reviews

  • Keith Haring

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The cranky reaction of certain critics to the Keith Haring retrospective—in The New Yorker, Kurt Andersen remarked that Haring’s “barking dogs, glowing babies, and jaunty everypeople are not much more than pleasant downtown wallpaper”—is reminiscent of the kind of response “serious” people usually reserve for bubblegum music. Like, say, the unapologetically feel-good, populist confections of teen sensation Hanson, whose ubiquitous “MMMBop,” was a Top Ten hit the week that the Whitney show opened. Had Haring been alive today, instead of dead from AIDS in 1990 at what now seems like the impossibly

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  • Tony Smith

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Tony Smith’s Moondog, 1964, consists of extended polyhedral columns (the “legs” are octahedral; the top, tetrahedral) assembled in a structure that, according to the artist, “relates to Japanese and Korean lanterns.” Though Smith envisioned it at its current size—approximately seventeen feet high—the piece was originally three feet tall and only realized in its full scale after Smith’s death. Moondog is an elaborate, almost labyrinthine combination of form and volume; internal and external elements are fused in complex geometric configurations. Unlike most of Smith’s earlier pieces, which tended

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  • Stephan Balkenhol

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    Stephan Balkenhol revives the medieval genre of painted, hand-carved wooden sculpture in order to create contemporary allegories. Like religious figures in cathedrals, his Urfiguren are public monuments with a moral message and a startling, peculiarly morbid vivacity. In Untitled (Three Small Men) [all works 1997], the figures strike poses that represent “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” The parallel Untitled (Three Large Men) shows three good men. The first stands at attention with his arms at his sides and his legs pressed tightly together; the second at ease, his legs apart, his

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  • Thomas Schütte

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Though Thomas Schütte and Stephan Balkenhol have much in common—they have been “competitors” since each was chosen for the 1987 “Münster Sculpture Project”—Schütte has stridently disputed any link to Balkenhol’s sculpture. He regards it as repetitive and untheoretical, as Neal Benezra notes in a 1995 catalogue essay that accompanied Balkenhol’s show at the Hirshhorn that same year. And yet Schütte’s series “Die Fremden” (The strangers, 1992) has a certain affinity with Balkenhol’s figures: both artist’s sculptures are allegorical and expressionist, although Schütte’s are more conspicuously

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  • Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Sonnabend Gallery

    In Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes, action, what there is of it, transpires in the subtle play between opposites. In each photograph, change and stasis, clarity and fog, detail and totality oscillate, creating a theater of “non-happening,” what the artist calls “time exposed.” With a few significant departures, this show represented a continuation of Sugimoto’s ongoing photographic series, begun in the mid ’70s, in which images are produced by leaving the camera shutter open for as long as three hours, allowing the passage of time to coalesce into the single moment a still photograph purports to

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  • “The Crystal Stopper”

    Lehmann Maupin | New York, W 24 Street

    In the ’80s, both the art market and the institutions that supported it expressed a sudden interest in the marginal, embracing a plethora of critical viewpoints on race, class, and gender. What was political and social in art was also what made it relevant and hence “real.” But with the recent move away from “multiculturalism” toward “globalization,” the affirmation of difference has been shown to mask a propensity to traffic in stereotypes, raising oddly nagging questions. Is there really an “African-American” or “Latino” art? Are “artists of color” required to speak about ethnic experience?

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  • Perry Hoberman

    Postmasters

    As noted in another publication, the title of Perry Hoberman’s recent show, “Sorry We’re Open,” wryly commented on the flight of many galleries from SoHo and on the neighborhood’s ongoing mall-ification. But if the SoHo crowd is shifting from cutting-edge cognoscenti to middle-of-the-road suburbanites, then so much the better for Hoberman. His latest installation not only addressed the workaday lives of the latter—remarkable enough in itself—but was actually accessible and populist, as opposed to snide and ironic.

