* David Hammons @ L&M Arts / 45 E 78th St. This winter gallery season is rolling out fast and furious, w/ must-see show upon must-see show. Here's another: iconic, provoking cultural installation and sculpture from the powerful and fairly reclusive NY-based Hammons.
* Performance 14: On Line/Ralph Lemon @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 3p. New York-based artist and choreographer Lemon collaborates w/ dancer Okwui Okpokwasili in his exhilarating untitled 2008 composition, utilizing the MoMA's atrium in their camaraderie of exhaustion and reflexive movement. Also SAT & SUN, 3p.
* "Monday" (dir. Sabu, 2000) screening @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (E/M to Lexington/53rd, 6 to 51st St), 7:30p + Q&A w/ Sabu-san. The 1st major U.S. retrospective to Sabu-san's filmic oeuvre, replete w/ hard-up salarymen (mostly played by Shinichi Tsutsumi), wandering dazedly amid Yakuza thugs, love hotels, hostess clubs, combini — you know, the usual Monday blues. The screening follows w/ a boozy bash in Sabu-san's honor.
* Yuck @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JZ to Marcy) 8p/$10. I really really want to love Yuck. They're a youngish coed UK-based lot, they make that addictive indie-pop filtered through raindrops and cigarettes like only a Londoner (like vocalist Daniel, though the group hails international) can…and the last time they were supposed to play here, during CMJ, they had to cancel the tour. So I'm super-duper stoked to see them. w/ Darlings
* Miracles of Modern Science + Ava Luna @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/FREE. Time to take a chance. Symphonic, strings-laden rock that somehow JAMS (Miracles of Modern Science) and groovy post-punk soul (Ava Luna).
* Suuns @ Shea Stadium / 20 Meadow St, Williamsburg (L to Grand), 8p. Brooding rock terror, intertwined w/ loping (and looped) electronic beats like a "Terminator" version of cutting-edge indie music. Suuns play a perhaps subtler show tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge, but expect 'em to go full out fear-factor style tonight.
* WIERD presents The Soft Moon @ Home Sweet Home / 131 Chrystie St (F/JMZ to Essex/Delancey), midnight. Picture The Cure's "Mixed Up" album, but only the echoey bits of "A Forest (Tree Mix)" and "The Caterpillar (Flicker Mix)", w/ Robert Smith's super whispery vocals. That's a bit like San Fran's The Soft Moon, bringing their somberly gorgeous '80s-bent pop to HSW. Fog machines in full effect, people.
* Kenny Scharf "Naturafutura" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 293 10th Ave. I gotta give Scharf props: he made his thing during the hard NY '80s alongside Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and goofy as his Day-Glo cartoony psychedelia sways, it's still reminiscent of that pivotal time in this city plus unique from his current peer group. This series is based off Scharf's coastal studio in Bahia, Brazil, and he incorporated elements of the BP Deepwater disaster into two of them (incl. "Oil Painting", currently at MOCA LA).
+ "Three Dozen!" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 511 @ 27th St. A sweetened slew of Scharf's confectionary donut paintings.
* Hurvin Anderson "Subtitles" @ Michael Werner Gallery / 74 E 77th St. The gallery debut for London-based Anderson, after his traveling exhibition "Peter's Series" that was at Studio Museum Harlem after its Tate Modern show. I've heard references to Matisse, Doig and Hockney in Anderson's color-drenched personal renderings, so this new exhibition has the potential to be totally terrific.
* Juan Navarro Baldeweg "Pintar, Pintar" @ Marlborough Chelsea / 545 W 25th St. Recent, vividly colored paintings by the renowned Spanish artist and architect, which is an important point b/c spatial representation figures heavily in his angular semi-abstract renderings, particularly the diamond shaped canvases of figures pouring paint into line crisscrossed rooms.
+ Steven Siegel "Biography". Full disclosure: I misread the artist's name as Steven SEAGAL. But seriously: Siegel works in the monumental, like this wall-spanning, gallery-filling "Biography", a 50-ft serpent of discarded ephemera and textured bits.
* Mark Seliger "Listen" @ Steven Kasher Gallery / 521 W 23rd St. Beauty, decay, the nude female form, New York City. Seilger's large platinum palladium prints will draw a reaction from you, whether it's admiration or repulsion. There is a book-signing for the eponymous Rizzoli-published tome.
* Suuns @ Mercury Lounge / 217 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave), 6:30p/$10. Those creepy, creepy Canadians, w/ their loop-riddled guitar riffs and whispery vocals and schizo performing. Love 'em. w/ Julianna Barwick, to maybe temper things juuuust a bit.
