reviews

  • Hanne Darboven

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    Hanne Darboven’s STUNDENBUCH (Book of hours, 1991), was a diary of gestures that unfurled, in all the irony of their incomprehensibility and redundancy, around the exhibition space. Temporality was reduced to a simple, undifferentiated curving gesture infinitely extended so that it seemed to negate any notion of measurable time. Against this flux of gestures, the figure of Abraham Lincoln—in the form of a quasifolk-art statue held up by an African-American girl—stood out. The myth of his emancipation of the slaves persists in U.S. history despite the passage of time—even if it has been tarnished

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  • Joan Mitchell

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Gesture’s painterly dynamic may seamlessly fuse raw strength and refinement, as in Joan Mitchell’s work, but the true test of its power is whether it brings to miraculous life what looks like dead space. Matisse was a master of this, and so is Mitchell. Her gestures, an uncanny mix of willful energy and the involuntary “overflow” that is its residue (the drip as sign of excess) make the canvas space seem mysteriously infinite. That is, where the gestures are manifest energy, the canvas space becomes latent energy—the zone of repression and potentiality rather than actualized expression. Gesture

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  • Tony Smith

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Tony Smith’s sculpture Willy, 1962, and his series of drawings of the cube, in various states of monadic completeness, straddle the boundary between sculpture and architecture, stretching the limits of both. Willy exists in the space between them: more than figural in scale, it still measures itself by the figure; less than architectural in scale, it is quasi architectural in its monumentality. Even more disconcertingly, there is a discrepancy between our cognition and our perceptual experience of both Willy and the cube. We know them to be basically rational—the former is a construction of

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  • Haim Steinbach

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Haim Steinbach seems set on hiding it away. Closeting things in boxes, dressers, and drawers marks a virtual return of repression for an artist who gained notoriety with his cultivated display of consumer items. For Steinbach, these indiscreet objects of desire seemed to constitute a unique esthetic field that could be reconceptualized, revisualized, and resystematized as a kind of post-Formalism. Arranged into capitalist still lifes, these objects—Nike sneakers, detergent containers, and lava lamps—had never looked more alluring or “unique” in their ordinariness.

    In his latest show, yanking open

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  • Arturo Duclos

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Chilean artist Arturo Duclos makes elegantly rebuslike paintings filled with thorny contradictions. Though verging on the bloodless and diagrammatic, they are in fact resolutely sensual. Simultaneously terse and prolix, they are replete with provocative juxtapositions the ultimate significance of which eludes one’s grasp. At first glance, these paintings, which evoke hermetic allegories, seem to promise the kind of satisfaction one can find in deciphering elaborate puzzles. However, the more closely one studies their fantastic arrangements of conspicuously loaded images, symbols, and texts, the

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  • Manny Farber

    Rosa Esman Gallery

    Looser and more insouciant than anything he has painted, Manny Farber’s most recent amalgams of landscape, still life, and symbolic self-portraiture are at once more relaxed and aggressive, jam-packed and freewheeling than any of his representational pictures from the past twenty years. In the past, straightforward oppositions between figure and ground, abstraction and representation, form and content informed Farber’s cleverly self-referential and often slyly humorous works. In his new pictures, these well-worn formal issues are overwhelmed by an excess of visual energy—bravura brushwork, juicy

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  • Richard Pettibone

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Some people get to play out their obsessions in public. In the case of Richard Pettibone, it’s his thing for Ezra Pound. Though Pettibone has been doing “appropriation” art for longer than the genre has existed as such, in recent years his shows have been all but one-man monuments to the champion vorticist, one-time fascist, and generally irascible author of the Cantos, the composition of which occupied Pound for much of his life. The poet also forms the focal point of Pettibone’s last show, in which he reproduced the covers of a number of Pound first editions and displayed them lovingly on

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  • Orlan

    Penine Hart Gallery

    Is Orlan a Dr. Benway groupie? Since 1990, the French artist has undergone elective plastic surgery six times (and will go under the knife again in New York) in an attempt to make herself look like a computer-generated “ideal,” pieced together not from spare body parts but from art-historical references—the forehead of the Mona Lisa, the eyes of a School of Fontainebleau Diana, the nose of Gerome’s Psyche, the lips of Boucher’s Europa, and the chin of Botticelli’s Venus.

