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Political Art

What's on in New York: From Andre Emmerich to Zabriskie

Major show of political art dominates at John Weber Gallery, and there is also a new group of Rauschenberg’s (this year’s flavour) and Beckmann, Barlach, Lehmbruck and Constable on offer

“I feel that politics corrupts poetry and vice versa”, John Ashbery once said.

A great many painters and sculptors these days beg to disagree, at least in so far as art is concerned. A big round-up of such-minded artists may be seen this month (until 23 February) at the John Weber Gallery. In a show called “The Political Arm”, works in all media are gathered by artists for whom pure delight is no longer sufficient. From the old standbys of political correctness (Hans Haacke, Leon Goulub, Barbara Kruger, Adrian Piper) to those perhaps a shade more subtle (Claes Oldenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Smithson, Jasper Johns, Dennis Adams), the show includes pieces by over twenty artists.

Two practitioners not represented in “The Political Arm”, but who might well have been, are sharing the Josh Baer Gallery, more or less around the corner, this month from 16 February to 9 March. Nancy Spero, no slouch when it comes to the socially relevant, introduces new members to her works’s dramatis personae in the gallery’s large space, while in the smaller room Chris Burden presents a model for a sculpture meant, in actuality, to be much larger.

Fred Wilson, whose installations often use the metaphor of the ethnological museum to explore issues of black culture and colonialism, shows new work this month at Gracie Mansion from 14 February to 9 March, while the English photographer Paul Graham installs scenes of Northern Ireland at PPOW (until 23 February). His large, often as big as three-foot by six-foot colour prints are mounted on aluminium panels. At first they seem quite straightforward, even unremarkable, until closer examination reveals the detail that delivers the political punch.

Elsewhere in SoHo, Jasper Johns exhibits new paintings (made mostly last autumn and this winter) at Castelli from 16 February to 9 March. There is also a group of drawings, including twelve made for a hypothetical calendar. These latter have been gathered into a book published by Anthony D’Offay called A Calendar for 1991. This is Johns’s first New York show since his “Four Seasons” were exhibited in 1987. First the four seasons, then the twelve months. Will the fifty-two weeks be followed by the 365 days?

In the late 50s and early 60s, Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were linked both as friends and as pioneers in the emerging Pop Art movement, so it is a neat coincidence that both should be exhibiting their latest efforts this month in New York. Rauschenberg, at Knoedler from 13 February until 7 March, is showing a new group of paintings from his “Borealis” series. They are entirely two-dimensional, silk-screened and painted on panels fabricated of a variety of metals (bronze, brass, aluminium). A group of drawings is also featured.

Agnes Martin and Mimmo Rotella, two artists who came into prominence in the 1960s but whose work could not be more different, may be seen in SoHo galleries this month. Salvatore Ala presents new work by Rotella (until 2 March) while Mary Boone shows a group of Martin’s consistently reaffirmed six-foot square canvases dating from the 60s (until 23 February).

Should the hunger for more art from that protean era remain unsatisfied, Joan Washburn provides a feast entitled “Circa 1960”, including work by such diverse artists as Al Held, Norman Bluhm, Myron Stout, Jack Youngerman, Joan Mitchell and George Sugarman (also until the 23rd).

New work by veterans of the scene abound this month. Niel Welliver is at Marlborough, Dorothea Rockburne (a show entitled “Circle and Square”) at Emmerich and Philip Pearlstein at Hirschl & Adler Modernall until 2 March. Brice Marden shows paintings from his “Grove Group” at Gagosian (until 16 March) and Alan Shields new work at Paula Cooper (until the end of the month).

From 12 February until 19 March, Luhring Augustine presents recent paintings by Albert Oehlen while at Postmasters Matthew Weinstein, in his second exhibition there, shows new paintings involving his particular brand of abstract, organic imagery (until 2 March). On at Victoria Munroe are recent small American landscapes by Peter Schroth and new paintings by Kenny Scharf are at Schafrazi, opening 16 February. All this month at Vrej Baghoomian works by two painters, Shenge Kapharoah and Tracy Essoglouare featured, while two Russian artists, Eric Bulatov and Oleg Vassilyev, are featured at Phyllis Kind(16 February to 20 March).

A selection of oil paintings by Jack Tworkov, who died a decade ago, may be seen until 2 March, in the eighth-floor galleries of Andre Emmerich. It’s a kind of retrospective-ette of the years 1930-81. And at the Center for International Contemporary Arts gallery another small retrospective is under way, this time by an artist very much alive today, Victor Pasmore. Works from 1936 to last year may be examined (until the end of the month).

David Wilson, an artist from Scotland, shows new paintings, until 23 February, at Zabriskie, and Anna Bialobroda is at Simon Watson until the 16th.

Christopher Sweet has organised a large group show at Lorence Monk bearing the title “Dead HeroesDisfigured Love”, an attempt to assemble work that suggests, if ever so obliquely, human or narrative possibilities. Among the heroes and heroines participating (not all of them by any means dead!) are Linda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Francisco Clemente, Willem DeKooning, Alberto Giacometti, Jasper Johns, Walter Murch, Susan Rothenberg, Mark Tansey, Andy Warhol and Terry Winters.

At both Barbara Gladstone and the affiliated Stein-Gladstone Gallery (until the end of the month) are works by Luciano Fabro, Dan Flavin, Jannis Kounellis, Richard Long, Sol LeWitt, Mario Merz and Bruce Nauman. Edward Thorp shows work by the twelve artists represented in his gallery, until 23 February, including Joe Santore, Robert Ackerman, Gandy Brodie and April Gornik. “Conceptual Art from Los Angeles, 1970-1975” has been gathered this month at Christine Burgin. John Baldessari, Basjan Ader, William Leavitt, Allen Ruppersberg and William Wegman are among those represented. It runs until 2 March.

