* Tony Cragg @ Marian Goodman Gallery / 24 W 57th St. Concurrent w/ his public installation at The Sculpture Garden at 590 Madison Ave is an array of beguiling new sculptures from the Düsseldorf-based British artist, including works realized in bronze, Cor-ten steel, wood, cast iron and stone.
* Laurie Frick "The Art of Self Tracking" @ Women & Their Work / 1710 Lavaca St, 7p. Frick's exhibition is dazzling, but the deeper meanings behind her methodology—patterned language, neuroscience—benefit from some explanation. She leads a highly visual talk on "Quantify Me" should be an illuminating experience.
* "A Lonely Place To Die" (dir. Julian Gilbey, 2011) screening @ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz / 320 E Sixth St, 7p. This vertiginous survival thriller, set mostly among sheer rock faces in the Scottish Highlands, feat. a mountaineering team unwillingly (or unwittingly) pulled into a cat-and-mouse chase after rescuing a young Serbian girl buried alive in the forest. It will induce vivid acrophobia and make you throw up in the best way. Absolutely awesome, and a Fantastic Fest 2011 personal favorite.
* Eikoh Hosoe @ BLD Gallery / 2-4-9 Ginza, Chuo Ward Tokyo (JR Yurakucho Station, Marunouchi Line to Ginza Station). Part two: "Simon Landscape 1", a continuation of the gallery's season-spanning retrospective on the singular modernist photographer, this time focusing on his portfolio of friend and model Yotsuya Simon, assimilated into Tokyo's old shitamachi landscape.
* Mary Corse @ Lehmann Maupin / 540 W 26th St. This is a treat: the Light & Space artist debuts five new paintings in her inaugural show at the gallery. Though keeping true to her SoCal roots, these are perception-distorting works best enjoyed in person, as each grabs ambient and display light and shifts how we see them.
* Alec Soth "Broken Manual" @ Sean Kelly Gallery / 528 W 29th St. The NY debut of selections from Soth's four-year photographic series, detailing mostly men freed from societal constraints amid wilderness landscapes. The experts of escape, whether hermits, hippies, survivalists or just those willing to live off the grid. The previewable archival pigment prints from this series look gorgeous.
* Nikolay Bakharev, Gerard Fieret & Miroslav Tichy @ Julie Saul Gallery / 535 W 22nd St. An exhibition of three potent, enigmatic photographers who began their oeuvres in postwar Europe. I'm a big fan of Tichy, who passed away last year and whose huge body of work—surreptitious portraits of women using handmade cameras—was belatedly discovered like last decade. Fieret's bold, Dadaist spirit and Bakharev public/private delineation (NYers got to know him during "Ostalgia" at the New Museum last year) add their own intrigue.
* Carlos Giffoni @ The Stone / 11 E 2nd St (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$5. Dominick "Prurient" Fernow is guest curating at The Stone for the first half of February. Expect some significantly awesome programming from the Hospital Productions founder and noise musician, like Mr. Giffoni, electro-acoustic maimer and former maven of No Fun Fest.
* Maya Maxx @ Kido Press, Inc / 6F 1-3-2 Kiyosumi, Koto-ku (Hanzomon/Toei Oedo Lines to Kiyosumi-shirakawa Station). Maya Maxx is a trip, like a Comme des Garçons outfit come to painterly life. The Pop artist does rainbows here, mixing her calligraphy background w/ bold printmaking techniques.
* "The Scene" @ hpgrp Tokyo / B1F 5-1-15 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (Chiyoda/Hanzomon/Ginza Lines to Omotesando Station). The show's theme is the power held within a single photograph, featuring the talents of Joy Kawakubo, Takeshi Shimamoto, Michael Stanley, Rich and TARA.
* Robert Grosvenor @ Paula Cooper Gallery / 534 W 21st St. I'm doing like Eric Wareheim from "Tim & Eric" and going helllllllyeahhh in sub-sonic baritone, in voicing my appreciation for this exhibition. I love Grosvenor's meaty, room-dominating industrial sculpture and am totally stoked for this show, featuring a classic from '86-7 and a new two-part sculpture.
