* "The Road" (dir. John Hillcoat, 2009) opens @ Sunshine Cinema / 143 E Houston St (FV to 2nd Ave). Consummate outdoorsman Viggo Mortensen stars in this grim post-apocalyptic road story. It's not quite Michael Haneke's "Time of the Wolf", but then again nothing could ever be that.
* "Small Change" (dir. François Truffaut, 1976) screenings @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFV to W 4th St). This family comedy of children in Thiers, France, classic late-period Truffaut, is rare-ish for American audiences and, in its innocence and highly improved script, should be a treat to see (think the antithesis of "The Road").
* "Celebrating Chekhov" @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St). A selection of Soviet and Russian film adaptations of one of my favorite writer's short stories and plays? Everything about this appeals to me, and if you're familiar w/ Anton Chekhov's breathless, tidy writings (or have heard about them ad nauseam from me) then you should be as well. Visit the festival site for the schedule and ticket info (THRU DEC 3) and note my favorites below:
* "Ward No. 6/Palata No. 6" (dirs. Karen Shakhnazraov & Alexandr Gornovsky, Russia, 2009) US premiere. Dir. Shakhnazarov attends the 7:30p screening, adapted from one of Chekhov's bleakest tales, influenced by his background in medical science. In a decrepit mental facility, a doctor is drawn to one of his most complex patients and begins to question his place in the world. Essential.
* Liam the Younger @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L/G to Lorimer), 8p/FREE. I'm excited to see Jersey's Liam in concert again, though I DID just catch him like a week ago and can attest his acoustic vignettes add a refreshing dose of fragility and maturity from the youngster. w/ Shark?
* Hank and Cupcakes @ Cameo Gallery / 93 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 10p/$7. They're adorable, this Brooklyn duo. She drums and sings, he attacks the bass. Now, these "&" couples are not exactly a novelty — two contemporary examples jump immediately to mind: Mommy & Daddy (electro-thrash, via bass and electronics) and Matt & Kim (sloppy party singalongs, via drums and electronics). A third, Experimental Dental School (drums v. guitars) doesn't have the "&" element but they're smartly experimental in like a Deerhoof vein. In this case, though Cupcakes can sing REALLY well and keep a beat, while Hank's basslines are colorful and encouraging, w/o overshadowing the vocals a la Tom Jenkinson (or Flea, if you will). Oh, and they do a dope cover of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control".
* "L'Age d'Or" (dirs. Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dali, 1930) screening @ Anthology Film Archives / 32 2nd Ave (FV to 2nd Ave), 8p. They just want to make love, our leading couple, and are denied at every instance by Catholicism and bourgeois society, in this classic surrealist 'romance'.
* "The Lady with the Dog/Dama s sobachkoy" (dir. Iosif Kheifits, USSR, 1960) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre (see above). One of my favorite Chekhov short stories, involving an adulterous affair b/w a Moscow banker and a young woman. Kheifits' adaptation won a Special Prize @ the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.
* "Ward No. 6/Palata No. 6" (dirs. Karen Shakhnazraov & Alexandr Gornovsky, Russia, 2009) US premiere @ Walter Reade Theatre (see above). Dir. Shakhnazarov attends the 3:20p and 7:20p screenings, adapted from one of Chekhov's bleakest, medical science-influenced tales.
* "Ward No. 6/Palata No. 6" (dirs. Karen Shakhnazraov & Alexandr Gornovsky, Russia, 2009) US premiere @ Walter Reade Theatre (see above). Dir. Shakhnazarov attends the 2:40p and 7:10p screenings, adapted from one of Chekhov's bleakest, medical science-influenced tales.
* "Uncle Vanya/Dyadya Vanya" (dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, USSR, 1970) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre (see above), 5:15p. This April, the Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg, under direction by Lev Dodin, perform Chekhov's quintessential tragicomedy @ BAM. See the film first!
