Wednesday, December 1, 2010

fee's LIST (through 12/7)

A shout-out for my friend, photographer Santiago Felipe. His debut NYC photo exhibition is coming up very soon, DEC 16 at Vig 27 (check back for a LISTing). You may know the man, if you frequent DJ Jess' Trash! party and been photographed by a bearded, leather jacketed gent. Or if you come to the weekly "Meaner Harder Leather" burlesque show at Vig 27, where Felipe is resident paparazzo. I met him back when Tokyo Dolores was in town — Felipe shot the girls at Trash! and I was interpreter/poser. He has a Kickstarter campaign to help offset the costs/impending deadlines of his debut exhibition, so why not have a look and contribute? As I say: support dopeness.

* Darmstadt Essential Repertoire presents Luciano Berio "Sequenzas I-X" (1958-1984) @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (D/NR to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$10. Some of the best experimental programming of its kind, in this case revisiting classic compositions within the symphonic domain, led by composer-musicians Zach Layton and Nick Hallett. Each of the four nights is stacked with awesomeness (I find Thursday super-compelling). This third annual season begins w/ extended techniques from Berio's "Sequenzas" for solo instrument, feat. 10 NY-based musicians, ranging from Shelley Burgon on harp to James Austin Smith on oboe, to implement their virtuoso takes.

* "Shaken and Stirred" w/ Stormy Leather @ The Delancey / 168 Delancey St (F/JMZ to Delancey), 9p. Yes, my LIST will cover burlesque! This weekly show, hosted by DJ Jess (he of Friday's Trash! party), is particularly hot tonight due to the dangerously stunning Stormy Leather.

* Food Stamps @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/FREE. A shattered amalgam of indie buzzwords — lo-fi, electro, New Wave, goth — could be used to describe this young local duo Food Stamps, beginning a month of weekly residencies at Bruar Falls. But then lead single "Silence" (w/ its costume-y music video) works so very well. w/ McDonalds

* Peter Davis, Laura Larson, Cindy Workman "Sleight of Hand" @ Lennon, Weinberg Inc / 514 W 25th St. I wonder what Larson has been up to since completing her entrancing short film "Electric Girls and the Invisible World" (think Spanish fantasy-thriller style), the subject of a solo show at this gallery last year. Pairing her w/ Davis' razed and baked abstracts (he hasn't shown here in several years) against Workman's manipulated figurative paintings (like Wangechi Mutu crossed w/ Lisa Yuskavage, but way more pinup) should be interesting.

* "Sculpture: 12 Independent Visions" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. This gallery does sculpture well, w/ a roster of heavy-hitters. Expect a range from contemporary Frank Stella (fully in his psychedelic twisty forms stage) to classic George Rickey and Arnaldo Pomodoro to new Grisha Bruskin and epic Ursula Von Rydingsvard (which is reason enough for me to attend).

* "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (dir. Jalmari Helander, 2010) FREE PREVIEW @ reRun Theatre / 147 Front St, DUMBO (F to York St, AC to High St), 10p/FREE. I suggest queueing early for this one, the big winner at this year's Sitges Film Festival and one of the most original "holiday-themed" thrillers. You'll never think of elves the same way again.

* "Meaner Harder Leather" @ Vig 27 / 119 E 27th St (6 to 23rd St), 11:30p. Another necessary inclusion to my LIST (see The Delancey on WED) is this weekly burlesque extravaganza at lounge Vig 27. The headliners/curators/MCs are in the title, the fiercest Misty Meaner, the kinetic Go-Go Harder and the seductive Stormy Leather. Each week special guests share the stage w/ this tempestuous triumvirate, & this one is particularly dope: Calamity Chang, who rules "Spanking the LES" at Nurse Bettie, joins the party. Also: MHL stalwart Mocha Lite + "Catholic schoolgirl" Maddy Mann. Two snaps, in a Z formation.

* Darmstadt Essential Repertoire presents Karlheinz Stockhausen "Gesang der Junglinge" (1955-6), "Kontakte" (1958-60), "Mikrophonie" (1964-5) @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (D/NR to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$10. I am super-stoked about this, night two of Damstadt's third annual season of experimental programming. Connoisseurs of electronic music in its fullest form take note: these rare readings from Stockhausen (Holger Czukay of Can, composer Gilles Tremblay and the mighty La Monte Young are 3 of his many distinguished pupils), incl. "Mikrophonie" performed by Iktus Percussion Quartet (w/ Levy Lorenzo and Elad Schniderman on electronics), should make for an enchanting night.

