* John Baldessari "Pure Beauty" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St). A five-decade retrospective of the iconic (or iconoclastic, if you're so inclined) American artist, his first proper U.S. survey in TWENTY years, the man who looks like a kindly wizened St. Nicholas but who has the sharpest eye for truncating and remixing mass-media imagery and pop culture. His words-only paintings are as witty and emotive as Lawrence Weiner's (and usually funnier than Richard Prince's, when they're supposed to be), and his collaged and manipulated photography cuts deeper than anything Warholian or otherwise. Get ready to learn something.
* "Free" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave). The on-right-now big exhibition at this museum, "The Last Newspaper", is, if anything, a proclamation and celebration of the vibrancy, dissemination and recycling of media, specifically that old codger the newspaper. New exhibition "Free", occupying the 2nd floor, fits neatly into this info-hungry category, feat. 23 international artists who mine the web as part of their oeuvre. A multigenerational, multi-media occasion, w/ Kristin Lucas, Seth Price, Ryan Trecartin, Lisa Oppenheim and Jill Magid just a few of those featured.
+ Haegue Yang "Voice and Wind". The NY solo debut for the Seoul-based artist, whose lobby gallery-filling multisensory installation is like half-oxygen bar, half-architectural soup to refresh/invigorate b/w visits to the info-heavy floors above it.
* "Amores Perros" (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000) screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 8p. Many Americans (I'll wager) know González Iñárritu best for his ensemble cast & intertwining narratives in the internationally set "Babel". Not that I didn't love that film (particularly the Tokyo setting, but then I'm a sucker for Rinko Kikuchi AND Koji Yakusho), but it's a shame that you might know that film very well but have never heard of his earlier one, "Amores Perros", which is set 'only' in Mexico City (albeit in the slums and the high-rent district) but sets González Iñárritu's tone of multiple, interlocking plots while swiftly kicking the shit out of you. Oh it's emotive, punishingly so, w/ a much rawer style of violence than his American films. I saw "Amores Perros" when it debuted in theatres and it remains my favorite film by this director.
* "Good Men, Good Women" (dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1995) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. Olivier Assayas selected this film, Hou's final in his historic Taiwan trilogy, to be part of his "Post-Punk Auteur" retrospective. And it's a good one: think of the subplot in Wong Kar-Wai's "2046" b/w the 'present day' and the far-future. Hou's film predates that deft intermingling by like a decade, w/ lead Annie Shizuka Inoh sliding b/w now and her character in a '40s Resistance film-within-a-film drama.
* CMJ 2010: Pujol + Babies + Darlings @ Union Pool / 484 Union Ave, Williamsburg (L/G to Lorimer), 6p/$8. I hope you're not afraid to rock out!!! My #1 pick for Wednesday CMJ is totally all about that. Feat. Nashville's southern-tinged Pujol & local lovelies Darlings, who do that heart-on-your-sleeve indie-rock drowned in feedback and catchy refrains. w/ Ava Luna
* CMJ 2010: Sharon van Etten + Lower Dens @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 2p/$6. I fell in love w/ shoegaze-y Baltimore quartet Lower Dens when they opened for Ra Ra Riot last month, & I can't wait to see 'em again. w/ Highlife
* CMJ Imposition: Woodsman + Lower Dens + Talk Normal @ Don Pedro / 90 Manhattan Ave (G to Broadway/Union, JM to Lorimer, L to Montrose), 8p/FREE. OK so Impose magazine is doing this fantastic, all-free/no-badges CMJ bash today thru SAT, w/ cheap beer & taco trucks, day & night shows and loads of dope bands. We begin on a trippy note, w/ the psychedelic Woodsman, shoegazey Lower Dens (see day show at Bruar Falls) and no-wavers Talk Normal. Nice!! w/ Prince Rama
* CMJ 2010: Surfer Blood @ Webster Hall / 125 E 11th St (NR/L/456 to Union Square), 7p/$20. Best thing about this concert w/ young, hot Floridian rockers Surfer Blood? Early set-times. Rock out to them then dash off to Brooklyn for something decidedly indie-er. w/ The Drums
* CMJ 2010: Beach Fossils + Cloud Nothings @ The Rock Shop / 249 4th Ave, Park Slope (Q/NR to Union St), 7p/$10. I've been following local surf-minded Beach Fossils since nearly when Dustin Payseur & crew started playing live. Their kinetic shows are better than ever, and new track "Face It" (w/ bassist John Pena singing lead) is pop-minded satisfaction. And I always try to catch Cleveland's fierce Cloud Nothings whenever they're in town.
* (unofficial) CM 2010: Matthew Dear @ 7 Extra Place / 313 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker), 7p/FREE (RSVP). Yeah, this is intense. The basement beneath CBGB's becomes The PureVolume House throughout CMJ 2010. Two of their events (flowing w/ Asahi Beers, incroyable!) caught my eye. One is on SAT, the other is Matthew Dear's bass-thumpin' showcase tonight, w/ a special guest following his set. Care to wager who that is?
