reviews

  • Cady Noland

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Now that the uncanny, the abject, and the pathetic have been curated and written into submission, rummaging through the detritus of the American psyche has become something like business as usual, albeit in the inflated currency of the debased. Corralled within the critical rubric of antiform and establishment-baiting, the iconography of dysfunction and despair seems curiously disinherited from the social realities it purports to represent. It is as if malevolence and dis-ease have become the moral comforters of a generation uneasy with its own establishment status. In charting parallel territory,

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  • Chris Burden

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    As the oft-cited Michel Foucault has noted, in a society of generalized surveillance we do our own policing. In such regimes, power is not exercised but displayed, since its real operations come not from without but from within. Exploiting the fault lines of power and control, Chris Burden’s work has, in the past, invoked the internalization of perpetual but covert surveillance as conscience by recreating extreme situations. The notorious performances from the ’70s can he conceived as the deliberate and willful transgression of social and legislative codes: the power to inflict pain on the body,

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  • Oleg Vassiliev; Erik Bulatov

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    The work of Erik Bulatov and Oleg Vassiliev lost much of its urgency with the dawn of freedom; the moral impetus that had been its primary interest in the pre-Glasnost period seemed to give way, post-1988, to self-conscious formalism. It was as if only their impeccable technique could hold onto viewers uninterested in and unacquainted with the difficult circumstances their art had previously resisted. As those Soviet structures disappeared, Bulatov became often banal, and Vassiliev, kitschy and sentimental. Both artists settled in the West—Bulatov in Paris, Vassiliev in New York—and there seemed

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  • Terry Winters

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Terry Winters has, thankfully, killed off those muddy-hued botanical and geometric forms—mute pods and polygons—one is accustomed to finding in his paintings. In much of his new work these shapes seem to have been garishly reincarnated in exploded form: what were rigid polygonal forms and impenetrable pods seem to have burst wide open, exposing the twisted membranes of strange interior landscapes.

    Whereas, for some, the earlier work was tiresomely solipsistic—driven by an obsession with the mysteries of dense paint and repetitive drawing—these new paintings, with their

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  • Barbara Ess

    Barbara Ess’ dreamlike photographic images—made with the most primitive of cameras (a pinhole camera), then enlarged and printed in delicate monochromes—are immediately compelling. We see a white dove’s rosy wing, its feathers opened like a hand, diaphanous folds of cloth, and a patch of floral carpet illumined in green, soft as an exhalation. These images possess a clairvoyant, peripheral-visionary intelligence; some are as indelible as those from one’s own dreams.

    The word “duvetyn” (the name of a soft fabric with a twill weave used in downquilts) seems to serve as a tutelary daimon for the

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  • James Surls

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    James Surls’ massive, baroque assemblages of wood and steel tend to inspire a certain art-historical amnesia. Perhaps the primary cause of this forgetfullness, apart from his signature theatricality—especially the monumental scale and gravity-defying bravado of his works—is the anachronistic nature of his formal and conceptual concerns. On the one hand, these contorted, quasi-figural clusters of whittled and chopped tree-branches resonate, albeit after the fact, with the quasi-organic, expressive mode of sculpture that flowered in the ’80s such as the work of Petah Coyne and Carol Hepper. On

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  • Dieter Appelt

    Sander Gallery

    Dieter Appelt’s surfaces look pathological—hurt—particularly in his photographs of his own head and hands, but also in his close-up, time-exposure photographs of the wood beams of an attic in an old Berlin Künstlerhaus, Bethanien, 1984–91. At the same time, they seem eminently rational, for he is also a determined constructivist, obsessed with rigidly fixed primary structures. The attic is a construction he breaks down with pseudo-scientific detachment into a number of implacable, Rodchenko-like “demonstrations” of geometry. The head and hands are equally anonymous, if organic, gestalt structures.

