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Back to Reviews 96

Max Beckman, Dream 
of Monte Carlo, 
oil on canvas, 
c. 62 x 79 in. 

Jasper Johns, Diver, 
1962, oil on canvas 
with objects. 
Collection Norman and 
Irma Braman.

Nan Goldin, Joey 
at the Love Ball, 
New York City, 1991.

Philip Guston, 
Painter's Forms II, 
1978, oil on canvas, 
75 x 108 in.

Gerhard Richter, 
829-5 Abstract 
Painting, 1995, 
oil on linen, 
20 x 28 in.

Matthew Ritchie, 
Trouble in Mind, 
1996, oil, marker 
on canvas, 
92 x 120 in.

Jane Fine, Rex, 
1996, oil on 
25 x 25 in.

Lisa Yuskavage, 
Hamass, 1996, 
oil on canvas 
board, 6 x 8 in.

Brad Kahlhamer, 
Raven, 1996, 
oil on canvas, 
16 x 14 in.

servetar selects

by Stuart Servetar

"Max Beckmann in Exile" 
at the Guggenheim Museum Soho

Oct 9, 1996-Jan. 5, 1997

The exhibition occupies the ground floor of 

the museum, and that's more than enough 

given the intensity of the work. It's hard 

to recall any other time we've had the 

opportunity to see so many of the triptychs 

(seven of nine) in one space, and supported 

by so many stellar anciliary easel works. 

Trying to identify Beckmann's cast of 

characters accidentally leads into a sort 

of (Bob) Dylanesque reverie of free-form 

prose poetry. King with green face, dead 

already, singing what opera to gypsy girl 

in pink with mask, for Beckmann's Actors 

(1941-42). Contortionist kissing salmon-

tighted tumbler while crone with fish lies 

on net below, hope goes underground, in 

Acrobats (1939). You can go as deeply into 

Beckmann's iconography as you like (the 

triptych from his childhood holds a good 

deal of clues), or you can just savor the 

rich color and surfaces he created. Though 

all his works are clearly stamped with his 

motifs and signature black lines, they vary 

more widely than you might expect, moving 

back and forth from the more or less 

graphic to the rendered and creamy. Do not 

miss this show.

"Jasper Johns: A Retrospective" 
at the Museum of Modern Art 

Oct. 20, 1996-Jan. 21, 1997

While it is difficult to actually see 

Johns' works--they are so lauded and 

anthologized that they have become the very 

icons he strove to undermine--looking is 

well worth the effort. Do homage to his 

early flags, maps and number and word 

paintings and try to stick it out through 

the rest of his canon. All the works 

display Johns' dogged insistence on 

retaining the neither/nor strategy he first 

adopted with the "Flag" series ("I want the 

work to be neither flag nor picture"). 

Subsequent works were neither collages, 

patterns, fields nor pictoral quotes, and 

are best exemplified by Johns' affection 

for those Psych 101 drawings that can look 

like either a portrait of young woman or an 

old hag, etc. Almost all the works are done 

in encaustic, a wax-based medium capable of 

deftly sucking the life out of any color. 

Ultimately all this non-ism and the 

increasing self-anthologizing to which 

Johns has been prone makes the viewer want 

to flee out of the basement and upstairs to 

the prints, a medium in which the artist 

seems far more comfortable and giving. It 

is worthwhile to hang in as long as 

possible, however, if only to wrestle with 

a difficult, stand-alone kind of mind, 

which, for better or worse, has influenced 

the course of painting for the past 40 


Nan Goldin, "I'll Be Your Mirror" 
at the Whitney Museum of American Art 

Oct. 3, 1996-Jan. 5, 1997

Goldin follows in the tradition of artists 

who record--and glamorize--their respective 

coteries, a practice that in the modern era 

extends from Weimar Berlin to Paris in the 

`20s on to Haight-Ashbury and back home to 

New York City. Goldin gives us the Lower 

East Side, Berlin and Tokyo from the late 

`70s on and, like the musical Rent, brings 

it back in vivid color for the folks in the 

'burbs. That she faithfully and lovingly 

records the lives of her "family" is a 

mission well worth following. That she has 

chosen to add wall labels with details 

about the lives of the people she 

photographed, most prominently herself, is 

tolerable. But that she chose to write 

commentaries on her own work is less 

forgivable. Her pictures ably tell their 

own stories, and her trite writings just 

create so much distraction, intruding 

everywhere along the walls.

Philip Guston, "Major Paintings 
from the `70s" at McKee 

Oct. 5-Nov. 9, 1996

These 11 works from 1970-1979 continue to 

hold up. If nothing else they are studies 

in assuredness and imagination, successful 

on so many levels. Guston is as deft with 

his content as with his paint, which he 

mastered through all those years of making 

pretty abstracts. He does not slip into 

polemics as he so easily could when he 

taking on characters like the hooded 

Klansman. Nor does he fritter away into 

obscurantism. Guston's least defined work 

in the show, Arena (1979), is not merely 

arch or cryptic as it is confidently 

inventive. Arena could be an overhead shot 

of a studio, or a painting of a painting. 

It could also be seen as an art-making 

machine, a clever visual pun on the 

practice of cranking out abstract 

paintings. Who knows? Who cares? Anybody 

who looks at them.

