* Pat Steir "The Nearly Endless Line" @ Sue Scott Gallery / 1 Rivington St. A site-specific wall drawing installation from the NY-based Steir, whose investigations into abstraction and Chinese-style flung ink painting dates back to the late '80s.
* David Armstrong "Mad About the Boy" @ Half Gallery / 208 Forsyth St. Emma Reeves curated this look back at the NY-based photographer's sharp-focus portraits of men, lovers or friends.
* "Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour" signing @ Clic Gallery / 255 Centre St (6/NQ/Z to Canal St), 6-8p. A dynamic biography, recounted conversation-style by the seminal photographer's closest friends and celebrity/fashion subjects, courses throughout rare personal and archival photography, plus some of Ritts' most famous art- and fashion-prints. Join Charles Churchward, my mentor and the author of this handsome Ritts book, at the first NY signing.
* "Ne Change Rien" (dir. Pedro Costa, 2009) screenings at Anthology Film Archives / 32 2nd St (F to 2nd Ave). YES!!!!!! I fell in love with this incredible auteurist Portuguese director courtesy of his Anthology-housed retrospective back in '07. His latest film, which played at the 2009 NYFF (and which I sadly expected to NEVER see a proper theatrical run in NY thereafter) receives proper treatment here, for a limited time! Costa moves beyond Lisbon (specifically the Fontainhas ghetto, the backdrop and nearly secondary character in his films "Ossos", "In Vanda's Room" and "Colossal Youth") to focus on chanteuse Jeanne Balibar, from the recording studio to the stage. Costa's subtle filming and sumptuous framing figures throughout this genius feature. Through NOV 16
* Robert Irwin "Way Out West" @ The Pace Gallery / 32 E 57th St. The gallery's 14th solo exhibition of the pioneering Light and Space artist, whose restrained, naturalistic style (despite last year's "Red Drawing, White Drawing, Black Painting", that didn't hit me as hard as his powerful take on Barnett Newman back in late '06) is incredibly engaging. His sound installation in the garden of DIA:Beacon, for instance, continues to enchant. The new show, centered on the dynamism of light's perceptual qualities, should be dope.
* Bruce Nauman "For Children/For Beginners" @ Sperone Westwater / 257 Bowery. New A/V works from the renowned Conceptualist, furthering his incorporation of voice and the body in his work. The fact we have new Nauman AND new Irwin (at Pace Gallery midtown) occurring simultaneously is indeed auspicious.
* Avner Ben-Gal "Smackville" @ Bortolami / 520 W 20th St. Think about that title for a minute: this second solo show from the Tel Aviv-based artist, over two series of works on paper and paintings, are replete w/ opiate imagery, from craving to withdrawal to rehabilitation.
* "Double Tide" (dir. Sharon Lockhart, 2009) @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 7:30p (+ Q&A w/ Lockhart & Casad). Lockhart's style of discreet filmmaking, focused on human labor and their immediate environment, is as meditative as it is compelling, even gripping. Her installation at Gladstone Gallery last year, "Lunch Break", about Maine shipyard workers and centered around a one-shot, slo-mo take down an industrial corridor, of the men at rest, was visually arresting. Her new film, a single portrait of Jen Casad, digging for clams in Seal Cove, Maine, toiling amid the beautiful landscape, may sound far from 'action-packed', but that's never the reason to see a Lockhart film. Her work is so restrained that it invites us into the subject's unique world. Also FRI (7p), SAT (1:30p), SUN (6p)
* Naked Hearts @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (FM/JZ to Delancey), 8p/$8. Amy & Noah pack a LOT of '90s alt-rock energy into their two-piece local act Naked Hearts. I dig 'em. w/ Lovers
* Sara Greenberger Rafferty "Double Issue" artist book launch @ Rachel Uffner Gallery / 47 Orchard St, 6-8p. Scope Rafferty's new artist-edition release and the current gallery show, Roger White's beguiling objet-abstracts.
* "Every Man For Himself" (dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1980) @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). Over a decade after Nouvelle Vague, JLG did another sexy, cerebral film that, full disclosure, I haven't seen! Young Isabelle Huppert! Cigar-chomping Jacques Dutronc! Charles Bukowski quotations! Bien sur!
