* "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" (dir. Jessica Oreck, 2009) screenings @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFV to W 4th St). This doc cleverly, carefully investigates Japan's centuries-old reverence for insects, from firefly gatherings to household pets subjects of fine art and museums. w/ dir. Oreck in person w/ live exotic insects (seriously!) at WED/FRI 6:30/8:20p shows.
* "Metropia" (dir. Tari Saleh, 2009) screenings @ Tribeca Cinemas / 54 Varick St (1/ACE to Canal), 9:30p. This super-duper eerie realist animated film voiced by Vincent Gallo and Juliette Lewis in an economic-strifed London hits a bit too close to home. But I've been reading about it on Twitch since its inception and can't wait to see the real thing. (also THU, MON, TUE 9:30p, SAT 10:30p)
* WIERD presents Blank Dogs @ Home Sweet Home / 131 Chrystie St (FV to 2nd Ave), 10p/$5. The particular vintage sound of Blank Dogs really comes alive in dark rooms, when Mike's voice is buried under layers of distortion, bass, and fractured beats, so I consider this location a plus.
* "Like a Rolling Stone" @ Ana Cristea Gallery / 521 W 26th St. If the title alone doesn't get you into the show, the benefit of seeing three wicked artists you probably have never seen before should. Two are practically having their stateside debut, Justen Ladda (who hasn't shown here since the early '90s) and Alexander Esters (he mines the modern masters and is huge in Germany), plus the young NY-based painter Peter Gerakaris.
* Justin Allen "Turquoise Afternoon" @ Robert Miller Gallery / 524 W 26th St, in the project room. Small-format trompe l'oeil paintings of the most banal everyday objects. I'm down.
* Sungmi Lee "Behind My Door" @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. Lee works in translucent media, specifically various resin sculptures in this new exhibition as tribute to her father.
+ Sun-Tai Yoo, in his stateside debut, methodically collected still-lifes against dreamy landscapes.
* Katsuyuki Sakazume @ Ippodo Gallery / 521 W 26th St . Few handcrafted things get me going like Japanese ceramics, in particular this high-fired, unglazed "yakishime", which is the decorative art Sakazume-san excels at. Trust me on this, it'll be dope.
* John Grade "Circuit" @ Cynthia Reeves Gallery / 534 W 24th St 2nd Fl. One impressive cagelike site-specific installation, which Grade will then transport to an outdoors location to further transform the creation.
* My Teenage Stride + Knight School + Big Troubles @ Death By Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$7. So the facebook invite reads, this is "a royal evening of music from a hastily cherrypicked roster of Brooklyn groups", i.e. some of the dopest talent out there.
* Joshua Light Show w/ Woods + MV & EE @ Abrons Art Center / 466 Grand St (BD to Grand), 8p/$20. The iconic multimedia improv Joshua Light Show provide the effectively trippy backdrop to psych-folk rockers Woods (whose have a new album out) and Vermont's equally 'stimulating' MV & EE.
* "A Vernacular of Violence" @ Invisible-Exports / 14A Orchard St. The six artists here, like the riveting Lisa Kirk and Walid Raad, diffuse and reconstruct violence in prevalent source imagery to circumvent our dulled-sense exteriors and cause us to take a closer look.
* Joseph Montgomery "Lie lay lain Lay; laid laid" @ Laurel Gitlen (Small A Projects) / 261 Broome St. Extensively 'worked over' paintings, canvases equally built up and abraded with various media for prolonged periods of time — that is, until Montgomery is satisfied.
* ROA @ Factory Fresh / 1053 Flushing Ave, Bushwick (L to Morgan), 7-10p. The Belgian-based artist's massively rendered animals (likely NY contenders like the rat plus domesticated creatures) on garage doors and the gallery walls should call into sharp-focus the natural world around us.
* Fresh & Only's + Babies @ Monster Island Basement / 128 River St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$8. San Fran's ultra-catchy Fresh & Only's (in town for a few days!) + motley-crew Babies = a dope night. w/ rockers Coasting.
