reviews

  • Komar and Melamid

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    It’s all very Russian. The work for which Komar and Melamid became famous was about the frightening absurdity of the Soviet system, and was directed toward the dismantling of that system. Now that the system has been dismantled, Komar and Melamid are the kings of nostalgia, ardent for the very sorrows that once gave them a claim to tragedy. Like all victims of child abuse, Russians are paralyzed by the loss of the abusive parent—not simply because that abusive parent defined their lives, but also because (nature is perverse) they loved that parent with a depth of emotion obscure to nationals of

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  • Patrick Ireland

    MoMA PS1

    “Patrick Ireland” is a pseudonym adopted by Irish-born Brian O’Doherty in 1972, “until such time as the British military presence is removed from Northern Ireland.” This miniretrospective of his work, curated by Russell Panczenko, was a revised version of a show Panczenko originally curated for the Elvehejen Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Ireland’s oeuvre is the expression of an elegant mind. Some of the works involve references to the artist’s original profession as a medical doctor. Kip’s Bay: The Body and Its Discontents, 1964, for example, is a stacked array of little boxes with medical terms

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  • Sean Scully

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    Without the boxiness of his previous work, Sean Scully’s new paintings are certainly less physically overbearing. Each large canvas contains a smaller, inset one that evokes projections collapsed back onto their supports—as though Scully wanted you to remain aware enough of their former invasiveness to give the paintings credit for holding back. With the single exception of a work appropriately titled Red Way, 1992, Scully’s palette here is an unusually extended range of grays; two diptychs (Calling, 1992, and As Was, 1993) include steel elements that fit right into the tonal schema which is

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  • Willem de Kooning

    C&M Arts

    Willem de Kooning’s art has fallen into a strange twilight since Elaine de Kooning’s death and the subsequent legal battle over his guardianship. No new paintings of de Kooning’s have been exhibited since 1987, but those were of a breathtaking incisiveness and allusive economy—among the artist’s greatest works. As some of us continue to wonder just what his extraordinary work of the mid ’80s might have led to—and anticipate the de Kooning painting retrospective at the National Gallery—we can be grateful for having had the opportunity to reconsider another of the most vibrant parts of his career,

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  • Jane Kaplowitz

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    Jane Kaplowitz would agree with Jean Cocteau that “style is the soul.” She is a connoisseur of Pop, of camp, and of “appropriation.” As if to establish her post-Modern credentials beyond a doubt, she has made an ironic play with motifs from Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Josef Albers, and others, but the irony of these earlier paintings can seem a little forced and, as a consequence, they fail to make the transition to the pure visual wit we can now see she was always aiming at. The new paintings are airy, evanescent, and lyrical in a strictly Firbankian manner. In them she celebrates the heroes

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  • Alexander Calder

    Gagosian | 522 West 21st Street

    These two monumental—indeed, gigantic—sculptures, Big, Big Black, 1957 (a mobile) and Spunk of the Monk, 1964 (a stabile), show the heroic possibilities of a master’s late style. It is as though Alexander Calder were epitomizing himself for posterity: offering allegorical self-representations as well as symbols of his artistic ambition. But this personalized rhetoric is deceptive: these works are not inviting. They give the lie to Calder’s supposed coyness and humor. He has constructed two uncanny, inhospitable spaces—forbidden zones that show abstraction’s power to evoke a sense of the inhuman

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  • Jonathan Lasker

    Sperone Westwater

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about a Jonathan Lasker painting is its title, or more particularly, the disjunction between title and work. Without the pseudointellectual titles—The Outsides Are In, Moral Fantasia, Between Theory and Reality, Reverse Society, The Pride of Being, The Value of Pictures—the works are simply samples of clever craft. The titles make the works more provocative—more “visionary”—than they otherwise would be. Or do they? For I think a good part of their point is to emphasize that the titles don’t have anything essential to do with the paintings as actually painted:

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  • Anthony Viti

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    In its repeated use of the cross, Anthony Viti’s series of paintings entitled “Elegies,” 1993, becomes like a field of tombstones for those who have died of AIDS. But Viti’s crosses are poignant less by reason of this association than because of the exquisite, sensual—indeed, sublimely erotic—way they are painted. Using his own blood as well as paint, Viti bathes the cross in a rich, infinitely varied atmosphere, evocative of the emotional complexity of love, as well as of the inevitability of its martyrdom by society. By using a traditional symbol of hope and suffering—even if it is Marsden

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  • Alexis Rockman

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    Alexis Rockman’s new series of paintings, collectively titled “Biosphere,” 1992–93, is inspired by one of the artist’s favorite movies, Silent Running, 1971. I’ve seen this film several times, although many of its details (no doubt indelibly etched on Rockman’s mind) remain vague to me—this movie tends to be a late-late-night treat. As I recall, it involves greenhouses in space that preserve the flora and fauna of Earth. When for some reason the mission must be aborted, chief gardener Bruce Dern—psycho character-actor par excellence—murders his fellow crew members rather than sacrifice his

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  • Aziz + Cucher

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street

    The first thing everyone notices about the nude figures in Aziz + Cucher's new series of digitized Ektacolor prints, “Faith, Honor & Beauty,” 1992, is that they appear to have had their penises and vaginas rubbed out. Closer inspection reveals that they also lack nipples and navels. How ever, these mutations of the body are more idealizations than mutilations, more along the lines of those practiced by Polyclitus than by Jeffrey Dahmer. Each of the roughly life-size photographs presents a single figure—generally a handsome, muscular man or pretty, shapely woman—in contrapposto. Echoing historical

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  • Suzan Etkin

    Kasmin Gallery | 515 27th Street

    Suzan Etkin’s work seems divided against itself: though her concerns merit a certain clarity, enigma is pursued with such anxiety that in the end it is somewhat starved of meaning. Etkin has said that she hopes to achieve “a continuing provocation, an ongoing question,” in her work, citing Marcel Duchamp as a fundamental influence.

