reviews

  • Nan Goldin

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    There can be little doubt that Nan Goldin has over the last decade become a cultural and commercial force majeure. Whether in galleries or museums, Goldin’s dramatically naturalistic pictures of herself, her friends, and their variously charmed and scabrous, festive and tragic lives draw rapt crowds. If The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1981–96, the artist’s evolving slide-show-set-to-music, is on the program, a fervor of expectancy seems to permeate the environment as viewers—many of them young, many looking like would-be members of Goldin’s elective bohemian “family”—flock into a dark sanctuary

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  • Gerhard Richter

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    This large exhibition presented almost half of the one hundred “private” and “intimate” paintings Gerhard Richter exhibited at the Carré d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes in early 1996. Comprising primarily small- and medium-size canvases made in 1995 and 1996, the show in New York included a wide range of abstract paintings (virtually juxtaposing austere, geometrically structured canvases and grandly expressive, multichromatic tableaux), as well as photo-realistic still lifes, a broad vista of Jerusalem, several receding pastoral landscapes, two portraits of Richter’s wife reading (both entitled “

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  • Jim Shaw

    Metro Pictures

    Jim Shaw’s recent show, “The Sleep of Reason,” revealed no major change in direction—once again, the work was made up of dream fragments—it just covered a lot more territory. With over ninety individual pieces, the gallery was filled to capacity with a little of everything: paintings (oil and otherwise), drawings (comic-book style and other genres), some mixed-media sculpture, looming large on the floor, and even a T-shirt (worn, according to the title, by some Nazi hooligans in a hotel). Stylistically, too, the show ran the gamut: Richter-style plaid oil paintings; oil paintings in an ersatz

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  • Joseph Marioni

    Peter Blum Gallery

    In a statement prepared for this exhibition, Joseph Marioni declared that “we are about 80% through this transition [from pictorial representation to concrete actualization] in a period known as abstraction.” If this argument about the historical necessity of what Marioni calls “concrete painting”—painting “determined by the perceptual structure of its materials” rather than the “compositional hierarchy of narrative picture-language”—is true, then he is only 80 percent a concrete painter, for the drips in some of these dense monochromes, while certainly neither compositional nor pictorial, convey

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  • Howard Ben Tré

    Charles Cowles Gallery

    Howard Ben Tré’s sculptures consistently involve a luminous, cast-glass bottle set within a patinaed metal frame. The two are somehow reconciled yet ingeniously at odds: the bottle is curved, and the curves project on both sides beyond the flat frame. The effect is that of an archaic abstract figure, hieratic and ultrarefined, that stands ceremonially in space as though to mark it with a feminine plenitude—an odd amalgam of the Venus of Willendorf and a Cycladic figure (in fact, the curved bottle and flat frame seems to form an emblem of prelapsarian sexual union). Indeed, Ben Tré calls his

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  • Rochelle Feinstein

    Max Protetch

    Rochelle Feinstein’s paintings can be complex, contradictory, and full of rowdy visual cacophony. Or they can be simple, obvious, even dumb. In neither case are they easy to ignore. These works undoubtedly eschew whatever remains of the desire for something “purely” visual or optical in “abstract painting”; they clearly assume, and at times proclaim, a semiotic and discursive model for their own activity. But that does not mean—even, perhaps especially when they are at their most obvious—that they accept an ideal of communicative clarity or declamatory certainty. Rather, their effect is to

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  • Leon Polk Smith

    Jason McCoy Gallery

    “Geometrical abstraction” often tends toward the iconic. It seeks reduction to a contemplative essence that can monopolize the viewer’s attention. Such works—Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, for instance—rebuff close hanging, all the more so when it comes to similar works by a single artist. So perhaps Leon Polk Smith had a point to make by crowding two not-very-large rooms with no less than sixteen substantial paintings (some of them already seen at his 1995–96 retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum) made between 1990 and 1994, for what sadly turned out to be the last solo show of his life. These

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  • Anne Walsh

    Casey Kaplan

    How does she say she’s sorry? Let me count the ways. There’s a compassionate, thoughtful “I’m sorry,” bottom lip tense, gaze slightly sidelong, and afterward a conciliatory near smile. There’s a firm “I’m sorry,” resolute, direct, with a finalizing nod, but the whole, perhaps, as if trapped and forced to ’fess up. There’s a hesitant, lip-chewing “I’m sorry,” backed up by a sympathetic head move; a resentful “I’m sorry,” postponed by looking down, then up, then down again, then up again; and then there’s “God I’m sorry.” And “I’m sorry.” There’s a frowning, guilty-looking “I’m sorry,” and an “

