* Cao Fei "Play Time" @ Lombard-Freid Projects / 518 W 19th St. Without actually creating a Second Life account of my own, I've still managed to fall deep w/in Cao Fei's virtua-world "RMB City", her richly diverse cross-media series since 2008. Her latest exhibition returns to themes of her pre-RMB works, mixing fantasy, youth and contemporary society. She debuts video work "East Wind", the photo series "PostGarden" and "Shadow Life".
* "Tears" (dir. Chen Wen-tang, 2009) screening @ Walter Reade Theatre / Lincoln Center @ 65th St (1 to 66th St), 6:15p. OK so I like "binlang xishi" — "betel nut beauties" —, this distinctive Taiwanese phenomenon, PYTs selling cigarettes and betel nuts in neon kiosks on the roadside. That's the center of this crime drama.
* Gruff Rhys @ Knitting Factory / 361 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, G to Lorimer), 8p/$15. Rhys, the impossibly creative frontman for Welsh psych-rockers Super Furry Animals debuts his 3rd solo LP "Hotel Shampoo" and teams w/ Welsh surf band Y Niwl to play it.
* Apichatpong Weerasethakul "Primitive" @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, BD to Grand St). The acclaimed Palme d'Or-winning Thai director is totally adaptable as a video installation artist — consider his Masters degree from Chicago's Art Institute. Weerasethakul debuts his first NY exhibition, a seven-video installation melding Thai folklore and soap operas, shifting identities and realities, villagers, the working class and the military. This also begins the director-artist's residency at the museum (read on for screenings), plus he's participating in "Blissfully Thai", a contemporary Thai film festival at Asia Society.
+ Gustav Metzger 'Historic Photographs". The first solo U.S. exhibition devoted to the artist-activist's oeuvre, sculptural photographic installations imbued w/ the emotional and intellectual weights of history, from the Warsaw ghetto and Vietnam War, to environmental disasters.
* Razvan Boar @ Ana Cristea Gallery / 521 W 26th St. The debut U.S. solo show from the Romanian artist, whose dramatic, physical renderings enchanted me in the gallery's previous four-artist group exhibition.
* Rosemarie Fiore "Artificiere" @ Priska C. Juschka Fine Art / 547 W 27th st, 2nd Fl. Fiore expands her retinue of fireworks and smoke bomb works on paper (resulting in dazzling abstracts) w/ blown glass sculptural "smoke domes".
* Beverly McIver @ Betty Cuningham Gallery / 541 W 25th St. The gallery debuts a dozen figurative paintings by the North Carolina artist, all expressive autobiographical portraits of the artist, her sister Renee and their interaction — which was heightened after their mother's passing in 2004. McIver hasn't had a solo exhibition in NY since 2006 (at Kent Gallery), though this show is a mix of new and earlier works.
* Ellen Kooi "Out of Sight" @ PPOW / 535 W 22nd St 3rd Fl. Youth interacting in the Dutch landscape isn't a new thing for Kooi, though in her third solo show at the gallery she eschews groups for usually solitary figures, depicted in huge prints out in endless fields or deep woods.
* Nir Hod "Genius" @ Paul Kasmin Gallery / 293 10th Ave. Decadent paintings and sculpture of moody young men and women, in the artist's debut solo exhibition at the gallery.
* Hans-Peter Feldmann "In Conversation" w/ Hans Ulrich Obrist @ Guggenheim Museum / 1071 Fifth Ave (456 to 86th St), 6:30p/$10. The 2010 Hugo Boss Prize award-winner and super-Conceptualist and the überscribe/critic talk it out. They've been buddies for 20+ years, Feldmann and Obrist — and I'm sort of hoping for a photo w/ both of 'em.
* Rooftop Films: "Sound of Noise" (dirs. Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stfarne Nillsson, 2010) @ Solar One / 2420 FDR Drive at 23rd St (6 to 23rd St), 8p/$10. This was w/o a doubt the wackiest film I saw at 2010 Fantastic Fest, about of group of musically virtuosic "terrorists" vs a tone-deaf detective. It is a million times more enchanting than can be supplied in just text. And to make this screening even awesomer, the percussive actors perform a drum battle w/ the directors post-screening!
