reviews

  • Bob Thompson

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The opening of the Bob Thompson retrospective at the Whitney looked a bit like a Harlem Renaissance black-tie gala, as various luminaries of the black culturati—the Baraka family, Ed Clark, Camille Billops, Ted Joans, Jane Cortez, Mel Edwards, and Stanley Crouch—graced the event with their presence. Thelma Golden, the curator of the show, brought her guests together in a celebration of the intoxicating colors and fluidity of Bob Thompson’s paintings that was further enlivened by the rhythms of a live jazz combo.

    It is said that post-bop jazz and Beatnik poetry are essential to any

    Read more
  • Thomas Demand

    303 Gallery

    Viewers introduced to the work of German artist Thomas Demand in 1997 through his first American exhibition at Max Protetch may be taken aback by the formalism of his latest large-scale color photographs. Recalling Walter Benjamin’s characterization of Atget’s Parisian views as “the scenes of crimes” recently committed, Demand’s earlier images showed places that, while empty of people, were filled with signs of human life. Some were even crime scenes of a sort: the home of serial murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, the personal archives of Nazi filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, the dorm room

    Read more
  • Robert Irwin

    Dia Center for the Arts/PaceWildenstein

    Like a month in the country, Robert Irwin’s scrim installations offer deeply seductive holidays from the tensions of social experience, and even from the challenges of everyday art-going. There is apparently no message to decode, no irony to tolerate, no argument to wrestle; instead you are pacifically absorbed in the act of visual perception, caught up in a rhythmic passage through space. It is the Matissean idea of art as respite, the comfortable armchair—except you have to walk.

    For an installation in two parts at Dia, Prologue: x 183 (April–June 1998) and Excursus: Homage to the Square

    Read more
  • Vik Muniz

    ICP/Wooster Gardens

    Whether ordinary guy or art-world regular, we’re all pretty sophisticated as viewers by now. In fact, in today’s image-driven culture, we’ve become so good at looking that we can do it very quickly—in a museum, about three seconds per object. But when I visited Vik Muniz’s ICP survey—a full show of pictures of pictures filled with shabby fun, a bit like Sherrie Levine crossed with a flea circus—viewers were parked in front of individual photos, staring, laughing, beckoning their companions, pointing. You might think somebody had spotted a flea doing a triple somersault.

    Holding

    Read more
  • Kenneth Noland

    André Emmerich Gallery

    For the past few years many young artists, followed quickly by dealers and critics, have celebrated the renewed “rightness” of Color Field painting. There may be something about any flush economy that breeds Apollonian exercises in the art world: Times were good in the ’60s and they’re good again (more or less), so perhaps it’s no surprise that Kenneth Noland has chosen this very moment to update his classic circle imagery of 1958–63.

    It’s an art-historical commonplace that in their “late” styles artists stress touch over vision—Rembrandt, Titian, Renoir, Monet. Ruled by a softening heart

    Read more
  • Bill Jensen

    Mary Boone Gallery | Uptown

    The coloristic nuance and variousness of handling—from the spontaneous to the highly wrought—in Bill Jensen’s recent abstractions seem to render the physical evolution of the paintings palpable. In Boy, 1997–98, a loosely triangular arrangement of wide, watery blue strokes and several smooth blue arcs seem to have been applied in swift, unrestrained gestures. Meanwhile, the work’s whitish background retains an almost archaic glaze that one senses is the result of Jensen’s having worked that surface more intensely, scraping and rubbing it to a hoary polish. Then there’s the distorted

    Read more
  • Georg Baselitz

    Pace Wildenstein Gallery

    Throughout his career, Georg Baselitz has implemented one of two painterly modes. In the works with which he first made his name in the ’60s, paint has the consistency of mortar. Troweled on the canvas with an almost klutzy intensity, it is thick and gritty, tightly packed into figures who seem on the verge of collapse under their weighty burden. In the other, which he came to somewhat later in his career, paint seems to float free of whatever it describes, spilling beyond the borders of its object. Call these the “tough-minded” and “tender-minded” manners, even the aggressive and erotic modes.

    Read more
  • George Grosz/Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

    Galerie St. Etienne

    One can only imagine what George Grosz would have done with the crowds of New York or, better yet, Clintonian Washington. Targeting people on the streets of Weimar Berlin, Grosz was able to convey the monstrousness of their mediocrity with a few deft strokes. A shrewd observer of human vice and frailty, Grosz exposes the base predaceousness and emotional vulgarity that underlie conventional behavior. Just as his X-ray vision cruelly cuts through women’s clothing, so Grosz shows the horrific psychic reality behind staid obsessiveness appearances. Vicious people in pursuit of poisonous pleasure

    Read more
  • Tunga

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Tunga’s work has recently enjoyed considerable play in New York, welcomed with open arms in the movement toward multiculturalism that achieved critical mass in the early ’90s. With his increasing success has come a change of address, from alternative space to blue-chip venue, and the Brazilian artist’s latest work, True Rouge, 1998, marks this transition. The piece is something of an anomaly in that it stood alone as sculptural installation rather than as residue of a theatrical performance or poetic text through which the baroque, narrative dimensions of Tunga’s art are typically set in motion.

