reviews

  • David Salle

    Gagosian Gallery

    For much of the mid ’80s the art establishment was held in thrall to David Salle’s addictive brand of bad-boy defiance, which courted misogyny and cynicism in the name of esthetic liberty. No one could top Salle as the artist responsible for the largest number of art-world dinner parties reduced to out-and-out shouting matches. In keeping with the moment, a streak of opportunism a mile wide ran through his project, one that was less a Warholian gesture than a sparring match with Julian Schnabel, Salle’s erstwhile competitor for most all-consuming art-world ego. I'll admit it now, I’ve always

    Read more
  • Alice Neel

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Without being doctrinaire, Alice Neel always acted on the principle, insisted upon by some feminist theoreticians, that a woman artist should emphasize the personal. This emphasis in her work derives not so much from an autobiographical subtext as from the work’s persistent emphasis on specific subjects: it is grounded in the concrete, and imbued with the authenticity of things seen in her daily life.

    The works in this show, “The Years in Spanish Harlem 1938–1961,” are from a period that followed a suicidal depression in Neel’s life, and, perhaps because of this they demonstrate an uncanny sense

    Read more
  • George Dokoupil

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    George Dokoupil’s newest candle paintings of various displaced peoples are based on news photographs. Entitled “The New Immigrants,” his recent show had an aura of journalistic topicality that allowed him to enter the realm of ethically weighted visual art with a vengeance. What could be a more universally viable theme than the suffering of people fleeing their home countries only to enter societies that have trouble accommodating and accepting them?

    Does Dokoupil (himself an immigrant to Germany from the Prague Spring of 1968, when Dubçek’s “socialism with a human face” was defaced by Soviet

    Read more
  • Richmond Burton

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Richmond Burton confronts a by now familiar issue: the reconciliation of the field of seemingly spontaneous and hopefully grand gestures with the fixed structure of the grid. He resolves this dilemma in a new if not completely unprecedented way. The problem is to fuse contradictory means: to achieve the engulfing effect of alloverness without rendering the stasis of the decorative deadening. That is, the painting must seem to expand beyond the canvas, so that its abstractness seems unlimitable—a surge of alternative vision, with the inner recognition of primary process (what Husserl called inner

    Read more
  • Robert Smithson

    International Center for Photography

    For Robert Smithson, photography was fraught with ontological complexity, “cameras,” he said, “possess the power to invent many worlds.” Though he made use of a range of photographic media, from serial photography to film, he was always sharply conscious of the danger of being limited by the representational qualities of a given method. He kept his use of photography as open-ended as possible, and while the act of recording a site remained integral to his projects—which were always fluid in conception and often ephemeral in form—in his careful hands it yielded infinitely more than a means of

    Read more
  • Michel François

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Belgian artist Michel François is all over the place, moving with vivid ease from photography to sculpture to video, from representation to construction to invention. Better known in Europe, where his work was included in the last Documenta, his first solo show in New York looked like a room temporarily deserted by a gifted child who had neglected to turn the television off. Strung with fistfuls of pasta-colored clay, the giant Necklace, 1993, roped off much of the floor. In French lavatory fashion, a gargantuan lemon of soap cantilevered off one wall; a belt denoting the territory of My Waist

    Read more
  • Linda Matalon

    Yoshii Gallery

    Like living organisms, Linda Matalon’s sculptures are both idiosyncratic and occasionally infirm. Painstakingly imperfect, they show evidence of long, and possibly tedious, hours of production. Though created from a modest range of materials, these works have a disquieting presence.

    The most complex and ambitious piece in the exhibition, What Remains, 1993, examines the points at which the animate and the abstract intersect—a question addressed by all of the works in this show but without the particular urgency of this piece. Constructed of wire and gauze, held together with viscous materials

    Read more
  • John Currin

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    John Currin’s work makes Lucian Freud’s “penetrating” portraits seem wretchedly old-fashioned, pedantic. Is Currin out to rescue the arguably lapsed genre of portraiture from an imminent fade-out? Or is the model of portraiture paraded before us like some stale cliché, inviting the kind of wholesale derision that may lead to the implosion of a historical convention? He may want it both ways. Admittedly, it has always been unclear whether Currin’s earlier pictures of girls or young women make reference to “actual” people in the world, or are fanciful composites that speak more about their author’s

    Read more
  • Jorge Pardo

    Petzel Gallery | East 67th Street

    The book that Jorge Pardo has produced is really very pretty—its fluorescent-colored pages studded with pop-out paper disks and its accordian-pleated, vellum centerfold printed primarily with schematic elevational drawings of an architectural structure. Displayed on the floor of an otherwise empty gallery, its pages fully extended and resting on the paper disks, it looked for all the world as though Pardo had joined the ranks of the “artist’s book” guild whose members busy themselves “challenging the boundaries” of the book form. Is Pardo’s well-crafted object simply an “artist’s book”? Is the

    Read more
  • “Pictures of the Real World (In Real Time)”

