for the first time, quite living friends. Isolating each represented object in a dark, glassy, anonymous space that, in its reflectiveness suggests a mirror more than a window, her representational technique vaguely recalls that of certain 17th-century Dutch still-life painters who managed to combine austerity with opulence. Her forms emerge not only as delicately yet richly colored, but as highly tactile and quite material. This tactility is particularly effective in a portrait of Bill

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  • Adolph Wölfli

    Adolph Wölfli (1864–1930), who was admitted to the Waldau hospital for the mentally ill in 1895, where he was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic, devoted 31 years of his life to producing an array of art works in different media, including drawings, musical compositions, poetry, and prose. This show of 30 drawings represented the range of his production, from his multifaceted autobiographical opus to the drawings he made to earn money.

    In 1908 Wölfli began his “narrative work,” an encyclopedic series that by his death numbered some 45 volumes with over 25,000 pages. In the opening segment,

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  • Kenneth Goldsmith

    John Post Lee Gallery

    At once exquisite and formidable, Kenneth Goldsmith’s text-on-paper compositions are a seductive hybrid of poetry, literature, music, and visual art. While Goldsmith clearly draws inspiration in equal parts from James Joyce, John Cage, and Joseph Kosuth, his work is more than simply the sum of these influences.

    Goldsmith’s penchant for epistemological systems and wrought images emerges in two portfolios of pencil drawings. The basic unit of one, Songbook: XII Soundbites (all works 1992), is the ideogram—in this case a matrix of overlapping English letters that function as a poetic unit, much like

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  • Stephen Ellis

    Elizabeth Koury Gallery

    In his recent show, Stephen Ellis’ spare abstractions evoked various states of architectural and photographic decay, creating illogical spaces and surfaces that sometimes resembled images degraded into abstraction by excessive replication. Allying precision with imaginary structures the paintings were reminiscent of Piranesi’s severe and fantastic prison architecture, which Ellis admires. Like clear prose that astonishingly contains a complex story, his compositions revealed through loss, mirrorings, and duplication an underlying dissemblance.

    In all five paintings Ellis used a limited range of

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  • Chuck Connelly

    Lennon, Weinberg

    Perhaps his own best critic, Chuck Connelly declared in 1991, “I am on a journey drenched in paint.” Indeed his recent paintings illustrate his propensity to foreground the properties of oil in rich, tactile, densely packed surfaces that nevertheless complement the detailed imagery of his work.

    For example, in Around The Park, 1991, the circular island of greenery—surrounded by a sidewalk filled with people, lanes of cars, and walls of buildings isstretched to its spatial limits through gestural brushstrokes that suggest a distorted angle of perception. Connelly’s preference for darker tones

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  • Sally Gall

    Julie Saul Gallery

    Sally Gall’s idyllic, gelatin silver-print landscapes record the natural world with precision, but not without artifice: they are less documents of place than romantic evocations of a world untouched by man. By recreating the landscape through carefully composed black and white images and by selectively diffusing the light during the printing process, the artist presents a world that is heartbreakingly beautiful, but at the same time completely fabricated—reminding us gently, before we grow too sentimental, that there is really no such thing as natural beauty.

    Each photograph is startlingly

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  • Kirsten Mosher

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    Kirsten Mosher’s installation, Top Soil Nations, 1992, attempted to walk us across the boundaries of our geopolitical landscape. Soil extracted from various locations (Kuwait, Kenya, Greece, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Antarctica, etc.) was enshrined in laminated plastic sleeves informally attached to the wall and sprinkled in haphazard patches across the floor, transforming the gallery—a by now familiar site for disenfranchised political polemics—into a loose model for an ideal “world,” as the dirt from one country was treaded on and mixed with the soils of other nations.

    Ultimately, however, Top

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  • Nancy Mitchnick

    Nancy Mitchnick’s compact paintings of lightbulbs and landscapes fuse the elusive beauty of light-saturated color with the tac-tile materiality of common, mass-produced objects. Simultaneously sumptuous and understated, ravishingly gorgeous and perfectly ordinary, her deceptively simple images create a palimpsest of narratives on a single, painterly surface. Mitchnick’s realistic depictions bring the rich, if long-beleaguered, traditions of still life, landscape, and portraiture into the present. Smartly exaggerating the tendency of contemporary photo-based conceptualism toward tight cropping,

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  • Michelle Stuart

    Fawbush Gallery

    The recent proliferation of didactic art about the environment provides a fascinating context for a reassessment of Michelle Stuart’s active meditations on landscape. Entitled “The Elements: 1973–79,” Stuart’s recent show enabled us to reconsider this artist’s early work and its agile negotiation between the timeless and the temporal. Stu-art’s work reflects her focused, prolonged visits to particular environments, and upon reconsideration it reveals a depth often lacking in much ecologically oriented contemporary art.

    Her preoccupation with landscape stems not only from a sensitivity to the

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