* Invisible Days + Strange Rivals @ Party Expo / 929 Broadway, Bushwick (JMZ to Myrtle/Broadway), 9p/$5. Ah, Invisible Days (formerly Beloved Rogue, and featured on my LIST as that) do shoegaze strikingly well, as do Strange Rivals' dissonant psychedelia. Pair these Brooklyn dudes together and you've got a winner.
* "Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). Performance as art necessitates photographic archiving, if the artist intends it to be shown to a broader, generational audience. But performance FOR photography, the point of this exhibition (culled from MoMA's collection), produces its own unique results, from the cropped framing to the immediacy of action (esp. when the majority are shot w/ film). Feat. the media-hungry Bruce Nauman, the frightening Gunter Brus, some debilitating and still-haunting works of Adrian Piper and Rong Rong, classics from VALIE EXPORT and Ana Mendieta, plus Robert Gober, Tomoko Sawada, Lorna Simpson, Laurel Nakadate (who's got her own dope concurrent solo exhibition at PS1), Ai Weiwei and Bas Jan Ader (a notable one for this genre, as Ader disappeared after one of his photographic journeys).
* "Sculpture" @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 521 W 21St St. A five-artist exhibition of contemporary sculpture, feat. Liz Glynn's "California Surrogates for the Getty" (2008) (her take on looted artifacts returned to Italy by the museum), Justin Matherly's marble "Juno Ludovisi", Amy O'Neill's Victory Gardens-recalling floor sculptures, Nadine Robinson's light and sound experimentation and Michael Sailstorfer's metamorphosing of the reclaimed.
* Pierre Huyghe "The Host and the Cloud" @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. The NY-based French artist debuts his latest film, "The Host and the Cloud", filmed at the now-vacant building that used to be the National Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions and relating to three particular experiences observed by tours of that disused museum during Halloween, Valentine's Day and the 1st of May 2010. Plus, there's a rabbit-man, whose mask reappears alone in the exhibition, along with aquariums created by Huyghe.
* Gillian Carnegie @ Andrea Rosen Gallery / 525 W 24th St. Carnegie returns to the gallery w/ a sumptuous, meditative array of paintings of interiors, architecture and still lifes. That muted color and oldish style is what makes 'em so compelling, eschewing zingers and spectacle for hushed elegance.
+ "The Flemish Masters: That's Life", curated by Filiep Libeert.
* Jeppe Hein @ 303 Gallery / 547 W 21st St. In the Danish-born artist's NY gallery debut in 2008, he included a work that involved nails perpetually spitting out a hole in the wall each time someone passed by. I recall REALLY digging the show (lots of hidden bits). His latest should expand upon this, and our perceptions, considering the press release includes an image of the gallery, flipped upside down.
* Leon Ferrari @ Haunch of Venison NY / 1230 Ave of Americas, 20th Fl. Following Ferrari's enriching dual exhibition "Tangled Alphabets" (w/ the ineffable Mira Schendel) at MoMA in 2009, Haunch of Venison stages the 90-year-old Argentinian artist's next major U.S. retrospective. Think about that for a moment and weigh those words: this seminal Latin American artist's first major museum exhibition was at MoMA, less than two years ago. No time to waste, then: nearly 50 years worth of work, including Ferrari's wire sculptures and "written drawings", including "Opus 113" (seen in the MoMA exhibition) and rare monumental sculpture never exhibited stateside.
* "Postman Blues" (dir. Sabu, 1997) screening @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (E/M to Lexington/53rd, 6 to 51st St), 7:30p + Q&A. Sabu-san's recurring everyman (here a postal worker, played by Shinichi Tsutsumi) mixes up w/ old friend and now-Yakuza thug (a youngish Keisuke Horibe, and a go-to Yakuza thug, if anyone's seen his raspy role in Katsuhito Ishii's "Party 7") & the whole thing dissolves into comedic chase-scenes and misidentification.
* "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" (dir. Jaromil Jireš, 1970) screening @ Museum of the Moving Image / 3601 35th Ave, Astoria (E/M/R to Steinway St, N/Q to 36th Ave/Washington Ave), 7p. A young woman, come of age, trapped in an impenetrable dream of magic-makers, vampires, salacious men and women. Terribly surreal and, far as I know, VERY rare. Hence why it's part of Moving Image's "Recovered Treasures" series. Plus the director's Czech, and the theatre quotes the film as a "Jodorowsky/Bergman coproduction of a Grimm's fairytale".
* "Rage" (dir. Sebastián Cordero, 2010) @ Cinema Village / 22 E 12th St (NRW/L/456 to Union Sq). Phantasmagoric cinema's maestro Guillermo del Toro produced this nerve-shattering romantic thriller, about a Latin American immigrant who stealths away at his girlfriend's employers' mansion after a violent debacle, unbeknownst to them AND her. He observes her mistreatment as a housekeeper and plots, and you just know this isn't going to turn out pretty.