* Paul Thek "Diver: A Retrospective" @ Whitney Museum / 945 Madison Ave (6 to 77th St). Check this, NY: two major, overdue retrospectives of contemporary artists simultaneously! John Baldessari's uptown at the Met will rock your brain w/ his intuitive grasp of pop culture and the mass media. But Thek's pioneering sculpture — he was "doing meat" before meat was cool, you heard it here first — is something else. He passed away too soon and too young, but his legacy of viscerally lifelike sculpture, encased in Minimalist-style boxes (think Damien Hirst butchery inside a Larry Bell cube), and his forays into macabre environment/installation art continue to inform and engage. I am stoked.
* John Baldessari "Sediment (Part 2)" @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. Coinciding w/ Baldessari's overdue retrospective at the Met, the gallery presents an extension of the artist's exhibition at Margo Leavin in LA, displaced and silhouetted imagery against pristinely simple gray canvases.
* Thomas Nozkowski @ The Pace Gallery / 510 W 25th St. The latest from Nozkowski continues his seemingly endless array of small-scale colorful abstractions, w/ snapshot-styled works on paper as their related variations.
* Ester Partegas @ Foxy Production / 623 W 27th St. A full-out mixed media exhibition from the Brooklyn-based artist, mining Pop references w/ the banal and mundane, incl. digital prints of French fries, ordered like scientific artifacts, sculpture of bag-wrapped potted plants and custom wallpaper.
* Albert Watson @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 537 W 24th St. A look back at the iconic photographer's jarring oeuvre, from high-fashion models in the most gorgeous light to the nightmarish juxtaposing of Alfred Hitchcock w/ a skinned chicken, all in lush b&w.
* Suzanne Caporael @ Ameringer McEnery Yohe / 525 W 22nd St. An exquisite array of soft-edged polygons on linen, in Caporael's juicy color palette.
* Stephen Mueller @ Lennon, Weinberg Inc / 514 W 25th St. Flat and gradient-hungry abstract paintings from Mueller, which could be a spiritual awakening for the viewer who carefully mines their color-rich canvases and symbolic framing devices.
* Frank Selby "To Negotiate at a Disadvantage" @ Museum 52 / 4 E 2nd St. You can't quite get around Selby's new heavy compositions (THE HEAT, THE MAN, THE FUZZ, THE PIGS) in layered graphite on mylar sheets.
* Jorge Queiroz + Ryan Johnson "Description of a Struggle" @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co / 530 W 22nd St. I am excited for the Berlin-based Queiroz's debut solo show here, as his complicated mixed media works on paper (involving gouache, oil-stick, charcoal, Japanese ink etc) bear nearly untraceable origins, at least in photographs. Maybe I'll be able to figure him out when I see these in person. Johnson has been pinging around since his inclusion in PS1's 2005 edition of "Greater New York", and I wonder how his totemic sculptures, involving medical casting tape among other things, have matured.
* Claudio Bravo @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. Bravo takes photorealist (though still physically painterly) compositions of wrinkled fabrics and tousled papers and morphs them into studies in hardedge and color-plane abstraction. Other complicated still-lifes of like-colored objects (red towels, boxing gloves, pink and orange metal buckets etc) are like behind-the-scenes glimpses.
* "Free" artists in conversation @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave), 7p/$8. The exhibition's curator (and executive director of info-organic Rhizome) Lauren Cornell, moderates this panel on the 2nd evening of the show, w/ artists Aleksandra Domanovic, Martijn Hendriks, Alexandre Singh and Harm Van Den Dorpel.
* "Cold Water" (dir. Olivier Assayas, 1994) @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. Uh, Virginie Ledoyen, back when she was like 17? In a coming-of-age, "tows les garçons et les filles de leur age" film? I am SO THERE.
* "Jackie Brown" (dir. Quentin Tarentino, 1997) screenings @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston), 4:30/7:30p. Pam Grier kicks so much ass in Tarentino's knockout homage to '70s blaxploitation. I had a major crush on her due to this film, and not even Robert DeNiro's aged pornstar 'stache can get near that.
* CMJ 2010: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + The Blow + Screaming Females @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 7p/$17. I am stoked about BrooklynVegan's essential showcase! My #1 pick for Thursday CMJ, feat. NJ hard-rockers Screaming Females, the absolutely enchanting Khaela Maricich (aka The Blow) & topped of by Brookyn's dream-pop cuties The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
* CMJ Imposition: Allo Darlin' + Dream Diary + Hedgehog, curated by Pop Jew (Pop Loves Punk) @ The Woods / 48 S 4th St, WIlliamsburg (L to Bedford, JMZ to Marcy), 12p/FREE. My gameplan is to hang at Pop Jew's typically amazing international showcase, w/ includes Beijing alt-rockers Hedgehog & UK's Allo Darlin', who totally stole this year's NYC Popfest w/ their addictive indie rock, then dash over to Music Hall (see above) for BrooklynVegan's showcase.
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: Hardly Art showcase @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Bushwick (L to Grand), 8p/$7. A solid lineup from Hardly Art's local roster, feat. La Sera (aka "Kickball" Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls), Woven Bones, Golden Triangle +more!
* CMJ 2010: Oven Fresh Music showcase @ Bar Matchless / 557 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint (G to Nassau), 7p/$5. Charlene Kaye headlines this eclectic show w/ her dynamic lyricism and folk-tinged indie rock. w/ Hank and Cupcakes
* CMJ 2010: Paw Tracks presents Prince Rama, Cloud Nothings & Ear Pwr @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FM/JZ to 2nd Ave), 7p. I hope you like to dance (or significantly ROCK OUT when Cloud Nothings take the stage, b/w the electro bliss of Ear Pwr & Prince Rama). Show up early for Deakin's psych-experimental set.