    Orlan’s point is not simply, however, literally to become a work of art. As is evident in the more or less documentary works

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  • Wolf Kahn

    Grace Borgenicht Gallery Inc.

    Wolf Kahn’s new work explores the possibilities of outrageous color in otherwise highly traditional landscape compositions. Ranging from tiny pastels on paper to very large oils on canvas, these works were completed in a variety of locations, from Vermont to Mexico. All feature Kahn’s signature explosive color combinations: shocking pink, cobalt blue, bloody orange, and ultraviolet. Drawing on an extraordinary sensibility for the permutations of natural light, Kahn makes the most unseemly and unlikely combinations into beautifully coherent works, so much so that each work seems not just striking,

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  • Dan Christensen

    ACA Galleries

    Is it merely “camp” to enjoy the latter-day production of a second-generation Color Field painter? Perhaps. In the case of Dan Christensen’s new work, one can easily tick off some of the salient points raised by Susan Sontag’s canonical essay of 1964. These paintings uphold artifice and stylization over beauty; in fact, they could serve as didactic examples of how to push devices meant to be seductive to the point where they actually become visually painful. They are indeed neutral with regard to the notion of content, almost as if the artist had set out to revise Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb

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  • Leslie Wayne

    Jack Shainman Gallery

    Last year, Leslie Wayne curated a group show with the demurely categorical title of “Painters,” placing her own work in the company of paintings by artists such as Milton Resnick and Jake Berthot, among other, less-well-known cultists of the hand. If that’s really what she means by “painter,” however, then she’d best find a more pertinent rubric for herself. I’m reminded instead of what Cézanne is supposed to have called Courbet: “A builder. A crude mixer of plaster. A pulverizer of tones. He masoned like a Roman.” Wayne is capable of treating paint with great delicacy, as the brooding atmospherics

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  • Dennis Balk

    American Fine Arts

    The visual presentation of Dennis Balk’s work is dead simple; so much so that at first it is difficult to grasp what links its appearance with its meaning. Forty-nine carrot and 69 celery sticks laid out in configurations of twos, threes, and fours on folding tables. Textbook-style drawings of physical and mechanical processes shown from multiple perspectives. Corporate fundraising materials stacked around a standard podium. Four napkin sets arranged in overlapping grids and pinned to the wall with schematics, along with illustrations of a four-stage philosophical system Balk calls “Quantum

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  • Jackie McAllister

    Nordanstad Gallery

    It’s very seductive to suggest, as Jackie McAllister does in reference to his LEGO artworks, that “the nature of each piece’s making is self-evident, [and its] internal and external realities are identical.” Or to play with the idea that they incarnate “full disclosure [which] can serve as a metaphor for a similar straightforwardness in the public arena.” While this may be manifesto material, it’s positively martian to suppose that the physical object in and of itself could in any sense constitute “full disclosure.” We could assume that these and other assertions contained in McAllister’s

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  • Fred Tomaselli

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Over the past several years, Fred Tomaselli has introduced otherworldly, mind-altering experiences into his art, transporting the viewer far from the mundanities of conscious perception. In his installations these effects are often achieved by transforming the exhibition space into an alien environment where the spectator travels through space and time as if into a parallel universe. His paintings create a sense of distance by mixing traditional abstract patterning with an arsenal of prescription and nonprescription drugs that hold out the promise of psychological transcendence. Tomaselli’s art

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  • Rochelle Feinstein

    David Beitzel Gallery

    Rochelle Feinstein has been described as a “savvy” painter, and it is easy to see what people mean. Flag, 1992, for instance, is a witty, feminist riposte to Jasper Johns. The flag in question is not the flag of imperial America, but a faded, checkered dish towel attached to the lower right-hand corner of the painting, which is otherwise filled with a wavering, strangely wistful orange grid that extends and comments on the humble design of the towel. There is nothing doctrinaire about this good-humored and down-to-earth gesture.

    Apart from Johns, Feinstein’s main points of reference lie within

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  • Steve Gianakos

    Barbara Toll Fine Arts

    Executed in a plain black and white printers’ palette and attended by formal geometric accents, Steve Gianakos’ recent works on paper remind me of the naughty cocktail napkins my parents’ friends used to bring us as novelty gifts in the ’50s. Despite the ambiguity of the content of these works, it’s easy to appreciate the artful collage of images that look as if they were cut from draw-me ads, paint-by-number paintings, and Playboy-type drawings, and then Xeroxed and enlarged—and to marvel at how cleverly these fragments have been put together.

