reviews

  • László Moholy-Nagy

    Edwynn Houk Gallery | New York

    Though photography may be an a posteriori medium by nature, László Moholy-Nagy had a very a priori notion of what comprises a good photograph—one shared by many of his contemporaries. It had to be distinctly photographic, he felt, an exploration and exploitation of the technical possibilities inherent in various kinds of picture-making processes—and the result, generally speaking, were photographs with geometric, Constructivist compositions. In his camera-made works, Moholy-Nagy demonstrated how the worm’s and the bird’s eye view can transform a European metropolis into an aggregate of plunging

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  • Antoni Tàpies

    Pace Wildenstein

    There is a striking contrast between the sobriety of the works in Antoni Tàpies’ retrospective at the Guggenheim and the angry intensity of the recent paintings exhibited at PaceWildenstein. In the gallery show, Tàpies’ famous marble-dust paintings (he has compared their surfaces to what André Breton called Leonardo’s “paranoid wall”) have been aggressively marked, even violently mashed. Found objects and imprints of found objects abound. In 3, 1994, Tàpies ripped through the “wall,” marking it indelibly with his signature letter, T. There is nothing quite like this in the retrospective; made

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  • Alberto Giacometti

    Acquavella Galleries

    This exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures and paintings from 1926 to 1965 made clear that from the mid ’30s on Giacometti embraced the notion that art was an expression of human experience rather than a construction of autonomous objects with their own internal logic. Even though such famous Surrealist works as Woman with Her Throat Cut, 1932, and The Invisible Object (Hands Holding the Void), 1934, are clearly figurative and vigorously expressive—the former of a fearful hatred of woman, the latter of an ironic worship—they are still abstract constructions before they are expressive

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  • Cindy Sherman

    Metro Pictures

    For more than a decade, Cindy Sherman has delivered what many have regarded as one of the most sustained and eloquent disquisitions on the morphology of the image and the structure of desire. By contrast, the response to Sherman’s most recent work has been nothing if not circumspect. Admittedly, as a group the latest series of photographs lacks a clear agenda; its language is polyglot and its subject matter elusive: Sherman draws on Christian iconography, the legacy of Surrealism, the cult of the grotesque, and horror-movie schlock. If Caravaggio is here, along with Hans Bellmer, and Joel-Peter

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  • Morris Louis

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    An overrated artist is doomed to become underrated later; but eventually justice may be done. Has the time arrived to give Morris Louis his due? The Louis retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1986 was a less than celebrated event, provoking at best a cold admiration for what seemed a genuine but limited decorative talent. The present exhibition of works from 1960—the year Clement Greenberg proclaimed him one of the two “serious candidates for major status” after the Abstract Expressionists, and just two years before his premature death—was fuller and more various, both sensually and

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  • Stefano Peroli

    A self-proclaimed student of art informel, Stefano Peroli plumbs the genre in order to “slip further back in time,” that is, according to Peroli, toward Delacroix’s romanticism or Poussin’s classicism, but thanks to his engagingly candid and uninhibited approach to color and surface, his return to an earlier moment in painting never seems academic. This recent show marked the first time Peroli exhibited paintings “uncontaminated,” as he put it in conversation, by collage or other distancing and conceptualizing devices. If the most direct route to visual jouissance is through color, Peroli avails

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  • Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Hiroshi Sugimoto is known primarily for the three series of photographs he has been working on since the late ’70s, early ’80s. The series are nominally differentiated by content—movie theater interiors, seascapes, and dioramas—although Sugimoto approaches them all with a precise sense of form: balanced if not symmetrical compositions, extreme clarity of focus, grays modulated into a sort of photographic grisaille, long exposure times reminiscent of Atget. All of this—the impulse to work in a series, to foster a project over a period of ten years or more, to apply a stringent set of compositional

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  • Uta Barth

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    In that never-never land between the sensuous purr of painting and the chilly idiom of photography, Uta Barth makes ethereal pictures (in fact photos) that delicately resist being arrested by the pictorial condition, yet somehow remain unrepentantly picturesque. Her perfectly blurred, cloyingly out-of-focus images obscure, yet politely demur from obliterating, an external referent. Her works offer only an oblique set of visual clues, identification of the essentially banal subject matter—which ranges from empty to almost empty interiors to specific domestic objects—is only momentarily suspended.

