* Adam Dant "Bibliotheques and Brothels" @ Adam Baumgold Gallery / 60 E 66th St. Two fantastic concepts in one, books and the bedchamber, rendered in Dant's vintage-y ink & goldleaf style on paper. Makes me think of "Young Adult Friction" by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
* "Boarding Gate" (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2007) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. The fab mini-fest for Assayas concludes w/ this shimmering, erotic, international heist thriller, replete w/ the drug trade and Hong Kong nightlife, and Asia Argento looking extra-fierce and stunning as the manipulated lead.
* "Stake Land" (dir. Jim Mickle, 2010) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 8:30p. The leadoff to Lincoln Center's "Scary Movies 4" Festival (NOT named after the contemporary horror film series, don't worry) is one of the few gory alums off Fantastic Fest that I DIDN'T see. So obvs I'm stoked ('staked') about it. Think zombiesque vampires created by a deadly virus in postapocalyptic rural America. w/ dir. Mickle, writer Nick Damici & actors Connor Paolo and Kelly McGillis in person!!
* WIERD presents "The Descent" starring Xxplxt Angyl @ Home Sweet Home / 131 Chrystie St (FM/JZ to Delancey), midnight. A special night of debauchery and sin, courtesy of Angyl Valantino, conjuring his Xxplxt Angyl side for a late-night performance, w/ sweet noise accompaniment by Throat (aka Ryan Woodhall of Yellow Tears and Margaret Chardiet of Pharmakon).
* Plaintains @ Boutique Eat Shop / 559 W 22nd St (CE to 23rd St), 10p. The career retrospective release party of downtown legend Nick Hallett's Europhilic electronic pop act, w/ special guests Andrew Andrew (the 1st? iPad DJs), Justin Bond, Angela di Carlo and more in a full-out Plantain Karaoke Experience.
* Ana Mendieta "Documentation and Artwork, 1972-1985" @ Galerie Lelong / 528 W 26th St. This particular exhibition of the unparalleled Conceptualist/performance artist marks the 25th anniversary of her death at age 36. In echo of the anniversary, the gallery has an extra-special presentation of Mendieta's drawings, photography, films and more from her archive, most of which have rarely (if ever) been shown publicly. This should totally be an enriching experience.
* Nicky Nodjourmi "Invitation to Change Your Metaphor" @ Priska Jusckha Fine Art / 547 W 27th St 2nd Fl. Nodjourmi's critical response to contemporary political events in Iran, over haunting narrative-driven paintings and drawings.
* James Casebere "House" @ Sean Kelly Gallery / 528 W 29th St. Two large C-prints from this year's Whitney Biennial dovetail into the core of this exhibition, Casebere's largest Dutchess County neighborhood scale-model, meticulously rendered and magnificent, plus groupings of early b&w photos of surreal, anonymous American landscapes.
* Paulina Olowska "Applied Fantastic" @ Metro Pictures / 519 W 24th St. Paintings and knitted sweaters recalling former communist Poland, in Olowska's continued focus on the nation's attraction to Western consumerism, blending a high-fashion aesthetic w/ what the gallery calls a "behind the Iron Curtain look".
* Damien Hirst "Medicine Cabinets" @ L&M Arts / 45 E 78th St. Medicine cabinets chock-full of pill bottles, cartons etc, by Damien Hirst, in an elegant two-story townhouse. The juxtaposition alone is reason enough to check this baby out.
* David Thorpe "Peace not Pacifism" @ Casey Kaplan Gallery / 525 W 21st St. Ornate and handcrafted ceramic tile screens, glazed in intense color, create the backbone of Thorpe's mixed media installations, which also include sculpture and watercolors.
* Abelardo Morell "The Universe Next Door" @ Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery / 505 W 24th St. New camera obscura works shot in New York and Venice, Rome and Florence, Italy.
* Adam Helms "Without Name" @ Marianne Boesky Gallery / 509 W 24th St. How about 48 portraits of insurgents, guerillas and subversives (try Norwegian death metal!!!), in charcoal and in response/homage to Gerhard Richter's own "48 Portraits" (1971-2) of iconic 20th C. cultural figures. Helms works w/ identity as well in his flag manipulations, but I think it's portraiture where he really shines.
* Sokari Douglas Camp "Relative Pelican" @ STUX Gallery / 530 W 25th St. Figurative steel sculpture from the Nigerian-born, London-based artist, revealing sociopolitical crises and Camp's cultural heritage.
* Tod Wizon "Homespun Peregrinations" @ Nicholas Robinson Gallery / 535 W 20th St. New glazed acrylic paintings fictive landscape closeups, i.e. wildly abstract in a psychedelic way.
* JEFF the Brotherhood @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$10. My CMJ experience culminated w/ an epic Nashville-heavy lineup at Knitting Factory, but sadly absent were the brothers who kind of knit the whole lot together. So allow me to welcome Jake & Jamin, their portable smoke-generator, drumkit and three-string guitar, and like 1000-times the raw energy and kickass jams you might be expecting. w/ Liquor Store
* C. Spencer Yeh @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (MR to Union St), 8p/$10. A stellar night feat. the electric-violin experimentalist Yeh (AKA Burning Star Core), plus bassist Joshua Abrams and two incredible percussionists, Brian Chase (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and collaborator w/ many) and Ohio's Ryan Jewell.
