* SummerScreen presents "Romeo + Juliet" (dir. Baz Luhrmann, 1996) @ McCarren Park ballfields / Bedford + N 12th St, Greenpoint (L to Bedford, G to Nassau), 6p/FREE. Where were you when this MTV-drenched beachfront gun battle, imbued w/ Catholicism, gang fights and "alternative rock", debuted? The film that made girls (and boys) swoon for cherubic Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and featured Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) in drag, Paris (Paul Rudd) as a smirking rich-boy and Tybalt (John Leguizamo) as a posturing badass.
* Christian Marclay "Sixty-Four Bells and a Bow", performed by o.blaat @ Whitney Museum / 945 Madison Ave (6 to 77th St) , 1p. Keiko Uenishi is an ambient-sound sculptor, so she's possibly the best for handling this array of hand bells (which Marclay stipulated CAN be electronically processed). Also FRI 2p + SUN 4p.
* "Happy Together" (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 1997) + "Fallen Angels" (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 1995) double-screening @ 92Y Tribeca / 200 Hudson St (1/ACE to Canal), 7p/$12. Delicious cinema, w/ Wong's crime-riddled, big-city romantic arcs and Christopher Doyle's neon-soaked cinematography! The only thing that would one-up this double-feature is if "Happy Together" (which I dug, mind you) was replaced by the most excellent "Chungking Express", the semi-prequel to "Fallen Angels" and feat. the incomparable Faye Wong.
* "Audrey the Trainwreck" (dir. Frank V. Ross, 2010) screenings @ reRun / 147 Front St, DUMBO (F to York St), 6:30/9p. Straight out of this year's SXSW and feat. a who's-who of those scruffy mumblecore films (plus Alexi Wasser from "Art School Confidential"), an indie rom-com w/ a burning flame in its center. ALSO: this is the debut of reRun, the "gastropub theatre" owned/cheffed by neighboring reBar. Think Austin, TX's Alamo Drafthouse (film + booze + proper menu, an incredibly effective combo) only DUMBO-style. I'm talking duck fat (or bacon fat, or brown butter) on your popcorn, or a soft pretzel stuffed w/ garlic mashed potatoes. I'm salivating just writing this. And tap beers. I hope it's wicked! (note: space is limited in the theatre, so advance tix are advised by yrs truly. Check it. Screens thru JUL 30.
* Free Energy + Best Coast @ Seaport Music Festival / Pier 17, 80 South St (23/45/JMZ to Fulton St), 6p/FREE. I'm down w/ Free Energy but the draw for me is the sunny, Beach Boys-as-girl Cali-rock of Bethany Cosentino, aka Best Coast, whose debut album "Crazy for You" is super-duper. I'm crazy for her, and I'm glad she's back on the E. Coast, even briefly.
* Whitney Live: Bear Hands + Darlings @ Whitney Museum / 945 Madison Ave (6 to 77th St), 7p. The intensity of a Darlings show, the catchy guitar riffs, smart boy/girl vocals and sheer VOLUME of it all, cannot be contained by a museum setting, but I give props to the Whitney for trying.
* Gary War @ Death by Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$6. When I 1st got into Captured Tracks' lo-fi sound resonating w/ the undeniable essence of pop-flavor buried under suffocatingly murky beats and atmosphere, it was due in no small part to Gary War, which is sort of like listening to Joy Division underwater. w/ Super Vacations
* Unicornicopia + 12000 Trees @ Monster Island / 128 River St, WIlliamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$8. Creative sound ensembles is the key phrase here, w/ the ever-shifting noise-acoustic contingent 12000 Trees and the (mostly) one-woman experimental pop outfit Unicornicopia (aka Natalie Weiss).
* "Empire" (dir. Andy Warhol, 1964) screening @ Anthology Film Archives / 32 2nd Ave (F to 2nd Ave), 1:30p. Blow eight hours and change in an AC'ed theatre, staring at the Empire State Building at night, alcohol and/or psychedelics not included.
* Heliotropes + deVries @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$6. One of my new fav local bands: Heliotropes balance the dissonant guitars and pounding rhythm of the Rock Video Monthly bands I was hooked on back in the day w/ droning strings and rather stunning vocals. Matched w/ DeVries' mile-high guitars and you've got an ace lineup.
