Camp Followers

After Warhol's Mao wallpaper and Komar and Melamid's socialist-realism send-ups of Lenin and Stalin, you'd think campy Communist icons were passé. But this trio of brothers from China's Guangxi Province bring a Jeff Koonsian polish to their resin statues of cherubic, pigtailed infants happily gurgling over mammoth hamburgers and six-packs of Coke, each tableau rendered in high-gloss silver, gold, red, or blue. A five-foot-square oil portrait of an up-and-coming, baby-faced Mao is crammed with sun-drenched flowers, golden carp, and Western soft drinks, while a tall, ink-on–rice paper painting dispenses with the machine-like finish of the other works to atomize a cadre of uniformed dancers into beautiful, multicolored abstract blots. A collision of Communism's sunniest propaganda with capitalism's shiny consumerist frenzy, these canny images comment on China's current economic schizophrenia.

David Byrne
There comes a time for aging rockers to sit back and chill out, and the former Talking Heads frontman is taking this imperative literally in this show of chair designs. One of Byrne's small, spare ink drawings, Wedgie (2006), depicts a tall wedge of wood with a cutout square just big enough for one's derriere; his sculpture of an upside-down file cabinet offers a single drawer, pulled out at seat level. An ink-jet print of a bundle of tied newsprint—perfect for curbside lounging—is titled Recycle, while the sculpture Log moves into the realm of resurrection: At 18 inches high, this fake, rough-barked tree trunk is made of compressed paper pulp. Pace/MacGill, 32 E 57th, 212-759-7999. Through Nov 25.

David S. Allee
An orange pall hangs over many of Allee's nighttime photographs of cities and suburbs, the result of five-to-20-minute exposures that capture the sickly warm color of modern streetlights. The images he chooses—scraggly palms thrust above a rooftop punctured by skylights that glow like irradiated mushrooms; dark trees edging the brightly lit parking lot of a featureless apartment tower—present nature as the drab accompaniment to banal architecture. Morgan Lehman, 212-268-6699. Through Dec 2.

Welcome to the World Famous Brand, 2006, by the Luo Brothers
image: Sara Meltzer Gallery, NY
Welcome to the World Famous Brand, 2006, by the Luo Brothers

Maureen Gallace
As if from a paint-by-numbers set, every brushstroke in these scenes of snow-covered barns and seaside cottages feels precisely placed. Gallace, however, strips out detail and fills the flat but intricately entwined geometries of her walls, roofs, trees, and beaches with subtly inflected colors that catch the thick light of summer or winter's icy crispness. These small (often only a foot across) paintings create an exquisite friction between carefully observed landscape and rigorous abstraction. 303 Gallery, 525 W 22, 212-255-1121. Through Dec 22.

Janet Malcolm
This renowned author's collages contain factual documents—ration stamps, a driver's registration—and scholarly detritus; the crookedly stamped dates on an old-fashioned library due-date card are crossed out in variously colored inks. Work that appears simple is deceptive: Agnes Martin (2005) is the blank reverse of a printed page yellowed with age. Is it the back of a reproduction, or does the title derive from an indistinct interior rectangle, which recalls the minimalist painter's work? Elsewhere, a sticker reading "Prazké Sanatorium," affixed to a crumbling piece of wrapping paper, evokes a gloomy, Mitteleuropan reverie. Lori Bookstein, 37 W 57, 212-750-0949. Through Dec 9.

Victor Grippo
Known for mixing the formal with the organic (one piece features 40 potatoes in individual cubbyholes, all wired to a voltage meter), the Argentinean Grippo (1936–2002) was one of South America's earliest conceptual artists. Lovely juxtapositions—eggs on plates next to round stools; three withered, blackened oranges under a pendulous blob of lead—often allied with poetic appendages of text, make beautifully layered agglomerations of form and content. Alexander and Bonin, 132 Tenth Avenue, 212-367-7474. Through Dec 20.

Laurel Nakadate
Part of the group show "Heartbreaker," Nakadate's excruciating video is a faux-autobiographical snuff film. The artist went to the apartments of various men to act out twisted fantasies: She becomes a salacious model, bending and twisting for her beefy director; through cans connected by a string, another man promises to tie her up and says he wants to stick a curling iron in her ass. Sometimes she wields a gun, ordering her co-stars to beg for their lives. And then there's the scene in which she pretends to shoot herself—as she writhes on the ground in slow motion, blood squibs dribbling, her death throes elicit applause from leather-clad bikers. Mary Boone, 745 Fifth Avenue, 212-752-2929. Through Dec 16.

Fred W. McDarrah
This longtime Voice photographer shot everyone back in the day—even Valerie Solanas, in 1967, a year before she (literally) shot Warhol. Here's Bill de Kooning yukking it up with fellow painter Jack Tworkov, their trenchcoats and a closed venetian blind lending a noir touch. Is that Jasper Johns skeeballing in a dingy bar? No doubt that's Janis toting a bottle. And Kerouac, photographed from above, over the heads of other New Year's revelers. Not to mention Jimi, Elvis, John Cage, Leroi Jones, and Susan Sontag. McDarrah's lens framed his subjects amid the chaos of their lives, creating compositions indelibly stamped with individual personalities and the thrills of an entire era. Steven Kasher, 521 W 23, 212-966-3978. Through Jan 6.

 
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