• “The Risk of Existence”

    Phyllis Kind Gallery

    For an artist, orchestrating a salon around your own most recent work is a traditional act of hubris that dates to the eighteenth century. It’s also contemporary practice, a way to indulge the fantasy of imposing order on the world, charting your own ancestry of deceased influences, associating yourself with jeunesse dorée art stars, and colonizing the efforts of steadfast underknowns. Such a show always entails diplomacy and self-aggrandizement, involving returned favors, deep pockets, deeper flights of fancy, and an ability to wrestle with your own demons. Such a show also solves the problem

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  • Carl Andre

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Edmund Husserl, in the Origin of Geometry, suggested that Euclid developed his Elements from such practical activities as building, and this didactic function of construction as a way of illustrating geometric principles has played a central role in Carl Andre’s work throughout his career. The sculptor’s recent show comprised five pieces (all 1998) configured according to a common compositional operation: The structure of each work was determined exclusively by the combination of identical units.

    Such alignments of uniform objects arranged on the floor in repetitive patterns were classic

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  • Kim Dingle

    Sperone Westwater

    Not so long ago, angry women were all the rage, and, for Kruger, Holzer, et al., it was a clean burn. Kim Dingle belongs to that same generation, but in her case the emotions are messier and the work rejects any slickness. Not only is there nothing to read in the works, the messages are downright preverbal.

    Dingle’s exhibition included one sculptural installation and six large paintings covered with the figures of girls and horses and decorative motifs like ivy all painted in a beautiful ultramarine, with bits of raw canvas peeking through. Both the all-over pattern paintings and the monumental

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  • Francis Bacon

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery

    “In old age,” psychoanalyst Anthony Storr wrote, “there is a tendency to turn from empathy toward abstraction; to be less involved in life’s dramas, more concerned with life’s patterns.” This is certainly the case in Francis Bacon’s Triptych, 1991—one of the most astonishing paintings in the recent exhibition of paintings from the artist’s estate—in which the painter subdues the drama of his lifelong themes while at the same time showing their basic character. Among the last paintings Bacon made, the quasi-religious work distills his art and attitude in a way appropriate to the solitude of old

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  • Ben Shahn

    The Jewish Museum

    What makes the paintings of Ben Shahn different from those of Francis Bacon is that the former sees suffering not as a personal hell but as an all-American shared experience. The current retrospective, “Common Man Mythic Vision,” offers the chance to see a number of the painter’s social realist works of the ’30s alongside many of his lesser-known allegorical paintings of the ’40s and ’50s. What is evident throughout is Shahn’s concern with tender feelings. Consider, for example, the gentle couple in Shahn’s Spring, 1947. Is it sentimental to show flowers and, in the background, a couple harmoniously

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  • Nancy Davidson

    Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

    Nancy Davidson’s best-known works are her sculptures in decorated latex: large colored balloons that she trusses and ties, wraps and straps, with ropes and lingerie-like fabrics. In the parentage of these pieces are debates over sculpture’s inside and outside, weight and solidity (or lack of it), and also about its proper place: The balloons may be moored to floor, wall, or ceiling, or may float or hang in the air. As much as Davidson’s rubbers discuss formal ideas, though, they talk more about sex, through their tight skins (poke them and they’ll pop), their lacy and frilly accessories, and

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  • Ben Vautier

    Zabriskie Gallery

    This collection of “Photo Rejects,” which date from the ’70s through the present, does not exactly show Ben Vautier as a photographer, if that term means having cultivated a style, a technique, a determinate attitude toward one’s equipment, medium, and subjects. Vautier, a veteran of both Fluxus and Nouveau Réalisme, is not particularly interested in such a definition of photography as an art. But he is intrigued by the act of taking photographs and the condition of being photographed, which is to say, the way one lives and acts in a world that includes photography among other activities; and

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  • Dinh Q. Lê


    History is woven of many interlacing strands, whose patterns are distinct from, yet can never wholly efface, the immediacy of their individual contents. Or at least that’s what artist Dinh Q. Lê seems to suggest with his large, rectangular works (all 1998) woven out of thin strips of photographic images—on the one hand, of decorative details from the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, on the other, of faces of people executed by the Khmer Rouge. So much depends on the observer’s viewpoint here. The two registers of imagery can be interwoven so subtly that although one may seem to dominate as the

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  • Noritoshi Hirakawa

    Deitch Projects

    In “The Reason of Life,” one of Noritoshi Hirakawa’s recent photographic series, the camera assumes the role of a Peeping Tom, offering a view of the world underneath a woman’s skirt. Shameless exploitation? Or a playfully subversive gesture? Either way, dismissing these works solely as the product of a lascivious mind would be wrong, for each Cibachrome crotch shot is accompanied by a black-and-white image that reveals that the female subjects may well be Hirakawa’s willing accomplices.

    The artist invited women in various cities, from Tokyo to Lisbon, to find a rather populated urban setting

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  • John Knight

    American Fine Arts

    Since the late ’60s, John Knight has been producing a thoroughgoing, institutionally critical art, and in this show he continues his caustic, often brilliant interrogative practice with an installation that was as intellectually rigorous as it was seductive. Entering the gallery, one was immediately engulfed by the visual and olfactory extravaganza of twenty-seven floral arrangements that seemed momentarily to transform the exhibition space into a flower shop or a funeral parlor. Each bouquet was accompanied by a small card acknowledging the name of the lending institution, in each case a

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  • Lucy Gunning

    Greene Naftali Gallery

    Lucy Gunning believes in grace, and in the painstaking, repetitive, often abject effort grace requires. A video artist with a background in sculpture, Gunning takes as her bailiwick the small, demanding, odd performance, the strange and resonant action undertaken not for show, but out of the goofy, risky exigencies of private challenge: women pretending to be horses; the artist circumnavigating a room without touching the floor. Her recent installation, Malcolm, Lloyd, Angela, Norman, Jane, involved more syncing and aural overlay than most of her previous pieces, but her subtext remained the

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  • William Turnbull

    Barbara Mathes Gallery

    William Turnbull’s first New York exhibition in nine years, which included seventeen bronze sculptures dating from 1980 to 1997, proved this British sculptor to be a master of his form, with work remarkable for its cosmopolitan sensibility, open-ended simplicity, and elegant craftsmanship.

    The Scottish-born, seventy-six-year-old artist studied in Paris from 1948 to 1950, where he met and absorbed the ideas of Giacometti and Brancusi. Like these European modernist sculptors, he appropriates a formal simplicity from a range of early sculptural traditions. The works on view quote eclectically from

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