* "Yojimbo" + "Sanjuro" (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1961/1962) @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFV to W 4th St), 5:25/7:30p. As we come to the end of a month-long Kurosawa retrospective, I cannot think of a better way of going out than this two-fer: the saga of ballsy ronin Toshiro Mifune (as titular Yojimbo) v. a bunch of thugs and a pistol-wielding Tatsuya Nakadai.
* "Examined Life" (dri. Astra Taylor, 2009) screening @ DCTV / 87 Lafayette St (6/JMZ to Canal St), 7:30p/RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org. Today's 'rockstar' philosophers (sorry, 'contemporary thinkers') walk the streets, row boats — and incidentally Slavoj Zizek rummages a London garbage dump — and have off-the-cuff chats w/ the camera. Talking eggheads, you say? I think it sounds perfect. w/ director Taylor in attendance.
* Sterling Ruby "2TRAPS" @ Pacewildenstein / 545 W 22nd St. The LA-based artist's gallery debut sounds like a jackknife into still waters: two large-scale sculptures entitled BUS and PIG PEN, composed of security doors, confinement cages, sub-woofers, and other modes of disorientation and imprisonment.
* Callum Innes "At One Remove" @ Sean Kelly Gallery / 528 W 29th St. Ooh, I'm a big Innes fan. His style is 'making/unmaking' abstract paintings, but the new works, while tactically complex and lovingly abraded, are divided vertically, w/ 1/2 the painting awash in shimmering color and the other side stripped back (nearly) its original underlying gesso layer. Hot stuff.
* Dinh Q. Lê "Elegies" @ PPOW / 511 W 25th St #301. Lê's photography and video animation centers on the South China Sea Pishkun of 1975, plus footage from 'Platoon' and 'Apocalypse Now' reedited together as 'From Father to Son: A Right of Passage'.
* Gabriel J. Shuldiner "Black Mash" @ Jodi Arnold / 56 University Place. Tasty black- and blackened mixed media composites, post-everything.
* Unsound Festival NY 2010: Opening Event = Vladislav Delay + Lillevan @ Lincoln Center (David Rubenstein Atrium) / 1881 Broadway (1 to 66th St), 8p/FREE. This 10-day multi-venue showcase of experimental Eastern European music starts off w/ an echoey bang, thanks to Finland's warm electronics improv genius Sasu Ripatti (playing for the 1st time here as Vladislav Delay) and Berlin's video manipulator Lillevan. Expect a very intimate show that bends both time signatures and reality.
* Big Troubles + Twin Sister @ Webster Hall / 125 E 11th St (NRW/456/L to Union Square), 8p/$7. Chocolate Bobka curated this who's who of hot local talent, specifically those unafraid of dreamy reverb. We've got Big Troubles (whose noisy garage rock shimmers) and Twin Sister (currently my band of choice, they are so dope live), plus soundscapers Run DMT and more.
* Naked Hearts + The Vandelles @ Littlefield / 622 Degraw St, Gowanus (M/R to Union, D/M/NR to Pacific), 8p/$12. Nice combo here, the guitar/drums duo Naked Hearts (replete w/ Amy's gorgeous vocals) and the whispery anthems of The Vandelles, hidden amidst dissonant guitars and a pounding rhythm section.
* Maria Chavez w/ Shelley Burgon + Mike Wexler + Corridors @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (M/R/F to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$15. Another well-curated duet night at ISSUE. Chavez is an avant-turntablist and Burgon improvs on the harp and laptop. Wexler is an intricate, inventive guitarist and Corridors (Byron Westbrook) conjures discreet, multi-channel audio pieces. Not sure either have played together before but there is so much talent here tonight that it should be quite a show.
* Robert Grosvenor @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 534 W 21st St. I'll admit I prefer Grosvenor's earlier works (freakishly spare agglomerations of industrial materials incl. but not limited to: concrete blocks and steel) to his neat and sort-of beautiful recent sculptures. Like his haunting turret of cinderblocks and metal, recalling a maximum security cell, from last year's gallery group show. This exhibition, luckily, includes these not-new pieces, three heavy presences spanning 1986 to 1994, whose happenstance materials weigh heavily on the viewer's subconscious.
* "A Celebration of Spring" @ Ippodo Gallery / 521 W 26th St. A group show around the theme of flowers (Shinya Yamamura's eye-popping lacquers, paintings by Yoko Semoto and Tetsushi Kokin, ceramics by Kohei Nakamura and loads else), which is appropriate for many reasons as this is the calendar block before cherry-blossom season and Feb 4 is 'risshun', the first day of spring, which is still bloody cold but initiates a promise of warmer climes ahead.