* Catherine Yass "LIGHTHOUSE" @ Galerie Lelong / 528 W 26th St. The US debut of British artist Yass' new film "Lighthouse", depicting the Royal Sovereign lighthouse on the coast of East Sussex in a large projection with related manipulated-image lightboxes.
* Kay Rosen "Wide and Deep" @ Sikkema Jenkins & Co / 530 W 22nd St. The Midwest-based textual artist pairs her lettered wall paintings (typically exploring and invading the space's architecture) w/ gray-toned enamel sign-paint on canvas.
* "Damnation" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1988) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 6:15p. The Lincoln Center is throwing an INCREDIBLE full-film retrospective on the impeccable Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr. His oeuvre is highly visual and auditory, "slow" on action and lacking cuts in favor of drawing us to the margins, to emulating an wonderful melange of modernism and metaphysics. "Damnation" is all about despair, broken love affairs, betrayal, heavy drinking (the main location is local bar Titanik). Grim stuff! This is also Tarr's first collab w/ novelist László Krasznahorkai (whose epic writing "Satantango" became Tarr's magnum opus of a film) and actor Mihály Víg (star of "Satantango" and others). ALSO MON 1:30p
* "Family Nest" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1979) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 8:45p. Tarr's first full-length film, and probably his most neorealist (in the vein of Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti), focuses on a typical Budapest housing block and the dire goings-on inside. Oh yeah, he was 22 years old when he made this film. Highly recommended! ALSO MON 4p
* "The Innkeepers" (dir. Ti West, 2011) @ Alamo Drafthouse S. Lamar / 1120 S. Lamar. Score another horror hit for Mr. West, who chilled us thoroughly w/ 2009 slow-burner "The House of the Devil". His latest is funnier yet more unrelenting in terror doses, as cutie Sara Paxton and spaz-wit Pat Healy get way over their heads as amateur ghost-hunters while working at a decrepit inn. "The Innkeepers" capped off a fantastic 2011 Fantastic Fest, and I for one am stoked to see it again. Note: this plays once per night late, through Thursday.
* "The Woman in Black" (dir. James Watkins, 2012) @ Regal Gateway Stadium 16 / 9700 Stonelake Blvd. Hammer Films is SO BACK w/ this spine-rattler, which does indeed star an adult-ish Daniel Radcliffe as a lawyer investigating a string of mysterious suicides and accidents in an English village…and the titular spectre out to curse his kid!
* "We Need to Talk About Kevin" (dir. Lynne Ramsay, 2011) @ Alamo Drafthouse S. Lamar / 1120 S. Lamar. This bracing psychological thriller was a one-time-only late addition to Fantastic Fest 2011…and I missed it. Considering friends' reactions — Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as grieving parents of a son who just murdered a bunch of his classmates — I missed something major.
* "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010) screening @ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz / 320 E Sixth St, 11p. Like cocaine for the eyes, this vintage-certified video game come to life delivers 16+ bits of full-color, side-scrolling mayhem. w/ Michael Cera as the mumbly titular character and scream-queen Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his Manic Panic-hued love interest, you totally can't go wrong. ALSO SAT
* Zola Jesus (LA) @ The Parish / 214 E 6th St, 9p/$10. Man, forget Lana Del Rey. Channel your listening to ingenue incroyable Zola Jesus, whose twilit pop act as real "orchestral maneuvers in the dark". w/ Talk Normal (NYC)
* Ken Matsubara "The Sleeping Water" @ MA2 Gallery / 3-3-8 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku (Yamanote Line to Ebisu Station). Matsubara features the video installation "Mekong Delta", his signature antique-crafted glass dome showing children floating up the titular river, recalling the deaths of children in the many wars and disasters around the world.
* Kiyomichi Shibuya "Which do you choose?" @ Art Front Gallery / Hillside Terrace A, 29-18 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku (JR Lines etc to Shibuya). Point: I dig this guy's name. Point: I dig his visual device, the spirograph, incorporating cast light into tracked out floral patterns that somehow encapsulates both childhood, traditional Japanese imagery, and classic literature.
* Terry Winters "Cricket Music, Tessellation Figures, & Notebook" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 522 W 22nd St. Winters' kaleidoscopic paintings are as immersive as ever, but the NY-area artist adds a twist w/ "Notebook, 2003-2011", a selection of his layered found-photo collages shown for the first time stateside.