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: #Offline @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 2p/$10. So Pitchfork is also getting into the action w/ their own mega showcases, which blur the line w/ CMJ but, well, they're dope. $10 for a full afternoon/evening/night of like 10 bands. Do the math. This one feat. Lower Dens, Small Black, Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing …uh, Surfer Blood (mayjah!!) +more. Damn, Pitchfork, nice one!
* Gedi Sibony @ Greene Naftali / 508 W 26th St 8th Fl. Sibony's style of discreet sculpture and installation art is raw and refreshingly unforgiving, rumpled carpet strewn here, bare pipes and cut cardboard there. I wouldn't go there w/ calling it "mundane" b/c the mood it elicits is way too creepy. But count me a fan.
* Matt Connors "You Don't Know" @ Canada / 55 Chrystie St. I'm excited for Connors' latest solo show of new, brightly colored skewed-geometry abstract paintings, b/c half the fun and deciding factor of these is how he decided to situate them about the gallery.
* Philip Akkerman "Am I A Person?" @ BravinLee Programs / 526 W 26th St #211. Step into the world of the Dutch artist's two decade-spanning collection of Flemish-style self-portraits.
* "Kuroneko" (dir. Kaneto Shindo, 1968) screenings @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston). One of Shindo's Japanese folk-story classics "Onibaba" is playing at Japan Society next month, but catch this delicious aural-ocular bijou now. This ballet of foggy bamboo forests (in high-contrast b&w) and tragicomic romance and movement elevates the Japanese ghost story to a whole 'nother level.
* "City of God" (dirs. Fernando Meirelles & Katia Lund, 2002) screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), midnight. An epic film of Rio de Janeiro's notorious eponymous favela, excelling at a breakneck speed. From the futbol courts through the marketplaces, through dance parties and ever-present shootouts, it never lets up until the very end. The image of young men (like YOUNG men) w/ very big, very powerful guns in their hands will not quickly leave your consciousness.
* "I Don't Hear the Guitar Anymore" (dir. Philippe Garrel, 1991) @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. Another Assayas selection, from perhaps the modern pinnacle of sexy French-story directors, who honestly needs loads more exposure in the States (particularly his works during this period). Evocative of late-'60s Paris, w/ drugs and rock'n'roll and good-looking youth, 15 years before his widely-known b&w masterpiece "Les Amants Réguliers".
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: Frankie Rose & the Outs + Tamaryn @ Coco 66 / 66 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint (G to Greenpoint), 9p/$5. I am proud to pick an unofficial party as my #1 for Friday CMJ. But it was easy, since it features one of my fav bands, Frankie Rose & the Outs, plus Light Asylum, who played Frankie's album release party last month AND dream-pop New Zealand expat Tamaryn.
* CMJ 2010: Dinowalrus, Dream Diary, Eternal Summers, Grooms @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FM/JZ to 2nd Ave), 7p/$10. The Kanine Records showcase = major! Thing is w/ this one, my favorite bands are at the very beginning (Dinowalrus are set to open) incl '90s-punkish brits Shrag and the end (Grooms play last, and late).
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: BrooklynVegan Free Day party @ Public Assembly / 70 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 12p/FREE. Game-changer here, and if you've got a 9-5 on Friday you might want to skip out for this heavyweight. Two stages w/ 14 bands, some still TBA, and booze aplenty. This is also local shoegaze darlings Asobi Seksu's sole unofficial CMJ show. That in itself is reason for me to attend. Plus Lower Dens, John Vanderslice, Times New Viking and some very tantalizing TBAs…
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: Rose Quartz x MME party @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Bushwick (L to Grand), 8p/$7. Friday is STRONG for unofficial CMJ showcases, like this blissed-out, Underwater Peoples Records-heavy party, feat. Ecstatic Sunshine, Family Portrait, Andrew Cedermark, Fluffy Lumbers +more.
* CMJ Imposition: (The) Tony Castles + Darlings + Grooms @ Don Pedro / 90 Manhattan Ave (G to Broadway/Union, JM to Lorimer, L to Montrose), 8p/FREE. Famous Class Records curated this unofficial show, w/ the groovy (The) Tony Castles & indie-rockin' Darlings headlining. But if I were you, and you're not going to Coco 66, I'd get there early for Grooms.
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: #Offline @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 2p/$10. If you can't figure out how to spend your Friday, and esp. if you've got time in the afternoon, check out this loaded roster from Pitchfork, feat. Deradoorian (you know, Angela from Dirty Projectors), Tanlines, Candy Claws, Avey Tare's DJ set (you know, Avey from Animal Collective), Cloud Nothings +more.
* CMJ 2010: Four Tet @ Webster Hall / 125 E 11th St (NR/L/456 to Union Square), 6p/$20. For the luxe reader and music-lover who cannot be damned w/ traveling out Brooklyn (horrors!) or even the LES (shudder!) for a CMJ un/official showcase, there is the safety of Webster Hall and this surely scintillating set by Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, to properly, thoroughly warp your braincells and bring a broad smile to your face. w/ Gold Panda
* Tara McPherson "The Bunny in the Moon" & Xiaoqing Ding "At the End of a Rainbow" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St. A show for lovers? Ding's lush compositions, in saturated color pastels, harbor an almost cinematic drama. McPherson's oil on birch paintings are more dreamlike, w/ porcelain-skinned figures in aqua-toned lunar landscapes.
