Robert Longo at Metro Pictures

Untitled (Exterior Apartment Door with Nameplate and Peephole, 1938), 1938)Robert Longo, Untitled (Exterior Apartment Door With Nameplate and Peephole 1938) (2000), charcoal on mounted paper, 96″ x 60″; courtesy Metro Pictures

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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 soupçon 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?

© 2001 Mario Naves

Originally published in the March 5, 2001 edition of The New York Observer.


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