* Jan Dibbets "New Horizons" @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St. Like the show title goes, the Dutch photographer begins w/ the natural horizon in conjoining seascapes and natural scenes into new compositions.
* Inigo Manglano-Ovalle "Happiness is a state of inertia" @ Max Protetch / 511 W 22nd St. I dig the artist's sensory-disrupting installations. He begins this time w/ a take on Mies van der Rohe's 'House with Four Columns', adding glass and steel and a rather interesting fish tank.
* Unsound Festival NY 2010 = "Kiss" + "Blow Job" (dir. Andy Warhol, 1963) w/ live Carl Craig + nsi. soundtrack @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 7:30p/9:30p, $25. I cannot make this stuff up. Furthering the inroads to experimental music, we have substitutes for these simply titled films' soundtracks, substituting the sounds one might expect to hear from, say 55 minutes of kissing or a half-hour blowjob, w/ live improv from German duo nsi. ('Kiss') and Detroit's Craig ('Blow Job').
* "Ran" (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1985) screenings @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFV to W 4th St), for TWO WEEKS. The Kurosawa festival officially ends w/ this two-week run of his famous adaptation of Shakespeare's 'King Lear'...annnd I've never seen it. This is the director going out w/ a bang, big-time, tour-de-force style, huge color-coded armies, femme fatales, wigged out Tatsuya Nakadai as the old king... what are we waiting for??
* "Eyes Wide Open" (dir. Haim Tabakman, 2009) screenings @ Cinema Village / 22 E 12th St (NRW/456/L to Union Square). I totally dig this recent graduate from the 2010 NY Jewish Film Festival and am pleased it's got proper billing in NYC. The premise, an intriguing romance set in an ultra-orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood, is riveting.
* "Reservoir Dogs" (dir. Quentin Tarentino, 1992) midnight screening @ Sunshine Cinema / 143 E Houston St (FV to 2nd Ave). Way before Tarentino's sarariman-suited Crazy 88's, his motley color-pseudonymed Dogs ruled the screen. I can't even begin to list all the cool scenes, though the notorious Stealers Wheel bit ("Stuck in the Middle With You", complete w/ a blood-lusting, straight-razor wielding Michael Madsen, perhaps at his pinnacle) definitely does it for me every time.
* Adventure w/ Teengirl Fantasy @ Market Hotel / 1142 Myrtle Ave, Bushwick (JMZ to Myrtle), 10p. If you need a primer on alt-dance music, this might be the show for you. Benny Boeldt's soulful NES tunes as Adventure + the fractured house beats of duo Teengirl Fantasy (who, name aside, are incredibly dope). Late edition: surf-boy(s) Beach Fossils annnnnd NEON INDIAN.
* "Mastering the Art of Chinese Painting: Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997)" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 5th Ave (456 to 86th St). The museum has an absolute trove of this modern artist's works, a leading figure in Chinese traditional style, and they have crafted a 100-odd selection of his paintings, calligraphy, and sketches.
* Robert Adams "Summer Nights, Walking" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 523 W 24th St. Totally gorge vintage nocturnal landscape photography from a guy who knows how to capture tranquil foliage (see his last MM show, 'Questions for an Overcast Day').
* Ken Price @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 522 W 22nd St. Sixteen spanking new softly shaped, sensual/suggestive sculptures in shimmering spectrums from the stalwart sculptor.
* Twin Sister @ The Tank / 345 W 45th St (ACE/123/NRW to 42nd St), 7:30p/$5. The dreamy psychedelic rock outfit Twin Sister (bit like Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions, bit like Portishead) lead this night of 'young pop groups in NYC'. w/ Ava Luna and Data Dog.
* Anamanaguchi @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Bushwick (L to Grand St), 9p/$8. Brooklyn's hacked-NES punks Anamanaguchi are embarking on the 8Bit Alliance Tour in March, so catch 'em now alongside some of their chiptune brethren. w/ D/A/D.
* Knight School + Family Portrait @ Webster Hall / 125 E 11th St (NRW/456/L to Union Square), 8p/FREE. I'd usually be hard-pressed to send you out to Webster Hall, but when it's a free concert of dope local-ish bands (psych-folk DC guys Family Portrait and Brooklyn smart-indie-pop Knight School) then it's fair game.
* Unsound Festival NY2010 = Sawako + Ezekiel Honig @ Littlefield / 622 Degraw St, Gowanus (M/R to Union, D/M/NR to Pacific), 8p/$10. The NY-based Anticipate label showcase, w/ all-star sound-sculptor Sawako and fuzzy electro-acoustic impresario (and label founder) Ezekiel Honig. w/ live visuals from superDraw.
