reviews

  • Richard Artschwager

    Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea

    It’s a wonderful idea: take a seemingly mundane, nondescript subject—potatoes—and treat it in a grand formal manner. The potato is, of course, a proverbial staple of life—one only has to think of the Irish potato famine—as well as a symbol of shit. Richard Artschwager’s genius in these paintings is to mine such imagery while formally treating potatoes as a collection of so many eccentrically textured shapes. After all, the potato is as likely a module as Carl Andre’s Hartford boulders, and while Artschwager’s spuds aren’t arranged in neat rows, the effect is the same—an (unwitting?) satire

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  • Mark Tansey

    Curt Marcus Gallery

    Despite some positive advance press, Mark Tansey’s recent show was quite poorly received. How did he become a public enemy? He is producing pretty much the same work now that he has for years. His technique and approach have changed little (too little, perhaps), and if there is anything wrong with them it has been wrong for a while.

    When Tansey emerged, though, in the early ’80s, he surfed a pair of incoming tides: the refreshment of painting (and of representational imagemaking in general) and the interest in theory, two strong currents in ’80s art. The combination hit. On the one hand,

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  • Jessica Craig-Martin and Lucas Michael

    Boesky & Callery

    Though Jessica Craig-Martin and Lucas Michael were billed as a team, there wasn’t much evidence of collaboration in this recent show of their photography. “Each artist claims authorship to their [sic] respective series,” the press release noted, and Craig-Martin’s thirty-five medium-format prints from New York’s nightlife circuit, covering three gallery walls, were neatly set off from Michael’s nineteen photos (closer to the domestic front in subject matter), which occupied the other two walls. While this allowed for convenient comparisons between the public and the private realms, it made the

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  • Peggy Preheim

    Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

    There is something inherently obsessive about miniature portraits—an exquisite, hyperfocused sort of scrutiny that shrinks a presumably full-scale beloved to pocket-size—and it is this quality that animates Peggy Preheim’s recent show of thirty-seven pencil miniatures made between 1993 and 1997. In this album of intimate distortions and meticulous fantasies, each image measures just a few inches across, floating in the milky void of an 18-by-15-inch sheet of paper. The portraits are richly worked and tonally varied, built up with tiny strokes that disappear into a seamless photographic illusion.

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  • Tacita Dean

    The Drawing Room, The Drawing Center

    As a filmmaker who also works with the tools of drawing, Tacita Dean’s interest lies with the liminal potential of the storyboard: incomplete, evocative, suggesting a visual narrative bigger than it can contain. Unlike the film still, which is finished and looks backward, signifying a real but absent whole, the storyboard is a seed-idea, a blueprint. In Dean’s recent installation of seven chalkboard drawings—which together formed one integrated work, The Roaring Forties: Seven Boards in Seven Days, 1997—the artist sketched an epic tale with ephemeral means, a narrative whose cast and setting

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  • Elliott Puckette

    Kasmin Gallery | 515 27th Street

    The whole basis for Elliott Puckette’s manner of painting—it cannot yet be called a style—lies in the “paraph,” the apparently decorative flourish added to the signature of a formal document, “originally,” as the OED tells us, “as a kind of precaution against forgery.” In Puckette’s work, this evocation of a nonrepresentational element in writing (on which Sigmar Polke, too, once based a group of paintings) has been accompanied by a reversal of expectations about how writing should appear. Against a black or colored ground, the figure is white, formed by scraping away from a wash of color over

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  • Joanne Greenbaum

    D'Amelio Terras

    With her debut solo exhibition, Joanne Greenbaum bolsters drawing’s claim as a privileged field of operations for contemporary artists. Not that her works don’t cut it as paintings: the salon scale, brilliant use of color, and commanding compositions of these seven abstractions (all works 1996), all untitled oils on canvas, not only speak to the artist’s accomplishments as a painter, but, in their lack of addenda (sculptural, photographic, textual, or otherwise) evince a decided dedication to the medium. Yet the innovative quality of Greenbaum’s work has everything to do with drawing and its

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  • Max Estenger

    Steffany Martz

    Max Estenger’s recent exhibition was heavy on the one-liners: a framed announcement for Dan Flavin’s installation at the Calvin Klein store, equipped with a fluorescent “painting light”; an inflatable ottoman stuffed with a shredded Bible; aluminum panels imprinted with photos of Ted Kazcynski’s cabin and Harry Helmsley’s crypt. In Great Looking Hair (GLH Formula) (all works 1997), a line of clear plastic, wall-mounted domes conjured the space-age Minimalism of Donald Judd or Larry Bell, but the monochromatic earth colors (black, light brown, auburn, silver, and so on) coating the insides of

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  • Denyse Thomasos

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    Using a flat brush an inch or so in width, Denyse Thomasos applies bands of thinned-down acrylic paint to canvas in a relentless crisscrossing motion, building up dense, kaleidoscopic records of the process. The hatching is loose and gestural in her small-scale works, but as the paintings become larger (up to 10 by 16 feet), the grids grow stiffer, even volumetric, suggesting rows of stylized buildings. Some of her lines are uncannily straight, as if made by a monomaniacal sign painter, while others are erratic, leaving drips that complicate (and energize) the skewed cubic forms.

    Compared to

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  • Guram Tsibakh

    Joyce Goldstein Gallery

    After falling down the rabbit-hole at the beginning of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the heroine’s initial, bemused comment is “Dear, dear! How queer everything is today! And yesterday things went on just as usual.” Georgian artist Guram Tsibakh (Tsibakhashvili) twice quoted these words in his series of black and white photographs titled after Lewis Carroll’s classic tale. The first time they accompanied a work that juxtaposes a close-up shot of a dilapidated wall, half in shadow with a patch of fresh paint in the middle and a portrait of a fellow Georgian artist Gia Edzgveradze posed against

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  • Peggy Ahwesh

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    An irreverent mix of work by artists ranging from Pier Paolo Pasolini to the Electric Prunes, Peggy Ahwesh’s series “Girls Beware” was a retrospective of sorts, but one in which she juxtaposed her own work with film, video, and audio pieces that have inspired her over the years. This approach was particularly appropriate, since Ahwesh’s multilayered films and videos deploy a variety of materials, genres, narrative modes, and appropriative strategies. She often favors fugitive genres: for example, her “microcultural studies of friends and family”—such as Martina’s Playhouse (1989), The Pittsburgh

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