* The Short Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, BD to Grand St), 7p. In tandem w/ the internationally lauded Thai director's solo exhibition at the museum, he unveils a program of short films. From early works "Like the Relentless Fury of the Pounding Waves" (1994) to the looping "Emerald" (2007), plus a discussion w/ the director.
* NYC Popfest 2011 @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (F/JMZ to Essex), 7p/SOLD OUT oops! Yep, it's a guilty pleasure, but I attend Popfest every year. And the kickoff show at Cake Shop (feat. local lovelies Dream Diary, Georgia's Gold-Bears, Cali's Sea Lions) just got a helluva lot awesomer when Popfest announced last week that the secret headliners are none other than my favorite band The Pains of Being Pure At Heart! Devoted LIST-readers will recall these NYC jangle-pop champs just sold out Webster Hall, so to have 'em playing tiny Cake Shop (my fourth time seeing 'em at this venue) is super special. If you were lucky enough to nab a ticket, join me up front.
* Naked Hearts + She Keeps Bees @ Glasslands / 289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$10. The one-two punch of local songwriterly rock duos Naked Hearts (Amy & Noah) and She Keeps Bees (Jessica & Andy) makes this a must-see, esp. if you can't make Popfest.
* "Midnight in Paris" (dir. Woody Allen, 2011) @ Angelika / 18 W Houston St (BDFM to Broadway/Lafayette, 6 to Bleecker). Allen's latest love letter to Paris just opened this year's Cannes Film Festival…and here it is! A touching romantic comedy w/ an easy-on-the-eyes ensemble cast (Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard…and yes, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy).
* "I-San Special" (Mingmongkol Sonakul, 2002) screening @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 6:45p. Bit of background on Sonakul: she runs an indie production company in Thailand & produced Pen-ek Ratanaruang's "Invisible Waves" and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Mysterious Object at Noon". Her debut film, a dreamlike bus-ride from Bangkok to Isan, was inspired by Weerasethakul.
* Heliotropes + Weird Owl @ Saint Vitus Bar / 1120 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint (G to Greenpoint), 8p/$8. A bunch of rockers playing a kickass rocker bar in tip-top Greenpoint — sounds like a dream to me! It's the kind of roster that goes well w/ beer-shot combos, like chasing Heliotropes' heavy doom-pop w/ Weird Owl's psychedelia. w/ The Atomic Bitchwax & Mirror Queen
* Real Estate + Julian Lynch @ Bell House / 149 7th St, Gowanus (F/G to Smith/9th St, D/NR to 9th St/4th Ave), 8p/$14. The reason surf-inflected summery bands like Jersey's Real Estate and Mr. Lynch stick around is b/c they exceed those stock sounds for something special — adept songwriting and clever instrumental interplay for Real Estate, intoxicating soundscapes for Lynch. Just in time for summer vacation. w/ Big Troubles
* "Normal Love" (dir. Jack Smith, 1964-5) screening @ Gladstone Gallery / 515 W 24th St, 4p. Filmmaker and archivist Jerry Tartaglia presents Smith's only conventional-length film (i.e. running up to 120 min), a psychedelic romp in the Garden of Eden w/ Mario Montez, Diane di Prima, Tiny Tim, Francis Francine, Beverly Grant and many other underground stars.
* Charlene Kaye & the Brilliant Eyes @ Village Lantern / 167 Bleecker St (6 to Bleecker, ACE/BDFM to W 4th St), 9p/$10. The ineffable local chanteuse Charlene Kaye's tour kickoff party, w/ Theo Katzman & Love Massive.
* NYC Popfest 2011 @ Spike Hill / 184 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 1:30p/FREE. Can't mess w/ free jangle-pop shows at this rocker bar, esp. when they're in the daytime. Feat. locals The Specific Heats, Tiny Fireflies (IL), Smilelove (Japan!) annnnnd more.