* Beach Fossils + The Beets @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FV to 2nd Ave), 8p/$8. Oh man, Cake Shop is going to be crowded tonight! From the get-go (fun-loving Total Slackers), through the carefree groove of Beach Fossils (dare you to remain still during their set), up until The Beets (the originals, Jackson Heights' only garage-rock trio) carry the basement venue into a thumping, caterwauling singalong. Oh, epiphanies will be had!
* Unsound Festival NY 2010 = Zavoloka + Bora Yoon + Zenial @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (M/R/F to 9th St/4th Ave), 8:30p/$15. Two Eastern European experimental musicians, Poland's Zenial (aka Lukasz Szalankiewicz, co-curator of Unsound) and Ukraine's Zavoloka, play shimmering discreet-sound sets w/ Brooklyn's Bora Yoon (who makes some yummy glitch tunes herself).
* "The Drawings of Bronzino" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St). It is my duty, as curator of my LIST, to inform you of current dope cultural events, no matter the degree to which I can conceivably explain them. Hence is the case w/ this brilliant exhibition of Agnolo Bronzino at the Met, nearly all the lush, sensual drawings attributed to him (60 here), the leading Italian Mannerist. The Times' Holland Cotter and The New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl, amid others surely, have already done a far more eloquent job than I'll ever muster. SO, I will do my very best of being Bronzino's hype-man and encourage you, nay, entreat you to this very essential, very beautiful show. The vast majority of these drawings were made in black or red chalk on paper (sometimes prepared w/ a color wash), though Bronzino took what sounds to me like a cumbersome medium and totally elevated it. His lines are masterful, confident, tracing out figures then shading in their supple musculature. Richard Hawkins, for one, would have a field day deconstructing the fleshy amorousness in the posing nude youths (and speaking of sheer detailing, only Peter Peri immediately springs to mind for a contemporary counterpart — his show at Bortolami is pretty impressive — but it's nothing like Bronzino's). Bronzino depicts women, too, incl. personal fave 'Head of a Smiling Young Woman in Three-Quarter View', whose exacting title belies the riveting rendering, her downward-cast eyes, the highlight on her cheekbone. He also does draping, which by that I mean like folded cloth, and if that sounds simplistic you need to take a look at his drawings, the incredible capture of shadows. A few 'modellos' are included in the show, drawings augmented by 16th C. ink and washes that are jarringly intense when seen alongside his singular, concentrated figure studies. And while I've just skimmed the surface her, trust me when I say Bronzino is where it's at. The show continues until mid-April so I've got loads of time to improve the above summary.
+ Richard Hamilton. You only THINK you know Hamilton, meaning you equate the British artist w/ his famous 'Just What is it that makes Today's Homes so Different, So Appealing?' collage from '56. A redo of that one (a super-quality print from a few years ago) is included in this 35-year survey, but the other two dozen works really illuminate Hamilton's forays into print media, via intaglio and rather complex digital techniques. This includes the trippy 'Palindrome' lenticular acrylic collotype from '74 that seems like 20 years ahead of its time (it's a bit like a hologram, bit like a mirror) and the cheekily titled 'A dedicated follower of fashion' photogravure from '80.
* Wolfgang Tillmans @ Andrea Rosen Gallery / 525 W 24th St. Lots of fine moments — emotive, aha, and inspired — in Tillman's 'constellation of photography' show. Nothing is framed sans his 'Ostgut/December Edit' from 2002, the earliest piece in the show, and it's like 50 Kodak print-center-sized C-prints, a primer for what's ahead. And what's ahead is the main gallery covered, but not consumed, by Tillman's bright C-prints and inkjet prints, in varying sizes, shot from all over the world. We have recognizable Thailand here (an open-airs Bangkok market) and India there (four continuous vignettes shot from a bus in Varanasi). The cheeky moments (Tillmans titles a slew of trashy gossip/entertainment mags 'magazine rack UK', and you don't need to know German to discern the title 'Scheisse im Gras') are continuously balanced by the beautiful ones, the Bauhaus-like 'bus seat', the 'Tarsier' peering from a cropped-in rain forest, the embracing 'fans at concert'. Even a row of depleted toner cartridges ('waste ink') looks lovely. That's the thing about these prints: they're not ultra-composed, nor are they forced upon you w/ airs of reverence or seriousness. It's this precise looseness that makes them so accessible, so engaging and endearing.
