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Hilton Als: "Goings On"

Laurie Simmons, 'Tourism: Las Vegas/First View,' 1984, cibachrome, 40 x 60 in. (101.6 x 152.4 cm). © Laurie Simmons. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

The beautiful, cool, intellectual, and visual atmosphere that fills the air at the outstanding show “Tabula Rasa” is due to the curator Steven Henry’s deep knowledge and understanding of conceptual art as it relates to photography, and to language. The exhibition takes its title from the late artist Sarah Charlesworth, and her early exploration of the historical value of fact-based images. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see the work of some members of the Pictures Generation—artists who, in the nineteen-seventies, questioned not only art’s “expressiveness” but its very function—and those who came after. Of special note are Joseph Kosuth’s fascinating studies of how text itself is an image, James Welling’s masterly and lyrical dissection of the print, Mike Kelley’s concept of home, Glenn Ligon’s examination of photographic production, and Laurie Simmons’s model who lives in a “Taxi Driver”-inspired world.

Hilton Als