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  • Matthew Ritchie

    Basilico Fine Arts

    With protagonists named Azazel, Penemue, and Mulciber locked in explosive battles against unseen forces and assuming, after death, other forms in new places, Matthew Ritchie’s paintings and drawings combine the visionary violence of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience with the high-action antics of a Power Rangers video. Entitled “The Hard Way,” this exhibition of seven paintings also included glossaries, character outlines, and a chart. How else to remember the names of the seven characters that Ritchie calls “watchers” and seven planets that the British-born, New York–based artist

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  • Liliana Porter

    Monique Knowlton Gallery

    In a ’70s painting by Argentine modernist Antonio Berni, a showy bride, rendered in oil, shares the foreground with a phantasmagoric groom in gray and blue tones, as if reality and remembrance could merge and steal the scene. Liliana Porter’s recent photographic series gives a similar impression. Such an observation is doubtless rather odd: separated as they are by time and genre, there’s no obvious reason to link Porter’s photographs to Berni’s work. What prompts me to make such a comparison is that the characters in Porter’s photographs are, for the most part, mass-produced toys, and thus

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  • Carolee Schneemann

    New Museum

    The modest, low-budget retrospective accorded Carolee Schneemann by the New Museum, and squeezed into the front half of its space, spanned four decades and ranged from early gestural paintings and boxlike assemblages to multimedia performance, films, and recent installation pieces. It was a first. Never before has a museum acknowledged Schneemann by presenting a comprehensive exhibition of her work. Never before have we had an opportunity to experience the breadth of Schneemann’s artistic activity and to consider the complexity of her “transformative actions,” which chart a path from Surrealism

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  • William Wood

    Linda Kirkland Gallery

    In his grisaille, abstract paintings (all works 1996), William Wood manipulates liquid oil paint with fingers and found objects to create furrows, blobs, and convoluted planes that simulate photographic depth (including subtle touches of reflected light) but retain their character as drips and trails of paint. A curling stroke resembling David Reed’s becomes a Piranesian space; a dragged, Richteresque surface appears convex, like a melting ice floe or globs of mercury. Other canvases suggest cells and body tissues viewed through an electron microscope.

    According to a recent catalogue essay by

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  • Les Levine

    Alternative Museum

    This survey of recent works by Les Levine covered the artist’s major projects since 1989, mostly the “media campaigns” (as he has called them) that he has waged with billboards. Send Receive, for example, consisted of 2.50 billboards erected in Vienna in 1994, each with the same image of a man and a woman kissing (this work won the Gustav Klimt prize for outdoor advertising in the same year). In Mask Change, See Face (a similarly sized 1995 installation in Bursa, Turkey), the billboards were in pairs, one showing an extreme closeup of the lower part of a man’s face, the other a frontal view of

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  • “The Subverted Object”

    Ubu Gallery

    Most of the forty-eight pieces in this survey of Dada- and Surrealist-derived sculpture (generally from the ’60s to the ’90s) represent everyday objects and are made largely out of the objects themselves: a mirror coated with silver paint (Bertrand Lavier, Mirror, 1986); a pair of worn high heels partly wrapped in plastic and tied together with twine (Christo, Wrapped Shoes of Jeanne-Claude, 1962); a globe coated with gray soil (Vik Muniz, Terra Incognita, 1996); a red dial phone whose earpiece is a hand drill (Richard Tipping, Drill-a-Phone, 1990); two furled umbrellas covered with shiny,

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  • Michael Madore

    Bridges & Bodell

    Until now, Michael Madore’s work has appeared mainly in group shows held under the dubious rubric of Outsider art, with which it seems to share merely a tendency to a totemic use of animals, such as snakes and marsupials, as well as to “manic,” jittery, doodle-like lines that swarm over the picture plane and onto a drawn frame. Shot through with allusions to cult films, art history, and coterie fiction, the seventeen ink drawings in his first one-person show, “Secret Sender 6000,” are, if anything, “insider art”—that is, art plain and simple. The title, an allusion to beepers used mainly by

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