* Anne Truitt "Drawings" @ Matthew Marks Gallery / 523 W 24th St. The gallery mounted a wonderful retrospective of Truitt's serene totem-like sculpture two years ago (it was one of my favorites of 2010). They continue the awesomeness w/ four decades' of the artist's drawings, a vital part of her daily creative activity of which I am frankly (embarrassingly) totally ignorant. A special monograph accompanies the show. Looking forward to this one.
* "Satantango" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1994) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 2p. Tarr's magnum opus—and my favorite from him—is a 450-minute cyclical experience within a dilapidated collective farm near the end of Communism and during the dead of winter. The central episode "Satan's Tango", an almost unmoving 10-min shot inside the pub as the townspeople get shitfaced and dance to some psychedelic folk music, is just so incredibly awesome. ALSO SUN 2p
* DIVE + Caged Animals @ Cake Shop / 152 Ludlow St (F/JMZ to Essex/Delancey), 8p/$8. Psych-rockers DIVE (fronted by Beach Fossils' guitarist Z. Cole Smith) are some of the busiest dudes on the indie scene today. Pairing 'em w/ the shifting guitar-sonics of Caged Animals sounds like music to my ears. w/ Heavenly Beat (aka Beach Fossils' bassist John Peña)
* "Evidence of Houdini's Return" artist talk @ Arthouse / 700 Congress, 2p. Sterling Allen and J. Parker Valentine discuss their respective works in this illuminating group show on contemporary abstract practices. See my review under CURRENT SHOWS (it's mighty dope).
* Loring Baker "A Shifting Thought, A Shifting Sea" @ Co-Lab Project Space / 613 Allen St. Baker records her drawing process in audio files, creating a sonic memory of her mark-making and—once edited with field-records—a whole 'nother layer to her figurative works.
* "Holier Than Thou" (dir. Bastion Carboni) @ Salvage Vanguard Theatre / 2803 E Manor Rd, 8:15p/$10. Carboni's bracing addition to FronteraFest 2012 is a dark comedy about a reality TV show where people compete to possess the powers of Jesus for a week. This is the final showing, and believe me when I write: holy hell, highly recommended!
* Ay-O "Over the Rainbow Once More" @ Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo / 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku (Hanzomon/Oedo Lines to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station). The "Rainbow Artist" and Fluxus member's full-spectrum career arc, depicted in full color. Featuring a large, participatory installation (as Ay-O's oeuvre is typically multisensory), plus a new large painting, classic other paintings and videos. Ay-O is preparing a performance scheduled for late March (check back here!).
+ Atsuko Tanaka "The Art of Connecting". Define MAJYAH. The first major Tokyo retrospective of the foremost female member of Gutai Art Association, the postwar avant-garde artist group. This includes Tanaka's famous "Electric Dress" but includes loads else, like paintings, collages, and video records of her performances.
* Lee Bul "From me, Belongs to You Only" @ Mori Art Museum / Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (53F), 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku (Hibiya/Oedo Lines to Roppongi Station). Lee Bul was my outlet into contemporary Korean art, via some high-tech site and her own cyborgian machine-organic hybrid sculpture. This career survey showcases her major works in four sections: "Ephemeral Presence", "Beyond Human" (duh), "Utopia and Dreamscape", and "From Me, Belongs to You Only" (the exhibition's title and Lee's message in creating a personal relationship b/w her work and we the viewers. PLUS: Lee discusses her past two decades of artistic activities in a 7p talk, under the heading "Mon grand récit/Seeking an Ideal Society".
+ Ho Tzu Nyen. MAM Project 016 presents this Singapore-based video installation artist and his new work "The Cloud of Unknowing" (which debuted at the 2011 Venice Biennale), plus earlier A/V works "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Newton".
* "Arakawa Under the Bridge" (dir. Ken Iizuka, 2012) @ Shinjuku Piccadilly / 3-15-15 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku (JR etc to Shinjuku Station, East Exit). Iizuka adapted this from Hikaru Nakamura's bestselling manga, about a self-sufficient young dude who, after a young woman saves his life, begins living under a bridge in some expression of his debt to her and rebuilding his own life. The film is as stylized as the manga, apparently, w/ a whole crazy cast of colorful characters under Arakawa Bridge.
