reviews

  • Roger Brown

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    Roger Brown is in a retrospective mood; indeed this show had something of a “greatest hits” quality, with the artist trotting out stylistic pictorial motifs he has employed since the ’60s as background to the glassware and ceramics he has been collecting for most of his life. Each of the 16 works in this series titled “Virtual Still Life,” 1995, has a small shelf at its bottom edge, along which Brown lines up all manner of crockery—vases, bowls, carafes, teapots, saki cups, and mugs—sometimes as few as one item per work, sometimes as many as six or seven. Though much of this ware is relatively

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  • Focus: “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Why is it that one comes out of “Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline” with the somewhat depressed feeling of having nothing to say, nothing in particular? Perhaps the answer lies in the program of the show, that is, in the meager hint of such a program offered by Mark Rosenthal, its curator, in the introduction to the lengthy accompanying catalogue: “My aim is to present the kind of overview of this century of abstraction that an art historian living a hundred years from now might write—that is, to imagine having the increased perspective and objectivity that

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  • Willie Doherty

    Alexander and Bonin

    A quick reader of Willie Doherty’s recent photographs and video might think of film noir, with its dark palette, its tensions and secrets, and its hint of violence, promised or past. But the story is drained and de-peopled, and has no plot, or no plot but that an American viewer might supply from knowledge gained outside Doherty’s work. There are holes in some white-painted metal, and blots of rust have formed around them, suggesting, maybe, a vernacular Clyfford Still. Many people in Northern Ireland, where these images were made, might recognize such shapes, but in case we’re unfamiliar with

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  • Tim Maul

    Betsy Senior Gallery

    Old-fashioned English teachers used to talk about the romance of names, about how a poet like Milton, by listing places like Ormus and Ind, Thule and Vallombrosa, could perfume his work with whole climates of sensation—riding on the reader’s imaginings of what it might feel like to be and see where those words point. Pictures, as visual experiences in themselves, would seem less needful of this kind of gambit. But at least in part, this is how the photographs Tim Maul has taken in Dublin’s National Library work.

    Sligo, Roscommon, Meath: names are full of place, of history, weather, landscape,

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  • Guillermo Kuitca

    Sperone Westwater

    Guillermo Kuitca has said on more than one occasion that he is “looking for reality,” but the one his maps, interior scenes, and floor plans ultimately point to is psychic rather than physical. Two of the works in his recent show “Puro Teatro” (Pure theater) featured a favorite trope, a spectral, stagelike space littered with furniture, but a series of 13 theater plans with numbered seats dominated the rest of the gallery. Suggesting waiting, watching, and reflection, the theater plans privileged time over space—one imagined a ghostly audience anticipating the end or beginning of a performance.

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  • Stephen Ellis

    Andre Emmerich Gallery

    Stephen Ellis’ recent abstractions recall the work of several other painters of his generation, most strikingly that of David Reed, whose vaguely futuristic color fields are also composed of alkyd and oil, and, like Ellis’, stage lavish quotations of AbEx gestural moves in the form of serpentine swaths of color.

    Beyond these similarities, though, the distinctions between the two may be more revealing. Ellis’ palette is often warm, even hot, while Reed’s is for the most part cool. And where Reed’s serpents of color are given large panels in which to move, Ellis’ are crosshatched and scored by

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  • Bill Schwarz

    John Gibson

    Unlike Haim Steinbach or Jeff Koons, near contemporaries whose work can be seen as part of a tradition of readymades, Bill Schwarz focuses his critical attention not so much on the commodity’s newness but on its obsolescence. In this show, he distributed 12 farm-implement readymades—large-scale machines on the verge of disappearing from the scene of production—throughout the gallery. Although little has a deeper place in the American imagination than farming, the muteness peculiar to the readymade object made it difficult at first to gauge the critical force behind Schwarz’s collection of

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  • Jim Goldberg

    Pace/MacGill Gallery

    Jim Goldberg’s “Raised by Wolves” is an epic in word and image that probes the gap between dreams and reality in the lives of teenage runaways living on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ten years in the making, its complete form includes hundreds of photographs, audio- and videotapes, found objects, documents, transcribed interviews, family pictures, home movies, and handwritten statements by the depicted teenagers. This selection of 45 works was drawn from the larger exhibition recently mounted at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., that will be traveling through 1998.

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  • Rita Ackermann

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Long before slackers and Gen X-ers embraced the emblems of kitsch and abjection, they were wielded by artists as proof of rebellion against the constraints of art-historical tradition. Think of Francis Picabia’s reveling in the déclassé charm of tourist art and girlie magazines; or Sigmar Polke’s channeling, in the ’60s, of “higher beings” who produced canvases that combined mindless doodling with greeting-card art; or, more recently, Mike Kelley’s and Paul McCarthy’s immersion in the scatological.