    Though Gianakos’ formula cockeyed Picasso heads,

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  • Linda Daniels

    Jose Freire Fine Art Inc.

    This show of five, multipaneled, abstract paintings was easily Linda Daniels’s strongest to date. Although she has worked in a consistent idiom for a number of years—typically, a configuration of Color Field panels brimming with scores of patterned, abstract hieroglyphics—these paintings marked a bold departure for the artist. Trading in her previously muted colors for newer, brighter, decadently decorative colors, Daniels created smart-looking, scaled-down post–Pattern and Decoration puzzles that are too much fun to be cynical, and are ultimately as thought provoking as they are sensuous.

    A drag

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  • Jon Serl

    Cavin-Morris

    Featuring 24 of Jon Serl’s paintings from the past thirty years, this retrospective foregrounded the artist’s range of pictorial languages that resonates uncannily with familiar Modernist modes—Symbolist mystery, Surrealist fantasy, Expressive distortion, primitivist figuration, and poetic abstraction. What makes this artist’s oeuvre so interesting is that it is neither the result of a conceptual critique of the Modern masters, nor a naive attempt to emulate them, but, rather, a visual record of a rigorous process of discovering what painting can be.

    Serl (189?–1993) is perhaps best known as a

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  • “The Art Of Hitler”

    The Contemporary

    In “The Art of Hitler,” curator Steven Kasher presented a dense, thought-provoking collection of several hundred documents concerning Nazi art; the ways in which the Nazis exploited art; and various subsequent attempts either to rejuvenate or to repress the spirit of the Third Reich. Beginning with the future Führer’s early, unassuming watercolors and his first designs for the swastika, the exhibition went on to explain how Hitler created a comprehensive visual campaign to propagate Nazi values, maintaining personal control over graphic design, architecture, photography, and the public media.

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  • “Photography In Contemporary German Art: 1960 To The Present”

    Guggenheim Soho

    In post––World War II Germany, the green shoots of an “invisible college” of photographically inspired practices appear to have sprouted largely around three personalities associated with the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie: Joseph Beuys, and Bernd and Huila Becher. Or at least this is the logical conclusion to be drawn from this survey exhibition. Gary Garrels, Senior Curator of the Walker Art Center, where this show originated, has undoubtedly organized an impressive exhibition. As Garrels correctly points out in his introductory essay, “The photographic medium came to be recognized as having enormous

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  • Kerri Scharlin

    Dooley Lecappellaine

    In her recent exhibition, Kerri Scharlin encircled the gallery with life-size drawings and small, clay figure-studies of herself—portraits produced as part of an elaborate conceptual project. For a period of two months the artist put up flyers in all the New York art schools offering her services as a life model in exchange for the works of art that would result from the sittings.

    In inverting the traditional relationship between artist and “muse,” Scharlin sought to examine its social and economic nexus. Scharlin’s work asks one to imagine the differences that would exist in the system of capital

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  • Ida Applebroog

    Brooklyn Museum

    In Ida Applebroog’s installation the intimacy of her images reverberated within the vast expanse of this Art Deco space. Rather than making her point with size and scale, she used a concentrated field of paintings and the back wall of the lobby to evoke the menacing consequences of seemingly isolated actions and incidents.

    She painted this entire wall a sickly green, which recalled the institutional color used in schools and hospitals. In front of it she constructed a slightly elevated rubber mat covered with black roofing paper. Though this platform created a boundary between the work and the

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  • Molissa Fenley

    Joyce Theater

    Molissa Fenley’s 1993 trilogy of intensely rich works placed new demands on both dancer and viewer. Elaborating on one of the ongoing themes of her work—that of dance as sculpture—Fenley devoted an entire evening to the relationship between her own body shapes and the objects and spaces of the three sculptors with whom she collaborated. Tatsuo Miyajima, Richard Long, and Richard Serra each designed a stage with distinctive spatial configurations that reflected a particular esthetic to which Fenley responded in kind. Despite the consistency of the pieces’ collective vocabulary of movement, the

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