Wednesday, January 5, 2011

fee's LIST (through 1/11)

* "Pi" (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 1998) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 9:15p. The one that started it all, the neo-noir paranoia chiller, w/ its skin crawling "Kalpol Introl" soundtrack by Autechre, its gritty b&w shots of somewheres Manhattan, its bout b/w mathematics, kabbalah, Wall Street, as the whole taut plot dives into a tailspin, never to fully right itself again. The closest I've seen an American filmmaker come to Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk lens. To newcomers of Aronofsky (like you've only seen "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler"), you owe it to yourself.

* "Tsumugi" (dir. Hidekazu Takaharu, 2004) @ reRun Theatre / 147 Front St, DUMBO (F to York St, AC to High St), 8p/FREE. One of the most winning-est contemporary pink films around — you know, that unique realm of Japanese softcore — due less to its prosaic high-school love-triangle plot than to its leading (G-cup) starlet Sora Aoi.

* WIERD presents Blank Dogs @ Home Sweet Home / 131 Chrystie St (FM/JZ to Delancey/Essex, BD to Grand), 11:30p/$5. Mike Sniper & crew blow the doors off NY's gloomiest goth party w/ their crackling-hot blend of seducing pop. Super stoked!

* Mark Helias + Ray Anderson @ The Stone / 16 Ave C (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$10. A pairing of jazz dynamos, double-bassist and composer Helias and trombonist Anderson, two-thirds of BassDrumBone, a nearly three-decade combo (w/ drummer/composer Gerry Hemingway). Expect The Stone to heat up quite a bit tonight.

* Conspirator @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 9p/$15. Half mid-'90s throwback and half hope for a smarter dance-music future, the live drum-and-bass dynamics of Conspirator (feat. 1/2 of Philly jamtronica legends The Disco Biscuits) keep that groove train going.

* McDermott & McGough "Of Beauty and Being" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. The duo mines '40s and '50s Americana in tricolor photographs, creating narrative scenes rife w/ pop cultural references.
+ Ghada Amer "100 Words of Love". One epic new sculpture, composed of 100 calligraphed Arabic words for love.

* Jake Berthot @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. Berthot moves away from his haunted-landscape paintings from 2008, lightening his color palette w/ it, but this new exhibition still bears his cultivated eeriness.

* Winston Chmielinski "I Digressed" @ NP Contemporary Arts Center / 131 Chrystie St. There's something effervescent and deeply haunting in Chmielinski's very physical paintings, at once Francis Bacon-esque portraiture yet equally breathless and hopeful. Maybe it's b/c I've got in the back of my conscious that the bloke designs album artwork for Brooklyn fuzz-pop darlings The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, is why I siphon the palpable adorableness from his work. Definitely check this one out.

* "QuietlyLoud" @ Thomas Erben Gallery / 526 W 26th St, 4th Fl. Pay attention to these three twentysomething artists, painters Alisha Kerlin (contributed to PS1's "Greater NY") and Natasha Conway (shortlisted for Saatchi Gallery's 'New Sensations 2009' Prize) and sculptor Cassie Ralhl (part of "Knights Move" show at SculptureCenter). The 'handmade' qualities in their respective works, plus their own undeniable talents, position the art world's winds to their backs.

* Tedd Nash Pomaski "At the Foot of the Lighthouse" @ Bose Pacia / 163 Plymouth St, DUMBO. The Hilo-born, Brooklyn-based artist initiates his debut at the gallery w/ a series of large, meditative landscapes (urban and natural), fuzzily rendered in graphite.

* Ezra Stoller @ Yossi Milo Gallery / 525 W 25th St. These luxurious gelatin silver prints of iconic 20th C. landmarks from the master's large-format camera not only makes these well-known structures refreshingly immediate, they also add a stunning degree of three-dimensionality. Hence: photography as art.

* Ayako Wakahara "Tenkoku" @ Onishi Gallery / 521 W 26th St. Wakahara takes the traditional Japanese practice of stone seal engraving and spins that into her contemporary blending of calligraphy and painting.