    Read more
  • Katy Schimert

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Story lines are always close to the heart of Katy Schimert’s work and usually collect around colorfully tragic characters who, in one way or another, are fools for love. The artist rarely presents fully developed plots but rather offers sketches of romantic events as a series of poignant fragments that unfold as though in memory. The remembrance of love, and of love lost, is distilled in characters whose exploits are recorded not only in film and video but in snatches of handwritten text and notes scribbled into beautifully surreal landscapes that function as highly idiosyncratic maps of desire

    Read more
  • Jason Simon

    Pat Hearn Gallery

    To enter the slightly claustrophobic gallery—its windows and doors had been blackened to block out all external light—was to step into a scene of catastrophe. The centerpiece of Jason Simon’s most recent exhibition was a single sculpture, provocatively entitled Public Address: Collapsed, 1998. Two immense, jet-black speaker horns—brute, definitively outmoded mechanisms of the type once found in public arenas or sports stadiums—lay precariously on the gallery floor. Judging by the limp rigging and cracked ceiling tiles strewn around the horns, the work’s conceit was that the

    Read more
  • “Inside Out: New Chinese Art”

    Asia Society/P.S.1

    One panel of Hong Hao’s Selected Scriptures, 1995, a series of silk screens purporting to reproduce pages from an encyclopedic work on history, geography, and culture, shows a “New Political World,” in which familiar nations have inexplicably changed positions: much of Europe has become Mozambique; the United States and parts of Canada are now the People’s Republic of China; and present-day China is divided up among a number of countries, with the most prominent spot going to Andorra, Imagining that kind of politico-cultural displacement is always instructive, and the opportunity to indulge in

    Read more
  • Sharon Horvath

    Tibor De Nagy Gallery

    An aura of privacy hangs over each of Sharon Horvath’s paintings and drawings, like a scrim that turns every sign, however precisely delineated, into its own mysterious shadow. As viewers, it’s hard to tell which side of this veil of privacy we are on, outside or in, excluded or included. It can be irritating to feel you’re being asked to decode a rebus based on maddeningly whimsical associations or to interpret the dream life of a stranger. Yet the unfinished or uncomposed quality of these works can make you feel that those associations, that dream life, might be your own—unfarniliar only

    Read more
  • Miguel Calderón

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    After Damien Hirst, Sean Landers, the Chapmans, et al., do we really need another bad boy, more swagger for swagger’s sake? Miguel Calderón seems to think so—rather, in the true spirit of bad boys, doesn’t give a damn. In any case, Calderón’s show of paintings, videos, and sculpture is the latest testimony to a now all-too-familiar sneer at earnest artmaking.

    That Calderón is Mexican does however make an initial difference. Unlike Landers and company, his provocations at least seem to have some justification: thumbing their noses at stereotypes of Latin American art as either leaning toward

    Read more
  • Jim Hodges

    CRG Gallery

    Jim Hodges’s transformations of the readymade through labor-intensive processes have always had a strong phenomenological cast. His works are, on one level, the physical record of long, painstaking work, and it seems increasingly, clear that this artist’s “phenomenology” is positioned in contradistinction to that of ’60s and ’70s style Minimalism. While the phenomenological experience of the historical work was understood to exist outside real-world social relations, Hodges’s art insists upon iconographic and biographic particulars.

    Many of Hodges’s earlier works share a formalist preoccupation

    Read more
  • Virgil Marti

    Thread Waxing Space

    There’s a thin line between groovy and ghastly, and Virgil Marti pays attention to such distinctions. In Hot Tub, 1998, Marti’s deftly kitschy installation, this basic tension between hedonistic pleasure and looming damnation is acknowledged with the simple immediacy of a one-liner. Like the smoked mirrors, electric candle flames, and deep-pile shag it comprises, Hot Tub is so bad it’s good. A number of interesting issues coalesce in Marti’s work—domestic space as social palimpsest, the Warholian appeal of mass-produced taste, an appreciation for what curator Lia Gangitano refers to as “

    Read more
  • Carl D'Alvia

    Jessica Fredericks Gallery

    Carl D’Alvia’s life-size plaster statues conjure an inspiring vision: The family that slays together stays together. “Dad” is a hulking brute in superhero garb who sits like Rodin’s Thinker, contemplating the high-powered machine gun grafted to his forearm (Bad Guy, 1997). “Mom,” a caped, spandexed hard-body with ten Shiva-like arms (Ms. Trouble, 1998), raises her own Gatling-gun prostheses in a cubistic reenactment of Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver “You talkin’ to me?” routine. And between them “Junior”—a cyberdog with video-camera eye, external-hard-drive brain, and shoulder-mounted

    Read more