Gerhard Richter 
at Marian Goodman

Oct. 18-Nov. 30, 1996

Every inch of the ever-helpful Marian 

Goodman gallery has been hung with 

Richter's three-dozen abstract paintings, 

done for the most part in 1995, plus a few 

older photo-based landscapes and portraits 

in the back room. Perhaps Richter gets away 

with making simple, assured, flat-out 

gorgeous abstract paintings because he's 

German and perforce will always be taken 

seriously. Good for him. Over soft, photo-

inspired backgrounds, Richter pulls paint 

alternately horizontally and vertically. 

The overall effect is one of very pure 

process paintings with beautiful moments of 

paint bleeding, blending and peeking 

through to other layers. The bleeds and 

blurs often resolve into faint landscapes 

that have a lot of Kaspar David Friedrich 

in them, natürlich. By sheer number and 

uniform scale, however, the work never gets 

too far from the mediated, mechanical image 

with which Richter has always been smitten. 

These pieces bring to mind unresolved 

Polaroids and scanned prints. In the small 

back room, there are two portraits of his 

daughter which are hauntingly Vermeer-like 

and a few landscapes that spread a few 

sparks of Corot just in time for that artist's

show at the Metropolitan Museum.

Matthew Ritchie, "The Hard Way" 
at Basilico Fine Arts

Oct. 19-Nov. 23, 1996

A real crowd-pleaser with something for 

everyone, this show celebrates intelligence 

in the service of something other than 

fashionable critiques. The work tackles 

nothing short of the universe and how it 

got made, how the ripples of the Big Bang 

got twisted and colored into shapes and 

characters and best of all, paint. For this 

show, based on the life cycles of the 

earth's seven Watchers (Fantastic Four fans 

take note), Ritchie has continued to make 

flat shapes with a satin surface in a 

beautiful palette that is bright but far 

from candy. The shapes, which like 

everything in his project have their own 

logos, are either cut in plastic, drawn on 

the wall or rendered in paint. This time 

around, Ritchie has eased up on his 

handling, submerged his schematic Magic 

Marker drawings and given up the safety of 

always floating his constructs against a 

gray ground. In Trouble in Mind, an epic 

totality, he has even dared to anchor his 

work against a horizon: make landscapes and 

be damned. Think what you will of 

multivalent myth-making in the style of 

Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell, it has 

gotten Ritchie this far and we're the 

better for it.

Jane Fine 
at Casey Kaplan 

Oct. 11-Nov. 9, 1996

In this the month of the painter, Jane Fine 

has also put up her second solo show. While 

Ritchie's universe seems to be expanding, 

Fine's seems to be congealing. Formerly, 

Fine used her expert hand to create large 

expanses of cartoon smoke out of which 

popped the odd duck foot and other forms. 

Now she has furthered another strand of her 

work, one which features machine-like 

forms, toy tanks or drill presses. She 

resists fully defining her forms, choosing 

instead to break into them with rectanges 

of paint that read like cartoon bandages. 

Her colors, always high key, have taken on 

a plastic skin and at times are downright 

shrill. Only Rex, which features a flat 

plane of pale green paint cutting back into 

a red zone of color, begins to add some 

suck to the overall pop of her paintings.

Lisa Yuskavage 
at Boesky & Callery

Through Nov. 16, 1996

Yuskavage is one of a handful of painters 

who have recently rediscovered the joys of 

heavy glaze painting. And like many of 

them, she has yet to learn that making 

glazes does not mean having to use varnish 

by the gallon. As far as the content of her 

work goes, you might say, while some 

artists tinkle on the keys of the old grand 

thematic piano, Yuskavage sits on them. 

Which is not to fault her per se, subtlety 

is not one of the hallmarks of our era 

(though slightness might be). Her paintings 

feature deformed female figures painted 

from tiny plaster models that are also on 

view. The figures' deformity lies strictly 

in the nose, tits and ass department which 

makes them, um, you know, statements. Only 

the suite of three paintings hung to 

suggest a triptych, including Motherfucker 

Rocker and Feminist Husband, begins to hint 

at deeper wells of emotions being drawn 


Brad Kahlhamer 
at Bronwyn Keenan

Oct. 12-Nov. 16, 1996

Kahlhamer is a hunter/fisherman, a 

collector of lures and a person who is not 

unfamiliar with decoys. His paintings 

follow suit. At first glance they read like 

swatches of large goopy abstract 

expressionist paintings. Often, however, 

they resolve into landscapes and other 

scenes derived directly from memories of 

that large land mass due west of Manhattan. 

Furthermore, though many artists have 

adopted comic book stylings into their 

work, Kahlamer is one of the few who 

actually worked in the comics field. What 

he took out of it is far more subtle and 

internalized than what we usually get. Atop 

his abstracted vistas and bark-like 

surfaces, Kahlamer scrawls captions and 

stick figures with a sign painter's brush. 

Once we read the final overlay we realize, 

for example, that that group of smiley 

faces scumbled over thick strokes of paint 

is really Mt. Rushmore as the artist saw it 

as a child, zipping by in a car at 50 mph. 

It is a welcome sight to see an artist who 

has worked with installation, video and 

Garbage Pail Kids, standing solidly on both 

feet to make paintings that are 

simultaneously lush, smart and funny.

STUART SERVETAR is a New York painter and