reviews

  • Robert Graham

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    At least Robert Graham’s eight statues of naked young women, each in a different pose—Elizabeth, Sasha, Christine, Koreen, Julie Ann, Elisa, Petra, Gabrielle (all 1993)—are not Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave, 1847. Though these works may seem like revivals of the academic model, the sheer number of them, the variety of colors (all soft-toned), and the slightly but noticeably different heights of the pedestals (as well as the bases) on which they are placed, all suggest that Graham is using the figure of woman as a formal device. For Graham, the figures—beneath their predictable prettiness or at least

    Read more
  • Gabriel Orozco

    Gabriel Orozco’s New York gallery debut seemed to have been painstakingly calibrated to confound the viewer’s expectations. The immediate impression upon entering the gallery was one of serene emptiness disrupted only by a small, thin blue ring at eye level in the center of each of the four walls. Upon closer examination, these rings turned out to be nearly identical plastic lids from yogurt containers that are transparent in the middle. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that absolutely nothing had been done to the lids: the price tags and expiration dates (one from May, three from September)

    Read more
  • Michael Heizer

    Ace Gallery

    Michael Heizer has moved indoors, abandoning (no doubt temporarily) the wide-open spaces of the West for more circumscribed if still magnificent quarters. Two amorphous, vaguely “imagistic” pieces set into steel boxes in the wall, marked either end of a long, grand passage. The six still imposing but less grandiose rooms off this passage had been turned into sculptural shrines—into Japanese stone gardens of a kind. Indeed, the sense of stark, hard material—sometimes raw, unshaped, and opaque, sometimes perforated and highly polished—inhabiting a heroic space was overwhelming. The changes in

    Read more
  • Nayland Blake

    Thread Waxing Space

    After passing through a portal in the shape of a guillotine, the viewer was immediately confronted by a provisional metal scaffold behind which hung a drawing of an architectural interior. On the other side of this strange construction stood a Neoclassical miniature stage set, complete with a number of tiny chairs—the set for Nayland Blake’s marionette production of the Marquis de Sade’s text, Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1793.

    In an age when there is perhaps a little too much psychoanalysis in the bedroom, a little philosophy might be just what the doctor ordered. And I’m not talking about Hegel’s

    Read more
  • George Condo

    Pace | 510 West 25th Street

    Running the gamut from flabby abstractions and hilariously gloomy vanitas to riffs on Picasso’s various periods, George Condo’s paintings bring an adolescent wit and bizarre morphology to appropriationist painting. His past work has at times been easy to write off as a glib attempt to give painting a quick fix—as an excuse to continue working inside what Condo has called “the living of the death of painting.” While still somewhat disingenuous, the new work adds a dose of authentic anxiety to its pastiche of Surrealist dream imagery. This time around Condo spills the fetid afterbirth of a severe

    Read more
  • Rita Ackermann

    Andrea Rosen Gallery/New Museum of Contemporary Art

    Each painting in Rita Ackermann’s first solo show was organized around a predominant theme (speed, vacation, drugs, doing nothing) and populated by svelte waifs, fashionable nymphs, and other girlish sprites combined and recombined in almost serial fashion, like Minimalist variations of a cube. In Now I’m Gonna Take a Vacation (all works 1994), Ackermann’s figures—all drawn in black outlines and somewhat arbitrarily filled in with color, as in a coloring book—cop typical vacation poses. One girl dives into the water; another skinny-dips; one faces us with her camcorder; another lying on her

    Read more
  • Luis Caballero

    Nohra Haime Gallery

    Neither a retrospective nor a showcase of new work, Luis Caballero’s show of large-scale oils on paper and smaller ink and charcoal drawings—all relatively monochromatic variations on the male nude—provided what initially seemed like an arbitrary slice of this Columbian expatriate’s oeuvre. Given that Caballero has been working in this mode for almost twenty-five years, however, this selection of pieces actually functioned as a survey of the artist’s midcareer work.

    Caballero combines an eclectic, academic naturalism with an Expressionist bent that sometimes approaches pathos. His focus on the

    Read more
  • Lilla LoCurto & William Outcault

    TZ'ART & CO.

    Having established separate artistic careers, Lilla LoCurto and William Outcault first came together as collaborators to create Self-Portrait, 1992, for the controversial exhibition “Corporeal Politics” held at the List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts that same year. (The NEA revoked funding for the show because of its explicit subject matter, so that both the exhibition and its handsome catalogue had to be produced with alternate resources including a donation from Aerosmith.) Self-Portrait was comprised of a stack of video monitors, the top one featuring the viewer’s head and

    Read more
  • Sue Coe

    Galerie St. Etienne

    Though loudly protesting the conditions they depict (the hell of an underfunded AIDS clinic, homeless foraging for edible trash, our burlesque of a justice system), Sue Coe’s dreary images also mourn their own powerlessness. As with much socially concerned art, these works badly want to be political action itself, but achieve little more than a gloomy didacticism.