* "Tokyo Playboy Club" (dir. Yosuke Okuda, 2012) @ Eurospace / 3F 1-5 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku (JR etc to Shibuya Station, Hachiko Exit). Despite the glittery name, this violent and off-kilter humorous look at Tokyo's shadowy underworld has earned serious acclaim since its Busan Film Fest premier, incl. that of young director Okuda. Think Quentin Tarentino crossed w/ Kinji Fukusaku, w/ a grinding guitar soundtrack and hardboiled dudes Nao Omori and Ken Mitsuishi (in one of his most frenetic roles yet) balanced by cutie Asami Usuda.
* FOUR GET ME A NOTS @ Shibuya O-West / 2-3 Maruyamacho, Shibuya-ku (JR etc to Shibuya Station, Hachiko Exit), 6:30p/3300 yen. BOOM. Chiba pop-punks FOUR GET ME A NOTS celebrate the Tokyo-area stop on their 2012 "Silver Lining Tour" w/ a sweaty, riff-rocking one-man show not to be missed!
* "Domina-Trix" @ Trump House/Lounge / 1-6-5 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku (JR etc to Shibuya Station, Hachiko Exit), 10p/5500 yen (men), 2000 (women), 6000 (couples). Like the tagline reads (translated): "A night of total domination by women. A night of total submission by men." Fancy that? Enter the basement for Japan's premier "FemDom" party, feat. 17 dominatrixes from fetish bars I've attended and others, plus pole-dancing, a floor s&m performance, and MC Ai Aoyama's slave auction. For real.
* Nicolas Jaar "From Scratch" @ MoMA PS1 / 22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City (E/M to 23rd St/Court Square, 7 to 45th Rd/Courthouse Sq), 1p/FREE w/ admission. P4K presents this singular event, a five-hour multidisciplinary performance by electronic music producer Jaar w/ collabs Will Epstein, Dave Harrington (Darkside) and Sasha Spielberg, plus a movement piece from Lizzie Feidelson and video art from Ryan Staake, filmmaker-in-residence at Jaar's culture house Clown & Sunset Aesthetics. The whole thing goes down w/in the MoMA PS1 Performance Dome, kicking off the venue's weekly winter programming "Sunday Sessions".
* Pharmakon @ The Stone / 11 E 2nd St (F to 2nd Ave), 10p/$5. Margaret Chardiet may be the rare woman musician in the American noise scene, but if her absolutely ferocious S/T EP is any indication, she can decimate w/ the best of the boys. Brace yourselves.
* Plastic Girl In Closet @ Koenji High / 4-30-1 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-ku (Chuo Line to Koenji Station), 6p/3000 yen. Tokyo's sublime shoegazers PGIC headline High's continuing 4th anniversary celebration, which also features Hi-5 and, uh, "Huckleberry Finn"?
* ASTRO & Sachiko @ SOUP / B1F 3-9-10 Kami-Ochiai, Shinjuku-ku (JR Sobu Line to Higashi-Nakano Station), 7p/2500. The inspired pairing of ex-C.C.C.C. noise-god Hiroshi Hasegawa (ASTRO) w/ drone goddess Sachiko M comes from one stop on Toronto/Berlin improv act Nadja's 2012 Japan tour. Also feat: Chihei Hatakeyama w/ Cal Lyall and Hasegawa-Shizuo (Hirotomo Hasegawa w/ Shizuo Uchida).
* "The Outsider" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1981) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 6:15p. The classic young renegade, but in Tarr's gritty world he's no dandified "bon vivant", he's a broken case in and out of love, jobs, women, booze, etc. ALSO TUE 3:45p
* "The Prefab People" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1982) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 8:45p. Blue-collar marriage within Budapest's prefab government housing, disintegrating under Communist-era poverty and personal depression, right there before our very eyes.
* Nicole Nadeau "Portraits of Origin" @ Y Gallery / 165 Orchard St. Nadeau reinterprets the meaning of the "female universe" and dissects pressures that pervade contemporary womanhood in this media-spanning exhibition, her debut solo at the gallery.