    Of the five pieces in this show, the most compelling was Fourth Position (all works 1993), a steel spiral staircase that revolved smoothly backward to a dull hum, evoking the silent descent of an invisible nude. This ghostly presence was echoed by what seemed to be

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  • Annette Messager

    Josh Baer Gallery

    In The Uses of Enchantment, 1975, Bruno Bettelheim asserts that, for a child, the psychological function of fantasy and especially fairy tales is to gain “understanding . . . not through rational comprehension of the nature and content of his unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out daydreams—ruminating, rearranging, and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures.” Annette Messager’s recent exhibition, “Les Piques” (The pikes) fulfills this function by combining references to daily events and realities with submerged fantasies,

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  • Ben Kinmont

    Sandra Gering Gallery

    “Public Projects: 1990–1993” displayed the archive of Ben Kinmont’s ongoing investigation into the creation of what he calls “Social Sculptures.” Over the past three years, Kinmont has developed three public works that originated in the city’s streets by engaging in conversations with passersby about the content of the flyers he hands them. In their performative aspect, these works mark the invisible space of human interaction and communication, spoken or otherwise. In Kinmont’s words, “In between the self and the other there exists a space. A malleable space. . . .”

    Each archive preserves the

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  • “The Urban Aboriginal”

    Jan Weiss Gallery

    Featuring four contemporary Australian artists of Aboriginal heritage—Lin Onus, Bronwyn Bancroft, Sally Morgan, and Karen Casey—this show presented work actively involved in the reclamation of Koori (Aboriginal) identity. Though marked by a diversity of styles, the paintings presented here shared a self-conscious connection to Aboriginal culture, whether through the recovery of traditional Koori art, or through a profoundly spiritual connection to the earth.

    Inspired by traditional Aboriginal bark painting (practiced in the region of northern Australia known as Arnhem Land), Lin Onus concocts

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  • Eva Andrée Laramée

    John Gibson Gallery

    In her recent work, Eve Andrée Laramée continues to follow her interest in the estrangement between cultural practice and scientific process. From our distorted perceptions of the differences between them, she draws shared properties and principles. Using salt, copper, electro-magnetic fields, and plants, she has created work which, in its final form, is more than the sum of her active interventions.

    Laramée’s laboratory of controls and variables reflects an imaginative empiricism that allows us to envision and embrace indeterminate results. In this show, entitled “Instruments & Apparatus,”

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  • “The Final Frontier”

    New Museum

    The frontier examined in this exhibition is both an internal and external one: that of the body as it meets and dissolves into the technological. It is becoming clear that the things we have thought of as integral and unique to the body no longer are, as technological prostheses continue to amplify and distend its properties. Genetic and cosmetic selection can turn out legions of identically desirable chickens, tomatoes, and pectorals; true love can be found in the virtual meeting places of the Net.

    To renegotiate what counts as human is not just to accept technological innovation; it also involves

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  • Linda Stojak

    Stephen Haller Gallery

    For her second solo show, Linda Stojak relied heavily on the redoubtable image of the crucifix to embody a haunted and private martyrology. At a distance, her somber, dangling, androgynous torsos, bobbing “heads,” and helpless limbs look as if they were burned into their scuffed, bone-colored grounds with a brand just beginning to cool; up close, they communicate an arresting sense-memory of a deep personal loss that just won’t let go.

    Stojak channels this melancholia into a blessedly simple, if not entirely welcome, cathartic ritual of repetition. Her waxy layered surfaces, some with small

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  • Nancy Olivier

    55 Mercer

    Nancy Olivier treats painting and drawing as equals rather than as elements in a strict hierarchy. In this show, Olivier used quite a large stretch of wall as well as canvas and paper for her emotionally charged, abstract compositions. Images seemed to separate from surfaces, to propel forms and their contents outside the viewer’s perceptual boundaries.

    In Night Light, 1993, an eight-by-twelve-foot wall painting, bustling linear networks traverse a muted ground, enhancing the ceaseless movement of the gestural shapes. This work is suggestive of the process of recognizing the patterns and structures

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  • “The Cave”

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    Race, ethics, gender politics, cultural history, geography, the Torah, the Koran, and current affairs: these are the seemingly improbable ingredients of The Cave, 1993, a majestic music-theater collaboration between video artist Beryl Korot and composer Steve Reich. Yet it is the intricate layering of facts, myths, legends, and opinions along so many lines of video cable and music keyboard that makes The Cave an important work. Indeed, this intellectual theater shows not only that media and technology can be vessels for complex ideas, but that they can also be used for humanistic debate.

    Reich’s

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