* "Ip Man II" (dir. Wilson Yip, 2010) @ Village East Cinema / 181 2nd Ave (L to 3rd Ave, NR/L/456 to Union Square). Donnie Yen plays the heroic Wing Chun master and Bruce Lee's teacher, relocated now to Hong Kong after the Japanese occupation of Foshan in '49. All he wants to do is settle in w/ his stunning wife (Lynn Hung, HELLO) and kid and introduce Wing Chun to the locals. Nope: the martial arts in this town are corrupt, and Sammo Hung's (action choreographer AND actor) in charge. You know what's gonna happen. Only then: the evil Brits in town send a right bastard boxer to challenge the local teachers. You know, East v. West, only w/ ass-kicking. But look, here's the thing w/ Ip Man: he doesn't want to fight you. He will happily pace around, critiquing his students and sipping his tea, then go back home to his stunning wife and kid. You challenge him, he'll smile at you then kick your ass.
* Blank Dogs + The Soft Moon @ Monster Island Basement / 128 River St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$8. Nice and dark: if you like your pop muddled in The Cure's "Mixed Up"-era haze but still shimmering with panache, check Captured Tracks headliners Blank Dogs and their San Fran labelmates The Soft Moon. w/ Widowspeak
* Jessica 6 @ Cameo / 93 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 10p/$10. A roof-raising bash before Jessica 6's European Tour and probably the hottest dancefloor in the five boroughs. Just listen to cutie Nomi croon a blistering cover of Bowie's "I'm Deranged". Hot stuff, coming through.
* How To Dress Well + Autre Ne Veut @ Church of the Messiah / 129 Russell St, Greenpoint (G to Nassau), 8p/$12. OK I've been to DIY/alternative venues before (even churches — and I don't mean the Masonic Temples) for live music. But this is a new one for me, and a worthy alternative to the Captured Tracks show in Williamsburg. Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well, does this vocal-driven dance music straight out a ketamine dream. Similar deal w/ the mysterious Autre Ne Veut, though he veers more bygone-era R&B, though it's just as magnetizing.
* Mephista @ The Stone / 16 Ave C (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$10. An amazing "downtown NY" supergroup, comprised of Swiss pianist/keyboardist Sylvie Courvoisier, laptop electronics queen Ikue Mori and dynamic drummer Susie Ibarra, for an evening of potent improv.
* Christopher Williams "For Example: Dix-Huit Lecons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 12)" @ David Zwirner Gallery / 525 W 19th St, gallery talk w/ curator/historian Mark Godfrey, 11:30a (RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org). Join London-based curator and art historian Godfrey fo a talk on the photographer ne plus ultra. Godfrey had a brilliant conversation w/ Williams in "After all" several autumns ago and is attuned to the artist's rigorous methodology.
* Arturo Herrera @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co / 530 W 22nd St. The Berlin-based Herrera is a complicated one for me, as his previous gallery shows have been a whole lot of concept over varying media, that I would leave not having a solid grasp of any of it. This time he focuses on works and paper and a wall painting, jumbled message-laden collage. Somehow, I think I'll be able to extract from this. Plus: Americas Society hosts Herrera's "Les Noces" (2007), his first abstract filmic work, based on Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes and scored by Igor Stravinsky, opening FEB 3 (check next week's LIST for the writeup).
* "Non-Stop" (dir. Sabu, 1996) screening @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (E/M to Lexington/53rd, 6 to 51st St), 7:30p + Q&A. If I had to pick ONE Sabu-san film, it'd be this one. It's his debut, and it stars Tomorowo Taguchi (aka the wacked-out titular character from Shinya Tsukamoto's cyberpunk classic "Tetsuo") as a wacked-out middling criminal, chased by a combini clerk (rockstar Diamond Yukai) after a botched robbery, who in turn is chased by a Yakuza thug (Shinichi Tsutsumi), continuously, through Tokyo. All Sabu-san's features drew from this concentrated concoction. Plus, this is the director's last visit/Q&A at the Japan Society during the retrospective.
* Noveller + Grooms @ Bruar Falls / 245 Grand St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$7. The power of the guitar: Grooms temper theirs w/ a sludgy rhythm section (name your favorite five mid-'90s alternative acts) and intriguing harmonies. Noveller is Sarah Lipstate, recurring LIST fav, and she sculpts the wickedest, prettiest soundscapes from her axe.
