reviews

  • “Light Construction”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    As the millennium approaches, everyone in the architecture world is searching for a new high concept, but no one seems willing to hazard what it might be. In the wake of deconstructivism (which, we are now told by the very publicists who turned it into a movement, was never supposed to be one), the very idea of a period style raises suspicions. Such a climate leaves the Museum of Modern Art (the cultural institution responsible for transforming nearly every formal variation in the architecture of this century into a “style”) face-to-face with a fundamental dilemma: how to present a thematically

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  • Anne and Patrick Poirier

    Sonnabend Gallery

    “It is wrong to believe that these myths and ancient geneses do not concern us anymore. The human soul is made of memory and forgetfulness; these constitute being.” So Anne and Patrick Poirier once wrote, referring to the classical culture of the Mediterranean. The art that the Poiriers built on this faith in the ’70s and ’80s—microcosmic reconstructions of ancient ruined architecture, arrangements of outsize fragments of Greco-Roman sculpture, and related works—was among that period’s many signs of an esthetic shift: after the sublimities and stringencies of formalism, Conceptual art, and

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  • Brice Marden

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Beau Brummell recommended spending four hours dressing in order to give the impression that all had been done in four minutes. Brice Marden’s new paintings embody the same highly cultivated naturalness. The palette knife, it seems, has replaced the long brushes Marden used to create the precariously high-strung, spidery lines of his “Cold Mountain” series, 1988–91, in which nervous hesitations and sudden shifts of direction tended to divide pictorial space into quasi-cubistic facets. In his recent works, Marden has thickened and smoothed his lines, and lengthened them as well. Their ramifying

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  • Juan Uslé

    Robert Miller Gallery

    There has been talk lately of a resurgence of formalism in contemporary art. If this implies a return to Greenbergian purity, a cordoning off of media and genres into segregated “areas of competence,” such an assertion would be hard to verify. That is, if for example Juan Uslé—abstract painter that he is—can be called a formalist, it is only in the sense that the term might apply to an artist as different from him as Jessica Stockholder. Both these artists stage elements of diverse, sometimes conflicting formal vocabularies and make them perform, but not necessarily in their accustomed roles.

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  • Mike Kelley

    Metro Pictures

    Satan! Satan! SATAN!! Satan wants YOU! And he’s everywhere. That’s right, you heard me, everywhere.

    Mike Kelley tells you all about it in his new exhibition of nasty Satanic-type stuff. Stuff like: high-school yearbook photos of kids playing mischievous—but obviously Satanic—pranks like mooning people and dressing up as the opposite gender, all stuck under dummy headlines from lefty liberal newspapers such as the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press. Stuff like: models of institutional spaces where Kelley has suffered, complete with basements and sub-basements—Satanists and other ritual

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  • Markus Baenziger

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Markus Baenziger makes sculpture out of Plexiglas and synthetic resin and rubber: filmy, opalescent stuff that looks like it might not really be there after all. Which is just fine, since what he makes out of it might not really be there either. There’s a piece called Soft Landings (all works 1995), a pile of towels made of synthetic resin and rubber indented in the center as though something had dropped there from above. Then there are three works all entitled Nocturnal Trail, frosted synthetic-resin pillows resting on top of Plexiglas cubes, with depressions indicating where the dreamer’s head

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  • Wolfgang Laib

    Sperone Westwater

    Wolfgang Laib’s recent installation You Will Go Somewhere Else, 1995, is yet another instance of the artist’s exceptional ability to close the gap between the material and the spiritual, stillness and movement, internal and external space. Six large vessel-shaped solids, which varied slightly in size, were placed in a row on an almost ceiling-high, freestanding wooden scaffolding, and illuminated by both natural and artificial light. The crudeness of the supporting structure was accentuated by the exposed metal bolts that held the wooden beams in place. While each carefully modeled boatlike

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  • David Rabinowitch

    Peter Blum Gallery

    David Rabinowitch’s two double-tiered Box Trough Assemblages (both 1963) are part of a series of 40 pieces made during Minimalism’s heyday, but they seem more subtle—less deadpan and mechanical—than the usual Minimalist fare of the time. Though they are terse constructions of modular units, they each have a raised “edge,” which, to my mind, adds an ironic-lyrical touch or accent to the implicitly epic extension of the works. Even more crucial to their subtlety is the tension between the asymmetrical arrangement of the few units that form a top layer—Rabinowitch calls them “congruent displacements”—and

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  • Jim Anderson

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    Jim Anderson’s formal lexicon derives from the guitar, which he perverts into all manner of what Duchamp called “objets d’ard,” including sculptures of bedpans, sex toys, and S/M paraphernalia of obscure purpose, to name but a few. In Swan Song (all works 1995), a V-shaped guitar is no longer a prosthetic rock-star penis but has been coaxed into a form simultaneously resembling a swan and a strappado. One of the accompanying videos shows the artist bound to this torture device, the wings of the V pinioning his arms behind his head, the neck of the sculpture sidling down his spine into his ass.

