reviews

  • Bruce Conner

    Curt Marcus, Susan Inglett

    For Bruce Conner, it seems, esthetic boundaries are like so many sliding walls in a conjurer’s box: not only has he worked in a range of media with equal fluency, but the repetition in his collages and drawings suggests an amorphous expansion; his found-footage films seem to bleed at the edges; and his assemblages are so loosely conceived that even those that are now decades old and caked with dust seem extraordinarily immediate—even fresh. In 1968 P. Adams Sitney noted in Visionary Film, his seminal book on American avant-garde cinema, that Conner is a “master of the ambivalent attitude; it is

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  • Lawrence Weiner

    James Goodman Gallery

    You’d expect a show devoted to an artist’s multiples and editions to be of minor importance, at best a collection of diversions, digressions, ephemera, jeux d’esprit, and other asides. In the case of Lawrence Weiner, by contrast, such an exhibition turns out to be the best way to enter his oeuvre. One reason for this is the simple fact that this show supplies a rare opportunity to gather a large number of works of very different sorts in a single room. More important, it serves as a reminder that Weiner’s work is nothing if not an art of diversions, digressions, ephemera, jeux d’esprit, and

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  • George Herms

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    Although the critical reception of their work in the Whitney Museum’s recent exhibition on the Beat generation has been distinctly cool, the group of artists who began working with assemblage and collage in California in the ’50s constitutes an important parallel, and to some extent a predecessor (Clay Spohn’s pathbreaking Museum of Unknown and Little Known Objects in fact dates from 1949), to the better-known “neo-Dada” manifestations in New York (e.g., Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Allen Kaprow) and Paris (e.g., Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri, Mimmo Rotella). These diverse artists both extended

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  • Beth B

    P.P.O.W. / Crosby Street Project / Anthology Film Archives

    If only because of their intrepid advent in the wake of last year’s demonizing of “victim art,” Beth B’s simultaneous film retrospective and exhibitions struck bracing poses this winter. At the same time, they also suggested some of the problems with the genre.

    B’s film work shows her to be a virtuoso of the talking head. In Stigmata, 1991, a half dozen men and women, each addressing the camera directly and alone, speak of their involvement with drugs. Cutting regularly among these hurt but articulate people, and occasionally interspersing shots of sunlit countryside, B brings out relationships

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  • Tom Sachs

    Morris Healy Gallery

    Tom Sachs’ full-service installation Cultural Prosthetics re-creates life in the Bourgeois Zone: product, protection, life behind closed doors, everything. So you can’t just wander on in, first you have to pass the Security Threshold. There’s a check point where the front desk usually is, cobbled together out of scavenged police barriers, then a series of little video monitors, another police barricade, followed by a metal detector built into an archway. The metal detector inevitably beeps when someone walks through, at which point the harried looking gallery attendant waves a detector wand at

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  • Joel-Peter Witkin

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs present subject matter that has long characterized the grotesque (“unnatural,” biologically impossible combinations of human, animal, and plant forms) while providing evidence of extreme physical acts and conditions. In his elaborate apocalyptic tableaux sauvages, based on paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Courbet, Seurat, Grant Wood, and others, the imaginary chimeras, cyclopes, harpies, centaurs, and manticores of old are replaced by amputees, dwarves, transsexuals, and androgynes, severed heads, hands, and feet, fetuses, animal carcasses, and an array of

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  • Paul Waldman

    Castelli Gallery

    Paul Waldman’s recent exhibition presented as many paintings as sculptures, raising the question of the relationship between the two. Remarkably beautiful and nuanced, these paintings—whose surfaces comprise oil paint on multiple layers of paper-thin gesso—are at once delicate and baroque: flowers flourish against a gridded pictorial field where a naked dwarf is often seated in a corner, sometimes in the company of a woman, also naked, who in one work is seated on a toilet, in another has her head in a vase. The sculptures are officially birdhouses, but covered as they are with archaic, grotesque

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  • Joseph Raffael

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery

    If the future of art is beauty (beauty, as was thought in antiquity, being a form of spirit), then Joseph Raffael’s ravishing landscapes, by signaling a spiritual relationship to nature, point the way beyond the “death of painting.” In image after image, Raffael shows us that we must struggle to preserve our environment from our destructive impulses. He often depicts fragments of the blessed landscape where he lives (the Mediterranean coast of southern France) as if they were the last barrier between us and the void that lurks at the edges of these images.