* Beach Fossils + ARMS @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 7:30p/$14. An absolutely stacked lineup celebrating I Guess I'm Floating's (the eponymous music blog) 5th anniversary. Which means: the songwriterly, driving indie-rock of Todd Goldstein & crew as ARMS, the local and loud A Place to Bury Strangers, and Greenpoint's finest surf-tinged act Beach Fossils, to have you dancing and perspiring super-late.
* Real Estate @ Union Hall / 702 Union St, Park Slope (D/NR to Union St), 8p/SOLD OUT oops! No surprise, there. New Jersey quartet Real Estate practically defined the wave of surf-rock acts that spilled into NYC two summers ago, but these guys have the hook-laden, groove-smart vivacity to keep pioneering. May or may not be some tix at the door.
* "The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City" @ Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St). Define opulence: some of the most mind-meltingly costly decorative works from the Qianlong Emperor's 18th C. private retreat. Since the Met can't like transport the entire lacquer- and cloisonné-laced complex to its Chinese galleries, it did the next best by receiving chairs to humble you, loads of calligraphic panels and landscapes, and an assembled 12-ft tall purple sandalwood partition, on loan from Beijing's Palace Museum.
* Amy Khoshbin "practice" @ The Stone / 16 Ave C (F to 2nd Ave), 10p/$10. Khoshbin is an alumni from my university (UT Austin all the way), now based in Brooklyn and producing a wealth of multimedia acts. Her A/V performance tonight is part of Laurie Anderson's curated month at The Stone (and bonus trivia: Khoshbin is touring as video designer for Anderson's "Delusion", which played in BAM's Next Wave Festival last fall).
* Laurel Nakadate "Only the Lonely" @ MoMA PS1 / 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City (E/M to 23rd St/Ely Ave, 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse Sq). The fact I can't come up with an easy explanation of my feelings when walking through Nakadate's first comprehensive museum exhibition speaks to the power of what's on display. And what's on display, to put it bluntly, is the artist herself. Here goes: many of Nakadate's video works and photography features her play-acting for the camera w/ older, single, anonymous men. They may be acting out exorcisms in the guy's house — like "Little Exorcisms" (2009) — or having mock-birthday parties, "Happy Birthday" (2000), the earliest here, three videos of the guy serenading Nakadate in front of a candlelit cake. They could be reenacting the heroine's cinematic death, like in "Beg For Your Life" (2006) or kinda dancing w/ her to Britney Spears in "Oops!" (2000). Or they could be like the wild-haired artist, sketching her for "Lessons 1-10" (2002) while Nakadate poses in her panties or less, staring at us while we and the guy stare at her. These videos and related photography bear the triple assault of deep unease, gnawing loneliness and tentative comfort — most evident as her comforting them, stepping into these socially-awkward men's lives for an hour or whatever, however long it takes to film the project, though I don't suspect it to be entirely one-sided. The strong sense of voyeurism (the men's lustful or innocent demeanor around her, Nakadate's magnetic presence in the frame) is tempered by Nakadate controlling the camera. Like "Good Morning, Sunshine" (2009), where she's the off-camera voice in young women's bedrooms, coaxing them to strip to their underwear. And her self-portraits, like the new series "365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears", an overwhelming array of C-prints capturing her crying all throughout 2010, in the U.S.-Canada sojourn via Amtrak "Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind" (2006), where she throws her underwear out the moving train's window, and in "Love Hotel" (2005), a video of her coupling w/ an invisible, absent lover in Tokyo's love hotel sprawl. And, furthermore, in her project videos. She is undeniably courageous to enter a stranger's flat, but the ensuing invigoration and mutual respect and emotions may be to everyone's benefit, hers and the guys. I'm not trying to understand the thoughts going through these guys heads, having an attractive young woman artist creating a project with them, or if they ever see the final results of her respective work. Nakadate, however, is trying to understand, sharing a little face-time and a little human interaction. Both Nakadate's full-length films "Stay the Same Never Change" (2009, w/ its Sundance premiere) and "The Wolf Knife" (2010, which I hadn't seen until now) are included in the exhibition.
