reviews

  • Hannah Wilke

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    “Nowadays us pretty white girls have to watch what we say,” Hannah Wilke remarked when I first met her several years ago. The triumph of her final exhibition, and of her entire career, is that she never heeded this advice. “Intra-Venus,” 1991–93, is a microcosm of the forms and concerns of Wilke’s oeuvre, as well as a document of the last few years of her life during which she underwent treatment for lymphoma.

    The images that quite literally dominate the exhibition are the 13 larger-than-lifesize self-portraits, done in collaboration with her husband, Donald Goddard, which depict Wilke at various

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  • Tony Cragg

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Complete Omnivor, 1993, one of the more disturbingly persuasive of Tony Cragg’s new sculptures, presents us with what appears to be a full set of human teeth—molars and all, scaled-up enormously and cast in plaster—displayed on a rudimentary wood-and-metal armature in anatomically correct order. The artist’s self-portrait, perhaps, or maybe a perverse reflection on the archaeology of dentistry.

    Shuttling things from the known to the unknown and back again might be an adequate characterization of the contemplative “dialectic” that Cragg’s work invariably sets in motion. It’s now rather

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  • Georg Baselitz

    Pace Wildenstein

    Georg Baselitz’s painting has acquired a new, drawing-based style in which the physicality of the painted line is emphasized by simply squeezing the paint from the tube and leaving it in unbrushed, toothpastelike squiggles. Hoch Habsburg (High Habsburg, 1992) shows a dark, near-black ground—a loose allover array activated by mostly white, curvilinear lines. Gundel, 1992, redeploys the familiar Baselitz motif of a crudely gridded, very loosely painted ground with only the suggestion of a human head. The figure, which began so firmly in Baselitz’s work, was then subjected to various subversive

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  • Martin Kippenberger

    Metro Pictures

    The world is Martin Kippenberger’s bauble, and art finds its redemption as an agent of his extended dalliances within the Euro-American cultural theater. His medley of art workings, coupled with tactics of distribution and promotion, comprise the essential ingredients of a model—or esthetics—of social networking. The development and maintenance of a court of acolytes is as much his “art” as the paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, and ephemera themselves. It’s all very neodecadent, but somehow Kippenberger has enough élan and conceptual gumption to woo even the most skeptical.

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  • Joe Overstreet

    Kenkeleba Gallery

    Joe Overstreet has been a Modernist painter for 35 years. In the late ’50s and early ’60s he made Color Field paintings which, despite their skill and focus, did not gain wide recognition. At the time, in the white community, it was not regarded as appropriate for African-American artists to practice abstraction, which was seen as the special sign of white civilization and its supposed superiority. This dismissal is ironic, given that a major thread of African-American art has been the continuing practice of abstract painting by artists such as Overstreet, Sam Gilliam, and Frank Bowling, who

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  • Andrea Fraser

    American Fine Arts

    Back in 1969, Robert Smithson was already musing on the problem of the institution. “The object or the system will always crush its originator,” he wrote. “Eventually he will be overthrown and be replaced by another series of lies . . . An art against itself is a good possibility, an art that always returns to essential contradiction.” An “art against itself” was one whose diminished materiality stood in opposition to its supportive structures (galleries, museums, collectors) and their demand for material goods. Of course, art as idea, and the ephemera that resulted from project-oriented or “

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  • Arshile Gorky

    A sense of artistic as well as emotional frustration pervades Arshile Gorky’s last paintings. If they were not so important as precursors and transitions to the completely gestural paintings of Jackson Pollock, they would have to be regarded as seriously unresolved—more aborted representations than achieved abstractions. Indeed, Gorky seems to have started with a scene that he then deliberately undid in an effort to realize abstraction, but this way of backing into abstraction suggests that he could not accept it on its own nonpictorial terms. For Gorky, to paint meant to picture, but he

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  • Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Sonnabend Gallery

    With endless, near-serial, ritualistic repetition, Hiroshi Sugimoto shows us more or less identical blank screens of more or less identical drive-in movies. Our perspective is that of the film projector, but there is no film to project. Whether the show is over or it has not yet begun, the sense of absence is conclusive—the theater is empty. This silence suggests that the screen is an ever-receding horizon of expectation that allows for the free association of Modernist monotony, post-Modern ambiguity (the representation of the unrepresentable), and the traditional transcendentalization—iconic

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  • Tomas Schmit

    Michael Werner | New York

    The distance between a line and a line of words is vast, yet the semiotic flames of language regularly overleap that gulf to singe purely visual marks. Even when relatively well integrated, as in paintings by Edward Ruscha, or Jean-Michel Basquiat, words can menace the composition of which they should be but a feature among features. Or consider the best work of Jenny Holzer or Maya Lin, in which, the pictorial having been abandoned altogether, text is essentially wall-to-wall and respect for the consuming power of language amounts to ceding to it entirely.