* Carlos Giffoni + Northampton Wools @ (le) poisson rouge / 158 Bleecker St (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St, 6 to Bleecker St), 10p/$12. A night of fine contemporary experimental music forays, anchored by No Fun Fest curator Giffoni's harsh electronics and feat. prepared guitars by duo Thurston Moore & Bill Nace.

* Run DMT + Former Ghosts @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JZ to Marcy), 8:30p/$8. How deep are you willing to go? This dark, dancey night, w/ Former Ghosts (Freddy Rupert collaborating w/ Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart) plus local psych contingent Run DMT, will take you there and further. w/ Sun Araw

* Ikue Mori @ The Stone / 16 Ave C (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$10. The ever accomplished experimental electronics maestro performs selections from her new Tzadik release "Class Insecta".

* Warpaint @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/SOLD OUT! (I mean, try your luck?). Dreamy, multilayered and slightly creepy vocals are the linchpin of this LA quartet's dusty post-punk vibe.

* "Black Swan" (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010) in wide release. A significant problem I face when making my year-end Top Ten list, an exercise in cultural sadomasochism I'm telling you, is these late-entry, highly significant events. A film starring Natalie Portman AND Mila Kunis is reason enough to snare my full attention, but up the ante w/ Aronofsky at the helm of a chic visceral psychological horror film and you've got a winner (and possible Top Ten contender).

* "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" (dir. Jalmari Helander, 2010) @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). A sleeper hit at this year's Fantastic Fest, adored by the audience for its creepy, stirring warmth and richness. Imagine the Santa Claus fairytale, except the big guy kidnaps and mutilates children, v. the far North (i.e. Laplands, Finland) and an incredibly perceptive kid. Note: Fri/Sat 8:25p screenings incl Skype Q&A w/ Helander.

* Woman of the Dunes" (dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964) screenings @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). This riveting art-house classic begins Film Forum's essential Toru Takemitsu festival, named for the experimental Japanese composer, who flung bits of symphonic and Japanese classical instruments into shard-like arrangements to seduce, frighten and captivate the viewer. Teshigahara's surreal tale of a bug-collector trapped w/ a siren-like woman at the bottom of a sand pit is as erotic as it is enigmatic. Also SAT

* "Black Christmas" (dir. Bob Clark, 1974) midnight screening @ Sunshine Cinema / 143 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave). OK so it's not "Silent Night Deadly Night", but this pioneering holiday-time slasher flick is just over-the-top enough to work. Quoting the ads: "if this movie doesn't make your skin crawl…it's on too tight!" ALSO SAT

* Darmstadt Essential Repertoire presents John Cage "Concert for Piano and Orchestra" (1958), Christian Wolff "For 1, 2, or 3 People" (1964), Peter Kotik "Kontrabandt" (1967) @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (D/NR to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$10. The orchestra of S.E.M. Ensemble (w/ Petr Kotik as director) take on Cage and Wolff's aleatory procedures and graphic notation.

* Dream Diary + Eternal Summers + Grooms @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Williamsburg (L to Grand), 8p/. Kanine Records' "Wear Your Favorite '90s-style Christmas Sweater Holiday Party" is a roundabout way of saying don't be afraid to geek out to a stacked lineup of indie-rock, some of which veers sharply into the pop realm. Which is no less roundabout, but very dope.

* Super Vacations + Big Troubles + The Surprisers @ Death By Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$7. Virginia's rough and jangle five-piece Super Vacations join a local lineup of the strong, fuzzy indie scene, feat. LIST-favs Big Troubles.

* "The Trial" (dir. Orson Wells, 1962) screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 11a. How does one adapt one of Franz Kafka's most discomfiting, cerebral-maze novels, of the accused Josef K navigating an increasingly bizarre legal system against the unrelenting Law? By casting a slim, coolly perturbed Anthony Perkins as the titular victim and Jeanne Moreau as his hot, inscrutable neighbor, and handing the directorial reigns to Mr. Wells, that's how. Also SUN, same time.