* Johannes Wohnseifer "Another Year" @ Casey Kaplan Gallery / 525 W 21st St. The show's title is indicative of the artist's thought process: mutability, the passage of time, mortality. The standout seems to be a series of sleep-cycle influenced "Light Sleeper" abstract paintings and related "Stacked Studio Lights", a sculpture of fluorescent lightbulbs attuned to Wohnseifer's REM/NREM cycles.

* David Stephenson "Light Cities" @ Julie Saul Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. I dare you to stare at veteran photographer Stephenson's triptych on downtown Tokyo at night and NOT be totally seduced. He's got a gift for long-exposure photography, as this exhibition on the great sprawl exemplifies.

* Deville Cohen, Andrei Koschmieder, Joe Winter @ Foxy Production / 623 W 27th St. Let's see: Cohen's based in Brooklyn. He contributed that sort of freaky, ashy theatre production to PS1's "Greater NY". Koschmieder is like a contemporary printmaker, of the HP sort, and is only just beginning to show in the States. And Winter, of severalprojects, repurposes technologies in kinetic sculpture.

* Hiroyuki Doi @ Ricco Maresca Gallery / 529 W 20th St 3rd Fl. Debut stateside show for the Tokyo-based Doi, who creates organic, billowing ink abstracts on handmade textured Japanese paper.

* Miguel Palma "In Image We Trust" @ Nicholas Robinson Gallery / 535 W 20th St. Details are key here in the wildly complex mechanical sculptural installations from the Portuguese artist, in his debut stateside solo exhibition.

* Deborah Luster "Tooth for an Eye" @ Jack Shainman Gallery / 513 W 20th St. Luster's lens continues its exploration of New Orleans, moving from the prison structure to remnants of homicide sites and violence. She executes these w/ circular prints, echoing the city's architecture whilst drawing our eye ever closer.

* Jesse McCloskey "New World Nightmares" @ Claire Oliver / 513 W 26th St. McCloskey's inclusion at last year's "The Antidote" group show was a teaser for his fascinating debut solo at the gallery. His media — vinyl, paint and paper collages, in super-saturated, constrasty colors — resembles woodcuts, and their Old World mythologies echoes that.

* Leslie Thornton "Binocular" @ Winkleman Gallery / 621 W 27th St. Accomplished abstract filmmaker Thornton (ardent gallery-goers know her multi-decade opus "Peggy and Fred in Hell", which screened at last year's "Greater NY" at MoMA PS1), creates perhaps more physically graspable works here (though totally beautiful), in a series of kaleidoscopic duets on prey and predator.

* Adam Marnie + Tom Thayer @ Derek Eller Gallery / 615 W 27th St. Neat: Thayer has a collaborative work w/ Dave Miko at The Kitchen on now as well, so his A/V pairing w/ assemblage artist Marnie should be double the fun.
+ Ruby Sky Stiler, in the north room. She pairs relief, screenprinting and sculpture, to intriguing results.

* "Works on Paper" @ Danese / 535 W 24th St 6th Fl. A decade-spanning collection of like 50 artists working in the titular medium, incl Dozier Bell, Valerie Giles, Barry le Va, Hadi Tabatabai, Larry Poons, and Warren Isensee.

* Amanda Burnham "From the Land of Pleasant Living" @ Benrimon Contemporary / 514 W 24th St 2nd Fl. Burnham's urban landscapes, composed of fragmented sketches with emphasis on typography, reminds me a bit of Mark Bradford's repurposed signage, only from a purely representational viewpoint.

* "Groper Train: Search For the Black Pearl" (dir. Yojiro Takita, 1984) @ reRun Theatre / 147 Front St, DUMBO (F to York St, AC to High St), 8p/FREE. 2008 Academy Award winner Takita-san (for "Departures") is/was also a prolific pink film director! Are you shocked? How about the premise of this chapter in the multi-director "Groper Train" series, where the titular object makes like a Ben Wa ball, w/ a world-famous detective and top mystery writer hot on the case?

