reviews

  • John Millei

    Ace Gallery

    Should the facile painter be envied or pitied? Perhaps the better question is, Who is to be pitied more, the facile painter who remains imprisoned by his proficiency, luxuriating in its pleasurable trivialities—or the one who feels the constraints his talents impose on his expression, flailing against the bars of style? To his credit, if not his comfort, John Millei clearly belongs among the latter class of artists. There’s something cruel, therefore, in gathering together so much of his production over the last eight years, as this show did. Where a smaller exhibition of a single series might

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  • Eric Fischl

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    The most interesting aspects of an Eric Fischl painting are more often social and psychological than derived from any unusual formal resourcefulness or skill of the hand. In his preparatory studies and works on paper, Fischl’s brushwork can be absorbing, but in his big pictures it is usually only serviceable and sturdy; and as for his visual constructs, they work just fine when serviceable and sturdy, but he seems to like them enough to draw attention to them with multipanel contraptions and exaggerated perspectival surprises. The best of these works supply a sense of panoramic social overview

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  • Martin Kersels

    Jay Gorney Modern Art

    Martin Kersels’ recent series, “Tossing a Friend,” 1996, consists of a group of color photographs that feature the artist hurling people through the air in sunny California landscapes. Much has already been made in the art press of Kersels’ exceedingly massive frame (tall, wide, and overweight), and to some extent these pictures might be understood as meditations on a physical state usually considered abnormal. Like those portly comedians (John Belushi and John Candy, for example) who redeemed their size and weight through burlesque gestures, Kersels may seek to empower himself by throwing back

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  • “Boliw: Shrine Figures of the Bamana, Mali”

    Peter Blum Gallery

    The Boliw are the most sacred of the magical objects in the Bamana culture of Mali. Utilized in each village by a secret society of elders, these spooky little bovinelike fetishes are said to embody forces, hold court, pass judgment, and extract punishment. They are regarded as tyrants, and on them all social force depends. Villages steal one another’s Boliw to sap their strength, for a village without Boliw is, as a Bamana saying goes, a village in chaos.

    Haunting, seemingly “other,” the Boliw are composed of a remarkable set of materials: around a central core, layers are built up of bits of

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  • Dawoud Bey

    David Beitzel Gallery

    Emotion has been the theme of Dawoud Bey’s work since his early pictures of everyday life on the streets of Harlem, Mexico, and Puerto Rico (ca. 1975–85). The best of these black and white studies, taken with a 35-mm camera, are distinguished by close observation of, and measured sympathy for, moments of ordinary feeling that transform a passing stranger into the hero of his section of sidewalk, or turn the street into landscape. Bey’s sensibility is attuned equally to sparks of laughter, the melancholy of waiting, and the intensity that quickens a step or lengthens a stride.

    Since 1991, Bey has

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  • Rudi Tröger

    Nolan/Eckman

    In Rudi Tröger’s very Germanic portraits, a traditional sense of objectivity is curiously blended with the artist’s suggestively subjective treatment. Tröger’s figures remain recognizable in their social presence, but they are at times saturated in atmosphere, making for a peculiarly ethereal effect, or blurred to the point of seeming abstract. Thus, if never as ruthlessly clear and detailed as, say, the work of Otto Dix or George Grosz, there are portraits that tilt toward empirical description, for example, Bildnis A. (Picture A., 1970–71), and Bildnis S., 1985–86, portraits of children, from

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  • Gabriel Orozco

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    The words “Constructivism and Existentialism” could be discerned through the blur of text and images that comprised the small “drawings” (all 1992–95) hanging in the back gallery, a space dominated by a striking, oval-shaped billiard table. Some of the collages featured textual fragments—excerpts from daily newspapers or trade publications—others, images of domestic interiors culled from professional catalogues and decorating magazines, which were then covered with drawn or painted circular and oval shapes. In the front gallery, a similar combination of figurative images and formal shapes existed.