* "Youth of Japan (Hymn to a Tired Man)" (dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 1968) screening @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 6:30p. A rare import of this obscure Kobayashi film (which despite entering the '69 Cannes film festival hasn't had great exposure stateside), about a former soldier, rendered deaf from WWII, becoming an inventor and running into his old Imperial Army bully in the patent office. w/ intro by "Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu" (1994) dir. Peter Grilli, plus a 15-min excerpt of Grilli's doc.

* Darmstadt Essential Repertoire presents Tom Johnson "An Hour For Piano" (1971) + Philip Glass "Knee Plays, from Einstein on the Beach" (1976) @ ISSUE Project Room / 232 3rd St, Gowanus (D/NR to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$10. The final night of Darmstadt's third annual eclecticism should be a trove of lovely minimalism, split b/w Joseph Kubera's performance of Johnson's work and a suite of Glass, arranged and led by violinist Mary Rowell.

* "Age of Assassins" (dir. Kihachi Okamoto, 1967) screening @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 3p/FREE. A mad scientist turning asylum patients into assassins v. secret agent Tatsuya Nakadai, annnnd it's a comedy (sort of)!

* "Antonio Gaudi" (dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1984) @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). Teshigahara's nearly wordless portrait of Barcelona and Catalan architect Gaudi's soaring works is complemented by Toru Takemitsu's electronic score, created entirely of manipulated Catalonian folk compositions. Also MON

* "The Ceremony" (dir. Nagisa Oshima, 1971) screening @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 7:30p. The classic satire of eccentric, well-to-do family on the outside but completely decayed and depraved on the inside. Told via flashbacks to encapsulate all the weddings and funerals, with Toru Takemitsu's chilling score.

* North Highlands + The Luyas @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JZ to Marcy), 8p/$10. A smart combo courtesy of Glasslands, the local psych-folk quintet North Highlands and the ethereal artsy Canadians The Luyas, the latter w/ their Frente!-esque frontwoman and richly layered sound structure totally mesmerized me at BrooklynVegan's CMJ Public Assembly party.

* Ikue Mori w/ Jennifer Choi & Marco Cappelli @ Roulette / 20 Greene St (12/ACE/NR to Canal St), 8:30p/$15. No Wave legend and current experimental electronics performer Mori (who also plays The Stone on THU) is joined by Tzadik contributor and dynamic cellist Choi and freeform guitarist Cappelli for an evening of improv.

* "Floored By Four" @ (le) poisson rouge / 158 Bleecker St (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St, 6 to Bleecker St), 7p/$15. Peerless bassist/bandleader Mike Watt's NY Project, feat. Nels Cline (guitar), Dougie Bowne (drums), Yuka Honda (keyboard) and the man himself on his instrument of choice. w/ guest performers incl. Miho Hatori (a Cibo Matto covers session?) and keyboardist Thomas Bartlett (Dovetail).

* "The Face of Another" (dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966) @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). A brilliantly creepy urban drama from Teshigahara, A kind of Jekyll & Hyde Tatsuya Nakadai fills the businessman's suit, cavorting with his estranged wife (unbeknownst to her) courtesy of a lifelike mask. The denouement precedes the cold confusion at the end of Bernardo Bertolucci's "Il Conformista" by like four years.

* "Chinmoku (Silence)" (dir. Mashiro Shinoda, 1971) screening @ Film Forum / 209 W Houston St (1 to Houston, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 6p. Based on Shusaku Endo's novel on the entry of Jesuit missionaries to 17th C Japan and feat. a koto/classical guitar 'mixed cultures' soundtrack from Toru Takemitsu.

* Charlene Kaye & The Brilliant Eyes @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 7p/$10 ($5 w/ toy). A Toys For Tots Benefit — yes it's the holiday season, so share the love! Soulful chanteuse Charlene Kaye and band make the evening even more special by performing w/ middle schoolers of Bronx Prep Charter School's Chamber Choir.