+ "Modern Women: Single Channel". Nakadate's videos exploring her own body and postfeminist gender dynamics segues into this goldmine from MoMA's film collection (they picked up "Oops!" and "Stay the Same Never Change"), 16 single-channel videos from 11 international women artists. It's an all-star cast, and though it's set firmly in the '60s & '70s (only two break from this, the younger artists Pipilotti Rist and Kristin Lucas), it is commendable (expected, really) that MoMA retains classics from this generation of feminist visual artists. We're particularly lucky w/ VALIE EXPORT, as there are three on view (not the famous '68 performance "Aktionshose:Genitalpanik"), the synth-driven, split-screen "Space Seeing - Space Hearing" (1973-4), the minute-long, guerilla-style "Touch Cinema" (1968) and the grueling "Hyperbulie" (1973), which finds a nude EXPORT navigating a cage of wires hooked to a huge battery and abuzz w/ singeing electricity. Her labored, tortured breathing is the only soundtrack. I'd never seen Steina Vasulka's experimental "Violin Power" (1970-8), a melange of wavy test-patterns, double-exposures and other interventions to the filming, which is of a processed-electric violin solo. Two Carolee Schneemann classics, and the earliest of the group, "Fuses" (1964-6) and the notorious "Meat Joy" (1964), performed by her bathing-suit-clad Kinetic Theatre group w/ lots of raw animal flesh. Dara Birnbaum's "Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman" (1978-9) is a treat, a riveting video-collage of Diana Prince repeated transforming into the titular hero, amid constant explosions and "I Am Wonder" performed by the Wonderland Disco Band. Her other iconic piece here, "Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry" (1979) has a funk soundtrack too, as she dissects the 'looks' of Eileen Brennen and Melissa Gilbert, amid others, on Hollywood Squares. Spend some time w/ this exhibition.
+ Sergej Jensen. This Berlin-based artist — whose style he self-described as "painting without paint" — is a serious visual palate-cleanser from the thrillingly overwhelming Laurel Nakadate exhibition dominating most of the 2nd Fl. Astute gallery-goers will remember Jensen from an Anton Kern Gallery exhibition a few years ago. Some of those works are exhibited here, his first in-depth survey at an American museum, plus a bunch I've never seen. This is tricky if you don't take your time w/ it, like many of them are stretched raw silk, or just burlap, or fabric sewn onto other fabric, or canvas treated w/ bleach (maybe gouache if he feels like laying down marks). Yet, they take on an intriguing span of effects, collage, proto-Cubism, Color Field. I mean, Blinky Palermo was one-upping Ellsworth Kelly at the hardedge game w/o paint back in the '70s. But I quite like Jensen's array here; it's not often I see a contemporary artist approach Minimalism and abstraction in this hand-worked way.
* Ursula von Rydingsvard "Sculpture 1991-2009" @ SculptureCenter / 44-19 Purves St, Long Island City (E/M to 23rd St/Ely Ave, 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse Sq). One of the fun things about von Rydingsvard's massive cedar sculpture, their rippling surfaces prodigiously rubbed w/ graphite, is the artist's own matter-of-fact naming conventions. How else would you describe the monolithic figure with its brooding concave inlet? That would be "Wall Pocket" (2003-4), a wall-sized behemoth w/ a 'pocket' in one of its surfaces. Obviously. Another hanging wall relief, like a magnified plate dotted w/ ridges, its circumference surrounded by a raised collar? "Collar with Dots" (2008). Her titles add a weightlessness to another five-part piece, these barn-door-sized carved and chalk-etched planks leaned against the wall, called "Five Lace Medallions" (2006). And while I love seeing von Rydingsvard's cedar sculpture outdoors, interacting w/ the environment like upstate at Storm King sculpture garden, the Hoovering land-mover "Droga" (2009), cutting across the gallery's concrete floor, and the landscape-like undulations of "Krasawica II" (1998-2001) blend that outside/inside vibe quite nicely. Plus, don't miss her newest work "Elegantka" (2011), a resiny torch in SculptureCenter's courtyard. At dusk, this sculpture illuminates from within, producing a bluish glow that works quite perfectly off the (currently) snowy field.