* Robert Rauschenberg @ Gagosian Gallery / 522 W 21st St. The Gagosian acquired this pivotal American artist into its blue-chip roster sometime recently, so now its staging a mega (and no doubt museum-quality) exhibition of his works, ranging from his monochromatic paintings to his famous Combines of the '60s, to his more recent super-big photocollage works of vernacular Americana. Gagosian once again epitomizes the concept of "destination show" w/ this exhibition. I'll be there, early.
* Brice Marden "Letters" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 522 W 22nd St. EPIC. The tireless connoisseur of beeswax-flat monochromes and whiplike, calligraphic strides was in Taipei during much of his own 2006 retrospective at MoMA, researching and working on this new series of large-scale paintings and works on paper. The end result, Marden's largest cohesive body of work since the seminal Cold Mountain series, muted, snaking bands of color over warm backdrops. Incredibly essential.
* Brody Condon & Jen Liu @ On Stellar Rays / 133 Orchard St. Fresh out of MoMA PS1's "Greater New York", Condon contributes an intriguing mix of retro-styled polygonal forms in sculpture and video. Liu uses geometry as well in her manipulated works on paper incorporating found media images and torn patterned colors.
* Roger White @ Rachel Uffner Gallery / 47 Orchard St. New semi-representational paintings and airbrushed acrylics on paper, feat. groupings of objects in relational spaces. I last saw him in the "ITEM" group show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash this past summer and am intrigued.
* Maria Lassnig @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 537 W 22nd St. A dozen new paintings from the Vienna-based Lassnig, very physically rendered figures dropped against stark monochromatic backgrounds.
* Chrstiana Soulou "DANCERS" @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. Sixteen drawings on dance and its models from the Athens-based artist, in her gorgeous, spare style.
* Storm Tharp "Ashby Lee Collinson" @ Nicole Klagsbrun / 526 W 26th St #213. Tharp's first solo show in NY centers around one model, the tituarl Collinson, to fully explore the potential of portraiture, rendering her in pooled ink and dry pigment, to stunning results (at least what I've seen in the online preview).
* Hans Hartung "The Last Paintings" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. A dazzling array of Hartung's final suite of paintings, from 1987 to his death in 1989, displaying his innovations in spraypaint and saturated color abstractions.
* Mickey Smith "Believe You Me" @ Invisible-Exports / 14A Orchard St. Smith locked my attention in her contribution to this year's NY VOLTA, a straightforward, monochromatic series of C-prints of library stacks — they felt so ordinary, yet so special too. Her new exhibition brings her back to NY Public Library, rephotographing images from its Picture Collection, incorporating fully her playful usage of experimentation and cropping.
* Will Rogan @ Laurel Gitlen (Small A Projects) / 261 Broome St. Rogan's concern over the transience and passage of time, plus the notion of really seeing things, is the basis of this multimedia show, feat. his photography, video and 'static' works on paper.
* Elad Lassry @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Juicy, vibrant C-prints of elegantly arranged and staged imagery, people to animals to objet, shot against corresponding monochromatic backdrops, plus a new 35mm film. w/ an artist book-signing on SAT, 4-6p
* "Rashomon" (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1950) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 6:50/9:15p. Now BAM is doing a mini-Kurosawa fest, focused on his samurai films. Hell, why not? They lead w/ "Rashomon", my favorite and the coolest multiple-POV murder mystery perhaps ever, gorgeously shot in contrasty b&w, from the sun-dappled opening flashbacks in the forest to the ferocious ball of thuggish energy that is Toshiro Mifune.
* OBAKE! @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (E/M to 53rd/Lexington, 456/7 to Grand Central), 7p/$15. A night of spooking boozing etc. in the Zen-like venue that also hosts my Japanese courses. I can't think of anything better. "O-Bake" means "ghost", like "ghost-story", but we're not talking "Kwaidan" here. Rather, how about a screening of the Technicolor psychedelic freakout called "House/Hausu" (dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977), just re-released by Criterion in super-gorgeous style. This cult classic used to be impossible to find (you'd think a film co-written by the director's preteen daughter and feat. a cast of cute high-school girls in a haunted country house, attacked by such things as a carnivorous piano and a possessed Himalayan, would be, like discursively popular), but it's back and here for YOU.
* "Inspector Bellamy" (dir. Claude Chabrol, 2010) @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). Chabrol's final feature film pairs him w/ French cinema heavyweight Gerard Depardieu as a rugged police commissioner drawn into a murder mystery while trying to like do his thing on vacation w/ his wife.
* "Live From Tokyo" (dir. Lewis Rapkin, USA) screening @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 6:45p/$11. A visually/sonically overwhelming documentary on the contemporary music scene in Tokyo, feat. clips of badass artists and bands like Tenniscoats, DMBQ, Nisennenmondai (who are technically Osaka, as far I as know, but whatever, I love these girls), PARA (from Boredoms) and more. Think indie/underground, not JPOP. w/ a Q&A w/ Rapkin foliowing the screening.