* "On Line" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). Score one for MoMA (two really, if you count the outstanding "Abstract Expressionist New York" on the 4th Fl), and if you've been avoiding this institution for whatever reason: CHECK IT OUT. This survey on the line, its transformation from "mere" pencil-and-paper to explorations in space, even performance, since the early 20th C., is pretty major and well outfitted. It boasts both the best of MoMA (a peerless archive of works) and the museum's potential to launch a kickass show (by drawing key and obscure works from that peerless archive). Oh there are loads of usual favorites, which lose absolutely zero even if you've seen 'em dozens of times. Like: Jean (Hans) Arp "Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance)" (1916-7), Man Ray's majestic "The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows" (1916), Carolee Schneemann's classic "Up To & Including Her Limits" (1973-6, shown fittingly as an installation) and, at the very end, Julie Mehretu's "Rising Down" (2008), which is actually a very important step for MoMA, in their ongoing curve of including important (young) women artists in their collection. Plus there's loads of less-seen-but-known gems by big names: Robert Rauschenberg's awesome "Automobile Tire Print" (1953, created by John Cage's auto!), Eva Hesse's "Hang Up" (1960, counted as her 1st 'major' work), Fred Sandback's spiky purple-yarn cascade from '67, and Michael Heizer's "Circular Surface Planar Displacement Drawing" (1970, which is infinitely more badass than its cut-and-dry title). BUT: MoMA balances this lot w/ a whole bunch of artists you may well NOT know, seamlessly incorporating their contributions to the ongoing dialogue w/ the line. Like: Belgian abstract sculptor Georges Vantongerloo (a bunch of plastic/Plexiglas forms from the early '50s), Brazilian Anna Maria Maiolino (incredible cut-paper interventions from the '70s), and Swede Sophie Tottie (rippled ink works "Written Language" from 2008) — and of course the mighty Gego, aka Gertrude Goldschmidt, a whole slew of her heavy-metal works incl. "Drawings Without Paper" from the '80s, which succinctly sums up a theme of this exhibition.

* Huma Bhabha @ Peter Blum Chelsea / 526 W 29th St. A stunner, as Bhabha continues her forays into reapplying ink, paint and collage onto vintage photography. Imagery of Achilles — or more specifically heels — trod massively across arid landscapes and highways, grillwork hands grapple with the earth and half-completed structures, a two-headed dog (or the blurred, Francis Bacon-like motion of a normal canine) seems to visibly shiver furiously in front of a large government facade. Elements extend beyond the borders of the photographs, Bhabha colorizes b&w prints, in a riotous cycle of destruction and creation.

* Marin Majik & Goran Skofic @ Ana Cristea Gallery / 521 W 26th St. Two very compelling young Croatian artists in their joint debut U.S. gallery exhibition. Majik's photorealistic oils of wide-open interior spaces reveal almost vertigo-inducing depth-sensory effects, like you could plunge straight into them. Skofic's stark video work is enamoring: check the two-channel "White (shooting)", in screens facing one another, one of the artist 'shooting' an invisible rifle, the other a line of multiple Skofics, freezing in stop motion each time they're 'shot'.

* Focus Shanghai: Lu Chunsheng and Birdhead @ Thomas Erben Gallery / 526 W 26th St 4th Fl. A dynamo of a dual show, presenting a side of contemporary Chinese art you may not know. The duo Birdhead (Song Tao and Ji Weiyu) feature a photo installation from their "Xin Cun" series on today's Shanghai, plus two fluid-camera shorts by Song to draw the experience further inward. Filmmaker Lu Chengsheng complements this w/ his full-length film "History of Chemistry: Vol 2", a surreal post-industrial narrative set within anonymous London, drawing comparisons from this writer to Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Red Desert" in the pitched cameras, agoraphobic mise-en-scene and deft incorporation of sounds. Lu's film is loose enough that you can walk into it halfway, stay for 10 minutes and jet, but don't be surprised if the suffocating action within, suited and hatted men carrying boxes through empty urban tunnels and the like, transfixes you for quite awhile longer.

* Lee Krasner "Paintings 1959 - 1965" @ Robert Miller Gallery / 524 W 26th St. Krasner's seminal 'night journey' paintings created during bouts of chronic insomnia, all of them necessarily painted at night and most in a coffee-toned palette of cascading letter-like elements and abstract gestural strokes. The epically huge "Another Storm" (1963), w/ its melted cherry ice cream tones, rivals MoMA's collection. Add Krasner's show as a must-see accompaniment to MoMA's "Abstract Expressionist New York".