* Aa @ Silent Barn / 915 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood (M to Myrtle/Wyckoff, L to Halsey), 8p, $10. I don't know any other venue in NY throwing this level of affair as Silent Barn (ISSUE, maybe). Aa do the wall-of-percussion thing, like Boredoms on ecstasy (my words). w/ Chat Logs, the noisy duo who (famously) debuted during the Whitney Biennial and drone-core Island's Eyeballs.
* Warm Up: MEN + Dj/rupture @ MoMA PS1 / 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City (E to 23rd St/Ely Ave, G to Court Square), 2-9p/$15. How do you dance to MEN, aka JD Samson of Le Tigre et al? The most unfettered way your Opening Ceremony romper or skinny jeans (or jean cutoffs) will permit. B/c she's DJing (only the dirtiest '90s hits...I think) in addition to playing w/ her band. In addition to the insanity onstage and in the courtyard, choreographer Kyra Johannesen leads "Body & Pole", a performance on the ground and, presumably, in the air, w/ SO-IL's "Pole Dance" installation.
* New Museum Block Party 2010 @ Sara D. Roosevelt Park / next to the New Museum, 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave), 12-5p/FREE. Learn about the Bowery! Stare into Brion Gysin's "Dream Machine" and then draw stuff! Talk w/ other Block Party participants whilst crushing bottle-caps or folding napkins like Rivane Neuenschwander's "Ivoluntary Sculptures (Speech Acts)"! Listen to Hisham Akira Bharoocha's performance at 4:30! And get a free pass to the museum, to check Neuenschwander's fab mid-career retrospective. Fingers crossed for beautiful weather to get the most of this.
* "Centre Stage" (dir. Stanley Kwan, 1992) screening @ Anthology Film Archives / 32 2nd Ave (F to 2nd Ave), 3:30p. Kwan's sumptuous adaptation of Ruan Lingyu, the "Chinese Garbo", w/ Maggie Cheung in the lead role and Tony Leung Ka-Fai as pre-Communist film director Cai Chusheng.
* The Beets + Pujol @ Silent Barn / 915 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood (M to Myrtle/Wyckoff, L to Halsey), 8p. What is it about Nashville and grungy rock'n'roll? Contemporary scene alone, there's JEFF the Brotherhood, Turbo Fruits, Heavy Cream, Natural Child — and of course Mr. Daniel Pujol, bringing his southern rock to Silent Barn. I dig it (as I dig The Beets).
* "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" (dir. Russ Meyer, 1965) screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 8p. Solid exploitation at its hyperbolized finest: three ass-kicking go-go dancers v. like a living He-Man and his wheelchair-bound old man in the Mohave Desert. Sample dialogue:
Tommy: "Look, I don't know what the hell your point is, but—"
Varla: "The point is of no return, and you've reached it!"
* "The Prowler" (dir. Joseph Zito, 1981) screening @ reRun / 147 Front St, DUMBO (F to York St), 11:30p. Today's American-directed and -produced horror films feat. a cast of hotties being brutally murdered via pitchfork and knife at a high-school dance don't hold a candle to this uncut bijou, directed by the man who went on to do "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter" and inspiration to Eli Roth, amid others of his ilk, I'm sure.
* "Girl By Girl" (dir. Park Dong-Hoon, 2010) screening at Tribeca Cinemas / 54 Varick St (1/ACE to Canal St), 7p/FREE. I'm still recovering from the end of a fantastic 2010 NYAFF, so this Korean cable TV high-school rom-com might be the ticket, esp. b/c of lead Kwak Ji-Min, who is at war w/ her model student classmate over the same heartthrob.
* "Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). I'm sure of two things after catching a preview of the Matisse show. 1) it will draw the crowds this summer and autumn (or at least MoMA is banking on it, creating a timed-ticket entry thing for nonmembers like the Van Gogh "Colors of the Night" and the Tim Burton) and 2) opinion will be sharply divided on the art, much more so than the decade-spanning Joan Miro exhibition. And while art is expected to have a subjective reaction, I think it'll be more acute here. Even the casual gallery-goer has rubbed elbows w/ a Matisse painting before (whether the early Post-Impressionist still-lifes echoing Cézanne and Signac; the lushly colored studios and ecstatic dancing nudes of his "prime" period in the early 20th C.; or the late-period Jazz-series gouaches and cut-outs, also richly colorful), so most have an opinion of what a Matisse "should" look like. I think a fair degree of those impressions will skew upon viewing this experimental show, which despite a room of lead-in styled works from the turn of the century focuses on 1913-1917, Matisse's time b/w Morocco and departing for Nice.
