reviews

  • Jackson Pollock

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    On April 30, 1961, The New York Times Magazine published five letters to the editor regarding an article by Clement Greenberg that had appeared in its pages two weeks earlier, entitled (against the author’s will) “The Jackson Pollock Market Soars.” Among the illustrations for his piece, Greenberg had used an early Pollock drawing after one of Michelangelo’s Ignudi in the Sistine Chapel, which two of the writers thought was a cheap trick. Indeed, even though this particular drawing was not discussed, the text—an attack against the stereotype of Pollock as an artiste maudit—made its function

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  • Richard Diebenkorn

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    If there’s one lasting impression left by the retrospective of Richard Diebenkorn’s paintings at the Whitney Museum, it’s an overriding sense of finicky graphic and chromatic tastefulness. And this carefully crafted rightness—almost every Diebenkorn picture seems like the resolution to a family argument pled for by a kindly old father who wants, above all, to avoid any sign of conflict—is what makes the show seem so out of touch with the times. Of course, there’s bad out-of-touch and good out-of-touch: a retrospective that reveals how academic and timid the artist’s work is, compared with today’s

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  • Sally Mann

    Edwynn Houk Gallery | New York

    Like certain photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, Sally Mann’s images of her children growing up in Virginia became widely known for reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the work. The appearance of her pictures of innocence and experience happened to coincide with a full-blown national sex panic, driven by right—wing moralizing and societal confusions about children and sexuality. In the ensuing clamor, the honesty and intensity of Mann’s images—not to mention their lyric subtleties—were mostly drowned out. But notoriety can he as good as fame these days (

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  • Barbara Kruger

    Mary Boone Gallery/Deitch Projects

    Don’t you hate it when the Times slams an artist you like? Not that you’re surprised, probably, when that artist is Barbara Kruger. The Deitch installation was her second in New York to literalize the experience of being shouted at, and if the last one, in 1994, was panned—and it was—the response was predictable this time. The review, however, was so utterly dismissive that you had the feeling of an opportunity being seized, or at least of the eruption of a desire that critics may periodically feel hut that (with the exception of Hilton Kramer) they usually opt to repress: the impulse to go for

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  • Judy Pfaff

    André Emmerich Gallery

    Although I’ve always liked Judy Pfaff’s work, it has left me at times a little unsatisfied. Her abstract installations conjure up a Gesamtkunstwerk-like idea of the artwork as a whole and enveloping world—the painting you can walk through, the sculpture that decompresses its solidity to suck you inside it. Jackson Pollock turns up regularly in the writing on Pfaff, as if she were trying to realize in three dimensions the sense of absorption in an entire cosmos that his giant allover canvases can provide. Funnily enough, though, it is Pollock’s flat paintings that allow the greater suspension of

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  • Pat Steir

    Robert Miller Gallery

    In Pat Steir’s work of the early ’70s, the conceptual elements commented on the natural ones. When she painted a rose, for example, she would cross it out with a thick “X,” as if to suggest that so timeworn an emblem from nature could no longer satisfy our yearning for expression. The risk for a younger artist exploring the world conceptually is that she may give short shrift to physical or crea—turely existence, and miss the surprise and transcendence that arc possible when our sensations are undifferentiated by the intellect. There are still cerebral aspects to Steir’s work, but the

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  • Attila Richard Lukacs

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    On the one hand, Attila Richard Lukacs’ exhibition of paintings and sculptures was about an ambivalent ideal of the gay male, both menacing tough and heroic martyr; beneath this politicized surface, however, it subliminally concerned something more interesting: human beings as robots, mechanically living and dying. The show was polarized between two works: Labors in Natural History (all works 1997), a wax body laid out on an anatomy table, its internal electrical circuits exposed and labeled—the corpse as machine—and The Fresh Air Front, a monumental painting of a group of sullen male figures,

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  • Jane Wilson

    Fischbach Gallery

    Jane Wilson is a worthy heir to two great painting traditions: Romantic landscape and abstract Color Field. Her images have at once the lushness of detail that informs the best landscapes and the sweep that makes the best Color Field canvases transcendentally evocative. Wilson uses abstraction to convey the emotional resonance of nature, especially the resonance it acquires by being personalized in memory, where it becomes a symbol of unconscious forces. Thus Mountains in Memory and Valley in Memory, both 1997, are explicitly afterimages, memorable fantasies, informed by longing, especially the

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  • Yves Klein

    DANESE/COREY

    Yves Klein’s legendary Leap into the Void—a 1960 photomontage of the artist jumping off the ledge of a Paris building—has colored our perception of him no less than has his signature International Klein Blue. For Klein the void below that ledge opened onto what he called the “indéfinissable,” an ineffable, mythic state that transcended any fixed notion of time and space. The concept, however, did not exclude the constraints of the world: the artist’s act, defiant and dramatic as it was, resulted in an actual, albeit minor injury—a sprained ankle. Thus Klein’s leap invoked the notion of an

