reviews

  • Karen Finley

    Fotouhi Cramer Gallery / P.S. 122

    Karen Finley, force of nature. If you saw her in an ’80s performance club you might have called her that, so powerful was she—but then you’d quickly have felt ridiculous, because it was her particular brilliance to see through any behavioral straitjacket imagined for her, or for women generally, and to dynamite it on the spot. Whether scripted or ad-libbed, spoken in English or in tongues, her monologues were blistering, and because they were part rant (anger is often a motor for Finley, although another is compassion), part nudity, and part sticky mess, her enemies could tar her crazy. They

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  • Dinos and Jake Chapman

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    The Chapman Brothers’ installation Six Feet Under, 1997—featuring their infamous cast-resin sculptures of prepubescent children who sprout multiple adult genitalia amidst extra heads, arms, legs, and torsos—is vile and disgusting. The work reflects values that are patently immature, sensationalistic, and sick. Nothing justifies this vulgar display. That, for openers, is what makes their art so compelling and, at the same time, casts doubt on its value as art in so many minds.

    On each of several visits to the installation, I witnessed viewers’ amusement rather than horror, which seemed appropriate

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  • Judy Glantzman

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    Judy Glantzman, a mainstay of the East Village art scene of the early to mid ’80s, resurfaced about three years ago from the limbo that swallowed so many artists of that moment. Her recent paintings continue her pursuit of figurative expressionism, though now in a climate of opinion notably hostile to anything of the sort. But working against the grain seems to have been a salutary experience for this artist: her paintings are tougher and more compelling than they used to be.

    This artistic isolation is perhaps reflected in Glantzman’s subject matter. The boho crowd she used to paint is gone,

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  • Richmond Burton

    Cheim & Read

    Whither abstract painting? Richmond Burton gives us one convincing answer: toward a richness of surface that is ironic while it is at the same time aggressively, even triumphantly, organic. The richness is ironic in at least two ways. First, for all its sensuous directness and Dionysian fluidity, Burton’s surface is fragmented into forms that brake the painterly flow, forcing on us a certain Apollonian consciousness of “transcendent” shape. Second, his tricky flow is always intricate and never completely what it seems—at times his shapely gestures form a tense, tight weave, at others a more

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  • Odd Nerdrum

    Forum Gallery

    If you think the long revolution of the avant-garde is a permanent one, then you’re likely to find Odd Nerdrum’s paintings quaint, somewhat bizarre narratives. Which they are—but the point is, to what end? The answer suggests the critical consciousness informing Nerdrum’s use of old-master technique. Unlike avant-gardism, which likes to think that art can be perpetually young and new, and can refresh and even refigure social life, the old masters understood that the world is always in decay and surely heading toward death; under the cover of religion, they accurately assessed life’s inadequacy.

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  • Roni Horn

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    Iceland has for a number of years functioned as a kind of archetypal location for Roni Horn. In fact, she has collected the work on this terrain under the rubric “To Place,” and she returned to that evocative domain in her latest show. Here, as elsewhere, her romantic appropriation of a wild and unstable landscape was tempered by a bracing formalism and a fascination with seriality.

    On the cement floor in the windowed gallery sat two square blocks of solid cobalt-blue glass. They were low to the ground, like ottomans, and placed at oblique angles to each other. Simple, minimal even, the pair was

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  • Rosemarie Trockel

    Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

    When Rosemarie Trockel began showing in New York in the late ’80s, her best-known work—machine-made woolen pieces presented as “paintings” and minimalist cubes with stove-top burners—seemed to categorize her as interested in the female domestic realm. She became known in the shorthand of the moment as “the knit person,” but a certain chilliness or ironic distance pervaded these pieces; this somewhat mocking stance problematized easy feminist labels, suggesting instead a stranger, more idiosyncratic engagement with questions of female subjectivity in the process of making art.

    Trockel’s recent

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  • Allen Ginsberg

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    One of Allen Ginsberg’s talents was his ability to learn from his friends. He learned about music and song from Bob Dylan, prose rhythms from Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, and photography from Robert Frank. Underlying this gift was an insatiable curiosity, which he lavished on friends and acquaintances for fifty years. His camera was an instrument of this attentiveness—always there, always looking.

    This little show included two images from 1953, one from 1976, and nine works from 1985 to 1996. All are black and white portraits, with Ginsberg’s straightforward commentary scrawled below

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  • Sean Landers

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    After an early career devoted, more or less, to an obsessive chronicling of the mindset that goes along with jerking off to MTV, Sean Landers has finally sucked it up and started working. He’s produced a series of “bad” paintings, along with one sculpture (all works 1997), that feature some charmingly sad-sack riffing on the Masters, mixed with dispatches from the ’70s, the decade that time forgot. This bizarre hybrid opens up a whole new arena of loserdom for this artist. Zorkon is a large canvas showing a group of space aliens on a sailboat, which manages to recall both Géricault’s Raft of

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  • “PaJaMa”

    DC Moore Gallery

    This recent exhibition of the “PaJaMa Photographs,” a collaborative venture of the three painters Paul Cadmus, Jared French, and Margaret (née Hoenig) French, suggests that their painterly work drew upon a wealth of knowledge gathered with Margaret French’s Leica over the course of a decade. They also suggest that contemporary ideas about art have changed in the years since the pictures were taken: these intimate and informal works, with their slightly surreal compositions, their youthful, often nude subjects, and their recurringly narcissistic, homo-erotic themes, now seem precursors to the

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  • Joachim Koester

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    Constructing the record of a place or mapping an event is always fraught with contradictions: the moment one grasps a context or situation one has also to acknowledge that it is almost impossible to stake a claim to an unmediated relation to the phenomenal world. But this dilemma, which assumes a strict philosophical and material dichotomy between reality and artifice, is one that Danish artist Joachim Koester seeks to question. In his first one-person show in New York, Koester offered two distinct types of work that, when considered in tandem, indicate a general desire to both extract theater

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  • Wlodzimierz Ksiazek

    While he strives to combine the physical and the psychological in his art, the Polish-born artist Wlodzimierz Ksiazek is reluctant to associate his work with an East or Central European temperament, or a specific “human condition.” The influences that critics often cite when discussing his art are literary rather than pictorial—such as Franz Kafka’s paranoid, claustrophobic depictions of existence in a totalitarian state. Ksiazek neutralizes these associations by making no visible references to his Polish upbringing, and by celebrating the power and pleasure of painting in itself.

    In the eleven

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  • Lucky DeBellevue

    Feature Inc.

    Lucky DeBellevue’s sculpture is a kind of cheery yet vaguely troubling arte povera kudzu plant, whose bright webs look as though they might overrun the gallery during the course of a night. DeBellevue’s witty use of cheap, readily available materials—pipe cleaners, tinfoil, cable ties, vinyl weatherstripping—recalls that of any number of other artists, including Donald Lipski, Tom Friedman, and David Hammons. The basic unit of DeBellevue’s floor and wall pieces (all works 1997) is an onion-ring–like link, which has the overall effect of erasing traces of fracture and gives them a kind of

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