* "Almanac of Fall" (dir. Béla Tarr, 1984) screening @ Film Society of Lincoln Center / 65th St & Lincoln Center (1 to 66th St), 8:30p. Tarr returns to apartment blocks for this chamber drama of sparring and double-talk. Even better, he blends social realism of his earlier works with the dreamy metaphysics of his later films.
* Yellow Tears @ The Stone / 11 E 2nd St (F to 2nd Ave), 8p/$5. Dominick "Prurient" Fernow's half-month reign over The Stone continues in a big way, w/ the absolutely ferocious noise-mongers Yellow Tears aurally clawing out one helluva set.
* Dum Dum Girls (Cali) + Widowspeak @ Music Hall of Williamsburg / 66 N 6th St, Williamsburg (L to Bedford), 8p/$15. Picture perfect. Bands that sound great AND look awesome. Widowspeak enchant w/ Molly Hamilton's croon over dissonant, Spaghetti Western guitars and raw rhythm. Dee Dee & crew take it to a higher plane as Dum Dum Girls, w/ choral harmonies wrapped around a chugging, fuzz-pop core.
* "Phantasm 2" (dir. Don Coscarelli, 1988) screening @ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz / 320 E Sixth St, 10p. Coscarelli's classic horror series "Phantasm" were underappreciated game-changers, in my opinion. Angus Scrimm as the iconic crypto-underkeeper Tall Man, in from some sepia-toned dimension, hurling mirrored spheres and commanding these Jawas From Hell to drag victims to his world…that is some scary shit! The '88 sequel is my favorite, though, for so many obvious reasons. Point: Reggie's chainsaw fight w/ a gasmasked baddie. Point: Reggie's quad-barreled sawed-off shotgun and Mike's blowtorch array as go-to weapons. Point: absurd dialogue like Mike remarking they—meaning he and Reggie plus their newfound girlfriends—should get some shuteye (i.e. shag) even though their hideout is barely barricaded and the Tall Man is looming like literally outside. Awesome awesome awesome.
* The Suzan @ Fever / 1-1-14 Hanegi, Setagaya-ku (Odakyu Inokashira Line to Shindaita or Shimokitazawa Stations), 6:30p/3000 yen. By now, I am so totally used to Japanese tropic-pop riot-grrrls The Suzan headlining Brooklyn area shows—or teaming up in awesome NY rosters—that I almost forgot they play Tokyo too. Here, they support the sunny, besuited gents おとぎ話 (Otogibanashi", means "fairy-tale"), whose new-ish 5th LP "Bang Bang Attack" channels that yesteryear harmonious paisley-pop. w/ Ropes
* Diana Al-Hadid @ Visual Arts Center / UT Art Building, 23rd St at Trinity. The Brooklyn-based sculptural alchemist dropped some heady topics in her talk preceding this exhibition, not only naming a certain Gothic painting of the Visitation from a Spanish museum as her point of departure in this stunning new work "Suspended After Image", but also labyrinths (and Jorge Luis Borges), Peter Bruegel (and Babel), and the Large Hadron Collider. All this clued me into Al-Hadid's remarkable sense of harnessing space and presence in her installations, morphing bulk into something oddly ethereal and organic, though still visually commanding. "Suspended After Image" is Al-Hadid's first instance of using a 3D modeling program and CNC router in her work, and the final flowing, terraced form acts more like a 3D painting than a proper sculpture, with the figure seemingly emerging from the frontal staircase while a flow of media colored like wet Frosted Mini Wheats echoes her opulent robes. Though there is an almost total spectrum of color infused in this work, mostly as frozen drips on the sides and back, the overall is a pristine grayish-white, which is absolutely stunning in the VAC's Vaulted Gallery.
+ "(im)possibilities. Five artists — Michael Stevenson, Erica Baum, Birgit Rathsmann, Patrick Resing, and Ellie Ga — extend Borges' metaphor of the library in this dialogue of narratives and human experience. This plays well with Diana Al-Hadid's installation in the Vaulted Gallery. I was most quickly taken by Baum's series "Dog Ear", utilizing folded pages from paperbacks and photographing them into unique fragmented dialogue. Ga's C-prints of an illuminated fissure within the Arctic ice, shot during her residency at the scientific research vessel Tara, feel otherworldly.
