reviews

  • Joel Shapiro

    Pace | 510 West 25th Street

    Paradoxically, the Holocaust seems to have given new life to Joel Shapiro’s sculptures. This is perhaps most evident in the intense color and disturbing forms of the glorious drawings, meant to be preliminary studies but strong in their own right. Shapiro’s sculpture had begun to look increasingly like a dry, formal exercise in which the minimum of simple geometrical means no longer worked to maximum expressive effect. Without the former tension between abstraction and figuration, the sculptures seemed dogmatically static, that is, they read neither as evocative mannequins nor as pure constructions,

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  • Antonius Höckelmann

    Michael Werner | New York

    This exhibition of Antonius Höckelmann’s drawings and sculptures from the ’60s made it clear that he is one of the masters of postwar German art. His work is not unrelated to that of Georg Baselitz, who invited him to participate in the publication of the “Pandemonium Manifesto” in 1961. Though Höckelmann declined, this was not an indication that there was no pandemonium in his art. Everything here moves toward a demonic amorphousness, often triggered by an overly sensitive response to genitalia and excrement. His work also seems genuinely pathological—a fixated expression of profound conflict,

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  • Cheryl Goldsleger

    Bertha Urdang Gallery

    That Cheryl Goldsleger’s deserted architecture is a kind of grand world theater is certainly suggested by the amphitheater in Vortex, 1993, and by its equally grandiose, engulfing form in the other charcoal drawings presented in this show. In a world theater, the actors are all tokens of fate, just as the scenery is cosmic and stark, seemingly inevitable. Though full of the signs of human presence—chairs scattered as though people had just got up and left the scene—the actors are never present, rather, the architecture itself becomes the actor. This architecture is dramatic in itself, not only

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  • Magdalena Abakanowicz

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    Vivid memories of World War II and four decades of communism inform the art of the Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. The complexity of transforming autobiography into art was thoughtfully addressed in her two recent shows. At the Marlborough Gallery, her sculptures—scattered throughout the rooms and placed outside on the terrace—were drawn from Hand-like Trees, 1992–93, the series “Circus,” 1992, the multiple-figured Puellae, 1992–93, and Infantes, 1992. But the monumental Embryology, 1978–81, first presented at the Venice Biennale in 1980, dominated the show. A morass of 600 hand-stitched

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  • Katharina Fritsch

    Dia Center for the Arts

    Nobody, it seems, likes rats. Mice are cute; rats, just dirty. Stuart Little is a mouse; Templeton, a rat. In the urban cesspool, rats surpass cockroaches as pestilential, borderline-scary nuisances. (Roaches, after all, are easy to kill.) When a rat scurries past me on the detritus-strewn lanes of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I have to steel myself not to jump.

    Maybe Katharina Fritsch, alone, really likes rats. She’s a rodentiaphile teuton. Given the scale and freak glamour of her DIA installation, Rattenkönig (Rat king, 1993), she tries hard to make the most of them as icons. We are told that

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  • Thomas Nozkowski

    Max Protetch

    It’s a considerably more delicate problem than usual to articulate the unity of viewpoint or sensibility that is nonetheless everywhere palpable in Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings. These small abstract paintings, and only slightly smaller drawings, combine rectilinear geometry with biomorphic wobbliness as easily as their facture ranges from the most feinschmecking scumbling to correctly Modern hard-edged directness. Each painting is the result of many pentimenti, visible as traces within the surface, though the results show no evidence of vacillation; every image feels decisive, precise, as

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  • Dennis Oppenheim

    Blue Helman

    “A toy is a child’s first initiation to art,” Charles Baudelaire once claimed; conversely, art could be the adult’s swan song to toys. There’s an area where the tendrils of the ludic wrap around the roots of the esthetic, and that’s precisely where Dennis Oppenheim works. Ranging from the little art experiments he did with his kids in the ’70s to the sculptures in his latest exhibition, Oppenheim has created a body of works that comprise his own little Land of the Misfit Toys. For instance, Think Tank, 1993, is half Cat in the Hat, half a passionately staged Gomez Addams toy-train wreck: two

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  • Leon Golub/Nancy Spero

    Josh Baer Gallery

    “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” This chilling observation of Walter Benjamin’s is nowhere more fully taken to heart than in the work of Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. A two-part presentation surveyed work from the last four decades, first with selections from the ’60s and ’70s, then from the ’50s and ’90s. Welcome as it was, the first half of the exhibition was the less surprising. During the period it covered, Golub’s and Spero’s oeuvres were complementary, each faithfully situated in a distinct sphere. What the second part of the show

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  • Caio Fonseca

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Caio Fonseca’s semaphoric abstractions, collectively entitled “Tenth Street Paintings,” 1992–93, perform a skittering dance across waxy canvas skins, weighing surface against rhythm. As venerable in appearance as works by the masters of European Modernism, they look as if they had been made in the Picabian machine age, rather than produced by an American now in his early thirties. Fonseca possesses an authoritative visual vocabulary of buoyant geometrical forms, but his resolutely formal manipulations keep them tightly reined and break little new pictorial ground. Nonetheless, he constructs

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  • Daisy Youngblood

    McKee Gallery

    The only disruption in this austere, brightly illuminated space was the diminutive work of Daisy Youngblood—a community of small votive objects scattered around these ample rooms. Mounted directly on the walls or placed on tall pedestals, Youngblood’s clay sculptures seemed to undermine the carefully constructed serenity of their environment.

