reviews

  • Jannis Kounellis

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    There was something perversely nostalgic and mournful about Jannis Kounellis’ untitled installation. A kind of last-ditch demonstration of a dead, or at least fading history, the work was at once a graveyard and a synthesis of Modernist ideas: first and foremost, the plane, systematically repeated (a Minimalist monumentalization of flatness) followed by geometry, especially that of the economical Suprematist square, and finally, by Abstract Expressionist gesture, also peculiarly succinct. It is as if, for Kounellis, both square and gesture must be rationed so that they maintain their value and

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  • Ashley Bickerton

    Sonnabend Gallery

    “Just Another Shitty Day in Paradise! (A Travelogue)”: clever, smirking, weary and depressed, this title announces Ashley Bickerton’s latest exhibition of sculptures. We find ourselves amid the wreckage of a South Seas debacle. Sharks and manta rays made from transparent materials have been outfitted with odd leather vestments. Wall-mounted cartographic whimsies like Islands and Ash’s Atoll (all works 1993) highlight such tropical hot spots as “Failed Expectation Shoal,” “Sordid Solitude Rise,” and “Cheap Sexual Gratification Key.” Headless and limbless buddhas of perversity like Fat Body Totem

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  • John Duff

    McKee Gallery

    John Duff’s new enamel and fiberglass wall sculptures are among the most esthetically exquisite, precious work I’ve seen in a while. Some are abstract columns, the majority of which are wall-mounted, as in Ladder and Pale Madder Cone (both 1992) and sometimes freestanding, as in Translucent Column, 1992. Other works, such as Study for Double Fountain, 1990, and Black Floor Piece, 1992, while grounded and relatively flat, can be read as columnar slices elaborated as autonomous forms. The works are united by their curvilinearity, but they are not simply exercises in it. Duff’s acknowledgment of

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  • Robert Ryman

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    It’s all in the name—the stubborn consistency of tact, vision, and method, the economy of means, the paradoxically anti-systematic system of repetitions, the governing law of tautology. Moving through over thirty years of Robert Ryman’s production in this show was akin to taking the same commuter train over and over again but never having the same experience twice—and never actually reaching a destination. This work thumbs its nose at the protocol of formal progression articulated in Modernist rhetoric while simultaneously beckoning the viewer to perform a thorough “formal” analysis.

    The putative

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  • Robert Longo

    Metro Pictures

    In Robert Longo’s recent exhibition, the penis reasserted itself with a vengeance. We were introduced to his recent work by a granite tombstone inscribed with the title “Bodyhammers: Cult of the Gun.” On the left side of the gallery, hung four, larger-than-life-size, identically framed drawings of handguns, their business ends pointing straight out at the viewer. These drawings—made in the artist’s familiar method of projecting photographs onto paper, tracing the outlines and filling them in—were at once highly realistic and decidedly abstract. With their clean lines, elegant curves, and

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  • Rebecca Horn

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    In conceiving the Inferno-Paradiso Switch, 1993, Rebecca Horn began with an erotically charged image: “two rival guns shoot each other with bullets that melt like a kiss of death.” This paranoid vision evolved into a milky drop of water falling from a great distance to form the delicate psychosexual center of her take on The Divine Comedy. This two-part installation at the Guggenheim’s uptown and downtown spaces spookily evoked the dazzling ether of Dante’s Paradiso and the “tear-soaked ground”—the rain, the mud, the depressive stink—of his Inferno. In the grimly claustrophobic downtown half,

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  • Alphonse Borysewicz

    Yoshii Gallery

    Maybe it’s the hovering rash of dark spots on the quartet he calls Hunting the Queen, or the image of a chalky, primitive hive at the bottom tier of For an Unknown Church, or the migrating scatter of drably pigmented, insectlike marks swirling around Black Mulch/Swarm, but Alphonse Borysewicz’s recent abstractions (all works 1993) produce a sweetly, transcendental buzz.

    Borysewicz does have a history of devotional art-making. He gave up seminary studies some years ago to find sanctuary in abstraction, occasionally delving into overtly religious constructions, later spending time in Japan before

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  • Peter Hristoff

    David Beitzel Gallery

    In an era of fashionable murk the incandescent tones of Peter Hristoff’s latest paintings are like a defiant shout of joy or anger. I suspect that they may also be a protest against esthetic conformity, something for which this passionate and fastidious painter has never had much time. His gaze is fixed on things beyond the confines of the New York scene, and for that matter, beyond the Western tradition. To a Western observer, for example, the coiling, serpentine forms in Untitled (Red Landscape) [all works 1993] and several other paintings might seem to resemble intestines, but they may also

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  • Stephanie Rose

    E. M. Donahue Gallery

    Stephanie Rose’s “Still Pictures,” 1993, are, first of all, a reminder that in terms of technique she is simply one of the best painters around. Luckily Rose’s technical facility is at the service of a flamboyant imagination and a disciplined intelligence constantly bombarded by conflicting ideas. These very excited and exciting paintings create luscious harmonies out of unlikely dissonances, paintings in which the abstract is fused with the symbolic and allegorical: Jean Cocteau and Mark Rothko, Odilon Redon and Willem de Kooning.

