Origami-Like Paintings That Are Like Watching Pinball

“Has Harriet Korman, on the evidence of her recent canvases at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., arrived as a painter? Or has this perpetually interesting and similarly driven artist made an arresting side-trip to realms yet uncharted? Whatever the case and the truth can probably be split down the middle Ms. Korman’s new paintings are something special.

Predicated on an informal geometry and a kaleidoscopic generosity of color, the pictures can be likened to origami that, after having been unfolded, retains its flex and intricacy. Their constituent parts triangles, circles, ellipses, squares and permutations thereof turn in, swing off and snuggle up against each other. Grounded to the perimeters of the canvas, Ms. Korman’s pictorial networks achieve a compositional “hold” that is engagingly, even comically relaxed, but also sure and solid. At the same time, the up-down-and-all-around rhythms of the paintings propel the eye like the most grateful of pinballs.

Ms. Korman has yet to hone in on what gives each picture its own specificity. As a whole, the canvases ingratiate; one to one, they’re a tad indistinct. Still, how many exhibitions of contemporary painting leave one with an increased jauntiness of step? And how many contemporary paintings pulse with such purpose and hope? Ms. Korman offers a splendid reason to brave the congested sidewalks of lower Broadway. Harriet Korman: New Paintings 1999-2000 is at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., 560 Broadway, Suite 308, until March 17.

Sculpture Indebted To the Installation

The folks at PaceWildenstein are so good at installing art (and particularly sculpture) that, should the economic need ever arise, they could hire themselves out on a freelance basis. Take the gallery’s current exhibition, Barbara Hepworth: Stone Sculpture. Note how the placement of the works takes as its inspiration the conversational sense of interval inherent in Hepworth’s stone and marble plinths. Note, also, how the steely blue of the gallery’s highlight wall cues in to the painted concave section of Pierced Monolith with Color (1965), and the way it reaffirms the abiding sense of tact that Hepworth’s art embodies. Of course, at this point one might begin to wonder if the installation is serving the art or the other way around.

Hepworth, who died in 1975 at the age of 72, was the most devoted dare one say obsequious? of Modernists. The late stone works, while unequivocally accomplished, are too honor-bound to spark much life and so streamlined they make Isamu Noguchi look like Mr. Personality. Viewers who stick it out will eventually be rewarded with a mannerly irreverence that wears away at the work’s constricting propriety. The best of the bunch is Kyoto (1970), wherein one base-born totem relates a juicy morsel of gossip to its shocked shocked! neighbor. Barbara Hepworth: Stone Sculpture is at PaceWildenstein, 32 East 57th Street, until March 17.

That Thud on 24th Street: Longo’s Freud Pictures

That thud you heard emanating from West 24th Street wasn’t a construction crew unloading sheetrock for yet another addition to the art scene that ate Manhattan. It was the arrival of Robert Longo’s latest artistic venture at Metro Pictures. Unlike David Salle, whose current show down the road at Gagosian brings pictorial dysfunction to an unprecedented level of needlessness, Mr. Longo doesn’t content himself with stylishly feigning import. He stylishly means it. His recent project, titled The Freud Drawings, is based on a series of photographs of Freud’s Vienna residence taken in 1938 by Edmund Engelman.

The charcoal renderings of Freud’s famous couch, among other items, are competent-plus and installed with an imposing funereal elegance. One guesses that it all constitutes a rumination on something big a cautionary tale, perhaps, for our young century. Yet the only thing The Freud Drawings elaborates on with any clarity is the stubbiness of the artist’s intellectual reach. When Mr. Longo references Freud, a cultural marker guaranteed to generate a soup├žon of psychological scintillation, he attempts but only attempts significance. When Mr. Longo references National Socialism, however, he doesn’t attempt significance, he pimps it. Who was it that said every one will be famous for 15 minutes? Can’t someone make this arrogant poseur’s 15 minutes elapse any faster? Robert Longo: The Freud Drawings is at Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, until March 3.

Fun With Fish

“When one is suspended within it you are at the mercy of something infinitely more powerful than yourself,” said Wayne Levin, referring to the ocean, the subject of his black-and-white photographs on display at Rosenberg & Kaufman Fine Art. Mr. Levin distinguishes himself from the by-no-means-unaccomplished herd of underwater photographers in that he doesn’t content himself with documenting nature in all its glory. Instead, he revels, albeit with a certain circumspection, in the staggering mystery of its rhythms. Framing his subjects fish, and lots of them with an eye toward underscoring large configurations of movement, Mr. Levin imbues his images with an awestruck but sober-sided quietude. The work’s silty, high grayish light is, on first glance, nondescript: until, that is, we notice how it simultaneously magically clarifies the imagery and envelops it within its own shroud of independence.

Spooky and ethereal, the photos can also be funny. My favorite depicts what can best be described as a wall of fish veering by a considerably smaller and more autonomous grouping, the latter of which seem to stare with the utmost astonishment at the single-mindedness of their brethren’s pursuit. The wit of the picture lies in the realization that their slack-jawed amazement is our own. Wayne Levin: Akule is at Rosenberg & Kaufman Fine Art/Photography and Works on Paper, 30 West 57th Street, until March 10.