• “Edgar Degas, Photographer”

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Edgar Degas’s photographs, mostly taken in a single year (1895), were a brief enthusiasm for the artist, amateur offshoots of his preoccupations as a painter, pastelist, printmaker, and sculptor, done in private for private consumption. This doesn’t mean he was casual about them; on the contrary, he often seems to have cared the most about his most private series of images. Degas’s attitude to the many different media he engaged in was restless and experimental, but intensely committed, and his relationship to his photographs was no exception. In this small, three-gallery show curated by Malcolm

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  • Al Held

    Robert Miller Gallery

    What is the exact latitude and longitude of Al Held’s historical position? Aesthetic cartographers have placed him all over the map. He seems eternally suspended between generations, schools, movements. Location in art-historical terms depends, of course, on the fixed points from which you take your bearings. If you ignore the coordinates and fix on Held alone, you encounter a figure of such intense conviction that you have to take a step backward.

    Ever since Picasso made Cézanne’s anxiety an indispensable form of self-harassment, any serious artist without it seems to be missing an essential

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  • Mike Bidlo

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    For almost two decades, Mike Bidlo has engaged in a strict simulation of the work and practices of iconic figures of twentieth-century art. Pollock and Picasso in the ’80s, de Chirico, Léger, and Warhol in the ’90s—these august precursors have served as models for Bidlo to muse about and make mischief with the modernist canon. Far from being mere acts of discipleship, Bidlo’s tactics were self-consciously strategic: The exact copy putatively rendered the notion of the original suspect, thereby (again putatively) undermining the axiological system that makes “great” art great. Sherrie Levine

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  • Tony Oursler

    Metro Pictures

    Watching a video in a gallery can’t help but remind us of watching TV at home, even if the artist is inspired, as in much recent work, to make the image very large. This is a problem not because TV is bad, but because it is good, that is to say, compelling. Put Who’s the Boss next to Bill Viola, and most people will eyeball the former. One solution to this no-win contest is to combine video with other media, as Tony Oursler does in his spectacular hybrids.

    Oursler is best known for projecting videotaped faces onto blank, three-dimensional oval shapes that minimally suggest heads. This show

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  • Laura Owens

    Gavin Brown's Enterprise | Downtown

    By now, we’ve come to expect stylistic eclecticism from Laura Owens. In one of her new paintings (all works untitled, 1998), whimsically plump bumblebees buzz around a colorful hive; another features a closely toned autumn landscape with an enameled sliver of blue brook and part of a tree limb poking into the picture. A couple of paintings resemble nothing so much as giant doodles—a curvilinear design, drawn with a silver pen and partially filled in with thin washes of murky magenta, covers the entire surface of one canvas; in another, loops of paint squeezed into wobbly circular shapes

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  • Dotty Attie


    Dotty Attie’s work has had a violent tinge for a long time. Since the early ’70s, the artist has been remaking familiar pre-modernist paintings, and many of those she has picked have been subliminally or obviously bloody: John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark, 1778, in which boatmen fight to rescue a swimmer from Jaws’s great-granddad; Caravaggio’s version of the biblical tale of Judith and Holofernes, an early political assassination; Eakins’s Gross Clinic, 1875, a scene of surgery. Some critics have also seen violence in the way Attie treats these images, breaking each of them into

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  • Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Sonnabend Gallery

    For a long time now, Hiroshi Sugimoto has been trying to take pictures of emptiness—a good subject because it’s both elusive and ubiquitous. You can’t get at it directly but have to sneak up on it. In doing that, some of his series verge on conventions of the satirical (images of natural-history dioramas and wax museums) and of the sublime (seascapes), though they finally swerve, asymptomatically, from those conventions. His most characteristic works—the ones least like anyone else’s—have been the most patently ambiguous in their rhetorical stance: photographs of movie theaters

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  • Paul Blanchard

    The Art Gallery at Brooklyn College

    In dismissing what he called “olfactory painting,” Marcel Duchamp might have had in mind the sort of work that reeks of thick, slow-drying oil paint and the clichéd romance of the studio evoked by that aroma; or maybe he just meant the kind of painting that, with its lusciously seductive brushwork, makes you want to keep getting closer and closer until you realize you’ve got your nose stuck in it. Yet the notion possesses eminent Duchampian potential, the capacity perhaps to displace art’s stake in the visual just as much as, say, the Rotoreliefs did its investment in stasis.

    On one level, the

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  • Georg Herold

    Brooke Alexander

    The title of Georg Herold’s recent exhibition was a mouthful of cyberspeak—“compu.comp.virtual visualities.equivacs.bitmapdyes”—but anyone lured by this pidgin html into expecting a deep artistic investigation of the Web was in for a disappointment, since the show went no further than the graphic interface, the familiar sight that greets you when you turn on your computer. Stripes of concentrated watercolor on large sheets of photographic paper recalled the palettes of digital tool bars (or their low-tech cousins, paint samples from Home Depot), and strings of suspended wood blocks

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  • James Welling

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    Consider the Rorschach effect typically experienced when looking at James Welling’s photographs. One cannot place these images; even if one knows what they are ostensibly of—aluminum foil, pastry dough, drapery, gelatin—one is unable to stop the spiraling movement that transforms the photograph into a surface of sheer projection. It has been similarly difficult to place Welling as an artist: He refused to embrace the media appropriations of his postmodernist peers, and his photographic investigations seemed to emerge into the art world of the late ’70s without specific precedent.


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  • Henri Matisse

    C&M Arts

    Matisse’s figurative sculptures have often been praised for their exploratory distortions of the body, but what this stunning miniretrospective made clear is the monumentality of his three-dimensional figures, regardless of their size. The smallest, Nu appuyé sue les mains (Woman leaning on her hands), 1905, is less than five inches tall, the largest, Le Serf (The slave), 1900–03, just over three feet, but each work has an epic presence. In the twenty-seven pieces on display, which date from 1899 to 1932, Matisse holds on to sculptural conventions—he is modeling rather than constructing

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  • Arnaldo Morales

    De Chiara/Stewart

    In his first solo show in New York, thirty-one-year-old Puerto Rico-born Arnaldo Morales displayed what he calls “electrobjetos”—interactive anthropomorphic automatons meticulously fashioned in polished aluminum and stainless steel and powered by small motors and air compressors compressors. He anchored one to each of the four walls of the gallery’s front room and suspended the title piece, Triobegun Ironik, No. 98, 1998, from the ceiling.

    The aesthetic here is Popular Mechanics meets the Critical Art Ensemble’s Flesh Machine, with a conceptual focus on the emotional inadequacies and

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  • “Ubu and the Truth Commission”

    The Public Theater

    Standing on a large wooden table, on what is a bare stage save for a stuffed vulture perched on a metal stand, a man dressed in ragged white underwear, T-shirt, and black lace-up military boots pantomimes an evening stroll with a large, three-headed dog puppet. Behind the table, a screen shows a black-and-white animated film evoking, through the use of cartoonlike drawings, the horrors of police brutality. This scene occurred during the Handspring Puppet Company’s performance of Ubu and the Truth Commission, which was directed by South African artist William Kentridge and was part of the fourth

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