* Darmstadt "Terry Riley's In C" @ Galapagos ArtSpace / 16 Main St, DUMBO (F to York, AC to High St), 8p/$10. The NY Times' Allan Kozinn http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/arts/music/10grand.html gave a shout-out to 2007's "In C", the performance I attended back when Galapagos was in Williamsburg. This one, Darmstadt's 5th Anniv reading, should be at least as dope, if not better. The premise: a roughly hour-long improvisation on permutations of the C chord, which relies entirely on the talents and variables of its ensemble, the person keeping the pulse (whether that's piano, bells etc) and the many, many voices and instruments sliding over it. This year's lineup includes a fierce guitar section (led by drone-god Zach Layton, who co-curatesTK the show w/ voice-guru Nick Hallett), plus Sawako and Luke DuBois (electronics), MV Carbon and Ha Yang Kim (cellos), Ryan Sawyer (drums), Jon Gibson (saxophone and multi-instrumentalist) and live cinema from Joshua Light Show.
* "An Evening with n+1: The Unfinished Work of Feminism is Love" @ The Kitchen / 512 W 19th St, 7p/FREE. n+1 editor-at-large Allison Lorentzen moderates a discussion around "Why can't feminists agree on love?", feat. Meghan O'Rourke (Slate culture critic), Meghan Falvey (author of "Women, the New Social Problem"), Carlene Bauer (author of "Not That Kind of Girl"), and Astra Taylor (one of my favorite contemporary documentarians, she directed philosophic journeys "Žižek!" and "Examined Life").
* "Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art" @ Guggenheim Museum / 1071 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St), 6:30p/SOLD OUT (but standby tix are apparently available). Are you like me, ticketless but yearning to hear the conversation b/w Richard Armstrong (the Gugg's museum director), Judith Goldman (writer/scholar) and THE MAN himself, anti-Pop icon James Rosenquist? The discussion title culls from Rosenquist's properly colorful memoir, out now (which I've read, hence my choice in labeling him 'anti-Pop'), and hell, he's a hero of mine, Rosenquist — standby ticketing begins at 6p, people.
* Gerhard Richter "Abstract Paintings, 2009" @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. This is a massive, museum-quality exhibition of Richter's newest signaturely abstract paintings, composed on canvas, wood, and metal (and that's not counting the flotilla "Sindbad", a 'diptych-esque' suite of gooey lacquer between glass panels). You should choose to either begin or end w/ Richter's monolithic monochromish works, hung together in the opening gallery, whose glistening whitish surfaces conceal the wild chromatic abstraction beneath. In a few instances, slices through the translucent layering here and a general dilution of the white paint there, the colors (green, red, blue mostly, but in one vertical example a long smear reminiscent of a rainbow rocket popsicle) gleam through. Elsewhere, note how Richter's varying choice of surface interacts w/ the lesions and acid-stripped baths of paint. How the metal provides a smoothly blurred vibe, the wood either soaks up the color (a brilliant several lava-reds) or is macerated by it, and of course "Sindbad". Each notebook-sized panel is a delicious standalone work on its own, but taken as a whole, the two-wall installation is saturation mastery at its finest.
* Egon Schiele "As Printmaker" @ Galerie St. Etienne / 24 W 57th St. A gorgeous selection of the rakish young artist's varied media, etchings, drypoints, pencil and gouache drawings — all of it portraiture and all of it really echoing once again Schiele's omnipotent linework. I found this most evident in his charcoal and 'black crayon' drawings of nudes, full of movement and tense musculature but w/o any stray or unnecessary lines.
* Cy Twombly "Eight Sculptures" @ Gagosian / 980 Madison Ave. These stately bronzes, each bearing a plywood plinth save one totemic piece, residing on its own 'petrified' trunk, embody a resonating calm and maturity needed in the always-crowded gallery scene. Even in the labyrinthine uptown Gagosian, where such disparate couplings as Jeff Koons and Pablo Picasso are known to collide, you need a show like Twombly's to cut through the mania. That said, my favorite pieces, if pressed, are the two wedding cake-like structures, one neatly dwarfed by its base and the other enlarged to match it. But the entire lot is good and, in the stark gallery space, it feels as though you've stumbled upon something very special (hint: you have).