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  • Lisa Yuskavage

    Marianne Boesky Gallery

    Five chalk-white cast-Hydrocal figurines of grotesquely infantilized women with bulbous boobs, bloated bellies, and ballooning asses each strike their own lewd pose. No, this motley crew is not a Franklin Mint series in honor of Larry Flynt, it’s the latest cast of characters to spring from Lisa Yuskavage’s twisted psyche—her statuettes The Bad Habits: Asspicking, Foodeating, Headshrinking, Socialclimbing, Motherfucker, 1996. In the past Yuskavage has tested the limits of good bad taste by painting eroticized prepubescent girls’ heads, fleshy blondes in bikinis, fat-bottomed girls, and a busty

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  • Renée Green

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    Renée Green’s most recent installation, Partially Buried, 1996, worked both sides of Walter Benjamin’s well-worn dictum: “Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things.” Both sides, for Green’s installation functioned at once as an allegory of the current status and effectiveness of “site-specific” practices as well as a complex documentation of an actual art-historical ruin, Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed, 1970. Constructed as an illustration of the process of entropy, Smithson dumped earth on a woodshed standing on the Kent State University campus

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  • Angus Fairhurst and Lothar Hempel

    Anton Kern Gallery

    Angus Fairhurst’s and Lothar Hempel’s two-person show drew much of its energy from its location: not only from the optimism represented by a brand-new gallery, but from the chameleon energy of SoHo, now filled with gourmet shops, high-end boutiques, and pedestrian-glutted sidewalks, which has prompted many dealers to relocate to relatively quiet Chelsea.

    Fairhurst’s installation, consisting of remnants from a performance by the artist’s band, Low Expectations, was completely adrift as sculpture, or even as art for that matter, much in the way the artifacts of early Happenings made relatively

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  • Ken Jacobs

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Ken Jacobs reduces cinema to its essential ingredients, creating “film-performances” that are at once seductive and radically disorienting. A veteran Modernist who studied painting with Hans Hofmann before becoming a filmmaker, Jacobs is best known for influential avant-garde works such as Blonde Cobra, 1958–63—which reworked footage from an unfinished film starring Jack Smith—and Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son, 1969, an extended, revelatory examination of a ten-minute 1905 film from the Edison studios based on a nursery rhyme. The making of Tom, Tom (which Jacobs described as “a frantic dig to and

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  • Randy Wray

    Kagan Martos

    In previous exhibitions, Randy Wray’s pastiches of abstract motifs, lowbrow images, and homespun crafts (needlepoint, cake decorating, macaroni painting) seemed gratuitously chaotic, as if the artist couldn’t decide what to leave out. In his most recent show, he isolated specific images and techniques in paintings that are leaner and more elegant. Although the show included a number of large works, its focal point was an eye-popping, wall-sized grid composed of thirty-six 20-by-16-inch canvases.

    Across the expanse of the grid (which becomes a kind of megapainting), certain motifs recur: vibrantly

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  • Henri Cartier-Bresson

    Equitable Center

    This show of more than 100 works by Henri Cartier-Bresson comes as something of a revelation to those who associate the artist with images of life overseas. The photographer’s inimitable style has been applied here to territory more readily associated with American photographers from Walker Evans to Gary Winogrand, particularly in the road trip Cartier-Bresson took from New York to Los Angeles and back in 1947. The show may tell us less about America, however, than it does about Cartier-Bresson: the evolution of his light-handed style, and his consistent preoccupation with humanist themes.

    With

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  • Zingaro

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

    Zingaro’s Chimère (Chimera, 1996) the recent large-scale “equestrian theater” production presented as part of BAM’s “Next Wave Festival,” sought to stage a hybrid cultural form combining circus act, dance, and performance art. Held in a tent erected in Battery Park City at the margins of Manhattan (much as Renaissance London theaters, prisons, and hospitals were built outside the city’s walls), the production immersed itself in the cachet of exclusion, precisely in order to elevate a mass-cultural form to the arena of high culture.

    Distinctions between high and low, center and margin, nature and

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