* NYC Popfest 2011 @ Santos Party House / 96 Lafayette St (NRQ/JZ/46 to Canal St), 6p/$12. This dance-inducing roster incl. Sweden's Days and the debut of NY duo Chalk & Numbers (aka Sable from Year of the Tiger & Andrew of Nouvellas). Plus show some love for Cuffs (NY), fronted by Andrew Churchman of much-missed Pants Yell! w/ Summer Fiction (PA) and The Sunny Street (UK)
* The Hairs + Sea Lions @ Death by Audio / 49 S 2nd St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford, JM to Marcy), 8p/$7. Lots of necessary bleedover from NYC Popfest shows this week, and this one incl. ferocious Sea Lions (CA, also playing the sold-out Cake Shop show THU) and locals The Hairs (playing tomorrow at The Rock Shop). w/ Kids on a Crime Spree (SF, also playing tomorrow)
* Alejandro Jodorowksy "The Holy Mountain" @ PS1 / 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City (E/M to 23rd St/Court, 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse Square). Will thrice-daily screenings of the cult Chilean director's trippiest work, plus a related installation of film ephemera, tip this one over the top as the "most like an acid trip" experience for all you jejune straight-edgers? I am thinking: yes.
+ Nancy Grossman "Heads". Grossman created her iconic leather-wrapped busts during the liberation movements of the '60s and in response to the Vietnam War, but their silenced and restrained figures resonate uncannily today.
* "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) screening @ Asia Society / 725 Park Ave (6 to 68th St), 5p. It has been a long time coming for this surreal and touching bijoux from the Thai indie director, from the buzz to its Palme d'Or win at last year's Cannes to its inclusion in the NY Film Festival. A man at the end of his life contemplates reincarnation, as his family and friends sit bedside with him out in the countryside. Plus Q&A w/ Weerasethakul following the screening!
* The Short Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul @ New Museum / 235 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave, BD to Grand St), 3p. The second of two short-film screenings by the director, who's currently enjoying his debut NY solo exhibition at the museum. This program includes the mini-opus "Worldly Desires" (2004), made for the Jeonju International Film Festival and drawn from his memories of shooting the feature "Tropical Malady" in the jungle.
* NYC Popfest 2011 @ The Rock Shop / 249 Fourth Ave, Park Slope (D/R to Union St), 4p/$15. An afternoon-evening-night to close out this year's Popfest, and fingers crossed for awesome weather b/c The Rock Shop has a sweet roof deck. Lots to love here, from Chicago's noisy dream-pop trio Panda Riot to Australia's Motifs and San Fran electro-pop duo Silver Swans.
* David Goodman "New Painting" @ 162 W 21st St #3N, 7-9p. Goodman is an alchemist of paper: cutting, collaging, marking and taping disparate elements with the intensity of a couture dress, resulting in energetic, archeological landscapes that respire with his movements in life. Writer/curator Saul Ostrow presents a suite of new large-scale works by the local artist.
* Gordon Beeferman "Music for an Imaginary Band" @ Konceptions at Korzo / 667 5th Ave, Park Slope (D/NR to Prospect Ave), 9p/. Don't worry: the tongue-in-cheek title denotes a real, live seven-piece group performing the local composer's refreshingly freeform works, dubbed "…what '60s firebrands such as Albert Ayler would've sounded like set against lush, post-Ellingtonian backdrops" (Time Out NY). Plus, Beeferman's part of that ensemble, adept at the piano as he is. Feat: Rich Johnson (trumpet), Joachim Badenhorst, Catherine Sikora and Ken Thompson (reeds), James Ilgenfritz (bass) and the ineffable Ches Smith (drums).
* Debo Eilers "In Your House. X" @ On Stellar Rays / 133 Orchard St. Eilers opens up his performative practices in this nakedly vulnerable, cross-media exhibition. The ooey-gooey constructs on the main floor, covered in screengrabs and Elmo T-shirts, are just a hint of the main show downstairs. Here, via two carnivalesque videos titled "In Your House. X", Eilers documents his fiercely personal performances, both feat. participants from his "4 Hour Fundamental" during last year's "Greater New York" at PS1: the ritualistic one w/ Seung-eun Lee where Eilers munches cookies and the freeform freakout w/ Aiko Shimada, including sprayed beer, body-paint and costumes purchased at a grocery store en route to Eilers' studio. Oh he ruffles feathers, and this brutally spastic offering might not be your cup of tea, but that's a great thing about art: what we take from it is subjective. I like melted neon colors, not being able to discern what the hell he used to make these laborious mixed-media works (lacquer for one). I really liked his performance w/ Shimada — it has an unfettered messiness, a believable joy to it.