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  • Joe Nicastri

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    Forbidding wooden boxes studded, porcupinelike, with rusty spines, Joe Nicastri’s sculptures open on surprisingly delicate—sometimes macabre-painted interiors depicting nude women and flowers, found objects, and often crushed seashells, or more of those rusty spines. The rugged, blackened, oxidized exteriors of the sculptures suggest sea urchins and treasure chests, decaying coffins, or some long lost Pandora’s box. The interiors offer no change of atmosphere, but tend to be more finished: Nicastri’s long career as a painter is evident in his delicate grisaille nudes and monochrome flowers on

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  • Ron Baron

    SculptureCenter

    Ron Baron describes himself as “a cultured archaeologist.” He might also be described as an obsessive recycler: in his work the most redundant objects acquire new meaning and purpose. In In Memory (all works 1994), for example, he assembles 15 fish tanks and fills them with footballs, tennis balls, sporting trophies, yearbooks, curios (including a model of the Eiffel Tower), and empty aspirin bottles. The result resembles a compact museum of private life or a volume of short stories (Baron’s “Book of Guys”) chronicling the trials and tribulations of the great white American male in the ’90s.

    Of

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  • Lorna Bieber

    Julie Saul Gallery

    Culled from vintage sources—decorator’s magazines circa the late ’40s and early ’50s—Lorna Bieber’s photographs of interiors map the domestic landscape of America. The views they present evoke the rise of the American middle class, the era just before the parlor was turned into a TV room. The coziness of these rooms—crammed with side tables and protected from drafts by drapes in every window—is keenly offset by a sense of dissatisfaction with the overall decor, a combination of French provincial and “country living.” In Chairs, 1994, the tripartite imagery seems to document the gaze of a decorator

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  • “Cartographies”

    Bronx Museum of the Arts

    The Museum of Modern Art’s 1994 exhibition “Latin American Artists of the 20th Century” divided a wide range of work according to country of origin, at the same time that it rendered much of it subservient to European and North American models. Ivo Mesquita’s recent “Cartographies,” a much smaller show, rejected the colonizing stance of its predecessor, choosing not to emphasize geopolitical divisions, but rather something more elusive: an exploration of “territories under the rule of desire, sensibility, and knowledge.” Mesquita’s curatorial scheme, in which cartography becomes a metaphor for

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  • Abelardo Morell

    Bonni Benrubi Gallery

    This show of Abelardo Morell’s large black and white photographs drew from three different series: pictures of photographic apparatuses and simple optical phenomena, rooms transformed into camera obscuras, and manipulated closeups of pictures in art books. In all three groups of work, photographic realism is turned inside out, lifting the veil on the mystery of appearances.

    Morell’s informally formal pictures of photographic apparatuses portray the ghost in the machine as a charming eccentric. In My Camera and Me, 1991, the artist wryly contemplates his hanged-man image in the ground glass.

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  • “Minisalon” “Impermanent Places”

    World Financial Center Exhibition Galleries

    Ten years ago, under the auspices of the Jazz Section in Prague (a dissident organization of musicians, artists, and writers), rebellious graphic designer Joska Sklanik, a member of the Section, began a project called the “Minisalon,” in which he invited some 300 artists from Czechoslovakia to produce an image in a small, square wooden box that he provided. He imposed no other restrictions. Sklanik had hoped to exhibit these boxes and to publish a complete catalogue, but for the next ten years he was unable to mount the exhibition, at first because of the political assault launched on the

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  • Richard Foreman

    Ontological Theater, St. Mark’s Church

    While it would be sheer folly to try to synopsize Richard Foreman’s latest dramatic effort, one might offer—as one character terms it—an “obvious gloss.” In I’ve Got the Shakes, 1995, the author/director continues to stage pure perception, placing cognition itself onstage. Foreman loves ideas unabashedly, reads theory voraciously, and has no qualms about using the theater as a laboratory for his mental somersaults.

    I’ve Got the Shakes centers on the doleful, self-sabotaging Madeleine X (superbly played by Jan Leslie Harding). While Foreman’s scenic semiotics have remained fairly consistent in

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  • Claude Wampler

    Here

    Cake Fur (Boots Randolph Luvs Hijika-ka Luvs Dick Wampler Luvs Joe Boys Luvs America Luvs Kurt Nobrain Luvs Verboten Fur Buttons Luvs Shecky Really Luvs Shecky Luvs Dirty Knees Luvs These), 1995, was Claude Wampler’s ode to tininess and her tiny dog, Cake, as well as a perverse circus act haunted by Lassie and other famous dogs. Cake is a star, a geisha, a glamour pooch, part Papillon and Pomeranian, but really all her breeding is icing since she’s an A.S.P.C.A. love mutt and nothing but. Growing wild with the dumb nature of love structured Wampler’s performance: how mysteriously simple it is

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