* Kenneth Snelson "New York City Panoramas" @ Marlborough NY / 40 W 57th St. Eight wide-angle, startlingly symmetric views of iconic NYC, captured in Snelson's vintage 1917 16" Cirkut camera.
* Dara Birnbaum "Before Wonder Woman: Early Performance Video" @ Electronic Arts Intermix / 535 W 22nd St, 5th Fl (CE to 23rd St), 6:30p. Hopefully you've seen Birnbaum's classic video "Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman", which is currently screening at MoMA PS1's "Modern Women: Single Channel" group exhibition. It is undoubtedly her most famous work, so EAI put it in context w/ a selection of Birnbaum's earlier b&w performance-based videos, highlighting themes that recur in her later works. Plus Birnbaum joins Lori Zippay, Executive Director of EAI, for a conversation and signing of her comprehensive catalogue "Dara Birnbaum: The Dark Matter of Media Light".
* "Tyrannosaur" (dir. Paddy Considine, 2011) screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 6p. If I'm doing "New Directors/New Films", the co-presentation b/w Lincoln Center and MoMA, I'm going for the jugular. Hence Considine's debut full-length, about a violent and self-destructive bloke named Joseph in Leeds falling for a charity worker named Hannah, whose got her own devastating secrets.
* "8 Women (8 femmes)" (dire. François Ozon, 2002) screening @ BAM / 30 Lafayette Ave, Ft Greene (23/45 to Nevins St, G to Fulton St), 6:50/9:15p. Possibly the contemporary quintessential French musical comedy murder-mystery film? I didn't make up that last part: everything beginning w/ "French" onward is totally legit, a quixotic subgenre of French cinema…I mean, someone dies and everyone breaks out into song and dance. The cast is bonkers too, what w/ Ludivine Sagnier as the bob-cut younger sister (singing "Papa T'es Plus Dans Le Coup, which OK is adorable), Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert acting all fierce, Emmanuelle Béart as the forever typecast vengeful girl and lesbian, Virginie Ledoyen caught in lies (full disclosure: I initially watched this film due to Ledoyen - HELLO)… it's uncannily addicting, though.
* Cults @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 8p/SOLD OUT. You should know better by this point. Cults — that ineffable duo, his guitar arrangements, her uncanny songbird's voice — and their long-haired friends are so hot right now. Good luck getting in. w/ Magic Kids
* Warpaint @ Brooklyn Bowl / 61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 6p/LIMITED. The other hottest show in Williamsburg is also technically sold out — that paisley psychedelic LA all-girl quartet — but you might luck out on a ticket if you queue up early (doors 6p). Is it worth it? Check "Undertow", which keeps building into a bass-driven, starry-guitar blitz, replete with an uncannily Nirvana-sounding lyric. Hell yes it's worth it.
* Elizabeth Murray "Paintings in the '70s" @ The Pace Gallery / 534 W 25th St. The gallery brings it back to the earlier stages of this pioneering painter's career, in an exhibition of works crackling with electrical creativity and formalist nuance. Her touchstone multi-canvas geometric compositions would occur in the next decade, shapeshifting until her untimely passing in 2007, but the seeds of this progress (the bold colors and increasing sizes) are evident.
* Julia Jacquette "Water, Liquor, Hair" @ Anna Kustera Gallery / 520 W 21st St. Fetishized consumerism, culled from subway adverts and magazines, recreated and enlarged to daunting, hyperrealistic proportions. James Rosenquist keeps his billboard-sized abstracts slightly blurred up close, but Jacquette maintains a dizzying sheen to these new tangles of hair, cocktail images etc.
* Hannah van Bart @ Marianne Boesky Gallery / 509 W 24th St. New drawings and paintings of "mood portraits", with a strong color palette shift from her earlier muted style.
* Robert Barry "Recent Mirrorpieces" @ Sperone Westwater / 257 Bowery. Lovely: new mirrored geometric glass panels, inscribed with block-letter words and negotiating Barry's classic balance b/w Minimalism and Conceptualism.
+ Malcolm Morley "Rules of Engagement". Fighter planes, lots & lots of 'em, incl the classic humongous work "Rat Tat Tat" (2001) from the British artist's 'Picture Plane' series.
* Marilyn Minter "Paintings from the '80s" @ Team Gallery / 83 Grand St. The downtown artist finally received due attention for her eye-wincingly sharp renderings, taking the fashion advert and drawing out the grime, sweat and imperfections to the surface. This exhibition follows two early bodies of work, "Big Girls/Little Girls" and "Porn Grids" (i.e. the money shot, in dripping enamel), that form Minter's foundation as an iconoclast and breathtaking rule-breaker.
* Juan Uslé "Desplazado" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. The northern Spanish artist's last solo show at the gallery in 2008 reveal small-scale and large canvases evocative of flickering TV sets, a plethora of colors emanating from layers of translucent paint. His latest paintings turn that flicker into dynamic gestural tumbles, like Uslé's captured the air and light of his homeland in paint.
* "Gumption" @ ZieherSmith / 516 W 20th St. Artists who give it their all in their respective painterly mediums (or works on paper), feat. Melissa Brown, Tomoo Gokita, Trent Doyle Hancock, Kirk Hayes, Keegan McHargue and Gary Panter.
