reviews

  • “Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-1969"

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Many artworks were noisy in the ’60s—much clanking and buzzing in the galleries. Most of them are now silent. More memorable is a nonsound, the implied thud of ax into wood in several of Jim Dine’s dangerous-looking artworks. That echo has relayed itself to my ear over three decades, and I brought it back with me to “Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959–1969” at the Guggenheim.

    Yes, there the hatchets were, whacked into the wood with a vigor that told you then, and tells you more emphatically now, that Dine was never suited (or bathrobed) for classification in the, to my mind, relatively benign Pop-art

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  • Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

    Cheim & Read | Upper East Side

    The sculpture fitly arches, achieving a rare sanctity—what earlier commentators on the Sublime declared to be a grace beyond the reach of art. It is possible to say it represents a lithesome body caught as if springing out of an acrobat’s routine, where the back arches in midair so that the tips of the middle fingers can light on the heels of the feet. Louise Bourgeois calls this work Arch of Hysteria. And yet a serene equilibrium centers its form. Still, the sense of delirium conveyed by the title sits comfortably next to this sculpture’s poise, because the hub of rationality is absent; a head

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  • Gabriel Orozco

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Gabriel Orozco makes art about things (and people and moments) and the spaces between them. We need both to make sense of the world: Trying to see everything, you get only a blur, but look at every other thing, and a pattern emerges. The question becomes, Which things do you choose, and which does your eye (or hand) skip over?

    In Orozco’s first solo show in New York, he displayed a single piece, Yogurt Caps, 1994. One blue-rimmed clear plastic lid, complete with expiration date, hung on each of the four walls of the main gallery, highlighting the emptiness between the barely-there readymades.

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  • John Baldessari

    Sonnabend Gallery

    John Baldessari has trained generations of audiences to look behind the curtain of appearances and question how meaning is generated. He attends to the forgotten corners of images, to puns and juxtapositions that pry a cockeyed poetry from the banal, and in so doing, he has consistently upheld the basic tenets of Conceptualism: its concern with tautologies, linguistic conundrums, and the self-referentiality of image-making. His recent show presented work from almost thirty years ago, a series of paintings anchored to a rigorous theoretical framework that is, nevertheless, entirely explicated on

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  • Anselm Kiefer

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    On the day that I saw the exhibition of Anselm Kiefer’s works on paper—ranging in date from 1969 to 1993, they had been kept together by the artist until the Metropolitan acquired them in 1995 and summarily trace the history of his development—I read an article on the New York Times website with the title: “The New Europeans: Multilingual, Cosmopolitan, Borderless.” I quickly realized that Kiefer is not a new European. Whether invoking the pagan history of German legend and myth or the more recent Nazi past (both passé concerns in the “new Europe”), his work seems provincial in purpose, however

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  • Guy Bourdin

    PaceWildenstein-MacGill

    Before Guy Bourdin was a great fashion photographer (perhaps best known for his work for French Vogue in the ’70s), he was a modest artist, in search of the visually unexpected for its own sake. As evidenced in this show of early black-and-white photography, he was less a manipulator and more a discoverer, and what he discovered was abstraction, as the natural grace of the world. One’s surroundings became spontaneously abstract, if one only knew how to look; no matter how ordinary, they blossomed into perfect form.

    That’s the lesson of the marvelous Spring, 1960, a simple epiphany of the eponymous

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  • Kara Walker

    Wooster Gardens

    Controversy is often thought to be good for an artist—and who, after all, would set out to be innocuous?—yet it must by definition mean that there are not only people who love your work but people who hate it. Kara Walker certainly has both: In 1997 she won a MacArthur, in 1998 she became a target at a Harvard symposium on the invidious use of the black stereotype. The topic should be painfully sensitive to Americans, which means that feelings of upset at Walker’s art must be respected—you can’t just say they’re wrong. (Although surely the outrage directed against the artist includes other, more

