* William Kentridge "Five Themes" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/V to 5th Ave). A three-decade survey of the S. African artist, encompassing his charcoal-drawing animations (which is how I know him best), prints, works on paper, sculpture etc, in his continuing dialogue w/ apartheid, colonialism and cultural events both unique to S. Africa but applicable to contemporary society. Plus he's been working on a stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's satire "The Nose", led by Dmitri Shostakovich and debuting @ the Met Opera next month.
+ Yin Xiuzhen. Large site-specific installation by the Chinese artist, adapting a minibus into a corridor-like chamber for chitchat.
* 2010 Whitney Biennial @ Whitney Museum / 945 Madison Ave (6 to 77th St). The mighty Whitney has the distinction of leading off the ecstatic wave of impending art events (the Armory Show + VOLTA and its satellites and the Dakis Joannou show @ New Museum, happening next week). So it's to the museum's benefit that this smaller, focused gathering (55 international artists, based in the museum itself instead of bleeding out into the city) has the potential to be something very good. I mean, two years is a LONG time. Much has happened since the last sprawling Biennial. Let's see what they've done to better it.
* Tala Madani "Pictograms" @ Lombard-Freid Projects / 531 W 26th St. Madani is running a strong cool-wave now, w/ her strong solo show at the gallery in '08, her powerful output @ the New Museum's "Younger Than Jesus" inaugural Triennial, and an assortment of group shows. Her new exhibition, augmented by spraypaint on canvas, utilizes her characteristic all-male cast, only this time they resemble letters, to dual representational effect.
* "Animate Matter" Group Show @ Thomas Erben Gallery / 526 W 26th St 4th Fl. Four gallery artists 'activate' their mediums in various methods, incl. VOLTA showcase artist Dona Nelson (whose cloth-covered abstract paintings hang freeform), Pia Maria Martin's animations, Richard Staub's signature stylized junk-assemblage and works on paper by Rose Wylie.
* Pieter Hugo "Nollywood" @ Yossi Milo Gallery / 525 W 25th St. He riveted us a few years back w/ the unparalleled 'The Hyena and Other Men', and the S. African photographer returns w/ his lens focused on the Nigerian film industry and its special self-representation.
* Chris Martin + Joe Bradley @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash / 528 W 26th St. I would have been satisfied w/ just a Martin show, he of the colorful mixed media abstract paintings, but this show was conceived as a dialogue b/w the two NY-based artists, and Bradley's streamlined work should pair well against Martin's maximalist canvases.
* Nari Ward "LIVESupport" @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. Ward's 1st solo show in the gallery should cut to the quick in two ways: his junk-assemblage installations recalling violence and disarray and his reedited vintage photography. Ward's work will also be part of the gallery's booth at this year's Armory Show.
* Debra Hampton "Twenty Paces" @ Priska C. Juschka Fine Art / 547 W 27th St 2nd Fl. Wildly realized warrior-heroines of some near-future apocalyptic world, composed of very NOW materials (like fashion mag collages) — think sort of a cross b/w Wangechi Mutu and early 'Heavy Metal'.
* Anya Kielar "Face" @ Rachel Uffner Gallery / 47 Orchard St. This looks cool: Kielar assembles these pigmented-sand-covered relief sculptures of various materials on masonite board in such a way that, abstractly, they resemble part of a human face.
* Toro y Moi + Twin Sister @ Cameo Gallery / 93 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$5. Two very different, very trippy takes on dream-pop. I am completely enraptured by Twin Sister's trip-hop-ish live set, and Toro (aka SC's Chaz Bundick) croons over sun-drenched electronics.
* "Monsters & Murderers: The Films of Bong Joon-ho" @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (D/M/NR to Pacific, 23/45/B/Q to Atlantic). The mini-festival title is a bit silly if you think of monsters in the conventional beastly sense — of which, Bong's "The Host" is nonpareil in its mastery of that genre — but if you add to it the monstrous human element, that WE can take this horrid form, then the meaning becomes way more clear. SO, in celebration of the full-on debut of Bong's latest film "Mother" (premiered here @ the NY Film Festival), a look back at his other three films, plus a selection of shorts.
* "Memories of Murder" (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2003) screening @ BAM (part of "Monsters & Murderers" series), 7:30p. Bong made it big w/ this one, based on S. Korea's 1st serial killer. And it's ace seeing the incredibly versatile Song Kang-ho as an earnest detective in this grueling feature.