+ Roger Ballen "Boarding House". A massive exhibition of the photographer's latest b&w series, taken in a three-story occupied warehouse in Johannesburg. His generally idiosyncratic and unsettling portraiture is reduced to seemingly stage-set vignettes: limbs, mouths and the occasional cat moving about blanketed walls. Thing is, though, the 'actors' are all real, meaning they're the impoverished inhabitants of the Boarding House, posing for and interacting w/ Ballen's lens. And there's a strong proper Surrealism in his compositions, too, the stained sculptural busts and figure framing (concealed faces), plus the odd rose or apple, made me think he did his Rene Magritte homework.
+ Richard Prince "1, 2, 3, 4". What a nice juicy surprise! I'm not even sure if this tiny show of new collage works from the trickster even has a title, but the theme is the traditional rock-song count-off, from The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" onward. Each canvas bears four numbered images, related as far as your mind will tie them together — punk imagery and sex scenes dominate. Much like Prince's "Bettie Kline" book (tying together essential Franz Kline abstract paintings w/ Bettie Page imagery), his knack for unearthing intriguing similarities continues to surprise.
* Paul McCarthy "White Snow" @ Hauser & Wirth / 32 E 69th St. A deliciously dirty show of new works from the relentlessly deviant (yet always grandfatherly) artist — really it's two shows, the fairly quiet suite of Snow White-derived drawings and character studies (the titular exhibition), which is totally graphic, don't mistake me, and a series of massive, McCarthy-scale collages on 7x10' paper, which are vividly graphic and continue the Snow White theme, albeit in messier, warped means. "White Snow" is good and weird; if you're keen to experience it w/ a clear head I suggest taking to the 2nd fl tout de suite, ignoring the colorful larger works until later. Expect series of Snow White and the Prince in various positions, of phallic-nosed Dopey, of lewd-minded dwarves and forest creatures milling about ol' Snow in her dreamy reveries. Downstairs, the increasingly psychedelic large collage works rule the day and kept my interest far better. Beyond McCarthy's usual charcoal drawings and scribbly oil-stick, these works incl. tears from exhibition catalogues (Christie's bears sharp notice, esp. extended views of Jeff Koons' shows) and porn mags. Good old Paul! The bizarre titles ("GAP", "Michael Jackson", "100") generally come from some magazine element on the massive works and obscurely reference the on-page action. Though by the time we get to "Inside Her Ordeal", a personal fave, the aforementioned dense maelstroms wash away into a rather spare piece, w/ a glassy eyed Snow grinning out into oblivion.
* Liu Ye "Leave Me in the Dark" @ Sperone Westwater / 415 W 13th St. I love Ye's haunting, spare acrylics, which mostly capture a solitary doll-like girl in scenarios worth of Rene Magritte. She might be reading a book or standing, raincoated and w/ luggage but w/ her back turned to the viewer — and suddenly everything is just a bit less familiar. Ye's 'compositions', of bamboo, blocks and drugs, are rendered w/ a scalpel's clarity, but lack the gauzy beauty of his portraiture.
* David Hockney "New Paintings" @ Pacewildenstein / 32 E 57th St. If I were forced to decide which Hockney show I preferred, the downtown one or the midtown one, I honestly could not choose. 25th St's gorgeous super-large-scale glades (echoed in autumnal reds and springlike greens) command your attention, while 57th St's multiple totemic renderings require a bit more intense contemplation. I've decided you need to see both shows to fully 'get' Hockney's new en plein air paintings of his native Yorkshire. And the range at 57th St (it's not just hawthorne), like the acid-green saturation workout of "Stray" and the calming emptiness of a rainwater-colored lolling hill, do not reproduce fully in the catalogue and must be seen in person.
