Weird Tales

From tiny screens to giant heads

 Jeff Jacobson
Like a still from Blade Runner, a woman's massive face—striated by power lines and cropped by the curved red tiles of a pagoda-style roof—glares from a Shanghai billboard. The tiny view-screen of a video camera zooms in on the David's genitals as the full stretch of Michelangelo's marble masterpiece angles across the soft curve of a Florence dome. Jacobson shifts scale, contrasts saturated colors, and juxtaposes objects, images, and people in his photographs, tapping the surrealist vein that courses through everyday life. There are implied narratives—just how much moneydid that stooped, shadowy figure glimpsed in a Vegas mirror lose? Where exactly is that monkey, surrounded by human skeletons and crouched forward, chin in hand, like Rodin's Thinker?—but the stories remain unfinished. Jacobson displays a photojournalist's grit under fire: On 9-11, he framed a Jersey City statue depicting a World War II massacre so the rifle jutting from the back of a bayoneted Polish soldier is at the same angle as the smoke billowing from the Twin Towers. Peer Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, Through January 13

'Why Art?'
There is a strain in modern art—from Dubuffet's bloated cows to the faux high-school-notebook doodles on too many Chelsea walls—that proffers simulated naiveté, an affect that often falls flat before the real thing. This collection of children's art from around the world is at its most phantasmagoric in ocean scenes, as in a 5-year-old Russian's tempera painting crammed with colorful, burbling fish, or in the battle between a riveted submarine and a squid, a marvel of motion and crayon texture from Hungary. UBS Gallery, 1285 Avenue of the Americas, 212-713-2885. Through January 12.

Ron Mueck
The verisimilitude of Mueck's figures—pink blotches and individual hairs on an arm, the elbow skin indented and sagging—is flat-out astonishing. But it's the unsettling scale and emotional charge that give these mixed-media sculptures their humanity. The nine-foot-tall Wild Man recoils from the onlooker's gaze, tightly clutching the bench on which he perches, as skittish as a newly acquired zoo specimen. At 40 inches long, the sallow, flaccid Dead Dad is literally diminished by mortality. Although many of the figures are nude, even a pair of old women in cloth coats and sneakers, their white-haired heads bent toward each other as they share some scrap of gossip, feel equally exposed and vulnerable. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, 718-638-5000. Through February 11.

"Shanghai, China"
Jeff Jacobson
"Shanghai, China"

'Set In Stone'
Beautifully spotlit, these sculpted stone heads bear the scars of religious fanaticism, war, and revolution. Created during the centuries between Rome's decline and the Renaissance, they vary widely: Some feature primitive, distorted grimaces intended to ward off evil spirits from medieval churches;others, such as a marble Bust of Marie de France (ca. 1381), offer sophisticated transmutations of stone into flesh. Particularly fascinating are the heads originally found on Notre Dame's facade: the guillotining of Louis the XVI was followed by decapitations of ancient statues modeled on past French monarchs. Revolutionary Paris wouldn't countenance even dead kings looking down on them. Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710. Through February 19.

Cheyney Thompson
Eight tables topped with large photographic sheets that shift from white to shades of gray to a coal-black finale are arranged diagonally across the gallery. On the walls hang four abstract gray oil paintings and a series of 25 lithographs that document, in muted hues, the shuffling of paper rolls and canvases between various slots of a painting rack. Allied with the formal structure of the space (the tables march from the main gallery back to the storage area), the enervated colors cast a compelling pall—it's more like a viewing than an exhibit. Andrew Kreps, 525 West 22nd Street, 212-741-8849. Through January 6.

Adam Bartos
In one of Bartos's large color photographs, a Trans Am's spoiler juts toward the viewer, its black sheen a contrast to the dirty cream stucco of a garage; elsewhere, a wood-veneered Pinto noses up to a cinderblock wall, where two abandoned tires provide counterpoint to the dual windows of a parked van and a line of naked clothespins stuttering across the composition. These late-'70s scenes of cars and rundown houses jammed together, with snatches of vegetation and sea at the interstices, capture the downside of the Los Angeles dream. A shot of a blue Mustang parked on an overlook lends the distant brown metropolis, sprawled under its shroud of smog, an almost biblical portentousness—the City of Angels awaiting a plague of locusts. Yossi Milo, 525 West 25th Street, 212-414-0370. Through January 20.

 
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