* George Condo "Mental States" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave). The first U.S. survey of this range for George Condo comes now, nearly three decades in, and it's a CONCEPTUAL survey. Meaning: one floor of "states of mind", truncated into the marginalized cases in Melancholia, the lascivious sex-makin' and trash-talkin' in Manic Society, and the fairly standard room of motion-heavy (and gorgeous) abstracts. One more floor of a salon-style hanging, a symphonic wave of various emotions and vibes as 46 separate portraiture paintings (some almost Miniaturist tiny, others in wingspans of a basketball player) practically leap off the wall. It's a good lot, though, and the curious and purposeful approach resonates. Let's begin at the top: what the salon-style installation loses in individual intimacy (esp. w/ the higher-up paintings, like the brightly hued "The Colorful Banker" (2010) and the disarmingly alluring "Mad Mary" (2004), both affected in Condo's self-described "Pod people" style (think Picasso's biomorphic abstraction crossed w/ a sock-puppet) and hung near the museum's ceiling), it achieves a ratcheted up, almost physical reaction. It's an once a survey of America's collective memory since Condo first began painting (the works in the salon range from 1982's "The Madonna" to 2010) and a test of engaging emotive response. You can extract individual works from the onslaught, like the curious Muppet-like "Red Antipodular Portrait" (1996) and the cleanly beautiful "Mary Magdalene" (2009), which somehow channels Rene Magritte's Fauvism stage. The massive collaged work "Spanish Head Composition" (1998) screams Mosqueteros-era Picasso is front and center, and is particularly notable as it contains 46 A4-sized portraits w/in its borders, echoing the number of salon works. The pathos-inflicting grouping on the 3rd Fl. mostly bear that dank nondescript Rembrandt backdrop — like "The Secretary" (1998) and "The Chinese Woman" (2001), both of which flank the pantsless "Stockbroker" (2002) — while the manic quintet eschew luminous surfaces for flat, garish color, like the speed-lines and bright tangerine of "The Return of Client No. 9" (2008, one guess who they are) and its curiously similar neighbor, "Couple on Blue Striped Chair" (2005). The abstracts room also bears the most breathing-room, which is refreshing when taking in the fluidic action on their massive surfaces. The incredible textures on "Big Red Jam" (1992) and "Black and White Abstraction" (2005) produce almost calligraphic effects, w/ the latter resembling a Joseph Beuys chalkboard, attacked w/ Looney Tunes characters. The three landscape mixed-media works on linen, lined up and spanning one wall (note especially the middle work, "Female Figure Composition" (2009)) caused me to recall Ghada Amer's bustling, animation-like renderings, particularly her collaborative work w/ Reza Farkhondeh, at least stylistically (the hard-edged figures, bearing both Condo's "Pod people" abstraction and high-realism, covered in blurred colorful bursts and patterns). This lot hasn't been displayed together in the U.S. ever, and it evokes an interesting domain between the watery Impressionists and graffiti-laden LES (befitting its installation on the Bowery). It was here that I "got" Condo's power.
* Ellen Gallagher "Greasy" @ Gagosian / 555 W 24th St. The miracles this artist does w/ cut-paper continue to elude and enchant me. Gallagher's latest body of work, bridging the period b/w her 2005 Whitney exhibition and now, somehow channels both density and fragility. Her large "collages" (in the literal sense, as they are indeed composed mostly of ink-soaked strips of paper) come across more as carvings, like she hewed an indigo-stained block of wood and ended w/ these ghostings of Black periodical clippings. Check "OK Corral" (2008) and "Puppy Chow" (2009), both midnight-toned networks of slashed paper. This carries over to "An Experiment of Unusual Opportunity" (2008), acting as backdrop to sinewy arms and distorted physiognomy. In a few cases, like the eponymous new work and the stunning "Unit" (2010), the surface exhibits deep cracks, like Gallagher chipped away at 'em until just the point where they began to shatter. The eight-part series "Morphia" trails about both galleries, transparent, egg-washed and incised paper enclosed in glass like artifacts, their ink- and gouache-markings seeping through to the other side. Her non-representational representation, as it were, is saturated, stained, cleaved and practically obliterated. But it's beautiful, searching through those layers for the figures within.
* Ray Caesar "A Gentle Kind of Cruelty" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St. I never thought I'd use "painterly" in the same breath as Ray Caesar, the dark alchemist of macabre babydolls rendered in 3D modeling software, but that adjective is apropos in his latest body of work. He's softened the edges of many of his creepy, biomorphic girls, not so much treated them w/ the blur presets in Photoshop but rather this overall weathered, muted old-style drama. Then again, the varnish treatments on the final UltraChrome on Dibond prints, like "Second Sight" (w/ its amorphous green-gas backdrop) and the diffuse spotlight on "Totentanz", works wonders, too. Though compare w/ the untreated UltraChrome prints, like the fine mist hanging over "Day Trip", and that softness remains. It puts his trademark slick production skills, like on "Silent Partner" (devilishly kinky, but more throwback to Caesar's earlier works), into razor-sharp focus.
* Yuichi Higashionna "Fluorescent" @ Marianne Boesky Gallery / 509 W 24th St. As can be gleaned from the show-title, creative light sculpture is Higashionna's modus operandi. He includes some of those twisty circular-bulb "chandeliers" here, but they're augmented by trompe l'oeil black-striped walls and illuminated curtains, throwing moire patterns and "live" Op art stimulation into the mix. His crude Venetian black glass mobiles become lively against the black grids, and this mutant multifaceted sculpture of acrylic-framed mirrors is like a junior-high makeup counter extended to voyeuristic proportions. There's quite a bit of eye-trickery going on here. I'm impressed.