* Cosima von Bonin "The Juxtaposition of Nothings" @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 537 W 22nd St. Fabric wall works and large sculptures from the Cologne-based artist, w/ special soundtrack compositions by Moritz von Oswald accompanying the installation.
* Stephen Prina + Wade Guyton @ Friedrich Petzel Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. The exactor of text and gesture vs. the inkjet glitch-prone reunited once again for what I'm hoping to be another daft match in artsy heaven.
* Saul Fletcher @ Anton Kern Gallery / 532 W 20th St. The London-based artist's photographs compress a lot of weighty human emotion belying their smallish sizes, revealing deeply personal undertones that remain universally relatable.
* Andreas Gefeller "The Japan Series" @ Hasted Hunt Kraeutler / 537 W 24th St. When does landscape photography become so abstracted — shot from high POVs, digitally reassembled to show multiple POVs — that it requires a new sub-genre? Gefeller's style demands this, covering the series he shot last spring in Tottori Prefecture. The proliferation of power lines and orderly rows of fruit trees both feature heavily.
* Almagul Menlibayeva "Transoxiana Dreams" artist talk/catalogue launch @ Priska C. Juschka Fine Art / 547 W 27th St, 6:30p. The Kazakh artist brought me up to speed on the dire situation facing the Aral Sea — the focus of her new body of work in Western Kazakhstan — in literally seconds flat. Hear it from her at this talk, coinciding with Asian Contemporary Art Week 2011, plus the good news: the release of her major catalogue.
* Miru Kim "The Pig That Therefore I Am" artist talk @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St, 6p. Hear from the NY-based artist on her intriguing methodology, becoming one with the city's industrial underbelly and her latest series in an industrial pig farm.
* Steven Reker "People Get Ready" @ The Kitchen / 512 W 19th St (CE to 23rd St), 8p/$10. Indeed, combining indie rock with contemporary dance freaks me out as well, but I trust in choreographer/musician Reker and this program, a live scored "mixtape" to movement pieces. Feat. Megan Byrne (choreographer with Dance Lab NYC and Dixon Place), Jessica Cook, Edward Crichton, Luke Fasano, Jen Goma (one of A Sunny Day in Glasgow's transcendent vocalists) and James Rickman (swapping his axe for a Gibson Grabber), w/ Jim Byrne's video work. (ALSO FRI, SAT)
* Cults @ Mercury Lounge / 217 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave), 7:30p/SOLD OUT. See what I wrote about the lovely Cults on WED, then cross your fingers and try to get in.
* JEFF the Brotherhood + Screaming Females @ Santos Party House / 96 Lafayette St (NR/6/JMZ to Canal St), 7p/$10. Massive lineup tonight, capped off by the one-two punch of NJ's underground stalwarts Screaming Females (blistering punk like no other) and Nashville's scene-leaders JEFF the Brotherhood, doing riff-rock proud. w/ Teen Witch and Juiceboxxx
* Masako Inkyo "Brush" @ Japan Society / 333 E 47th St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 5:45-8:30p. Japan Society's eminent shodo instructor (and, incidentally, one of my professors) unfurls her latest body of work, a deft interplay between traditional and contemporary calligraphic works, from passages of Buddhist texts to semi-abstract brushed compositions.
* Alice Channer, Jamie Isenstein & J. Parker Valentine @ Lisa Cooley Fine Art / 34 Orchard St. The 'body' may not be physically present in these there artists' works, but its ever-elusive nature has a knack for making itself felt. The London-based Channer utilizes textile and sartorial elements, Valentine matches abstraction with her own present gestures, and Isenstein's sleight-of-hand style consistently veils and reveals the figure — which is usually her own.
* Tom Fruin "Sign of the Times" @ Y Gallery / 165 Orchard St. The tiny LES gem inaugurates its new (larger?) gallery space w/ a surreally manipulated grouping from Fruin. He twists and remixed what we know, via neon tubes and signage, into an array that requires contemplation and reassessment.
* Folkert de Jong "Operation Harmony" @ James Cohan Gallery / 533 W 26th St. This Dutch sculptor's unsettling tableaux, typically composed in lurid styrofoam and polyurethane foam, tend to get under my skin. If the charred figures and reveling grotesquerie in his monumental eponymous work don't mess w/ your head, then you aren't looking closely enough.
* "A Light in the Basement" @ Stanhope Cellar Studios / 286 Stanhope St, Bushwick (L to Dekalb, M to Knickerbocker), 7-10p. Nicholas Chatfield-Taylor curated this dynamic group exhibition, feat. 20 artists working with light, each occupying their own room in the studios. w/ Brock Fetch, Jen Shear, Rachel Willey, Double Rainbow, Adriana Atema and more. ALSO SAT noon-8p.
* Ben Patterson "Please Wash Your Face" @ Third Streaming / 10 Greene St, 2nd Fl, 6p. Very awesome! The original Fluxus co-founder, who "retired from art" in '65 and reemerged w/ incredible vitality in '88, performs a new amalgamation of his mid-'60s classics, based in music and performance, and yes it'll involve audience participation. Concurrent w/ the Studio Museum in Harlem's Patterson retrospective "Born in the State of FLUX/us: Scores", organized by the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
* "Insidious" (dir. James Wan, 2011) screenings in wide release. Consider Wan, the creator of "Saw", back in super-scary form w/ his haunting with-a-twist. I'm hoping to be pushed to the limits, something that hasn't happened in a 'mainstream' horror film since "The Last Exorcism".