* Leonardo Drew @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co / 530 W 22nd St. Attend Drew's wood-relief sculpture show and you'll see how my mind works when crafting these LISTs. Here's what I was thinking: the blackened wood pieces (incl. the MASSIVE one at the entryway) echo Louise Nevelson, and the inclusion of cubbyhole dividers practically scream her name; the spinier structures look sort of like Ursula von Rydingsvard's rough-hewn wood sculpture, only they're cut against the grain and suspended from the wall; the large cartography pieces (one spans an entire wall) resemble Mark Bradford's scorched urban mapmaking; and the behind-glass organic shapes are a bit like Anselm Reyle but w/o the new-car paint job. See, it's fun!
+ Vik Muniz, in the project room. Three more of his junk sculpture C-prints and one dirt-drawn C-print, everything has to do w/ skulls or skeletons and they look like woodcuts from a great distance but up close, when you decipher the scale Muniz used (a shoe here, a petrol can there) you realize these things are pretty fantastically big (except for the dirt-drawn skull, that's true to scale but no less impressive).
* Erwin Olaf "Hotel & Dawn/Dusk" @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 537 W 24th St. Olaf's 'Dawn/Dusk' series mirrors each other, large C-prints of ornately outfitted pale rooms inhabited by a light-skinned family or ornately outfitted twilit rooms inhabited by a dark-skinned family. The white boy is done up in a jockey's outfit, the black boy in a sailor suit. The carved marble in one is replaced by carved chestnut in the other. 'Hotel' is seminude models (all women sans one) in hotel rooms. Orange juice somehow figures into several of these...
* Inka Essenhigh "The Old New Age" @ 303 Gallery / 547 W 21st St. Really fine psychedelia here, in Essenhigh's largish oil paintings of surface-level landscapes that somehow come off w/ this dreamy submerged vibe. Like the action — a stately Clydesdale in a flowing golden field, a squadron of spooky shapes in an antiquarian forest, and the green goddess herself encircled by pink blossoms — is trapped in a liquid-filled globe, slowing everything down, lending grace and continuous movement. And the one piece, 'Lower East Side', well besides the bass guitar, it's a mix of that magical street from 'Harry Potter' (stay with me here) w/ something out of Vermeer's time, and it's absolutely gorgeous.
* Jeffrey Vallance "Relics & Reliquaries" @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. Trace a path through Vallance's precious tabernacles (feat. objet from his time in the Tonga islands to detritus from his impressionable teen years), reading each supplied text (they're good, trust me), and you'll feel like you really know the artist. Religious imagery infused w/ familiar suburban banality; if you grew up stateside, chances are you either 1) know a Vallance or 2) share some of these experiences.
+ "Strange Travelers" Group Show, curated by Mark Dion, plus Dion's "Travels of William Bartram – Reconsidered". This cheeky travelogue to the 18th C. American naturalist is Dion at his methodical finest, and he pulls it off very well (from a case of Dion's hand-drawn and painted flora/fauna postcards from Bartram's garden to a ridiculously extensive glass cabinet of all kinds of tchotchke alligators, incl. the naturalist's own reptilian reproduction). His curated show of international travel-minded artists is interesting. James Prosek's Audobon-style paintings of birds are more straightforward than Walton Ford's (the only other contemporary artist I can think of who does this, besides Dion maybe), but he takes it a step further w/ hybrid 'tool birds', both taxidermy and brush. Sanna Kannisto contributes lush C-prints from her work in S. American rainforests, and David Brook styles a belt-lashed collection of hewn telephone poles that carries a disarming echo of felled forest trees.
* William Daniels @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Perhaps the contemporary master of the niche-like small scale renderings of Old Masters via found-objet, Daniels turns to abstract foil surfaces for his source material whilst keeping the lushly painted canvases tiny. There are only ten pieces here, so take your time discerning each, the color choice (the Orange Crush-flavored one in the back is a favorite) and the diffusion of light. Delicious.
* Hélio Oiticica "Drawings, 1954-58" @ Galerie Lelong / 528 W 26th St. Rare works from the Brazilian artist and member of Grupo Frente, the mid-'50s avant-garde collective. Do the math: Oiticica produced nearly all these either geometrically-sparse or discreetly colored gouaches when he was a teenager. Like Aphex Twin doing Jean (Hans) Arp.
* "Primary Atmospheres" California Minimalism 1960-1970 @ David Zwirner / 525-533 W 19th St. An essential addition to the W.Chelsea scene, this warm-vibes group may make you forget how cold it actually is outside. We get two flavors, the seductively emotive light-installations from James Turrell and spare visually trickery from Robert Irwin in the 525 space, and a solid two-room offering of gorgeous clear-based (acrylic, resin, glass) sculptural wedges and cubes at 533. If beautiful subtlety is your thing, this is your candy store.
