reviews

  • Irving Penn, Nude No. 106, 1949–50, black-and-white photograph, 14 3/4 x 17 5/8".

    Irving Penn, Nude No. 106, 1949–50, black-and-white photograph, 14 3/4 x 17 5/8".

    Irving Penn

    Whitney Museum of American Art

    In 1991, more than forty years after he had completed his first nudes, Irving Penn declared: “The relationship between us was professional, without a hint of sexual response. Anything else would have made pictures like these impossible.”

    In 2001 Penn said of the same sessions, “It was a kind of love affair. I was a bachelor at the time.” He recalled staying connected to the models “with coos, murmurs, and supportive breathing to convey that everything was wonderful, just right in this perfect situation.” He would get down on the floor with his camera right next to the model. The camera allowed

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  • Richard Serra

    Gagosian Gallery (21)

    Richard Serra is definitely on a roll—of warped, two-inch-thick weatherproof steel. In his recent New York exhibition, the reigning king of the monumental offered elaborations on his “Torqued Ellipses,” the massive gyrelike shapes, alternately melancholy, soothing, and triumphal, that graced the Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea in 1997. The new work attracted enormous crowds, who patiently waited to enter the disorienting passages of the two giant spirals as though in line at a theme park. Hard to believe that the sculptor of Tilted Arc would prove so wildly popular. But Serra, by

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  • Nancy Spero

    Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

    Nancy Spero has produced another monumental “scroll” work, an epic frieze of the magnitude of her earlier pioneering installations, such as Notes in Time on Women, 1979, and The First Language, 1981. Like those, Azur, 1997–2002, is a three-tier horizontal “surround” of printed and painted paper collage, a bursting-at-the-seams extravaganza of figures familiar and strange, mythic and real, whose shared attribute is being female. In Azur (composed of thirty-nine panels, each made up of several large sheets of paper, all 277 feet of it pushpinned to the wall), Spero's ladies leap into action,

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  • Elger Esser

    Sonnabend Gallery

    A relatively young photographer from Germany, Elger Esser specializes in landscapes, particularly landscapes that are flat. He likes beaches and wetlands, places where the single strongest visual mark may be the horizon, a straight line dividing the view. In Saône, France, 2000, that line is virtually all there is: The river, apparently in flood, fills the image. A scattering of leafless, light-shed saplings to the left, their trunks submerged, and an unobtrusive row of half-sunk trees and brush in the middle distance may mark the near bank; then there is only water until the remote rim of earth

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  • Gordon Matta-Clark

    David Zwirner / Zwirner & Wirth

    Gordon Matta-Clark died young, but the life span of his large-scale architectural interventions was even shorter. Of the major site-specific “non-uments” realized in the period between his architectural studies at Cornell in the late '60s and his death from cancer in 1978, not one has escaped the wrecking crew. Since the work was fundamentally concerned with the physical experience of built space—a kinesthetic mix of void and mass, light and shadow, suburban saltbox or pier warehouse and phenomenological event—this poses problems for curators. Of course, Matta-Clark knew that the

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  • Albert Oehlen

    Luhring Augustine / Skarstedt Fine Art

    More than twenty years after Albert Oehlen's first solo show, in Stuttgart in 1981, these two exhibitions presented works that function as bookends to the painter's career so far. Like his collaborators Martin Kippenberger, Georg Herold, and Werner Büttner, Oehlen came on the German art scene at the peak of neo-expressionism, when Baselitz, Lüpertz, et al. were finally being “discovered” on an international scale after having exhibited in Germany since the ‘60s. From the outset Oehlen and his peers responded satirically to the older artists’ painterly excesses and self-importance, quickly

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  • “Loop”

    P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

    About halfway through this selective survey of formal and conceptual circularity in contemporary art, one encountered a large wall text reading IT'S ONLY JUST BEGUN. This proclamation (a 1993 “instruction” work by Douglas Gordon) would have served nicely at the show's entrance as a kind of deadpan slogan, but its placement in the middle of the installation is both sly and appropriate. Keenly reflexive, Instruction (#4) exemplifies the way in which all the works here seamlessly repeat, merging beginning and end in cyclical continuity.

    Organized by chief curator Klaus Biesenbach (and traveling to

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  • Janet Sobel

    Gary Snyder Gallery

    Janet Sobel probably never read Clement Greenberg's glancing tribute to her in his revised 1955 essay “'American-Type' Painting,” but the passage has become an obligatory pit stop in discussions of her puzzling, newly resuscitated career. Back in 1944 at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery, Greenberg recalls, “Pollock (and I myself) admired [Sobel's] pictures rather furtively. . . . The effect, and it was the first really ‘all-over’ one that I had ever seen . . .was strangely pleasing.” You'd think the implication that Sobel had some role in Pollock's development would have guaranteed

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  • Amy Cutler

    Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

    The women in Amy Cutler's world don't have it easy. Two especially surly specimens, umbrellas strapped to their heads, rest from a jousting match on goats; tiny red puncture wounds mar the combatants' sweaters (Umbrage, 2001). Elsewhere a platoon of girls one-ups the tractor-pull-with-teeth trick, using their outrageously long braids to drag an entire farmhouse off its moorings—in a snowstorm, no less (Traction, 2002). In the more than three dozen works that constituted her first solo show in New York, Cutler demonstrated a seemingly boundless imagination for surrealistic plights and sadistic

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  • Guy Richards Smit

    Team Gallery | Grand Street

    Guy Richards Smit's latest exhibition opened with a bash on New Year's Eve, as if to announce that in 2002 art could be funny again. Reveling in self-parody, Smit's videos and related watercolors offered a deft mockery of the excesses, attitudes, and social pretensions of the New York art world. This is familiar ground for Smit: In previous videos, he cast himself as his own artistic alter ego, Jonathan Grossmalerman (“big painter guy” in German), a narcissist with a high substance intake who spends more time in nightclubs than in the studio. Grossmalerman embodies the overindulgence of '80s-style

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  • Type A

    Ten in One Gallery

    Type A, the collaborative team of New York artists Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin, has been exploring various forms of male competition, often of the phallic sort, for nearly four years. A 1998 video, Urban Contests, featured a pee-off, while Prize, 2000, a Matthew Barney-esque installation of a pair of cast-resin athletic supporters, conjured locker-room discussions of penis size. Their latest work continues to mine the one-on-one dynamic (homosocial rather than homosexual) but branches out a bit, exploring not just male behavior but what might be described as a masculine aesthetic.

    The centerpiece

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  • Tom Waldron

    Linda Durham Contemporary Art

    For all their monumentality, Tom Waldron's welded-steel sculptures are oddly understated, perhaps because they are more broad than tall or because they feel scripted rather than spontaneous. The title of his recent exhibition, “The Character of the Equation,” suggests the mathematical basis of the work, the redetermination that contributes to its sedateness. Yet if Pounce doesn't pounce, Skid doesn't skid, and Dart doesn't dart, the five sculptures on view here (all 2001) do seem to be on the move, their curves and angles signaling some kind of upheaval. The massive Flood, with its pitching

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  • Andrew Young

    Littlejohn Contemporary

    Andrew Young has the eye of a naturalist, to use a nineteenth-century term appropriate given the Victorian-looking patina of his paintings and collages. In his recent works, ten of which were on view here, he pastes meticulously handpainted images—birds, plants, flowers—on variously textured papers, interspersing them with monochrome Asian prints, postage stamps, and fragments of pages from Chinese newspapers and magazines.

    At first glance Young's works can seem muted, almost timid. Yet even from a distance a discreetly animated quality competes with the flatness of the stylized graphic

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