* "Waste Land" (dir. Lucy Walker, 2010), screenings @ Angelika Film Center / 18 W Houston St (BDFM to Broadway/Lafayette). A documentary on meta-artist Vik Muniz and one of his most famous styles of work, transforming expansive garbage dumps outside Rio de Janeiro into (when viewed and photographed aerially) incredible renditions of iconic works of art. Plus Muniz's relationship w/ the local catadores, who pick up and work w/ recyclable materials in the region.
* "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (dir. Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992) screenings @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), midnight. I am STOKED! Pay attention: this is the original "Buffy", the sexier, funnier, way more violent "Buffy", w/ Kristy Swanson as the titular cheerleading, vampire ass-kicking lead, which I was into way back when, reading 'Fangoria' one day at too young an age (less than preteen). Just to date this thing: Luke Perry is Buffy's varsity jacket-wearing beau, Rutger Hauer and Paul 'Pee-Wee Herman' Reubens are the lead vampires, and a svelte Donald Sutherland the mystery man. You do need to see this. ALSO SAT, same time.
* Sweet Bulbs + Eternal Summers @ The Tortilla Factory / 271 Starr St, Bushwick (L to Jefferson), 8p/$10. The 2nd installment of Tortillas on the Creek, presented by Bushwick's newtownradio.com, is killer. w/ locals Sweet Bulbs, who conjure fuzzy pop amid a squall of noise, and Virginia's catchily pop-psychedelic Eternal Summers.
* Phantogram @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$17. This N. NY-state duo (augmented onstage w/ a live drummer) electrified me and several hundred others when they opened as the surprise guests for Ra Ra Riot at Bowery Ballroom last month, w/ their sexy, dynamic synthy rock. A hot ticket for real.
* Crystal Stilts @ The Rock Shop / 249 4th Ave, Park Slope (D/NR to Union St), 7:30p/$12. For quite awhile I didn't know what was up w/ this seminal Velvet Underground-ish Brooklyn band, until the glittering and sombre track "Shake the Shackles" dropped and oh yes, they're back and better than ever. w/ German Measles + Surprisers.
* Wangechi Mutu "Hunt Bury Flee" @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St. I'm stoked for this one, a new exhibition of Mutu's characteristic large-scale collage works, maelstrom assemblages of fashion, porn and documentary photography, plus ceramic sculptural figurines, which is a first for Mutu (I think, or at least a first for me).
* Mika Rottenberg "Squeeze" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 W 24th St. Rottenberg's titular 20-min video installation, in a custom-build theatre and seamlessly tying footage of her Harlem studio set w/ an Arizona lettuce farm and a Kerala, India rubber plant, all in the effortg to create one small sculpture.
* Michael Heizer "Works from the 1960s and 70s" @ David Zwirner / 519 W 19th St. I know Heizer best for his monumental earth works, 15'-tall boulders deposited in the wall of Dia:Beacon and great trenches carved out of the ground. This exhibition of the Land Art pioneer's sculptures and paintings explores his themes of positive and negative space and should be an illuminating, enriching experience.
* Carey Young "Contracting Universe" @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 521 W 21st St. The London-based artist shows new manipulated photography, created by exposing light through translucent meteorite fragments (a la negatives), which just sounds dope, plus a text-based work on U.N. documentation about outer space exploration and control.
* Daniel Hesidence "Autumn Buffalo" @ D'Amelio Terras / 525 W 22nd St. I've seen Hesidence's contributions around Chelsea of late, at David Altmejd's curated "ROSE LAUGHTER Winter Holiday" show at Andrea Rosen and in a group show at Cheim & Read. He has free reign of the gallery space this time, featuring vast landscapes of energetic brushwork on paper over 16 paintings of the titular American beast.
* Mark Leckey + Mark Handforth @ Gavin Brown's Enterprise / 620 Greenwich St. Leckey's newest work, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction (which takes reference from Leckey's 2003 sonic sculpture "Big Box Statue Action" at the Tate) plus his archival work "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore" from '99, a video collage of the U.K. underground music scene from the '70s through '90s. Plus (yes!) Miami-based Handforth's spatial-disrupting sculpture.
* Paul Lee "Lavender" @ Maccarone Gallery / 630 Greenwich St. We're in for a treat: the towel-sculpture artist stole the show, in my opinion, back in Bortolami's incredible "Parallel" group exhibition in 2009. He returns w/ his 1st solo NY show since 2002, which includes his familiar washcloths, hand-dyed, cut and draped like melting hardedge configurations, accompanied by two films and mixed media collages.
* Albert Watson book signing @ Hasted Hunt Krauetler / 537 W 24th St (CE to 23rd St), 4-6p. Incredibly TWO new books from the photographer, "Strip Search: Las Vegas" and "UFO: Unified Fashion Objectives", check those out and check out his very sexy new exhibition at the gallery.
