John Newman
Roberta Smith
New York Times
May 30, 2003

John Newman
Von Lintel Gallery
555 West 25th Street, Chelsea
Through tomorrow

The sculptor John Newman seems intent on developing an idea from the early 1960’s that was lost in the Minimalist deluge: Donald Judd's ecumenical notion of ''specific objects.'' It was a term -- a compliment -- that Judd applied to three-dimensional works he felt eschewed the materials, techniques and associations of traditional sculpture. These included the efforts of John Chamberlain, Lee Bontecou, Dan Flavin, Ken Price and Lucas Samaras, as well as, eventually, his own.

For a nearly two decades, Mr. Newman has been extending Judd's idea by making sculptures that are, in essence, assemblages of several highly disparate specific objects. The 13 tabletop pieces in his latest show bristle with difference. Each is an awkward, even garish constellation of three or four parts that hail from different universes in terms of form, cultural reference, taste and fabrication.

To give an idea, among the many materials employed here are wicker, cast and forged bronze, tulle, mirrored glass, gilded paper, stone, bright enamel and sisal. ''Saffron Writer's Block With Blowback'' begins with gridded double helix of dark blue wire, proceeds to a gorgeous orange chunk of extruded aluminum that resembles a fat glob of pure pigment, segues upward into a flaring, curving form of palest pink and culminates in a flat upper surface that serves as a pedestal for a crumpled piece of paper.

The results vary between abstract kitsch and dysfunctional design, suggesting a collaboration between Jorge Pardo, Frank Stella and Peter Saul. When Mr. Newman's pieces work, which is not always, their contorted, discontinuous forms have an outrageous, ebullient, disorienting energy, like art in drag.