The large canvas "Bathers with a Turtle" (1907-8) in the opening gallery is a good primer for later on: his characteristic shapely nudes move in front of a startlingly minimalist three-banded color backdrop, emulating a shoreline and horizon in the simplest terms. And the degree of reworking and overpainting! You don't even need to read the accompanying placard to ID it: the background once was quite detailed, and the placement of the nudes (particularly the middle figure) shifted, resulting in a very visible ghosting effect. These elements of reduction and reworking figure into many of the later works, culminating in a grand way w/ the final massive canvas "Bathers by a River", whose dates span 1909 to 1917 and features both a grid system (vertical stripes this time, in a very reduced palette of black, white and blue-gray, plus simplified greenery) and four Cubist-style gray nudes. In between this we get shots of color (several works from his Moroccan days, like the stunning "Zorah in Yellow" (1910), the literally drenched "The Blue Window" (1913), whose blue tones threaten to immolate a vase of flowers by the window) amid increasing degrees of abstraction (check both "Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg" (1914), w/ its scratched white lines and curves on black, and "The Italian Woman" (1916), a heavily painted-over, modelesque Laurette, surrounded on all sides by a flat field of putty-gray). As the years progress, so does the somber nature of Matisee's palette, as black lines ("lines of construction", like in the Landsberg portrait) play more a role, and yellows and reds (beyond a suite of simplified Moroccan-style still-lifes) are omitted for cool grays, blues. Two of the final works in the show really locked me in, though: the startlingly abstract "Shaft of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux" (1917), a combination of green planar shapes and black shadow literally evaporating in the foreground in a wedge of silvery gray, and "The Studio, quai Saint-Michel" (1917), my overall favorite and Matisse's final rendering of that iconic, recurring room. In it, the floor-to-ceiling window overlooks the township, the wall is a slickened gray (overpainted many times) w/ abstracted canvases hanging on it, and there's a nude Laurette curled up on the flower-patterened sofa. Adding the nude injects that sensual Matisse touch that I identify most with him.
+ "Contemporary Art from the Collection". The museum restages part of their cache in the 2nd Floor gallery space every other year or so, but this turnaround resonates quite well w/ me. I dug the lot, overall, but to spare you a massive treatise on the exhibition I'll pick 10 works at random and hype them up:
1. Gordon Matta-Clark "Bingo" (1973) - classic building cut from the Anarchitecturalist, three human-sized rectangles from the facade of a to-be-demolished house in Niagara Falls, NY. Walking around this large structure, both totally IDable as a former residence and yet disconcertingly alien, amplifies the effect of contemporaries like Richard Hughes.
2. Lawrence Weiner "Gloss white lacquer, sprayed for 2 minutes at 40lb pressure directly on the floor" (1968/2010) - the effect of nearly walking into this shiny circular blot on the floor (or watching others do same) is hilarious - it has a way more unexpected effect than its hot-pink kindred, like a deliquescing cotton candy, from Weiner's retrospective at the Whitney.
3. Rivane Neuenschwander "A Volta de Zé Carioca" (2004) - the comic book-style blank speech balloons in planes of solid color, one of the pieces not included in her current mid-career retrospective at New Museum
4. Cady Noland "Tanya as Bandit" (1989) - a fab cut-aluminum blowup of that iconic gun-wielding Patricia Hearst publicity photo from the Symbionese Liberation Army
5. Cildo Meireles "Thread" (1990-5) - another Brazilian conceptualist (see: Neuenschwander) I need to get to know better. This gigantic block of hay, cut through w/ gold thread and accompanied, rather cheekily, by a single 18K gold needle tucked somewhere in all that, can be smelled from other galleries
6. Guerilla Girls posters from 1985-1990 - good on MoMA for including them. The sharp, effective graphic design and typography emphasize their eviscerating takes on the museum establishment and the male-artist-dominated gallery scene
7. Gedi Sibony "The Middle of the World" (2008) - incredible how a spread-out vertical blinds on the gallery floor could so easily resemble the skull of some prehistoric baleen whale
8. George Maciunas "One Year" (1973-4) - a case of brightly colored empty boxes and packets of stuff the Fluxus founder consumed that year, like a whopping 36 cartons of cultured buttermilk (for instance)
9. Huma Bhabha "Reconstruction series" (2007) - I don't think I've EVER seen Bhabha's photogravures, I'm more familiar w/ her intense assemblage-like sculpture, and those hulking yet humanistic figures appear in the shimmering b&w landscape images like wire-frame monsters.