* Marc Quinn "Iris" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 5th Ave. Quinn's massive circular canvases of the namesake eye-related body part harbor the potential of New Age-y-ness, meaning those strange crackling-lightning and bubbling spheres and pseudo-3D computer wallpaper shit circa '02 (you know, 640x480-pixel-sized). But they're nothing like that. In person, and specifically up close, Quinn's deftly rendered irises are incredibly unslick and painterly, which detracts exactly 0% from the work.
* Sol LeWitt, Keith Sonnier, Lawrence Weiner @ Leo Castelli / 18 E 77th St #3. A deceptively simple show, ostensibly three artists comfortable w/ wall art. But that's such a cop-out! Weiner's hot-pink "LAID OUT FLAT BENT [NOW] THIS WAY TURNED [NOW] THAT WAY (i.e. LOOPED OVER)" grounds the other two, the sunny yellow ruled and wobbly lines from LeWitt's circa-1971 wall piece (in contemporary terms, it looks a bit like Wolfgang Laib's hand-sifted pollen installations) and two very intriguing takes from Sonnier. The noisy one, feat. flickering lights, latex and a motor, feels more typical but the other, a wall-mounted trapezoid of flock w/ string, intrigues in its rawness.
* Lynda Benglis @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. Frozen bubblebath, my first thought upon viewing Benglis' tinted polyurethane sculpture "Swinburne Figure I", part of her exhibition of new relief works at the gallery. Everything crawls along the wall here, from other globular polyurethane objet (check the esp. effective orange-sun "D'Arrest") to the black patina'd bronzes (mimicking either coral reefs or coagulated chocolatey breakfast cereal), like the hand-like "Figure 3" and animale "Figure 5".
* Richard Mosse "The Fall" @ Jack Shainman Gallery / 513 W 20th St. Mosse's photojournalist record of his remotest travels, here a series of large C-prints, interrupt the respective snowy, deserted or otherwise forest-laden landscape w/ the carcass of a once-great metal beast. As in, the burned out, bullet-riddled frame of an automobile; the wingless body and nose of a jet, throwing forth its shadow like the maw of a prehistoric predator; the basically decayed wing of an airliner, tattooed w/ several decades' worth of graffiti.
* Norbert Schwontkowski "Ångstrœm" @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash / 528 W 26th St. Schwontkowski's muted color palette, in a slew of mostly smallish oils on canvas, is due to his cache of hand-ground pigments. These lend a murky, De Chiricoesque air to his spare compositions, which do indeed channel the metaphysical Surrealist in certain measures, plus Dali and early Magritte.
* Blanca Muñoz "The Blue Dance" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. Muñoz's lyrical perforated stainless steel sculpture (kissed here and there by mirrored cobalt blue steel) resemble plantlike alien lifeforms. Think visually weightless lilypads or some tropics-dwelling frond basking in the sunlight or wafting gently in a sea current. Even the massive pieces (Muñoz breaks up her sculpture by either small table-top or relief works — which execute especially well — or auto-sized beasts) retain a lightness belying their obviously heavy components, the perforations and screws magnified to extra-large dimensions.
+ Alejandro Corujeira "The Accessible, Dressed in Salts". I detect traces of fairly contemporary Brice Marden in some of Corujeira's wavy line acrylics, though I'm not sure the artist enacts the same sort of fierce attention and loving care that Marden does to his whiplike shapes.