* "I Can't Sleep" (dir. Claire Denis, 1994) screenings @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 7/9:20p. I really love this noirish Parisian urban drama: my impetus to see it was due to lead Yekaterina Golubeva (film buffs will know her as 1/2 the 'stars' of Bruno Dumont's notorious "Twentynine Palms"). Having seen it, I wholeheartedly recommend: it's a surreal trip, due in part to the language barriers (Golubeva plays a Lithuanian girl in the film).
* "Three Outlaw Samurai" (dir. Hideo Gosha, 1964) screening @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 6:45p/FREE. I am thrilled Asia Society is hosting this mini-fest of free screenings of wacked-out '60s Japanese films. I mean, they led w/ Nagisa Oshima's "Pleasures of the Flesh" last week! This time we've got the wisecracking ronin unwillingly thrust into a tussle b/w the kindly peasantfolk and the evil magistrate!
* "Skyline" (dirs. Colin & Greg Strause, 2010) screenings in wide release. The little I've seen about this alien invasion sci-fi (the trailer, the posters), of people getting sucked up tractor-beam style into mega spacecraft, have me enamored. (yes, even the extended shot of Eric Balfour moaning and groaning won't dissuade me)
* Heliotropes + Weird Owl @ The Charleston / 174 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p. Heavy one tonight: the volatile combo of local stoner-pop girls Heliotropes and local psych-twang boys Weird Owl is hot stuff. Now match 'em w/ WV's Pat Pat (check their album "Wizard of This" on bandcamp.com) and you're got an unmissable one.
* Invisible Days @ Don Pedro / 90 Manhattan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Grand), 8p. Formerly Beloved Rouge, but whatever you call this NY band, they play a hot, enveloping shoegaze (track "Daysleeping" is on constant rotation at my place) out of Swervedriver territory, so I call 'em 'essential'.
* Blank Dogs (album release) @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8:30p/$10. If it weren't for the airtight Charleston lineup (see above), I'd be here, sweating it out in foggy Glasslands to lo-fi master(s) Blank Dogs' new album, containing only the best bits of the '80s, filtered through a contemporary haze. w/ Velvet Davenport + Dead Gaze
* "Trouble Every Day" (dir. Claire Denis, 2001) screenings @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 4:15/8:10p. Normally I wouldn't recommend ANYTHING that stars Vincent Gallo, esp. as a lead, but this harrowing, New French Extremity release from Denis, is worthy of mention. But don't expect "modern day vampire film" to eschew from its frenzied, feral violence, mainly from co-lead Béatrice Dalle.
* Zero Film Festival opening night w/ Asobi Seksu + Oberhofer @ Nutroaster Studios / 119 Ingraham St, Bushwick (L to Morgan), 7p/$12. The kickoff of this authentically independent film festival is a double-hit of dopeness, beginning w/ curated short films in two blocks and followed by "visually enhanced" live performances by caffeinated young hotties Oberhofer (who played like 2 doz. CMJ shows) and dream-poppers Asobi Seksu. Hot!! Note: I bemoan the lack of screenings of post-film festival features, international gems and super-indie works that never see the light of day here. This is triple the case at ZFF, so don't miss out.
* Sweet Bulbs (album release party) + Magic Kids @ Silent Barn / 915 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood (L to Halsey, M to Myrtle/Wyckoff), 8p/$10. I've fallen hard for local lovelies Sweet Bulbs: the boys kicking up a furious maelstrom of buzzing guitars and trundling percussion, and vocalist Inna stands in the eye of this hurricane, delivering her honeyed, deadpan lyrics. Sweet indeed, essential too. Magic Kids play several dates in NY (straight off Fun Fun Fest in Austin TX), but this is their best night.
* Velvet Davenport + Big Troubles @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Williamsburg (L to Grand), 8p. I think I first heard of Minnesota psych-rockers Velvet Davenport off a split they did w/ New Order underwater-ish Gary War entitled "Surfer Girl". They're in town a bit, w/ Blank Dogs on FRI and this great show w/ local fuzz-rockers Big Troubles tonight.