    A mutant version of the most average office imaginable, “Sorry We’re Open” was not

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  • James White and Tim Sheward

    Casey Kaplan

    Just do it. That’s what Nike says. James White and Tim Sheward—former assistants to another British art duo, Gilbert & George—heard, and were moved to create a sweet little homage to that ongoing Brit obsession, the trainer (known stateside as athletic shoes). Dubbed “Plastic Picnic,” the piece consists of twelve lifesize polyurethane foam bendy figures, anthropomorphic versions of Gumby, on a platform about the same size and shape as a boxing ring; in keeping with the cheapo childhood-toy theme, the figures tend to be kind of ragged around the edges, as if the molds didn’t quite match up. Decked

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  • James Hyde

    Paolo Baldacci Gallery

    Like Donald Judd before him, James Hyde strategically shifts the terrain of painting from that of a surface (normally a rectangle) to that of a volume (that is, a box). Unlike his celebrated predecessor, Hyde seems wedded to the idea that this redefined three-dimensional thing should retain its identity as painting. His success in bringing off this revisionist recuperation of Minimalism has been dependent on his mediation of the chancy interaction between the rigidity of the box (now far more active than the mere “support” of the stretched canvas) and the fluidity of its contents. Hyde’s

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  • Marilyn Minter

    Xavier Laboulbenne Gallery

    In Marilyn Minter’s new paintings “cosmetics” is the metaphorical terrain on which feminist interests (the representation of women, the topos of “the beauty myth”) and pictorial questions intersect. But more conspicuous are the issues concerning these works’ structure as paintings. Is “painting” a verb or a noun, a way of doing or a way of seeing things? The debate is joined by two works from 1996. In Dye-Job a woman’s head, cloaked in deep shadow à la Eugene Carrière, looks downward as a blue-handled brush comes in from the upper left to magically paint a swathe of her hair bright blonde. The

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  • Andrea Robbins & Max Becher

    Basilico Fine Arts

    There can be no doubt about the incisive precision—worthy of the best work of Walker Evans—with which Andrea Robbins & Max Becher edited and sequenced their latest collaboration, a 1994 series of scarcely thirteen photographs of the concentration camp at Dachau. Since 1986, the two have positioned their projects within the vocabulary of documentary and Neue Sachlichkeit photography while critiquing the legacies of both; investigating the tensions between word and image, they continually turn for subject matter to the intersection of global tourism and the increasing desire for an aesthetic of

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  • “Narrative Urge”

    Lombard-Fried Projects

    Though curator Catsou Roberts’ stated aim in “Narrative Urge” was to present work that compelled the viewer to “assembl[e] the narrative fragments and assign meaning within the structure of the work,” this goal immediately ran into problems with the genealogical anchor for the show, Victor Burgin’s Love Stories #2, 1996. Here, three video monitors on elegant plinths presented what read as surveillance footage of quotidian activities. Each loop eventually faded out to a screen of saturated color, at which point a fragment of audio material from different Hollywood films—a female protagonist’s

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  • Nadezda Prvulovic

    Art et Industrie

    Entitled “United,” this engaging exhibition comprised six monumental gouaches on paper on canvas selected from Nadezda Prvulovic’s series of paintings depicting steel blast furnaces. The series, which dates from the early ’80s, was inspired by a glimpse of the abandoned melting cauldrons that dot the outskirts of the French industrial town of Thionville which the artist once passed through. In 1984, when Yugoslavian-born Prvulovic settled in the United States, the specific locations depicted in the first paintings in this series became more generic evocations of the machine age. Recalling Bernd

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  • Mimi Smith

    Anna Kustera Gallery

    Cross Meret Oppenheim with Barbara Kruger and you come real close to the acute feminism of Mimi Smith’s art of apparel. A welcome reprise of the excellent survey curated three years ago by Judith Tannenbaum at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art, this recent exhibition of Smith’s sculpture and painting from the ’60s to the present began with her “teacups,” early sculptures that have so often served as textbook examples of “feminist art,” and that were to overshadow the next thirty years of her career. (Oppenheim suffered a similar fate—until the Guggenheim’s recent survey proved how

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  • Claude Wampler

    P.S. 122

    One of the more interesting performances this season was Claude Wampler’s Blanket, The Surface of Her, not only because this thirty-one-year-old artist comes to the stage with training in numerous performance techniques—ballet, Butoh, opera, acting—but also because she knows obsessively well the work of her peers in contemporary art. The result was a polished, ninety-minute work that is truly of the moment in the way it captures the aesthetic mood of the present, particularly its high-fashion photographic quality and its languorous sexuality.

    The concept behind Blanket began with a device that

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