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    It takes gall, balls, or copious amounts of irony to call an art exhibit “Pictures of the Real World (In Real Time).” When such weighty words as “real” get bandied about, you can barely speak in anything other than gross generalizations; for example, “Interspersing On Kawara’s famous date paintings with photographs ranging from a 1966 work by Dan Graham to a 1993 picture by Robert Barry, this exhibition (curated by Robert Nickas) explores the relationship between art and the real world for the last three decades. The earlier photographs in the show confront the real world head-on, as in Garry

    Read more
  • Kirsi Mikkola

    Bravin Post Lee

    Most kids have imaginary friends. Artists and writers often don’t outgrow them, but as Kirsi Mikkola demonstrates, keeping in touch with made-up playmates is certainly not a bad thing. Four imaginary characters populate the little world that Mikkola elaborates in her drawings and sculptures: there’s Glo’, a devilishly innocent little girl in a red frock and white apron; Quickie, less a playground than a Playboy playmate with big breasts, big hair, and a big butt; No. 1, the epitome of the beer-bellied, lascivious dope, something along the lines of Homer Simpson; and Pansy, a giant flower with

    Read more
  • Jim Hodges

    CRG Gallery

    Jim Hodges sends letters on baby-blue stationary adorned with baby-blue-how stickers, which arrive in light-pink envelopes embellished with butterflies. Appearances to the contrary, they’re not camp but pretty, kind of touching, and a hit melancholy. To describe such missives (and much of Hodges’ work) as “feminine” is to say nothing more than that his sensibility overlaps with that social myth.

    The centerpiece of Hodges’ first one-person exhibition in New York was A Diary of Flowers, 1994, which consisted of 565 pen doodles of flowers on paper napkins pinned around the main room of the gallery

    Read more
  • Paul Ramirez Jonas

    Postmasters

    Under the title “Heavier than Air,” Paul Ramirez Jonas presented two installations dealing with the history of flight and invention. For the earlier (though ongoing) work, Men on the Moon: Tranquility, 1992, the artist reconstructed Thomas Alva Edison’s first phonograph, 1879, using it to record, onto 398 green wax cylinders (each containing about a minute of sound), the initial six and one-half hours of the first manned mission to the moon in 1969. (He intends to record the remaining 17 hours of the mission by this method as well.) The cylinders were displayed on shelves along one wall, with

    Read more
  • Jeff Perrone

    Cavin-Morris

    Billed as “First Paintings,” Jeff Perrone’s new works actually combine the glazed ceramic tiles for which he is already known with canvases painted in gouache or with colored sand (the kind that’s sold in pet stores for decorating aquariums). The paintings consist of anywhere from four to twelve segments (only one consists of a single canvas) arrayed in variously dynamic or totemic configurations. Rife with color, pattern, and imagery, they give an immediate feeling of energy and exhilaration that’s hard not to like. There is a wonderful sense of velocity to it all, the feeling that someone’s

    Read more
  • Carlo

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Following on the heels of a major 1992 retrospective held in Verona, Italy, this was Carlo Zinelli’s first solo show in the U.S. since 1968. Presenting 27 exquisite gouaches on paper, this show introduced the full range of Carlo’s oeuvre to an American audience. Championed by Jean Dubuffet as an artiste brut, Carlo (1916–74), an Italian schizophrenic who was institutionalized for over twenty years, has been inducted into the European canon of “Outsider” art. Yet, within that context, attention to the full range of his work has been relatively limited.

    Carlo’s work confounds two major stereotypes

    Read more
  • Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler

    Michael Klein, Inc.

    Naming is never innocent, and capitalist culture has habitually enhanced the appeal of mundane items by slapping clever labels on them. Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler examine such nomenclatures, highlighting the often outlandish, sometimes absurd fantasies they provoke. Buy into the romance and temporarily deny the banality of a life flattened into two dimensions by the steamroller of mass production. In Keep an Eye on Your Pickles, 1993, pickle jars carry the names of prefabricated houses marketed by Sears. “Princeton” evokes neo-Gothic granite solidity set amid azaleas and sloping lawns, “Ashland”

    Read more
  • Godwin Hoffmann

    Vera Engelhorn Gallery

    This handsome exhibition of works on paper is not quite indicative of Godwin Hoffmann’s main body of work. Working and exhibiting widely abroad, Hoffmann has installed shaped canvases in various environments—alongside bridges, on the walls of churches, inside an arch in an arcade. Those canvases present an odd hybrid of Abstract Expressionist and Color Field techniques that seem more decorative than anything else. This exhibition, however, included only one example of such work, and one senses that the black and white “drawings” are somehow studies for, or reactions to, the more highly finished

    Read more
  • DeLoss McGraw

    Mary Ryan Gallery

    DeLoss McGraw, a San Diego–area artist, presents ardent fantasies about everyday reality. In his recent show “California Gothic,” McGraw spins tales of life in a cul-de-sac—his own slightly altered version of those residential neighborhoods to which there is only one entrance. Del Mar Heights and Walnut Creek, like other places cited in the titles, are the names of two of the many communities of this sort in the state. Using the form of these neighborhoods as a figure of enclosure, McGraw weaves together themes of magic and mystery.

    McGraw’s cul-de-sacs are paradaisical places where love blooms

    Read more