* "Last Tango in Paris" (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972) screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 8p. It's sort of incredible that a notorious pink film is screening at this EXACT TIME in DUMBO, while here to a commercial crowd we get Bertolucci's 'classic' dip into unblinking raunch, a controversial romp b/w a depraved Marlon Brando and a young Maria Schneider. And I LIKE this film. But to the proponents: don't be so quick to judge softcore, esp. when considering the inherent violence in "Last Tango"'s flagrant 'butter scene'.

* Anamanaguchi @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 8p/$12. The original NES-punks are so hot right now. Yes, they scored "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Videogame". Yes, they've got a playable tune on "Rock Band". But I suspect it's b/c they rock really really hard, chiptunes and guitars in glorious, gritty harmony.

* POPSHOP launch party feat. MNDR & French Horn Rebellion @ Tammany Hall / 152 Orchard St (F/JMZ to Delancey/Essex), 8p/FREE. Pop music. I mean, proper pop music. Maybe I fell off track a bit, but this new monthly happening promises to bring only the bestest curated pop acts to NYC. The debut lineup, incl. French Horn Rebellion and the ineffable MNDR (two acts I DO know) sets the tone.

* Hard Nips @ Death By Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p. Four Brooklyn-based Japanese women playing distortion-heavy, red-blooded, no-frills rock'n'roll. Hell yes. I'm speaking of Hard Nips, if you didn't pick up on that. w/ Cavex & Antimagic

* Tony Feher "Next On Line" @ The Pace Gallery / 534 W 25th St. OK, so a line of everyday PET bottles or stacked milk-crates (color-coded, naturally) might not grab you, so how about a ginormous sculpture of vinyl tubing, filled w/ colored water and tumbling from the ceiling in arabesque designs? Feher is all about pushing commercial materials to their limits, and this installation (plus related drawings) should make believers out of us.

* "112 Greene St: The Early Years (1970-4) @ David Zwirner / 533 W 19th St. Zwirner reunites a group show from one of NY's 1st alternative artist-run venues, w/ a focus on collaborator/"mad scientist" George Matta-Clark and feat. Richard Serra, Larry Miller, Alan Saret, Suzanne Harris and others. Brain food for 2011.

* Christopher Williams "For Example: Dix-Huit Lecons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 12)" @ David Zwirner / 525 W 19th St. The beguiling uber-geek photographer last splashed down in the gallery in '08, w/ his "Revision 7" show. He returns w/ more of his gorgeous, spotless compositions, encouraging us to peel back more layers on this enigmatic maestro.

* Dave Miko + Tom Thayer "New World Pig" @ The Kitchen / 512 W 19th St. Trust me when I say that Miko's characteristically stark enamel-on-aluminum paintings and Thayer's stop-motion animated videos coalesce marvelously: I've seen the results during PS1's "Greater NY". This immersive collaboration features a post-apocalyptic narrative, like "The Road" only w/ more vintagey and frightening.

* Irvin Morazan "Temple of the Bearded Man" @ DCKT / 237 Eldridge St. Morazan inaugurates the gallery's new location w/ "Coyote Procession", a performance feat. the artist in a neon coyote headdress and a live Mexican Norteno band, in a procession from the former gallery location. The show itself is a cocktail of pre-Columbian mythologies and urban pop culture.

* Mona Vatamanu & Florian Tudor "Land Distribution" @ Lombard-Freid Projects / 518 W 19th St. A gridded installation collaboration by the Romanian duo, a conversation on Capitalism and socialism in Venezuela and globally, fills the main gallery, accompanied by the artists' recent films "Surplus Value" and "Poem" in the back gallery.

* Folke Koebberling & Martin Kaltwasser "Postautomobilzeitalter" @ Jack Hanley Gallery / 136 Watts St. Berlin/LA have built then pushed a house off an Austrian mountain ("Trash your house") and converted a red Saab 900 into two functional bicycles ("Cars into Bicycles") in Santa Monica, CA. Now they bring their auto manipulation to NY.

* "Continuum: Peter Matthews, Katie Paterson, Karen Seapker" @ James Cohan Gallery / 533 W 26th St. The emphasis here is time and space, via Matthews' durational drawings, Paterson's conceptual installations and Seapker's gestural paintings.