* Open Ocean @ Zebulon / 258 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 9p. Attend an Open Ocean show and you're guaranteed a twilit, glamorous night by the NY quartet, w/ strains of shoegaze and the rock edge of trip-hop in their layered compositions. w/ Anita Fix & the Ecstatic Gestures
* "Sanjuro" (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1962) screenings @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins, C to Lafayette), 4:30/6:50/9:15p. The inspired sequel to "Yojimbo", w/ Toshiro Mifune reprising his role of reluctant badass, heading a group of way less badass (but still enthusiastic) young samurai, to take out all the bad guys.
* "35 Shots of Rum" (dir. Claire Denis, 2008) screenings @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 4:35/6:30/8:25/10:20p. Denis took inspiration from Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring" in this dynamic, introspective film set in Parisian suburbs. If the cannibal/vampire film "Trouble Every Day" left you know, this NYFF/Venice Film Festival winner will warm back up.
* "Inception" (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010) screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 5:30p. What, you mean you HAVEN'T seen this mind-melting dream-w/in-a-dream-w/in-a-dream film, which features such memorable imagery as nattily dressed young gentlemen duking it out in a rotating, elevator-lined corridor? w/ Leo DiCaprio in one of his most believable roles (sorry "Shutter Island"), let alone Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and a random (but welcome) Michael Caine cameo? Get to it!!
* Jen Liu + Maria Chavez "Fugue State" @ On Stellar Rays / 133 Orchard St, 7p. The 1st in a series of collaborative performances by artist Liu (who is co-exhibiting w/ Brody Condon in the gallery) on laptop/projector and experimental musician Chavez on her custom treated-turntables, in a semi-improv narrative show.
* Crystal Stilts @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/FREE. This Local x Local show features the woozy, glamorous stylings of Crystal Stilts. And for the naysayers calling this a Velvet Underground carbon copy: check shimmery new single "Shake the Shackles" and get back to me on that.
* Grinderman @ Nokia Theatre / 1515 Broadway (ACE/NQR/123 to Times Square), 7p/$37.50. Why would I EVER recommend you to Times Square, for a prohibitively pricey show at a mainstream-y venue whose name is now…Best Buy Theatre? (I think??) Because of Nick Cave and Grinderman, of course, the sexy, depraved, ballsy rockin' quartet whose latest release (surely you've seen the demonic "Heathen Child" teasers, right?) is too good & weird to ignore.
* Suuns @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$10. Do Suuns do Clinic better than Clinic? Rhetorical question. These guys play a jittery, creepy live set, w/ snarling guitars, relentless rhythm and Ben Shemie's whispery, paranoia-infused vocals. w/ BELL
* Zero Film Festival presents "Lostal ~ Lostat" (dir. Shigeo Arikawa, 2010) @ Invisible Dog Art Center / 51 Bergen St, Cobble Hill (F/G to Bergen St), 8:30p. The meditative full-length feature debut from the young Tokyo-based director. Electric Wolf follow Arikawa's screening w/ a live psych-jam.
* Maria Chavez w/ Walter Carson & Brian Osborne (Heat Retention Records) @ Silent Barn / 915 Wyckoff Ave, Ridgewood (L to Halsey, M to Myrtle/Wyckoff), 8p/$10. NICE: Chavez's tortured turntable experiments vs. the searing noise assault from Carson & Osborne, the 1st of several local-ish shows for the duo (check back on next week's LIST). w/ Daniel Moore & High School Confidential
* Darmstadt's 6th Anniversary "In C" @ (le) poisson rouge / 158 Bleecker St (6 to Bleecker, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 7p/$20 ($15/advance). The sixth installment of Terry Riley's '64 mellifluous experimental work is as gorgeous and subtle as it is mind-alteringly intense. Darmstadt's interpretation always feat. a rock-drummer's pulse to guide the expansive ensemble, and this year's has Jonathan Kane (formerly of Swans and La Monte Young collaborator) behind the set. Also feat. Zach Layton (bass), Ha-Yang Kim (cello), Ben Neil (trumpet), Lesley Flanigan and Nick Hallett (voice) and many, many others, in an incredible, polyphonic performance.
