reviews

  • Martin Wong

    New Museum of Contemporary Art/P.P.O.W.

    Near a Long Island beach I visit in the summer is a lovely New England–style house, white shingled, wide porched, rundown, that reminds me of Edward Hopper. Chatting on the sand with its owner once, I decided to compliment him by telling him so, and got the reply, “Ah yes. Edward Hopper. Does he live around here?” This might have been a dry joke on the quality of art education in America, but coming from this particular man I doubt it. In any case, what surprised me with Hopper would not with Martin Wong: if New York’s ’80s generation of gallery-goers, seeing a certain building type, may think

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  • Yoko Ono

    André Emmerich/Deitch Projects

    This summer Macintosh got around to John and Yoko in its “Think Different” campaign, choosing a classic image from the “Bed-In for Peace” honeymoon back in 1969. Ghandi, Buzz Aldren, Einstein, and Ali preceded the peaceniks on billboards and in magazines, but it always seemed to be in the cards that the two would join this genius gang sooner than later.

    John for one seems overqualified to represent a computer company casting itself as übercreative. Where his life’s work was concerned, notorious was never in question and innovation was in constant overdrive. “Right now the Beatles are more popular

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  • Tony Cragg

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Start with the drawings—a not-inconsiderable part of Tony Cragg’s recent exhibition, with twenty-one of them (all dated 1998) on view. What they explain is that for the artist a surface, volume, or object is not a stable thing. It’s something in process. With their rocking, swirling movements of bowl- and vase-like forms, the drawings recall the most profound moment in Italian Futurism: Boccioni’s Development of a Bottle in Space, 1912, which demonstrated that it was more difficult but also more interesting to render, not the speeding of a train or the rioting of a crowd, but rather the

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  • Meredith Danluck

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    I might have referred to Meredith Danluck’s work as “fake paintings” if that phrase weren’t somehow redolent of the mid-’80s romance of the simulacrum and the whole hands-off attitude toward painting that went along with it. The point is that her pieces are made with neither stretchers, canvas, nor paint, and their relation to the wall is ambiguous, or rather inconstant; and they follow artists like James Hyde or especially Moira Dryer in decanting the Minimalists’ reconsideration of the art-object back into a container that feels like a painting. Yet, like those artists’ works, but unlike those

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  • Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

    Robert Miller Gallery

    Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz was one of the key figures of the Modernist avant-garde in Poland. Under the pseudonym Witkacy, he was a renowned playwright whose darkly comic plays presage the theater of the absurd. Between his birth in 1885 and his suicide in 1939 (on the day the Soviet army marched into Poland) he produced philosophical and theoretical writings, novels, and a large body of paintings and drawings, many executed under the carefully recorded influence of peyote, mescaline, and cocaine.

    With this recent show we learn of his early and abiding fascination with photography as well. From

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  • Brian Tolle

    Basilico Fine Arts

    In Brian Tolle’s exhibition “Common Consent,” the gallery was occupied by an encampment of six simulated-stone structures configured to resemble fragments of rocky walls and enclosures, all built to human scale and augmented with light projections. The overwhelming physical presence of the works conveys exactly the sort of theatricality Michael Fried objected to in his criticism of “literalist” art’s control and consumption of space meant for the viewer. Literal as the sculptures appear to be, their suggestions of function are ambiguous; we’re meant to open the wooden picket gate of Safe (all

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  • Jack Pierson

    American Fine Arts

    Jack Pierson has collected an impressive assortment of brightly colored commercial letters. The plainer ones might have announced the brunch special and congratulated the team above a pancake house, or broadcast messages from a portable ball-hitch sign parked along the roadside in lesser suburbia. The more stylized might have spelled the name of a small-town grocery, or written the logo of a petroleum company towering above the interstate. Some of Pierson’s letters are wood, others plastic; still others are neon, the seedily spectacular medium of nightclubs and bars, casinos and porn theaters.

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  • “Bathroom”

    Thomas Healy Gallery

    It’s almost certain that there’s never been a better overview of bathroom-related art than the 133 works by 82 artists and designers that writer Wayne Koestenbaum, who guest-curated the show, packed into this gallery. The exhibit felt like some kind of sideshow with an anthropological theme, a view of who we are as reflected by the attitudes we assume toward our bodily functions and the places we reserve to take care of them. It’s also part peepshow, a glimpse of the john as sexy or seedy, and it calls to mind all the things we’ve done in the only room we could lock as children. And then there’s

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  • Anthony Caro

    Marlborough | Midtown

    Anthony Caro has gone from Modernist purity to mythological narrative in his “Trojan War” sculptures. Most of the abstract figures, named after the larger-than-life yet all-too-human personages of Homer, have clay heads, as though to signal their vulnerability and mortality. Like Yorick’s skull, the heads seem to have been excavated from the grave, still fused with the earth in which they were buried. But unlike Yorick’s, which was tossed back after Hamlet scored philosophical points with it, Caro’s heads are mounted on abstract geometrical constructions that both suggest and function as pedestals,

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  • Wolfgang Laib

    Sperone Westwater

    The literature on Wolfgang Laib tends to draw from a set group of references. The coolly sensuous materials (beeswax, rice, pollen, milk, stone, occasional metals) are noted of necessity in every article, as are his early medical training, his hermetic working practices, and his interest in the ecstatic asceticism of Rumi and St. Francis. Laib’s tangential allegiance to Minimalism figures in, along with his deeper affinity with the idea of art-as-social-healer espoused by his countryman Joseph Beuys. The quartet of works in this show are all forms the artist has exhibited before, meditative

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  • Francesca Gabbiani

    I-20 Gallery

    For years I’ve seen these tiny things, translucent filaments or monocellular organisms, floating around my field of vision—not all the time, but sometimes. When I was young I thought that I had especially keen sight and was able to see the workings of germs. Then I learned the word for this phenomenon, learned that since it had a name my powers of perception were probably not extraordinary, forgot the word, and though I still see these shapes moving around before my eyeballs, I hadn’t thought about them or what they might mean until I saw the intense, coolly radiant paintings of Francesca

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  • Joan Snyder

    Hirschl & Adler Modern

    The catalogue for Joan Snyder’s recent exhibition of paintings takes the form of a facsimile sketchbook, underscoring the artist’s spontaneous working method and intimate, diaristic style. The book’s title, Paintings and Sketches, indicates a certain equality between preliminary thoughts and finished work that reflects the emotional weight the artist places on every stage of her work, as well as the value of catharsis in her process. There’s certainly no separating the life from the art here: “My work,” Snyder writes on one drawing, “has been absolutely faithful to me.” And yet, she adds elsewhere,

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  • “Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence”

    Grey Art Gallery

    With urban crime declining across the country and former prosecutor Rudy Giuliani running the city with an iron hand, the streets of Gotham appear to be safe again—the fruit, we’re told, of unceasing vigilance. It was therefore an appropriate moment for “Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence” to arrive in New York from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where it was organized by curator Sandra S. Phillips. With more than 150 images, it comprised a dense tableau of crime scenes, executions, victims, and every conceivable stripe of “criminal” (from murderers to opium smokers to political

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  • Philip Smith

    Danese

    The eight works in Philip Smith's recent show featured a technique that has become his signature: the artist spreads a colored surface of oil and beeswax on an underlayer of the same media, then—working without preparatory sketches—scrapes through the top coat with a sharp instrument to reveal the contrasting color beneath. Smith has made paintings this way, sort of like a child's scratchboard drawing, for years; new in this group are the exclusively solid ground colors, which (unlike the grids, stripes, and polka-dot grounds of earlier efforts) bring simplicity and clarity to the densely packed

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