reviews

  • Ronald Jones

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Her voice restrained, even detached, despite the terror of her tale, she expresses no interest in reliving the incident, in imparting the drama of final moments, but, rather, gives a measured and factual account to guide the viewer from one site to the next. The planters, the ornamental bushes, the bronze busts, the bones, the black and white “snow” patterns synonymous with interrupted electronic transmission are all memorials to those who have not survived. Having met a catastrophic end, she is included among them. Her authority is secure in that she has known what each of us has yet to confront:

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  • Gregory Amenoff

    Hirschl & Adler Galleries

    Even though Gregory Amenoff apparently still believes in content, he is one of the best painters around. The content—weirdly involuted, abstract forms that resemble microorganisms—becomes a vehicle for the sultry, turbulent density of Amenoffs painterliness. Like all good painterliness, his is emblematic of an emotional state, in his case one fraught with a tension that seems about to burst its bounds. Indeed, without the containment and control provided by organic shape, Amenoff’s painterliness would be blindly impulsive, a kind of vertiginous swirl of violent energy. His paint seems propelled

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  • Paul Pagk

    Thread Waxing Space

    Paul Pagk’s abstract paintings show that the renewal of painting depends upon the renewal of what is fundamental to it: primitive sensory experience articulated through texture and elementary structure. The former is innate to surface, the latter marks it as the universal ground of presentation. Painting can never die as long as what pyschoanalyst Thomas Ogden calls “the autistic-contiguous mode” of experience, through which the subject first integrates sensory input, remains basic to all experience. At its best painting evokes “the rhythm of sensation” that forms the fundament of our self. The

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  • Roman Vishniac

    International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

    On the one hand, Roman Vishniac shows us images of “man,” in accordance with the exhibition’s title “Man, Nature, and Science, 1930–1985”—man in the form of pathetic, impoverished Jews in their East European shtetls, just before the Holocaust. A map shows us the locations of the places in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland where Vishniac documented “the vanishing lifestyles and traditions of his people.” The last of the images is of a terrified face on the evening of November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht. All these photographs are in black and white, and somewhere between hard and soft focus, giving

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  • Chris Burden

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    A volcanic mass of rocky landscape at once wrapped with and penetrated by model trains and tracks of various sizes, Medusa’s Head, 1989–92, hung from the ceiling like a twisted child’s vision of terrestrial apocalypse. The gaping wounds on the object’s contorted surface doubled as tunnels for the immobile toy trains-atrophied, self-circulating travel refusing to proceed around a globe of materialized entropy. A grand, if not somehow threatening, deliberate inanity that also characterizes Chris Burden’s Whitney Biennial installation, Fist of Light, 1992–93, predominates here. In the latter we

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  • Joel-Peter Witkin

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    Does Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph of a headless corpse (its neck terminating in a meaty stump, its penis shrivelling into its fat stomach, its feet absurdly sporting black socks), repel you? We know that people who develop a familiarity with death can eat in the same room as a corpse and digest as happily as ever. It is illogical to say that death is intrinsically repellent; rather, we come to repel it, to say No to death. As English sociologist Geoffrey Gorer once declared, death has become the new pornography, replacing sex as society’s greatest taboo.

    Witkin has long specialized in subjects

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  • Carter Kustera

    Josh Baer Gallery

    The vital impetus behind Carter Kustera’s art is assassination. In 1991 the artist killed off his former self (Kevin Carter), and the ensuing funeral served as a sort of social debut for his current self (Carter Kustera). In 1992 he titled a show “Domicide” and aimed heat lamps at a life-size wax sculpture entitled, appropriately enough, The Disappearing Family. So what did his new show, “Based on a True Story,” have on its hit list?

    Each of Kustera’s new works gives physical form to a story that purports to be “true.” However, these stories vary widely in their credibility: Based on a True Story

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  • Robert Colescott

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    With the skill of a political cartoonist, Robert Colescott draws some fine, funky lines around what lust and laughter, anger and envy bring to mixed-race relations. It might be said, in fact, that he introduces a thinking man’s perspicuity into activist art. Barely contained by their organization on the canvas, his carnival-flavored narratives can still make wholly original, often maddening cases for tolerance. Disenfranchised populations face down the oppressive forces inhabiting the art world, the “free” world, and the dimensions of their own despair.

    Though his barbs generally seem to be more

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  • Alice Aycock

    John Weber Gallery

    In this startlingly seductive show sculptures, drawings, and texts conspired to create an absurd parallel universe replete with desire and violence. Aycock’s work invoked a dizzying array of esoteric allusions, including references to the Hebrew Cabala and Max Planck’s theory of quantum physics. The three complex sculptures—two recent works and a “blade machine” from 1984—evoked amusement-park architecture, ancient astronomical devices, and alarmingly oversized pocket games and pinwheels. Together, all the pieces in the show meditated on our psychological investment in understanding the universe:

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  • Alex Katz

    Robert Miller Gallery

    The bland, unruffled look of high cool that typifies both the people Alex Katz por- Fabian Marcacclo, The Altered Genetics of trays, and the way he paints them, can be read either as a Warholian blankness and emphasis on surface, or as harboring the moodily passive ambiguities and dreamy distances of a Fairfield Porter landscape. At first glance, it might appear that Katz’s free-standing cutouts would weigh in heavily on the surface-and-blankness side of the scale. Such stage-set-like figures seem to argue for a view of personality as facade, and, formally, to work as much against the possibility

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  • Fabian Marcaccio

    John Post Lee Gallery

    Fabian Marcaccio uses the conventional elements of Modernist practice in an artificially rule-bound, self-conscious, and non-idiomatic way to create not a chain of orderly communicative utterances but peculiar and estranging sequences that, for all their blatancy, continually short-circuit any effort to comprehend them. This work speaks Painting as a Foreign Language.