* Hiroshi Sugimoto "The Day After" @ The Pace Gallery / 545 W 22nd St. In this ineffable experimental photographer's debut solo show at Pace, he includes two 50-ft photographic polyptychs from his "Lightning Field" series, plus related single prints and even a reconstituted Tesla coil, which releases a crackling violet shock every five minutes (that's what Sugimoto-san told me anyway, when I had the pleasure w/ speaking to the artist at his opening reception). So we're thinking electrical storms. What I feel, though, is being deep underwater, safe from the obscene pressure of the depths but in some great undiscovered trench, populated by those deep-sea denizens that use bioluminescence to attract prey and see down in the abyss. Sugimoto worked electrical discharges across unexposed film in the darkroom to create such marvels as "Lightning Fields 177" (could be spacecraft) and the watery "Lightning Fields 168", expelling hot gassy haze and tendrils of light into…nothingness. That's the thing w/ many of these works, incl. the 1st polyptych in the front gallery: the unexposed film is a perfect black, or as close as perfect comes, permitting the flashes and charges of light, like dendrites or cell creation, to float against the surface. The back polyptych, however, while subtler overall, is alive w/ shadow and textures, like briefly illuminated glimpses of a never-before-see seabed, fabric-like, even, roiling and rolling across the prints. There are benches in this room for a reason: I suggest you sit down and take it all in.
* Larry Poons "Radical Surface 1985-1989" @ Loretta Howard Gallery / 525 W 26th St. If I had named it, I'd call this show "Gnarly Surface". It inaugurates Howard's larger exhibition space in a big way. Dig Anselm Reyle's trashy-surface high-relief paintings? Ditch the mutant, new-car colors for opalescence and pearly grays, melted ice-cream, and you've got Poons, the master — and that's just describing the COLOR. The stuff underneath these layers of encrusted, mudslide paint resembles everything from weathered, prehistoric rock to those foam egg-crate sheets used in hospitals. Less jewel-toned than his earlier guano-like canvases, this is pure surface intense and truly radical.
* Anthony Caro "Upright Sculptures" @ Mitchell-Innes & Nash / 534 W 26th St. Caro just may be the leading force in divergent sculptural alchemy today, blending weathered, rusted steel and wood (here luxuriously chunky railroad ties) like they were always meant for one another, star-crossed. These tall forms were assembled from various found materials w/ extra emphasis on texture, the woodgrain gorgeous and pronounced, the patina REALLY patina'ed. Each embody a powerful nostalgia, again like these forms were meant to pair up, like they were once some operating steampunk creation, transfixed for eternity now in these metaphysical poses. And speaking of textures, the disarming "Up Landscape", while entirely painted steel, looks curiously soft — my first thought was Urs Fischer's painted aluminum "drooping sculptures", but Caro's is more abstract and physical.
* Erwin Wurm "gulp" @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. Somebody had fun with body-stockings! That someone is the Viennese trickster Wurm, and his idiosyncratic, physical sculpture is in full effect at this gallery, in a set of contorted aluminum sorta-figurative forms either content w/ or struggling against their brightly colored fabric-y bindings. He tempers these w/ fabric pulled over canvas, like the brilliant blue "Mental States", which is some pretty great party lettering for being cut-fabric. Another work is called "Me Under LSD", which features a powdery, acid-yellow brain-cloud over an aluminum limb. Stare at that one long enough, and Wurm's accompanying video "Tell", which features two hot young people having a philosophy discussion straight out of Richard Linklater's "Waking Life", to the point where their auto drives up a wall onto a roof like nothing out of the ordinary, will make TOTAL SENSE.
* Peggy Preheim "the end (final cut)" @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. Don't be afraid to get close to Preheim's works. If you've heard me (or so many other critics) speak of Preheim's unique take on drawing, well let me exhaust terms like "intimately scaled", "diminutive renderings" and the like now. In sum, she draws very very tiny and very very realistic, vintage photograph quality shrunk to 1x100th of its original size, roughly, hazy-edged but alarmingly vivid and clear. Preheim incorporates currency in her new series, turning "Blind Spot", a pair of girls in sun-dresses and floppy hats, w/ a nickel-sized blank in between them, like a really big hula-hoop. This is drawn in the dead center of a snowy white thick paper, nearly 35" long, so yes you do need to get VERY close. "Twister" features these girls again, or their younger sisters, clasping hands in front of a Mobius strip, an exercise in grayscale. "Hummingbird" combines a real U.S. 1$ bill, its backside augmented w/ circles from another currency and a graphite ear. "Snow White" is even more effective: a truncated U.S. 20$ bill in the bottom left corner, an aloft eagle (w/ deftly rendered feathers) way up and center. That's it, but the vibe is so distinct.