* John Stezaker @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 537 W 22nd St. Classic silkscreens and "Dark Star" collages from the London-based Conceptualist and appropriation artist.

* Seth Price @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. Price narrates ghost stories in this A/V installation, feat. music videos and new album "Honesty", w/ a proper album release party on Jan 14 at Audio Visual Arts (check next week's LIST for that).

* Heinz Mack "Early Metal Reliefs, 1957-67" @ Sperone Westwater / 257 Bowery. Cofounder of the ZERO group (w/ Otto Piene), and you don't get much more purely industrial than Mack's characteristic shimmering physical works.

* Yeni Mao "Dead Reckoning" @ Collette Blanchard Gallery / 26 Clinton St. Mao works efficiently in mixed media installation and photography, the former referencing explorer Zheng He and the latter, "The Battle Wizard", featuring ethereal transformative situations.

* Ben Durham "Text Portraits" @ Nicole Klagsbrun / 526 W 26th St #213. Renderings of acquaintances and peers, culled from Lexington KY police reports, as bittersweet mugshots. Concurrent w/ the artist's show at Marc Selwyn Fine Art in LA.
+ Sean Bluechel. Some of the artist's more matter-of-fact ceramic sculptures (as opposed to his idiosyncratic style).

* Brendan Flanagan "Sightlines" @ Thierry Goldberg Projects / 5 Rivington St. Ominous, oozily rendered figurative paintings, recalling both Matisse AND Bacon, amped up w/ B-movies and bravado. This sounds right up my alley. It's also his 1st stateside solo exhibition.

* "Whispering Pines 10" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, BD to Grand St), 4p/$15. This auspicious pairing of Brooklyn-based artist Shana Moulton and composer Nick Hallett is an ecstatic, hallucinogenic opera, w/ Moulton playing an agoraphobe against "live-animated" video and Hallett's soundtrack (performed by vocalist Daisy Press). ALSO SUN, 4p.

* TRASH! w/ Lady Valtronic, Melody Sweets & The Flying Fox @ Webster Hall Basement / 125 E 11th St (NRW/L/6 to Union Square), 11p/$10 (or $5 w/ flyer from DJJESSNYC.COM). Nightlife chameleon DJ Jess throws typically spot-on Trash! parties. If you can groove to '80s glam/goth, you'll have a blast. Tonight is stacked extra-special, however, w/ late-night cabaret by NY's own Melody Sweets and seductress The Flying Fox (original member of Little Minsky's Burlesque in San Francisco), plus go-goisms by Apathy Angel and MCing by the phenomenal Lady Valtronic. If you've never experienced a Trash! party before…

* "Go Go Tales" (dir. Abel Ferrara, 2007) @ Anthology Film Archives / 32 2nd Ave (F to 2nd Ave), 7p. Ferrara, the same director as '70s 'classic' "Driller Killer", does the strip-club in this international rarity, starring Willem Dafoe as the owner and Asia Argento (HELLO!) amid an ensemble cast of gifted stars. (thru TUES, same time)

* "Scott Pilgrim v. The World" (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010) midnight screening @ Sunshine Cinema / 143 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave). What do I love most about this sugar-high of a cinematic gem? The DDR scene b/w perpetual mutterer Pilgrim and Knives Chau? Pilgrim's band Sex Bob-Omb, which both references a Super Mario Bros villain AND feat. Beck as actual vocalist? Or the happy fact the whole thing is laden w/ retro video-game references? A: all of the above. ALSO SAT

* "The Thing" (dir. John Carpenter, 1982) midnight screening @ IFC Center / 323 Sixth Ave (ACE/BDFM to W 4th St). Hmm…choice of midnight films: the coin-op/bubble-gum panic of Scott Pilgrim (see above) or Carpenter's Antarctic body-horror classic? Kurt Russell as original badass against a surreal, shape-changing alien enemy might not be YOUR idea of average end-of-week viewing, but that's precisely what makes it so essential. ALSO SAT

* Oberhofer @ Coco 66 / 66 Greenpoint Ave (G to Greenpoint), 9p. One of the scene-stealers at 2010's CMJ was this hot young local bloke Oberhofer and his band, Oberhofer, who played breakneck pop-punk at a bunch of venues throughout Brooklyn, charming everyone w/ his flopping pompadour and charisma in excess. Guarantee you'll have an ace time. w/ Rioux

* Julian Lynch @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$10. Underwater Peoples Records' stalwart Lynch produced one of the grooviest downtempo albums of 2010 in "Mare" — hearkening back to Boom Bip-styling Anticon, w/ jazzy refrains — and he leads a solid spliff-heavy voyage tonight. Come early for label founders Family Portrait (more psychedelic each time I see 'em) and fuzz-popstars Big Troubles.

