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Back to Reviews 97

    new in new york
by Walter Robinson  

Angela Bulloch
Bean Bag Set II

Vito Acconci and Studio
   Rooms with a View: Environments for Video at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo
Apr. 16-June 15, 1997

Ugly title, lovely show. It underscores, once again, the Guggenheim's uncanny ability to take a controversial issue (the influence on museum programming of corporate sponsorship, in this case by Deutsche Telekom) and turn it into a triumph (the renewed and timely focus on video art, of which this exhibition is the latest in a series). Here, the four "viewing environments" include fun, primary-colored beanbags by London-based artist Angela Bulloch and a jungle-gym type structure designed by Vito Acconci, in which televisions and speakers are positioned so that the tops of their cabinets make an upwards spiraling staircase. Also featured is Dan Graham's Three Linked Cubes/Interior Design for Space (1986), a set of four cubbies featuring reflective glass. Eleven years after it was first made, and I still don't see why you would want to see a reflection of yourself while watching television. Overall, as one who was conditioned by his parents to feel waves of guilt whenever the TV is on, I would have to say that the monitors here, playing a broad selection of tapes, could hardly look more jewel-like. Especially welcome is the chance to see three video-art classics from the 1970s: Joan Jonas' Vertical Roll (1972), Richard Serra's Television Delivers People (1973) and Dara Birnbaum's Wonder Woman (1979).


Dennis Oppenheim
View of
Sleeping Dogs, 1997
   Dennis Oppenheim at Joseph Helman
Apr. 9-May 3, 1997

Modernism has always been a linguistic conceit, as Duchamp showed. And at least since his first New York solo show in 1968, Dennis Oppenheim (b. 1938) has been making the literal real. Here we have a piece called Let Sleeping Dogs Lie in which human-sized hot dogs lie quietly in real sleeping bags arranged around a campfire crafted from illuminated ornamental fireplace logs, while a pair of human (mannequin) torsos turn on a spit over another pile of logs. In a pair of works called Doom Room on a Stroke #1 and #2, a large steel-frame model of a room hangs by a rubber strap from some brushstrokes made of plaster hanging on the wall. Rather than the strokes hanging from the wall, it's the other way `round. The show has been cut short by a week, as the works here will be part of an exhibition during the Venice Biennale inaugurating a new museum in the town of Maestra adjoining Venice.


Thomas Schütte
Die Fremden in Lübeck
   Thomas Schütte at Marian Goodman
Apr. 11-May 10, 1997

The German artist Thomas Schütte left his usual mordant wit behind and took a somber approach with this set of sculptures. Titled Die Fremden -- the Strangers -- the work was made for the last Documenta in 1992 and responds to the wave of Turkish and Eastern European immigrants that flooded Germany after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Included here are large, colorfully painted clay figures of a family of three, dressed in vaguely foreign-looking garb, crafted in an awkward, folkish sculptural idiom that is designed to be similarly foreign. Accompanying the figures is a collection of six urns or bags, each different, as if to carry worldly goods. The figures stand with their eyes closed, dreaming, praying, something.


Oleg Kulik in
his cage, 1997
   Oleg Kulik at Deitch Projects
Apr. 12-26,1997

This is definitely SoHo's show of the week. We've all heard about the Russian Gulag -- people did what they had to survive. You may also remember Walt Disney's The Shaggy Dog (1959), starring Tommy and Annette. These are the two poles of the Russian artist Oleg Kulik's performance as a dog, naked in a cage wearing a leather collar, for his piece "I Bite America and America Bites Me," where he'll stay for the length of the show, dining on oatmeal and boiled meat. No big deal; a couple months ago Janine Antoni was sleeping at the Guggenheim Soho, monitoring her dreams, as part of the Hugo Boss Prize exhibition. But Oleg the dog has actually bit two people, one an art critic. He also did a piece called Deep into Russia, for which he stuck his head in a cow's vagina. At the opening, there was Paul H-O of Gallery Beat, interviewing the artist-dog for his cable television show. "How do you like your cage?" Paul asked. "Ruff," said Oleg. I asked the artist's wife if he had sex with animals, and she good-naturedly said no, only one dog. But she had misunderstood me and thought I'd asked her if she had sex with animals. Stupid American.


Manuel Neri
Sculpture for Love
and Other Differences

   Manuel Neri at Charles Cowles
Mar. 22-Apr. 26, 1997

We know, we know, this show opened some time ago, and so hardly qualifies as "New in New York." But we've come to love the work of Manuel Neri (b. 1930), who makes the only well-known sculpture attached to the Bay Area figurative school of the 1950s and `60s. He's had eight solo shows at Cowles since 1981. What's the range here? In the Neri exhibition earlier this year at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., chief curator Jack Cowart cited Rodin, Canova's Venus (1823) and Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave (1846). One could add, from culture's low end, rag dolls, scarecrows and Keith Haring's graffiti. There's something arresting about renderings of the timeless nude female form, carved in marble or plaster, banged with a hammer and slathered with pastel paint. It's sculpture for "love and other differences", even if it is made by a man.


Jaime Permuth
Shirli, NYC
   Marina Berio and Jaime Permuth
at Mary Barone
Apr. 10-May 24, 1997

The second show at the newest gallery on the Grand Street corridor in SoHo (at number 96, tucked away in the basement), opened last month by Marian Goodman alumnus and ArtNet Out-and-About digital photographer Mary Barone, features black-and-white photographs by two young artists. Marina Berio's landscape-based works are a "veiled cacophony of black, white and grays often flecked with scratches or drops of mist," in the words of an essay by Clare Bell accompanying the exhibition. It's a nice effect, actually, both foreground and background at the threshold of representability. The Guatemala-born photographer Jaime Permuth, who is of Russian ancestry and now lives in New York, makes sharp and clean high-contrast compositions that Mary tells me are all by way of portraits of his friends (see image). I like it because it has an image of a mud puddle. The show is titled "Where the stream and river meet."