+ Tomas Saraceno "Cloud Cities Connectome". Saraceno is working in a way finer scale w/ his weather-minded installations, outfitting the titular gallery-filling work w/ nylon monofilament that is nearly invisible, and hence impossible to traverse the space and be "one with" the work. The comparatively bulky "Biosphere 06" in the front gallery, w/ its water-drip system and tillandsia plants inside, is enchanting.
* Youssef Nabil @ Yossi Milo Gallery / 525 W 25th St. Hand-colored gelatin silver prints recalling Egyptian movie posters and films of the '40s and '50s, which is just as mesmerizingly dope as it sounds in print. I quite liked the powdery, painterly nature of Nabil's coloration techniques, particularly in "Amani by window, Cairo", which I could stare at for days.
* Philip Pearlstein "Going Forward" @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. Pearlstein's grasp of physicality in his renderings of voluptuous models, crafting skin and shadow w/ equal care, has few equals in the contemporary art sphere (in my opinion), and the modern master has been honing this for decades. His new large oil on canvas works bear striking sensations of movement, from the strong diagonals of "Model With Speedboat and Kiddie Car Harness Racer" (Pearlstein's works are more detailed than ever) to the westward flow of everything in the backdrop to "Two Models with Weathervane Fox, Fish, Horse and Boat", leaving the two nudes in a calming moment of repose.
* Jenny Holzer "Retro" @ Skarstedt Gallery / 20 E 79th St. Beautiful classic pieces from Holzer's history, centered less on her famous LED screens and more on static text pieces, like the "Survival" series (benches, w/ text carved in indian red granite), "Living" series (benches w/ text carved in bethel white granite) and "Under a Rock" (really knockout gem mist black granite benches). Don't miss her enamel on metal text works from the early '80s, also from the "Living" series, like this gem: "After dark it's a relief to see a girl walking toward or behind you. Then you're much less likely to be assaulted." And this beauty: "When someone is breathing on you, you feel cool air pulled across your skin followed by moist warm air pushed in the opposite direction. This goes on at regular intervals and makes a perfect temperature." Truth.
* Anselm Kiefer "Next Year in Jerusalem" @ Gagosian / 555 W 24th St. How to explain this grueling, thoroughly enriching exhibition (Kiefer's first in NY in eight years) in accessible terms? Think of diving headfirst into an 'Alice in Wonderland' like domain, only its a scorched earth, replete w/ dwarfing glass and steel vitrines enclosing haunting arrangements of dead flora and tattered garments, expansive chilly landscapes rendered abstract in layers of emulsion, shellac and physical media, plus a bus-sized rusted steel chamber outfitted w/ bedsheet-sized burlap and lead panels, screenprinted and suspended on metal hooks. Now step back for a minute: Kiefer's latest is not an easy go, nor even easy to explain, as befits the run-on sentence before this. All his imagery of relics from post-WWII Germany (the steel chamber installation is "Occupations", 76 sheet-sized photographs recalling his seminal series from '69, one of his earliest), the Bible, Kabbalah, folklore, poetry and dreams are brought to a foaming head here — the many, many vitrines, about three dozen, encircle "Occupations" like strange trees; even the polyptych landscape renderings are set in glass and steel. One of the more bracing works, if I had to pick one, is "Sefiroth", a plaster-encased dress, shaped around an invisible figure and pierced porcupine-style by enormous shards of glass (like they're emanating from the fabric itself in an unseen explosion). And yet, and yet: as overwhelming as this may sound (another one, "Johannis-Nacht", bears a lead model-size airplane nearly consumed by resin-coated fern, on a cracked ground of clay, shellac and paint), it's not an impossible, claustrophobic trek. Stay awhile and the pieces begin to spread out, permitting sight-lines to the large landscapes ("Fitzcarraldo", a four-paneler, w/ fang-like synthetic teeth dotting the thorn bushes and resin-ferns, is a beauty) and moments of contemplation amid the vitrines. You need to devote a bit of time to this one, though, but the rewards are totally worth it.
