reviews

  • Frank Stella

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Though Frank Stella’s work has sometimes been attacked as a sham extension of Modernist logic, in recent years it has evinced the wild diversity, energy, and inventiveness that comes only from someone who follows his own whims. At this point in his career, it seems that Stella will try anything that promises to come out looking like a Stella—and by now, almost anything will. His new paintings, most of them huge, look a bit like steam rolled versions of his familiar painted relief constructions, but they relate more closely to his technically ambitious prints. Like prints, they are essentially

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  • Raoul de Keyser

    Brooke Alexander

    Raoul De Keyser’s paintings are at once familiar and elusive, banal and eccentric. Well known in Europe, this Belgian artist is regularly included in important surveys such as “Documenta IX,” and last year’s “Der Zerbrochene Spiegel” (The broken mirror), as well as the more recent “Unbound: Possibilities in Painting” at the Hayward Gallery. De Keyser’s first American solo show suggests that, at the age of 65, he is self-assured enough to conceal the effort that goes into attaining a given effect. The thin paint and limited palette he uses belie the careful layering from which De Keyser constructs

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  • Felix Gonzalez-Torres

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    It seems that everyone—with the exception of the vain and the nakedly ambitious artist—hates the midcareer retrospective. The origins of the age of prematurity can be traced to exhibitions such as the one mounted by Jane Livingston and Marcia Tucker in 1972 at the L.A. County and Whitney museums documenting the career of then-31-year-old Bruce Nauman. Since then, the increasing emphasis by art dealers on "judicious placement”—a euphemism for thrusting the work of younger artists onto those collectors who sit on museum committees—coupled with the expanding ranks of art administrators, has firmly

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  • Christopher Wool

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    In the pursuit of annihilating imagery, Christopher Wool’s new paintings present a richly inarticulate pictorialism on the verge of collapsing into nonobjectivity. He lays siege to the rudiments of his own painting language to embark on a fitful construction process that not only allows for mistakes and false clues but actively exploits them. Wool offers us access to a world where things are layered to the point of implosion, where iconographic elements are built up only to virtually fall apart. These recent paintings are also his most emphatically “painterly” to date: the more Wool endeavors

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  • John Waters

    American Fine Arts

    With Inga #3 (Five Close-ups), Inga #2 (Three Close-ups), and Inga #1 (Shall we make love?) [all 1994], John Waters discerns new possibilities in the Swedish softcore porn classic by displaying shots of the scenes that make it “his.” Inga: a wild discipline; ruthless abandon; a stiletto sense of pleasure’s drives. With these photos (“little movies” because they mimic film’s multiple frames), Waters remembers the profound liberation of moviegoing (too many have forgotten cinematic hedonism is thinking, not a psychic misdemeanor) while demonstrating that his esthetic, though it revels in trash,

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  • Zoe Leonard

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    It was in her studio—a sixth-floor walk-up on Essex Street in the Lower East Side—rather than in her SoHo gallery that Zoe Leonard mounted her recent exhibition of photographs and objects. Her choice of setting was apt, not because the imagery in her photographs is drawn from the streets outside her window, though it sometimes is, but because her work, like the neighborhood she lives in, comprises inconsequential things—cheap commodities, graffiti, the detritus of everyday life. In Leonard’s photographs easily overlooked objects and sites become oddly expressive, precisely because they form the

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  • Matvey Levenstein

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Like Gerhard Richter, Matvey Levenstein makes paintings from photographs, engaging the formal languages of both media and exploiting the link between the photographic and the documentary. The subjects of his works, like those of Christian Boltanski’s, are those whose lives were altered or destroyed by circumstance. In his most recent show, Levenstein, himself a Russian Jewish émigré, reconstitutes the day-to-day existence of Eastern European Jewry through found images—of prewar beauty queens, his own family, and the uninhabited, professional-class apartments, clean and neatly furnished, where

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  • Kocheisen + Hullmann

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    With tongue-in-cheek innocence, the artistic duo Thomas Kocheisen and Ulrike Hullmann disclose the unspeakable banality of the modern world. Unlike Baudelaire, who struggled to convince himself that the new mundaneness was implicitly “metaphysical”, Kocheisen + Hullmann no longer seek to transcend banality by turning it into something magical. Like many of us, they accept the disenchanted lot of being modern: disillusionment as the price of enlightenment.