* "Einfluss: 8 From Dusseldorf" @ Hosfelt Gallery / 531 W 36th St. A fertile grouping of young contemporary artists from the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, some of whom bear undeniable marks from their teachers, like Gerhard Richter and A.R. Penck, and most of whom have never shown in the States before. Bernard Lokai's rugged, small-scale abstracts preclude Richter's studies, especially w/in the supposed representational nature of these brilliantly colorful works. Cornelius Volker's (student of Penck) does gestural, realistic little oil paintings, and his nine-part "Meerschweinchen" of long-haired guinea pigs on Pop-monochrome backdrops is half-kitsch, half-cute. Luka Fineisen, the sole sculptor of the lot, blurs that line too in her resin-coated "Milk" relief, which looks exactly like that. Introducing the Next Wave from Germany. Are you ready?

* Hwang Jai-Hyoung @ Gana NY / 568 W 25th St. The artist's politically-charged, textural oil paintings, based on his self-appointed time as a laborer in the industrial town Taeback, Korea, filled with his hard-working, disenfranchised countrymen. Hwang splits the show into rugged, emotive portraits temperature-infused landscapes, like you feel the cold dampness in your skin, staring at these.

* Sang-ah Choi "Insatiable Appetite" @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. Choi returns in a bright, eye-popping way, extending her oeuvre beyond the pop-up book Pop culture array from her Arario NY show back in 2008. This new mixed media exhibition is a bit like Aya Takano's creepy girlish figures, slackened by resin and injected w/ Choi's luminous palette. Nonfigurative paintings, like "Light and Shadow" w/ its wall-drawn extensions, are some of the deftest, eye-twitching combos of abstract and Op art I have ever encountered.

* Odili Donald Odita "Body & Space" @ Jack Shainman Gallery / 513 W 20th St. Dynamic polygonal color abstract paintings, rhythmic and space-defining. Odita adds acrylic latex wall-painted works as well, jagged shards that invade and punctuate the environment.

* Tabatabai, Schiff, Bell @ Danese / 535 W 24th St 6th Fl. A neapolitan (ice cream) of minimalism and subtlety. Karen Schiff's meditative patterns on paper are the busiest of the lot, while Dozier Bell's tiny charcoal on Mylar renderings of dusky twilight are more engrossing than they may sound in print. But Hadi Tabatabai ruled for me, infusing his stark monochromes with delicate, laborious woven grids, to intriguing doubling effect.

* Aakash Nihalani "Overlap" @ Bose Pacia / 163 Plymouth St, DUMBO (F to York St, AC to High St). The 'tape-squares' phenom doesn't let the static gallery setting stymie him from a kinetic, progressive exhibition, reacting off the space in a mix of powder-coated aluminum isometric sculptures and site-specific tape works. Nihalani's talent in making us look again at familiar places in new, enlightening ways makes for a very refreshing exhibition.

* Leah Tinari "Perfect Strangers" @ Mixed Greens / 531 W 26th St. Last Tinari exhibition included a photo booth. Had you snapped a photo of yourself in that (knowing what you were getting yourself into), you might find a painted, brightly lit blow-up in her new show. What we have is a good lot of game participants, pulling faces and striking poses in front of eye-crawling fabric patterns, alone or in small groups. Tinari titled these w/ her own seemingly spontaneous witticisms ("Her Hairstyle Makes For A Great Shape", to a young woman in a just-so bowl-cut; "Seen Through White Frames", to another woman w/ white-plastic-framed glasses; "I Like This!", one guy huffing hot air into another guy's ear).

* Adam Pendleton "BAND" @ The Kitchen / 512 W 19th St. Rashida Bumbray curated this enveloping multimedia exhibition. New works from Pendleton's ongoing "Black Dada" and "System of Display" series (the former body of work appeared at MoMA PS1's "Greater New York") begin the journey, leading to the screening room and three-channel titular video installation. Pendleton refashions Jean-Luc Godard's "Sympathy for the Devil" w/ art-rock band Deerhoof, following their recording session for "I Did Crimes For You" in a fractured, Nouvelle Vague-esque parallel, all in gorgeous contrasty b&w.

