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Back to Reviews 98



  new york reviews
 
Martin Wong
at P.P.O.W.

June 4-July 3, 1998

Martin Wong
Puerto Rican Day Parade
1998



Martin Wong
Ferocactus Peninsulae V. Viscainensis
1997-98
Martin Wong's recent show of new paintings at P.P.O.W. in New York coincided with his current retrospective at the New Museum of Contemporary Art as well as with the publication of a monograph by Rizzoli. One of the best painters to emerge from the East Village scene in the 1980s, Wong has kept a lower profile lately (he's been living with AIDS with his family in California). It's good to see him back -- this work is fresh as the day is long.

Puerto Rican Day Parade (1998) is a colorful arabesque that suggests contemporary Caribbean painting, Haitian in particular, crossed with Matisse or Bob Thompson. Wong's figures are stylized and plastic, and the color of his people runs an incredible gamut of brown hues, from high yella to butter pecan-Rican to deep chocolate brown, amidst the red, white and blue of the fluttering Puerto Rican flags. The artist's adoption of Puerto Rican culture stems from his experiences in Loisaida on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he lived for most of the '80s, and fell in love with his neighbors.

Must-sees include two recent works, Malicious Mischief and Sharp Paints A Picture. Wong painted them with his longtime graffitti-art collaborators, LA2 and Sharp. The show also included a series of paintings of serenely prickly cactuses that reflect his present surroundings.

-- Franklin Sirmans

"Summer White"
at Steffany Martz
July 2-Aug. 1, 1998


Lane Twitchell
The Greatest Snow on Earth
1998
The star of this two-person show is Lane Twitchell, whose ingenious paper cut-outs transform emblems of the Los Angeles cityscape into giant snowflakes. Like a sophisticate in kindergarten, he snips elaborate patterns into folded sheets of white paper, which then unfold in a symmetrical matrix of familiar silhouettes -- palm trees, freeway signs, telephone poles.

Revealed in the delicate cut-outs of Bungalo, for example, are decorative motifs found in the archetypal L.A. house. An unlikely symbol of L.A., the snowflake is entirely appropriate -- kaleidoscopic, ephemeral and ridiculous.

As for the artist in the show, Michael Perelman, his white-on-white paintings monumentalize everyday objects, such as a pair of crystal candlesticks.

-- Meredith Mendelsohn

Monica Bonvicini
at Apex Art
July 22-25, 1998


Monica Bonvicini
at Apex Art



Monica Bonvicini
(detail)
at Apex Art
New York's best pipeline to contemporary art in Germany can be found in this tiny Tribeca alternative space, launched four years ago by Steve Rand. Last month's show, "Live and Let Die," was curated by Udo Kittelman, a candidate to direct the next Documenta, if you believe the German art tabloid Kunstzeitung.

This installation by the Italian-born artist Monica Bonvicini, who has lived in Berlin for the last decade or so, was organized by Klaus Biesenbach, a Berlin museum curator who has lately been doing a guest stint at P.S.1 in Queens. The brief show is the last of four, collectively titled "444," that ends the season.

Bonvicini's specialty seems to be a kind of Minimalist architectural installation with a bit of a sadomasochistic punch. In a recent show in Berlin, she installed two giant fans that turned the gallery into a wind tunnel. Here, her first U.S. appearance, Bonvicini covered the floor with sheet rock placed on an uneven grid of Styrofoam plinths. Walking across this false floor took a certain amount of care, and gallery visitors quickly broke through. She must be doing something right -- so far in 1998 she's had three solo shows and been in nine group exhibitions.

-- Walter Robinson

Tomoko Takahashi
at the Drawing Room
June 26-July 31, 1998


Tomoko Takahashi
Drawing Room installation



Tomoko Takahashi
Drawing Room installation
Turning detritus into art has long been fertile territory for exploration among artists. Tomoko Takahashi's take on the subject involves stapling receipts, invoices, tickets, magazines, notes and letters to the wall -- with most of their texts scribbled over with black Magic Marker. Selected for the Drawing Room by private dealer Clarissa Dalrymple and recently featured in Artforum, the London-based artist is fast gaining an international reputation.

An antiform array of unreadable text posted to the gallery walls, this site-specific installation is "read" like a book, from left to right. Other more interesting works in this vein of "scatter art" use found objects as symbols or fetishes, often to convey a spiritual value reendowed and contextualized by the artist. Nari Ward comes to mind, for instance.

