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Diego Rivera
Proletarian Unity,
at Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art

Frederick Edwin Church
Study for the Parthenon,
at Richard York

Wayne Thiebaud
Ice Drinks, 1988.
at Allan Stone

Grandma Moses
Picnic, 1945
at Galerie St. Etienne

Pablo Picasso
Enfant avec cheval a roulettes
1949, at Jan Krugier

Jose Maria Sicilia
Untitled, 1996
at Joseph Helman

Carlo Maria Mariani
Weaver of the Ideal, at Associated American Artitsts, 1996.

the art show

by Walter Robinson
There's something for everyone at this 
year's Art Show, the ninth installment of 
the annual art extravaganza sponsored by 
the Art Dealers Association of America. 
This year 62 of the nation's most prominent 
art dealers present their choicest wares at 
the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 
67th Street. The show runs from Thursday, 
Feb. 20, through Monday, Feb. 24, 1997. As 
always, it benefits the Henry Street 
Settlement on the Lower East Side.
We just spent an intensive two hours during 
the press preview running around, taking 
notes for this report, with only the 
slightest break for three or four roast 
beef sandwiches, two ginger snaps, a coke 
and a coffee, so kindly supplied for the 
press. On the way back we were reading over 
the press kit, which cites a whole list of 
highlights, none of which we had even 
noticed. Rembrandt's Jupiter and Antiope 
(1659) at Pace Master Prints; Study from 
the Male Body (1986) by Francis Bacon at 
Stephen Mazoh; Brancusi's painting, 
Portrait de Femme (c. 1920-23) at James 
Goodman; the earliest de Kooning drawing of 
a woman, Untitled (Woman) (1944) at CDS; 
and Everyone's Melody (1996), a new 
painting by Roberto Matta, one of the last 
surviving Surrealists, at Maxwell Davidson. 
That's why there's something for everyone. 
Let us tell you what caught our eye.
By all accounts, it's the best show ever, 
full of surprises. For instance, walk in 
and right there by the door, in the booth 
of Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art, is a giant 
portrait of Lenin, flanked by Marx and 
Engels, and joined by Trotsky, Rosa 
Luxemberg, Stalin and other communist 
luminaries. The work is a 1933 fresco by 
Diego Rivera, Proletarian Unity, one of 
what originally was a series of 21 moveable 
frescoes made for the New Workers School at 
51 West 14th Street, an institution founded 
by the American Communist Party. Most 
recently exhibited at the Studio Museum in 
Harlem in 1996 in "In the Spirit of 
Resistance: African-American Modernists and 
the Mexican School," it is the last 
privately available panel. Could the 
triumph of Capital be more complete?
For the Art Show, the dealers make a 
special effort to bring out rare works and 
things fresh to the market. At Michael 
Werner, for instance, is a 1943 plaster 
sculpture by Kurt Schwitters, made in 
England when he was attempting to rebuild 
his Merzbau at the end of his life. Also at 
Werner are some curious Hans Arp collages 
from 1960, all titled Poupee, a series of 
works consisting of symmetrical hourglass 
shapes cut from painted, folded paper and 
then pasted on a ground. The works are 
feminine and phallic at the same time, and 
bring a new `60s reductionism to the 
biomorphism of his classic sculptures.
The Arp collages make an interesting 
comparison to a group of new ink drawings 
by California pop pioneer Bruce Conner
on view around the corner at Curt Marcus'
booth. These similarly symmetrical works 
are made with a Rorschach-blot process 
but have a pronouncedly dark and gothic-
cathedral-window feel to them. Also at 
Marcus is a fresh new oil by Mark Tansey--
don't touch, it's still wet--drawn in alizarin 
crimson over a Robin's egg blue ground. 
Called Study for Bridge over Cheating Waters, the 
picture is reversible--that is, the top can 
also be the bottom, and vice versa--divided 
across the middle by a rope bridge and 
including a waterfall, a portaging canoeist 
and, hidden in the grass, what one can 
presume is the cheating couple. 
While we were standing there at Marcus, Josh 
Baer wandered by, full as usual of 
interesting but confidential information 
but imparting one printable note, that is, 
that Richard Grey has on view one of the 20 
original valises made by Marcel Duchamp in 
the 1960s and containing miniature versions 
of all his most famous works. We also ran 
into Peter Schjeldahl, the illustrious 
critic for the Village Voice, who, when one 
of Roy Lichtenstein's famous late benday 
nudes was brought to his attention, said, 
"I don't care what he does, but it's a 
mistake." Hmm.
At Galerie Lelong, our attention was drawn 
to Wifredo Lam's 1944 Les Fiances, a large 
work portraying a romantic couple--we are 
sure one of the shapes in the center of the 
