reviews

  • Susanne Kühn

    Bill Maynes Gallery

    Habituated to variously ironic, goofy, or studiously slipshod painting, I wasn’t sure what to make of Susanne Kühn’s suite of ten acrylic-on-canvas landscapes with their careful draftsmanship and restricted palette of black, white, and somber greens. At a glance her works resemble children’s-book versions of the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich—or what the Douanier Rousseau might have come up with after a visit to the Black Forest. And these first impressions are actually not far off. Kühn, a native of Leipzig, turns out to be for the most part about as unironic a nature painter as one is

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  • “The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000”

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    Tocqueville was right. He thought that the inherent conflict between liberty and equality was the one big story the US had to tell, and “The American Century,” the two-part survey show on view this year at the Whitney Museum of American Art, inevitably retold that tale, playing a lively set of variations on Tocqueville’s theme. Twentieth-century art emerged as a field in which the dueling ambitions of personal liberty and social parity produced a potent creative ferment, and the fruits of artistic freedom in America are made manifest in the hundreds of paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, films,

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  • Anni Albers, Robert Beck, Cady Noland, Joan Semmel, Nancy Shaver

    Mitchell Algus Gallery

    How to deal with the art of the past—especially the recent past? As we fumble around for alternatives to the old do-away-with-dad modernist model (passive-aggressive postmodernism—i.e., replicate, don’t wrestle—was a nice try), three current shows take the lead, serving up yesterday three different ways.

    As ever, context is everything. Joan Semmel looks like two different artists in the group show (“Anni Albers, Robert Beck, Cady Noland, Joan Semmel and Nancy Shaver: Black and White Photographs 1975–77”) curated by Robert Gober at Matthew Marks and in her jewel of a solo (“Joan Semmel: Self-Images”)

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  • Cathy de Monchaux

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    Meret Oppenheim on steroids, accoutrements one might find in a dominatrix’s dungeon as outfitted by Industrial Light + Magic: It’s easy to get flamboyant describing Cathy de Monchaux’s sculpture. An alumna of Goldsmiths College in London, she shares some of the concerns of her YBA colleagues—an interest in seriality and repetition inherited from Minimalism combined with a propensity for brash decadence that seems to be drawn from Pop. But de Monchaux’s work functions within a symbolic code that is all her own. The two-venue show, “Mordant Rapture,” the artist’s second solo outing in New York,

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  • Andreas Slominski

    Metro Pictures

    Considering the current climate in New York, it is mildly surprising that Andreas Slominski’s first show here wasn’t shut down by the ASPCA. I can see the headlines now, hear the mayor’s heartfelt vows of support to all the city’s anguished animal lovers. With one exception, the sculptures on view take the form of traps for snaring a menagerie of prey—dogs, cats, fowl, even red deer—though I doubt they ever have been or will be used as such. It is aestheticians, not animals, who are liable to come to grief here.

    Why? Because even just to say “sculpture in the form of animal traps” points to the

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  • Katurah Hutcheson

    Kasmin | 293 Tenth Avenue

    There are paintings, and photographs as well, too reticent or self-absorbed to offer potential viewers a way in. More like objects than images, they most readily call to mind Maurice Blanchot’s observation that works of art are self-enclosed worlds only “open to those who possess the key,” which is simply “the enjoyment and understanding of a certain taste.” So works like these are accessible after all, at least to a viewer whose taste is for being left free to respond without exactly having been called. Such a taste will handily unlock Katurah Hutcheson’s work, represented at Kasmin by dense,

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  • Jenny Saville

    Gagosian Gallery

    Jenny Saville paints women’s bodies— bodies distorted to the point of being grotesque—but she also just paints, with an energy that enlivens her otherwise bloated, inert, sometimes carcasslike subjects. Much of the female body in Hem, 1998–99, for example, is composed of abstract passages of pure paint, which at once flatten the corpulent flesh and render it luminous. This raw painterliness subverts Saville’s illustrational tendencies, but it also gives her image an aggressive edge: In the act of dissolving the figure into “pure art,” the paint seems to sear the body, suggesting that it is