* Ilene Segalove "The Dissatisfaction of Ilene Segalove", curated by Dean Valentine @ Andrea Rosen Gallery / 525 W 24th St. This is a beautiful, autobiographical little exhibition culled by Valentine of the Cal Arts Conceptualist, both political and (self) deprecating and w/ a media undercurrent. I've seen Segalove's contributions in museum group shows but never to the degree as here, a range of photography and film works from the '70s and '80s, often w/ her family as subject when she isn't in front of the camera herself. The simplest renditions, like "Close But No Cigar", where Segalove mimics a Barbie Doll, down to the featureless torso, are easy convo-starters, but compare to her family photo collage of (she says) Asiaphile Dad and costumed daughter dissecting a hard cheese w/ chopsticks, which bears that self-deprecating yet stirringly emotive effect I alluded to above. Don't miss it.

* Tony Oursler "Peak" @ Lehmann Maupin / 201 Chrystie St. Have you seen Dave McKean's warped fantasy film "MirrorMask"? The amorphous mechanical figures in it were the 1st thing I thought of when taking in Oursler's engrossing new show, eight minuscule mixed media/video works suspended on snaking metal pedestals. These are nearly devoid of Oursler's spectacle-creating shots of wrong-hued blinking eyes and sputtering lips, speaking dissonant soliloquies to the viewing public. Instead we get these multilayered, very involved little vignettes like "Castouts", w/ intermingling male-female speakers and an overall cyberpunkish aura. "Bunker" is another cool one, the action occurring in like a torn-open cave w/ a hoodie-wearing figure in the foreground plus a violet-toned woman encased in a glass globe in the back. The contents of the dialogue throughout are still Oursler-esque: obsession, frustration, isolation, but I think the small-scale nature of them totally works in his favor.

* Mickey Smith "Believe You Me" @ Invisible-Exports / 14A Orchard St. Smith returns to NY Public Library, specifically the Picture Collection, for her new exhibition, though she brings some of the stacks w/ her, wedging them into a unique floor installation that is strangely ergonomic (though I'll see how well this thing ages, after much foot-traffic) and a literal basis for the new C-prints. She rephotographed images from the archives, played w/ combinations (one, w/ its garage-sale frames, is convincingly "family portrait" circa late '50s) and crops (esp. of more current figures, to playful effect).

* James Casebere "House" @ Sean Kelly Gallery / 528 W 29th St. You might remember two of the lead, large-scale C-prints in the main gallery from this year's Whitney Biennial, taken from Casebere's massive scale-model of Dutchess County NY. They are paired w/ other daytime and twilight "scenes", shots of mowed lawns, varying swim pools and burning logs in this plainly beautiful slice of Americana. Now contrast that w/ the much earlier works in the front gallery, a decidedly creepy selection of gelatin silver prints from the '80s and '90s that appear to be encased in either snow (good!) or ash (spooky!). What's consistent is Casebere's mindful use of lighting for both realistic and dramatic effect.

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* Albert Watson @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 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.

* Erwin Wurm @ Jack Hanley Gallery / 136 Watts St. Ahead of the trickster Austrian artist's solo show at Lehmann Maupin, this gallery hosts the first U.S. appearance of Wurm's 2008 self-portrait installation "Selbstportrat als Gurken", i.e. 26 uniquely cast and convincingly painted pickles on different-sized white plinths. If you didn't catch that, it's a room full of pickle-sized sculptures. And if you're STILL wondering "well, Brian, does that mean this is an essential, must-see show?" all I can say is "obvs".

* Wangechi Mutu "Hunt Bury Flee" @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St. Each time I see Mutu's new large-scale collages on Mylar, she's taken her figures to another level of interpretation and figuration. This time they're ferocious amalgams of flesh, pelt, scales, feathers and foliage, metamorphosing against either celestial or poisonous backdrops. One fashiony woman-figure climbs a woodgrain-patterened tree (bearing tracings of another woman w/in), pursued by an "Alien"-like snaking appendage lashing out from behind her. The ecstatic "Oh, Madonna!" appears to have flowery, anemone-like explosions coming from her torso. Her "Moth Girls" sculptural installation, many dozen porcelain and feathered figures fill the back gallery in four rows, seemingly embodying the spirits of her past works' avatars.

* 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.