reviews

  • Helmut Dorner

    Brooke Alexander

    Helmut Dorner’s work is post-Modern painting at its most masterful and convincing: an ironic, hybrid reprise of Modernist modes handled as measured nuances. The uncanny urgency that seems to lie just beneath the lacquer-slick surfaces suggests a smothered eruption or the threat of explosion. In Dorner’s work, appropriation has just the right touch of anxiety, of uncertainty within knowing self-consciousness. He has mastered Modernist formalism in all its preciousness, yet rendered it with a staccato syntax that makes it seem fresh and irksome, and somehow no longer quite Modern. The result is

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  • Miyako Ishiuchi

    Laurence Miller Gallery

    When she turned 40 in 1987, Miyako Ishiuchi began to photograph other women born in the same year. Until then she had focused primarily on her own environment. Though it might seem as if she had shifted away from a rather narcissistic project, in effect, these subjects were significant only because they were as marked by time as she was, and also female. Though she set out to acknowledge the differences among these women as much as possible—each photograph is labeled with the subject’s occupation and shows her hands or feet—personal identity is all but wiped out to reveal the ravages of time

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  • “Moscow in New York: The Third Lomographic Happening”

    Here

    “Moscow in New York: The Third Lomographic Happening” sounded like it was going to be a hot ticket, and that’s why I went. I mean, partly it’s just that noun, “Lomographic,” one of those words that seems to have come into being just so you can sound hip when you use it. Plus, the show was not just work by a bunch of people who use Lomography; it was put on by the Lomographic Society. What could be more seductive? Can you think of anything you’d like more than to be able to say, offhand: “Hey, I’m a member of the Lomographic Society, so don’t try anything.” Or: “I can’t make a plan for Thursday

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  • Luigi Ontani

    Sperone Westwater

    As if to make up for his seven-year absence from the New York scene, Luigi Ontani mounted a cram course in his special brand of artistic indulgence: an overwhelming array of more than 60 mostly recent works (though the show included some pieces dating back to the ’70s), ranging from hand-colored photographs to paintings, masks, and ceramic sculptures. The show could be considered a miniretrospective, yet for all its variety, it was so concentrated as to banish any thought of approaching the work in terms of chronological development. As Rome is the Eternal City, this is the Eternal Ontani.

    An

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  • Howard Buchwald

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    Howard Buchwald’s abstract paintings are didactic in the best sense: they present themselves as advanced lessons in the art of seeing. Since his last New York gallery exhibition five years ago, he has abandoned his idiosyncratic method of constructing elaborate supports shot through with holes at various angles to reveal the wall behind the painting. In this regard, the formal postulates of the recent paintings are less stringent than in Buchwald’s work of the ’80s.

    As before, Buchwald’s method is a crisp distillation of gestural abstraction—of Pollock’s allover composition in particular. But

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  • Wolfgang Tillmans

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    “Will you miss me when I burn?” The Palace Brothers sing this question—pure acetylene. Will Oldham’s voice is torch possessed, soldering the hellishness of the lonesome to that of the famous, a steadfast seam. In the end, denial may be the surest way to fuse something to something else.

    Most discussions of Wolfgang Tillmans’ work have been quick to distance it from the context of fashion photography, as if it were something that could maim him—or his career. Beholden as Tillmans is to fashion photography (whatever that might be), often first publishing his work in fashion mags (he has supported

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  • Neil Jenney

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The six paintings selected for “Neil Jenney: Natural Rationalism” depict that mythic North American landscape of verdant forests, picturesque valleys, swollen rivers, and open skies. Recalling John Locke’s proclamation that “in the beginning all the world was America,” Jenney’s paintings conjure the unspoiled frontier of the New World and the transcendental visions it inspired.

    Reminiscent of the works of the Hudson Valley and Luminist painters in particular, Jenny’s paintings appropriate the epic proportions of sublime landscape painting, exaggerating the horizontal format in some works to such

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  • Richard Meier

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    If Richard Meier’s buildings and sculptures were before and after photographs, nothing less than a nuclear apocalypse would lie between them. While his clean, white, pristine buildings all stem from a rationalist, Modernist tradition, Meier’s sculptures look more like architectural models for the end of the world. Useless platforms, passageways that end abruptly, precarious towers of obscure purpose, ruptured cubicles, tortured metal armatures, steel excrescences that look less like decorative motifs than unneeded prosthetics—it all gives the impression of a bomb dropped into a planned community.