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  • James Lee Byars

    Michael Werner | New York

    James Lee Byars’ extensive oeuvre has tended to revolve around related sets of dualities: materiality and immateriality, the eternal and the instantaneous, heaviness and lightness. In his delicate and atmospheric performance pieces, he has often avoided any hint of weight (in his paradigmatic conceptualization of a performance piece, The Perfect Theatre, an audience at an Italian villa would see, on a distant wall, a man in a pink suit appear and seemingly disappear in an instant). More recently, by contrast, he has made works in heavy materials—marble, limestone, brass—that can depress the

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  • Luis Camnitzer

    Carla Stellweg Gallery

    Luis Camnitzer’s work has often seemed a bit understated. His often tiny objects are graceful, yet seem to promise great moment without necessarily bringing it off convincingly. “The Book of Walls,” a linked series of 11 works, while attractive enough in its muted violence, suffers from such thinness. The work deals with the political struggles in Latin America and, in particular, amnesty laws passed to protect South American military and police officials from prosecution in countries like Uruguay, where the artist was raised.

    The individual works, with titles like El Muro de las Intimaciones (

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  • Jean Lowe and Kim MacConnel

    Holly Solomon Gallery

    Kim MacConnel and Jean Lowe’s recent installation Bull Story (all works 1995) took me back to last summer when, driving through an isolated pasture down South, I came upon a family of cows. All but the big black bull moved out of my path. The bull’s eyes were rimmed with red, as if it had a hangover, its nose covered with buzzing flies. I sat in the car and watched the flies while the bull tried to stare me down. We sat like this until one of the cows swooshed its tail a certain way and the bull reluctantly moved off with her, casting a distrustful look in my direction. Clearly, they wanted to

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  • Tanya Marcuse

    Yoshii Gallery

    Tanya Marcuse’s second solo show consisted of surreal, uniformly sized platinum/palladium prints drawn from two different bodies of work. One of these, the picture cycle “Bridal Suite” (all works 1995), commemorated her wedding day: everything from the bridal gown to the bride’s intimate apparel to a concluding peek at distinctly private acts. Formally and in its preoccupation with representations of the body, this series echoed Marcuse’s first solo show for which the artist photographed fragments of classical Greek sculpture—bits of male and female bodies posed in galleries or sequestered away

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  • “Metageometries”

    DCA Gallery

    Mounting a show under the ambitious if somewhat precious rubric “Metageometries,” Danish sculptors Elisabeth Toubro and Morten Stræde explored questions of spatial logic and discursive mapping. Their work, located on the seam that joins the visual to the linguistic, sought to disturb familiar presence/absence, center/periphery binaries by continually shifting the boundaries of self, home, and nation.

    Toubro’s installation, Seven Pillars, 1995, consisted of six crenellated polyvinyl-chloride air ducts surrounding a column that is part of the gallery’s architectural structure. The Slinky-like

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  • Lesley Dill

    George Adams Gallery

    For the past several years, Lesley Dill has been incorporating poems by Emily Dickinson into her work and using many of the techniques of traditional 19th-century homecraft (dyeing, weaving, dressmaking, and needlework) in its creation. Her “Voices in My Head” features work inspired by Buddhist prayer flags she observed while living in India. Twelve-foot-long hanging cloths of muslin or gauze, stained with tea, shellac, or both, feature photo-silkscreens of despairing male and female faces or nudes, with snatches of Dickinson’s poems crudely stitched, stamped, or painted over the torso or face

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  • Robert Harms

    David Beitzel Gallery

    The lush setting of Robert Harms’ Amagansett studio serves as the point of departure for his radiant abstract paintings. In many of the paintings Harms takes a recognizable image from the landscape and attacks it with arbitrary marks until it nearly disappears from view—an old Willem de Kooning trick—and the resulting bramble tantalizes the viewer with the insistence of a half-remembered name. The remaining traces of the landscape and human figure haunt the work. The clumps of olive, white, and blue in Side of the Road, 1995, might be a pastoral valley by Cézanne viewed through the haziness of

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  • Mac James

    Barbara Braathen Gallery

    On entering Mac James’ crowded show the first thing I noticed—it would have been very hard to miss—was a bizarre and hilarious New York nocturne in which the Empire State Building and the moon that gives this painting its name (“Luna”) are dwarfed by an enormous, leaping white shark that looks eminently capable of devouring the entire city in one gulp. This mother of all predators also bears a distinct resemblance to a wildly out-of-control blimp. Given that over the last year I have seen plenty of paintings I felt like laughing at, but few that made me feel like laughing with the artist, this

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  • Robert Wilson

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

    Robert Wilson’s Alice, 1995, written by Paul Schmidt and performed by actors from the Thalia Theater of Hamburg, is an adult wonderland of theatrical anecdotes that alternate between the fantastic and the ordinary, between Wilson’s customary brilliance of scale and imagination and the predictability of Alice’s all-too-familiar journey through terrains both large and small. Absurd and tender, cruel and comic, Alice is both a rendering of and a commentary on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

    Alice starts out sedately; the stage is filled with 12 identically dressed and be-wigged figures made up

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