* Soutine/Bacon @ Helly Nahmad Gallery / 975 Madison Ave. This is a fabulous comparative survey on Belarus painter Chaim Soutine and the younger Francis Bacon, and the first of its kind to explicitly pair and compare the two. Bacon was heavily influenced by Soutine's beef carcass paintings whilst living in Paris — and you probably know Bacon better for his screaming Popes and other figures depicted between great sides of cow. But co-curators Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow plunge further, following the two artist's respective gestural brushwork, of their visceral depictions of flesh, their haunting imagery. Think Bacon is the nightmare-inducer? Check Soutine's "Still Life With Ray Fish" (1924) and "The Butcher's Stall" (1919) — paintings with "a direct assault on the nervous system", as Bacon would say.
* Michael Williams "Straightforward as a Noodle" @ Canada / 55 Chrystie St. I found Williams' latest exhibition of large-scale paintings a two-for-one, in that he blanketed the canvases in gauzy airbrushed scenes, then (using restrained, winding application) added painted meanderings on top.
* Andy Warhol "Colored Campbell's Soup Cans" @ L&M Arts / 45 E 78th St. It is just what it sounds like, 12 of Warhol's original 20 large-format silkscreened tomato soup paintings from 1965. Most on view here are loaned from private sources (which makes me wonder, who got the teal and pink combo, vs. who got the sea-foam and yellow combo?), but also Milwaukee and Houston's Menil Collection include a few of their own.
* Hilary Harkness @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 5th Ave. I'd followed Harkness' exhibition-related blog in anticipation of her latest solo show at the gallery, but that proved to only be a glimpse of what she'd planned. These new, meticulously "Old Master" style paintings, are awesome — and much smaller than I expected! The largest, "Red Sky in the Morning", is at least three times as big as the others and depicts a cross-sectioned WWII Japanese battleship Yamato, filled w/ cavorting geisha and women samurai. The smaller paintings come from around that same period but focus entirely on the relationship b/w Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, including their stunning art collection, like "Girl with a Basket of Flowers", tinged w/ brutal surrealism.
* Willem de Kooning "The Figure: Movement and Gesture" @ The Pace Gallery / 32 E 57th St. A wonderful satiation before the Abstract Expressonist's overdue retrospective at the MoMA — or a big teaser, if you're that hungry for him. The Pace does a museum-worthy mini survey of their own, focusing on de Kooning's knack for combining figure and landscape in flowing, sinewy strokes. This is especially evident in his multiple "Montauk" paintings from the '70s, though his woman in graphite and paint is omnipresent.
* "Heading for a fall: the art of entropy" @ fordPROJECT / 57 W 57th St. Four young NY-based artists interpret the natural movement of order to disorder. I know Naama Tsabar best for her sound-based installations, but she eschews that entirely for "Sweat 2", a grouping of liquor bottles soaking through sheets that also appeared in the gallery's inaugural exhibition. Her intent was a work that would collapse on itself and, considering the stains and funky odor, it's well on its way. Fragility figures into the other three artists' works, w/ Alexander May's black silk triangles wall installation barely held together by glue and Lucy Indiana Dodd's bent canvases encrusted w/ sand and natural pigments. Lisha Bai combines fragile stasis w/ poetry entropy in her blackened sand columns and these almost tie-dyed sand sculptures w/in Plexiglas boxes, their rainbow appearances slowly morphing by gravity.
* William Kentridge @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. When the world last saw Soho Eckstein, the pinstriped industrialist in South African artist Kentridge's charcoal animations and related work drawings, he was hanging out on a Cape Town beach. This was "Tide Table" from 2003, though for me it was at MoMA last summer, and I was looking forward to some beach-time myself. Kentridge returns his troubled protagonist to a Johannesburg of street protests and civil violence, w/ shouting crowds struck through w/ red and blue accents. This exhibition also includes a bunch of works related to his collaboration in Shostakovich's "The Nose", which was performed at the Met Opera last spring.