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  • Roxy Paine

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    During my visit to Roxy Paine’s recent exhibition, I encountered a pair of visitors who, after looking at simulated dry rot framed on a wall and hyperreal tabletop tracts of grass, fungi, and poppies, were unsure whether the same artist was also responsible for the elaborate contraption in the rear gallery that was slowly secreting a stream of melted thermoplastic onto a conveyor belt, creating bloblike sculptural shapes the artist later numbered and signed. I assured them it was. But, they insisted, the replications of nature were so realistic and crafted; the white, irregularly shaped mounds,

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  • Inka Essenhigh

    Deitch Projects

    Inka Essenhigh came into public view a year or so ago with a set of paintings whose style seemed fully formed and almost preternaturally controlled. Her gleaming enamel surfaces, composed then and now of maybe four decorator-coordinated colors each, are generic landscapes in which are set a race of quasi-human, Bacon-goes-Disney creatures caught up in incomprehensible mechanisms of violence and pleasure, all delineated in a fluent graphic shorthand. The obscure clockwork of their actions was sometimes reminiscent of Duchamp, but might just as well have been described as an eroticized cross

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  • Hiroshi Sugito

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    The second New York show of twenty-nine-year-old Hiroshi Sugito featured paintings of extraordinary delicacy that came, playfully, in two sizes: tiny and enormous. While many of this young Japanese artist’s contemporaries have been enthralled with mass-media imagery in the form of Japanimation, video games, and advertising, Sugito clearly finds his inspiration elsewhere. Drawing on the fantasies of childhood, he fashions dainty renderings of imaginary animals, dreamlike stage sets, bizarre machinery, and gargantuan buildings. The artist approaches this strange and charming subject matter with

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  • Rainer Ganahl

    Max Protetch

    Since 1995, in his “S/L (seminars/lectures)” series, Rainer Ganahl has been producing what are essentially portrait photographs of intellectuals. Far from the contemplative tradition associated with a photographer like Gisèle Freund or the free-floating head shots found on contributors pages in magazines from Vogue to Artforum, Ganahl’s snapshot aesthetic positions intellectual activity as a form of labor. The figures are depicted in the context of their semipublic work: leading a seminar, giving a lecture, attending a conference. For each subject, Ganahl then usually selects two photographs:

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  • Richard Phillips

    Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street

    Richard Phillips made his reputation in the mid-’90s with huge, immaculately painted “head shots” of beautiful babes and anonymous model types who are never more than vaguely familiar but whom we instantly associate with the mass media. The artist is drawn to the “throwaway” culture of that world—short-lived fads, too-cool fashions, long-forgotten ad campaigns—as well as to the “throwaway” decade, as the ’70s were once known. Phillips’s recent show continued along these lines. Two new paintings flash back to the “natural” look of the old days: In Riot (all works 1998), four beautiful young faces

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  • Spencer Finch

    Postmasters

    In his previous work, Spencer Finch has wandered the world quixotically tilting his paintbrush at historically fraught sites and subjects: the ceiling over Freud's couch in Vienna, the patch of sky above Cape Canaveral where the space shuttle Challenger blew up, a Civil War battlefield. In each case, he puts a witty twist on his inevitable failure to depict a scene adequately. The sky above Canaveral is rendered as a small square of blue acrylic on a white sheet of paper, for instance—a tragicomically rigorous depiction of the site as seen from the ground. But Finch seems less concerned with

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  • Ross Knight

    Team Gallery | Grand Street

    Ross Knight’s recent exhibition drew on influences spanning the socioeconomic spectrum: the emptied-out, less-is-more design of a tony, Minimalist-inspired loft; the lightweight, portable architecture of the corporate trade show; and the sloppy, catch-as-catch-can facture of the homeless encampment. The artist’s boxy, maquette-like constructions of corrugated vinyl sheeting, held together with Velcro or fastened onto armatures of aluminum piping, come in an array of basic shapes—rectangular solids, vertical planes, a prism standing on edge—all assembled as crudely as possible and adorned with

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