* MOVE! @ MoMA PS1 / 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City (E/M to 23rd St/Ely Ave, 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse Sq), 12p/FREE. The MoMA satellite teams w/ V Magazine for 12 artist/fashion designer collaborations as visual-overload theatre, performance runway, which isn't totally new (think Vanessa Beecroft circa 1998, or even Yves Klein's paint-drenched models 20+ years before that) but could still be potentially ace. The talent includes such hotties as Ryan McNamara, Tauba Auerbach, Terence Koh and Kalup Linzy (on the 'art' side) and Alexander Wang, Ohne Titel, Tim Hamilton and Cynthia Rowley (on the 'fashion' side). ALSO SUNDAY
* "Carrie" (dir. Brian De Palma, 1976) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 4:15p. Classic Sissy Spacek in classic high-school horror cinema, which still manages to scare the stuffing out of me when I watch it. Of note: Frankie Rose & the Outs did a music video recently for "Candy" that is a riff off "Carrie", w/ Rose as Spacek.
* A Sunny Day In Glasgow @ Mercury Lounge / 217 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave), 10:30p/$12. Philly's ethereal dream-pop collective have a gorgeous new record out, "Autumn, again", and in celebration of the month you should go see 'em live, where their multilayered vocals and shimmering guitars and keyboard sonics coat the room in this amber glow. w/ Candy Claws
* Pelly Twins Pre-Halloween Party @ 171 Lombardy / 502 Varick Ave, E. Williamsburg (L to Grand, G to Nassau), 8p/$13 (or $10 in costume). Look, the last Halloween party in this far-flung DIY venue (before it was summarily shut down by the fuzz, then recently reopened), involved Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and the mightily psychedelic Wooden Shjips and was beyond incredible. This year's features a lot of 'newish' hot bands from all over, incl. local lovely noise-gazers Sweet Bulbs, Austin TX's Yellow Fever, and Dom, who I finally checked out during CMJ and dug, b/c they covered Alan Jackson's "A Lot About Livin'" and did a fine swamp-rockin' job of it. How did I know this was an Alan Jackson song? I'm from TEXAS, kid (truth: I wiki'ed it).
* Erwin Wurm @ Jack Hanley Gallery / 136 Watts St. The first U.S. appearance of Wurm's 2008 self-portrait installation "Selbstportrat als Gurken", 26 uniquely cast and convincingly painted pickles on different-sized white plinths. For the advanced art-goer, this is in advance of his large upcoming show at Lehmann Maupin (opens NOV 4).
* "Seven Samurai" (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1954) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 3/7p. Define epic: how about Toshiro Mifune as the baddest-ass ronin (hired gun) around, leading his ragtag bunch of who's-who action stars to defend a village. Define influential: the slo-mo fight scenes, the tight editing, the choreography, the sheer number of people duking it out at once. Epic, influential, killer.
* "Doctor Zhivago" w/ Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky @ 92Y / 1395 Lexington Ave (6 to 96th St), 8:15p/$19 ($10 if yr 35 or younger, seriously). Watch me morph into a TOTAL FANBOY in the presence of literary power couple Pevear and Volokhonsky, whose span of 19th/20th C. Russian translation (I've read, I believe, everything they've translated from Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol and Chekhov) is as unmatched as it is vast. They've just updated the English translation of "Doctor Zhivago", and they read from Boris Pasternak's poetry and prose in a very special night.
* Ravi Shankar: Legacy Award ceremony + "Raga: A FIlm Journey into the Soul of India" (dir. Howard Worth, 1971) @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 6:30p/$15. Truth: I didn't get into Shankar through The Beatles' album "Revolver", or anything having to do w/ The Beatles for that matter. It was in an Indian music course in university, I remember this quite clearly, and the specific track was Shankar's "Ramkali", a wild 25-minute raga he performed in London in 1964 w/ Kanal Dutt (tabla) and Nodu Mullick (tamboura), and Shankar's sitar 'riff' (wrong term, but the way I think of it) is still the watermark I use when considering Hindustani classical music. Asia Society presents the legendary Shankar w/ a Cultural Legacy Award, then Philip Glass introduces the re-release of the documentary "Raga", about Shankar's musical teachings in the U.S. and Europe, plus his return to India to visit guru, multi-instrumentalist and composer Baba Ustad Allauddin Khan.
* Charlene Kaye & The Brilliant Eyes @ Pianos / 158 Ludlow St (FM/JZ to Delancey), 8p/$8. Kaye's electrifying voice and her band's folk-tinged indie-pop = an eclectic night, torch-songs and unfettered rock alike.