composition shows a valentine heart pierced 
by an arrow. The folkish, cuboid work, made 
in Paris before the artist's return to 
Cuba, is beginning to show the "cheval" 
horse shapes that would become his 
Surrealist trademark. Also on view at 
Lelong are new works by Donald Lipski and 
Pierre Alechinsky.
Down the aisle at CDS, we might have 
overlooked a de Kooning but what we liked 
were Henry Moore's Ideas for Sculpture, a 
pair of pencil drawings dating from 1936 
and `37, each filled with rows of little 
squiggly doodles suggestive of his giant 
bronzes. The playful elegance of the line 
reminded us of old New Yorker cartoons!
At Castelli the first thing we noticed was 
a copy of the Art Newspaper on the booth 
coffee table--now that's what we call 
positioning. Castelli's wares are always so 
contemporary but we noticed a cool neon 
piece by Keith Sonnier. His stuff just 
keeps getting better. The critic Gianfranco 
Mantegna joined us, saying, "I like 
felines." He was looking at a set of pages 
of writing by Hanne Darboven, each with a 
collaged color photo of a little kitten. 
Then he stepped across the aisle to Richard 
York, where an 1857 painting by Charles 
Christian Nahl (1818-1878) shows a young 
man, hunting knife unsheathed, gazing out 
at the viewer, a dead mountain lion at his 
The Art Show is always a good place to see 
classic moderns. At Aquavella, for 
instance, is Paysage et Maisons a Ceret 
(1913) by Juan Gris, one of the only two 
landscapes done by the great Cubist. It 
looks almost Futurist, a country scene 
viewed from above, fractured by rays, 
showing trees, roof tiles, buildings. By 
serendipity, over at Agnew's is a beautiful 
Cubist still life by Braque, Le Verre 
d'Absinthe, also painted in Ceret and 
showing a glass, a bottle and a bunch of 
green grapes on an ochre table. 
At Associated American Artists is a group 
of works by Carlo Maria Mariani, the neo-
neo-classical painter who will have a show 
at the gallery next November. One is called 
Weaver of the Ideal (1996) and shows three 
garlanded muses holding an oversize stone 
arm holding a pen. AAA also has a sumptuous 
painting by Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Emblema de 
Parenque (1996), filled with a platter 
cornucopia of bananas and avocados.
Sonnier is not the only high tech artist in 
the fair. One notable other is Ana Maria 
Nicholson, whose incredible hologram 
portrait by of Dr. Mathilde Krim is at 
Fischbach, extending the gallery's 
tradition of showcasing contemporary 
American realism.
Joe Helman has put up a three-person show. 
Most striking are the wax flower paintings 
by Jose Maria Sicilia, who was just 
anointed by El Pais as the greatest artist 
in Spain. Hidden under the surface are 
barely perceptible pages from the Koran. 
Also on view is a new diamond-shaped 
picture of some horses in a field by Joe 
Andoe, with his name signed in the yellow 
sky at the top of the diamond, and some 
Minimalist abstract drawings by Wes Mills, 
an artist from Boston who is new to the 
Over at John Berggruen is a real find, a 
sculpture by ... guess who? ... Agnes 
Martin. It's an old wooden box with a glass 
top with glass beads in grooves inside, 
like a kid's counting toy. We also noted 
one of Carol Diehl's checkerboard diaristic 
paintings at Hirschl & Adler Modern, this 
one dating from January 1997 and 
chronicling "dentist," "metronorth," 
"snyder-glier." We think we should phone 
her more often and make our way into the 
Finally, Sidney Janis has an anomalous 
work--a trompe l'oeil painting by William 
Harnett called Mynheer's Lunch (1879). The 
pristine painting shows a big stoneware 
mug, flecked and banded with blue; a thick 
pouch of tobacco, a pipe with burnt matches 
and a folded copy of the World Herald. And in 
the corner, a tiny biscuit. This is what we 
would have called "lunch" ourselves at one 
time. "I was going to hang it between two 
Albers," joked Carol Janis, "but I didn't 
have two Albers." So he put it next to 
Wesselmann's Great American Nude (1962). 
And over at C&M, Robert Pincus-Witten 
pointed out "the only Manet in captivity," 
a pastel of one of the Havilland girls not 
unlike the one sold by the Shelburne 
Museum for $4 million last fall. Also on
view is a great transitional Rothko from
the late `40s, and two late nudes by 
Maillol. The gallery will host an 
exhibition this April of 22 sculptures, 
seven life size, of the last great casts by 
the artist, a show done in collaboration 
with the Maillol Museum in Paris. And 
finally (again), C&M has a 1960 Stella 
notch painting from his silver series. 
"Once the coldest, most resolute reaction 
to Abstract Expressionism," said Pincus-
Witten, "now a souvenir of great 
Admission to the art fair is $10 for a 
one-day pass. 
WALTER ROBINSON is editor of ArtNet