* "Rubber" (dir. Quentin Dupieux, 2010) @ Cinema Village / 22 E 12th St (NQR/456/L to Union Square). This Goodyear's gone real bad, in Mr. Oizo's bonkers meta-film, starring a marauding tyre w/ psychokinetic powers in dusty California, with an in-film "audience" and of course a beguiling love interest. Ranks WAY up there with "strangest films I've ever seen."
* "Super" (dir. James Gunn, 2010) @ Sunshine Cinema / 143 E Houston St (F to 2nd Ave). Shut up, crime! So sayeth Rainn Wilson, the antihero lead (along with Ellen Page as the inappropriate sidekick Boltie) in this middle-finger to, and reversely rah-rah anthem for, superhero films. You there, about to key that car? Maybe you'd better quit while y'r ahead, or face the wrath of the Crimson Bolt!
* Sheila Gallagher "That Which Remains…" @ DODGEgallery / 15 Rivington St. Gallagher takes a melange of seemingly disparate and innocuous objects from her history and teases out their intrinsic relations, rendering them in smoke, plastic and ink.
* "Notes on Notes on 'Camp'" @ Invisible-Exports / 14A Orchard St. The curious case of camp: the artists featured here may well shed light on those savvy and swish. Feat. Duke & Battersby, Mike Bouchet, Nichole Cherubini, Jeremy Kost, Jessica Labatte, Cary Liebowitz, Robert Melee, Bob Mizer, Brent Owens, John Waters and Karlheinz Weinberger.
* Chris Marker "Passengers" @ Peter Blum Soho / 99 Wooster St + Peter Blum Chelsea / 526 W 29th St. The influential postwar photographer and filmmaker turns his lens to the Paris Métro, teasing out disengagement within an urban climate and intimate moments.This series, shot between 2008 and 2010, is Marker's color debut.
* Michael Velliquette "Awaken and Free What Has Been Asleep @ DCKT Contemporary / 237 Eldridge St. Masklike figures composed in mixed media on watercolor paper and even wilder sculptures cut and assembled from heavyweight paper, inducing a ceremonial aesthetic.
* "Hospitalité" (dir. Koji Fukada, 2010) screening @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St), 5:15p. Think about Dominik Moll's "With a Friend Like Harry", practically as ominous but set in sunny working-class Tokyo.
* "Drawings, Drawings, Photographs" @ Rachel Uffner Gallery / 47 Orchard St. The gallery delineates b/w Marmie Tinkler's watercolors of everyday subjects, Margaret Lee's (and her collaborators') small-scale photo "accents", and C.F.'s works on paper that conjure a fantastical narrative.
* "Roofless Motifs" @ Laurel Gitlen (Small A Projects) / 261 Broome St. The title steps from a slide lecture by Robert Smithson to architecture students in '72, and there are traces of Smithson in the cross-media works by the three artists here. They each use improvisation and chaos to methodically jell an interesting blend of formalism. Harrell Fletcher re-narrates Smithson's original lecture in a video. Corin Hewitt scans dirt and leaves, pushes their neutral color limits in Photoshop, prints them out, then covers them again with dirt and leaves. Finally Elizabeth McAlpine's recurring performance "Words & Music (Headlines)", transcribing the day's headlines into piano chords. This is its debut stateside performance (which premiered at the Barbican, then in London's Laura Bartlett Gallery), and McAlpine enacts it at 4:45, 5:45 and 6:45 today (and again at those times on MAY 1 if you miss this one).
* Julia Chiang "Security is Mostly a Superstition" @ Half Gallery / 208 Forsyth St. I'm a fan of this Brooklyn-based artist and her intense installations, imbued w/ nostalgia and this…strong human essence. I hesitate to call it "feminine" b/c she's a woman artist, but it doesn't disregard the power of her work. Despite exhibitions at Deitch and Tina Kim Gallery, this marks her solo debut in NY.
* Wire + Weekend @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$20. Major team-up here, the UK punk formalists Wire (epic since '76) and San Fran's blistering shoegaze youngsters Weekend, who do it loud and do it right (w/ strong basslines reminding me of quintessential Brit bands).
