32 E. 57, Thru Feb. 19, 1983
Another garage sale of mix and match furniture legs, adopted crate tops from Chinatown gutters and bushwacked cable toupees from Ma Bell. Funerary black is the color and the only one in town. Oppressive, fashionable, John Duka formal black, cheered by the ritzy crowd who travel in black dresses (off the-shoulder), black limos, black pumps, black purses. In other words, black. These look like ready-mades, factory fabricated and guaranteed. Pedigree doesn’t save the situation.
Brooke Alexander, 20 West 57th St.,
Thru Feb. 5, 1983
The cast plaster menagerie of skin-headed, over-weight acrobats literally tumble up and down the gallery walls in a spectacular, (as in expensive) under-the-big top installation. Otterness is a child of the Times Square Show that even embar-
rassed peep-show operators in 1980. His Nair-clean gorillas with generous appendages
rough-house and even masturbate in a roller coaster frieze. There is a narrative rash to the work. In one scene a gang of big breasted Amazons yank down –with appropriate rigging see a pedestalled phallus that fairly screams in Mussolini like protest. It might even be George III at Bowling Green. No matter, it is some sort of punk pun. This is a real, off-the-wall show.
Brooke Alexander, 20 W. 57th,
February 12 to March 15, 1983,
Judy Rifka, in a sherbert clearing second course, rolls out the multi-paneled and casters wheeled “Dracula’s Mirror” (96 x 92″). The artist is partial to yellow, blues and ribbony blacks. Recurring themes alternate between classically columned
museum facades and a girl enveloped in a square dress. The paintings move like a modern dance, high-strung with energy. It takes a while to digest the jumpy, spare part surface. No doubt her quirky architecture and bottle cap dresses will attract more attention as a featured entry in the upcoming se and to some in breathlessly awaited Whitney Biennial.
Gotham Book Mart Gallery,
41 West 47th St.,
Thru Feb, 7, 1983
Whydo poets (the male-variety) insist on faded blue jeans and bushy beards? I have no clue but Ann Mikolowski paints them on miniature canvas, slightly bigger than a match box, pushed to the edge with detail. John Ashbery, outfitted like a Marlboro Man, relaxes on a wicker rocking chair. Ted Berrisgan looks as if he could levitate the Pentagon but does just as well smoking on a stoop with wife and child. William Burroughs, in a baggy suit (no jeans for this gent), appears transparently frail yet sharp as nails. The paintings are immensely satisfying in their runty dimensions. The artist’s familiarity with her subjects seeps through the images with just a dash of snapshot nostalgia. No doubt cameo’d portraits have been done before (perhaps most recently by Alex Katz) but a gaggle of poets at curbside and bar stool are an arresting distraction.
11 East 57th St., Thru Feb. 26th, 1983
Union Square: For some, a mecca for drugs and low life; for others, in particular, Isabel Bishop, a sun-shrouded temple of youth. Her painted figures of perfectly postured walkers with well-balanced shoulder bags appear etched into the surface,
befitting a Roman wall relief. With Muybridge stop-action, the magazine model proportions of the walkers radiate a confident calm, the exact opposite sensation if the viewer stepped into the scene, lugging a package up the worn and garbage strewn steps of Union Square. Perhaps it is the artist’s “huntersinsasblind” position, from a studio window far above the junky crowd. Height and distance smooth the wrinkles and light does wonders for sallow-faced revelers.
24 East 81st St. Thru Feb. 28, 1983
Bob Thompson (1937-1966) didn’t last as long as Modigliani but both painters shared a blind lust for hard living. Thompson’s paintings are drunk with color, parading a kind of Arcadian nightmare. A blood red goblin- beastie in “Tree” (781/4 x 108″) seems to be extracting the tonsils of a blue haired maiden who has her hands full with another voracious creature tugging at her azure tresses. Tongues and blood jam in a free form tag-team match. Slicing the composition with a diagonal slash, an
uprooted tree limb is waved like a war spear by a breast-plated warriorette. All the figures are open mouthed, orally fixated for violence. The work must have caused quite an upset in the early 1960’s, appreciably before the severe swing to animistic enraged imagery. As a sort of tanked up Poussin, Thompson brawls under an eerie light.
EDWARD LARRABEE BARNES
Lobby Hours: M-F 8 A.M. to 10 P.M.
After a grueling morning or afternoon at the galleries (or the hair parlors for that matter), a refreshing if not frigid oasis waits with potted palms at the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenues. Do not make the mistake of attempting to enter the flagship’s business entrance where jittery faced Pinkerton type demands an ID for entry to corporatedom. But the blessed publican’s entrance on either 56th or. 57th Streets is recommended to rest weary eye balls.
Edward Larrabee Barnes’ lofty atrium with buttressed skylights is an invigorating elixir(not to mention the tax-saving perk for IBM). There are twenty or so white poker-chip shaped tables with sturdy grid chain (the kind Bon Marche is always hawking at discmint), topped with slim green cushions. Imported groves of bamboo trees (rumored to hail from South Carolina) shiver gracefully in icy space. There is the usual amalgam of muttering loiterers but the Bendel shopping bags are reassuring. No doubt lunch hour spawns grid-locked claustraphobia so wait till the sated souls return to neighborhood cubicles. The Bronx Botanical Garden runs a cute plant shop on the 57th Street side of the atrium but hungrier shoppers can also enter Trump’s Tower for a go at Bonwits. The interior space almost makes up for the green granite, cantilevered Barnes spear, polluting the already jammed skyline.