* Carlos Amorales "Aftermath" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. Amorales takes Mexico City's massive 1985 earthquake, that shattered the city and incapacitated its corrupted government, as homage for his latest media-spanning exhibition, ranging from fictional newspapers to works on paper to sculpture.
* Chris Caccamise @ Eleven Rivington / 11 Rivington. Wall-mounted word sculptures in Caccamise's signature style of cut-Bristol paper, painted in Flashe and high-gloss enamel, to candy-toned and artisanal results.
* "Carlos" (dir. Olivier Assays, 2010) @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:30p. Define epic. Assayas' latest is a coup de grace to dramatized geopolitical biopics of the past w/ little going for them beyond their lengthy run-times (see "Che"). And the 330-minute 'full' version of "Carlos" is not to be taken lightly, but it's precisely how we're meant to experience this film: full-out, w/ just a brief entr'acte to clear our heads. Edgar Ramirez as the titular terrorist/antihero reigns supreme, appearing onscreen like 93% of the time, sliding b/w English, French, German and Venezuelan-tinted Spanish (plus bips & bops of other languages), w/ a self-consciously sexy egoist's rockstar persona, like a tiger. And while Assayas' opus flies through a dozen nations and features like three dozen plus major characters, the plot is clear (hectic, but clear) and the pace unrelentingly brisk. Those 5+ hours soar. ALSO SUN, 3p.
* CMJ 2010: Turbo Fruits + Heavy Cream + Pujol @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 7p/$10. Saturday's loaded w/ CMJ action, but I must tip my hat & bestow my #1 pick to this Panache Bookings showcase. I credit Pop Jew for getting me into the Nashville indie scene, & the triple dose of Daniel Pujol & band, Heavy Cream (their only CMJ show), & Turbo Fruits cinches the deal. w/ AIDS Wolf & Ty Segall
* CMJ 2010: Capeshok Marathon @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 2p/$10. The blissful Air Waves headline this 12 doz+ band show, w/ highlights throughout the day and night incl. hazy sonic-fury rockers Sweet Bulbs, fuzzed out indies Big Troubles, 90's-punkish Brits Shrag and Woven Bones from my alumni town. That would be sick if they allow reentry, b/c I plan to skip b/w this and Knitting Factory down the block.
* CMJ 2010: gorilla vs bear showcase @ 7 Extra Place / 313 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker), 7:30p/FREE (RSVP). NICE one from gvb, feat. a decidedly indie cast incl. La Sera (Katy Goodman's solo outfit), Sweet Bulbs (their 2nd of the day), and Teen Inc.
* (unofficial) CMJ 2010: #Offline @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 2p/$10. The dark horse of Saturday night. Say you want to end your music-going experience dancing your feet off, and you are prepared to step outside the CMJ official scene to do that. A Pitchfork party w/ Javelin, Highlife, the indomitable Matthew Dear & Fool's Gold Collective (feat. A-Trak, Treasure Fingers & more) should suit you just fine.
* JJ Peet "Sunday Painter Show" screening @ On Stellar Rays / 133 Orchard St, noon. Peet created abstract short films that neatly accompany his intriguing texture-conscious paintings whilst fleshing out ideas, and on the final day of his exhibition we are lucky enough to see 'em all, incl. episodes from his two previous screenings.
* "Pan's Labyrinth" (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006) screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 11a. I credit this film to tuning me (and assuredly loads of filmgoers) to contemporary fantasy-thriller Spanish cinema — granted, though, that del Toro is a Mexican filmmaker. Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Orphanage", Eugenio Mira's "Agnosia" and Guillem Morales' "Julia's Eyes" (the latter of which del Toro produced) are just newer examples of this fertile genre of really dope cinema. Anyway, "Pan's Labyrinth" is NOT for children, despite the proliferation of storybook-like imagery, the sweet young lead and these bizarro critic comparisons to "The Neverending Story" or "Chronicles of Narnia". No way. The instances of violence in this very gorgeous film are explicit and shocking, forbidding us to be lulled totally into a idealized dreamworld. We sense the reality of fascism in Spain 1944 more acutely, this way.
* "Face" (dir. Andy Warhol, 1965) + "The Velvet Underground in Boston" (dir. Andy Warhol, 1967) double screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 5p. Two rare films from Warhol's extensive catalogue that haven't been screened here since nearly after they were made. The first is fixed-camera shots of mesmeric muse Edie Sedgwick, the latter is abstract, kinetic footage of one of my favorite bands playing a concert in Boston.
* "Late August, Early September" (dir. Olivier Assayas, 1998) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. You'll have to take my word that I don't just love this film for the simple fact that Virginie Ledoyen (HELLO) stars in it. This is by-the-book Assayas, navigating the intricacies of human relationships (just b/c they're really really good-looking doesn't make things any easier) w/ an emotive yet subtle touch.
