reviews

  • Damien Hirst

    Gagosian Gallery | 104 Delancey Street

    Entering Damien Hirst’s first major major New York show, one notices at some point that Gagosian’s downtown gallery, designed by Richard Gluckman and rotely touted as “one of the most beautiful spaces in SoHo,” looks awful. Gluckman’s design, expensive and echt-’80s though it may be, never announces itself but rather recedes, so that “important” artwork may without rancor or dissension command the podium. Damien Hirst fucks this up. Rather than a chapel, Hirst transforms this elegant space into a carnival ground; we are treated to an arcade and freak shows. The pieces seem to jostle each other

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  • “Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities”

    The Jewish Museum

    The small room that served as the entrance to “Too Jewish?” contained: Deborah Kass’ Triple Silver Yentl (My Elvis), 1992, a sly homage to Warhol’s “Elvis” series in which Streisand packs a Talmud instead of a pistol, flanked on the right by two vintage Barbies and a Midge doll, and on the left by a female mannequin, resplendent in Jean Paul Gaultier’s faux-fur hat with synthetic pais. This immersion in popular culture was both surprising and welcome. It didn’t seem to matter that Gaultier’s 1993 Hasidic line never worked for me; that my response to Streisand posing as a young Talmudic student

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  • Jim Dine

    PaceWildenstein 22

    Although the title of Jim Dine’s recent show, “Some Greeks, Some Romans,” refers straightforwardly enough to the classical sculptures that are the objects of study in this suite of 150 works on paper, the subtitle, “A Drawing,” implies a stronger claim to significance than the literally more correct plural would have. Dine invites us to see everything here as an entity, and not merely as a collection—an invitation easy enough to accept, since these fiercely worked, sometimes richly chromatic sheets contain so little of the sketchy or the simply notational and seem pervaded by a single effort of

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  • Ghada Amer

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    An Egyptian-born artist living in Paris, Ghada Amer reminds us forcefully what it means to say that art transcends its subject: this transcendence is a refinement, a distillation taken to such a degree as to become indistinguishable from excess. At one level, Amer’s work can be described easily enough, and in the process of describing it one has the impression of grasping the categories through which her work can be classified and interpreted. She takes stretched canvas (or, in one instance, a blue cotton tablecloth) and “paints” on it by embroidering colored threads, using images taken from

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  • Alex Katz

    Marlborough Gallery | New York

    Because of its breezy subject matter, its cushy use of light, the unobtrusive quality of its facture, Alex Katz’s work has often been characterized as lacking in complexity—safe. It is breeezy, cushy, and unobtrusive, and nothing could be more difficult than what Katz accomplishes: the momentary glance seen before it is gone for good; the dazzle of color hit by light or its depth in shadow; love just this side of becoming something else altogether. For all his couples close enough to touch (Not and Louise, 1995, and Kazem and Ena, 1995) or to converse (Vincent and Vivian, 1995), Katz is enough

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  • Uta Barth

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    Uta Barth takes photographs which, by virtue of being pictures of nothing in particular, manage to be about a great deal indeed. The pictures are broken down into two different series: either “field” or “ground.” The “Field” series, 1995, (shown at Tanya Bonakdar last spring) comprises photos taken outside; the “Ground” series, 1995–96, (featured at London Projects in June) of pictures taken inside. In the former, Barth (un)focuses on the sort of places you never actually visit, but always pass through on your way somewhere else. So there are scenes of nondescript buildings (with and without

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  • Catherine Opie

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    While Los Angeles–based artist Catherine Opie is best known for her “straight” portraits of decidedly nonstraight, tattooed and scarified, leather gear–equipped men and women, in this show we are presented with a less familiar, but not entirely inconsistent, side of her photographic practice: large-scale, richly coloristic “portraits” of Beverly Hills houses, and diminutively scaled, exquisitely gray-toned platinum prints showing Los Angeles freeways. If, in her figurative works, Opie presents the body’s surface (skin, decoration, style of haircut) as a map on or through which distinctions of