    It’s such a familiar story that it’s hard to believe many still fall for the gag, taking this kind

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  • Adolph Gottlieb

    Knoedler & Company

    Adolph Gottlieb searched for primordial meaning in the clash of simple geometrical shapes, irradiated with color and sometimes highlighted by a cloudy halo, as well as in his ostensibly spontaneous gestures, often stylized into bonelike, quasi-organic fragments. At the same time, each abstract form in his paintings, by reason of the density of its execution and often opaque color, has a blunt presence and imparts a profound sense of the irrational in itself. The surreal landscape of Black Sun, 1956, is characteristic: rectilinear shapes seem simultaneously carved and molded, hovering in the sky

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  • Peter Campus

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Peter Campus is trying desperately hard to give imaginative consequence to the iridescence of electronic media and cyberspace. But he ends up confirming the stalemate of so much current art: bogged down in a sense of irony and absurdity that have become a kind of smug, vacant hype, he strips the nature he renders of all significance, emptying it not only of its organic veracity and the emotional import we traditionally give it but also of its simple density of presence. The magnified detail and vehement color of bee being, 1994, and scout, 1994, make the predictably disconcerting point succinctly:

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  • Craigie Horsfield

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Mounted in black wooden frames, Craigie Horsfield’s photographs are large (ca. 50-by-40 inches) black and white pictures with a narrow, dark palette. They show: in Barcelona, a bullfight, a soccer field in an industrial area, rooftops, a bar frequented by twenty- to thirty-year-olds, and, a long, low ceramic sink; in Poland, teenagers playing basketball, a handsome woman’s face, a young woman with a printed T-shirt, and a factory worker at her machine, staring into the middle distance; in London, a pretty young woman standing naked in an empty room.

    This could have been a group of faits divers.

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  • Andrea Robbins and Max Becher

    Basilico Fine Arts

    Andrea Robbins and Max Becher take charmingly deadpan, documentary-style photographs in which seemingly nothing much happens, but, in fact, a lot does. Take the series about cigars: seven photos of nearly identical ends of cigars, complete with nearly identical bands. There are two cigars in each frame, laid side by side, as if for the purpose of comparison; there’s also a framed text that goes along with the photos, explaining, in the same deadpan style, that these images juxtapose Cuban and Cuban-exile versions of various cigar brands. Another, equally deadpan, series depicts fossilized dinosaur

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  • Stephen Rosenthal

    Stark Gallery

    The four paintings and four works on paper in this show would appear to represent the most attenuated evolution of lyrical abstraction. Reminiscent of a certain aspect of Cy Twombly’s work (where what Roland Barthes called “the purity of fact” is paradoxically related to “dirtying” activities), the paintings are pale, almost colorless at first glance, an approximation of the blank canvas that has been described as one of the limits of Modernist painting. Each expanse of off-white appears featureless except for a few scattered smudges or spots of equivocal color—slippery orange/pinks or green/grays,

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  • Ariane Lopez-Huici

    AC Project Room

    Photography usually seeks out beauty, whatever one conceives that to be, and also, in one way or another, tries to take possession of it. In the hands of Ariane Lopez-Huici, however, the camera is freed from this sometime pursuit. Her subject retains his or her autonomy, and the work becomes a process of sympathetic collaboration rather than domination.

    All six black and white images in this exhibition portrayed the same extremely overweight woman in a series of playfully theatrical poses, flaunting her own corpulent nudity with a humor and lack of self-consciousness that would be impressive in

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  • Matthew McCaslin

    Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris

    If the natural world seems to have been eaten alive by media culture, Matthew McCaslin would like us to consider the possibility of reclaiming a lost “sublime” experience of nature through video- or television-based technologies. Engineering a return of the repressed, McCaslin gives nature symbolic redemption as the new “sublime” experience of visual simulation by irresistibly dovetailing rank organicism and lush spectacle.

    In an earlier installation, Bloomer, 1995, McCaslin used time-lapse photography to record the blossoming of flowers, then accelerated the footage to an unnatural velocity,

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  • Sybil Andrews

    Mary Ryan Gallery

    The British linocut movement, led by artist Claude Flight, a teacher at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, took shape in the wake of World War I. Inspired by Flight’s view of the linoleum block print as a populist medium, a group of artists began producing ingenious woodcutlike designs that drew on Art Deco and Italian Futurism. Unlike the Vorticists of the ’teens, who worked primarily in an abstract vein, the linocut artists depicted recognizable, popular subjects—straphangers in the London underground, scenes of the British countryside, and sporting events. The movement flourished

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