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  • Joan Snyder

    Hirschl & Adler Galleries

    Joan Snyder’s works on paper are remarkable for their range of imagery and gesture, especially in her treatment of abstract words as concrete gestures, so that they seem to lose their textual meaning and express a personal truth, a feeling ultimately unavailable in language. Indeed, in work after work, one senses her attempt to free herself from constraints as the title Free to Explore Every Corner of Your Imagination, 1990, suggests. Her emotional as well as technical range stretches from Oh Marie, 1984, a picture murky and explosive with suffering, to Large Yellow Cross No. 2, 1989, a clear,

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  • Jill Baroff

    Stark Gallery

    The urge to purify, to distill a gesture or an idea until it reaches its most concentrated form is the impetus behind Jill Baroff’s recent work. Only a few years ago, Baroff was showing quietly resolute abstract paintings that effectively synthesized a restrained gesturalism with an equally circumspect affinity for biomorphic reference. She has since radicalized her sense of the practice of painting to the point where she dispenses with nearly every convention associated with the term. These recent paintings are situated at the precise intersection of painting, drawing, sculpture, and even

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  • Robert Rahway Zakanitch

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    Robert Rahway Zakanitch’s “Big Bungalow Suite,” 1990–93, consists of five paintings on unstretched canvas—only the first four of them exhibited here—each of which is 11 feet high and 30 feet long. Executed in an exuberant painterly style, complete with drips and splatters, they nevertheless convey a sense of restraint and formality, one enforced, perhaps, by the artist’s method of laying down his repetitive patterns of imagery with stencils before working them up with the brush. Flowery, wallpaperlike motifs become equivalent to allover fields into which a number of smaller, oddly shaped images

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  • John Loengard

    James Danziger Gallery

    In On Photography, 1978, Susan Sontag stated that “to collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object. . . .” Since then the fetishization of the photographic print as the “handmade” object has been critiqued by many artists, but John Loengard takes it a step further. His seven-year project of traversing the globe to photograph the negatives of famous photographs poses another essential question, What is the photographic object?

    Loengard is a photojournalist whose most famous

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  • Robert Walser and Joan Nelson

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Both the young American painter Joan Nelson and the Modernist Swiss writer Robert Walser seem drawn to the miniature as if to the vanishing point in a composition: to the idea that a sign or a mark gains in significance the closer it comes to disappearing.

    A novelist, poet, and author of myriad short-prose pieces, Walser early on in his career met the exacting standards of such fellow writers as Robert Musil and Franz Kafka. In the decade prior to committing himself to an asylum, he composed his drafts in pencil on found pieces of paper—receipts, business cards, envelopes, postcards—in

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  • Lily van der Stokker

    Feature

    If exuberance were king and wanted to hire a court painter, it couldn’t do better than put Lily van der Stokker on the royal payroll. The artist’s decorative wall paintings and drawings—equal parts age of the Baroque, age of Aquarius, and age of ado-lescence—appear to strive for sheer exuberance as much as Platonic philosophy strives for the ideal. Dynamic lines reminiscent of Bernini, Borromini, and chemistry notebook doodlings, vivid hues reminiscent of early ’70s concert posters, and flowers—lots and lots of flowers—were all in full evidence in Mud Honey and Curlique (both works 1994), the

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  • Merlin Carpenter

    Petzel/Borgmann Gallery

    Perhaps we should be grateful that Merlin Carpenter just doesn’t seem to give a shit. British-born, under 30, and a former Martin Kippenberger assistant, Carpenter makes stuff with an alternately kiss-me-I’mclever and ignore-me-I’m-just-cynical posture. His charmingly awkward, coyly provisional excursion into the realm of computer-assisted image-making raises the question, What’s the difference between the dilettante-as-artist and the artist-as-dilettante? Like certain other artists of the twenty-something generation, Carpenter assumes, rightly or wrongly, that we’re no longer interested in

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  • Colette

    Gallery Lok

    With a personal symbology comprised of potatoes, high heels, white satin and silk, torn muslin, and brocade, Colette constructs art that is wearable, watchable, inhabitable, and, above all, accessible. Since the mid ’70s, she has performed in public spaces as institutional as a museum and as anarchic as the street. In the early ’80s, it was not unusual to come upon her en rituel in the corner of a nightclub dance floor or front-and-center in a trendy store window. Heavily rouged, her eyes nearly impacted with kohl, her hair piled exuberantly on her head under a tousle of trailing tulle, Colette

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  • Tere O'Connor

    P.S. 122

    This past season, issues surrounding sexuality and gender have so dominated choreography that at times it would have been advisable to give performances an R-rating. At a Stephen Petronio performance, female dancers, splayed diagonally across the stage, thrust their pelvises to form a fascinating open-legged chain of sexual tension; on another, a pair of Jane Comfort dancers—her legs and arms wound around his torso like a pulsating vine—pulled each other’s clothes off, and with lifts and lunges, hands pressing the length of each body, ended in an orgasmic tangle on the floor.

    Such heated

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