reviews

  • Bill Jensen

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    With his relatively diminutive landscape abstractions, Bill Jensen protracts what might be described as a neo-easel tradition. His works recently found a home in a space originally designed for the pomp and circumstance proper to the ’80s redux of heroic-scale painting. This was an admittedly strange and awkward fit that even the gallery seemed to be self-conscious about. The space was subtly repainted in off-white, perhaps in order to afford a more compatible ambience, a “designer” atmosphere for intimate esthetic encounters undoubtedly meant to make the presence of Jensen’s intensely and

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  • Neke Carson

    Helander Gallery

    The name of Marcel Duchamp drops out of the mouths of so many unimaginative artists as an excuse for their pseudo-Dada, neo-readymade objets d’art that it’s hard even to like Duchamp anymore. As T. S. Eliot said, every new work of art changes every prior work by making us perceive it differently, and so Duchamp seems weakened when you’re forced to see him through the veil of dull disciples who’ve trivialized and exhausted what were once great ideas. But then there’s an artist like Neke Carson, who doesn’t appear to have any particular thing for Duchamp, yet picks up his baton and runs another

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  • Anish Kapoor

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    The marvel of Anish Kapoor’s sandstone sculptures (all 1993) is that they are able to renew the sense of enigma and ineffability that the best abstract art affords while seemingly not bound by the terms of its history, even as it uses them. Kapoor’s stone is so uncannily equated with itself that it becomes unrepresentable, that is, untranslatable into terms other than its own.

    Through this ironic irreconcilability, Kapoor’s stone achieves a “transcendent” state of self-identity with no need of a code—not even that of the “sublime,” which measures transcendence by human expectations—to be brought

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  • Christopher Williams

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Christopher Williams’ photographs possess a treacherous wit. Virtually all are parts of different, seemingly open-ended series, each image an ironic revision of a previous one, though ultimately it is unclear what comes before and what after. There are larger ironies: For example, die Welt ist schön (Revision 1), 1993, alludes to the title of Albert Renger-Patzsch’s famous 1928 book. (Renger-Patzsch wanted to call it simply Things, but his publisher decided otherwise, ruining the photographer’s reputation among the leftist cognoscenti, who knew the world is not beautiful.) Williams’ photographs

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  • Tomiyaki Yamamoto

    Akira Ikeda Gallery | New York

    If there is any future to abstract painting, then Tomiaki Yamamoto’s paintings strongly suggest one: a mannerist direction—the theatrical reconciliation of stylized contradictions. Many abstract artists think that this century is only the start of abstraction, whose development will probably be as long as the development of the figure. Though Mannerism may seem to have arrived prematurely, this is to be expected: in modernity every development is sped up and condensed, as though consuming itself.

    The flamboyant, ingenious triptych Festival, 1993, a veritable extravaganza of gesture and geometry—of

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  • Chuck Close

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    Chuck Close’s recent colossal portraits are a testament to painting’s continued vitality. The brilliance and appeal of their lushly painted surfaces are not indicative of a post–Whitney Biennial trauma—a swing of the pendulum of artistic style and taste away from “political” art as if in protest—rather, they suggest that painting is still capable of acting on the spectator.

    Using his now-familiar method of transposing photographic portraits onto canvas with a polychromatic grid, Close’s recent paintings have matured to the extent that each two-inch square is an independent abstract painting worthy

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  • Mel Bochner

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Mid-to-late 20th-century art practice is often described in terms of axiomatic polarities—visual versus conceptual; expressionism versus analytical investigation—polarities that are so thoroughly enmeshed in our esthetic consciousness that sometimes we uphold the boundaries upon which such distinctions are based as though they were law. While many have based their careers on synthesis, efforts to cross these boundaries remain difficult to negotiate; the proposition that painting be regarded as a conceptually based practice is a case in point. Of course, there are exceptions. On Kawara’s “date

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  • Nicola De Maria

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    Among the familiar approaches to abstract art—the decorative, the metaphysical, and the Minimalist—the decorative has long been regarded as the least substantial. It is also the least theorized. The metaphysical abstractionist is viewed as conveying information from or intimations about other ontological realms. The Minimalist is doing the exact opposite, attempting to show materiality in all possible directness without any metaphysical overlay. But what does the decorative abstractionist do? Make wallpaper or wrapping paper designs? When Barnett Newman’s first solo show was received as “

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  • Donna Moylan

    Postmasters

    For several years Donna Moylan’s work has expanded its investigations of the image in several directions at once. The eleven new paintings shown here, all from 1993, seem to focus on one of these directions in order to push it to its very limit. Moylan’s other threads—such as the painting Substance, 1989—are valuable and one hopes they reemerge some day, but at the moment it is a pleasure to watch her perfect her layering of multiple levels of imagery among which there are subtly shifting relationships. This is perhaps her central mode, one which novelist Alberto Moravia, in a rare foray into