* "German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse" @ MoMA / 11 W 53rd St (E/M to 5th Ave, 6 to 51st St). I'd meant to attend this epic survey of German printmaking, a joyous and quickly brutal journey through WWI and its grim aftermath, on the first day of members' previews, i.e. before the NYTimes' Roberta Smith's column. I'd missed that chance, read her article, and knew going in that the grueling juggernaut also known as Otto Dix's "The War" (1924), some 50 desiccated etchings, aquatints and drypoints rivaling current-day torture porn in their shocking (yet all too real) imagery, was awaiting me against a blood-red wall like midway into the show. Now don't YOU worry that I just revealed the big plot-twist, as it's not like that at all. Enjoy the lyrical buildup and we'll get through the rocky stages together. The exhibition begins with a two-pronged flourish, devoting two galleries to Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter. To one-up the experience, the museum's included E.L. Kirchner's woodcut manifesto from Die Brücke (1906), which 'til now I'd only seen in catalogue images. Kirchner's woodcut "Dancer with Raised Skirt" (1909) and Brücke member Erich Heckel's "Girl with a Doll" (1910), actually Fränzi, a recurring figure in their renderings, exude a bliss that gets caught in your throat. If only they could have seen the war that would come crashing down several years later. Amid Franz Marc's vividly colored woodcuts of horses and other fauna is his co-illustrated "Der Blaue Reiter" book (1912-14) w/ Vasily Kandinsky. Another 'whoa' moment for me. Plus Kandinsky's outstanding "Klänge" (1913) a 'musical album' of some 56 woodcuts — the exhibition contains loads of these type of series, it's fantastic. Let's keep it moving! In the Austrian portion of the show comes some more sexiness, courtesy Egon Schiele (a selection from his 1914-18 portfolio, including some of the last works of his brief lifetime, like the 1918 lithograph "Girl") and Oskar Kokoschka, whose "Die Träumenden Knaben" (1908) illustrated book and haunting poster for "Murderer Hope of Women" (1909), apparently the 1st Expressionist play, tussle for emotive responses. Printmaking is in full swing by this point, evinced by copies of Der Strurm (Kirchner, Marc, Kokoschka) and Die Aktion (Conrad Felixmüller and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff), plus Emil Nolde's prolific, varying mediums (lithographs here, woodcut there, intaglio elsewhere), like his energetic "Dancer" (1913 lithograph). It and Kirchner's sumptuous "Street, Berlin" (1913, a rare painting in the lot, from Kirchner's own exhibition here back in autumn 2008) do nothing to prepare us for what follows, i.e the war and Dix's "War". I'd caught "War" in the Neue Galerie's survey on Dix, but its darkened lair kept many of Dix's first-hand atrocities obscured. Not at MoMA! In this well-lit room nothing goes hidden, the skulls crawling with vermin, the shattered bodies in ditches, the dead horses, the strife and peril everywhere. The postwar period doesn't ease tension, either, considering Heinz Fuchs' agitprop graphic design posters, like "Workers. Famine. Death is Approaching. Strike Destroys. Work Nourishes. Do your Duty. Work." (1919), a Tyrannosaur-sized Death glowering over a street in disarray, the words burnt into the sky. Nor with Max Beckmann's "Hell" (1919) eleven transfer lithographs detailing social disintegration and violence in postwar Berlin. His later series "Trip to Berlin" (1922) and Dix's "Nine Nightlife Woodcuts" (1922-4) reveal the changed landscape, populated with boozers, the sex-seeking and -addled, and alley cats.
* Cristina Iglesias @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. I'm of the opinion that seeing Cristina Iglesias' art in NY, specifically in a gallery setting, is a rare and auspicious treat. The Madrid-based artist hasn't shown here since 2005, and I had no idea what to expect going into this exhibition (more mind-bending sculpture?). So imagine my surprise when stepping into the main room, empty but for five tall granite blocks w/ that Donald Judd-like starkness and sameness, coupled w/ a curious whoosh of…water? Now it gets fun: peering over and into these "Pozos" (wells), we see Iglesias has achieved yet another spellbinding sculptural technique, casting vegetative bas-reliefs from stainless steel and resin, then filling the structures with different water sequences. One bubbles like a primordial tidal pool, another rumbles along in foaming gouts. I felt like plunging into them — they appear bottomless, or at least bearing undersea tunnels to somewhere else…like into the next gallery, lined w/ a dozen silkscreens echoing her sculpture and surrounding her "Garden Piece (Moat)" scale model, a grove of trees surrounding a serene pavilion. She plays w/ scale further, creating her own Zen-like piazza "Bajo la Superficie" in the back gallery, including a plank-sized sunken floor bearing more rushing water, more steel vegetation.
* "Foil" @ hpgrp NY / 529 W 20th St 2nd Fl. An auspicious collab b/w the gallery and Tokyo's FOIL, the creative super-house (both gallery and art book publisher), feat. a quartet of four emerging contemporary Japanese photographers. The flow here is superb. Rinko Kawauchi presents a suite of large-scale prints from her "AILA" series (also viewable en masse, though different works, at Japan Society's stellar "Bye Bye Kitty!!!" exhibition), following the organic and interconnected cycle of life and death. Shoin Kajii's "KAWA" series bear the essence of his Esoteric Buddhism degree from Koyasan University in Mikkyo: his sublime captures of water, in drip-drops and sluices, mimic human existence. I loved Eye Ohashi's soap-bubble compositions, rendering nature scenes and Shinto shrines even more otherworldly. Yoichi Nagano, the elder in this grouping, includes two series, his older "SHIMA-JIMA" (islands), a big breath of fresh air in the sandy couplings, and "Breath", single figures holding their breath within the placid blue void.
* "Involuntary", curated by Neville Wakefield @ Ford Project / 57 W 57th St, Penthouse. I suppose a site-specific installation is inherently "site-responsive", but Wakefield's group exhibition is specifically subtitled as being "site-responsive". Even guests who know zero about this building and penthouse's history — the medical arts facility during the Prohibition era, the luxe private accommodations that followed, the corporate offices today — will tease out some of those memories in this pretty neat, pretty weird grouping. Naama Tsabar's installation "Sweat (2)", a grid of half-filled liquor bottles and bedsheets run through several levels of shelving, boldly references the speakeasy days, as does Parisian art collective Claire Fontaine's "Untitled (Suspended Battering Ram)", a so-called 'big key' by the British Police, used in forcing entry upon illegal occupants. Olympia Scarry's slo-mo two-channel video "Yawn" and Laurel Nakadate's "Exorcism in January" (also viewable in her 10-year survey at MoMA PS1) have some medical undertones, the "open up and say Ah" bit and non-mainstream quackery. Michael Sailstorfer's "Modell - Reaktor" microphone plunged into concrete elicits a response from the building's foundation.
