reviews

  • Albert Oehlen

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    In Albert Oehlen’s recent show—six canvases displayed along with three “computer drawings” that read as commentaries on the paintings—fans of conceptual abstraction are made as much a butt of his biting humor as the German public was in earlier work, which at times employed fascist imagery to probe German attitudes toward the past. Oehlen’s conceptual strategies are mordant and aggressive, but also convoluted. Expressionism has for some time been his primary target as well as his weapon of choice; but he goes far beyond merely exposing the impossibility of any kind of complete expression.

    Indeed,

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  • David Hockney

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    David Hockney’s new paintings are entirely of a piece. Uniformly small in size (“My gazebo studio overlooking the sea is not very large,” he explains) and similar in texture, pattern, and bright, highly keyed palette, they seem less like individual works than components of a suite. Their uniformity, set against the artist’s coy diffidence and seemingly arbitrary methodology, leads to the conclusion that Hockney is satisfied to let his new vision speak for itself. That he is, in fact, merely acting as a scribe.

    Rich in eye-grabbing color, these jewellike paintings suggest an imaginary world in

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  • Odd Nerdrum

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    Though striking and technically accomplished, Odd Nerdrum’s recent paintings seem at first like so much virtuosic pastiche, as if, after eating a particularly rich meal late at night, one saw all the great paintings on the second floor of the Metropolitan coalesce into one enormous work of nightmarish intensity, in which all the illnesses and shortcomings of man loomed up out of varnished brown sauce.

    These images arc puzzles. They do not illustrate any particular myth or moment in time; they do not explain themselves or seek to explain any particular system of belief. They are of primal man,

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  • Andres Serrano

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 521 West 21st Street

    Andres Serrano’s new, large color photographs taken in morgues are portraits, figure studies, and studies of the hands, feet, heads, and genitals of corpses. We see, at close range and larger than life, stab wounds and scalpel incisions, flesh bloated from drowning and discolored by poison, ears and noses half burned away, fists clenched as though to ward off blows.

    Serrano had permission to take lights and backdrops into the morgues, that is, he worked with the freedom and control of the studio artist, yet handled his subjects like a mediocre amateur. Light: from how-to books of glamour photography,

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  • Diana Michener

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    “Diana Michener is not shy when she chooses her subject matter,” the press release states. What is to recoil from in laboratory specimens of deformed fetuses ca. 1900, in handsome glass jars, floating in formaldehyde? One has two heads, another two crania and one face, another’s torso dwindles into a fishtaillike flap of skin, another has one half-formed eye in mid forehead. No gorgon here, or basilisk, or the Duchess of Malfi’s corpse: “Cover her face,” says her brother, who had her murdered, “mine eyes dazzle: she died young.” If style mirrors perception, Michener sees through a black and

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  • Frank Moore

    Sperone Westwater

    In his soulfully surreal narratives, Frank Moore weaves together a series of allegorical images that resonate with the shattering reality of AIDS. Nowhere else has the medical profession’s estrangement from the healing arts been more vividly depicted; aside from the late David Wojnarowicz, no artist has come closer to capturing the indignation, and extreme tenderness, provoked by the drama of this disease.

    In one detailed, fastidiously plotted painting after another, Moore simultaneously instructs and bedevils the viewer, rendering intimate the numbing losses known to both AIDS sufferers and

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  • Ken Lum

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Comprising variously patterned and colored throw pillows of outsized proportions casually plopped down beside reductive, image-populated and text-inscribed paintings, Ken Lum’s oblique arrangement of works set in motion a scramble for hermeneutic points of entry. This peculiar ensemble also demanded a patient excavation of buried contents. In contrast to the social parody of certain of Lum’s previous efforts—his “Furniture Sculpture,” 1982-93, and “Portrait Logos,” 1984—a disturbing neutrality prevailed here. Meaning had to be teased out of the potential correspondences between objects and their

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  • Josef Strau and Stephan Dillemuth

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Founded in 1990 by artists Joseph Strau and Stephan Dillemuth, Friesenwall 120 is a storefront space located close to Cologne’s central gallery district. Meant to serve multiple functions, it has operated as a video and newspaper archive, provided a meeting place for a “gray panther” group, featured a scholarly exhibition on the Situationist movement, and mounted group and one-person shows. Perhaps most significantly, Friesenwall 120 has become a kind of social nexus of the Cologne art scene. Outfitted with a reading/viewing room (plus couch), the modest space might be described as a mutable

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  • Toshio Shibata

    Lawrence Miller

    Toshio Shibata’s landscape photographs are perhaps most extraordinary for their startling sense of scale, their meticulous, indeed excruciating detail. After immersing ourselves in them, we realize that the man-made structure—usually a dam, or something designed to bring a stream, and sometimes land, under control—is at odds with nature, not just technically, but spatially. Indeed, geometrical structure and nature inhabit their own spaces, but the vastness of the overall space Shibata photographs makes clear how irreconcilable they are. Shibata turns the traditional nature/culture duality into