* William Earl Kofmehl III "Dear Father Knickerbocker, i Just Googled You" @ Lombard-Freid Projects / 518 W 19th St. The gallery inaugurated its long-awaited new exhibition space w/ a powerful, challenging show from Kofmehl. The subject matter, a goldmine of historical references (both true and folklorish, even completely fictive) of NYC history, bears the indirect collaboration of Bernard Goetz — you know, the subway vigilante who, during a spike in crime in the '80s, shot four men on a train and had a "Law & Order" episode based on his infamous legacy. Not easy subject matter, hence. But Kofmehl approaches it in two ways, Goetz's squirrel husbandry (seen in a video w/ the artist and Goetz amid squirrels on a park bench, in a life-size bronze of the artist on a bench, surrounded by shiny squirrel sculptures, and in "Trojan Squirrel", a behemoth of claimed wood which contained Kofmehl during the opening reception, delivering a mic-assisted spoken word performance) and the aforementioned bits of historical fact and tall-tales. You can google Goetz (like the exhibition title suggests) to find out more on him. Or take reference from Kofmehl's cache of handmade embroideries, ranging from a smallpox epidemic of 1658 to the 2003 blackout, w/ loads of maps, outdated subway imagery, sports, stats and squirrels throughout. Props to the gallery for beginning the new space w/ a big-thinking exhibition.
* Ugo Rondinone "nude" @ Gladstone Gallery / 530 W 21st St. A relatively spare and human-scaled exhibition from the trickster, which doesn't surprise me b/c I never know what to expect w/ Rondinone. From his ginormous comic heads in roughly composed clay to his rainbow HELL YES! signage for the New Museum's debut on the Bowery, he moves from extremes. This one features seven nude sculptures cast delicately from wax, seated against the gallery walls. The medium makes them both obviously manufactured yet closely realistic (the wax doesn't miss anything, from the wrinkles in the sole of a foot to the calming downward gaze).
* Luc Tuymans "Corporate" @ David Zwirner / 525 W 19th St. Tuymans' intentions should be clear in the show title, but his exhibition of new, sparsely colored, veiled paintings span the ages, from feudalism and colonial times to present-day corporate culture. "Speech" cuts most immediately for me, a blurred, suited figure bathed in spotlight on a bare stage, his hands could easily be grasping futilely…for an excuse, an answer, who knows. "Panel" does the same for me, only the perspective is dropped way back, w/ four seated figures blown out in lights on a stage, waves of darkness surrounding them. So while I most immediately ID w/ the contemporary scenarios, I mean look at the current economic climate!
* Adrian Piper "Past Time: Selected Works 1973-1995" @ Elizabeth Dee / 548 W 22nd St. Some of Piper's most political, combustive works, and this is coming from a brilliant artist astute at 'getting to' the viewer, latching onto our thoughts, preempting them, and leaving us w/ a LOT to mull over. "It's Just Art" (1980) will do it: a news broadcast interlaid w/ Piper, in sunglasses and looking fierce, mouthing wordlessly, plus newsprints feat. her thought-bubbles in related dialogue/response. "Ashes to Ashes" (1995) is an intensely personal one, family photos and text reflecting her parents' death, though I liked the balance here w/ "I Am Somebody. The Body of My Friends" (1992-5), 18 photographs of Piper w/ said friends. And a treat here, and (at least on surface-level) lighter in subject matter, is "The Big Four-Oh" (1988), a rare installation work from Piper, involving a deconstructed suit of armor, 40 hardballs, and her diary, plus a looping video of the artist dancing (back to the camera) effortlessly to '80s music. Don't miss it.
* Nicky Nodjoumi "Invitation to Change Your Metaphor" @ Priska C. Juschka 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. Grappling w/ my informal art history knowledge, I'd apply Nodjourmi's style to Neue Sachlichkeit, as modernized for the Middle East. His vivid works, combinations of of high-realism figures and biting caricature, look almost like collage or screenprints but are fully rendered in oils. Bearded clerics, besuited figures, veiled women and nudes interact w/ beasts and half-humans on molten, toxic backdrops. The titular work contains a bullet-riddled, burning automobile astride a greatly enlarged beheading, bracketed on either side by suits limply holding a water hose. A third suit (perhaps the soul of the beheaded, or the car victim?) floats in the sky above. That's one canvas. In fact, perhaps the quietest work in Nodjourmi's show is the unmistakably titled "Bloody Ayatolla", a fuzzy portrait of Ali Khamenei that, devoid of other imagery or visible background, almost looks like a Luc Tuymans. In that sense, we can't escape it. A very powerful exhibition.