* Mika Tajima @ Elizabeth Dee / 545 W 20th St. Tajima returns w/ a new immersive environment based off an original '70s Herman Miller Action Office System — think the precursor to "cubicle hell". Luckily, her painted panels and modular sculpture makes the topology dope. Plus works called "Furniture Art", which are reverse spray-painted, whatever that means, it also sounds dope.

* Martin Boyce "Winter Palms" @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. I feel right at home in Boyce's industrial installations, amid their angular steel panels and hanging fluorescent-tube structures.
+ Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler. The upstairs gallery feat. the 1st two installments of the artists' trilogy on cinema on-location, "Melies" and "Grand Paris Texas", plus a new photo series.

* "Untitled (Painting") @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Conceptual and process-driven international painters, incl. Charline von Heyl, Christopher Wool, Tauba Auerbach, Wade Guyton and Josh Smith. Tasty lot.

* Keiko Tokushima & Shigeko Okada "Time Traveler" @ graphite. / 38 Marcy Ave, Williamsburg (L/G to Lorimer), 7-10p. Two SVA graduates w/ strong illustration backgrounds. I've seen Okada's lush pug portraiture at Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, so I am stoked to view her new dream-imbued compositions. Tokushima works in this warm, luminous color palette in depicting highly detailed interiors, enhanced w/ a lingering nostalgia.

* Joe Zucker "A Unified Theory" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 W 24th St + 745 5th Ave. A two-gallery extravaganza, putting the artist's process in context. W.Chelsea hold a new series of sailboat, house and volcano paintings on gypsum, scored w/ Zucker's recurring grids. The uptown gallery feat. his "Box" paintings from 2002-5, which look like geometric abstracts from a distance but are actually cleverly situated, paint-filled boxes, layered on top of one another.

* Ann Craven @ Maccarone Gallery / 630 Greenwich St. Craven's exhibitions (indeed entire suites of works per exhibition) tend to follow a certain visual/conceptual iconography, i.e. only flowers (variations thereof), only painted lines etc. Her new show at Maccarone includes many recurrent themes (flora, fauna, nightscapes), but done entirely in watercolor, a new move for the artist.

* Joe Bradley "Mouth and Foot Painting" @ Gavin Brown's Enterprise / 620 Greenwich St. Considering the NY-based artist works equally well in modular, flimsy monochromes to slashes of grease pencil on raw canvas, guess how he created this new, muscular suite of works? Stay tuned for ANOTHER Bradley show at his gallery, Canada, opening next week.

* Sam Samore "The Dark Suspicion" @ D'Amelio Terras / 525 W 22nd St. The pioneering conceptual photographer returns from a two-artist presentation at the gallery's booth at Art Basel Miami Beach w/ cinematically derived works.
+ Cornelia Parker "Rorschach (Accidental III)". One doesn't forget Parker's iconic suspended sculptures so easily: like this one, flattened silverware and musical instruments in a Rorschach pattern. Check her inky "Bullet Drawings" at the fab "On Line" show at MoMA, while yr at it.

* "Novacento (1900)" (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976) screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 2p. The full 5+ hour historical epic, following Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu through 50 years of Italian history.

* Grooms @ The Rock Shop / 249 4th Ave, Park Slope (D/NR to Union St), 8p/$10. Like a sludgier Sonic Youth, Grooms reminds why NY produces some of the best heavy, angular rock in the world. w/ Acrylics

* Gary War + Ducktails @ Union Pool / 484 Union St, Williamsburg (L/G to Lorimer), 8p. One of those essential tune in and zone out shows, it's the "Police Water" EP release party for subsurface rockers Gary War, plus the ever-blissful loop guru Matt Mondinale of Ducktails. Makes you forget how cold it is out there.