10. Robert Morris' iconic Leo Koenig advert from 1974, the "Labyrinths - Voice - Blind Time" ad where he's shirtless and shackled, a huge chain draped across his body in exaggerated bondage mode, which I've NEVER seen the "real" thing before, accompanied quite nicely w/ the famous Lynda Benglis nude ArtForum ad from the same year.
* Rackstraw Downes "A Selection of Drawings: 1980-2010 @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. The masterful, draftsman-quality graphite landscapes from Downes is a welcome antidote from the busy, visually overloaded group shows populating the area. Despite one rather muscular rendering of the Henry Hudson Bridge, most of Downes' on-paper works (the George Washington Bridge, a cement plant, Canal St water-main project, a hydroponic tomato plant near Marfa TX) are emotionlessly precise, incredibly conceived but w/o the resonance of his paintings (which, as it happens, are in separate exhibitions that require traveling to the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton and the Aldridch Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield CT). That's not to take away from their visual achievement: the fact must be kept in mind that Downes works from-site on these, drawings AND paintings, and doesn't utilize photography.
* Oh Sufan "Variation" @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. Another instance of a highly-influential Korean abstract painter (think Park Seo-bo showing at Arario in 2008) FINALLY having a NY solo debut (his last time in the city was sometime in the '80s, I think). What we're rewarded with from Oh is a series of newish (he's very prolific) large, squarish oil paintings of vibrant backdrops, the sweeping brushstrokes still visible, overlaid w/ either diluted or inkily opaque streams of black paint, from calligraphic whiplike forms (think Brice Marden's "Cold Mountain" series, sort of) to wavy vertical lines. Very tasty.
* "Grass Grows by Itself" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. A way Zen summer group show, one of the most toned-down from this gallery I've ever experienced, and that's a good thing. Hell, anytime you've got a Wade Guyton "U" mirrored sculpture, distorting space (and, seemingly, time) in its alternating concave and convex surfaces, I'm sold. The groupings of Kianja Strobert and Mark Bradford works are like studies in texture and topography, and the inclusion of discreet pieces by Wolfgang Laib (rice, brass cones) and Richard Tuttle (green acrylic, sawdust, wood) were wise inclusions. Upstairs I didn't dig as much (the jolts of color felt gratuitous), but I admittedly loved the Dale Chihuly blown glass, like mutant psychedelic plants out of either Jim Woodring's world or "Alice in Wonderland", which are rather colorful and play well w/ Chakaia Booker's classic wall-spanning, snarling tire structure.
* David LaChapelle "American Jesus" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 293 10th Ave. I surprised myself in actually liking this LaChapelle show, though I'm notoriously not a fan of the too-slick artist. The titular trio of large-scale C-prints feature Michael Jackson as subject, and though the works (LaChapelle's usual dramatic, crowded staged photography) are all from 2009, parts were initially created way back when. Just check "Thriller"-era Jackson in "Archangel Michael: And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer", my favorite of the three. The fruition from LaChapelle's decades' collab w/ the deceased pop star resonates here. What set this exhibition to the "like" category for me, was LaChapelle's new, massive "Rape of Africa", a lush and ironic print in its own right, but augmented here by a series of watercolor and collage works on paper, studies for the final C-print. Seeing LaChapelle's methodology struck a tone belying my general complaints of the overall synthetic nature of his photography, a well-studied history and process towards those just-so results. I'd like to see more of LaChapelle's behind-the-scenes works in the future.