* Almagul Menlibayeva "Transoxiana Dreams" @ Priska C. Juschka Fine Art / 547 W 27th St. The Kazakh artist turns her lens from her native Steppe to the sickeningly arid Aral Sea, which might sound like a misquote but that region — Aralkum — is so devastated from past Soviet irrigation policies that it's practically a desert. There's an animation on the Aral Sea's wikipedia page that is absolutely haunting: the water is literally sucked away between like the '50s and today, to where despite new damming and replenishing efforts it's expected to totally dry up in a few years. Menlibayeva's new film shows the aftermath via folklore, a young girl imagining her fisherman father's odyssey across the desolate land to the sparkling sea, seduced along the way by beautiful women "centaurs" (mimicking the legend of ancient Greeks mistaking Steppe nomads for the mythical creatures). In accompanying duratrans prints in lighboxes and lambda prints on aluminum, her usual cast of lovely figures set against rusted wrecks and concrete blocks, the horizon extended threateningly in all directions, embody an even weightier immediacy and impending dread.
* Chie Fueki @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 5th Ave. A fantastic grouping of nearly life-size renderings, toeing the line b/w representational and geometric abstracts, reaffirming Fueki's multicultural upbringing in Japan and Brazil. Figures emerge and recede in her refreshing mixed-media compositions, like "Josh", half hidden behind patterned foliage, or "Aiko and John", a charming domestic scene (he with his book, she with her laptop), in a kitchen filled with pets.
* Rachel Whiteread "Long Eyes" @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Whiteread's eighth exhibition w/ the gallery is another foray into awesomeness, as she casts doors and windows in resin and creates sculptures of beverage containers in her exploration of space pervaded with memory and history.
* Robert Mangold "Ring Paintings" @ The Pace Gallery / 32 E 57th St. The great voids within Mangold's shaped canvases — two C's joined together as huge rings — heighten the intense, orbital activity of their respective paintings. Monochromatic washes of acrylic paint (a great palette of lemon yellow, burnt orange, soft gray) reveal pencil lines and heavier graphite circles that spin off, caressing the boundaries of the canvas like comets orbiting the sun. One teal-colored canvas bears an almost heart-shaped (or I guess cardioid?) pattern enveloping the painting's open center.
* James Siena @ The Pace Gallery / 510 W 25th St. Three years of work from this methodical artist, renowned and feared for his "visual algorithms" — OK the feared I made up, but it sounds good — equals a significant output, dozens of small-scale enamel on aluminum paintings and works on paper that line the gallery walls, even the unbound artist's proof to "Sequence I" (2009), some 36 pages of mutating geometric patterns. Yet this is rigorous work, exacting work. Nothing feels dashed off or half-assed. Siena's triangle-based geometric abstractions in particular, the practically flashing "Untitled (iterative grid, second version)" (2009), a diagonal flock of cobalt, black and tan triangles, and the deeply reddish "Untitled (first triangle painting)" (also 2009) are carefully constructed. Even the maddeningly detailed "Sawtoothed Angry Form" (2010), a bramble patch executed in graphic b&w, is a deft exercise in precision. His necessarily looser, organic works, like the long-limbed "Flat Red Girl" (2008) sacrifice none of Siena's painstaking brushwork in their snaking curves.
* Kate Shepherd "And Debris" @ Galerie Lelong / 528 W 26th St. The compositional control that Shepherd exerts, creating these sublimely featureless monochromes and then incising jittery, overlapping polygons on top, spinning them into unease, is practically unparalleled.
* Tim Rollins and K.O.S. @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. The previous collab b/w Rollins and student collective K.O.S. was a riveting combination of geometric minimalism and sociopolitical awareness, seeded in the words of Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Their new exhibition engages literature and historical texts, too, focusing on Twain, Fitzgerald and Weill and those works' original illustrations. Their interpretation of "The Great Gatsby" is intriguingly abstract, covering book-pages with powdery monochromatic acrylic representing the novel's color-themes.
* Stan Douglas "Midcentury Studio" @ David Zwirner Gallery / 525 + 533 W 19th St. I realize Douglas has been recreating these incredible period-specific photographs since the '80s, utilizing outmoded equipment from the time — and I'm lacking historically when it comes to photography — but you put me amid these grimy, postwar-looking prints and I'll tell you they look like they're archives from the late '40s, no lie. Douglas captures it down to the guys' slightly ostentatious suits, to the women's jewelry, the tense energy percolating in a craps game or the laconic dread in a newspaper-covered corpse. A favorite was "Cricket Pitch, 1951" (shot in 2010, obvs), with its diagonal POV and rush of motion, as white-shirted men dash at the ball (or however you play the game) in a meadow aside a tree-line. You can practically hear the cheers, the wind through the pines.