* Andy Warhol "Motion Pictures" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). One doesn't walk through this installation of Warhol's silver-screen superstars, immortalized in non-narrative, soporific film and seductive screen tests. The experience of locomotion is way more akin to floating, half-swimming half-effortless, past the severe trio "Eat" (1963) and "Blow Job" (1964, whose closeup of DeVeren Bookwalter's blissful face could be misconstrued as a screen test) into the main gallery, lined on all sides by twelve super-sized, flickering "Screen Tests". Gino Piserchio (wicked coif), Susan Sontag (stoically masculine), Dennis Hopper (skittish, mouthing put-ons) and Katha Dees (truly a silver-screen starlet) to the left, Kyoko Kishida (drinking, preening), Baby Jane Holzer (vigorously - uh, tantalizingly? - brushing her teeth), Donyale Luna (modelesque) and Paul America (cloaked in shadows) to the right. Spazzing closeups of Nico and an almost still-frame Allen Ginsburg behind, and the striking duo Lou Reed and transfixing Edie Sedgwick in the front. Behind them a fully outfitted screening room, playing "Kiss" (1963-4), with enough rollicking movement to quadruple the kinetic activity of every other film in the exhibition. It's neat to see "Kiss" through the portal doors from the far side of the "Screen Tests" gallery; it becomes a silent lusty abstraction.

* "Filmschonheit", curated by Albert Oehlen @ Greene Naftali / 508 W 26th St, 8th Fl. Oehlen (w/ some tete a tete by art photographer Christopher Williams) culled together this fab film-minded traveling show, which reached NY's shores after a stint in Galerie Mezzanin, Vienna. And it's Oehlen who contributed the most exacting representation of the filmic beauty theme: a large sparse silkscreened abstract painting, overlaid w/ the video "Untitled (9 1/2 Weeks)", filling the mostly white canvas w/ a ghostly animation. Williams' characteristically super-sharp film prints (plus Josephine Pride's gorgeous silver gelatin prints) are literal, beautiful additions. The combo of Richard Artschwager (two classic "Black Beauty" monochromes on celotex) and John Miller (a maze-like wallpaper and color-sucking carpet installation) contribute both deconstructed film references and visual eye-flickering (stare at the Artschwager, then move immediately to the nearby Miller).

* "Sculpture: 12 Independent Visions" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. This gallery knows sculpture. It's got the roster of house artists (Magdalena Abkanowicz's creepy cast-burlap hands and bronzed "Standing Figures"; Fernando Botero's naughty inflated figures; Beverly Pepper's ingenious sliced rock "Grey Silence") and some specials, like the doubly visually dwarfing and mesmerizingly perfumed "Twisting Bowl II" cedar block by Ursula Von Rydingsvard (ahead of her mid-career retrospective at SculptureCenter) and a Giger-esque spinal bronze lipstick "Colonna Recisa Trasversalmente" by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

* John Baldessari "Pure Beauty" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 5th 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).

* Shag (Josh Agle) "Ambergris" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St. I still equate Shag's overall style w/ the lounge-acts album art set: the man paints sexily attenuated figures in fantasy rumpus rooms w/ a sunny SoCal palette. Even w/ the walls broken down in many of these large acrylics (the bubbling lava pits as hot-tubs in "Sea Shanties" and its cooler neighbor "Black Drops"), there's still plenty of reference to mid-century interior design and the cocktail set. But they're totally groovy. Hence the four-panel series "Wahine", a stoic totem and a flowered hottie posing w/ iPod or laptop — they may not have the depth of an aggressive abstract work, but they settle in real nice.

* Pat Steir "The Nearly Endless Line" @ Sue Scott Gallery / 1 Rivington St. Too bad Steir didn't include this ambitious site-specific work, a disembodied brushstroke w/o canvas, in MoMA's "On Line" show. Though lucky for us, we can track its progress throughout Sue Scott's gallery, as the line sweeps across a grid pattern on the walls and glows under black lights.