* A Sunny Day in Glasgow @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 8p/$12. After four (five?) days and nights brim-filled w/ dope music, if you're still yearning for something sonically delicious but easy to embrace, brother you are in luck. This dream-pop band, w/ its overlapping dual-lead female vocalists, have a rich new album out called "Autumn, again" that rocks my socks, in an effervescent, lulling way. The perfect post-CMJ antidote, in my opinion. w/ Esben & the Witch
* Gimhongsok "Antithesis of Boundary" @ Tina Kim Gallery / 545 W 25th St 3rd Fl. A fantastic exhibition by the Korean conceptualist. I first encountered his technology-driven works in the fab "Your Bright Future" exhibition at MFAH last year and a few of those made it to NY for this show. Gimhongsok's life-sized donkey costume, furry-style, is undoubtedly the most immediately bracing. A note scrawled on the pillar adjacent to the reclining figure notes the volunteer inside the costume is a Korean day-laborer (and incidentally an illegal alien). Do we risk touching the figure to ascertain there's really a human inside it, and by doing so run the risk of exposing this person (if there is a person inside) to the authorities? His other works require a bit more effort but reward for that: 16 works on paper of idealized, & in that sense banal, civic centers (a tower of solitude, a park of atonement) w/ texts handwritten in Korean and English, plus videos satirizing art in society and shown on like super-massive iPhone screens.
* Fendry Ekel & Chris Jones @ Ana Cristea Gallery / 521 W 26th St. A great dichotomy b/w these two artists in their reclamation of mundane subject matter. Ekel's large-scale renderings of familiar imagery (a magnified chess piece, a coin) are lovely but static and quiet in comparison to Jones' works, except for Ekel's smeared gouache representation of the Millennium Hilton's facade at nighttime (that one kicks ass). Jones' assemblages ("rubbish piles") are visually overwhelming and stunningly conceived. These delicate cut-cardboard sculptures are varnished w/ book and magazine images, to the end effect that the larger pieces (like a burned-out arcade game, a defrosting cube fridge, a wrecked TV set) spew oil-slick colors and phantasmagoric landscapes. You'll want to get down low (both these complicated works are on the floor) and investigate them further.
* Kwun Soon-chul @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. A series of large oil on canvas works from the Paris-based Kwun, his first solo U.S. show, renderings culled from Korea's postwar history in a weathered, rugged realism. Kwun's "faces" are massive and disembodied, composed of a full spectrum of paint hues and textural techniques, impasto, smears and cut brushstrokes, floating over grayish or black backgrounds. Step far enough back and the figure emerges, but the skull-like end result is as haunting as trying to make it out from the static noise up close.
* "Six Degrees of Separation: A New Generation of Canadian Artists" @ Claire Oliver / 513 W 26th St. Noah Becker guest-curated this pretty excellent show. I'd seen Alex McLeod's ecstatic 3D computer-rendered lightjet prints before, but his idealized landscapes are still quite exciting. Attila Richard Lukacs intriguing combo of oil, bitumen, polyurethane, enamel and titanium white drips and seismic slashes on skinny panels and Angela Grossmann's large mixed media figurative collages on vintage tent-material canvases were my favorites of the lot.
* Julian Stanczak "Color Grid" @ Danese / 535 W 24th St 6th Fl. No, I can't stare at Stanczak's Op art all day long like I can Robert Ryman's austere canvases or, uh, Joan Miro's "Dutch Interiors", but I like 'em anyway. This several decades' spanning exhibition gives Stanczak some staying power in the faddish Op art movement. Though "Sheen" from the '70s, w/ its gridded center obliterated by a flash of white-hot yellowish haze, is one of the strongest in the show, the moody "Echo 2", reds of varying densities on a grid of orange-red, is warm and sensual AND new, completed this year.
* Roxy Paine "Distillation" @ James Cohan Gallery / 533 W 26th St. The titular installation in this show is perhaps Paine's closest blurring of his machinelike earlier works w/ his stainless steel "coated" trees, at least in my experience. The humongous "Maelstrom" tumbleweed on the Met rooftop last year was a joy but still in fell in the context of Paine's Dendroid series. This new one is more like a sleeping industrial giant, snaking its way through the gallery w/ lug-nuts, boilers, hazard-red highlights, spigots and even a human-sized furnace attached to it. I almost expected it to rattle wheezily to life, spewing smoke and motor oil. The tree elements (and some mega mushrooms) are there too, but they blend seamlessly w/ the mechanical elements. He follows this up w/ work drawings and a small-scale reproduction of "Distillation" (neat to see, easier to do a once-over then navigate the full-sized beast), plus a visually arresting relief of hyperrealistic 'shrooms in the side gallery, entitled "Oscillation".
* Sarah Sze @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. I found myself unconsciously creating one-word terms for the four large installations in Sze's splashy, mind-altering debut at the gallery, just so I could keep my head screwed on straight. It's brilliant, overwhelmingly so (nearly), and can really only be appreciated by being "experienced", by walking into and around these crazy structures that are one part futureperfect space-station, one part organic lifeform — so I'll try my best to break this mind-candied headrush down for you. The main room holds "The Uncountables (Encyclopedia)" or my term "everything", this slanting, illuminated, multitiered open structure, like a window into our collective subconscious and childhoods, bearing everything familiar and repeated yet somehow refreshingly new and valuable. Side room's "Never Enough (Projector)" is my "lunar", a textured surface, a light source. Upstairs' ecstatic "360 (Portable Planetarium)" is my aforementioned space-station, this cut-into globe w/ tiers of greenery amid stairs and twinkling stars. Finally "Landscape for the Urban Dweller (Horizon Line)" is what I called "weather", w/ its fans and water source, and its wooden boughs stretching up into the gallery skylight. This show turned my own conscious inside out.