* Kai Althoff "Punkt, Absatz, Bluemli" @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St. Step confidently onto that pollen-looking surface (it's actually water-based yellow paint, already dry) and this Cologne-based artist's latest solo exhibition. There's a Chagall-ian dreaminess to this, in the attenuated figures painted on canvas or fabric, plus the life-size sculpted couple cavorting against a screen of multicolored artisan mugs. The underlying fantasy element is tempered by several very realistic renderings of young Orthodox Jewish men. Add the deep fuchsia curtains and there's something domestic about the whole installation, too — it opens another door into Althoff's imagination.
* McDermott & McGough "Of Beauty and Being" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. I hesitate to effuse on this culture-mining duo, but their latest collection of restructured advert narratives, firmly situated in 1955, is undeniably gorgeous. They used this tricolor carbon photographic process to print these poster-sized gems, a technique instilled by photographer Paul Outerbridge in the '30s for color magazine adverts. Which is what these look like: saturated maraschino-cherry reds and powdery teals, eye-popping primaries and airbrushed skin. Oh yes, there's a lot of female nudes here, homage to Outerbridge (plus Man Ray, Steichen and others), like "My Song of Love", masked and spotlit in front of red-green curtains, and the dreamlike shadowy curves of "A Woman Alone". The patterned "Always Reminding Me That We're Apart", w/ the foregrounded elbow-length blue glove, bejeweled and grasping a shiny compact, must be seen to be believed, like the more restrained beauty of "When Love is Far Away", emphasizing the luminescence in nails and lips, beyond the bling-y earring.
+ Ghada Amer "100 Words of Love". One epic new sculpture, composed of 100 calligraphed Arabic words for love.
* Stephen G. Rhodes @ Metro Pictures / 519 W 24th St. Last time I saw Rhodes, it was his compact and destroyed presidential chair "Interregnum Repetition Restoration, Upholstered" (2008) at the New Museum's 'Younger than Jesus' group exhibition. The ghostly "portraits" that hung behind this installation recur as "Vacant Portrait: Rousseau" in Rhodes' gallery-filling ode to Immanuel Kant, a labyrinth of curved temporary walls covered in graffiti-like renderings and spotlights, ceramic mugs and extension cords. The central four-channel projection, revolving on a furniture pedestal and punctuated by Rhodes-as-Kant's clomping footsteps amid corridors and grasslands, is either the eye of this sensory-overload hurricane or the center of a particularly pernicious whirlpool. Either way, dive in.
* Jonggeon Lee & Buhm Hong "I Was There" @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. There is something intrinsically personal and relatable in both these NY-based artists' respective works. Lee's fragmented woodworking and molding apparatuses, plus his carved flooring "Bridge of Paradise" makes me think of Brooklyn house parties (you know, those flats w/ lots of room to move around and go crazy, rare in Manhattan unless 1) you own a loft or 2) you live in UES luxury). Hong's combination video projection and mixed-media mobile "Hide & Seek II" (whose primary structure comes from a bunch of copper pipes) is another instance of architecture rooted in soirees, or conversely the opposite.
* "L'insoutenable L'égerèté de L'être" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. Translation "The unbearable lightness of being", but it sounds way cooler en Français. This is a joint group show at the gallery's NY and Paris locations, named after Milan Kundera's 1984 novel, and feat. a genre- and generational-spanning cast of the sublime and nightmarish. The artists conjure a range of human emotion, and there's no clean path through, so take your chances. Lawrence Weiner's "1/2 Empty, 1/2 Full, Whatsoever", w/ its sharp diagonal plummet into the circled "whatsoever", is typical of some feelings stirred up here. It faces a wall of vivid Andres Serrano prints, some softer portraits but also Klansmen, morgue "portraits" and the unsettling "The Interpretation of Dreams", from the University of Chicago's Renaissance Society's 2008 "Black Is, Black Ain't" exhibition. Of the several videos here (all in TVs placed directly on the gallery floor), if you should accidentally look at Hermann Nitsch's classic grueling bacchanalia "6 Tage-Spiel" (1998) (replete w/ animal slaughter, marching bands, a pseudo crucifixion, mass intoxication), then I encourage you to seek out David Claerbout's lulling "Cat and Bird in Peace" (1996), which is just what it sounds like, a cat and a bird sharing the same space, not messing w/ one another. It's fantastic.