* 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).

* "The Last Newspaper" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave). I could detect no apocalyptic end to print media at this cryptically named yet terribly rewarding, accessible and predictably info-packed exhibition. The closest resemblance in name comes from the Latitudes news team's weekly newspaper "THE LAST TKTK" (the one out now is slugged "THE LAST POST"), created/written/edited/printed by the Barcelona-based group, w/ in-residence editors Max Andrews and Mariana Canepa Luna enlisting YOU (yes, you!) for pitches and editorial suggestions (send 'em here: if you can't find the duo at their desks on the 3rd floor of the museum, typing away). No, print media, specifically newsprint and even more specifically its dissemination, recycling, re-appropriation as a newsmaker, is very much alive here, from its long tradition as a medium for artwork (I still distinctly recall seeing Pablo Picasso's and Georges Braque's early Cubist collages incorporating newsprint) to its persistence as analogue journalism — meaning in addition to Latitudes' publication, we also get "The New City Reader", headed by Joseph Grima of Domus magazine and Kazys Varnelis, the director of Networked Architecture Lab at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture. The 3rd Fl has this newsroom setup, w/ a grid of desks, some occupied by the aforementioned project-participants, others vacant of humans but chock-full of their media: Brooklyn's Center For Urban Pedagogy created these visually stunning (and vaguely depressing) toolkits for Affordable Housing (a Velcro-ish graph, directing how your income and rent/mortgage interplay) and a Lego Zoning Toolkit. Another fantastic one, and one of the few video-media, is Jeffrey Inaba and C-Lab's (Inaba's group at Columbia U's architecture grad school) interactive and predicative screens on U.S. weather in 20-odd cities, operating as part-forecast, part-GNP-ticker. I found it fascinating, and while that could be b/c I'm an American who talks extensively about the weather (my emails w/ my parents, both ways, include at least two intro paragraphs about JUST the weather), I think you'll find it fascinating as well. There is little static media in the non-project art. I loved Adrian Piper's three "Vanilla Nightmares", her charcoal and oil crayon drawings directly on yellowing copies of the NY Times, but even the earliest work in the exhibition, Arte Povera artist Luciano Fabro's "Pavimento (Tautologia)" (1967) will operate as the artist intended, w/ a large rectangle of newspapers spread out on the floor swapping out daily, throughout the exhibition. Wolfgang Tillman's "Truth Study Center" vitrines, a brilliant and jarring juxtaposition of collaged news clippings and photographs intertwined in broad-stroked explosions of political and religious violence, will update as well. Hans Haacke's seemingly prehistoric "News, 1969/2008" is hooked to an RSS feed and that archaic printer/typewriter will indeed unfurl noisily the international atrocities on a regular basis. Mike Kelley's amalgam broadsheets feature an intriguing, personal twist: the slugs come from places he's lived, the images from high-school yearbooks (though the instances of Goth costuming, neo-Christian evangelism and hot girls could easily stem from Kelley's "Day is Done" opus), and the texts from his own troubled imagination.

* Allora & Calzadilla @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). An absolutely enchanting way to spend like 25 minutes of your time, one afternoon. I was lucky to catch the Conceptual duo's piece "Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on 'Ode to Joy' for a Prepared Piano" in its spanking new stages at Gladstone Gallery, which consisted of a baby grand w/ a hole carved into it, a performer situated inside that hole, playing the etude upside down and backwards, and an empty gallery. Taking that package and depositing it in MoMA's spacious Marron Atrium is another plus under the museum's belt: the sounds carry from this instantly recognizable Beethoven composition all the way up to the sixth floor, as the performer (I've seen three of 'em so far, Amir Khosrowpour, Mia Elezovic and Terezija Cukrov, each w/ their own movements, limitations and flourishes) moves about the space, parting and leading crowds of rapt onlookers w/ 'em. And the clincher w/ the performance is the structurally incomplete ode itself: the recognizable melody is half-reduced to percussive beats only (the missing middle two octaves due to the piano's hole), yet it's still instantly familiar.