* "The Interrupted Image" @ Nicholas Robinson Gallery / 535 W 20th St. Some fine double-take moments in Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath's curated group show, centered on visual perception and its blindspots. My favorite was easily Wafaa Bilal's interactive video installation based on Edouard Manet's "A Bar at the Folies Bergere", where the "painted" figures slowly materialize into live human actors moving about — and the interactive element is you (yes, you!) eventually appear in it. Don't believe me? See for yourself. Also, the usual (but no less interesting) photo-collage stuff (looks like "that" but is really "this") by Birgit Graschopf and Rashid Rana.
* John McCracken "New Works in Bronze and Steel" @ David Zwirner Gallery / 533 W 19th St. So badass, so simple. The seminal "surface Minimalist" from the '60s Cali scene dropped some heavy metal on W.Chelsea, specifically stainless steel monoliths and (new medium for McCracken) bronze planks, everything polished to mirrored, spatial disruption quality.
* Al Taylor "Rim Jobs and Sideffects" @ David Zwirner Gallery / 519 W 19th St. It's a cheeky title, but it's also the actual name of two of the artist's late-period series, "Rim Jobs" (from 1995, using Marcel Duchamp's bike wheel readymades as a jump-off) and "Sideffects" (1995-7, an double-sided wall installation), presented comprehensively here. The latter is a bit like Richard Serra's molten lead, frozen in midair, but is actually industrial resin and plastic-coated metal garden stakes, rubbed w/ graphite. The former incl. actual flattened, distorted or extended bicycle wheels and rims, but the most effective part for me (and a cunning take on the readymade) were Taylor's works on paper, which beyond graphite studies incl. collaged images of wheels on Japanese hotel stationery.
* "50 Years at Pace" @ Pace Gallery / 545 W 22nd St + 534 W 25th St. I'll pick my five favorite pieces per gallery, since everything is dope and essential as is. 534 W 25th St is Pace's original Chelsea location, and it encapsulates the Abstract Expressionism wing (compare/contrast w/ MoMA) + Pop Art (and for bonus points, there's a cache of historical materials, show invites, ephemera etc + a timeline of the gallery's existence against current events in the back project space). My picks: the jumbo-size Mark Rothko "No. 15 (Dark Greens on Blue with Green Band)" (1957), sucking up the entire atmosphere of its portion of the gallery; the sharp Barnett Newman "Queen of the Night II" (1967), vividly blue and perhaps the ONLY piece that can withstand Rotkho's whirlpool; Robert Rauschenberg's "Windward" (1963), b/c Pace always had the best Rauschenbergs; Clyfford Still "1956, PH-967, NYC" (1956), which makes me forget I'm in a gallery, more than any of the pieces; and finally, obvs, Jasper Johns "Three Flags" (1958), now owned by the Whitney, b/c you don't mess w/ Jasper Johns, son. 545 W 22nd is my favorite theme, overall, "Minimalism / Phenomenological and Conceptual Art / Post-Modern and Post-Minimal Art" (right??). I'm hardest pressed here to pick just five, but since I agreed to do that: Donald Judd "Untitled" (1993), it's his trademark stacked copper-and-Plexiglas boxes, but they're tinted purple and it's oh-so awesome; Sol LeWitt "11x11x1" (1989), a VERY NY painted aluminum tower; James Turrell "Sensing Thought" (2005), sublimely wicked; Brice Marden "Conturbatio" (1978) just the right kind of color I need; and the hugest Robert Ryman (from 1990) I think I've ever encountered, like dropping headlong into a perfect snowdrift.
* Nathan Carter @ Casey Kaplan Gallery / 525 W 21st St. The full show-title, meandering yet storytelling like Carter's titled works tend toward, is "Pocket Shrapnel Set-ups Veronica Vex and Brooklyn Street Treasures". The last bit's a clue to what's new: Carter maintains his rough-cut painted steel mobiles and shapes, recalling both the non-Euclidean geometries of Joan Miro and physical-industrial nature of Alexander Liberman's large-scale sculpture, but he adds to most of 'em w/ found objects (buttons, metal detritus, toy-like stuff) on walking trips in Brooklyn.
* Laurent Grasso "SoundFossil" @ Sean Kelly Gallery / 528 W 29th St. I had the most sublime, lucid-dream-like experience in this show, all courtesy of the video installation "Horn Perspective". Eschew the other add-ons and whatnot in the side gallery (they're fine, but they're totally outplayed by the film). Instead, situate yourself amid the huge, carved wood speakers, in front of the screen following a floating-camera through a green, antediluvian forest. It's neither a smoothly mechanical tracking shot nor a jittery handheld, like filmed from an automobile; rather, the experience feels eerily lifelike, if you count flying through a forest lifelike. Every few minutes, a bunch of birdlike figures (computer-animated?) shower the screen before flapping off into the distance and dematerializing. The sum effect is akin to those "rain-sticks" popularized by intelligent science-shops like Grey Matter back in the '80s: you know, you turn the stick over and the beads or whatever inside cascade down, and it sounds embarrassingly pleasant, like rainfall?