    This exhibition consisted of a series of five paintings titled “The Altered Genetics of Painting,” 1992–93. The paintings, closely allied in color, in some respects seemed to form a quasi-narrative cycle, yet were also self-contained.

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  • Jane Rosen

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery

    Under the title “Better Nature,” Jane Rosen assembled an intriguing set of sculptures. Even when visible characteristics differed, a transcendent “genetic” bond was apparent. Rosen’s work is influenced by the forms perceived in those moments prior to complete recognition—what is seen before pattern, color, and shape indicate some figure or formation—which serves to engage viewers in negotiating the relationship between perception and cognition.

    These strangely crafted pieces examine the relationship between the natural, the found, and the fashioned. Rosen frequently revisits the horse’s head,

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  • Mike Berg

    Fine Art Studio

    How refreshing, in this year of the politically correct, to come across a painter who is completely unashamed of the decorative aspect of his art, a painter, furthermore, who does not so much as nod in the direction of social and political concerns. Although it might seem traditional, such a stance is not always easy to maintain. It requires cunning, indirection, and virtuosity.

    At various times in the course of his career, Mike Berg has favored flooded baroque interiors, Biedermeier furniture floating in midair and gold Cyrillic lettering. Floral motifs have a long history with him, and, in his

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  • Lisa Bradley

    E.M. Donahue

    To the casual observer, Lisa Bradley’s paintings may simply suggest spectacular optical effects achieved by way of a monochromatic painterly medium. The paintings—all nearly square and in various shades of blue—evoke the swirling tumbling forces of water and sky. They seem to derive their power to confound the eye from the abstract potential of photography: the maelstrom viewed through a camera obscura. But, in fact, the longer one spends with them, the more disorienting the paintings become. Or perhaps “disorienting” isn’t quite the word; all the blueness makes them oddly tranquil.

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  • Tom Friedman

    Feature Inc.

    Most of Tom Friedman’s recent works result from some extremely obsessive process: chewing endless wads of gum, separating synthetic pillow stuffing thread by thread, or stuffing black, plastic garbage bags inside one another. Friedman, who once wound pubic hair in a perfect spiral across the face of a bar of soap, transforms single, mundane materials—toothpaste, used bubblegum, tube socks—into unlikely, often absurd forms.

    Artists have exploited everyday materials since Marcel Duchamp first introduced his readymades. Friedman merely domesticates the industrial supplies favored by the Minimalists

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  • Thomas Ruff

    303 Gallery

    In Thomas Ruff’s latest photographs lurid green light shines on residential and industrial buildings, the ragged edges of a nameless, graceless city. The illuminated scenes appear through a circular viewfinder, with the photographs’ edges darkened, as if the photographer were scanning the scene of a crime. The bizarre hue and mundane subject matter are unexpectedly mysterious, an effect heightened by the absence of any sign of life. A row of desolate warehouses suggests covert activity; an oblique view of an inscrutable facade resembles the much-reproduced shots of the building from which Oswald

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  • Amalia Mesa-Bains

    Whitney at Phillip Morris

    For the past two decades, Amalia Mesa-Bains has examined ritual space as a site of the production and constriction of feminine identity. Venus Envy Chapter One (or the First Holy Communication Moments Before the End) (all works 1993), was a single-room installation constituting the first of a three-part series that strives to deconstruct the two “feminine identities”—either virgin or bride—that define woman’s place in the Catholic Church.

    Hall of Mirrors functioned as both a literal and conceptual frame for Venus Envy. The artist lined the two side walls of the room with mirrors, some of which

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  • Harold Haydon

    Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

    Harold Haydon, now in his 84th year, has argued for more than half a century that the spatial and optical traditions of the entire history of Western art are based in error, and that to date he has been the sole artist to approach these elements in an accurate manner. He particularly rails against what he describes as the “Cyclops convention”: the attempt to render a world observed with the use of only one eye, with all elements, whether near or far, simultaneously existing in focus and seen from a single vantage point, positing what Hay-don reads as a patently false universe. Haydon’s paintings

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  • John Lekay

    Cohen Gallery

    John LeKay’s recent two-part exhibition “The Separation of Church and State” tried to make the viewer confront issues that are either taboo or “socially embarrassing”: religion, homelessness, race, disability, bodily functions, and domestic violence. His sculptural amalgamations are self-contained tableaux composed of objects that are either useless, broken, or just plain garbage.

    The two sculptures, shown in the first part of the exhibition, appropriate Christian iconography. The Separation of Church and State, 1991–93, takes the shape of a cruciform over a stained piece of carpeting. At the

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