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  • Lyle Ashton Harris

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    In case you don’t already know, the art world is as rife with gangs as any urban ghetto—they have unofficial and sometimes official names (“the Yale Mafia”), turfs, and protocols—and so you have to look past the fact that institutions like the Whitney Independent Study Program seem to act on Lyle Ashton Harris like a sort of Art superego, transforming idlike impulses of creativity into the SoHo equivalent of gang colors and secret handshakes. Harris’ work may toe a certain party line (the interrogation of identity, the deconstruction of gender, class, and ethnicity, etc.), but it does so from

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  • Bill Owens

    American Fine Arts

    Though conspicuously absent from public collections, Bill Owens’ photo-chronicles of middle America belong alongside those of the better known “social landscape” photographers of the ’60s and ’70s: Diane Arbus, Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, and Gary Winogrand. Why Owens has slipped through the net is hard to tell. Admittedly Owens’ subject—the quotidian as sanctified in form and ritual—lacks the instantaneous allure or fashion quotient of Davidson’s subcultures or Arbus’ freak shows. Also perhaps the texts that often accompany his images work better in the book form of Suburbia, 1968–72,

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  • Doug Aitken

    303 Gallery

    Work for the attention-span impaired in all of us, Doug Aitken’s installation provoked the sort of fleeting engagement that characterizes watching television. This should come as no surprise since Aitken supports himself by producing and directing music videos and television ads. Presenting this so-called commercial work in a gallery would be a rather welcome development in the art world, but the problem here is that Aitken is too preoccupied with the notion that what he presents in that context must resemble, behave, or feel like Art. There should be nothing particularly embarrassing about

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  • Marek Chlanda

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Entitled Ceremonial Group and consecutively numbered, Marek Chlanda’s new mixed-media sculptures (all 1994) are variations on a single form—a large, hollow, birdlike skull with an elongated beak modeled in cloth stretched on a wire support and covered with layers of beeswax mixed with pigment. Singly or in pairs, these forms are mounted on large sheets of plywood that function as supports and pedestals. The artist traces the provenance of this shape to the downcast head of his young son after a rough day in school, but in fact his sculptures transcend any reference to natural forms or specific

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  • Wes Mills

    Berman/Daferner Gallery

    Though filament and filiation may not be etymological cousins, in Wes Mills’ work they’re almost twins. Each line in his drawings is a hairlike fracture made faintly incandescent by the passage of a psychic current generated by the line that traces patriarchy’s traumatic contour. Small without being miniature, the drawings nevertheless convey the impression of an extreme reduction—the minimum area in which recollection and reflection can occur—the content kept, by the scale, at a distance that is the opposite of intimacy.

    So while the awkward, childlike gesturality recalls Cy Twombly, the tonalities

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  • Willie Doherty

    Grey Art Gallery

    Seemingly emblematic of “the troubles” themselves, the two wall-sized projections that comprised Irish artist Willie Doherty’s video installation, The Only Good One Is A Dead One, 1994, were shown, symbolically, at right angles from each other. Like the still photographs of Northern Ireland captioned with intimations of terror (for which he is better known), Doherty’s video depicts a landscape inscribed with fear.

    Both projections are night scenes: one of the city, its darkness irradiated by hot-orange street lamps; the other of the countryside viewed from the driver’s seat of a car, the blue

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  • Robin Lowe

    AC Project Room

    Robin Lowe takes a diarist’s approach to portraiture, putting a psychological spin on casual encounters with friends and family members. Working from snapshots, he shows ordinary subjects in ordinary contexts but from unexpected angles that reveal the extremities of their personalities.

    Painting on wood, Lowe constructs a hyperreal universe from subtle distortions and adept manipulations of color. Garden State/Gary (all works 1994) is particularly goofy. The focal point is not the happy young fellow proudly grinning from a lakeside lawn chair, but the grandly upswept genitals of the dog he holds

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  • Amy Hauft

    Lipton Owens Company

    Installed in a former bank, Amy Hauft’s Counting to Infinity, 1994, addressed the abstraction of an economy divorced from hard currency. One entered the building through a minuscule foyer that opened onto a steep flight of stairs. Despite the unkempt air and undistinguished architecture of this building, the high-ceilinged space suggested a place where people could trust their money would be managed judiciously. A tall teller’s counter with frosted-glass screens stood toward the south end of the floor, while toward the north end, formerly the site of the executive offices, an open space was

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  • Martha Graham Dance Company

    brooklyn academy of music

    “Radical Graham,” a selection of 14 works from Martha Graham’s more than 70-year choreographic career presented over ten days, provided a savvy kickoff to the 1994 season of BAM’s Next Wave Festival. Featuring a revival of the 1918 Serenata Morisca, the evening-length dance drama Clytemnestra, 1958, and her very last choreographic jewel, Maple Leaf Rag, 1990, this celebration of Graham’s oeuvre one hundred years after her birth showed the work to be every bit as complex today as it was during her lifetime.

    Indeed, Graham remains forever radical. The brute sexuality that became a part of her

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  • Vincent Shine

    Park Avenue Armory

    An enormous “fruiting body” clung to the side of a white pedestal halfway down a narrow space off the main gallery. Situated between the fragile clover and the precious gold bug, this agglutination (which the artist describes as “tomentose,” “blood red when wounded”) looked like an obscene quantity of plasticene pushed into a provisional place, its surface carefully smoothed and articulated to resemble something—but nothing I’ve ever seen; possibly viscera, though the context suggested fungi. Its worked surface retained the familiar marks of figure modeling: the plane of the knife, little divets,

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