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  • Giles Lyon

    Kinz, Tillou + Feigen

    Looking at the extravagant surfaces of Giles Lyon’s abstract paintings, it’s hard to tell whether he’s doodling his way into significance or just having fun. The artist’s work has been hyped with all kinds of “advanced” theories—it’s been suggested that his paintings are stagings of a neo-organic realm produced by genetic engineering, and that their colors have the acidic tang of the world glimpsed through hallucinogenics—but their delirium seems to have more to do with creating an effect of irony than with embodying drug-induced fantasies. Gesture becomes self-mocking in Lyon’s paintings, and

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  • Janieta Eyre

    Josée Bienvenu Gallery

    March 1995, the Day I Experienced Love at First Sight: There should be a whole division of Hallmark for cards about love at first sight, but when Janieta Eyre takes that line for the title of a work from 1999, the most romantic thing in the photograph is a panel of rose-patterned print, maybe a textile, probably wallpaper. Before this backdrop stands the artist. She is formally linked to parts of her surroundings, though not to the roses: The shape of the watch she wears on a chain around her neck is echoed by a large segmented white circle, like the wheel of a ship, drawn on a flat square of

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  • Silvia Kolbowski

    American Fine Arts

    Silvia Kolbowski’s multimedia installation, An Inadequate History of Conceptual Art, 1998–99, comprises a 9-by-12-foot projection of a soundless, sixty-minute videotape loop featuring close-ups of different pairs of hands along with an audio recording of various voices. The hands and memories belong to twenty-two artists who responded to Kolbowski’s request to “briefly describe a conceptual art work, not your own, of the period between 1965 and 1975, which you personally witnessed/experienced at the time.” Kolbowski encouraged the participants to assume a broad definition of Conceptualism, one

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  • Diana Cooper

    Postmasters

    Diana Cooper’s new show had something for everyone. For that side of you that loves chaotic dispersions, there was installation; for those who prefer the lure of the autonomous object, there was a little painting. Many of the works are grounded in the medium of drawing; others utilize the two-dimensional surface as a kind of launchpad for wildly aggregating networks of pipe cleaners, paper chains, catheters, and tinfoil. The show was genuinely pleasurable to look at, but satisfaction could also be derived from how effortlessly Cooper’s work seems to occupy the space between process and the

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  • Alvin Booth

    Yancey Richardson Gallery

    Swathed in latex or bound and laced in modish leather garments designed by the photographer himself, the gilt figures that populate Alvin Booth’s photographs are distinctly contemporary. Flexing in various positions, these glistening bodies coated with metallic oils and gold powder clearly reflect present-day obsessions with the body, style, and fashion. As if to underscore this fact, many of these untitled eroticized images are mounted on the wall in a gridded format that expands on the variegated and voyeuristic aspects of the fashion photographer’s contact sheet. But such commonplace fixations

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  • Anna Zemánková

    Cavin-Morris

    A consistent source of formal and iconographic inspiration to academically trained, historically engaged artists throughout the twentieth century (from Paul Klee to Max Ernst to Julian Schnabel), talented autodidacts like Czech artist Anna Zemánková (1908–86) have too often been discussed using a pseudo-critical vocabulary (such as “compulsive visionaries,” coined by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992) that reads more like a diagnosis than an appraisal. Although the circumstances of this artist’s life might invite the former, the eighteen oil-pastel drawings that made up the show,

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  • Sapphire

    The Kitchen

    Occasionally a collaboration turns out so well that one can only marvel at the sum of its parts. Curator Carl Hancock Rux’s invitation to stage director Jaye Austin Williams to realize an evening celebrating the poet Sapphire’s most recent collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), was an act of prescient imagination, given that Austin Williams, in turn, appointed musician-composer Kwame Brandt Pierce, lighting designer Chris Weston, and stage manager Passion. Together they created a poetry reading of startling elegance—not words one usually associates with the form.

    Three

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