* Miranda Lichtenstein @ Elizabeth Dee / 545 W 20th St. Photography-as-art that forces you to look twice, three times, to discern the subject and action may not be proprietary to Lichtenstein, but she absolutely has a gift for exploring several divergent perception-disrupting techniques, to great effect. Her "Screen Shadow" works, archival pigment prints all, carry this vivid dynamism w/ their moire patterns, bending and shifting their points of reference. The softer C-prints of still lifes against their reflections are sublime additions.
* Sherrie Levine @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 534 W 21st St. Experiencing Levine's work in person is crucial to drawing out the emotional impact from the subtleties of her oeuvre. Her large installation "Equivalents", two sets of 18 same-size monochrome paintings based on Alfred Stieglitz's same-titled cloud photo series from the late '20s, is an intriguing sequence of blues and grays seeping into their maple panels, exposing the woodgrain beneath, lining the gallery walls and meeting in the center. Likewise her bronze sculpture, w/ mythological references this time: check the wild texture of "Khmer Torso", reflecting the original's stone cast, and the mirrored shininess of "Les Deux Chevre-Pieds", which could once have been smooth marble. Levine reappropriates and recontextualizes, but she is careful to reveal nuances from the former works.
* Tony Smith "Bronze" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 523 W 24th St. A treasure trove of Smith's classic small bronze sculptures (finished in signature black), nearly off of which ultimately turned into later monolithic works. Of course I gravitated immediately to "Wall", a sliver of rectangular prism that, if turned on its side, would resemble a sinister (if diminutive) monolith. The adjacent "Trap" next to it, a snaking diamond-prism letter 'e' flipped backwards, is equally impressive. And that's not to forget the kinetic abstraction of "Source" and "The Snake is Out" (love the titles), plus the little evil-droid array cunningly titled "Smog".
* John Currin @ Gagosian / 980 Madion Ave. This notion of Currin's luscious Old Masters style oil paintings of fleshy and at times warped and perverted feminine forms not being everybody's cup of tea, well you didn't hear that from me. I still don't have a 100% solid opinion of him, except that he excels at what he does. I mean, you take a banally titled "The Scream", which look like practically anything, gorgeous even, or scandalous, considering Currin's trove of models, and what does he do w/ it? How about a smallish scale painting of a leering blond, her mouth locked open in rictus, like she's suffering an episode of acute Bell's palsy? Another painting is titled "Big Hands", and brother the model in that rendering has, as you might expect, some big hands! And yet…Currin turns it around in such lovelies as "Mademoiselle" (expertly rendering skin in see-through fabric), "Flora" (creative use of empty space and sweetly posed girl), and "The Reader", a sensual pairing of nude flesh and reflection. This crazy mixture, evident in all Currin shows and sometimes in single, larger works themselves, is why I can't totally make up my mind on him.
* William N. Copley "X-Rated" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 293 10th Ave. The gallery recreates Copley's infamous '74 installation at former Huntington Hartford Museum on Columbus Circle (can you believe it??) in a riot of libidinous physicality in large acrylics on linen. The overt 'pretty' stuff is few and far between, though that's obvious if you're attending a vintage Copley show, but they're overall accessible, and I found some quick favorites. Number one would be "The Happy Hooker" — of all titles, I swear — a gorgeous woman in half-undress, seemingly out of E.L. Kirschner's time (trust me on this). Also: "Maltese Falcon", for its framing. And note Copley's amusing signature placement, on thighs, ass, even a tube of lubricant ("Last Tango in Paris", obvs).
* Lucas Samaras "Poses" @ The Pace Gallery / 534 W 25th St. Samaras is having fun in this overwhelming exhibition of the artist's Photoshop-manipulated digital portraits of art world stars and posse, about 117 prints (out of like 400+) on display here. He doesn't go too bonkers (instances like "Pose 0253" of Raymond McGuire w/ its drippily psychedelic background and "Pose 0314" of Charles Renfro peeling a lemon-yellow face off his own face are few & far between), exhibiting debonair versions of Jasper Johns — looking every bit the wise, crafty patriarch — plus a gauzy Janet Boris ("Pose 0320") and two of her baby Theo. Also of note: "Pose 0152" of John Mason bears some of the baddest-ass eyeglass frames I've ever seen, and if you know me you know the kind I wear.