* John Baldessari "Pure Beauty" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St). A pioneering American Conceptualist w/ the approachable nature of a Pop-minded artist, his vocabulary rich w/ both mass media and thoughtful, open-ended witticisms. This five-decade-spanning retrospective on Baldessari, his first proper U.S. survey in 20 years, coaxes you in w/ bright colors and bold manipulated-photo layouts and then, AND THEN, before you realize it, you're learning something! Whether its the perspectives in space to properly render a realistic street-scene, or the tongue-in-cheek "avant-garde" names paint manufactures dubbed their new shades, or the disarming power of juxtaposing unlikely cinematic imagery. Or, as exemplified by Baldessari's early text-only paintings (which we learn in one room, at least in the "Commissioned Painting" series, involved a sign-letterer actually painting the text, not Baldessari), "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell" (1966-8). He even breaks it down for us, in obvious cliche (for Baldessari, it's safe to say, was never in the corner of tasteful, standard beauty): "subjects that sell well: Madonna and Child, landscapes, flower paintings, still lifes (free of morbid props…dead birds, etc), nudes, marine pictures, abstracts and Surrealism". Good luck finding any of these banalities in this exhibition, though Baldessari does include a photo series, each very similar, of him waving to arriving ships in a harbor. Another photo series that made me smile, then inspired me, began w/ Baldessari taking a map of the United States and zooming in on California, specifically where the letters in "CALIFORNIA" draped down the state's drawing. He then visited the approximate locations of those letters on the map (detailed in an account accompanying the photographs) and shot a massive letter (in found rocks, in dry paint, in ribbons, in a cunningly conceived shadow of a telephone pole) in each of their respective locations. The end effect from its conception is brilliant. I think my love of Nouvelle Vague helps me quickly embrace Baldessari's cinema-driven Conceptualism. Check his variations on four themes, close-crops of a dapper man's hand doing stuff (pulling out a cigarette, checking his pocket etc), reordered to reflect all possibilities a la Sol LeWitt. In fact, there's a video of Baldessari reciting LeWitt's theories, only he sings them. Another photo series, "Floating: Color" (1972), has the artist tossing big sheets of colored paper as a spectrum out a 2nd story window. It's both Yves Klein 'leaping into the void' (and even the concept, 'throwing color' seems a bit Klein-esque) and a take on hardege artists like Ellsworth Kelly. Once we finally reach the galleries containing Baldessari's famous framed-manipulated-photo montages, it should be totally evident this artist is a Pop-Conceptualist genius. His "Kiss/Panic" (1984) taking two recurring themes of guns and lips and creating a stunning display of onscreen violence (the b&w pistol-holding hands fan out, starburst style, from the color image of a couple's closeup buss). Another of long-horizontal shots of dead men (gangsters, the Wild West etc) is off-set by the lowest image of a man walking, only turned on its side to orient w/ its neighbors. "Heel" (1986) is probably my favorite Baldessari montage, w/ its brutality and vulnerabilities offset by the bottom panel of a young woman's wide-mouthed surprise, the letter or object in her hand (and source of her amusement) concealed by an opaque blue acrylic circle. "The Overlap Series: Jogger (with Cosmic Event)" (2000-1) takes a mundane, saturated-color snap from near the artist's home in California, lined w/ palm trees & whatnot, and juxtaposes it w/ a smoky sky and fighter jets a la some Hollywood doomsday production. The very end of the show dwells just enough on Baldessari's newer forays into truncated imagery, disembodies noses and arms floating over wobbly planes of pure color, and ends w/ a new piece from his "Sediment (Part 2)" series, on at Marian Goodman Gallery in midtown, b&w vector-ish imagery dropped into pristine gray canvases, nearly harkening back to his muted color, text-based canvases from the beginning of the show (and including the early "Pure Beauty", which shares its name w/ the exhibition itself).
* Gedi Sibony @ Greene Naftali / 508 W 26th St 8th Fl. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, whether that's a 3+ hour experimental film or a cutting-edge NY-based neo-Conceptual/installation artist who works w/ recycled materials w/ beguilingly little explanation into, uh, just what we're looking at. The latter is Sibony, and his new solo show at the gallery is a fantastic treasure hunt into themes concurrent w/ much of art itself. Give this one some time, and the nuggets of wisdom you trove from the sparsely outfitted rooms will gleam in your subconscious (maybe a good idea to see John Baldessari's brilliant, pop-experimental retrospective at the Met, which I detail above). Like the piece that confronts you upon disembarking the lift and heading down the hallway into the main gallery, "The Cutters", whose composition (both visually and banally stated on the gallery guide) is 'canvas, paint, wall', which sounds precisely like 98% of PAINTINGS (the paint itself isn't specified) only… the canvas is raw and draped like a shroud over a hollowed-out section of wall, seemingly culled from the architecture of the building itself (but cunningly created in Sibony's studio, such is his talent for creating site-specific works), the paint itself mostly relegated to the backside of the piece, which, incidentally, you can walk through like a doorway. Another more expansive work behind it, the lengthily titled "From the Center, Skinny Legs, Satisfy the Purposes of Pictorial Representation Completely, and Her Trumpeted Spoke Lastly", factors in creative elements (an acid green shag carpet, flipped against the wall; a matted drawing, reversed in its frame, a hollow-core door covered in taupe paint; a sheet of white vinyl) and deconstructs them. There's more here — incl. a tricky collaboration w/ friend Diana Lyon in a side gallery looks, I swear, like a black-foam donkey in repose on a foam-stuffed sofa, half underneath a flowered screenprinted cloth — so go check it out. Or take me w/ you and we'll do it together.