Two three-person shows are on at Metro Pictures and at Annina Nosei. Metro shows photographs by Cindy Sherman, sculpture by Mike Kelly and drawings by Carroll Dunham (until 2 March). Nosei has paintings by Gary Lang and recent sculpture by Nancy Bowen and Nunzio (16 February to 16 March).

Gloria Swanson, in Sunset Boulevard, says at one point “We had faces”, meaning that voices were quite unnecessary in the days of the silent film. Jason McCoy’s got faces, too, this month in a show at his gallery entitled just that. “Faces” are provided for the occasion by Gregoire Muller, Philip Smith, Michael Tetherow and Anna Bialobrode. It’s on all month until 9 March.

Works by classic modern sculptors are at Borgenicht (until the 27th), including bronzes by Max Beckmann, Ernst Barlach and Wilhelm Lehmbruck, while examples of paintings by fourteen artists may be seen at Wolff, until 16 February. Among the ranks are Brice Marden, Jules Olitski, Robert Mangold, Gerhard Richter, Jonathan Lasker and David Row.

“Space Attitudes” at Holly Solomon might have been titled “Three Artists Who Grew Up Together”. Niel Jenny, William Wegman and Truman Egelston were great friends in the 1960s, when each of them were young and fledging their artistic wings in Massachusetts. Their works all involve an awareness of space, of landscape and of atmospheric effects. They may be seen until 23 February.

Sam Glankoff, who died at eighty-eight almost ten years ago, was a technical innovator of sorts and the results of his researches may be seen in a survey of his career from 1940 to 1982 at the Victoria Munroe Gallery. He was a painter whose abstract symbolism is perhaps best conveyed in his “print paintings”. Using this technique, which he invented, woodcuts were extended and elaborated with paint, becoming in the end more paintings than prints. These “print paintings”, along with a selection of his watercolours and other paintings, remain on view until 23 February.

Another exhibition in which paintings and prints get together is at Tibor de Nagy where a twenty-year retrospective of Richard Chiriani’s work is to be seen. Called “Paintings to Prints”, it features colour lithographs hung beside the paintings which inspired them. The show continues until 20 February.

A.R. Penck, the German painter, has edited a book of lithographs called Krater und Wolke. It contains prints by five artists, himself not included. The original lithographs featured in the book are up at Michael Werner’s gallery this month. The artists are Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, James Lee Byars, Jorge Immendorf and Per Kirkby.

More books by a great variety of artists original and unique books, limited edition collaborations between artists and writers and even some commercially available “trade” bookshave been gathered together for “Artists’ Books” at the Lorence Monk Gallery. Among those represented are James Turrell, Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari, Jasper Johns and Brice Marden.

Robert Andrew Parker is an artist primarily known for his work in the medium of watercolour. Now in his 60s, he will be honoured this month (and until 9 March) at the Dintenfass Gallery with a show called “Twenty Five Years of Watercolours”. Works in that medium also abound at Nancy Hoffman, where Carolyn Brady displays her most recent efforts and at Coe Kerr, where those of Alice Shille are on view all this month.

Barbara Toll shows drawings called “Brown Bulbs” by Jan Hashey, on until the 23rd, while reaching further back in time drawings and watercolours by Gustav Klimpt, Egon Shiele and Oskar Kokoshka are being shown at the Galerie St Etienne. Reaching even further back, Salander O’Reilly is presenting a group of drawings by John Constable, R.A. Both of these latter shows run until 2 March.

“Rare Prints and Drawings”, a show of the work of Isabel Bishop, is on until 16 February at Midtown Payne Galleries. Bishop, who died only four years ago at eighty-six, saw printmaking as a prelude to printing. Often the etchings exist in editions of only five or ten examples. At Graham Modern (until 23 February), a gathering of monotypes by more than twenty contemporary artists has been organised. Among those to be seen are Melissa Meyer, Andrea Belag, Peggy Cyphers, Jonathan Santlofer and Peter Stevens.

A few years ago, when the East Village art scene was jumping, the notion of the artist-entrepreneur the artist who also ran a gallery, seemed like a new one. In fact that territory had been pioneered many years before, in the 1950s, by Betty Parsons. She became, in the end, rather more famous as a dealer than as an artist, but that did not mean she took her own work any the less seriously. When she died in 1982 she left a large body of sculpture, examples of which may be seen this month at the Jack Tilton Gallery. The show is called “Provoking the Muse” and is on until 2 March.

Sonnabend has installed recent work by a Belgian artist, Wim Delvoye. He concocts paintings that look at first glance like great maps but that upon further scrutiny reveal themselves to be confabulations of objects; and three-dimensional works such as armoires filled with Delft china dishes, dishes that turn out to be painted circular saw blades. His work was featured in last summer’s Venice Biennale. The show will continue until 2 March.

Last season gallery-goers gaped at Peter Shelton’s gigantic ten-ton gallery-encompassing iron machine, but this month they can relax a bit and see smaller examples of that artist’s sculpture at the Louver Gallery (until 9 March). Richard Resac presents new three-dimensional pieces at Feature Gallery and Marion Goodman has installed works by two site-specific artists, Niele Toroni and James Coleman. Both of these shows may be seen until 23 February.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Major show of political art dominates at John Weber Gallery'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 5 February 1991