* Twin Sister + Rooftop Films @ Open Road Rooftop / 350 Grand St (BD to Grand, F to Essex), 8p/$10. Opening night of the 14th Annual Rooftop Films Summer Series! Yes it's a bit cool out but we're practically on beach season. And what a way to begin, w/ Brooklyn's trip-pop darlings Twin Sister performing, along w/ "This is What We Mean by Short Films" (which features "Star Wars: Retold" by Joseph Nicolosi, "Logorama" by François Alaux and Herve de Crecy, "Voice on the Line" by Kelley Sears — which reminds me a bit of Solzhenitsyn, and more).
* "Leaving Las Vegas" (dir. Mike Figgis, 1995) midnight screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFV to W 4th St). Part of "Cage Heat: Nicholas Cage at Midnight". Oh this just gets better and better, this Cage at midnight thing at IFC Center. It runs thru early July, culminating w/ the singular "Con Air" ("put the bunny [dramatic pause] back in the box") — but I'm getting ahead of myself. What we have here is a tender look at an alcoholic (Cage) and a prostitute in freefall. (also SAT at midnight)
* Scott Musgrove "How is the Empire?" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St 9th Fl. The artist's sumptuously painted longnecked animals and other curiosities.
+ Louie Cordero "Sacred Bones". Psychedelic, highly-detailed paintings and sculptures, of a generally disquieting nature.
* Veronica Falls + Crystal Stilts @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$12. Who are Veronica Falls, you ask? Erm, just the CUTEST London nouveau shoegazers who landed stateside yesterday for a slew of local shows (culminating in NYC Popfest next week, details w/ next week's LIST). They are joined tonite by the ineffable Crystal Stilts, Brooklyn's finest groovy art-rockers. w/ Home Blitz
* Darlings + Fresh & Onlys @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FV to 2nd Ave), 8p/$10. Leave it to mini-tours to mess up my schedule: San Fran's Fresh & Onlys are in town a few days as well (see THURS), and they're joined by my favorite Brooklyn-based indie-rockers Darlings (who really are, darling). Decisions!
* "Monkey Shines" (dir. George Romero, 1988) screening @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, G to Fulton), 4:30/9:30p. The '80s was a classic age of wicked scary-ass films. Like this one, the suave quadriplegic w/ his maniacal helper-monkey.
* Veronica Falls + Frankie & The Outs + German Measles @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$8. Night #2 of Veronica Falls' systematic takeover of NYC is a winner! The London darlings share Bruar Falls' stage w/ party boys German Measles and Frankie Rose's ultra-fierce all-girl rockers The Outs. I'll be the bloke up front losing his mind. w/ The Surprisers.
* Aa + Wild Yaks @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FV to 2nd Ave), 8p/$8. Cake Shop isn't holding back in their programming, what w/ this their month-long 5-Yr Anniv. All bets are off when the full-out percussive assault of the Aa contingent take the stage (or better: the dancefloor).
* Silver Apples + Burning Star Core @ Coco 66 / 66 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint (G to Greenpoint), 8p. I have to drop the MAYJAH line here: this is the singular Simeon Coxe III, aka Silver Apples, the seminal psych-electronic NY music outfit circa late '60s. He's inspired legions of acts and he's back, w/ C. Spencer Yeh (aka Burning Star Core) and his tortured violins and electronics.
* Daniel Pujol + McDonalds @ Death By Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$7. Singer-songwriter Pujol, perhaps the hottest thing on the Nashville scene, headlines a hard-rockin' show, incl. the jammily dissonant McDonalds, straight outta BKLYN.
* "Robogeisha" (dir. Noboru Iguchi, 2009) screening @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (6 to 51st, E/V to Lexington/53rd), 7:30p. Someone, a greater power, has answered my pleas for "Robogeisha" to screen in NYC, after it was noticeably absent from last year's fab NYAFF. Someone answered them in a BIG way: besides Iguchi-san's latest (the unstoppable titular character v. the evil Kageno Corp and their geisha army), this special night feat. the director's unseen spinoff "Scary Geisha Army: Welcome to Hell!" + cohort Yoshihiro Nishimura's beyond-crazy short "Vampire Frankenstein Girl" (which apparently starts w/ the craziness of his long-player "Vampire Girl v. Frankenstein Girl" and then 'takes it there').