Takahashi's work, however, is mute, leaving the viewer to concentrate on the systemic, sequential format of deletion and eradication. Takahashi, like the Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou or Jason Rhoades, finds almost anything worthy of being installed as art. While the refuse found in Tayou's work tells a clear story and Rhoades' object-systems evince the artist's generous intentions, finding Takahashi's narrative is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Perhaps that's just her point.

-- Franklin Sirmans

"Small Paintings: Hand Painted Pictures"
at Cheim and Read
July 1-31, 1998


Mary Heilman
Green Checks
1998
The small abstract paintings in this group show -- works by Jack Pierson, Joan Mitchell, Bill Jensen, Eva Hesse and others -- demand examination at close range. Painting today can seem so pathetic -- despite the super prices it continues to bring at auction -- and one answer to this sorry condition is seeking refuge in the personal and intimate.

Mary Heilmann's Green Checks (1998) draws the viewer in to admire the regular irregularity of the pattern's painterly brush strokes. Ingo Meller's smooth, viscous stripes of paint against the tweedy, blank canvas accentuate the pure materiality of Mangnese Violet, Williamsburg Brilliant Yellow Pale and Williamsburg (all 1998). Despite their small scale, these abstractions do recall the grandiosity of Abstract Expressionism -- but give it a playful twist that reflects not a sublime terror but a postmodernist irony.

-- Meredith Mendelsohn

"Wall Work"
at White Columns
June 5-July 12, 1998

"Wall Work" presents works by nine young artists whose quiet compositions employ materials most commonly used for construction -- drywall, metal studs, plaster, board. Recalling a Minimalism of days past, these artists explore the divide between art and architecture, painting and sculpture, in Rymanesque variations of white paint. Organized by Lauren Ross and Elizabeth Ferguson, the exhibition reflects the new widespread fascination with interior architecture, espoused weirdly by Martha Stewart and engagingly by the new magazine Wallpaper.

Nadia Cohen's outstanding Clear into White Space functions as both wall painting and sculpture. Carved directly into the wall, its depth is emphasized by gray paint. Brennan McGaffey's Wall Work Stencil Set, though limited to a display case, hints at the early work of Lawrence Weiner.

James Huang's The Wallpaper Manifesto is a fun, zany construction of curling, hanging, rolled out drywall that reveals the framework behind the wall, simultaneously suggesting Jessica Stockholder and Martha Stewart. Also noteworthy is Margaret Welsh's six-foot wall sculpture of stacked particle boards painted in alternating bands of light blue and white. Ironically titled Heavy, the piece looks refreshingly light.

Tightly focused, "Wall Work" evokes an appreciation of the minutiae in the vast expanse between art, architecture and a design for living.

-- Franklin Sirmans

Jenny Watson
"Mother (Chintz Version)" series
Mont Albert, June 12, 1955
at Annina Nosei
July 10-Aug. 30, 1998


Jenny Watson
"Mother (Chintz Version)" series
Mont Albert, June 12, 1955
at Annina Nosei
Jenny Watson's "Mothership (Chintz Version)" series consists of five images of a mother and daughter, naively painted on pieces of floral chintz fabric. Hung along the wall, the excess material of each piece is weighed down by a symbolically laden object -- a black wig, for instance, or a garden hand rake.

Chronologically indexing her scattered memories of daughterdom, Watson paints herself as a child, young adult and so on, and titles each work like a journal entry -- Mont Albert, June 12, 1995, for instance. The isolated placement of the figures, their precarious postures (one teeters in a rowboat) and the flattened, busy floral spaces make the works seem antsy and uncomfortable. The fabric hangs like dressing room curtains, concealing the memories that lurk behind the prim portraits.

-- Meredith Mendelsohn

No Boundaries:
A Global Selection of NYU Artists"
at Trans Hudson Gallery
July 21-Aug. 23, 1998


Mary Sherman
Sleeping Beauty
1997



Victoria Hanks
Plenty
1998
The seven artists in this group show have some loose connection to New York University's graduate fine-arts program. They are also bound together by their lack of "boundaries," both in terms of artistic mediums and national origin. Is there some connection? Who knows.

Mary Sherman builds up the surfaces of her abstract canvases with so much oil paint that they become sculptures. Victoria Hanks uses oil stick on paper to create cut-out blobs on the wall that seem to spread and evolve like oil slicks (or viruses, as the gallery refers to them). Rolando Barahona connects photographs of body parts with wire mesh, rope, leaves and rocks. Other artists in the show are Sunghoon Yang, Malvina Sammarone, Paula Stuttman and Theodore Cantrell.

-- Meredith Mendelsohn

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