Heartbreak of Darkness

On entering this dimly lit gallery you are greeted by a teetering wooden totem of rectangular blocks topped with a classical head; a realistic nude man, likewise carved from wood, complements these references to Brancusi's sculptures and Michelangelo's David. Between them lies an overcoat, the words "I like Africa and Africa likes me" written across the back, recalling a shamanistic 1974 performance in which the German conceptualist Joseph Beuys tussled with a live coyote amid scattered copies of the Wall Street Journal. On the floor, On the floor, boards cut roughly in the shape of a woman and a child lie flat like toppled tombstones; they are separated by a hollow figure constructed of matchsticks that casts a towering shadow, which is echoed by a cross-hatched charcoal drawing looming on the opposite wall. Mpane's shadow-play, while dense with tragic allusions—a wooden cross reads "Congo–1885," the year the European powers met in Berlin to carve Africa into colonial chunks—also projects a rough beauty. A separate series of strong paintings deftly captures the flickering light of a campfire as it turns faces and figures into visceral slabs of color. Skoto Gallery, 529 West 20th Street. Through January 27


Jack Hallberg

Aime Mpane's "Couple infernal (The Infernal Couple)"
photo: Courtesy Skoto Gallery
Aime Mpane's "Couple infernal (The Infernal Couple)"

Details

Aime Mpane: 'Bach to Congo'
Skoto Gallery, 529 West 20th Street
Through January 27

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Sin City's crass vibrance courses through the confectionery textures and candy colors of these paintings, selected by the maverick Las Vegas–based critic Dave Hickey. Bright disks of acrylic, ranging in size from nickel to pancake, are arrayed in cartoonish loops and swirls across contrasting grounds. They exude a carnival-esque energy akin to a glitzy 24/7 casino— a lot of fun, even if you're not sure whether it's night or day. Cue, 511 W 25th, 212-206-3583. Through January 27.


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Using elongated figures sculpted from detritus or drawn with Sharpies on plates of glass, Green's stop-motion animation channels The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari's vertiginous sets, Tim Burton's gothic ambience, and Dr. Seuss's creepy ebullience to tell the tale of an unpleasant dead boy, the suicide of his mother and their journey through Hell, accompanied by a cacophonous soundtrack of overlapping voices and music. Often the plate edges and Scotch tape are visible amid the fluctuating lighting, but this DIY Dante spins one grotesquely compelling yarn. Bellwether, 134 Tenth Avenue, 212-929-5959. Through February 3.


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Peter Acheson

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