* 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. The man is a machine: there's like two dozen smallish oil on linen (mounted on panel) works here, plus their equal in drawings, yet each feel unique and intimate whilst keeping Nozkowski's familiar geometric vocabulary intact. They're quite abstract, of course, but they never segue fully into that maelstrom of nonrepresentation: there remains bits in each that compel the eye to seek further. Ex: "Untitled (8-137)" looks very much to me like a zoomed-in view of a pennant stretch across the beach, w/ soft-focus sand, shore, water and rich orange sunset appearing as planes of color around it (it's clearer in the painting than the gouache/colored pencil work). Another, "Untitled (8-128)", seems more like a workout in color theory a la Gerhard Richter (or Paul Klee), a bunch of unlike squares in a black field, but the accompanying work-on-paper looks more like the bust of a person, wearing a patterned Zentai suit, mind you, but still… Lots of beauties, here.
* Paul Thek "cityscapes and other ideas" + Peter Hujar "Thek's Studio 1967" @ Alexander & Bonin / 132 10th Ave. A great pair of exhibitions that complement Thek's retrospective at the Whitney quite well. The ground-floor space belongs to Thek's own late-works paintings and works on paper, the former seemingly perennially sunset captures of the East Village and Madison Square Park areas (these are bathed in violets and oranges for the most part), the latter drawings for public monuments. None of this style, all completed around 1987, near the end of Thek's life, are featured at the Whitney, so take note. Hujar's intimate portraits of Thek at work on his "Tomb Figure/Death of a Hippie" (which is ALSO not on view at the Whitney b/c it was destroyed in storage back in '81) plus ephemera from the artist's studio, further fill in the blanks to the iconoclast's oeuvre.
* Matt Connors "You Don't Know" @ Canada / 55 Chrystie St. Connors magnifies idle scribblings into a sort of dynamic lexicon, obliterates color w/ semitranslucent white paint and/or soaks the paint into raw canvas like Kool-Aid stains, in this pretty dope solo show. His experimentation rewards us w/ a unique style of abstraction in an ever-morphing field of abstract artists, a series never as obviously massive as the Abstract Expressionists but not so precisely tiny as his contemporaries Tomma Abts or JJ Peet. The roughly equal assortment of scribbles, erasings and infused-color works are offset by several digital C-prints, two of which sit unadorned, rolled up and precarious on the gallery's uneven floors, in two seemingly solid, vegetal colors.
* "Plain Air", curated by Brian Willmont @ Cinders Gallery / 103 Havermeyer St, Williamsburg. The artist collective/printmaking contingent Apenest co-presents this riff on the landscape in personal space, ranging from the a/typically figurative to the highly abstract. Mark Chariker's work, which at first looked to me like the night sky as shown through the hole of a crystal, is this visual smear of ships, trains or many-windowed skyscrapers racing towards the center of frame (which still looks to me like a night sky). John Copeland contributes one of the most figurative works here, a work on paper of all things, but it's probably the scariest, a surreally nightmarish narrative of bald, black-cloaked twins advancing on an artist table and disjointed festival/carnival imagery (pennant flags, a child's party game, balloons, a dog) floating in the background. Hilary Pecis' duo of fragile collaged landscapes (cut-up luxury ads etc) are like brutal Max Ernst renderings, and Zac Scheinbaum's highly detailed psychedelic-vegetation worlds, rendered in contrasty graphite, float against a void. And that's just part of the 18 artists showing here.
* Albert Watson @ Hasted Hunt Krauetler / 537 W 24th St. Wow, this is a really sexy show. A look back at the iconic photographer's jarring oeuvre, from Alfred Hitchcock clutching a skinned chicken to this phantasmagoric triptych of jellyfish hovering behind Plexiglas. The disarming "Monkey with Gun, New York City", probably the 1st thing you see when you walk into the gallery, is uncompromisingly sinister and not what I mean by 'sexy' (nor "Hornet #1-3, Car Graveyard, Las Vegas", though this one's pretty dope). I'm referring to the large C-print "Anouk Dirske, New York City", actually a cropped close-up of her stomach and hands crossed over her pubis, bathed in contrasty shadows, and to "Monica Gripman, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands", or really any of the very beautiful women transfixed in his lens.
* 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. I certainly can't deny the beauty of "Roland", w/ its gold-green 'sun-rays' stretching across a clouded sky in the same hues, inside a deep violet curtaining element, w/ lovely jeweled baubles floating across the expanse. And "Beppe", w/ its Lucky Charms shapes (the first thing I thought of) descending from like an unseen blue-rayed UFO, cloaked in orange and fuzz-gray clouds.
* Bo Bartlett "Paintings of Home" @ PPOW / 511 W 25th St #301. Leave it to me to occasionally wildly misconstrue a work of art. Case in point: Bartlett's super-large-scale "Home", the central oil on linen work in his latest exhibition at the gallery. I'm not that familiar w/ this Americana artist (this is his 10th show w/ the gallery), and I took detected a bit of deviance in this rendering of a woman standing in central frame in front of an old house, w/ a dude crawling on all fours away from her, a baby in the other corner. No, silly, this is Bartlett's life condensed into a single painting, depicted in the backyard of his childhood home in Columbus, Georgia (the crawling figure is Bartlett as a boy, playing around, and the woman is his WIFE). Lesson: reading the gallery PR materials can be a good thing, esp. if you're not up on the artist. But also true: there's a disarming quality to the works here, perhaps that's due to the unflashy subject matter and classical style, but they're beautiful. Size works to advantage, like the also massive square canvas "School of the Americas", four girls lying in daydreaming slumber amid hay, and "Land of Plenty", which seems both country and on a film set (so what is real?). Bartlett also includes smaller portraits on wood panel of early 20th C. figures w/ accompanying texts, like "Ma Rainey, Queen of the Blues (Kianga Ellis)", w/ contemporary figures in the sittings (Ellis leads Avail Art, for instance). It just may move you, too.
