reviews

  • Ilya Kabakov

    Entrance to Ilya Kabakov’s exhibits is always carefully choreographed. At the Barbara Gladstone Gallery you found yourself caught in a trembling gray curtain as you entered the space. At the Whitney Biennial you passed through a very squeaky door—an obscure object of Soviet nostalgia—the sound of it opening and closing punctuating the slide shows of family snapshots intended as therapy for elderly patients. What interests Kabakov is precisely the threshold between street and museum, trash and art, the disposable and the memorable.

    The Life of Flies, 1992, (first shown at the Kunstverein in Cologne

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  • Andres Serrano

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    When “A History of Andres Serrano/A History of Sex” opened earlier this year at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, the institution proposed an illustrated poster for the exhibition that would be displayed on billboards. The image selected, A History of Sex (Leo’s Fantasy), 1996, shows a woman in a hiked—up skirt, one hand on her hip, the other behind the head of a bare-chested young man, into whose open mouth she’s urinating. Church groups protested. Conservatives lobbied a Dutch court to halt distribution of the poster. Paint bombs were lobbed at the museum’s walls. So much for the

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  • Richard Deacon

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Richard Deacon’s Eight and Nine, both 1997, represent nothing less than the reconstruction of the organic by mechanical means. The result might be called a kind of “biotechnology,” as though the sculptor, like Dr. Frankenstein, had engineered something natural. Deacon’s work shows us that the Modernist separation of the organically created and the artificially constructed—early Constructivism in particular elevated the latter as both emblem of and working method in the brave new world—is false.

    The system determining the ratios among the various sections of Eight and Nine is one of natural

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  • Matvey Levenstein

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Matvey Levenstein’s photo-based paintings address the perennial rivalry between painting and photography in contemporary art, which seems on the surface to have been decided in favor of photography. Who needs the hand of the painter when one can have a machine do the job? Yet if we look less for the truth in appearances, which photography supposedly mediates, than for an imaginative, insightful attitude to them, optimally communicated through the medium itself and presumably implicit in the instruments used to bring it to artistic life, the hand, with its built-in, agile insight, is far more

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  • Luigi Ontani

    Sperone Westwater

    When Bolognese artist Luigi Ontani first began to exhibit, in 1970, his work must have seemed radically surprising in that it was nakedly self-referential. This would have been rare in much cutting-edge ’60s art, with its address of formal, material, and conceptual issues or else, in Pop and its kin, of public culture; and if the painting most prominent in the late ’40s and 50s was often read as expressing or exploring self, it was thought to do so rather impersonally, in a philosophical, existential, literally abstract way. (Even the work of an artist like Jasper Johns, arguably full of

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  • Louise Lawler

    Metro Pictures

    Louise Lawler’s recent show comprised a fabulous body of quasi-conceptual photographs and a collection of objects glass shelves of drinking glasses with words etched on them and more intimately scaled, domed crystal paperweights containing images of artworks—all of which reflected on the presentation, purchase, and sale of art. This, in itself, is nothing new. Lawler, as Craig Owens once put it, displaces critical attention away from individual works of art and onto their institutional frames, “thereby presenting, rather than being presented by, the institution.” The photograph A Spot on the

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  • Liam Gillick

    Basilico Fine Arts

    The most striking aspect of Liam Gillick’s recent Discussion Island, 1997, an installation of modular forms, was how liberally he sampled from Minimalism. Gillick’s pristine, freestanding cubes and rectangular boxes, as well as his panels and a lighting grid, all hung high and parallel to the ceiling, instantly recalled Donald Judd’s “primary structures.” They are, after all, simply planes and solids. Like many of Judd’s constructions, which play form against function and hinge on a complex relation to sculpture, furniture, and architecture, Gillick’s objects are predicated on conditional or

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  • Nancy Rubins

    Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue

    After nearly a century of readymades and bricolage, the cultural resonance of trash is well established. Debris is both abject and talismanic: it represents not only what is thrown away but what remains, and a successful bricoleur like Nancy Rubins can make these qualities function simultaneously. In this show, presenting two sculptural installations of junked airplane parts, Rubins set herself devilish problems in gravity and suspension. But she also commented on the balance between waste and salvage, machismo and vulnerability.