* Lee Kit "1, 2, 3, 4…" @ Lombard-Freid Projects / 518 W 19th St. A neat temporal exhibition in the Hong Kong artist's stateside solo debut. I was initially lured in by his hand-painted cloths, revealing song lyrics from My Bloody Valentine, The Style Council, Velvet Underground… but seeing these in concert w/ his other work, like neatly-folded striped cloths reappearing in photographs, even his pastel-toned acrylic and inkjet-printed cardboard works, riffing off skincare products and this European correction fluid Tipp-Ex, obliterating the cartons' designs and text to echo their "cleansing" modicums. Lee's included in Art Hong Kong 11 (with gallery artists Lee Mingwei, Cao Fei, amid others).
* Sandra Cinto "After the Rain" @ Tanya Bonakdar Gallery / 521 W 21st St. Cinto's last solo exhibition recalled Gericault's difficult journey via a flotilla of paper sailboats and digital prints of tumultuous waves. She returns with imagery of the sea, to a far more visceral effect. The front gallery is ensconced w/ a wonderful wall drawing, silvery lines undulating against a midnight blue core, affecting rippling waves or even rainfall depending on how the piece moves you. The back gallery breaks up the effect over medium-sized canvases, with a monochromatic blue canvas anchoring the multi-panel work and acting as visual palate cleanser to prepare our eyes for the silvery effects elsewhere.
+ A Gentil Carioca (Rio de Janeiro). Complementing the Sao Paolo-based Cinto is this artist-run gallery based in Rio, feat. works by five artists in the program: Ricardo Basbaum, Carlos Contente, Laura Lima (a co-founder of the gallery), Maria Nepomuceno and Thiago Rocha Pitta. I was most immediately taken by Lima's contribution, "Naked Musician", which she premiered at Frieze in 2009. In this messy, fantastical corner installation, revolving actors don a short-sleeved magician's outfit and casually (though intensely methodically) go about articulating little curiosities out of cards, cut paper, etc. Pitta's video of viscous, sun-dappled honey cascading down rocks, "Danae in the gardens of Gorgona", is vivid in its life-giving effects (though if it were, say, motor oil, that would be a far more disconcerting message). Nepomuceno's sprawling soft-sculptural work, a brightly colored melange of woven rope forms, hanging ceramic spheres and beads, echoes both Rio itself and, in its organic nature, the gallery's senior co-founder, Ernesto Neto.
* Miru Kim "The Pig That Therefore I Am" @ Doosan Gallery / 533 W 25th St. Perhaps you remember Kim's riveting photo series "Naked City Spleen", self-shot in NY's industrial catacombs, profiled in a NYTimes article a few years ago. I sure as hell do! That was my intro to this local artist and her latest series, shot amongst pigs in an industrial animal farm, underscores the cycle of life and consumption. Sometimes you have to squint to make out her hunched up nude figure amidst the flocks of pigs, an intentional effect in highlighting our interconnections to these tasty mammals — and perhaps to overcrowding, to anonymity, to imprisonment as well.
* "Paper A-Z" @ Sue Scott Gallery / 1 Rivington St. A quite literally A-Z representation of over 75 multigenerational artists based in the states (from Olive Ayhens to Michael Zahn) and their various processes of working with paper. The array itself is daunting, but take your time perusing it and you'll undoubtedly be pleased w/ the many jewels that emerge from this infinitely adaptable medium. A few I dug: Jason Jagel's "Quiet Season", a layered pop-up book-styled fantasy that wouldn't be out of place amid Jonathan LeVine Gallery's lot; Katherine Bowling's "Underwear Series" (guilty pleasure, sure, but gorgeously rendered in powdered charcoal and gesso); Olive Ayhens "Urban Leap", as detailed and perception-screwed as her larger paintings; the tiny "Toothy Slab" pencil drawing by James Siena; Kirsi Mikkola's prickly painted-paper construction — and there's like 100 more.
* Jonathan Monk "Your Name Here" @ Casey Kaplan Gallery / 525 W 21st St. An impressively low-spectacle show from Monk, focused mainly on his time spent in SoCal and narrated via small marble slabs carved w/ the words "YOUR NAME HERE" that punctuate his '98 "Room 11" series of Polaroids and fantastical related (imagined?) texts. His ongoing series "Rew-Shay Hood Project", classic car hoods (Plymouths of all types abound) airbrushed w/ grayscale renderings of Americana fix-up garages sides nicely with the lot.
* Christopher Daniels "People Doing Different Things" @ Number 35 / 141 Attorney St. This young NY-based artist wowed my pants off at 2010 VOLTA NY w/ his incredible, large-scale crayon landscapes on canvas. You read that correctly: super-detailed, pop cultural-referential CRAYON works. His new series incorporates some pencil too and is way starker, but his deftness in encapsulating the mundane and everyday in these vividly conceived renderings is super fantastic. Many come straight from Daniels' photography — guy with a push-cart, woman drinking wine, dude being chased by a hippopotamus…?
* Kota Ezawa "City of Nature" @ Murray Guy / 453 W 17th St. Ezawa's public-commissioned installation in Madison Square Park, which shares its name w/ this exhibition, opened March 31. It's a video collage of familiar landscapes from 20 films ("Deliverance" to "Brokeback Mountain"), drawn frame-by-frame in Ezawa's vector-based style, only entirely devoid of people. His gallery exhibition acts as workshop and background, feat. lightboxes and individual wood-carved stereoscopic viewers revealing each setting. And for those of us pining for personableness, Ezawa sweetens the exhibition w/ his new video "Beatles über California", his animation of The Beatles' famous '64 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, w/ soundtrack to the Dead Kennedys' song "California Über Alles".