* Robert Morris @ Leo Castelli / 18 E 77th St. I always dug Morris' scatter pieces more than his felt (though, admittedly, no one can do felt quite like Morris). This seminal piece, recreated from his original 1969 solo show at the gallery, contains that signature felt, plus metal and is augmented by nine original work drawings related to the piece.
* Alexander Calder @ Gagosian / 522 W 21st St. W Chelsea just got inundated w/ a lot of fine sculpture. What w/ the fab small-scale stuff of Beverly Pepper (Marlborough) and Ken Price (Matthew Marks), now we've large-scale sculptures by Calder from 1957-64 (and classics by David Smith, a few blocks away). And though there are no mobiles here, I somehow expect these works to carry that deceivingly light, kinetic mannerism of his smaller works.
* David Smith @ Gagosian / 555 W 24th St. Five of Smith's final major large-scale cubular sculpture before his premature death. Pair w/ the Calder show a few blocks away.
* Eemyun Kang "Dozing River" @ Tina Kim Gallery / 545 W 25th St 3rd Fl. Large-scale sleepy abstract landscape paintings, tending toward one large central floral element against a hazy colored background.
* Lucas Ajemian + Julien Bismuth "Les Tristes" @ Invisible-Exports / 14A Orchard St. The duo is making a film, which will be staged in and around the gallery, and a publication of sorts. The 2nd part of that reminded me a bit of Alexandra Mir's 'newsroom' installation at Mary Boone back in 2007, crossed w/ the live readings of On Kawara's 'One Million Years' at David Zwirner in early 2009, only...you can actually BE in Ajemian and Bismuth's film.
* Noveller + Sisters + Knight School @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$5. Bruar is going to be crowded tonight! An investigation into noise, segueing from the clean pop of Knight School to the garage-thump duo Sisters to Noveller's wailing, multi-textured solo drone guitar.
* "Persecution" (dir. Patrice Chéreau, France, 2009) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 8:40p (part of Film Comment Selects). AKA Romain Duris + Charlotte Gainsbourg's new film, a destructive path of romantic distress and torment, which Chéreau knows VERY well how to depict (anybody see "Gabrielle"?). ALSO SAT 6p
* "Mother" (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2009) screening @ BAM (part of "Monsters & Murderers" series), 7p + Q&A w/ Bong. Dude hard-up on his luck possibly framed for murder, and his tough-as-nails mom goes to bat for him on an inexhaustible quest to prove his innocence.
* Five Year Anniversary @ Jonathan Levine Gallery / 529 W 20th St 9th Fl. Excellent primer for those new to 'Pop Surrealism' (or Street Art, if you've actually never heard of that before, and obvs you're not from NY) or those who want to catch up w/ the gallery's fine roster of artists. Expect poetically beautiful representational works, wildly colored abstracts, and viscerally disturbing paintings.
* Joan Jonas "Reading Dante III" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. Jonas furthers her investigation into Dante's "Divine Comedy", which you may have seen at Performa 09, by a reinterpreted multimedia installation, melding the characters w/ her own personal journeys.
+ Stefan Bruggemann "Headlines & Last Line in the Movies". I know Bruggemann's site-specific installations best for their heavy textual context — he's VERY good at creating lively character-based works. Though at a group show last year @ the gallery, he flipped a mirror and called that his piece. This time, he spraypaints mirrors w/ final dialogue from films, which just sounds dope.
* Mike Nelson @ 303 Gallery / 547 W 21st St. Nelson's disquietingly familiar installations remind me a bit like Ed Kienholz's works but absent of people, which is perhaps creepier.
* Thomas Nozkowski "Works on Paper 1991-2008" @ Senior & Shopmaker Gallery / 210 11th Ave. The gallery inaugurates its new space in a big way, w/ a survey of the dots+bars artist's printmaking techniques and varied output.
* Esko Männikkö "Harmony Sisters" @ Yancey Richardson Gallery / 535 W 22nd St 3rd Fl. I am digging this influx of Finnish art, both here and at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery a few blocks north (and at the upcoming Armory Show, via Galerie Forsblom + Galerie Anhava). This exhibit features Mannikkö's super-sharp portraits of wild and domesticated animals.