+ Justin Boyd "Dubforms". Angled, floor-mounted video panels, field recordings with ample echo…all of it makes the VAC's Arcade space feel much larger and deeper than it actually is. So in transforming space, the San Antonio-based artist succeeds.
* Daniel Heidkamp "Glow Drops at the Chill Spot" @ Champion / 800 Brazos St. Take a plunge into Heidkamp's latest suite of radiant, textural scenes. He shows these interiors and exteriors completely independent from his ongoing portraiture, a strong move in my opinion. For the Brooklyn-based artist isn't just this accomplished figurative painter who also happens to paint rooms and landscapes en plein air. Rather, he is a strong force in capturing natural environments as he sees them, imbuing them with a resonating life-force and character that draws us into their layers of oil paint and dollops of impasto, confronting us with a disarming nostalgia. I may never have visited that Massachusetts backyard ("Here Glows Nothing") or Florida dockside ("Alligator Alley"), but it's like I can smell the air, feel the lawn beneath my trainers and the sun on my face. There's a physicality to Heidkamp's scenes beyond the presence of actual people, who he deftly folds into scenarios (the fireside "Feel It All Around", the portraitures' meta-effect in "The Night of 1000 Paintings") as accenting players. A very strong exhibition and a bold start to Austin's 2012 gallery season.
* Jill Magid "Failed States" @ Arthouse / 700 Congress. So check this: on 1/21/10, a young man named Fausto fired six bullets into the air outside the Texas State Capitol. Jill Magid — whose oeuvre navigates bureaucracy and security/intelligence w/ Mission Impossible deftness — was like steps away, pursuing her own future work, and witnessed it. Now six blocks from the scene and two years later, Magid stages an intriguing Conceptual show that ties Fausto's mysterious actions — and his silence throughout his trial — with that of Goethe's "Faust". The ground-floor gallery is her stage, replete with wall-decal directions ("Enter Fausto", "shots fired skyward", "enter Magid" etc), Magid's own play "Fausto: A Tragedy" (mirroring "Faust"'s original intention as a closet drama, meant to be read and not performed), and contemplative works. Deep encodings here, from six translations of "Faust" silkscreened on top of one another, to six bullet casings and a six-slide projection of the sky over the Capitol. Magid wrote a letter to Fausto, requesting his voice (absent in his trial) to read passages from "Faust" (whose Spanish translation is "Fausto") — his answer is still forthcoming, but it would add an intriguing layer to all this. Finally, there is Magid's family's '93 Mercedes, armored to B4 level and parked in Fausto's spot outside the Capitol, and her writing appearing in the February issue of the "Texas Observer", drawing this dialogue beyond the art-scene realm as it should be.
+ "Evidence of Houdini's Return". A really brilliant group show of fractured and re-envisioned realities, curated by Arthouse's Rachel Adams. I tweeted that it made me miss NYC, because it's precisely that sort of thoughtful exhibition that makes me look twice, thrice, at what I think I already know. Ex: Strauss Borque LaFrance's "BABE", a silvery lacquered wood plank pitched diagonally on the wall like classic John McCracken,…only just around the corner is that same plank, used as a shelf amid LaFrance's complex, mixed-media display. Another: Katja Mater's "Time Passing Objects", chromogenic prints that blur the line b/w photography and geometric drawings. Justin Swinburne's "Echo" works, multiple inkjet scans onto alu-dibond that echo (no pun) Gerhard Richter's signature abstracts while maintaining that sense of disarray like Wade Guyton's inkjet silkscreens. Bravo!