* Stanley Whitney @ Team Gallery / 83 Grand St. I like Whitney's mostly big blocky oil on linen abstracts, and the cool thing is the 1st 1/2 of them (in the front gallery, check the coolly named 'Bob's (Rauschenberg) Smile') bear the artist's streaky brushstrokes, sometimes as color building over other color. This contrasts the larger paintings in the back gallery, which figure in more hard-edge swaths that abut, just so, to one another.
* Works on Paper group show @ Danese / 535 W 24th St. MoMA's long-running "Compass in Hand" contemporary drawings show just closed, and if you are just aching for more of that, but w/ a bunch of artists who weren't included in that show (Su-en Wong, Bill Jensen, John Chamberlain, Valerie Giles, Richard Serra) + those who were (Warren Isensee, Barry Le Va), take a moment to peruse this very extensive show of mostly new works.
* Pascal Grandmaison "The Inverted Ghost" @ Jack Shainman Gallery / 513 W 20th St. The show's namesake comes from a series of large color inkjet diptychs of oily smears, like scarred featureless masks. The Canadian artist accompanies these with two films, incl. the recent "Light My Fiction", which marries decrepit Coney Island amusement parks w/ decades-old video game consoles.
* Urs Fischer "Marguerite de Ponty" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (FV to 2nd Ave). Fischer made my 'Top Ten LIST-worthy Cultural Events of 2009' posting. It's a safe bet many of us art-lovers (and sometimes-enthusiasts) were anticipating Fischer's gallery-filling solo show. Maybe for his gleeful irreverence to standing architecture (aka 'investigation of space', as in the floor-razing "You" at Gavin Brown's Enterprise a few years back), maybe for his multitalented mixed medium works (melting candle figures, cast-aluminum 'soft' sculpture, anti-Dada 'readymades'). Lots of scare-quotes here, sorry, but it's necessary. And Fischer's exhibition, of works from the past few years, exceeds in expectation whilst simultaneously lifting his cred as a serious artist. The sole hole here, the advert-spoiler "Noisette", is a motion-sensitive tongue that thrusts itself out a tennis ball-sized wall gash: it's a bit of a raspberry to his naysayers, maybe, but it's playful, innocent, innocuous, and by far the best thing. Start from the 4th fl, amid the towering cast-aluminum abstract forms, and decide for yourself what they mean. Maybe "Ix" is a horse-head (the missing head from Mauricio Cattelan's famous "Untitled"? Or Berlinde de Bruyckere's unsettling taxidermy?), or the stunning "David, the Proprietor" a primeval sea beast lashing up from the ocean's depths, or the eponymous "Marguerite de Ponty" a stately, voluptuous lifeform? The other bits in this room, the Robert Gober-esque (in a terribly surreal way) "The Lock", w/ its truncated subway bench and hovering cake, and the bizarrely-titled "Violent Cappuccino" (more aluminum and paint, in the guise of a skeleton fighting off 'cardboard boxes'), are cool to look at but are recurring characters in Fischer's past works. The 3rd fl is trippy, nearly empty save for the aforementioned "Noisette" and a melting (cast-aluminum again) piano. But the great surprise here is the site-specific environment, the collaborative effort w/ graphic designer Scipio Schneider, an installation where the empty gallery was exhaustively photographed and then reprinted as wall- and ceiling-paper. The result: soft pinks, purples and greens w/ trompe l'oeil shadows, sky-light, and public-safety signs. You need several minutes to really take in the unsettling effect — leave the floor if necessary but come back to see it again. He's done this before (the doubled "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns" environment in Tony Shafrazi Gallery last year, replete w/ Shafrazi 'guards', was a trip), but the sneak-up quality here exceeds the earlier works. The 2nd fl, beginning or preferably the end, is Fischer's new multipart work "Service à la Française", but what this means is dozens of mirrored chrome boxes, silkscreened on all surfaces w/ a single object each: a sofa-sized tennis shoe, a milk-crate-sized Balenciaga strappy heel, a canoe-sized sausage. This piece works so well: it's Fischer having fun again but it's a joy to explore. Check the repetitions: halved red Bartlett pear here, rotting red Bartlett pear there; wax-candle cupcake here, deliciously-rendered chocolate-frosted cupcake (replete w/ sprinkles, naturally) there. The effect of it all, and seeing glimpses of yourself in the mirrors as you dash from one objet d'art to the next, is stimulus-overload, exhilarating, thoroughly recommended. I'm sad to see it go.