    The more impressive of the two sculptures, a lofty, shattered arc,

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  • Saul Fletcher

    Anton Kern Gallery

    In all the hullabaloo about new, airport hangar-like galleries, no one has considered how much they overwhelm quiet work, often formed out of concerns for intimacy, vulnerability, moments of doubt, and consisting of lovely tiny messes. Small things matter. Saul Fletcher’s beautiful photographs garner a good deal of their poise, tenacity, and air of longing by being rigorously small (often five-by-five inches). His palette is sharp, but soft, as if bled of something, making his images appear pale and assured and completely idiosyncratic. A slightly rusted white door; painted walls in upper and

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  • Doug Aitken

    303 Gallery

    The desert is home to everything from tumbleweed, prairie dogs, and cactus to missile-testing grounds, atomic detonations, nuclear-waste storage, even as some people would have you believe, freeze-dried space aliens. On the one hand it exists in collective mythology as a no-man’s-land, a deterritorialized region of harsh extremes where nature reigns in its rawest form; on the other, it’s a “forbidden zone,” harboring a myriad of secrets in its sandy soil. Doug Aitken’s latest video installation, Diamond Sea, 1997, captures this contradictory nature of the desert by focusing on the Namib, a

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  • Meg Cranston

    Boesky & Callery

    Even after poststructuralism’s contestation of subjectivity and conceptualism’s demolition job on the art object, a stubborn residue remains. For lack of a better term, Meg Cranston calls this residue “soul,” and works at its contours with lyrical wit. Two recent sculptural installations illustrated how Cranston continues to push the bodily envelope of the type of conceptual California scheming with which she has been associated for over a decade. Mind, Body, Soul, 1997, consisted of a large rectangular block of wood, some rope, and a handcart. It was as if everything depended on this red-painted

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  • Steven Pippin

    Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

    Coolly orbiting questions of a technological and existential nature, Steven Pippin’s recent exhibition “Terrestrial TV” charted paths from root to antenna, earth to world, and place to space. The show’s eponymous central installation consisted of an early ’70s color television mounted inside a spherical wooden frame, resting on a tripod-shaped pedestal—a fixture that would normally house a large globe. Instead of a three-dimensional representation, we were shown a flat video image of the earth as seen from space. It was a moving picture, the television itself hooked up to a mechanism that caused

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  • Archie Rand

    Paolo Baldacci Gallery

    Archie Rand has always emphasized the fact that his education included both Color Field and realist painting, and that his friendship with Philip Guston taught him something about how the two might be mingled without being synthesized. At the same time, Rand’s vocabulary encompasses both the raucously disruptive nonsense of cartoons and mural painting’s rhetoric of high-minded collective address. In that sense he has less in common with many of the painters who emerged, as he did, in the ’70s than with those of the ’30s—he may be less like alumni of CalArts than those of the WPA, even if his

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  • Jack Risley

    Postmasters

    Previously, Jack Risley’s work could reasonably be described as Donald Judd-by-way-of-Richard-Tuttle Minimalism. He used (among other things) stacked cardboard boxes and cheapo blankets in various pastels to create objects that simultaneously evoked Judd’s bottom-line corporate aesthetic and Tuttle’s obsessive fragility. Along the way, he also managed to load a good deal more affect into his empties than did either of these artists: Risley’s work was more about psychological states than philosophical ones. This time out, he’s turned his hand to the construction of elegantly half-baked mechanisms:

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  • “Young and Restless”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    When Jean-Luc Godard showed producers a rough cut of his film Le Mépris (Contempt, 1963), featuring megastar Brigitte Bardot, they were aghast to find the film devoid of nudity and demanded scenes with “BB” in the buff. Godard complied but used distancing devices that included colored filters. While heightening the spectator’s awareness of Bardot’s status as a commodity—a status echoed in the film’s tragic narrative—the filters also rendered her body an integral part of a color scheme at once hypermodern and classical. Based on Contempt, Cheryl Donegan’s Line, 1996, does not, the artist maintains,

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  • Jennifer Monson

    The Kitchen

    As a dance form, contact improvisation has always been something of a cult. Since its inception in the mid ’60s, its followers—performers and audiences alike—have remained a tight-knit group who understand its basic purpose as a research tool for discovering new, untutored movements. “Falling,” “releasing,” “trusting,” “touching”—words strung together like worry beads—represent the core vocabulary as well as the spirit of the beliefs on which these collaborative performances have always been based. Like improvisation in jazz, the thrill of shaping the unexpected has always driven contact-improvisation

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