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THOMAS RUFFAs with his digitally smeared porn swipes, Ruff's great new photos were derived from existing source material. The "Substrats," the most spectacular series here, is a liquid meltdown of Japanese anime and manga cartoon images, so abstracted as to leave no visual trace of its origins save for juicy, electric pools of color. The "Machines," appropriated from '30s pictures of industrial machinery, places enigmatic, Becher-esque (and now peculiarly colorized) hunks of metal in the foreground of factory interiors that were turned into ghostly scrims by the original photographer. Reality? Illusion? Typically, Ruff gives us the best of both worlds at once. THROUGH JUNE 21, David Zwirner, 525 West 19th Street, 212-727-2070. (Aletti)

THEATER

'EIGHT DAYS (BACKWARDS)'In Jeremy Dobrish's new play, 13 urbanites live out a typical week of missed appointments and unexpected collisions, only in reverse. How merrily they roll along in this contrariwise direction remains to be seen, but the cast of notables playing them, under Mark Brokaw's direction, should offer some bright spots, since it includes Bill Buell, Randy Danson, David Garrison, and Christopher Innvar, all of whom have won praise in these precincts on more straightforward occasions. IN PREVIEWS, OPENS JUNE 16, Vineyard Theatre, 108 East 15th Street, 212-353-0303. (Feingold)

Circling through the goodies: Pierre et Gilles's Titayathong (see Photo).
photo: Pierre et Gilles/Robert Miller gallery, New York
Circling through the goodies: Pierre et Gilles's Titayathong (see Photo).

'ST. SCARLET'Three snowbound siblings have to cope simultaneously with their mother's death and a confrontational intruder in this play by a much touted newcomer, Julia Jordan. Her producers are WET—that is, they're Women's Expressive Theater—but they're probably not all wet, since they've had the sense to hire one of New York's more adventurous young actors, Chris Messina, to direct Jordan's opus. PREVIEWS BEGIN JUNE 17, OPENS JUNE 25, Ontological at St. Mark's, 131 East 10th Street, 212-868-4444. (Feingold)

WORDS

AL HIRSCHFELDSusan Dryfoos's 1997 doc The Line King drew a circle around caricaturist nonpareil Al Hirschfeld, who passed away six months ago at the enviable age of 99. The Sunday Times hasn't been the same without his elegant, above-the-fold drawings, in which one could hunt for embedded Ninas (his daughter's name) tangled in coifs and the fringes of fabric. (Nicholson Baker immortalized this ritual in U and I.) A panel convenes, featuring Sidney Lumet, Jules Feiffer, Hirschfeld's widow Louise, and others. Can any of them shed light on Hirschfeld's two classic renderings of '30s mystery writer Harry Stephen Keeler, author of such brain-busting classics as Sing Sing Nights and The Box From Japan? And what of his commissioned portrait of Hartford metal-king Michael Suisman? THURSDAY AT 7, Makor, 35 West 67th Street, 212-413-8841. (Park)

ALEXANDER VON HOFFMANSurprisingly engaging for a geographically wide-ranging study of urban decay and renewal, von Hoffman's House by House, Block by Blockalso pleases with its inherent optimism for the force of grassroots low-income housing efforts (he concludes that the most successful examples result from combination public/private community development programs). The Harvard housing studies fellow will share the good news at a reception that will no doubt celebrate both the steady rebirth of the South Bronx (his local focus) and the death of public housing as a viable strategy. THURSDAY AT 6:30, New-York Historical Society, 2 West 77th Street, 212-873-3400. (Giuffo)

PAUL MULDOONOf post-WW II Irish poets, 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner Muldoon (Moy Sand and Gravel) is the most limber—as comfortable riffing on Nirvana's Bleach as dramatizing the Troubles, in dense, pullulating language that "delights to tread upon the brink/of meaning." TUESDAY AT 7, Irish Arts Center, 553 West 51st Street, 212-757-3318. (Reidy)

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