reviews

  • Fiona Rae

    John Good Gallery

    The much-anticipated solo debut of this abstract painter from London underscored the fundamental difference between an artist whose work stands out in the context of a group show and one who maintains our interest throughout an exhibition. Though the premise of Fiona Rae’s work has become almost a cliche of post-Modernism—the polyglot “stacking” of styles and techniques within a single visual field—when the standoff between quotation and invention reaches a certain level of intensity, the collage effect is completely convincing. Precise, witty, yet almost freewheeling in its energy, a canvas

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  • Jenny Holzer

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Ludicrously disproportionate to its quarters, Jenny Holzer’s uncanny, hulking construction gobbled up all available space, fostering a sense of claustrophobia in no way diminished by the impossibility of grasping its overall shape. Literally shrouded in darkness, the “thing” (Is it sculptural object? architectural structure? theatrical set?) exuded seduction and menace, invitation and entrapment. A pulsating ruby glow pulled one along the exterior wall toward a gaping, arched rear entrance and the source of the light—a newfangled, 3-D volumetric LED display sign generating vectors of radiant

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  • Richard Long

    Sperone Westwater

    Because Richard Long’s work is more a consistent, ongoing activity than a collection of objects, mounting an exhibition of that work is necessarily problematic. The gallery context turns Long’s art into merely another formal exercise with another set of signature materials, just as it does any site-specific work inspired by nature. How can such work make sense plucked from the environment on which it completely depends? The horns of this dilemma impale Long’s art and leave it looking nostalgic and postured. In the gallery, it seems to lose its critical power and become another pawn in a familiar

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  • Helmut Federle

    Peter Blum Gallery

    The surprise of Helmut Federle’s exhibition was not his exquisite geometrical abstractions but what surrounded them: an icon of the Feast of the Intercession of the Virgin made in Novgorod in the late 15th century, Ferdinand Hodler’s Die Bucht von Genf mit dem Mont Blanc vor Sonnenaufgang (The bay of Geneva with Mont Blanc before sunrise, 1918) and a 1932 Composition by Piet Mondrian. Federle, who titled the show “Basics on Composition,” clearly wanted to suggest a certain compositional continuity—a similarity in abstract intention—between his works and those he named as their ancestors. More

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  • Jack Pierson

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Check in to jackness as into a hotel, because the jack in Jack Pierson has the same Schiaparelli dazzle as the jack in Jackie O., deep-lilac perfume of tragedy, too; spunk of jacking-off and of Jack Russell terriers; sweet immediacy of porn, delicacy of violets, pansy expanse of Jack Smith. Jackness is a fraction, Diane Arbus divided by Diana Ross; all the roses here buzzing pink divided by all the roses long gone. Lover and ex in the same lovely body. Laughing until crying.

    I wish all the pages about Pierson’s esthetic of the pathetic, as if his work were only a blueprint of dejection, would

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  • Barbara Kruger

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    In her recent installation Barbara Kruger used the royal “we” to subjugate, threaten, and harass “you.” That “we” was given an audible Big Brother voice—male, of course—coolly meting out invective in a brilliantly mixed soundtrack punctuated with cheers, laughter, screams, church music, gagging noises, and an ominous sample from the song “We Are the World.” “My people are better than your people,” the voice intoned, “More intelligent, more graceful, more powerful, more beautiful, more chosen, more agile and cleaner. My people invented everything.” While the gallery walls were papered with a

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  • “Altered”

    Austrian Cultural Forum New York

    Everyone seems to know by now that Rudolf Schwarzkogler did not actually kill himself by cutting his penis off in slices during an Aktion, and yet you will read no text about the Austrian artist that does not relish in either reporting or debunking the castration myth. Perhaps this is because, while manifestly untrue (Schwarzkogler died in 1969 when he leapt or fell from a window), the myth nevertheless expresses in nuce certain truths about the products of his all-too-brief career. Not only does it condense the automutilative forces generally rampant in his work into a picture of the ultimate

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  • Nicole Eisenman

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Oxymoronic when institutionally sanctioned and otherwise just plain moronic, the “bad girl” moniker went from epithet to epitaph in less than the allotted 15 minutes. Nevertheless, the trajectory of the term—from the pejorative to the laudatory and back again—has in most cases been a star far brighter than the practices it sought to illuminate.

    The work of Nicole Eisenman, however, might well be one of the few exceptions. Though within the rubric of the “bad”—subversive, funny, and not incidentally lesbian—it successfully exceeds the terms of the debate, finding a voice that is neither that of

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  • Renée Green

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    How is taste made and unmade? Renee Green addressed this question in her most recent project Taste Venue, 1994, by seeking to don multiple hats—cultural anthropologist, gallerist, social historian, esthetician, booking agent, curator, and cultural critic—in order to remind us once again that Eurocentric cultural values cannot claim universal validity. Green has long been preoccupied with exploring why the fundamental ethnic, racial, and ideological hybridity of our culture is still not widely acknowledged or understood, and with addressing how distinct, and occasionally antagonistic, cultural

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  • Dietrich Orth

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    For Dietrich Orth, art yields redemption in its most minimal forms: personal satisfaction, dignity, and a generally positive mindset. His circumspect yet intensely evocative paintings—which often take the form of quasi-mystical diagrams—analyze the dangers and potential rewards, however large or small, of engaging the world’s chaos. The painstaking efforts they describe are ultimately synonymous with his process, one in which “any smaller or larger disturbances of the feeling of being undisturbed have to be corrected, sublimed, or rerouted.”