* "Group Show" @ Gladstone Gallery / 530 W 21st St. A tasty five-course in my-style Minimalism, feat. a painted grid box from Sol LeWitt, a river of white marble chips from Richard Long ("White Line") that bisects the room, a Mario Merz stone-slab 'igloo', a whitish Dan Flavin fluorescent sculpture and Carl Andre's lightly pungent "The Way North and East", three uncarved Western red cedar blocks in a most regal arrangement.
* Angelo Filomeno "The marquis and a bearded dominatrix with a cake in the oven" @ Galerie Lelong / 528 W 26th St. Filomeno gave up skull imagery? Oh I faked you out BIG time w/ that prediction. No, he's full on skulls, both human-like and fantasy, coated in oil or jewels, monogrammed on shimmery swaths of silk, amid S&M imagery in other places. I'd have beef w/ this stuff except it's just damn cool-looking — and the silk-work (where there are no skulls, there are cockroaches!) is incredibly impressive.
* Rob Pruitt "Pattern and Degradation" @ Gavin Brown's Enterprise / 620 Greenwich St + Maccarone Gallery / 630 Greenwich St. You read that correctly: Pruitt gets a city block to work his contempo-pop magic and, while it's a visually arresting affair, I found it neither confusing nor overwhelming. The bulk of Gavin Brown's lair is devoted to Pruitt's Rumspringa inspiration, w/ spraypainted "Amish quilts" and composite self-portraits (plus a glittery panda here and there) lining the walls of a room invaded w/ silver-taped chairs (straight from a DWR catalogue, plus the wheelchair & Shaker thrown in for good measure) and Pruitt's "prayer books". The "vestibule" gallery features monster-truck tyres full of candy, and the side gallery cheeky silkscreened t-shirt paintings (headless Mickey Mouse, Debbie Harry's lipstick kiss, two glittery fornicating pandas), like an Amish youth's first encounter w/ the outside world, indulgent and fractured. Maccarone figures more into Pruitt's contemporary explorations, w/ heavily impastoed oil paintings based on this season's Ikea wall art and bundled cardboard stacks, outfitted w/ footwear and googly eyes, like massive recycled Wall-Es. Also: more panda art (Japanese video-game style) and a wall of cat images (the same b&w coats as the pandas) culled, I'm guessing, from Google images. So: Gavin Brown's exhibition felt more focused and easier to grasp overall, and Maccarone's requires a bit more effort (though the visual eye-candy is appealing), but it's a nice one overall.
* Cecilia Edefalk "Weeping Birch" @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St. This exhibition ties together two of Edelfalk's studies on the mask, with a 2002 small-size oil & acrylic painting transmogrification entitled "To view the painting from within", covering the back gallery wall w/ some two dozen canvases, w/ her recent cast-bronze masks, outfitted here and there w/ brick or wood, painted w/ tempera, adorned w/ bronze leaves, wings, feathers. This naturalistic array is completed w/ a table of very realistic cast-bronze and tempera branches, resembling what you might find on a trek through the Alpine.
* Jennifer Steinkamp @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. Slithery new 3D animation from the video-installation artist. She eschews flowers (though foliage returns as autumn leaves) this time for arteries and tendons, to a full effect like a late '90s screensaver.
* "The Space Between Reference and Regret" @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 537 W 22nd St. Oh, I'm not one to shy away from a tasty "challenge" of discreet and/or conceptual art. In fact, this is an incredibly active group show that exceeds the overall subtle talent listed. Check the main room & the duality b/w Wade Guyton's lovely tectonic "red-ballpoint" inkjet prints on cotton facing a wall of nearly twinkling Allan McCollum black frame "surrogates". Heimo Zobernig's ostensibly blank, primed diptych works well in sequence w/ McCollum's optical overload; switch back & forth b/w the two and see what I mean. Elsewhere Daniel Buren's striped fabric and Karin Sander's scuffed "mailed paintings" bear environmental histories.
* "Stop Motion" - Keith Edmier & Allam McCollum @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. The exhibition is a clue for what's within: McCollum's signature "surrogates" as an array of plaster-molded dogs (in convincing stop-motion) and two basalt-cast human hearts from Edmier.
* Adam Fuss "Home and the World" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. Fuss' large serpentine C-prints, as the reptiles slither b/w super-sharp and fuzzed-out, are no doubt high-quality, but the only joy for me here are the trio of large-scale daguerrotypes (the largest of the kind?), in the side gallery. Step into the dim room and observe the synthesis of bare mattress, vagina close-up, and mattress replete w/ snakes. Is there a story arc here?
* Bing Wright @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 521 W 21st St. An interesting dichotomy w/ Fuss' show a few blocks up. Wright eschews dead bugs (mostly) for crisp silver-leaf shots against Hiroshi Sugimoto-styled featureless silvery backdrops, to stunning results. While everything looks similar, it felt meatier to me than Fuss' elaborations on a serpent theme, plus, funnily enough, Wright included a daguerrotype of his own (smaller than Fuss', mind). What he did here to knock this one up several levels was the inclusion of collage-like works of silver-leaf and wax applied directly to the prints, shimmering and playful.
