Apocalypse Porn

After an airburst, smoky tendrils trail from a blood-red orb that floats like a gargantuan, haloed jellyfish; a soaring, spiky tower of boiling water erupts from the Pacific seconds after an undersea detonation, dwarfing a decommissioned armada near Bikini Atoll. The artist culled these images from government archives, rephotographing the original prints (1940s–60s) with a large-format camera, which captures the bureaucratic notations of the military-industrial complex—grease-penciled marginalia, ragged binder holes, dog-eared corners, Scotch-taped rips. A nocturnal image of soldiers crouched in the dirt, backs turned and eyes shielded from a distant blast—which throws their stark shadows onto a corrugated-steel wall—conveys the biblical power of these weapons. Even more unsettling is a vision of military V.I.P.'s in shorts lounging on Adirondack chairs as a false sun, bursting over Enewetak Atoll, is reflected in their oversize black goggles. Nothing like a day at the beach.


Capsules:

Ed Clark

The 80-year-old Clark paints his large canvases on the floor with a push broom—literally, sweeping vistas. Graduated bands of lush color convey a sense of landscape while maintaining that old-school abstract-expressionist ethos of engaging the viewer physically through the bodily motion of the painter's stroke, even as confectionery hues and black swaths tug at the emotions. G.R. N'Namdi, 526 W 26th, 212-929-6645. Through May 11.

Ian Wright

The '60s gang is all here: Familiar photographs of Jimi, Dylan, and Warhol have been appropriated for these five-foot-high portraits that use one-inch-diameter campaign-style buttons as pixels. Andy is represented with roughly 2,800 tiny stills, in various gradations of gray, from his eight-hour film Empire. Some of the buttons that make up tragic supermodel Edie Sedgwick's face glow in the dark; others, all black, conjure her heavily mascaraed eyes. Across the room, glittery orbs provide Jimi with a regal purple Afro and golden halo. Christopher Henry, 550 W 29th, 212-244-6004. Through May 23.

Richard Estes

Like all great painters, the photorealist Estes is all about observation—objects mirrored in various surfaces carry as much visual weight as their physical counterparts, as when the black hood and smoked glass of a limo in a dark Wall Street canyon reflect bright strips of cerulean sky. Incisive viewpoints—the dull plastic seats and shiny straphanger poles of a bus interior plunge in perspective while the windows reveal Times Square tourists in multicolored garb—are underpinned by powerful, abstract compositions built up from beautiful flourishes of paint describing the city's myriad textures and shapes. Marlborough Gallery, 40 W 57th, 212-541-4900. Through May 13.

Charles Cohen

Cohen's insightful shtick is to flatly white out the bodies in appropriated porn shots, leaving only banal backgrounds—wood paneling, wrinkled bedspreads, locker rooms, kitchen appliances. Sometimes the excised vixens are outlined with harsh strobe shadows, yet the Rorschach-like geometries of girl-on-girl action (evident from paired silhouettes of platform soles) or the hunched curves of a hetero beast with two backs reveal the primal allure of even the most attenuated human couplings. Bonni Benrubi, 41 E 57th, 212-888-6007. Through May 27.

Mary Ann Strandell

With pink and orange curves defined by flowing black shadows, Strandell lends her architectural views the weight of Francis Bacon's dissolute portraits. Her figures, sometimes brushily blurred like bad TV scan lines, recall Gerhard Richter; David Salle is channeled through outlined illustrations of plants or human couch potatoes layered over lushly modeled passages. Yet despite these homages to 20th-century painting, Strandell's judicious color contrasts and intelligently dissonant compositions are her own. Michael Steinberg, 526 W 26th, 212-924-5770. Through May 20.

'Latin American Art—Works on Paper'

Argentine German Gargano shows the influence of Mexico's mural masters: Intense gouache colors march across the page, effacing detail while evoking crowds and swirling banners; painted in 1997, it could be a study of a Communist rally by Diego Rivera circa 1930. A 1977 landscape by Gonzalo Fonseca (Uruguay, 1922–97) features obelisks and huge stone ramps that evoke pre-Columbian grandeur; Fernando Maza's gouache of 3-D numbers scaled up to rival a monumental pyramid has the charm of a children's illustration. CDS Gallery, 76 E 79th, 212-772-9555. Through June 3.

Judy Glantzman

Disembodied heads dangle like warnings, gather into clouds of crowded memories, and sprout from outstretched fingers like childish puppets (or perhaps cancerous growths). Along with Glantzman's depictions of other body parts, these heads should be corny but instead mass into emphatic compositions. The faces in these gorgeous, disturbing canvases, some merely scrabbled outlines of acid green, others coagulated pools of red or yellow, implore us to look hard at life in all its beauty and messiness. Betty Cunningham, 541 W 25th, 212-242-2772. Through May 26.

 
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