* Pearlstein/Held "Five Decades" @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. Allow me to walk you through this incredible, if tantalizingly brief, duet b/w long-career American artists Al Held (he of the super abstract school) and Philip Pearlstein (he of the entirely figurative school). The 1st thing you'll probably see, out of your left peripherals, is Held's ultra-yellow targetish "Echo" from 1966, which pairs across the way w/ Pearlstein's "Female Nude on Yellow Drape" from the same decade. In the alcove w/ "Echo" is an early, wetly composed Pearlstein (which up close resembles mudwrestling) and an early Held, all impasto and thick swaths of paint. Get it? The interrelatedness of the two painters, albeit via on-the-surface different paths? You need this structure going into the spacious main room, where Pearlstein's newer works dominate, at least at first blush. Note the differences b/w a '76 piece and an '08 or '09, the increasing complexity of reflection, color palette and general franticness of composition. And note too how Held's works, while definitely not shirking on the color side (after a foray into sharp b&w in the '70s), calms his geometric compositions as their horizons stretch to eternity.
* Aya Takano "Reintegrating Worlds" @ Skarstedt Gallery / 20 E 79th St. The 1st solo show from the young Kaikai Kiki artist is a beaut, all pastel-toned acrylics of girls and animals interacting in a sort of stoned contemporary take on Amami Oshima Islands culture. Beyond what appears to be a flooded subway, most of the action occurs outdoors, in a landscape occupied by deer and cats.
* Jean Dubuffet @ Helly Nahmad Gallery / 975 Madison Ave. A lovely range of the artist's later-period works, beginning w/ his famous sculptures and coded red-blue-white-black paintings (like cuneiform, or some ancient lost language before graffiti became cool) and punctuated here and there w/ bright bursts of color, like the superior late-work "Mire G 33 (Kowloon)", a network of red and blue loops against vibrant yellow, and this blackboard-sized and -rendered canvas filled w/ colored-chalk figures and a Citroen.
* William J. O'Brien @ Marianne Boesky Gallery / 509 W 24th St. The first evidence of O'Brien's craft, in the opening gallery, may turn you off. A berserkly scribbled drawing and malformed clay sculpture admittedly gave me pause. But continue onward to the larger back gallery and your fears will disappear. Amid O'Brien's signature, cleanly and lovingly rendered colored pencil and ink drawings are a series of related small-scale steel and ceramic works, a motley assortment not unlike Louise Bourgeois' crowded worktable upstate in Dia:Beacon.
* Shinya Yamamura "Urushi Decorations" @ Ippodo Gallery / 521 W 26th St. Splendid, singular lacquer works, little cups, bowls and tchotchkes (I think the logical Japanese term here is 'okimono'), most twinkling with an uncommon brilliance culled from the natural world by this modern master.
* Kim Nam Pyo "Instant Landscapes" @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. You read the gallery checklist just to confirm that Kim's large-scale works are 'just' charcoal drawings and not collages or like horsehair-brushed oils (Daliesque) — as they are so exactingly rendered, every bent tree-branch or bizarro zebra head or Barneys-quality accessory (the light sources on the croc bags and high heels are exquisite). Sure Kim adds faux fur to the lot, usually in the manner of equine tails or crests, but that blends in amid the extremely surreal, beautifully detailed landscapes.
* Emi Uchida "Lines" @ Onishi Gallery / 521 W 26th St. The artist's influences are clearer than ever in this series of obscured works on paper. Uchida's shunga-inspired drawings (Edo-era erotic woodcut works) are veiled by her signature wavy charcoal lines.
* Luke Smalley "Sunday Drive" @ ClampArt / 521 W 25th St. Mostly vaguely homoerotic C-prints of male models in jail, tattooing one another and pining after their partners, who I take it are meant to be the three young women in the automobile. Would not be out of place in Dazed & Confused, which Smalley incidentally shoots for.
+ Jill Greenberg 'New Bears". You cannot help but like Greenberg's animal 'portraits', esp. this new suite of brightly-lit mostly brown bears. One of them is winking at the camera! You must be made of stone if you don't like that.