    With its queasy colors—pale pee-greens, dull browns,

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  • Andrea Belag

    Richard Anderson Fine Arts

    Broad horizontal stripes, alternately light and dark and predominantly in blue, earth tones, and white, dominate most of Andrea Belag’s recent paintings. The colors seem to have been imprinted in thin, variable layers on the canvas rather than painted on directly. Though, admittedly, the surfaces of Belag’s paintings may recall faded jeans, in strictly artistic terms they bring to mind the sobriety and reflective self-effacement associated with a tradition that stretches from the late work of Cézanne to the early work of Brice Marden—work in which the space of naturalistic perception is crossed

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  • Jackie Ferrara

    Michael Klein Inc.

    In her most recent exhibition, “Wall-works & Tableworks,” Jackie Ferrara presented small-scale, rationalist wooden constructions. Built from layers of horizontal wooden slats, each of these seven works formed a pristine communal space that recalled traditional gathering places such as public baths and arenas.

    Red Pool House 288, Grey Pool House 292, and Yellow Pool House 289 (all 1993) each consist of a succession of rooms arranged laterally along a thin horizontal plane. While the actual function of each chamber is not clear, each space evokes the various elements of a public bath—pool,

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  • Michael Joo

    Petzel Gallery | East 67th Street

    Though the title of Michael Joo’s installation, Salt Transfer Cycle, 1993–94, suggested a neat scientific diagram, the artist offered a complex, disjunctive work. Several videos, one of which was projected across the space, partly obstructed by aluminum poles, competed for attention. A scale model of a missile-shaped vehicle sat on the floor; rows of slaughterhouse meat trays and elk antlers lined the side walls. This calculated visual scatter reflected the deliberately contradictory impulses of Joo’s work.

    Videos projected on the back wall traced the salt transfer itself: they showed Joo “

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  • Michael Mazur

    Mary Ryan Gallery

    Referring to an earlier exhibition of prints, Michael Mazur reflected that his skill with color comes from “observation heightened by imagination controlled by memory.” The same could be said of this show of paintings, his most abstract works to date: while taken from nature, these images—which are perhaps most easily described as branched forms emerging from, crossing over, or residing within a deep and complicated light—possess a macabre excess that is controlled only by the artist’s remarkable awareness of the tension between two- and three-dimensionality, between painterliness and representation,

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  • “Asia/America”

    Asia Society and Museum

    Presenting the work of 20 artists hailing from eight different Asian nations, “Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary AsianAmerican Art” was an articulate response to the failure of the art world to adopt a truly multicultural agenda. In her catalogue essay, curator Margo Machida charges that the existing system has not yet addressed the very complicated questions that surround identity for contemporary Asian-American artists. With this show, Machida attempted to reflect the diversity of the Asian-American scene, refusing to present either a forced homogeneity or to cater to pervasive Western

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  • Kyung-Lim Lee

    Sigma Gallery

    Kyung-Lim Lee investigates the legacy of abstraction through the filter of Asian and American cultures. The paintings and drawings in her most recent show reflected a concern with series and process, but they also depended on her appropriation of Chinese characters. For works such as Circle and Ellipse #2, 1993, Ellipse #1, 1991, and Trapezoid, 1991, Lee began with a Chinese-Korean dictionary, selecting ten characters of the ten-stroke type. Working with the written Chinese and its direct Korean translation, she set about exploring the meaning of each character from a personal perspective,

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  • Carolee Schneemann

    Penine-Hart Gallery

    With a knack for identifying and then violating taboos, Carolee Schneemann makes work that gets inexorably under your skin. During the “sexual revolution,” her performance piece Meat Joy, 1964, reveled in appetites of and for the flesh in a manner that rendered even the most hardened squeamish. (Deemed pornographic by some, Schneeman’s work has, for the most part, been marginalized, despite its connection to displays of masculine excess usually considered vanguard.)

    With typical unflinching candor, her most recent work, Mortal Coils, 1994, honed in on death, not as the kind of abstract loss

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  • Louise Bourgeois

    Brooklyn Museum

    What are the main currents of contemporary art? And what artists serve as the most visible and influential conduits for these currents? These are the questions raised by the Brooklyn Museum’s recent exhibition “Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, Works 1982–1993.” As a retrospective, albeit a partial one, the show took Bourgeois’ stature as a fait accompli. But the reasons for Bourgeois’ significance given by the show’s curator and selected catalogue essayists were often at odds with the evidence of the art—what we saw and what we were told to see in Bourgeois’ art didn’t match up.

    Curator

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