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  • Thomas Lanigan Schmidt

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Thomas Lanigan Schmidt has long made a practice of using degraded materials to invoke Catholic ritual, emphasizing its importance as a backdrop for personal experience. Much more than mere simulacra of opulent ritual objects, his installations have often evoked lived experience, reflecting, among other things, the tinselly beauty of urban life. His most recent works—the “Byzantine Neo-Platonic Rectangles,” 1986–93, which are largely abstract, though they often incorporate faux jewels in delightful arrangements made of plastic wrap wadded and “set” in foil—continue to conjure up the sensuousness

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  • Ull Hohn

    American Fine Arts

    I’ve never been a painter, but in a slough of despond, or when overcome by paralyzing lethargy—for moments, hours, days—psychically wired to the TV set, my only friend, I’ve had occasion to be an armchair painter, thanks to Mr. Bob Ross. Mr. Ross, you see, is perhaps our nation’s preeminent instructor in the art of amateur painting, although as this is his vocation he must be accounted a professional. Such are the ironies of public television, which is Mr. Ross’ main venue. I believe his show, of which I’ve seen only fragments, but fragments seen perhaps a hundred times, I believe his show is

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  • Jorge Tacla

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Jorge Tacla harmoniously arranges apparently unrelated sensibilities on the canvas, traveling through time to select seemingly disparate pictorial elements. His more orderly scribblings possess the magisterial look of Egyptian hieroglyphics, his earthy jute canvases that of water-damaged papyrus scrolls or crumbling sandstone, and his palette—black, brown, and white—is that of the Old Masters. Yet the odd geometric forms and atmospheric ambience of Tacla’s work suggest some cybertech underworld, an interplanetary wasteland where asteroids and space invaders battle to the death.

    In contrast to

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  • Gotscho

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    As the installation created by French artist Gotscho pointed out, weddings are strict rituals governed by rigid conventions. Staging is a large part of the affair, and Gotscho, who has a background in theater, has “staged” his Wedding (all works 1993) accordingly. Neatly paired rows of tuxedos and wedding gowns were hung on opposite walls, presenting a range of these requisite, constraining costumes.

    All of this rigidity obviously has something to do with the fact that weddings are society’s way of recognizing sexual union. Gotscho’s work stressed the violence below the social surface: “union”

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  • Ross Neher

    David Beitzel Gallery

    Translating broad sweeps of atmospheric space and light into densely corporeal surfaces, Ross Neher’s abstract paintings, for all their maestoso formality and distance, touch on powerful and disturbing paradoxes of contemporary painting and its critical reception. Neher’s is a thoughtfully historicizing approach. A reading of his theoretical essays confirms what the paintings themselves intimate: that they are the fruit of a principled conservatism in esthetic matters. They attempt to graft the compositional elaboration of high European painting back onto aspects of American abstraction—the

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  • Randolfo Rocha

    Elga Wimmer PCC

    It’s been five years since Randolfo Rocha’s last one-person show, and those who remember his overtly representational, politically topical paintings of the ’80s might imagine this to be the work of a completely different artist. Gone are the proliferating, disjunctive imagery, the references to Latin American political repression (Rocha was born and educated in Brazil), the clashing colors, the esthetic of excess. Instead, here we encounter rigorously flat, hard-edged, rectilinear, but irregular geometries in severest black and white. These crisp, physically assertive paintings have nothing

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  • “The Return of the Cadavre Exquis

    The Drawing Center

    Rarely does the firstborn name its parents, but when the Surrealists first played a sort of parlor game in 1925, it resulted in the sentence “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine,” and ever since the game has been known as the Cadavre Exquis. In the game, a piece of paper is folded into as many segments as there are players (usually three or four); the first player writes or draws something on the first section, which is then hidden in a fold as the second player adds something to the next section, and so on; until the “corpse” is complete, none of the players is to have a knowledge of

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  • Luis Cruz Azaceta

    Frumkin/Adams Gallery

    For the better part of two decades, Luis Cruz Azaceta has painted himself in and out of fashion: he explored the expressive possibilities of the figure in the ’70s (long before it was cool to do so) and then restlessly pursued different avenues within neo-Expressionism long after its critical moment had passed. A native of Cuba, this longtime resident of New York City recently relocated to New Orleans, a move which precipitated a major stylistic shift in his painting. His exquisite, heavily layered surfaces and somber palette have given way to flat, bright, even decorative canvases, but a closer

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  • Vito Acconci and Steven Holl

    Storefront for Art and Architecture

    In the past few years, the maverick organization Storefront for Art and Architecture has invited artists to subvert not only the conventional function but the very architectural structure of the gallery space. Utilizing strategies of surveillance, confounding the viewer’s expectations of a protected interiority, artists and architects have exploited this Lilliputian, homely, wedge-shaped space to undermine traditional art environments. On two earlier occasions, artists have flexed their muscles to cut through the grimy exterior wall of Storefront to produce a certain permeability between interior

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