* Bill Viola "Bodies of Light" @ James Cohan Gallery / 533 W 26th St. Love or loathe Viola, his exhibitions, which tend around watery slo-mo video, draw insane crowds. Like this one, which is total eye-candy (try to NOT be visually arrested by "Incarnation" and "Acceptance", even though they're sort of like being filmed in the shower) but by no means insubstantial. In fact, the "Pneuma" installation (this grainy video on three of four gallery walls) is a super palate cleanser from the fussier shows on the block.
* "Before Again" Group Show @ Lennon, Weinberg Inc / 514 W 25th St. This it totally my personal taste, but I prefer the roughly-applied abstract style of Abstract Expressionist legend Joan Mitchell and contemporary Louise Fishman (whose oily swaths are particularly invigorating) over the cleaner, technical renderings by Jill Moser and Melissa Meyer.
* Rashaad Newsome "Standards" @ Ramis Barquet / 532 W 24th St. This is dope. Newsome created meticulous collages, which from a distance appear to be regal crests and coats of arms, but are actually composite bling, babes, grillz and Italian fashion house labels (Gucci chains figure heavily here). These bijoux are carried further by a life-size steel gate, adorned w/ more Gucci and several real chrome rims, spinners and all, plus a video that mixes the intro to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" w/ hip-hop claps and 808 beats.
* Hope Gangloff @ Susan Inglett Gallery / 522 W 24th St. Huge Gangloff fan here, and maybe it's b/c her lush compositions of friends and Brooklyn-esque scenery that act as a mirror to my own experiences. The picnic-ready 'still-life', for instance, includes various beers, heels and beach umbrellas (plus what I take to be the MoMA Design Store ceramic 'paper cup', which I own).
* Johannes Vermeer "The Milkmaid" + related paintings @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 5th Ave (456 to 86th St). This extraordinary, brief mini exhibition focused on the on-loan masterpiece (which hasn't visited the States since 1939), alongside all the Met's Vermeer paintings and related works by Pieter de Hooch, Nicolaes Maes, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard ter Borch and (perhaps marginally) Emanuel de Witte, may well signify the Met's style of recession-era exhibitions. And if that's the case, eschewing mammoth blowouts for one singular piece and related beauties, nothing is lost. I'd argue, in fact, just "The Milkmaid" (a smallish painting with a shimmering surface) in a small, dim room, illuminated from overhead, would be enough. It is thematic to speak of Vermeer's deft, inventive (and expensive) use of color, and it's been done in far more eloquent ways than you'll read here so I'll skip that + just say it's beautiful. The brilliant azure blue in the milkmaid's apron and a cloth flung over the table, jump off the canvas. The realistic stream of milk from the upturned jug twinkles. The rays of daylight on the table's accouterments and the milkmaid's shirt add warmth. Of the Met's other Vermeer works (they have five, out of I think three dozen attributed to the artist), I liked "A Maid Asleep" the best, which both dwarves the others and lends an incredible notion of depth, from the foregrounded chair and fruit bowl to the table and framed painting in the next room, far in the background. His others are "Woman with a Lute" (dreamlike, sun-dappled), "Young Woman with a Water Pitcher" (gorgeous blues and detail), "Study of a Young Woman" (this one always slightly freaks me out) and "Allegory of the Catholic Faith" (which I don't think I've ever seen up close, it's a big canvas too and very strange, with the azure details here and there incl. this knifelike cloth suspending a glass orb, descending from the rafters). Of the related works, Nicolaes Maes' "Young Woman Peeling Apples" had me transfixed: the soft light and moving shadows lend intimacy, the girl's expression peace and contentment, and Maes' palette of orange, brown and red is superb. I want to see loads more from him. And you may not know it by my writings and general attitude toward art but I really dig Pieter de Hooch. His "The Visit", w/ the upturned hat in the foreground, is fantastic, and the framing of the people against static space is intriguing. I can't believe it's closing already; though it had a nearly three-month run it still feels too soon. And, if weather permits, dash up to the roof for your last chance @ Roxy Paine's phenomenal "Maelstrom" creature. Catch both tout de suite, you'll thank me later.