* "You Were There", curated by Thomas Duncan @ Rachel Uffner Gallery / 47 Orchard St. This was a cool idea: show the artists' (Rita Ackermann, Justin Adian, Joe Bradley, Sarah Braman, Sara Greenberger Rafferty and Josh Smith) work from 2005 and from 2010, one example of each. w/ someone as prolific as Smith, who may have created like 2,000 unique works in that timespan, it's interesting two see two same-sized canvases from him, the newer looking more screenprint-ish but even so, no massive change. Sarah Braman's is an interesting transformation from stacked and painted cardboard boxes to stacked and spray-painted Plexiglas and steel, a bit like Donald Judd w/ a lot of whimsy (Dan Graham, maybe?). And I absolutely loved the (older) Ackermann "African Nurse", a golden-hued mixed media painting that embodies the sensuality of Matisse and Gauguin, plus Chris Ofili's silver-leaf works, only it's totally Ackermann.
* "In Here" @ Laurel Gitlen/Small A Projects / 261 Broome St. Five artists take on representing the relationship of what is visible and invisible, and if that sounds abstract in words it makes loads more sense in person. Take Michele Abeles' bodily version of still-life photography, b/c what you see, and what she lists, is PRECISELY what you get (esp. "Fuschia, Yellow, Green, Blue, Numbers, Man, Cement, Paper", 2010). She and Uri Aran (who mixes computer renderings w/ inkjet prints, to creatively collaged effect) are both in "Greater NY" at MoMA PS1, but their newish works here are exceedingly superior. Add Jamie Isenstein's continual portrayal of her/the body, Halsey Rodman's assemblage, and Erik Wysocan's marquee installation (hint: view it from multiple angles), and you've got a concise, smart summer group show.
* "Normal Dimensions", curated by Neville Wakefield @ Half Gallery / 208 Forsyth St. I'm feeling mono-no-aware here, the permeability of time, in experiencing this four-artist show. Carol Bove's oeuvre traditionally exemplifies that, esp. her impossibly delicate "Woman", little more than a stunning, fluttering peacock feather attached to a steel tether. Olympia Scarry's too, here the disquietingly large slab "Saliva", made of that and lye but mostly rendered fat, in a suspended state of animation (we hope). Susan Collis' luxe interventions require us to look very, very close, at the wall-protectors made of glittering gems and the platinum square staples in a diamond-shaped array. Xaviera Simmons' Xerox print of a barn owl carrying a mouse provides the literal message.
* "Subtle Anxiety: This is How You Feel Now" @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. One point for Jiyoon Koo's violently warped and abstracted subject matter in oils, two points for Gyungjin Shin's exercise in self-representation (esp. dug the urethane foam heads, kind of like Richard Dupont, but '80-style 3D), three points for Jong Hyun Oh's fishing-line and PETG-paneled installation, which is nearly invisible besides glimmers of tempera treatment here and there, and felt decidedly dangerous, like an exploding cloud of glass out of "The Matrix".
* Jeff Soto "Lifecycle" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St 9th Fl. A delicious step further from the Cali-based artist, in a new series of acrylic paintings and works on paper. He still has that environmental/industrial vibe underlying everything, but the whip-appendaged orbs and fuzzy fantastic creatures now exist in this "Heavy Metal"-like fantasy realm. The details are exquisite. His last solo show, "Storm Clouds" back in 2007, carried an Elements series. This one features the seasons and manages to tie in the cycle of life.
+ Dave Cooper "Mangle". Cooper's fleshy portraiture has become even...wetter, I think that's the word for it, incredibly textured, Impressionist, even, but the figures themselves are nearly abstract, translucent forms. The titular triptych reminds me of the opening shot from Teruo Ishii's disquieting "Screwed" (starring Tadanobu Asano in one of his more non-mainstream roles). If anybody gets that reference, you are insanely cool.
* "Lush Life Ch 5: Want Cards", curated by Omar Lopez-Chaoud & Franklin Evans @ Y Gallery / 355A Bowery. The tiniest of the related exhibitions but incredibly to-the-point, w Rudy Shepherd's crude portraiture (are they mugshots or rather pleasant snaps of friends?) and Alisha Kerlin's (also showing at MoMA PS1) scattered deck of cards.
* Tucker Nichols @ ZieherSmith / 516 W 20th St. A fantastic, gallery-filling assortment of tableaux and goodies the artist created while in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA. The sculptural stuff shines, much of it odd, Dadaist conglomerations of unlikely banal objet (bottle caps w/ sealant, rags dyed red to resemble a floral bloom, greenish shredded paper like a vaguely tacky Easter-ish motif, or the super-simple slabs of rock and wood aping books.