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  • Montien Boonma

    Deitch Projects

    Smell is thought to be our most associative sense—an instant trigger of memories, a conduit for delivering nuanced and complex meaning directly to our animal selves. But even in installation-based art, the richly evocative power of smell is usually ignored. Montien Boonma’s recent show, a sculptural environment whose main ingredients were medicinal herbs from the traditional Asian pharmacopoeia, was a pungent exception. Employing metaphors of cleansing and curing, Boonma’s installation proposed to offer sensory sanctuary, a kind of aromatherapy for the visually overstimulated. Exceptional, too,

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  • Susan Rothenberg

    Sperone Westwater

    Though superficially the resemblances are few, Susan Rothenberg’s new paintings kept reminding me of her Mondrian homages of the mid ’80s. Only when it struck me that the off-center, off-angled card table in Red Poker, 1996–97, would make an ideal shape for an Ellsworth Kelly did the import of this recollection finally dawn on me: many of Rothenberg’s new paintings revolve around what has emerged as a pivotal issue of how to incorporate geometry as a vehicle to impose pictorial order.

    The problem is an important one for Rothenberg because, as her paintings become more complex, they cry out for

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  • Terry Winters

    Matthew Marks Gallery

    I was always a dissenter when it came to Terry Winters’ early work, unwilling to accept that his collections of bravura incident constituted paintings. Apparently owning up to the structural bagginess of his previous efforts, Winters has cleared away the organic imagery—those squishy protozoa that floated around the canvases—and set to work reconstructing pictorial space—rejoining, in other words, Modernist abstraction’s project of turning space into its own image.

    In these paintings a multilayered space is woven out of three linear structures: grids, arcs, and diagonals. The resulting configuration

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  • Anna Gaskell

    Casey Kaplan

    In the opening chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice wonders, parenthetically, why she hadn’t thought a waistcoated white rabbit muttering to itself unusual. When he raced past her and popped down a large rabbit hole, she followed in pursuit without ever considering how she would get out again. “Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end?”

    Alice’s fall is the theme of “Wonder,” Anna Gaskell’s first solo show. The literary conceit of her twenty untitled color photographs (all 1996–97) assumes that we already know Alice and her story, freeing us to indulge in the beauty

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  • Tobias Rehberger

    Petzel Gallery | East 67th Street

    In the early part of this century, the Bauhaus and de Stijl endeavored to conjoin art, architecture, and design in order to reorganize—not merely aestheticize—everyday life according to unified ideological and formal principles. A distant inheritor of their ideas, Tobias Rehberger, is more absorbed in fabricating postideological hybrid objects that have the capacity to reveal the sensuous, pleasurable, and intellectually provocative underpinnings of such cross—pollinations.

    Rehberger’s vocabulary might be characterized as alternately object-based and installation-oriented. He invokes the

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  • Stephen Barker

    Morris Healy Gallery

    The twenty-two untitled photographs in “Selections from Nightswimming, NYC, 1993–4,” the first solo exhibition of Stephen Barker’s work, depict men either having or looking for sex. These dark images—selenium-toned gelatin-silver prints—have a formal beauty that stems from their velvety blackness; this, and their regular spacing around the room, made the show resemble a repetitive installation of dark Minimalist canvases, severe and imposing. So uniformly dark are these pictures that only by lingering and squinting could one eventually begin to make out the human forms captured within them. The

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  • Martha Benzing

    Caren Golden Fine Art

    Over the last few years, Martha Benzing has made a medium of M&Ms. She has endowed the coated candies with the splendor of precious jewels, or lovingly leached them of their pigment, leaving them striped or polka-dotted or simply bare naked. A group of small canvases shown last year had been “painted” with M&Ms and partially melted cough drops, then scaled in shiny resin. Benzing has now brought a new measure of refinement and control to her technique, resulting in her largest works yet: the “M&M and Kool-Aid Series” (all works 1997). After being emptied of their chocolate insides, M&Ms were

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  • “Thread”

    Cristinerose Gallery

    Group shows that bring together artists working with the same materials are prone to homogenize their contents: in a room full of works made out of lead, everything, including the ideas that gave rise to the art, appears leaden. But “Thread,” aerated by Tom Moody and the gallery’s proprietor, Mariacristina Parravacini, manages to avoid this pitfall, in part by presenting the material in such a diversity of forms, and with an intellectual premise that makes the selection of works more than a self—evident process of finding fiber in art.

    In Brigitte Nahon’s installation, Icholi Hauperyre L (

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