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  • Michel François

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    At first glance, Michel François’ recent exhibition resembled the playroom of an affluent child blessed with an unusual collection of oversized toys. Shiny objects hung from the ceiling, and cushiony surfaces were spread along the ground. Large video monitors sat on the floor in both rooms of the gallery space, while two gigantic, almost Oldenbergian spoons leaned against a wall. Yet if the show as a whole initially seemed to offer a kind of youthful, if precious, fun, on closer inspection the works that comprised it circumscribed the limits of play. Just as an overprotective parent reins in a

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  • Amy Sillman

    Casey Kaplan

    The center of Amy Sillman’s Hindu High School (all works 1996), which crowds the rest of the painting’s images to its sides, is a large orb of yellow—a pool of yellow to dive into, a yellow sun to bake under, or perhaps, given the title’s Hindu reference, some kind of tantric meditational cosmic something-or-other to locate one in spiritual space. Thinly lettered words fanning in from the four corners nourish that notion: “Birth,” “Death,” “Conception,” “Forgetting.” Having declared with this summary that her art will touch the bases of human and of creative life, Sillman smartly leavens ambition

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  • Richard Artschwager

    Julie Saul Gallery

    In Richard Artschwager’s photographs, ordinary materials become psychotic: the grim, intricate surfaces of pseudo-organic substances such as wood-grain Formica or of such natural materials as malachite appear peculiarly unstable. In these images, things seem about to dissolve, even as they maintain their precision: they are subject to invasive inspection, though kept at a safe, “fictional” distance. The photographer can be thought of not simply as a master of ironic illusions, but as a kind of surgeon, particularly when, like Artschwager, he works not only in black and white but in seemingly

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  • Mark Dagley

    Earl McGrath Gallery

    Mark Dagley has long explored the language of painting by playing with both surfaces and supports. He has made torqued monochromes, eccentric shaped canvases, paintings with blocks cut out of them, and wall sculptures of exposed stretcher bars, all with a characteristically wry sensibility. His most recent series of paintings represents something of a departure. Though he continues to raise questions about painting, he now does so without breaking it down into its constituent parts.

    Combining the flat colors and taped-canvas edges of the Washington Color School (Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, and

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  • “The Eye Of The Beholder: Seven Contemporary Swiss Photographers”

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    Writing in The Village Voice at the height of the culture wars in this country, Michael Feingold made a modest proposal that U.S. artists and writers apply en masse for sanctuary in Switzerland. His comment wryly reveals some of the stereotypes Americans reflexively invoke to characterize all things Swiss: cool detachment and political neutrality.

    Stereotypes always obscure more than they reveal. Although “Swiss photography” is generally thought to flow from the reportage of earlier masters such as Werner Bischof and Walter Bosshard, the most emotionally expressive and politically direct (

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  • Adja Yunkers

    The Painting Center

    This rare exhibition of the work of Adja Yunkers, who died in 1984, was an important if modest survey of his art from the last 20 years of his long career. While Larionov, Malevich, the Italian Futurists, and the Mexican muralists figure among the early influences of the Russian-trained Yunkers, the seven paintings and three works on paper in this show demonstrate the degree to which his mature work was informed by postwar developments in abstraction. While formal affinities with the work of artists as diverse as Mark Rothko, Lucio Fontana, and even Yves Klein are evident, the unassuming and

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  • Dominique Figarella

    Caren Golden Fine Art

    French artist Dominique Figarella makes relief paintings out of cast-off materials that are either innately light in hue or painted that way—salmon or pale blue or lime green. One painting consists of strands of pink and green gum that have been chewed then stretched around a support. Another sandwiches tennis balls or pieces of roughly shaped foam between a painted wood support and a sheet of clear Plexiglas, with paint oozing out between object and surface. In a third, Figarella wraps wide flesh-colored bandages around the support, squeezing a dark, bloodlike paint into occasional stains

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  • Lilly Reich

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe were collaborators, friends, and lovers from the mid ’20s to the advent of war in 1938, until Mies fled to the United States, eventually taking his place in the pantheon of Modernist heroes. Yet at the beginning, Reich was as much Mies’ leader as his follower. She had a roaring practice when they met: she was a member of the Werkbund board, an established clothing and textile designer who preached a reduced, Modernist esthetic, and an exhibition designer whose work was known abroad: her Werkbund show “The Applied Arts” was held at the Newark Museum in 1922.

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