* David Dupuis "Green, Green Grass of Home" @ Derek Eller Gallery / 615 W 27th St. Dupuis' personal reactions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus other current events, filter into his exploration of the human condition in new emotive works on paper. It's a sublimely emotive array, beginning with a realistic graphite drawing of (what I took to be a) tattooed shirtless guy, then large-scale color-pencil and graphite renderings of fields imbued abstractly w/ Army camouflage patterns — which was where I realized that was grass clippings on the guy, like he'd been rolling around in the field (or alternatively, thinking war context, had been found shot dead in the grass).
* Sascha Braunig @ Foxy Production / 623 W 27th St. It's like the young artist composed these saturated-color "portraits" while seated within a Brion Gysin "Dream Machine" (possibly on psylocibin at the time). I like 'em, they way they maintain both a strong realism and their respective sculptural undertones. "Chameleon" nearly acts as a hologram, w/ its competing perspectives of shiny metallic buttons swathing the drapes and the foregrounded figure.
* Mel Kendrick "jacks" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 W 24th St. Did you catch Kendrick's monolithic "Markers" installation at Madison Square Park in 2009? I love public art. He's installed four blocky b&w sculptures in the gallery, which despite its hangar-like space is nearly filled by the supersized quartet. Maybe it's b/c I'm still adjusting to the conclusion of the gallery's previous occupant: one stoic salt hill and silent Terrence Koh circling it, but Kendrick's typically large-scale sculpture feels particularly big and bulky this time.
* Gary Basement "Walking Through Walls" + Andy Kehoe "Strange Wanderings" @ Jonathan LeVine Gallery / 529 W 20th St. Both these guys transport you somewhere, via their environmentally-charged figurative styles. LA-based Baseman moves you through the walls, whether that's an old house or social boundaries, via his somber and spooky set of paintings and mixed media works. Protagonist "Lil Miss Boo" figures throughout, culled from a vintage b&w photograph and repeated here, even reflected (stand with your back to "The Unveiling of La Petite Mort", a large silkscreen of our girl on a cotton shroud, and stare at gallery's glass doors. You'll see what I mean). His crowded acrylic paintings veer from "The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror" tension to that suicidal Mickey Mouse vibe, deceptively cartoonish. Definitely not for kids. Pittsburgh's Kehoe plunges you straight into America's national parks, in a set of stunning small and mid-size paintings on wood panels. Call it Teton mythology, Sequoia folklore, images of forest spirits ("Under the Gaze of the Glorious") and huge-ass acorns ("Forest Elder", peering out of a grove of goldenrod trees), each with exquisitely rendered foliage and glowing translucent hues. I love 'em.
* Sze Tsung Leong "Cities" @ Yossi Milo Gallery / 525 W 25th St. This New York-based photographer's previous exhibition "Horizons" wowed the crowds: a wraparound horizon-line of all sorts of different worldly landscapes. This time Leong focuses on urban formations, ancient to contemporary, shooting them from high above in context of their surrounding natural environments to highlight the geometries of city planning. My eye kept locking onto intriguing details: like the freshly mowed tracks in the laws of "Linkeroever, Antwerpen", the winding blocks of "Sablon, Bruxelles" (and there's a Tokyo shot too).
* John Chamberlain @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 534 W 21st St. Walking amid Chamberlain's beautiful crushed-auto sculpture, spanning four decades of his career, reminds me that — though I've got to get back upstate to Dia:Beacon — having his works in close proximity to my flat is the next best thing to taking the train up the Hudson. I am quite impressed with the array exhibited here and their relation w/ one another. That the gallery shows "Wylie's Island 1" (1997), one of Chamberlain's creepy muslin-wrapped urethane sculptures (think a tank-sized ghost) is awesome — Dia:Beacon has one too, in their basement, and it never ceases to freak me out. Chamberlain's smaller twisty relief "Druid's Cluster (Swish)" (1975) hangs above "Wylie's Island 1", like a big-game trophy over a sofa. Adjacent to that is "Bacchanalia Regalia" (1992), its steel glittering in oil-slick colors. I dug "Marilyn Monroe" (1963), too, its jet-black carapace augmented by convex mirrors.
* Miriam Cahn @ Elizabeth Dee / 545 W 20th St. This important Swiss artist last exhibited in NY in 1984, coinciding with her representation at that year's Venice Biennale. We've got a hell of a lot catching up to do, so luckily Dee's culled together a wonderful survey, from Cahn's raw '80s charcoal works on paper to brand-new mixed media diptychs. Let's make up for lost time: her handling of various mediums in her compositions is excellent: the sooty charcoals and whitish backdrops radiate this primeval, folkloric power, while her nuanced introductions of color are totally Fauvist, like planting yourself against your favorite Matisse canvas. Her figuration's superb, too, from a blocky pseudo-Cubism to sharply naturalistic in the more colorful works, wispily framed throughout the charcoal drawings. One large watercolor in the project room, titled "Atomic Bomb" and dated '88, echoes both the American Abstract Expressionists doing that soaked-canvas thing (especially Helen Frankenthaler) whilst conveying the wicked strength of that weapon.