* JJ Peet "Shadow" @ On Stellar Rays / 133 Orchard St. An incredibly compelling exhibition of ostensibly smallish and medium-sized abstract paintings on handmade wood panels. I use the coded term "ostensibly" on purpose, as there are many clues and glimpses of figuration (often politically- and economically-charged) amid these high-technique, beguilingly textured surfaces. One of my favorites, "Blockers - 3", is scored w/ Xs over its ocean-blue backdrop. Another, 'Station to Station" (beyond its dope title) features a few Paul Klee-esque mechanical figures drawn in blue in on an opalescent shoreline landscape, though the whole effect is peered at through a blocked-out lens, as the rest of the panel is a nearly featureless black expanse. We are encouraged to draw near and study the intimately scaled works up close (the midrange "Wimpo_1", at nearly two feet in length, feels practically massive in relation to its kin) and delve beneath their sanded down and reworked layers to discover the histories within.
* Polly Apfelbaum "Lost + Found Colour" @ D'Amelio Terras / 525 W 22nd St. A very intriguing take on abstraction, via the temporal and site-specific. Apfelbaum extends her "drop-color" works to this sequined fabric installation, cut, torn and deposited, both happenstance and methodically, around the gallery's confines. Bit like floating in a hardedge painting.
* Thierry Despont "Threading Orbs" @ Marlborough NY / 40 W 57th St. The NY-based artist's properly starry-eyed, large-scale solo show "Through the Moon Door" at Marlborough's Chelsea location bewitched its guests w/ its cosmic mix of mixed medium, metallic "artifacts", vaguely alien-esque sculpture & massive painted worlds on wood panel. His new exhibition at the uptown gallery is a sublime affair, reduced to the aforementioned satellites, threaded on massive jacquard looms in vivid color and gold/silver thread, floating in pure black space, and as a series of monotypes, asphaltum stamped on wide swaths of paper, mirroring the tapestries in size and coming off as their afterimage.
* Patrick Jackson "Tchotchke Stacks" @ Nicole Klagsbrun / 526 W 26th St #213. Think Jeff Koons (or Jeffrey Vallance, or Damien Hirst for that matter) have cornered the market on banal articles en masse, ridiculous yet undeniably good-looking? Check Jackson's titular installation, like being in a '50s Americana coffeetable hell, a winner in its extreme prodigiousness, and get back to me.
+ Jason Tomme "Paper Lead Poem". The Chinati Foundation artist-in-residence in 2008 (already a winner, in this writer's mind), works w/ sheet lead and shaped paper (mixed w/ spray paint) to create heavy monoprints.
* Kirsi Mikkola "Flex" @ Sue Scott Gallery / 1 Rivington St. WOW. Mikkola's laborious painted paper "constructions" (I can't call them collage), some demanding 8+ years before completion, are an exercise in deft, needle-tip precision and seemingly chance, as these cut-paper shards become zoomed-out urban networks or spiraling fantastical beasts.
* Lee Frielander "Recent Western Landscape" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 5th Ave. The beauty of arid, tangled underbrush, as only Friedlander can capture. Shot around Death Valley, Glen Canyon, and the Mojave Desert, in dozens of same-size, intriguingly warm b&w prints.
* Liu Xiaodong "Yan Guan Town" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 w 24th St. Liu, a leader of China's "New Generation" figurative painters, traveled to Yan Guan County, Gansu Province, to depict vibrant domestic scenes from peaceful, intermingling non-indigenous Muslims and Christians. Two large canvases, "Z's Family" in a spare church (w/ donkey) and "H's Family" in a narrow storefront, frame the show, w/ smaller paintings framing each individual and two landscapes filling out the rest. The colors are marvelous and warm, earthy and fresh, and Liu's brushwork is evident just as he succeeds in giving personality to each of the people (and donkey) as his subjects. I dug "H's Family" the best: the angled perspective, the youths posing casually like they just paused from their routines, the brightly colored bottles lining the shelves and the patterned tablecloths, I got a strong welcoming feeling from it.
* James Busby "White & Black" @ STUX Gallery / 530 W 25th St. Busby's exemplary experimental all-white paintings show at this gallery in '07 strikes a beautiful, reductive tone here, as he focuses less on how much bizarre stuff he can throw on a piece and turns instead to a stark diet of gesso, oil and lots of shiny graphite on a suite of glowingly black minimalist paintings, on panel and shaped MDF. The former often come in diptychs and just as often are scored like record grooves, mesmerizingly psychedelic whilst being almost anti-Op. The latter are alien-slick, like out of a dystopian near-future cyberpunk novel.
* Chris Ware "The Acme Novelty Library #20" @ Adam Baumgold Gallery / 60 E 66th St. You may well be up on Ware's high-technique, early 20th-C graphic design cartooning style, emblematic in such Americana as "Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth" and "Quimby the Mouse". Even if you eschew comics as either 'kid stuff' or 'geek stuff', you owe it to yourself to check Ware's intensely detailed renderings. This exhibition intrigued me as it features an installation of large-size work drawings from an entire serialized story, chronicling the character Jordan Wellington Lint from birth to death, in blue-lines and black ink. Following the circuit around the gallery to the several color examples (manipulated in post, on Ware's computer) reminds 1) how richly vibrant Ware's final product tends to be and 2) how much I prefer his work in full-color.