* Thomas Struth @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. Struth's gorgeous new massive C-prints are lovely, abound w/ super-crisp color and form. I have little idea what most of them are, despite their super-descriptive titles ("Stellarator Wendelstein 7-X Detail Max Planck IPP, Greifswald", "Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery Max Planck IPP, Garching"), which look like chrome and wires and hazard yellows and reds, out of a James Rosenquist ultra-abstract, but I like 'em all the same.
* Andy Goldsworthy "New York Dirt Water Light" @ Galerie Lelong / /528 W 26th St. An overall quiet show for the discreet landscape-manipulator, as he documents his interventions in Manhattan's busy streets. The inkjet suites depicting the public's complete obliviousness to the evaporating gutter water on the sidewalk around them is typical, but one series in particular — "Gutter Water – Night, West 43rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, New York, March 5, 2010" — bathed in neon, as blurred crowds totally miss the magnificent water spiral on the ground as it dissipates into nothingness, really struck a chord w/ me. How many of these seemingly innocuous, though secretly pleasing, 'interventions' exist out there for us to discover?
* Uta Barth "...to walk without destination and to see only to see" @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. 'Walking trips' sounds like such a simple concept, when the artist decided to take her camera with her and document them, including her own shadow in the diptychs and triptychs against close-ups of sun-drenched leaves. But looking at these print pairings carries a feeling not unlike waking from reverie, as the soft-blurred shapes pull into arresting focus, all the while against the elongated shadow of Barth's legs or, in one example, as foam from seawater pools around her feet. It's a mesmerizing feat, and it links beautifully w/ the special series of unseen vintage works (some of her earliest, circa '79) in the back gallery.
+ Ian Kiaer. The 'discreet installation' artist (my description) uses Alexandre Dumas' "The Black Tulip" as inspiration for this textural show, a mix of black and white elements of varying reflective qualities and mediums. Bend down for closer views, step all the way back, look from angles, interact w/ these quiet 'still-lifes' to fully experience them.
* Edward Kienholz "Roxys" @ David Zwirner / 519 W 19th St. The character of nostalgia is to bring bittersweet emotions to the surface, but Kienholz's installations draw out decidedly dark and grimy dread, leaving you searching for a shower after viewing. This classic half-room-sized work, modeled after a 1943 brothel in Vegas, emanates w/ musty cigarettes and perfume and smut, as the motley-composed 'girls' and their horrific, boar-skull-headed matron stand transfixed and the jukebox plays.
* Osang Gwon @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. A great four-piece show demonstrating Gwon's range and maturation in his 'Deodorant Type' series, striking 3D all-over photo-sculptures. The earliest work, "A statement of 540 pieces on twins", predates the glossy, slickened look of the later sculptures, like the semi-surreal "Garden" (2007), a woman buried under a pile of clothes, and the brand-new "Jangular", a hipster juggling overflowing bags of Whole Foods groceries, who I would say resembles me in activity if not appearance (the red jeans and patterned T are a 'no').
* Ghada Amer "Color Misbehavior" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. More like 'color exuberance', which doesn't quite have the same ring, though it rings true to Amer's fantastic 1st show at the gallery. Her signature embroidered and acrylic-wash renderings of female nudes, from cheeky juvenile posturing to straight out of a porno mag, take on richly patterned, Manala-like forms in such psychedelic works as "Waterfall" and "The Black Bang". A series of works on paper, showcasing both her deftness w/ just needle and thread and her unique take on watercolor, complete the exhibition.
* Alex Guofeng Cao @ STUX Gallery / 530 W 25th St. Digital photo-mosaics of classic celebrities, composed of a related figure (like Chairman Mao made of tiny Andy Warhol faces, or Mother Theresa of Ghandi). The smaller the mosaic, the smoother and more 3D quality the final portrait (the larger mosaics tend toward jagged, pixellated versions of lesser renown).
* Julian Faulhaber "Lowdensitypolyethylene" @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 537 W 24th St. Faulhaber's long-exposure, saturated color lambda prints or totally real, fake-looking spaces remind me of Thomas Demand's meticulous all-paper reconstructions of 'real' places. You can forgive me for looking at "V.I.N.C.I." (blue and metal security gates) and "Rows" (a bird's eye of perfectly-lined seating, like in a library or testing center) and thinking them photographs of paper models. This eye-trickery is great, though.