    Although diversely inventive, the paintings are all of a piece:

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  • Walton Ford

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    If his own outraged historical innocence is what reopens the vista of early American painting for Walton Ford, it neither quite compensates for the glum maladroitness of that genre, nor for the tendency of lost innocence to avenge itself with caricatures of corruption. A comparable logic haunts Komar & Melamid’s revision of Soviet Realism. Ford, in this sense, is their American counterpart, even as, through his struggle to dissolve the limits of this approach in his recent work, he reveals a relatively precocious awareness of them.

    In Martha, 1993, a mural-sized, oil-on-wood triptych, crowds of

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  • Konrad Klapheck

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    Although Konrad Klapheck is of the same generation as, for instance, Gerhard Richter (his fellow professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy), Klapheck’s work gives the impression of belonging to quite another time, perhaps that of Rene Magritte. Like many of the Surrealists, Klapheck finds his images in objects that are quite ordinary but obsolete or seldom used, and like Magritte in particular he renders them in a style that is as prosaic, old-fashioned, and quasi-anonymous as the objects themselves. This style is cool and fastidious, but never slick (as it invariably appears in reproduction).

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  • David Row

    John Good Gallery

    Like much of David Row’s work in the mid to late ’80s, but unlike the three-part paintings in his last New York show in 1991, his new paintings are mostly diptychs. Also marking a return to his earlier style, color, while far from an afterthought, is a recessive element in these new paintings, giving way to more broadly structural—or better, logical—concerns. I once called Row’s early-’90s paintings meditations on the numbers one, two, and three; maintaining the mathematical paradigm these new paintings are meditations on the numbers one, two, and zero.

    In these new paintings the broad, oblate

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  • Rachel Berwick

    Nordanstad Gallery

    Rachel Berwick’s recent exhibition “Sounding Measures” consisted of two interdependent installations fabricated from translucent blocks of copal, a premature form of amber. Large irregular chunks of unrefined copal with hollowed impressions of animal heads hidden within their core were placed on tables and wired with ultrasound devices that calibrated the shape of the negative space within the “amber” rocks with incomprehensible numerical measurements flashing from an LCD display on the wall. The second piece, The Amber Room, 1993, consisted of translucent panes of golden copal slabs covering

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  • “Objects of Their Affection”

    Interart Center

    “Fashion may be glamorous,” its detractors will admit before delivering what they consider to be the coup de grâce, “but it’s vacuous.” The frumpy and the dumpy might criticize fashion but it’s not just a passive process of consuming the latest and greatest. As its etymology would indicate, fashion is a question of actively producing something; like art, it’s about fabricating appearances.

    “In conceiving this show of objects from the collections of eight American designers, I wanted to go beyond the fact of collecting to see if there was a connection between what these eight designers collect

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  • “Face of the Gods”

    Museum For African Art

    “Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas” was Robert Farris Thompson’s most ambitious and successful project to date. Supported by an extensively researched catalogue, this show traced the development of religious altars from their original sources in Africa to a variety of Afro-syncretic altars in the New World. Focusing primarily on the religious, philosophical, and visual paradigms of the Yoruba, Kongo, and Mande peoples, Thompson identified how these traditions have been creatively transformed by the African Diaspora in the altars of Santeria and palo mayombe,

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  • Ann Hamilton

    Dia Center for the Arts

    In a virtually empty space, Ann Hamilton deployed a limited selection of materials with restrained obsessiveness, creating a serene though also profoundly disturbing atmosphere. In tropos, 1993, as with so much of Hamilton’s work, the tension between intellect and intuition, specific perceptions and memories, establishes the conceptual and sensory borders within which the work remains fluid and ambiguous.

    The third floor of Dia’s industrial building was turned over to the artist. First, she changed the architectonics of the space, replacing existing windows with panes of textured, translucent,

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  • Robert Wilson

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

    Robert Wilson’s The Black Rider, 1990, is a delirious journey through a vivid theatrical landscape dotted with the signposts of vaudeville, cabaret, circus, and opera. A rousing and even bombastic overture—of horns and electric piano, drums and found pipes—sets the stage for an evening of splendid artifice. In the opening scene we watch as a larger than man-size black box rises slowly from its horizontal coffinlike position on the floor, to an imposing vertical one. (Is this becoming Wilson’s signature motif which first appeared in his earlier work Einstein on the Beach, 1976?) Like so many

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  • Lee Bontecou

    Parrish Art Museum

    Lee Bontecou’s work was prominent in the ’60s, before she withdrew from artmaking and career promotion. Characteristically, she did not come to see this retrospective, either in the Museum of Contemporary art in Los Angeles, where it originated, or in Southampton.

    This small show, comprised mostly of wall sculptures, was arresting and immediately satisfying in the way that art used to strive to be. Constructions of olive-green fabric stretched over wooden armatures and stitched with copper wires incorporated circular mounds in loose spirallike arrays that radiated both motion and serenity, a

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