* Tara McPherson "The Bunny in the Moon" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St 9th Fl. Exceedingly stunning new paintings by McPherson, w/ her characteristic lunar-tinged figures now practically radiating blood-warmth in their quests for love. The artist's technique is masterful: her use of transparency and the sheen of skin is prominent here, and the related works on paper display her keen take on figuration, i.e. minimal use of lines = graphic, strong features.
+ Xiaoqing Ding "At the End of a Rainbow". Ding continues the drama in a series of new large-scale oils on paper, blurring Chinese folklore of supernatural foxes w/ Western fairytales. The result is some very pretty paintings, like "Daffodils Field" and its incredible depth (stick w/ that one over the sort of obvious, 'Wizard of Oz'-esque tituar piece). She augments the lot w/ four circular oils on panel, though by 'panel' I mean meticulously carved, ornamental wooden screens. A lovely duet w/ McPherson's show.
* Suzanne Caporael "The Memory Store" @ Ameringer McEnery Yohe / 525 W 22nd St. This new array of soft-edged polygons on linen reflect Caporael's cross-country travels and her own experiences w/ America's impenetrably abstract nature. Each work is named after a destination and the artist's notes about it hint to the origins of the work: "No. 617 (Clarksville, TN)" looks like violet stairs w/ a pink cast, at twilight. The reductive "No. 604 (Coopertown, NY)" looks to me like a multicolored pennant flag, from a ballgame or something, zooming out from a plane of flat gray.
* Yoan Capote "Mental States" @ Jack Shainman Gallery / 513 W 20th St. The Cuban artist's first experience of American culture, the subject of his first solo exhibition at the gallery, is both a longing and prickly affair — though "prickly" only half conveys the intrinsic harm in his massive canvases of cake batter-like paint and rusted fish hooks and nails, emulating choppy waves extending out to nowhere and to aerial views of stateside metropolis. That the fish hooks carry b/w the ocean scenes (Capote's childhood memories) and the current-day city-views is something to consider. Another: a suite containing a propped sculpture of bricks and cement in a plywood frame (entitled "The Window" but appearing as a flag) and a lightbox diptych of that brick flag in a wall and bored out, revealing the sea behind. I got a Magritte vibe from this duality (is it here or is it not? what is reality?) and also an acute sense of Capote's feelings, to an extent. See, this prison-like American flag v. the freedom of the ocean and sky asks more questions: where does the dream truly go?
* Claudio Bravo @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. The ground floor gallery features Bravo's latest large oil-on-canvas works of wrinkled fabric, twined tight against unseen rectangular forms (like the backside of canvases) or crumpled in midair like ruffled sheets. The effect is both an interventionist take on hardedge (or color-plane) abstraction and eye-test (a la Tauba Auerbach's "wrinkle" paintings) in more ways than one. While the lot are brilliantly conceived, there's a bunch of 'em, and the overall effect is fairly samesies (not that this is a knock to Bravo: in fact, his level of quality, same or otherwise, spanning these photorealist works is commendable), so our eyes seek the less apparent. The twine, for instance, how the knots occupy their space on the painting, how the string is placed, and how realistic that, too, appears. And just to really muck w/ us, he incl. a like 12-panel spectrum of crinkly paper paintings, each lovingly unique.
* Kyoung Tack Hong "Pens" @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. Oh there are pens here, set off by the ginormous, wall-spanning, four-panel feat, like a butterfly-filled garden only swap the colorful blooms for pens. But Hong's thing is meticulous photorealism, emphasis on meticulous, high-detail, beyond high-detail. This exhibition is a mini glimpse at the Korean realist's oeuvre, incl. a psychedelic rendering of Prince, surrounded by hot-pink 3D letters F-U-C-K shooting off into the canvas' corners (part of a celebrity series, in fact! He did another w/ a celeb face in a a blanket of trippy test-patterns feat. Park Chan-Wook, amid others). But the pens, specifically that four-panel one, you could lose yourself in them.
* Carlos Amorales "Aftermath" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. Amorales' take on Mexico City's massive 1985 earthquake is a deceptively simple, yet intrinsically visceral, one: a series of graphite wall drawings incorporating zigzagging rulers, their numbers and measurements jumbled, the linework reflecting a series of aftershocks from the 'quake.
* Suzan Frecon @ David Zwirner Gallery / 525 W 19th St. A refreshing, subtle knockout, in a veritable sea of new art. Frecon's contemplative abstract oils w/ their reductive palettes and soft geometric shapes, recalling sunsets over desert landscapes, may sound like a lulling experience…at least on paper. Live, it's not the case AT ALL: these works, incl. the dual-panel massive oil on linens, electrify w/ form and depth. This sapphire blue she uses throughout glistens from a gentle luster to a haute jeweled pool, which amid the earthy reds and oranges is an enlivening splash in the face (for visual reference, think of the hidden cove scene in Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Red Desert", after like 75 minutes of industrial murk and hazard hues). One of my favorites this season, w/o a doubt.