* "Now Through a Glass Darkly" @ Arario NY / 521 W 25th St. Cornell DeWitt organized this show reflecting (get it?) the mirror, and the results are generally moody and discomfiting. Jason Gringler's abstract agglomerates, all jagged-angled colored Plexiglas and mirrors, emanates a certain danger. Glenn Ligon's charcoal-dusted 'drawing' and Yiva Ogland's mirrored visual trickery play off Tallur LN's resonating sculpture, which looks like a stack of birds dipped in oil and, considering the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is incredibly timely. It's rare that a classic Andy Warhol "Shadows" is the cheeriest work in a show, but that's the case here, perhaps due to the effervescent colors.
* Sherrie Levine @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 5th Ave. This is a great elegant take on Levine's redoubling, in a classic look at her oeuvre. The standout "Newborn (Black/White)" installation, four cast-glass Brancusi redoes on borrowed pianos (taken in spirit from a Brancusi home installation photo), is soothing: the relative scales of the delicate sculpture against their super-sized 'display platforms' works well. Levine's cheeky answer to Duchamp in "Fountain (Buddha)" is a shiny, cast-bronze wonder, esp. when you observe the reflections in the interior surfaces. And her framed and painted wood works from the mid-'80s show a hand-crafted Levine that you just might not be that familiar with.
* David Salle "Some Pictures from the '80s" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 W 24th St. The innocuous exhibition title belies the gravity of this 'Pictures Generation' maestro, whose massive, multilayered 'nonrepresentational' canvases are like catapulting head first into a surrealist pre-Youtube-generation stew. If the imagery of "Gericault's Arm" and "His Brain" don't totally blow you away, you're lying.
* Robert Morris "New Felts" @ Sonnabend Gallery / 536 W 22nd St. Anytime Morris is working with industrial felt, you've got my attention. The four new works on view are his first new felts since the '90s, and they're beauties in black and blood-red. The gigantic 20-prong behemoth draped in the entry room reminds me, somehow, of a watermelon, so much so that I can't see anything else but that. In the interior room, the vividly red felt feels quite womanly to me, the all-black like the long Comme des Garçons A/W 2009 menswear skirt and the final red/black sort of tuliplike — so I guess there's underlying femininity in all these. In addition: two pigment drawings in answer to the U.S.'s current world conflicts, done by Morris while blindfolded.
* Alison Elizabeth Taylor "Foreclosed" @ James Cohan Gallery / 533 W 26th St. Taylor's singular mastery of marquetry (intarsia wood inlay, circa the Court of Versailles) continues to amaze. Her works in this show are (on the whole) sparer, as she zeroes in on the grim details of foreclosed homes (check the sunny titles: "Shotgun Hole with Additional Vandalism", "Hole Kicked", "Pickaxe Swing"). There is a great depth to these subtler works, though, in a 3D sense, esp. in "Wires Ripped", which really looks like a gash in the wall. Several larger works, like the stunning "Security House" (which deftly renders foliage, sand, rock and feathers in various woods) round out the exhibition.
* Anne Truitt "Sculpture 1962 2004" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 522 W 22nd St. Dally about the 'forest' of Truitt totem sculptures — acrylic on wood all, except for the enameled earliest — and it's like being in your own constructed painting. The works (mixed unchronologically by date) do resemble human-sized oil pastels, but there's lots of little Easter eggs hidden in these seemingly minimalist pylons. Check the sharp white cap, like salty foam, atop "The Sea, The Sea" (2003) and the cool energy in "First Spring" (1981), which looks exactly THAT, like Truitt managed to capture the sky in sculpture. This is a beautiful retrospective and primer and a joy to visit.
