Thimble Cities

Even with the best special effects, those miniature cities that Godzilla destroys on-screen never get the scale quite right. Barbieri's cunning photographs of Las Vegas and Rome subvert make-believe worlds by reducing colossal cityscapes to soft-focus vignettes that feel like a filmmaker's scaled-down sets. Shooting from helicopters with a large-format camera, the artist zeroes in on such structures as an ancient Roman viaduct, while leaving the surrounding buildings lost in a geometric blur reminiscent of the blank foam-core blocks of architectural models. This astigmatic God's-eye view makes Vegas's faux New York skyscrapers and Egyptian pyramids look like civilizations trapped inside snow globes.


Matthew Barney

ROMA, 2004
photo: Olivo Barbieri/Yancey Richardson Gallery
ROMA, 2004

Using industrial-grade, tongue-twisting materials—Vivak, polycaprolactone thermoplastic—Barney creates huge backdrops for an extravagant narrative concerning Japanese whaling, General MacArthur, blubber, and romance. At 8 x 30 x 20 feet, The Deportment of the Host depicts a burst bulkhead that has released an overflow of viscous material, which has broken off into flaccid chunks. The collapsed walls and rigging bristle with shackles, eyebolts, cables, and conduits, all encased in gloppy white plastic; along with sculpted masses of petroleum jelly, this lends a lugubrious sexuality to the entire endeavor. Gladstone Gallery, 515 W 24th, 212-206-930. Through May 13


Tara Donovan

Although supposedly no two snowflakes are exactly alike, industry can churn out endlessly replicated items—for example, the 3 million identical plastic cups Donovan has stacked in varying levels to create this massive range of ersatz snowdrifts. Sunshine filtered through skylights glows ivory-white on the rounded crowns but turns soggy gray in the hollows. The undeniable beauty of this expanse of cheap plastic guarantees that at the next opening you'll view differently that cup of mediocre wine. Pace Wildenstein, 534 W 25th, 212-929-7000. Through April 22


James Harrison

Target Forest, a bold collage contrasting black circles against straight lines that Harrison worked on from 1958 until 1984, shows his roots in a New York art world that was shifting from abstract expressionism to Rauschenberg's and Johns's proto-pop. But the largely self-taught Harrison concentrated on fantastical figuration, such as Naked on the IRT, featuring what seems to be a crucifixion amid a hurly-burly of onrushing, intersecting lines. With its glowing yellow double helix and another spread-armed figure, Un-packing the Pyramid could be a plea for transcendence from this drunken, drug-abusing painter who died in obscurity in 1990. Luise Ross, 511 W 25th, 212-343-2161. Through May 6


John Kalymnios

Appropriately titled "Rush," this show demonstrates how vision can be bent, shifted, and altered. On one wall, eight LCD monitors capture waves tumbling forward at so fast a pace it's impossible to tell if they are the same image or successive views; nearby, a curtain of rectangular, plastic magnifying lenses hangs in front of a mural of colorful circles which scatter and re-form with the viewer's slightest movement. Caren Golden, 539 W 23rd, 212-727-8304. Through May 13


Amy Sillman

With figures as atten- uated and stork-like as supermodels, Sillman has brought tragicomic content to her garishly colored, formally adventurous canvases. With its wide expanse of unpainted canvas, there is a bleakness to the elongated, clutching limb of A Bird in Hand; the blocky red foundation of Big Girl is topped by a triangular peak of fractured gray and green brushstrokes—a Matterhorn of emotion. Sikkema Jenkins & Co., 530 W 22nd, 212-929-2262. Through May 6


Kiki Smith in 'All-Story'

In each issue, All-Story, a quarterly fiction magazine, features a different guest designer; for the spring edition, Smith has laid out numerous photos of the corporeal sculptures she makes from deeply incised wax, metal, and clay. The varying focus of individual frames emphasizes the spaces between heads, shoulders, lips, ears, and outstretched hands. In one photo, tiny animal figures, scattered across the reflection of a moon-like lamp, seem to be fleeing a werewolf sculpture in the print below. Less illustration than parallel narrative, Smith's haunting characters complement the magazine's wide-ranging tales. all-story.com


Lucy Williams

On average two feet across, these shallow 3-D reliefs of modernist structures—spare stairwell, Olympic-size swimming pool, minimalist "Purfina" gas station—are constructed from layers of matte board, colored paper, plastic sheets, and needlepoint stitching. Tiny rows of bricks and inlaid floor tiles are cut from board thick enough to catch highlights or cast shadows, lending these obsessively wrought pieces a warmth absent from the standard precision of architectural plans. McKee Gallery, 745 Fifth Ave, 212-688-5951. Through May 6

 
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