    Each piece embodied abandonment or carried in its contours some trace of injury, age, or lifelong struggle. Foreshortened Horse, 1992, was mounted at eye level, projecting from the wall at mid body to animate a space that extended well beyond its Lilliputian

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  • Tina Barney

    Janet Borden, Inc.

    It would be nice to write a review of Tina Barney’s splendid new photographs without mentioning the dread words WASP, New England, or (worst of all) Ralph Lauren, but for most reviewers her work, with its focus on the lives of well-fed, conservatively clothed white people, raises the issue of class, and class is something Americans prefer not to think about. Barney clearly does think about it to the extent that she is aware that an individual’s fate is determined by income, education, and nurture, but she is entirely undoctrinaire. With a kind of anxious fidelity she records the lives of the

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  • Carmen Perrin

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    These two very different shows marked Swiss artist Carmen Perrin’s solo debut in the United States. Common to all of her work is a commitment to exploring the possibilities of industrial materials—metal, rubber, wood, and fiberglass, among others—which has yielded formally varied but consistently provocative results. John Good presented a range of Perrin’s freestanding and wall-mounted sculptures from the past several years. Populating the floor like hypertensed creatures poised to spring were her relatively large, “temporary” constructions. Assembled of twisted and stressed steel, rubber, and

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  • Arturo Lindsay

    Franklin Furnace

    With El Monte: Homenaje a Lydia Cabrera (Homage to Lydia Cabrera, 1993), Arturo Lindsay dedicated a rich, multimedia installation to Cabrera—the scholar of Afro-Cuban art and culture who brought the iconography of Santería to Wifredo Lam’s attention. By building five shrines dedicated to various orishas, or gods of Santería, and two shrines honoring the forgotten history of his native Panama, Lindsay lifted the veil of secrecy that has long accompanied Santería ritual—and artistic interpretations thereof—to reveal its symbolism without denying its spiritual dimension.

    El Monte” confirms Lindsay’s

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  • Regina Silveira

    Ledisflam

    Masterpieces (In Absentia), 1993, seemed at first glance to be a reedition of Regina Silveira’s installation In Absentia, presented at the 17th Biennial in São Paulo in 1983. On that occasion, the work consisted of the silhouettes of two of Marcel Duchamp’s most popular readymades: Bottlerack, 1914, and Bicycle Wheel, 1913. Both shadows, enormous and deformed in a sort of perplexed simulacrum of perspective, extended over the floor of the enclosure, rising vertically against the panels that encircled the room. The bases on which the objects should presumably have stood were empty pedestals, of

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  • Michael Byron

    Elga Wimmer Gallery

    In Michael Byron’s recent exhibition, two candles, in the shape of life-sized busts cast in paraffin, each faced a series of elegant gray-on-black “drip” paintings. On these paintings, typographic collage translates each dribble and squiggle into some psychological “moment”—“lust,” “laziness,” “substance abuse,” “fate,” “enlightenment,” “inner peace.” In a companion exhibition in Paris, Byron presented an installation entitled, Search6: Le Tableau d’Amsterdam 1992–93, which indicated that’ as a whole, his new work is about translation: the translation of paint into language, of a squiggle into

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  • Adam Cvijanovic

    Richard Anderson Fine Arts

    Adam Cvijanovic’s installation was a delightful surprise: at once a visual pleasure and a commentary on the politics of viewing. The artist compiled an impressive series of representational paintings that borrow heavily from the Romantic tradition. But the work is hardly pastiche; rather, it attempts to reconcile theories of the nature and purpose of art with its seductive properties.

    In the tiny storefront gallery, painted bright white, 18 delicate, grisaille paintings of erupting volcanoes ranged across the walls, forming a large and colorful imaginary landscape, complemented by a painting of

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  • Catherine Stine

    Sunnen Gallery

    Catherine Stine reenergizes the genre of landscape painting, transforming it into a medium of active engagement that reflects a deep concern with the earth’s survival. In Rainforest Fire, 1992, forms accrete in crisscrossing and heaving painterly passages suggesting the interdependency of vegetal, mineral, and animal. What appear, at first glance, to be simply parts of leaves, plant stems, and stalks metamorphose, upon more sustained scrutiny, into flames and marine creatures. Stine’s descriptive style becomes a metaphor for natural diversity even as she negotiates the tension inherent to the

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  • Rona Pondick

    Jose Freire Fine Arts

    Reading the massive pile of critical literature on Rona Pondick is like crawling naked through psychoanalytic razor wire. All the vague allusions to oral and anal fixations, the specious bandying about of terms like “repression,” “compulsion,” and “fetish,” the detection of penises, vaginas, and breasts in every artwork—it’s painful to read, not because of the uncomfortable psychic truths it turns up, but because it’s so full of bad causal reasoning and outmoded shrink jargon. Not that Pondick doesn’t ask for it; any artist who uses beds, baby bottles, and shoes as her signature materials is

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