* Roy Lichtenstein "Still Lifes" @ Gagosian / 555 W 24th St. We have Lichtenstein, the maestro of Ben Day dotted comic book panel blowup Pop Art, to thank for resuscitating that old chestnut the 'still life' whilst simultaneously stripping it of ambience and realism. This massive collection of over a decade of work feat. the artist's characteristic razor-sharp representation (lines are hard, shadows have degradations only as dots or crosshatches, colors are generally primary and bold) in a diverse set of suitably banal subject matter. He reduces fruit to abstraction while elevating office equipment to beauty, and his work w/ reflections in metal and glass and his bold Cape Cod still lifes (juicy red lobster and all) are gorgeous. Several sculptures of note too, like the enamel "Little Glass" (1979) and the pun-titled painted bronze "Picture and Pitcher" (1978), which particularly exemplify Lichtenstein's deftness w/ negative space.
* "Twenty-Five" @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Dropping the term 'greatest hits' is not to knock this exhibition, celebrating the gallery's 25th year of doing it right, putting on dope shows w/ a great roster of artists (and guests). Nearly everything's a highlight, incl. Janine Antoni's suitably visceral "Lick and Lather" (1993), Michelangelo Pistoletto's "Metrocubo d'infinito" (1966, the old dog in the show, and probably not what you're used to seeing from the artist, though he does use mirrors), Jon Kessler's enigmatic "Noriko" (1994) and Christopher Wool's bloody "Minor Mishap II" (2001).
* Karla Black + Nate Lowman @ Andrea Rosen Gallery / 525 W 24th St. Throw these disparate young artists together might sound like mixing oil and water, but it works, Black's sugary-or-powdery color-field works (incl. an allergenic-looking installation) play well off Lowman's grungier alkyd-upped figurative paintings and sloganeering.
+ "She Awoke With a Jerk", curated by Nigel Cooke. The double entendre in the title is intentional, and I give it to Cooke for contributing the coolest cat (a Bozo-ish burnout) in this mini-show, which also includes a suitably vile Sean Landers, a chic George Grosz and (surprise) a Picasso.
* Hans Op de Beeck "Silent Movie" @ Marianne Boesky Gallery / 509 W 24th St. It's a wonder what gray-painted walls, charcoal carpets and crown moulding will do, transforming Boesky gallery into the interior of one of the artist's sparse, creepy landscapes. His large grayscale watercolors are augmented by "A house by the sea", a diorama that reminds me, of all things, of the setting of Mario Bava's classic giallo film "The Whip and the Body". The general unrest in this dollhouse-sized work requires careful viewing.
* Ryan Humphrey "Early American" @ DCKT Contemporary / 195 Bowery. Humphrey mashes up the museum period room with classic dude culture. Sounds wicked impossible? You've obvs not stepped foot in his installation, bereft w/ wing-back chairs coated in truck liners, soda-can-made candlesticks on faux wood-panel console tables (replete w/ bottle-openers) and storefront signage incorporated into an American Revolution flag.
* Richard Prince "Tiffany Paintings" @ Gagosian / 980 Madison Ave. At 1st blush, Prince's latest output doesn't have the sort of 'meat' one can visually latch onto like his fab "Canal Zone" show two years ago (or his various "Nurses", "Hoods", "Cowboys" etc). But when you slow down and take in these overall minimalist paintings — the basic formula is a Tiffany's ad in the upper right corner, surrounded on two sides by swaths of monochromatic haze — it all starts to make sense. Underneath layers of paint lie obits, some barely readable, to Richard Pryor and Bob Richardson (in "Even Lower Manhattan"), to Tom Wesselmann (in "Christmas"), to Karel Appel ("The Motor") — to the incredibly touching one for Dash Snow ("The Finish" — in which Prince selected words from the NY Times, not included in Roberta Smith's Snow obit, for emphasis: 'nice', 'good', 'happy', 'beautiful'). These are incredibly personal — and personalized — works. And the most abstract of the lot, "Stranded" and "Will Be Girls", where any text is lost in the noise of acrylic washes, find us most captivated as we stare deep into Prince's canvases, searching for just who he made them.
* Mike Kelley "Arenas" @ Skarstedt Gallery / 20 E 79th St. Bring a hankie: Kelley's classic circa-1990 'Arenas', aka stuffed toys with blankets on the gallery floor, conjure powerful sensations of nostalgia, let alone transgressive anthropomorphizing. Seven of the eleven originals assembled here for the 1st time since their debut installation. Don't miss it.