    It’s laudable that Coe produces illustrations of her experiences mainly for mass-circulation periodicals like the New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Yorker. The considerable amount of tribute this means of disseminating her

    Read more
  • Matthew Abbott

    Fawbush Gallery

    It’s like when you’re drunk at a party and the person you came with seems to have wandered off, and someone’s talking to you, someone you don’t recognize, but the music is really loud, and lights from an unidentifiable source keep flashing, so even though you’re trying really hard to hear what this guy is saying, nothing quite adds up, though it keeps sounding like it should.

    This kind of woozy confusion emanates from Matthew Abbott’s paintings. He combines complex abstract patterns—often with strong color contrasts or “tacky” metallic tones, sometimes over more or less irrelevant swirling textures

    Read more
  • Jack Whitten

    Horodner Romley Gallery/Daniel Newburg Gallery

    Given that Jack Whitten was nearly invisible to New York’s mainstream commercial gallery scene between 1978 and 1992, the show of his work from the early to mid ’70s (at Daniel Newburg) could only begin to fill in the development of this important abstract painter, but it did something that may be more important: it showed how prophetic Whitten was, brilliantly resolving the dilemmas to which younger abstractionists would return in the ’80s and ’90s with, presumably, little awareness of Whitten’s pioneering efforts. Whitten’s work of the ’70s seems to be about finding the intersection of

    Read more
  • Sam Reveles

    CRG Gallery

    Blazing through the sleepy terrain of formalist painting, the four paintings and three drawings that comprised Sam Reveles’ first New York solo show evoked the tough-but-delicate sensibilities of Jackson Pollock and Brice Marden (Reveles was once an assistant to the latter). His titles alone suggest a scrappy machismo: words like “cock,” “stallion,” “eagle,” “buck,” “Brando,” and “McQueen” crop up a lot, but rather than buttressing a pose, they signal genuine bravado. Madly slashing, mussing, and intersecting lines of paint across subtly washed grounds, Reveles lacerates the flat surface with

    Read more
  • John Wells

    Barbara Braathen Gallery

    John Wells named his first solo show “The Secret History,” after a scandalous account of the private lives of the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora. Any search for a direct connection would be in vain, but the title is appropriate in the most general sense. Wells has a fondness for unofficial versions, for neglected lore, for the byways and backwaters of history, art, religion, and philosophy that is completely disarming and original.

    The show consisted of some 42 small, festively colored gouaches. These included a handful of attractive abstractions, but most were variations on the theme

    Read more
  • Gilles Peress

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    Farewell to Bosnia is an installation of over 80 images made last year in Bosnia and Croatia that documents the lives of Bosnian refugees in flight and under siege. (First shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., the show’s last venue will be the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach early in 1995.)

    Gilles Peress’ 30-by-40-inch black and white photographs were printed full frame, mounted on canvas with metal grommets in the corners, and screwed to the walls in broken rectangular grids. Arranged on facing walls set at an angle, the two largest grids form a funnel

    Read more
  • Judith Streeter

    Stephen Haller Gallery

    The surfaces of Judith Streeter’s paintings resemble weather-beaten, painted-wood exteriors (tattered billboards, abandoned barns), evoking at once rural poverty and the rich tones of desert earth and sky. Against the paradoxically fecund emptiness, she often places a cross to suggest a sort of balance or stasis. In style and tone, these beautifully finished and subdued pieces owe something to the work of Anselm Kiefer, keenly aware not only of the weight of the history of painting but of history itself. Their heavily reworked surfaces and those passages in which the underlying wood panel has

    Read more
  • Sydney Blum & Mark Schwartz

    Bill Bace Gallery

    Though Sydney Blum’s large floor sculptures and Mark Schwartz’s paintings unmistakably reflect the conventions of their separate art forms, exhibited together these works generate an exchange of ideas and formal conventions. Eschewing pictorial representation, each artist attempts to portray the volatile energy of the natural world. Their energetic esthetic productions negotiate the zone between abstraction and figuration, denotation and connotation, charting ambiguous territory.

    Three very large paintings on unstretched canvases filled the south wall of the gallery. In all the paintings, an

    Read more
  • Ying Li

    Elizabeth Harris Gallery

    Ying Li’s lush abstractions reflect the sheer pleasure she takes in the process of painting. For Li, painting is a symbol of freedom of expression. Born in Beijing, she became interested in painting in the Western tradition as a child, but because of the Cultural Revolution she spent her teens doing agricultural labor in the countryside. With her return to the city and school, she began painting in oil and did some work in the Chinese social-realist vein that she summed up by saying, “You did what they told you to.”

    Upon moving to the New York area in the ’80s, Li began to stress the importance

    Read more