reviews

  • “Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    The idea of an exhibition devoted to the art of the '80s is almost irresistibly fun. A wholesale revival of the decade, represented by fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and a range of popular movies from The Wedding Singer to American Psycho, is supposedly upon us, mining the styles and attitudes of that frenetic era. Such a revival looks particularly right in New York today, where an environment of breathless expenditure and expansion, not to mention a looming sense of an inevitable “correction, evokes the era’s champagne-and-cocaine flavor no less than its menacing rise-and-fall histrionics.

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  • Fred Tomaselli

    James Cohan Gallery / Christine Burgin

    An encyclopedia of fantastical beings, the bestiary has an allegorical or moralizing purpose, classifying physical deviance and offering metaphysical counsel as well as presenting an orderly compendium of psychedelic effects. In other words, the bestiary is what Fred Tomaselli composes under the aegis of painting. Tomaselli isn’t exactly a painter, though he does paint, with a delicate, illustrator's hand. His work’s wildness derives from its collaged elements: flowers, birds, hands, and eyes, all made of paper; glued-on pills, insects, and leaves of cannabis. Encased in layers of resin, pulsing

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  • Tony Tasset

    Feigen Contemporary

    Back in the ’80s, at least for a little while, Tony Tasset was one of a number of artists playing games with the heritage of Minimalism, building cubes and boxes that made you think of Donald Judd and then upholstering them plushly in leather. Turning a supposedly primary structure into something like a rich uncle’s ottoman, Tasset might have been seen as just a prankish kid sassing his elders, and the work was, in fact, pretty funny—but it was also elegantly executed and art historically informed (I particularly remember some canny puns on seriality), pointing toward not only a ’60s Minimalist

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  • Jason Rhoades

    David Zwirner | 519 West 19th Street

    Jason Rhoades has come a long way since his first New York installation in 1993, which consisted of a messy mechanic’s shop transplanted to the gallery (complete with greasy engine overhaul in progress). The artist’s recent project “Of Perfect World” makes clear that his increasingly sophisticated experimentation with materials, design ideas, and presentation formats is matched by ever more complex conceptualization.

    Extracted from his massive 22,000-square-foot installation “Perfect World,” produced for the Hamburg Deichtorhallen in 1999, “Of Perfect World” featured sections of custom-made

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  • “American Bricolage”

    Sperone Westwater

    Like flâner, bricoler is one of those French verbs for which there is no real equivalent in English. The flaneur strolls through city streets without a destination; the bricoleur cobbles together bizarrely functional if totally impractical objects from materials at hand, more muddled inventor or dotty visionary than strategic entrepreneur. Both activities carry a hint of the subversive—particularly in this country, home of assembly-line efficiency, planned obsolescence, and automobile addiction.

    Indeed, coming on the heels of a surging ’90s economy that begat art distinguished by its slick good

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  • David Deutsch

    Gorney Bravin + Lee

    David Deutsch made his mark in the early ’80s as a painter of contemporary pastorals. In these delicately rendered arcadias, he included objects like radio towers and satellite dishes—signs of modern telecommunications that served as subtle reminders of our post-Edenic state. About a decade later, he began to base his landscapes on photographs taken from airplanes. The addition of aerial perspective introduced a new level of complexity into Deutsch’s nature/culture debate: The intrusion of technology was no longer just the subject of his art but had become one of its structuring principles.

    In

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  • Enrique Martínez Celaya

    Ramis Barquet

    For Enrique Martínez Celaya, as for the Romantics, imagination is a faculty of perception, one that unlocks the mysterious world loosely referred to as spiritual. Apprehended in rare moments, the forms of this world are at once allusive and singular, familiar and private, perceptible and fleeting. “Unreal” in the rationalist sense, they are nonetheless the portents on which the quality of our living seems most deeply to depend.

    Celaya’s recent exhibition, “Drafts of a Landscape,” featured large, primarily white paintings on black velvet, as well as more intimate works on paper. A master of texture,

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  • Mary Lucier

    Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

    A larger-than-life-size digital projection shows a short-haired black man in a suit and tie sitting against a white backdrop. Obviously deaf, he gesticulates vividly, even urgently, while emitting various grunts, moans, and other nonlinguistic vocalizations. There is such a communicative fervor to his performance that it is easy to forget that one cannot understand him. The camera recording all this is not stationary but moves unobtrusively, as if sensitively following the story; the tape has been subtly processed so that it is slightly jerky. At one point the scene splits into two superimposed

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  • Renée Green, Marion von Osten, and Peter Spillmann

    Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART

    This show presupposed that mythical beast, the gallery-goer willing to part with a bit of time—a highly valued commodity in New York. Outgoing Swiss Institute director Annette Schindler assembled these three separate installations around the idea of cultural labor. Projects by Renée Green, well known to the New York audience, and Marion von Osten and Peter Spillmann, Swiss artists who have often collaborated, encouraged a hands-on approach and devoted relatively little attention to questions of aesthetics. This relaxed attitude toward the conditions of display only lent more weight to the theme

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  • Meg Cranston

    Venetia Kapernekas Gallery

    Outside certain Nazi circles, physiognomy did not enjoy a kind reception in the twentieth century. And even if it were revived today, teeth would not be likely candidates for analysis: Certain physical traits, such as height, are still irremediable in the twenty-first century, but teeth are not among them. In an age of modem dentistry and fluoridated water, “good” teeth are more common than at any other point in history—although, lie almost everything else, they are also a reliable indicator of socioeconomic position. And with bonding and new whitening techniques, some teeth are even an index

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  • “From India: Contemporary Anonymous Tantra Paintings on Paper”

    Feature Inc.

    An exquisite show: nineteen small, untitled paintings on paper by anonymous artists in the Indian state of Rajasthan, created between 1989 and 1999. Yet these works are much more “ancient” than their dates allow. Revisited from generation to generation, the images interpret traditional iconographic themes that have been appearing in Hindu tantric texts since the seventeenth century. The goal of tantra is to allow the practitioner to reach higher levels of consciousness, and finally enlightenment, through postures (asanas), gestures (mudras), mantras, breathing techniques, visualization, and

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  • Tony Cragg

    Marian Goodman Gallery | New York

    Tony Cragg's sculpture is endlessly multivalent, ranging from witty works that involve stacking and accumulation (often with found odds and ends such as glass bottles and wooden handles) to highly finished, autonomous carved figures and grand standing vessels. Extraordinarily sensitive to texture, he puts a variety of materials through the paces, sometimes polishing them to slick perfection, other times roughing them up, even scarifying them, as if to suggest pain. There's invariably a whimsical vigor and bizarre integrity to his protean objects, all the more so because they seem peculiarly

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