    In Raffael’s paintings nature is at its

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  • David Bates

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Although David Bates has been primarily known for his folk art-inspired paintings of life in the American Southwest, in this show he integrates painting into a three-dimensional format—largely figurative sculptures and wall reliefs, in plaster, wood, bronze, and mixed media, featuring bright, jazzy colors and textures and caricaturish renderings. Bates sets new formal and technical challenges for himself in creating an engagingly loopy, hybrid art form that suggests a meeting between Picasso’s sculpture and the brush of a folk artist. His alliance of folk art and Cubism is clever: Cubism evolved,

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  • Megan Williams

    Bravin Post Lee

    With her two previous shows devoted to drawing, this exhibition of paintings represents both a departure and a challenge for Los Angeles artist Megan Williams. In making the transition to painting, she joins Sue Williams and Kim Dingle, among other satirically engaged artists, in stepping up from the ostensibly small-time school of drawing, where women have traditionally been welcome to amuse themselves, and entering the ring with the brush-wielding fraternity of figurative painters.

    The biggest departure in these works of the past two years is one of scale. Williams’ paintings look like large

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  • Tom Burr

    American Fine Arts

    Tom Burr would like us to consider how the beginnings of urban renewal in Times Square have produced a corresponding ideological realignment. His recent installation 42nd Street Structures, 1995, suggests that there is a rather complex yet often overlooked historical/formal connection between the sex industry and the architectural structures designed to house it. Burr plays texts—loaded with detailed descriptions of various edifices (including their condensed histories)—off of variously scaled, quasi-architectural models of existing buildings and public spaces. All the information is there,

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  • Tony Feher

    Richard Anderson Gallery

    What might it mean to bear witness to the trivial, to personalize detritus, to transform the utterly generic into a kind of miniature theme park of memory? Displaying a lyricism that borders on the narcissistic, Tony Feher’s floored, piled, and scattered arrangements of both useless and once-useful quotidian objects—jars, packing materials, bits of lumber, and the like—monumentalized the apparently banal, suggesting that even the most commonplace items can be suffused with personal significance.

    On the one hand, Feher’s works—discernible as such thanks only to the treasure-hunt-like “map” provided

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  • Zofia Kulik

    Lombard-Fried Projects

    Polish artist Zofia Kulik, part of a perfomance duo (with Przemyslaw Kwiek) until 1987, has been occupied for the past several years with composing black and white photomontages that, formally at least, recall stained-glass windows. In these works she combines photographs of a naked male figure (most often her friend Zbigniew Libera, also an artist) in various military poses with prints of, among other things, banners, commemorative wreaths, missiles, as well as stills from television or videos of military parades. Kulik’s photomontages are born of a passion for mining Poland’s communist past:

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  • Jennifer Kobylarz

    Edward Thorp Gallery

    In paintings that bring to mind Stuart Davis, Matisse cutouts, and ’50s bachelor-pad ambience, Jenifer Kobylarz takes a recurring motif (a sort of anthropomorphic fern) through a series of punning transformations, stretching, layering, or otherwise mutating the subject into a variety of images (spinal column, zipper, chainsaw, piano keys) that nevertheless manage to retain the fern’s segmented structure. Varying in composition from bold and heraldic to busy and allover, some of the pieces explore the interplay of figure and ground—for example, Red Spine, 1995, can be read as either a rib cage

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  • Shut Up I Tell You (I Said Shut Up I Tell You)

    P.S. 122

    In an admittedly spotty theatrical season, the work of Elevator Repair Service, in a whirligig of sideshow-style shenanigans titled Shut up I Tell You (I Said Shut up I Tell You), 1996, stands out not only for its humor and intelligence, but also for its defiant theatricality—in fact, the performance was one of the most intriguing theatrical events I’ve experienced in quite some time. The troupe is fond of low-maintenance props (e.g., a medieval sentry “played” by a plastic skull attached to a broomstick, peering over a folding screen) and set pieces (e.g., tattered vinyl high chairs, carpet

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