* Thomas Eggerer "The Rules of the Fence" @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. I see doomsday in Eggerer's new acrylic and oil paintings, reproducing the same collage-y figures against wrong-color backdrops recalling nuclear fallout as filtered through "The Simpsons" (or Radiohead's "Kid A" album art).
* Jorge Pardo @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 537 W 22nd St. Pardo relegates himself to nearly strictly MDF and acrylic, to incredible results. The showpiece is a mazelike, interlocking series of honeycombed MDF structures, what the gallery calls a 3D library, full of Pardo's web-image reproductions (random stuff, from tigers and Princess Diana to Che Guevara and lowbrow Mike Kelley-ish humor).
* Hany Armanious "Birth of Venus" @ Foxy Production / 623 W 27th St. At the offset, Armanious' 2nd solo show at the gallery may seem quite a bit quieter (and smell better) than his alarming "Year oft the Pig Sty" installation in 2007, but his core practice of meticulous object-castings is in full form here. Don't miss checking everything from all angles, like the underside of the metaphysical "Effigy of an Effigy with Mirage" or the charmingly named "Party Pooper". Things, as they say, are NOT always what they appear.
* "American ReConstruction" @ Winkleman Gallery / 621 W 27th St. Michael Hoeh curated this contemporary photography show, which showcases a LOT of pre- and post-printing trickery. Jowhara AlSaud's stunning aluminum-mounted works feel more like combo line-drawings and acrylics and Jeremy Kost's, while ostensibly untreated, do a cheeky collage effect a la David Hockney, only with Polaroids.
LAST CHANCE (ending this weekend)
* Robert Morris @ Leo Castelli / 18 E 77th St. Q: What's cooler than seeing Morris' seminal 1969 scatter piece back in Castelli's gallery? A: I don't know!!! Is that a trick question?? This is brilliant: a room you can navigate through full of juicy metal angles and slabs (from shiny brass to textured Cor-Ten steel to deep zinc and lead), w/ the walls piled high by blocks and floppy triangles of black felt. This recreated work is augmented by nine original work drawings related to the piece.
* Amy Sillman "Transformer" @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co / 530 W 22nd St. If you don't count the rather wittily rendered series of lightbulb-transformation works on paper in the side gallery, about half Sillman's paintings are a lovely huge squarish size, blurring the architecturally geometric and figurative path w/ crisscrossed lines that could signal a human form, and lots of bold expanses of color. They're enough to lose yourself in but not overly, unapproachably large.
+ Anna Sew Hoy "Holes". With a glance, I could see the relation b/w Hoy's utilitarian sculpture and Sillman's expansive works, primarily in the latter's works on paper, like Hoy is transmitting those images into her denim- and fabric-works.
* Adrian Paci "Gestures" @ Peter Blum Chelsea / 526 W 29th St. Paci is focusing on brief, unscripted 'everyday life' occurring at ritualistic festivities, specifically those from his Albanian heritage. But one of the most compelling pieces — and one of the two video works, the strongest of the various mediums on display here — is two kids chasing a car. Though what Paci's done that relates it, in a greater sense, to the rest of his exhibition is snagging a second of the action, the kids on a dirt path, forest behind them, in mid-dash, and stretched the 'event' out to over five minutes. It reminded me of Jacco OlivierTKTK's show at Marianne Boesky Gallery that just concluded a few weeks ago. Paci's video takes on an incredible painterly effect, as the two figures blur out and draw back into sharp focus, as the road and trees stipple out into a Van Gogh-textured landscape before smearing off into total abstraction. His other video, "Last Gestures", more closely relates to the subject of 'off-moments' caught on camera, here an Albanian wedding as the bride says goodbye to her family. The four screens run in super slo-mo, though, amplifying the rift forming as she receives a kiss on the cheek from her brother and embraces a baby.
* Joel Shapiro @ The Pace Gallery / 534 W 25th St. I've felt that Shapiro's soaring 'stacked box' sculpture had a certain weightless to it, regardless of the heavy medium he used in its construction. That's entirely appropriate here, in this excellent exhibition of his new works. Using brightly painted wood planks, wire and — at least indirectly — ambient space, he has achieved a sort of graceful, exploding ballet, or tropical birds in flight, from these five powerful pieces. The larger ones, like "Was Blue", you can actually walk into, around the planks suspended in space, as your shadow interacts w/ the multitude of the work's own.