* "The Helsinki School: Seven Approaches" @ Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery / 505 W 24th St. Seven artists who use photography as a conceptual device. Members of the School include Joonas Ahlava, Ola Kolehmainen and Niko Luoma.
* "Celebration: The Birthday in Chinese Art" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 5th Ave (456 to 86th St). w/ the lovely Cinnabar (the Chinese art of carved lacquer) recently closed, I felt this gaping loss in Chinese decorative arts that I did not even realize I HAD. Luckily, this exhibition of auspicious occasions, feat. embroidered hanging scrolls, lacquered screens and loads else from the Ming and Qing dynasties, should satisfy this new-found crazy craving.
* "The Host" (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2006) screening @ BAM (part of "Monsters & Murderers" series), 6:30/9:30p. Outrageously good, breathtakingly thrilling. Bong takes the worn-out CGI'ed notion of the blockbuster monster movie and turned it on its ear. Not only are the effects and the beasty absolutely ACE, but just beneath the surface is Bong's main point: a bittersweet, fractured family drama, w/ Song Kang-ho as the bumbling young dad and Bae Doona as the emotionally distant athletic sister. Gets my LIST's seal of approval.
* Surfer Blood + Beach Fossils @ Market Hotel / 1142 Myrtle Ave, Bushwick (JMZ to Myrtle/Broadway), 8p/$10. Those Florida boys Surfer Blood rock really hard, and though their show tomorrow night @ Mercury Lounge sold out, THIS one should be wayyy better. Though both share biilling w/ Nashville's Turbo Fruits (think The Guess Who), Market Hotel also hosts Greenpoint's Beach Fossils, whose surf-inflected live show is (somehow) more energetic than ever, riling the crowd into a happy frenzy, and the sludgy Grooms. NICE.
* pow wow! @ Fort Useless / 36 Ditmars St, Bushwick (JMZ to Myrtle/Broadway), 8p/. I missed the Nazareno Bros & crew during CMJ and only now realize they've augmented their good-vibey retro-pop w/ a lead guitarist/singer named Amanda. I dig it! w/ Mama Bear. (and, incidentally, this venue is located like a block from Market Hotel)
* "A Brighter Summer Day" (dir. Edward Yang, Taiwan, 1991) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 1:30p (part of Film Comment Selects). Yang's four-hour coming-of-age opus, set in early '60s Taiwan and feat. a cast of extras numbering in the thousands, I think. I'm like many Westerners, unfortunately, who know Yang only for his masterpiece "Yi Yi", completed before his premature death, but as a member of Taiwanese New Wave he had many films before, only they never had proper billing stateside. This is one of them.
* "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2000) screening @ BAM (part of "Monsters & Murderers" series), 6:50/9:15p. Bong's debut, which never got proper billing stateside, about a socially-challenged young college professor who begins kidnapping dogs around his apartment complex and an equally young dreamer (Bae Doona) who investigates the disappearances.
* Pterodactyl + Shooting Spires @ Union Pool / 484 Union Ave, Williamsburg (L/G to Lorimer), 8p/$7. Dig: the messily melodic punks Pterodactyl v. Parts & Labor's BJ Warshaw, AKA Shooting Spires, his amped-up solo project.
* Bong Joon-ho Shorts (dir. Bong Joon-ho, various) screening @ BAM (part of "Monsters & Murderers" series), 7p. Including his contribution to "Tokyo!", Bong's afflicting portrait of Teruyuki Kagawa as a hikkikomori in 'Shaking Tokyo', plus 'Sink and Rise' and 'Influenza' (both from 2004, who each contain ingredients that reappear in 'The Host'). Essential!
* "Morphia" (dir. Alexei Balabanov, Russia, 2008) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 6p (part of Film Comment Selects). AKA 'Morphine', the good young doctor in a rural hospital during the Revolution, who becomes addicted to said drug and entangled w/ the nurse.
* Purim Party @ Death By Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$7. Jewish Halloween? PopJew hosts a fab lineup, feat. Beachniks, Sundelles, Tough Knuckles and headliners So So Glows, urging us all to 'get down'.