* "True Story" @ Grayduck Gallery / 608 W Monroe Dr. Three artists — Austinites Paul Beck and Pat Snow, plus Minnesotan Allen Brewer — play with, and off, perception and representation, reminding us as viewers that things aren't always as clear-cut as they first seem. Brewer takes a direct approach by purposefully painting (or drawing) his subjects blind, focusing on who or what he's rendering instead of the resultant object itself. So while some works carry ghostly remnants or shifts of his mark-making, others like the old man "Poopy" are startlingly realized, fully fleshed out like a Lucien Freud painting. Snow's watercolors and drawings mine his personal space, culling from memories, songs in the background and dialogue. Perhaps reflecting his background working alongside Robert Colescott and Howard Finster, many of Snow's works feature enveloping stories, like "Record Shop Girl" (the charming awkwardness hits close to home) and "I Think My Dog Is a Racist". His ecstatically rendered 99 watercolors "Girl Crazy/Crazy Girl" mostly features women artist friends from his former hometown, Birmingham AL, interspersed with silent movie-style title cards like "TOO Bad" and "Sweet Sad True", prompting an imagined (real?) conversation. The figures' range of renderings from classical to cartoonish reminded me a bit of Richard Linklater's classic Austin rotoscoped animation "Waking Life", which is where Beck comes in. He animated for that film and Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly", and his two suites of mixed media works made for this show tread the line b/w realism and almost nightmarish fantasy, soft-contoured figures floating against stark political undertones and lettering, all with a muted reddish palette. What's the message? That our own consciousness is a jumble of memories, daily interventions and environmental/societal irregularities, as mutable as the moments captured in these works.
* Ai Weiwei "Sunflower Seeds" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 541 W 24th St. Ai's incredible carpet of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds, which last blanketed the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2010, comes to the states in a site-specific installation at Mary Boone.
* Jim Isermann "Reunion" @ Mary Boone Gallery / 745 Fifth Ave. A selection of bold '80s abstract-ish paintings, both enamel on wood and yarn "paintings", plus a flower-shaped installation of Isermann's signature chairs.
* Joel Sternfeld "First Pictures" @ Luhring Augustine / 531 W 24th St. Four bodies of work — the early "Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face!" from '71, plus '75's "Nags Head", '76's "Rush Hour" street portraiture and "At the Mall, New Jersey 1980" — all integral to Sternfeld's conceptual and formalistic photographic processes, and all rarely exhibited or published. An eponymous catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
* Thomas Woodruff "The Four Temperament Variations" @ PPOW / 535 W 22nd St, 3rd Fl. Woodruff wields portraiture, still-life, landscape painting and wildlife w/ uncannily equal aplomb in his fantastical, vivid paintings, threading in mythology, steampunk imagery and "lowbrow" pop surrealism. His eight solo exhibition at the gallery (the last was in 2008) comes with a monograph, essayed by another old-style master, Vincent Desiderio.
* Margaret Evangeline "Time Bomb" @ STUX Gallery / 530 W 25th St. What sounds cooler to you: gestural marks of oil paint on canvas, or bullet holes riddling stainless steel? Guess what: in Evangeline's third solo exhibition at the gallery, you get both!
* Mads Lynnerup "Help is on the way" @ Lora Reynolds Gallery / 360 Nueces. This is one of those rare occasions when I visit a multidisciplinary artist's show and am most immediately drawn to the videos. These things take time, and doubly so when paired w/ Lynnerup's candy-colored "Exercise Your Artist" collages and neon cut-paper "Astrobright" arrangements, like infinitely adaptable (and flashier) Ellsworth Kelly's. But its beyond these and the Franz West-style spraypainted plywood and foam exercise "blocks" that the videos really shine. One, "Demonstration", features Lynnerup's muscly trainer in a studio space working out with the West-ish blocks and angular wall relief "Exercising Grill", pulling a Matthew Barney of exertion and stamina but towards a more relatable, self-improving goal. Or at least when he starts doing headstands, it made ME want to hit the gym. The other far quieter video, "Untitled (Shadow)", follows Lynnerup's hands and paper as he traces out a shadow-y landscape in rays of sunlight, a spontaneous flip-book executed in the simplest, and thus most thrilling, gestures.
* Masafumi Kawakami @ Taimatz / 1-2-11 Higashi-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku (JR Sobu Line to Bakurocho Station, Toei-Shinjuku Line to Bakuro-Yokoyama Station). More nightmarish, subtly figurative paintings and collages from the young artist, who had a pretty significant solo show at Taro Nasu Gallery in 2010. Right on. (ENDS SAT)