reviews

  • H.C. Westermann, 30 Dust Pans, 1972, various woods, galvanized sheet metal, and brass, 46 x 45 x 32 3/4".

    H.C. Westermann

    New Museum

    People often complain, and they’re probably right, that there are two kinds of art: the kind the art world likes and the kind everyone else likes. To appreciate the former, you have to know something about art history; the latter holds an immediate, broad appeal that doesn’t depend on specialized knowledge. Although he has his fans in the art world, H.C. Westermann sits primarily in the latter category.

    This Westermann retrospective—his first in twenty-two years—collects most of the artist’s major pieces as well as many surprises. The density of the exhibition and the immediate presence of the

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  • Sidney Tillim

    Trans Hudson

    Sidney Tillim was a true-blue American as well as a modernist in the European tradition: Re loved movies, served in the army, began his working life as a baseball reporter; he was also an important critic, a trained painter, a connoisseur of photomechanical reproduction. These two aspects of his life combined to inform his painting practice for fifty years, pulling it between figuration and abstraction, the disarmingly direct and the academic, the humorous and the sober.

    Tillim’s last show (sadly, he died unexpectedly as this issue was going to press) consisted of eight new canvases that draw on

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  • John Bock

    Anton Kern Gallery

    "I’m in New Yok, and in New Yok the tradition is that the ahtist makes a Happening,” John Bock announced while standing on a curious plywood platform that formed the stage for his most recent performance. Cheerfully, earnestly, the German artist urged his Chelsea audience to “Go do it, it’s a Happening!” The viewers, most of whom were probably in diapers during the Happenings era (as Bock himself was), responded with sluggish amusement, as if they had been asked to dance the frug. Some accepted the beer and cigarettes Bock proffered. Others allowed him to douse twists of their hair with hairspray.

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  • Robert Watts

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    It’s been a good year for Fluxus. With elegant shows recontextualizing the art of Yoko Ono and Ray Johnson in all its freewheeling experimentation and intelligence, George Maciunas’s anarcho-good-time movement has been inscribing its details ever more precisely in the history books, where it serves as accomplice and antidote to the more lurid self-consciousness of Pop. Given the total institutionalization of the latter. It’s useful to keep in mind that during the late-’60s in New York, Fluxus and Pop were growing up together as twins born of the same ironic, iconoclastic impulse. It was only

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  • Nils Norman

    American Fine Arts

    For the past decade Nils Norman has been devising a series of imaginative proposals for improving urban living conditions through community-based initiatives. He is no starry-eyed utopian, however: Norman is all too aware of how blind devotion to social progress under modernism has often been misguided and destructive. The foibles of dogma provide abundant material for an artist keen on uncovering hypocrisy. Norman has struck a careful balance between parodying visionary zeal and maintaining faith in alternative solutions to contemporary civic malaise.

    Typical of his approach was the recent show

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  • Rebecca Quaytman

    Spencer Brownstone Gallery

    The Sun is Rebecca Quaytman’s latest work: a group of forty uniformly sized plywood panels, which can be arranged in multiple configurations. In this solo exhibition, they were hung in a grid. (A slightly different version of the piece was presented simultaneously in a single long row at the Queens Museum, as part of the group show “Crossing the Line.”) Quaytman’s title refers to the now defunct newspaper that reported the deaths of her paternal grandfather and great-grandfather in a freak train accident just over sixty years ago. The word “sun” also evokes the metaphoric and literal capacity

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  • Glenn Ligon

    D’Amelio Terras

    Maybe it’s because his black-and-white text paintings referred so dearly to Jasper Johns’s early work, but Glenn Ligon’s brightly colored new paintings bring to mind a notable episode in recent art history (one less universally admired than Johns’s alphabets and therefore all the more interesting): the early-’80s collaborations between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Or, as the boxing-themed ad for a 1985 exhibition of that work aptly suggested, Warhol vs. Basquiat. Whatever the personal chemistry that fueled that relationship, one could hardly imagine a more irresolvable stylistic

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  • Byron Kim

    Max Protetch

    The fascination of Byron Kim’s work has always been the way it held its two contrary tendencies, sensualism and conceptualism, in unresolved tension. Feeling has always been packaged in an idea—more specifically, in a voguish topos like the body (Kim’s early “Belly” paintings) or racial and cultural identity (his monochrome “portraits” of skin tones and the surfaces of Korean celadon pottery, respectively). But feeling and concept never quite merged, and this has given Kim’s paintings a sense of constriction, as if sentiment were prematurely cutting off cognition, ideation unduly restraining

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  • Ken Lum

    Andrea Rosen Gallery

    Published in 1972, Learning from Las Vegas was the ultimate postmodern (or antimodern) document, as it showed how, in North America at least, buildings were often subsidiary to road signs; architecture was, in essence, secondary to advertising. Ken Lum’s latest work doesn’t reference that canonical book specifically, but it radiates from the same center: The artist also examines the convergence of the political, historical, and everyday through the commercial-strip business sign with “adjustable type” (used in Vegas to advertise performers and everywhere else to announce sales, birthdays, and

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  • William Willis

    Howard Scott Gallery

    The image that immediately caught my eye in William Willis’s show was a painting in a near-grisaille palette. Subtle and small—only eight and a half by nine and a half inches—it shows a group of overlapping planes, generally rectangular but with careful rhymes of V shapes and diagonals. Off to the left, a skein of rounded forms runs over the edge of the canvas, making the side of the stretcher bar into a weblike frame. A triangular projection, a slight curve, and an area of volumetric shading turn one of the foremost rectangles into a pitcher, which in turn pushes other forms into implying

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  • Teun Hocks

    P. P. O. W.

    Teun Hocks has a flair for the absurd. In his recent large, hand-tinted photographs, he appears as a proper bourgeois, dressed immaculately in suit, tie, and white shirt, in a variety of deceptively plain stage settings of weirdly improbable worlds: a shack in the woods; a kind of foxhole; a wide, uninhabited landscape. Seemingly unaffected by the surreality of his situation, he impassively holds his own. In one image he puts his head into a framed picture as if through a window; in another he lies hunched up on a bed spanning a road in the middle of nowhere. In a third work, also in the middle

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  • “Serpentology Drawings”

    Jack Shainman Gallery | West 24th Street

    In Indian cosmogony, the serpent is assigned a variety of sometimes contradictory symbolic roles. According to Vedic legend, it is the first creature: Before the origin of the world, Vishnu sleeps stretched out on a cushion of rolled-up snake coils, floating in the cosmic ocean. In Tantrism, it is the link between earth and universe: Cosmic energy resides in the human body at the base of the spine, like a coiled and sleeping serpent, and unwinds toward the crown of the head on awakening (a result of meditation). It is the potential from which all manifestations come, the reservoir of all latencies,

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