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  • Josef Breitenbach

    Houk Friedman And Hirschl & Adler Modern

    One of the first photographers to add color to black and white photographs, Josef Breitenbach used it to foreground the illusory nature of photography. Through this contradiction he subliminally undermined our preconception of the photograph as a record of reality. In bringing it closer to fantasy—in showing just how much of an emotional hothouse a photograph can be—he unwittingly disillusioned us about it, or, more positively, “enlightened” us about how mechanical and manipulable a medium it is. But his color also has iconographic significance: it is not simply a catchy device, but makes the

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  • Robert Rauschenberg

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Between the photographic and printed works of 1949 and the “Combine Paintings” of 1954, Robert Rauschenberg traversed such a wide variety of media and techniques that an artist could mine an entire career out of any one aspect of his oeuvre. His art is a litmus test for the time, a reflection of his insatiable appetite for contemporary art. Rauschenberg not only visited the most influential and avant-garde galleries but frequented the Cedar Tavern and enrolled in Black Mountain College. Here, among the likes of Joseph Albers, Jack Tworkov, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, John Cage, and

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  • José Bedia

    Frumkin/Adams Gallery

    Both José Bedia’s crypto-symbolic figurative paintings and his compelling mixed-media installations suggest a ritual atmosphere: they are complementary aspects of the artist’s ongoing exploration of the Afro-Cuban religions Santeria and Palo Monte. The Cuban folkways that Bedia’s work engages are themselves rich and eclectic mixtures of various cultural traditions African, Western Christian, even Native American—and it is precisely this syncretism that fuels his work, that allows him to explore the complexity of postcolonial identity.

    In his paintings he often sets a linear figuration, adopted

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  • Charles LeDray

    Tom Cugliani

    To the art world’s chronic Brobdingnagism, Charles LeDray opposes his own private Lilliput of handmade, obsessively detailed, and generally twee objects. This show of his recent efforts featured tiny garments (like Becoming/Mister Man [all works 19921, a checked suit about the size of a one-year-old) and larger works made of tiny garments (like Untitled/Web, a web made of various Ken-and-Barbie-sized clothes). However, these Lilliputian duds are no play clothes. LeDray uses scale like the sculptor of an ancient Mesopotamian relief: big means powerful, tiny means vulnerable. In The Men in the

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  • Lisa Yuskavage

    Elizabeth Koury Gallery

    This exhibition included both paintings and watercolors. In each of the paintings, a seductive, candy-colored monochrome field is inhabited by a single figure, creating a kind of imaginary portrait of a young girl. It’s really the color that hits first: saturated, lurid, aggressively confectionary—cloying hues that speak of manipulation, of some terrible abstraction from reality, of what your mother told you never to take from strangers. The figures seem to be surfacing from somewhere inside the field while remaining very much within its atmosphere.

    Sometimes naked, sometimes partly clothed,

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  • Anton Solomoukha

    Elga Wimmer PCC

    Since 1991 the paintings of Anton Solomoukha, an artist born in Kiev but living in Paris, have been playing with imagery derived from a catalogue of mechanical toys printed in the ’20s. Not surprisingly, nostalgia and reverie are key elements of these pictures. Yet they are about everything but naiveté or innocence. In earlier paintings from the series, shown in a four-person exhibition at this gallery in 1991, the images from the catalogue—not always recognizable in the paintings as being of toys—were mixed with fragments of nude figures, or rather fragments of pictures of nudes, since, like

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  • Graham Durward

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    In his recent work, Graham Durward takes on the archetype of the male artist-hero who derives his power from a manifest masculinity. Durward’s earlier work reflected a fluid notion of male identity; his large drawing of a hermaphrodite, Untitled, 1991, transformed the body to emphasize the mutability of heterosexual and homosexual practices. Combined with his intentionally schizophrenic writings, which detail a polymorphously perverse sexuality, this work was located at the edge of identity—where identity begins to fragment. His more recent works question the tenability of culturally defined

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  • Eva Lundsager

    Stephanie Theodore Gallery

    Eva Lundsager’s luminous paintings, small oils on wood surfaces, possess a transcendental, almost sublime, quality. The forms in paintings like Really Sips, Leading to the Mass, For a Juicy While, and Playing Field (all works 1992) suggest subjective dreamscapes. Characterized by a quality of light that seems to emanate from its surface and tactile paint, Really Sips employs thin layers of pigment to stir up contradictory feelings of freedom and confinement. Through this white elliptical form, with its multiple rings, and surrounding black and white and colored ground, Lundsager foregrounds the

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  • Anotonio Martorell

    El Museo del Barrio

    Deftly negotiating Puerto Rican cultural traditions, ambitious political issues, literary references, and personal experiences, Antonio Martorell examined how the textures of regional conditions and individual expectations construct our notion of “home.” His eclectic, often personal installations were scattered through the rooms of the museum in a circuitous path of mystery and revelation.

    Educated in graphic design, printmaking, and performance, Martorell uses an alchemic mix of these traditions in his work. At first some of the pieces seemed overly dependent on particular incidents in the

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