    A founding member of the Fluxus movement,

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  • Cary Smith

    Salvatore Ala Gallery

    Cary Smith makes the kind of abstract painting—distilled, self-assured, historically conscientious without being mannered—that gives credence to Jürgen Habermas’ assertion that modernity, or in this case Modernism, remains “an unfinished project.” In composition, Smith’s paintings recall the ’50s (John McLaughlin, for instance) and in technique echo the ’60s (Brice Marden). Yet, they relate to the politics of meaning in a manner that reflects demands specific to the present—a time in which there is little concession to esthetic gratification—in part by resisting them. In an

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  • Moira Dryer

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    These first two posthumous shows reveal that Moira Dryer was an artist who combined pragmatic experimentalism with a deep concentration of feeling. Dryer promised to be a central painter of her generation thanks to her completely persuasive (because deeply intuitive) synthesis of two apparently incompatible strains of post–Abstract Expressionism: on the one hand, the literalism of Robert Ryman’s “investment” of the entirety of the painting-object (edges, hardware, and so on, along with the painted surface), and on the other, the allusive, quasi-literary nature of Ross Bleckner’s historicism. To

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  • Paul Garrin

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    “Shoot the cops . . . with your video camera!” A few years ago you couldn’t walk five blocks in the East Village without encountering this slogan, stenciled on sidewalks and building walls. If it wasn’t the work of Paul Garrin, then it certainly was a tribute to the video artist whose tape of the 1988 riot in Tompkins Square not only brought him a mass-media attention he would never have earned from his collaborations with Nam June Paik, but also became an icon of the power of reverse surveillance.

    In his first New York show, “Watch Your Back,” Garrin continued to investigate the potentials of

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  • Hugh Steers

    Richard Anderson Fine Arts

    For as long as he’s shown his work in New York, Hugh Steers has painted genre scenes of gay men in bohemian surroundings, sometimes dressed up in women’s clothing, sometimes, apparently, having sex (they’re discreetly positioned; it’s hard to know for sure). Some suffer from AIDS—catheters, wasted bodies, and hospital robes are much in evidence—and in the gloomy, naked-lightbulb atmosphere, all his subjects take on an abject pallor.

    The overall sensibility, despite ominous lighting and portentous poses, is one of self-awareness; each face and body quietly possessed by a sense of its

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  • Lydia Schouten

    Julie Saul Gallery

    Lydia Schouten’s debut exhibition in New York (she’s Dutch and has exhibited for years throughout Europe) was a single installation originally created in 1990 for a European gallery. The installation, Celebrating My 40th Birthday Alone at the Blue Hotel Room, 1990–93, featured a latex cast of the artist’s face tucked into a luminous-green plastic bed, surrounded by TV-generated images of killers and their victims. These images were framed on the walls, with texts taken from personal ads—such as “A Younger Man Seeks Older Woman . . .”—superimposed over them. The victims were visible on small

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  • Steve Currie

    Grace Borgenicht

    The independent sculptural object often seems like a threatened species. With these recent works, Steve Currie acknowledges the vulnerablity of objects while assuring us of their enduring viability. Deftly manipulating materials with an exacting, unusual conception of craft, Currie succeeds in animating abstraction. With the eight sculptures in this exhibition, the artist points to the uncertain status of contemporary sculpture, through abstractions that look like industrial components and enlarged organisms.

    Estranged families of materials are painstakingly joined, techniques rigorously exploited

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  • Clive Barker

    Bess Cutler Gallery

    Clearly, Clive Barker knows what it is to wake up screaming. In this jam-packed fun-house of a show, featuring the myriad products of his hell-raising imagination (prints, posters, drawings, watercolors, comic books, collected first editions of his blood-and-guts novels), the popular horror meister explored a state of angst in which half-human hedonists satisfy monstrous carnal appetites, fueled by a fascination with their own corporeal mutilations.

    In Barker’s oeuvre, there’s no redemption except by violence, both for body and soul. Because his images are so flagrantly outrageous, at first you

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  • Spalding Gray

    Vivian Beaumont Theater

    Seldom do we speak of “genre” in performance, especially in reference to solo performances as emphatically different as those of Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, Holly Hughes, and Karen Finley. But we nevertheless point to these writer-performers (and the schools that followed in the late ’80s) as a loose group who utilize regional dialects to cover large emotional landscapes.

    The monologue form developed by these artists over the last fifteen years has as much to do with the brute art of storytelling in the style of Lenny Bruce as it does with talk-show confessionals on Phil Donahue; it also draws

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