reviews

  • “Clemente”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

    Let me confess at the outset that I was genuinely disappointed by Francesco Clemente’s exhibition at the Guggenheim, but not, perhaps, for the right reasons. Certainly, I was disappointed not because one expects better from the Guggenheim (one doesn’t) or because we deserve better (we don’t), or even because I expected to see a serious retrospective exhibition (I didn’t). What I expected was a fragrance, an essence, as advertised by the exhibition’s trademark title, “Clemente”—as if murmured by one of those Euro-teens who trip up to you in Bloomingdale’s, squeeze an atomizer, and becloud you

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  • Alex Katz

    Marlborough | Midtown

    This is as good as it gets. Right now, no one’s paintings surpass Alex Katz’s vast, expansive landscapes (recently on view at Marlborough). Their hallmark is the vacant beauty we find in works like West 2, 1998, an urban nocturne in which a series of illuminated windows is little more than a few sequences of blunt white swipes with a wide brush over a black ground. And in November 4:30, 1997, the calligraphic bravura with which a backlit tree’s almost bare branches are evoked turns out to be just an opening act for the breathtaking sweep of color changes, from ethereal blue to sun-saturated

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  • Tracey Baran

    Liebman Magnan

    In her first exhibition, a year and a half ago, Tracey Baran located her photographic subject at the intersection of the social and the psychological. Portraying her own family and its disorderly wreck of a home somewhere in the low-rent backwaters of upstate New York—and acting as both participant and observing eye—Baran eschewed the reportorial melodrama of a Richard Billingham in favor of a more tight-lipped but also more forgiving sense of unease. What gave the pictures their force was the way they seemed to have been composed with the candor of a child who sees everything clearly because

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  • David Reed

    Max Protetch

    No one will be shocked to hear that David Reed is not a minimal painter these days, but he began as one. In the ’70s, he reduced painting to its basic elements: a canvas, a brush, black and white paint, the reach of his arm. The literalism of the late ’60s and ’70s produced some great art, but the blunt assertion of material as material turned out to be not only limited as an aspiration, but impossible.

    And complexity is simply more interesting, as Reed has been proving since the early ’80s; his most recent paintings are intricate without being overwrought. One of the finest, #448, 1995–99, is

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  • Uta Barth

    Bonakdar Jancou Gallery

    Walter Benjamin described aura–that intangible quality that distinguishes an object from its photographic reproduction–as the effect of a thing’s “unique existence.” According to Benjamin, not only do photographs lack their own aura, they destroy the ones objects possess by supplanting a singular presence with a potentially infinite number of copies. But ironically, because what it captures is less the object per se than the unrepeatable instant when the object stood in front of the camera’s lens, photography heightens our awareness of the very uniqueness it simultaneously undermines. The medium

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  • Mona Hatoum

    alfonso

    Mona Hatoum’s New York exhibition—her first in the city since the New Museum survey in 1997—functioned as something of a primer for the artist’s concerns. Often discussed in terms of national and cultural identity (Hatoum is Palestinian and has lived in London since the mid-’70s), her tightly orchestrated installations have, in recent years, dealt with power in a more interior, abstract sense, as the ominous corollary of desire. Like Rebecca Horn and Jana Sterbak, Hatoum has roots in performance, and her sculptures retain the stamp of the absent corpus—they are appliances through which the body

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  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    David Zwirner | 525 & 533 West 19th Street

    One piece in the recent show of Gordon Matta-Clark’s work, titled Blast from the Past, 1972–73, consists of a vitrine containing a photographic fragment of a small pile of trash measured by a ruler, a reconstruction of the floor sweepings on the neutral white bottom of the display case, and these handwritten instructions: “Puzzle kit . . . contains all the parts necessary to recreate this compelling scene from history of my floor . . . Just use this simple diagram to put everything in its proper place.” The disjunction at the center of this work, the impossibility of following the instructions

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  • Michael David

    Knoedler & Company

    Michael David’s most recent abstract encaustic paintings are eloquently deceptive: What looks at first like wispy atmosphere—elusive surges of color against an amorphous ground—is on closer inspection revealed to be a tactile, heavily built-up surface. For over twenty years, David has been working in this encaustic technique, which involves combining dry pigments with melted wax and damar varnish, and he takes the process quite seriously: Pump (all works 1999) uses some sixty pounds of molten cadmium-red wax—a magma the artist pours on the canvas in a gesture evoking Jackson Pollock’s process.

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  • Frederick Sommer

    Pace | 32 East 57th Street

    When the elevator doors opened onto the recent Frederick Sommer show, some viewers might have thought they’d gotten off on the wrong floor, perhaps at an exhibition of midcareer Pollock or (more to the point) early Max Ernst. One might not expect paintings and drawings of organic abstraction in a show drawn from the photographer’s estate, but there they were, provocatively on display among four of the more familiar gelatin-silver prints: four drawings in ink on charcoal paper and four paintings in tempera on stretched canvas. This was a risky and delightful show, both for what it attempted and

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  • Brad Kahlhamer

    Deitch Projects

    Entering Brad Kahlhamer’s exhibition “Friendly Frontier” was a bit like stopping off at a roadside attraction on Route 66. The viewer was immediately confronted by a wall-based installation of small kachina figures wrought from pieces of wood, nails, and old clothing, with ropy hair fashioned from unraveled twine. In a nearby corner was a stuffed javelina, its tiny but fearsome jaws parted, captured mid-prance in a diorama-like replica of its native desert landscape, which came complete with sand, cacti, and birds overhead. Handmade from feathers and scraps of fabric and hung from highly visible

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  • Jeanne Silverthorne

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    The Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris is a peculiar exhibition site, challenging both physically and socially. It begins with an outsize anteroom, the Sculpture Court, one of those lofty office-lobby atria—glass-walled, granite-floored, greeneried—that have grown up in response to zoning laws rewarding corporations that devote some of their acreage to public use. Like many such rooms, this one is scattered with tables where you can bring your lunch. In one corner is a glass door leading to a small gallery. Artists working here may use both spaces, but in either case they can expect

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  • Phil Frost

    Jack Shainman Gallery

    Phil Frost is part of a clique (“school” seems too formal) of street artists/skateboarders who’ve filtered into galleries in recent years—the most prominent being Barry McGee, with whom Frost has had a long association. What’s most immediately striking about the artist’s work is how his graffiti-inspired street sensibility is simultaneously amplified and simplified, creating a frenetic yet almost sheerly decorative effect. Frost’s trademark, like McGee’s liquor bottles, is a white frosting (forgive the pun) of elaborate signs and symbols—dots, arrows, spades, hearts, birdlike figures, and the

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  • Marco Brambilla

    When I meet someone at the airport, especially for an international flight, I like to get there early to watch the influx of people at the arrival gate. The intermundial character of air travel, its uncanny evocations of birth and death and limbo, make for a lot of psychic drama, and it’s all so clearly legible, flickering on the faces of travelers: relief, exhaustion, anxiety, bewilderment, joy. Watch enough people emerge into the airport’s cold netherworld and strange things start to happen: Everyone begins to look both identical and like people you know, at once interchangeable and unique.

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