* Inaugural Show @ CRG Gallery / 548 W 22nd St. Viva new gallery spaces! It's almost a theme in this LIST (w/ Lombard-Freid's move to ground-floor space on W 19th and all), and the move suits CRG. The show is full of roster stars, incl. impasto-heavy canvases by Tom LaDuke (somehow incorporating a Jack Nicholson background; see it and tell me what you think), Tomory Dodge (it's called "Absolutely Curtains" and it channels Anselm Reyle's media-stripe paintings) and a particularly viscid one by Pia Fries, where the squeezed out paint acts almost like wet clay on the mostly bare wood. Also of note: minimalist assemblage by Colby Bird and Siobhan Liddell, plus Ori Gerscht's enchanting lambda print of cherry-blossoms in Tokyo's twilight.
* Damien Hirst "Medicine Cabinets" @ L&M Arts / 45 E 78th St. Its like the YBA stars aligned for this seminal trove of archival works from Hirst. Let me try to explain: the ground-floor gallery (of this charming multistory town home, bien sur) contains Hirst's "Sex Pistols" medicine cabinets from '89, each bearing a track title from "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistol", while the upper floor features a slew of Sex Pistols ephemera (framed LPs, torn T-shirts w/ paint, assumedly Hirst's, spattering the fabric) AND a four-part cabinet entitled "The Sex Pistols", but that one is from '96 and unrelated to the downstairs cabinets except in 1) name and 2) drugs. Are you following me?? I barely followed that myself.
* Marcel Broodthaers "Major Works" @ Michael Werner Gallery / 74 E 77th St. This career-spanning exhibition contains, as the title would convey, some of the Belgian artist's strongest (yet in instances very rarely seen) works. From his poetic text paintings and Surrealist imagery, to the mesmerizing late-period installation "Dites Partout Que Je L'ai Dit".
* "The Personal Dimension" @ Arario NY / 521 W 25th St. These four "X Generation" Chinese artists, born during the economic/modernity boom, will tweak your viewpoint on contemporary Chinese art via their depoliticized, fiercely personal works. Gao Lei's voyeuristic, surrealist hyperreal paintings and installations reflect a strong notion of Big Brother surveillance w/o reducing it to cliched Red Army theatrics that occurred in the generation before him. Instead, we get chained and truncated animal combinations in white-tiled rooms, and WE are the ones peering in at their distress. Jia Aili's reductive canvases are far more opaque and devoid of his recurring narrative themes, but the inclusion of Jia's canvas-strewn bookshelf/workspace hints at his methodology. Li Qing's depictions of violence against countrymen and actual/emotional captivity are channeled by bright orange ping-pong balls, of all things, stuck to heavily impastoed "firing squad" silhouettes or inside a Plexiglas-enclosed table-tennis chamber. The WAZA Group collective features one installation, "30 Floating Musicians", devoting a stand, speaker and info card for each absent, traditional musician, amplifying their compositions to a much wider audience.
* Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mayumi Terada @ Robert Miller Gallery / 524 W 26th St. I dove into this three-artist show like one would a serving of Neapolitan ice cream, the striped chocolate-vanilla-strawberry kind, as I didn't immediately glean an underlying theme/tying element b/w the three. Case 1: the Basquiat selection (paintings, screenprints etc) are typically beautiful, particularly the large "Back of the Neck" (1982), a horizontal silkscreen on black w/ contrasty white musculature and shimmering gold accents. The Mapplethorpe center will either be your favorite or least, as it mainly consists of 13 b&w photographs from his graphic "X Portfolio" from '78 (which this gallery represented), shocking even Mapplethorpe in its imagery of fisting, golden showers, bondage and docking (or I guess you could call it "self-docking"? If anyone has the more appropriate word…). The found-object "The Perfect Moment", a pseudo-anti-Christian altar, was supposedly incredibly controversial when it first debuted (1970), but maybe I'm just jaded: it didn't do much for me. Terada's exhibition at the back gallery is stunning when you realize what she's doing: the large C-prints of empty rooms w/ frameless windows and overcast skies evolve from her austere dioramas and mini-sets, several of which are displayed in the show.
* 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?
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* "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.