* Almagul Menlibayeva "Daughters of Turan" @ Priska C. Juschka Fine Art / 547 W 27th St 2nd Fl. Consider me totally enlightened to the contemporary video art scene. Menlibayeva's enchanting, emotive duet "Milk For Lambs" and the pop-ish "Butterflies of Aisha Bibi" marry mythological narratives of the artist's heritage in Kazakhstan. The spiritual cycle of life on the steppe and an ancient love story like C. Asian Romeo & Juliet, staged in two vivid short films, w/ a strong selection of C-prints and lightbox prints in the adjacent gallery. Girls w/ flowers in their mouths, wrapped in iridescent patterned fabrics. Little kids holding goats. It's dope.
* Guo Hongwei "Things" @ Chambers Fine Art / 522 W 19th St. Isolated or fragmented articles, in discreet arrangements and painted against expanses of white.
* Jac Leirner "Osso" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. Make what you will of the Brazilian artist's hoarding of plastic bags, stuffing them and cutting them into a stylized cross b/w designer handbags and photo frames, and displaying these valueless objet behind plexiglas. Think Freitag (thanks to the bold colors) only recycled into art. Leirner display is overlong but she manages a surprising range w/ the bags, some of which are relegated to handles and sewn bases only, leaving a great void and only an impression of containment.
* "If My Soul Had A Shape..." @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 521 W 21st St. How you do a group show 101: check Paula Cooper Gallery. I couldn't decide my favorite shape-conscious piece here, the four-array of Kelley Walker cast-chocolate, spinning disco balls; or the Carl Andre aluminum ingot stacked pyramid. But maybe beyond these (and a superb brushstroked Sol LeWitt and a fantastic 'removed' Dan Walsh) is the essential McDonalds 'Orange Drink'-colored Donald Judd painting, a textural mix of plywood, painted sandpaper, and obsidian-glossy black mirror.
* Dominic McGill "FuturePerfect" @ Derek Eller Gallery / 615 W 27th St. McGill's still challenging his frustration at contemporary society in oversized, highly-detailed text-based graphite drawings, but his further incorporation of collage (in a painterly, vintage-y Richard Prince vibe) helps a lot to 'pretty' the seriousness. But it doesn't take away from the message, particularly in the hallucinogenic "Desert of the Real". For further evidence, don't miss the canvas-mounted drawing in the back, a cylindrical work you can step inside to fully immerse in McGill's world.
* William Kentridge "Five Themes" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/V to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). It is a most delightful feeling to go into an exhibition (here, a three-decade survey of the S. African's sociopolitically-themed oeuvre) w/o expectations and even w/ tangential knowledge of their art (he does charcoal-drawing animations) and then be TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY. I very much enjoyed the trip, both Kentridge's superior dreamlike animated narratives and his drawings/works on paper/set designs. One thing, taking the title of that awesome Olafur Eliasson exhibition two years ago: take your time. You need to watch at least some of Kentridge's vignettes (preferably all nine of his early "9 Drawings" series (feat. sort-of personas Soho Eckstein, the wealthy white industrialist and alter-ego Felix Teitelbaum) to 'get it'. They screen in pairs of three (ranging from like 3 to 9 min each, so you CAN see them all). Eckstein is evil incarnate, all pinstripe-suited and cackling against streams of miners and laborers, watching his empire grow and erecting a monument to an indentured worker (who, incidentally, is chained to said monument). Teitelbaum, nude throughout, steals away Eckstein's wife and the fat-cat falls into depression, bombing his factories and standing sullenly in a room flooded w/ his tears (Kentridge notably uses charcoal and blue pastels almost exclusively). Eckstein gets his wife back and, in the mesmerizing 'Felix in Exile', the alter-ego pines for Nandi, a surveyor of a landscape strewn with bodies. She soon joins this scene. I was riveted. The suites of drawings are like 'best-of' moments from these films, Eckstein in a flooded room, Eckstein and his wife seated back to back, Nandi against a starry night sky.