* José Manuel Ciria "The Execution of the Soul" @ STUX Gallery / 530 W 25th St. This is the first instance in a U.S. exhibition that the Spanish painter presents figurative works, enormous masklike portraits against his famed vividly lyrical backgrounds. The color palette pairs hot reds and yellows with ashen grays and blacks, so that the haunting mugs practically vibrate off the canvases, their coal-black eyes burning holes in your skull.
* Joan Mitchell "Paintings from the 1950s" @ Lennon, Weinberg Inc / 514 W 25th St. There is a big ONE Mitchell painting in MoMA's "Abstract Expressionist NY" exhibition, her lovely '57 canvas "Ladybug". If you're like me and wanting more of that, before she switched from allover brushwork to focused saturated fields (though I love her sunflowers, who doesn't?), you must see this show. It culls together over a dozen paintings, punctuated by the glorious "Untitled (La Fontaine)" (1957), an asymmetric whirlwind steeped in oceanic blue. Compare that w/ the structured nuance of "Untitled" (1954-5), a companion to her "City Landscape", which does in fact look like that, scaffoldings of cool gray around a blur of textured marks.
* Caroline Walker "Vantage Point" @ Ana Cristea Gallery / 521 W 26th St. There's a subtle kinky undercurrent in this British artist's stateside debut. Her oil paintings connect mundane domesticity with resonating voyeurism, both via her painting female models, in the prolific use of mirrors in these settings, and then from us the viewers. We see what she sees, multiplied and reflected from various POVs like in "Second Opinion" or abstracted in "Upstairs Downstairs" and "Vantage Point".
* Maya Bloch "Hello Stranger" @ Thierry Goldberg Projects / 5 Rivington St. Bloch has great control of her mediums, mixing acrylic, oil and graphite to create phantasmagoric figures cohabiting in either realistic or obliterated landscapes.
* Ivan Navarro "Heaven or Las Vegas" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 293 10th Ave. Confession: when I think of "Heaven or Las Vegas", I hear the Cocteau Twins' iconic '90 album. Navarro has other things in mind w/ his mirrored and neon-ed relief sculptures, describing the footprints of various Vegas landmarks whilst conveying one-liners ("Shelter", "Decay", "Surrender") in their impossible depths. Pretty stuff, but w/o that familiar thrill of his neon fence installation at this year's Armory Show.
* Fahamu Pecou "Art History NeXt" @ Lyons Wier Gallery / 542 W 24th St. The Brooklyn-based artist figures into all his works, his angular face, asymmetric hairdo and razor-sharp shades riffing off and commenting on 20th C. art and pop. Take "The Treachery of (media) Images", with Pecou clad in a gunmetal-colored power suit, the words "Ceci nest pas Fahamu" echoing Rene Magritte's iconic "This is not a pipe". It's neighbor "Whatcha (don't) see, is whatcha get…" has the artist chomping down on a green apple, referencing the great Belgian Surrealist's "The Son of Man" whilst retaining that mid-'80s synthpop imagery.
* Shinichi Maruyama "Gardens" @ Bruce Silverstein Gallery / 535 W 24th St. A brilliant series of extra-wide pigment prints, furthering Maruyama's frozen-action splashes (like his "Kusho" sumi-e works) to a whole 'nother dimension. Think Yves Tanguy's alien landscapes, populated by Joan Miro's filigree impossible forms (or perhaps Salvatore Dali), slippery and slithering and throwing shadows in their wake.
* Ian Francis "Fireland" @ Joshua Liner Gallery / 548 W 28th St, 3rd Fl. If I had a million dollars, I'd commission British artist Ian Francis (marking his solo debut here) to do portraits of all my best girl friends. Or hell, even ONE portrait of ONE girl. I'm admittedly totally about this show, its moody and scintillating mixed media paintings that couple this easy cyberpunk vibe amid rainy London and after-hours Roppongi. Francis composites angular planes of almost flat color, creating architectural bases and swooping perspectives, then layers w/ semi-blurred, semi-nude hotties, rocker types, softcore starlets, and indie kids. Check the frozen surrealism in "Three People Lose Track of Time in the Financial District of San Francisco", the sweaty environs of "A New Band Gets Tired of Their Own Song", the almost pixel-evaporating nature of "Girl on a Park Bench". Some haunting works on paper (another beguiling mix, but mostly charcoal) and razor-sharp pen and ink drawings fill out the lot, accentuating Francis' gift for rendering sexy human forms.
* Nick van Woert "Breaking and Entering" @ Yvon Lambert / 550 W 21st St. The first solo stateside exhibition by this young Brooklyn-based artist is visually stunning and technically beguiling. There are a few singular works, the drenched words "We're In This Together" drizzled like candle-wax on a metal plane, a hulking spectre hanging from the ceiling and colorized like a 64-count Crayola crayon box (w/ built-in sharpener!) left in the Phoenix sun for like three days, for two. But the majority feat. riffs on classical figurative religious sculpture, perforated by holes and saturated w/ crystallized pools of resin. A Madonna with child hidden in a cloud of Antifreeze blue begins the experience in the main room; a whole slew of busts gnashing at and struggling against that same ooze in a plethora of sickly hues greets us in the side gallery.
+ Charles Sandison "Body Text". I dunno, seeing a slo-mo LCD animation of millions of tiny colored numbers floating out against a black expanse to slowly, algorithmically reveal the naked back of a Finnish model is, ah, hot.