* Gregory Crewdson "Sanctuary" @ Gagosian / 980 Madison Ave. The immediately compelling thing about Crewdson's new b&w photography series, his first outside the U.S. and centered on the empty Cinecitta studios in Rome, is how painterly they look. Amid the half-composed scaffoldings, wide-open doorways proclaiming the foggy mid-distance, and the (ahem) Roman columns, the light is even and matte, to the end effect that these only marginally resemble photographs, though Crewdson only minimally retouched them. Rather, they're imagined renderings of a mythical film studio, transfixed in history.
+ Dike Blair. Perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not, Gagosian has achieved a double tromp l'oeil effect w/ its pairing Crewdson's flat, painterly b&w photography w/ Blair's typically beguiling mix of sculpture and paintings. The best of this lot are Blair's painted crates, coming off more like "coffins", w/ actual paintings affixed to several of its planar surfaces.
* Roy Lichtenstein "Reflections" @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash / 534 W 26th St. In the wave of Lichtenstein-related exhibitions (the massive still-lifes show at Gagosian this past summer, the b&w drawings show opening at the Morgan Library and Museum), this tightly edited, intriguing look at his underlying (self) referentiality and forays into abstraction is very smart. Some of my favorites, like "Reflections on Sure!?" act like Lichtenstein-style mirrors, pointed at earlier works but obliterating them in angular planes of Ben Day dots and flat color. The "Wimpy" series is particularly effective here, a trio of wildly abstracted symphonies of dots and crosshatchings w/ the original 1961 "Wimpy (Tweet)" accompanying for reference. That Lichtenstein chose to pump up the color in these later renditions to even more strict primaries is incredibly persuasive.
* Dan Flavin @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 534 W 21st St. Brilliant (no pun): after David Zwirner's fantastic Flavin installation last November, plus the year-long reopening of X Space and the stairwell Flavin there, the naysayer may preclude that the city is "tired" of this fluorescent alchemist. No way. The gallery hosts four of Flavin's early works, including a stunning, transcendent pink and yellow "corridor" from 1972-5.
* Cordy Ryman @ DCKT Contemporary / 195 Bowery. Ryman's brand of bold "mixed media" works is of the muscular sort, drenched in Gorilla Glue (adding its own waxy pigment and physicality to the art), w/ protruding blocks like thumb-sized spikes, and textural elements like velcro and painted styrofoam. His color palette remains firmly w/in caution-brights, w/ psychedelic forays only when the medium is spraypaint, but Ryman's blues are as seductive and multilayered as his father's famously investigative white. Another father-son shared element I noticed is the care and attention to the mountings, as this Ryman's wall art becomes reliefs and even free-standing sculpture.
* 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.
* Joan Snyder "A Year in the Painting Life" @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. Gorgeous, blossom- (and herb-, and silk-) infused abstract paintings, like plunging into a rose garden and rolling around. The triptych "Summer Fugue" is a brilliant opener, a pondlike visage at day and dusk, bookending a sunstreaked vertical panel abloom w/ reds, oranges and blues. The stunner, mural-sized "Oh April" in the back is, quite honestly, the closest I've seen for a modern artist articulating Claude Monet's watery ecstasy on ginormous scale (and that's not knocking Joan Mitchell nor Cy Twombly, but there is a brilliant immediacy to Synder's field here). I'll admit, this is a "pretty" lot (a few of them bear glass beads and glitter amid the other media) but pretty is just fine. We need pretty sometimes.
* Dieter Roth & Bjorn Roth "Work Tables & Tischmatten" @ Hauser & Wirth / 32 E 69th St. A first-time exhibition of the senior Roth's studio cardboards, vivid visual diaries of the artist's work process, intermixed w/ notes and scribbles from daily interventions. These are complemented by several actual work tables from Roth's studio, working ephemera and all, preserved by his artist son, Bjorn.
* David Shrigley @ Anton Kern Gallery / 532 W 20th St. Shrigley's new show is as wordy and tongue-in-cheek as before (we're greeted by a painted-letter flag declaiming the situation before we even enter the gallery), w/ a row of huge, crudely formed ceramic boots (think "The Simpsons" footwear) and tinier bronzes protruding from the walls and floor (don't trip over "IT" as you walk indoors). My delight came from his ink works on paper, lining the gallery, everything from irony ("Welcome to Hell", says a beautiful, smeared color mountainous landscape) to non sequitor humor (a vaguely shaped animal w/ the words beneath it: "I'm a mammal. My mother was a mammal. My father also"), to some intriguing displays of death and fragile emotion: one, a frowning nude poses, and we see it from POV of the artist, and the rendering has the nude smiling. The title: "I have made you happy." Another even simpler, perhaps not even deliberate, example, is the text only: "I DID IT ALL [scratched out word] FOR YOU"