* Louise Bourgeois "The Fabric Works" @ Cheim & Read / 547 W 25th St. The inimitable and infinitely influential modern artist created fabric "drawings" from scraps of old garments concurrent w/ her late-period (and better known) knitted sculptures. One such assemblage is displayed here, though the majority are intimately scaled collages, like the 2007 suite "The Waiting Hours" (the gleam of a lighthouse on rocky waves), 2006's "Dawn" (I see it as rays of sunlight) and the five-panel "Cinque" from 2005, reddish thistles on indigo backdrops. Of note, many of the more abstract renderings, like a multi-panel non-series grouped salon style, rather resemble spiderwebs.
* Mary Henderson "Bathers" @ Lyons Wier Gallery / 542 W 24th St. Bracingly hyperrealistic paintings that have me yearning for summertime and the beach. Interesting thing: Henderson based these oil paintings and gouaches (which, incidentally, barely lose any of their detail) on composite images from file-sharing sites, so their existence in reality is questionable. That said, she manages an overall vibe that — unless you grew up in some landlocked area and never visited a beach — is quite relatable.
* David Shapiro "Money is No Object" @ Sue Scott Gallery / 1 Rivington St. This is the result of Shapiro's year spent redrawing and repainting all of his bills and receipts. The funny thing is: though his credit card bills and parking tickets, his film stubs and checks are of the most mundane, I caught myself studying them closely, comparing to my own life. Like: wow, his checking account balance is, uh, MUCH higher than mine, or he REALLY shops at Trader Joe's?, or that's a lot of parking tickets…. Plus the painstaking lettering and attention to detail demands some attention, too.
* "Constructivists: George Rickey and Kenneth Snelson" @ Marlborough NY / 40 W 57th St. Great interplay b/w these two influential 20th C. American sculptors. See, Rickey's oeuvre was characterized by stainless steel needles and boxes & whatnot, but it all moved, gently yet kinetically by either fans or ambient air. Snelson's was aluminum rods and stainless steel wire, stretched taut yet gracefully like supersized DNA. Despite both artists meeting later in life, once their careers had already formulated, the complementary tones b/w both is uncanny.
* Marc Breslin "Casual curses are the most effective" @ Scaramouche / 52 Orchard St. Breslin's ultra-subtle exhibition of odd-media paintings and abstract video projections is so far in the margins that it's decidedly not for most. But if you like a contemplative and beguiling show like I do, you should give this one a chance. The young NYer streaks canvas w/ concrete paint and charcoal, slanting one massive canvas against a doorway like a featherweight Richard Serra prop-piece. One digital video "Untitled (Lighting 1)" looks like an illuminated cone across a gallery wall, playing off the torn glassine on linen monochrome facing it.
* Eli Ping @ Susan Inglett Gallery / 522 W 24th St. An astute blurring of sculpture and painting, in Ping's color-soaked and twisted, shredded and slumped canvases.
* Richard Long "Flow and Ebb" @ Sperone Westwater / 257 Bowery. I gotta admit, seeing a 29-foot tall mud circle on the gallery's spotless blue-chip wall made me grin. Long executed this supernova-like work days before the opening and, due to the steepness of the gallery's architecture, it feels awesomely big. The remainder of Long's from-nature works, mostly mud-on-slate "drawings" but also a craggy scattering of Cornish slate on the gallery's terrace and some odd text-only works, don't match up to the wall art's intensity; rather, their intimate scales provide a rather peaceful encounter.
* Josh Faught and William J. O'Brien @ Lisa Cooley Fine Art / 34 Orchard St. There's a lot of personal history embedded in these two artists' respective works, which play off as a continuous dialogue between them. I'd seen O'Brien's shattered ceramics at Marianne Boesky Gallery, and he punctuates several relief versions of those w/ enveloping mixed media paintings, like Anselm Reyle but rustic (maybe Bruce Conner's a closer match). Faught's woven patchworks read like laundry lists of what's on his mind: knitting gifts, jewelry and a "guide to dungeon emergencies" into "Blessings and Miracles" or pride pins and scrapbooking letters (you know the kind, that faux cursive stuff) into "Rules to Party Play #6". Neither artist screams for our attention, believe it or not — they calmly assert themselves and thereby draw us further inward.