* Robert Ryman "Large/Small, Thick/Thin, Light Reflecting, Light Absorbing" @ Pacewildenstein / 32 E 57th St. An exhibition rich in Ryman's particular aesthetic vocabulary, both in media (varnish, enamel, epoxy, graphite) and surface (wood, MDF, Tyvek, cotton). In my opinion one of THE MOST important shows on right now, and an excellent primer for anyone who 1) wants to 'get' this painter's message and 2) might think just because he uses only white paint his stuff all looks the same and boring. Guess again!
* Ross Bleckner @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 Fifth Ave. Bleckner gives us huge square-ish abstracts of submerged flowers in two flavours: shiny phantomic arrays on shiny photographic paper (not my favorite) and fuzzy soft-focus renderings on linen incorporating digital numbers. These work especially well, and I'd love to see a bench or two installed in the gallery's main room, so we can contemplate these a bit more thoroughly, like a good Monet, allowing the petals and numbers to emerge and subsume one another over their dark backings.
* Keith Haring @ Tony Shafrazi Gallery / 544 W 26th St. The 20th Anniv. of the downtown NY icon. You can't hate on Haring unless you're an absolute Philistine, but if you are you're probably not reading this LIST. Shafrazi created a career-spanning exhibition of Haring's oeuvre, the Day-Glo paintings, the silkscreens and works on paper, the graffiti, Haring's bent-metal sculpture — and despite the fact I've seen a lot of this stuff (and probably you have too, if you followed Haring), there are some nice additions. One: the totemic carved-wood monoliths, painted in searing Day-Glo orange or yellow, and two: the black-light room. Oh yes, a black-light room, way out on the north gallery, outfitted w/ several of Haring's particularly psychedelic works and an '80s techno soundtrack, interspersed w/ Haring's commentary. But beware: you enter the black-light room, you might spend 15+ minutes in there like me b/c, even though I was born in the 80s and missed much of this stuff, it still acted as a sudden flashback.
* George Segal @ L&M Arts / 45 E 78th St. It is a treat to see Segal's plaster-cast figures in situ, in their 'natural urban habitats'. The gallery was transformed into their playground, NYC-ish park benches, a truncated subway car and the like. While Segal isn't nearly as unsettling as Ed Kienholz's installations, there is a strong sense of quiet, sad nostalgia in some of the characters: a seated woman in profile a la James McNeill Whistler, and a nude woman, cleaved just above the knees, contemplating her reflection in a stained bathroom mirror.
* Baron Adolph de Meyer @ Robert Miller Gallery / 524 W 26th St. A lavish, discernibly chic survey of the preeminent fashion photographer's body of work, from early portraits of his wife and muse to his later projects with Conde Nast and screen/stage actresses. There is a LOT to see here, so a few highlights: the unmissable reddish pigment print of Baroness Olga de Meyer (1897), Natica Nast, replete w/ beaded necklaces, against this glowingly ethereal stand (1920), a debonair self-portrait w/ a cigarette and a wall of screen beauties, each one in a fiercer feathered hat than the last. Repeat visits are necessary.
* Bill Jensen @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. Gorgeous not-large abstract paintings and works on paper. You get Jensen's Taoist background more readily from the b&w works, perhaps, w/ their snaking brushstrokes, but the saturated-color lot really come alive, all resonating red-oranges and other 'hot' colors. In fact, the textural nature of these, the sort of static-y, roughly applied color intermixed w/ solid drips and pours, reminds me a bit of Gerhard Richter's signature (de)application style. But what keeps it firmly Jensen's own are the color bands, tributaries for the eyes.
* Beverly Pepper "Metamorphoses" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. Ahhhh this is dope!! I MUCH prefer Pepper's smaller works, like this blocky selection rendered in delicious media like onyx, Zimbabwe granite and marble. The variations on angles, crypto-portals and bent triangles lends itself to like this slightly sci-fi futuristic vibe, like said objet were ephemeral forms discovered on Mars or whatnot, so they embody a prescience that requires further contemplation. I could stare at them for hours.
+ George Rickey. Classic works from Rickey's estate, lighter-than-air steel cubes and rods (and in the case of the 'Nebula' sculptures, schools of fish) that wave or undulate via fans and ambient airflow. A mesmerizing accompaniment to Pepper's weightier offering and a very satisfying dual-sculpture exhibition.