* R. Luke DuBois "A More Perfect Union" @ bitforms / 529 W 20th St, 2nd Fl. I had loads of fun w/ this exhibition, DuBois' mashup of U.S. state maps, Congressional Districts and dating-site profiles, producing "romantic atlases". Thus, dating profile keywords convert into cities, w/ the most popular concentrated as the new capitals. The results are varyingly funny, surprising and kind of sad: Texas is "Clubs" (w/ next largest "Rich", situated in Houston, and "Correct"); Colorado intriguingly is "Light" (w/ "Gods" — yes that's a plural — as number 2); Jersey is easy to dig at, "Train" (w/ "Annoying" and "Cynical" the runners-up), though NY's "Assembly" (w/ "Xerox", "Dinosaur" and "Beef" counting too) is equally dry and scattered. Indiana's "Pacer" (I'm guessing that's a sports team?) would be slyly expected if its 2nd largest wasn't "Unemployed". PA's "Frightening" and "Weird", plus DE's "Clairvoyant", speak to something about those states I didn't know about, apparently. And Kansas kind of speaks for 'em all, w/ "Anyone".
* Heinz Mack "Early Metal Reliefs 1957-1967" @ Sperone Westwater / 257 Bowery. I like to call this "heavy metal reliefs". But seriously, it's a great array, all shiny steely surfaces that reflect or protrude their pointy edges. The bulk of the exhibition is hung salon-style between the 1st and 2nd Fls (this occurred during Bruce Nauman's show, too, and I wonder if it's a blessing and curse of the gallery's taller, skinnier structure), making so you have to ascend the 2nd Fl to clearly see the top row, and even then you can't get close to them. The range here, shreds of aluminum like a metal-coated piano ("Meine kleine Klaviatur", 1960) or marking a wooden surface like a shark's prickly dermis ("Große Lichtrelief", 1965), or the amusing frozen explosion of shards of glass and aluminum enclosed in Plexiglas ("Grosses Splitter-Bild", 1966), seemingly cueing Anselm Reyle three decades before the fact. The 2nd fl is a quickie, some pretty cool Op-ish works on paper, or rather silver spray on silver foil, and the delicate "Box of Light Spirals", 1966. The 3rd Fl. contains the frightening MOVING Mack sculpture, forays incl. the rough-hewn "Nacht-Licht-Skulptur", 1970 (resembling a screwdriver's head magnifying like 10000), plus the regal "Stele mit Lichtpunkten", 1987, an obelisk of Plexiglas and transparent foil, facing out onto the Bowery's snowy rooftops.
* 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".
* "Law of the Jungle", curated by Tiago Carneiro da Cunha @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. Survival is key, personal and collective, when navigating the current art scene. This Brazil-heavy show does that nation proud, w/ strong works from Adriana Varejao (a visceral take on Darwin's theory, in "Cannibal Landscape"), Adriana Ricardo's soft, photographic like paintings of Rio de Janeiro's massive Rocinha favela, and Os Gemos' ecstatically patterned figure leaping from a vortex of color. Plus a "Blade Runner"-like psychedelia from Ashley Bickerton (repping Bali).
* "Here and Now" @ Lyons Wier Gallery / 542 W 24th St. The inaugural group exhibition in the gallery's new location injects a good jab of badassness (and solid, representational works) to the W.Chelsea scene. Both Tim Okamura, Mary Henderson and Fahamu Pecou work in stunningly realistic portraiture, w/ Okamura's in particular emanating a strong, meditative beauty, plus Henderson's photorealistic nostalgia. A bit of sexiness from James Rieck (again with realism, but enlarged and cropped for maximum ratio of skin to fire engine red shirt) and Ryan Bradley (an ace of spades-patterned nude, evaporating into its Arches paper background), and a bit of notable, intriguing sculpture (Andres Basurto cobbled up a bottle-green, horned skull of broken glass and epoxy putty, Jan Huling's "Steampunk Willy" is, I think, a beaded riff on the Kewpie doll). The exhibition brims w/ creativity and attitude: I look forward to concentrated doses now from individual artists. W.Chelsea, I hope you're ready.
* Al Held "Concrete Abstraction" @ Ameringer McEnery Yohe / 525 W 22nd St. Some of Held's lesser known brushwork ink drawings on canvas from the '60s, revealing his Abstract Expressonist (specifically Franz Kline-like "action painting") roots before his headlong plunge into Hardedge renderings.
* Nathan Harger @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 537 W 24th St. Iconic normality of the NY skyline — power-lines, cranes, crisscrossing bridge-work, aluminum-sided buildings — reduces to crisp, constrasty b&w prints.
* Deville Cohen, Andrei Koschmieder, Joe Winter @ Foxy Production / 623 W 27th St. The interaction b/w Koschmieder's screenprinted series "Catnip High" and Winter's malfunctioning cubicle hell — if you've ever had to change a toner cartridge, you now what I mean — tie quite nicely, but hang out a bit for Cohen's video installation "The Wall", complete w/ a Xeroxed brick wall.
* Tony Smith "Bronze" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 532 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".