    Underneath the routine, almost mechanical descriptiveness and conceptual wit of these works lies a ruthless realism. Kocheisen + Hullmann choose

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  • Robert Arneson

    Frumkin/Adams

    Robert Arneson’s late bronzes erase any lingering doubts that he may have been nothing but a glorified ceramist. Testaments to the cancer that eventually destroyed him, all of them are remarkable for their courage as well as for their artistic power. Most explicitly recalling the photographs by which Hannah Wilke bore witness to a similar illness and early death, they also possess the resonance of Ross Bleckner’s more oblique homages to those lost to AIDS, though melancholy never gets the upper hand in Arneson’s work—no matter how wasted his body, his famous wit and humor never fail him.

    As is

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  • Doug and Mike Starn

    Pace/Macgill Gallery

    Constructed from an archive of images of the solar system, the works in Doug and Mike Starn’s luminous show “Heliolibri” cantilevered from the walls of the dimly lit space in a panoply of galactic imagery. The Starns’ heliocentric cosmologies excavate the mythical foundations of our universe through rich palimpsests: black-and-rusty-toned photographs of the sky and ocean waves, translucent book pages, and portraits appropriated from Eastern and Western art printed on transparent sheets of polyester.

    As if to emphasize the degree of trial and error in the origins of cosmology, the collection of

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  • Dorothy Cross

    P.P.O.W

    With slight but unnerving displacements, Dorothy Cross transforms the pristine space of the gallery into sometimes erotic, sometimes terrifying environments. Her most recent installation, Inheritance, 1995, began with an isolated X ray of a skull. Nestled in the brainpan, as if in a womb, was an unborn child. This image could be read in two ways: either as a metaphor for the coming generation, whose traits are bound to be as much an imprint of psychological as of physical union; or, on a more macabre note, as signs of new life encased in a symbol of death. This ambiguity set the tone of the

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  • James Casebere

    Michael Klein Gallery

    As if attempting to keep up with the current boom in prison construction, James Casebere has gradually turned from building and photographing scale models of suburban row houses, ranches, and Venetian ghetto-dwellings to constructing and photographing scale models of various structures of imprisonment—Sing Sing, the now-defunct Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary, and the mobile “jail cages” once used in Georgia. But looking to Casebere’s large, atmospheric Cibachromes for an explanation of what drives our increasingly carceral society is unlikely to get you very far.

    First of all, there are

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  • “Critics as Artists”

    Andre Zarre Gallery

    It goes without saying that every critic is a failed artist, bitterly transforming his resentment and disaffection into superfluous analytical bitchiness. Those who can, do, and those who can’t, write criticism. As if to give credence to the stereotype, by and large the works in “Critics as Artists” demonstrated about the same level of quality as a collection of thrift-store paintings; if you were looking for technical virtuosity or esthetic vision, there was no point in looking here, even though taken as a whole the works could have comprised a great conceptual maneuver à la Jim Shaw. To be

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  • Alexander Apóstol

    Throckmorton Fine Art

    In his first solo show in the U.S., Alexander Apóstol presented a group of photo assemblages comprised of distressed negatives and prints—ranging in tone from gold to selenium—culled from various sources and then pasted or stitched together with coarse string. With their Starn-like facture, these works both mystify and delight, forming a kind of road map through the psychic landscape of this 26-year-old Venezuelan artist.

    Many of the assemblages include conventional formal portraits that in this context take on an almost archetypal character. The top row of Sastre (Tailor, 1993) is comprised of

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  • Steven Holl

    Architectural League

    Helsinki is a modern architect’s mecca. Scheduled to open in 1998, Steven Holl’s Museum of Contemporary Art will stand at the center of the city’s greatest Modernist landmarks: the House of Parliament, Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia Hall, and the central train station designed by Eliel Saarinen. Acutely conscious of the location—of the weight of Finnish history and culture—Holl envisioned a structure that would embody what surrounds it. His current show traces the vicissitudes of his attempt to remain true to his original vision.

    At the entrance to the gallery, Holl’s sketchbook is mounted on the wall,

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  • Il Piccolo Teatro di Milano

    Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building

    As staged by revered Italian director Giorgio Strehler, Luigi Pirandello’s The Mountain Giants, 1936, has the impeccable styling of an Italian movie from the ’60s. The actors in Strehler’s company, II Piccolo Teatro di Milano, breeze across the stage in elegantly cut dresses and summer suits, gesturing broadly. Their intonation reflects the Italian love affair with exaggeration, captured with such surreal humor by masterful filmmakers such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. Indeed, Strehler’s production is a rich period piece, a reminder to American audiences of the visual splendor

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