* Gary Simmons "Midnight Matinee" @ Metro Pictures / 519 W 24th St. Simmons makes vintage cinema signage ghostly and frightening by hazing it out like cold flames on spare, black backgrounds. This works most effectively on the massive wall painting, effectively matte-ing the black and permitting the divided image to be sucked up the top and bottom edges.
* Jaehyo Lee @ Cynthia Reeves Gallery / 535 W 24th St 2nd Fl. I was absolutely riveted by Lee's first environmental-intervention sculpture show in 2008, from the leaves-curtain onward. This one is a bit 'fancier', like the designer furniture fashioned smoothly from logs or the obelisk of nail-formed letters (looking something like Jasper Johns' stamped encaustics, only in heavy metal). But mate that w/ this dorsal column of logs, like a massive sea-beast rising from the gallery floor, and an array of twig curtains, and it's impossible to ignore Lee's unique artistic prowess.
* James Rosenquist "The Hole in the Middle of Time" @ Acquavella / 18 E 79th St. The American Pop legend, and a personal hero of yours truly, has a history of adding 'movement' to his epic paintings — which goes beyond the obvious dynamism of his increasingly abstract works, I mean like physical moving parts like laser clocks and conveyor belts. But Rosenquist takes it a step further w/ the installation 'The Hole in the Wallpaper', 14 spinning laser-print reproductions of his classic works, each inscribed w/ a static mirror reflecting us and the greater room. This piece accompanies the titular exhibition, large works of melting cosmic clocks and silly string fireworks explosions, augmented by either spinning painted clock-face mirrors or outsized colored pencils.
* William Bailey @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. I am VERY impressed w/ Bailey's exhibition. Though I'm familiar w/ his from-memory still-lifes (meaning he has a collection of objects he uses, but he pairs them in his head, adjusting the lighting and so on and then paints the image), I've never seen his portraiture before. And these, a mix of oil paintings and works on paper, are somehow both dreamlike and physically immediate — thanks especially to the models' intense gazes.
* Theresa Chong @ Danese / 535 W 24th St 6th Fl. Chong's new series of pencil and gouaches on paper (either a midnight blue backdrop or a whitish rice paper) are named for snowy Arctic Circle scenes, which makes sense as her constellations of lines and tiny blocks sort of resemble ice crystals.
* Park Jihyun "Incense Series: Weightlessness" @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. Park composes — 'paints' or 'erases' if that helps — his works on paper w/ fire, marking them w/ burning incense to create cloudy subtracted forms. The show opens w/ a very effective installation of 'trees', nighttime on one side and daytime on the other. There are also several that look like breaks in a forest canopy, looking up into a night sky aswirl w/ stars. Another daytime work is a cloudbank framed by a window. Another thing: all these are impossibly abstract up close, which adds to the laboriousness of Park's process, effectively burning in just the right spots so, when viewed from a dozen feet back, the image becomes crystal sharp.
* Jill Moser @ Lennon, Weinberg Inc / 514 W 25th St. The majority of Moser's new abstracts feature a sunnier palette (think the goldenrods, yellows and pinks of Joan Mitchell) instead of her blue-green algaeish earlier works. They're still sparsely colorful, but they're loads warmer now.
* "The Promise of Loss: A Contemporary Index of Iran" @ Arario NY / 521 W 25th St, 2nd Fl. Shahenn Merali has curated one of the most important group exhibitions that I've experienced in a good long while. First try to name even two contemporary Iranian artists, then throw all your didacticism out and catch this show, feat. more than a dozen artists based in Iran and abroad, from people 20 years my senior to several years younger than I, working in a broad variety of media. The lavish painting by Vienna-based duo Asgar/Gabriel echoes the 'Twitter Generation' protests following the June 2009 elections in Iran — a piece specially created for this show, as the duo claim to rarely be so overtly political. This particular painting sets the tone, created by a Tehran-born man and an Austrian woman, for the ideas coming from the multiple participants in the exhibition. Vancouver-based Babak Golkar pairs traditional nomad carpet w/ futuristic high-rise architecture, whose extruded shape mimics the patterns in the weave. Samira Abbassy takes elements of formal miniaturist painting in her multi-panel treatises on war and gender. Mandana Moghaddam's scene-stealing installation of a concrete trough (full of bubbling fluid), surrounded by empty gasoline containers and blinking green fluorescent bars, recalls the largest cemetery in Tehran. And that's just a bit of the art for viewing.