The Pagan Razor

Recommendations by R.C. Baker

In the first Star Trek movie, a space probe leaves Earth, is assimilated by aliens, traverses the universe, and then heads back home, obliterating everything in its path. Was it something we said on that gold-plated phonograph record? Perhaps a future Voyager mission should include Keith Tyson's sculptures as humanity's calling card. Well-versed in science and engineering, this British artist has named his massive installation after the "Very Large Array" of radio telescopes in the New Mexico desert. Though not infinite like the cosmos, Tyson's grid of 230 sculptures triggers endless associations. A preemie in an incubator rests on the floor under a huge block covered with constellation charts that's mounted on the wall; a sand-castle Tower of Babel resides beneath an hourglass and a woman's bikini-clad crotch—is the shape of the adjacent V-6 engine a comment on her mons veneris? Here, a man is being shaved, offering his throat to the straight razor as if in a pagan sacrifice; there sits a clear cube filled with burbling mud, another with coral in water. A snorting equestrian statue is echoed by a cabinet emitting vapors. And what's with that thigh-high coffee cup from Central Perk? Oh yeah, the Friends cast are all supernovas in the celebrity firmament. Surveying his work, Tyson once told an interviewer, "I feel sorry for the person who has to put it down in one paragraph." Amen, brother—these 256 words and that postage-stamp photo ain't doing this protean show justice. Go and while away an afternoon. A whole day. All next week.


Lee Krasner

We are the eggmen: Tyson's 
Large Field Array (detail), 2006-2007
Courtesy PaceWildenstein
We are the eggmen: Tyson's Large Field Array (detail), 2006-2007

The Brooklyn-born Krasner (1908–84) brought moxie and lyricism to her powerful gouache drawings. In 1969's Water No. 21, twirling loops of violet bleed into patches of underlying purple, imbuing each stroke with a radiant halo. Although the effect is reminiscent of the oil-and-enamel drawings Jackson Pollock made in the late '40s, his widow was a keen technician in her own right. For 1980's Untitled, she collaged an early charcoal drawing onto bright-green paper and black splatters to create a thrilling clash of textures within a starkly beautiful and jazzy composition. Robert Miller, 524 W 26th, 212-366-4774. Through October 13


Frank Stella: 'Paintings 1958–1965'

Big, brushy letters spelling out "Your Lips Are Blue" welcome you to the gallery. The cheekiness of this colorful 1958 canvas was shunted aside, however, when the then 22-year-old Stella began his proto-minimalist Black Paintings, two of which are shown here, including the riveting Delta. In this masterpiece (also from 1958, and on loan from the National Gallery), abstract expressionism seems to be literally draining away down the funnel of Stygian stripes that Stella slathered over a plum-hued ground. Next come the emphatically flat yellow bands of 1961's Palmito Ranch, which, four years later, evolved into the sculptural heft of BAFQ, a shaped canvas with tricolor diagonals. Bring the kids—it's Stella 101. Peter Freeman, 560 Broadway, 212-966-5154. Through November 17.


Peter Schuyff

This Dutch artist's simple device of painting button-shaped, trompe l'oeil frames over figures in thrift-store canvases yields some surprisingly sharp results. An able knockoff (signed QUAK) of a Boucher nude, belly-flopped onto a sofa, has been overlaid with a grid of grommet-like discs depicted so realistically that they read like a 3-D scrim. Often painted around the eyes of portraits (clowns, dogs, a copy of Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring), these circular shapes can feel as goofy as Elton John's specs or as sinister as a gas mask. Schuyff heightens the drama latent in Sunday painting, excavating that heartfelt desire to go beyond snapshots and create "art." In a different vein, the artist paints interlaced rectangles of black and white gouache over found landscape and life drawings, injecting bebop-ish verve into academic grayness. Nicole Klagsbrun, 526 W 26th, 212-243-3335. Through October 13.


Jessica Craig-Martin

C'mon—is that shot of a teacup pug adorned with a tiny hat too easy a swipe at the fatuous rich? Naaaah. Besides, the Mondrian-patterned platform sandal worn by the dog's owner transforms this four-foot-wide photo into a striking tableau. Snatched at Southampton cancer benefits and hospital galas, these cropped shots feature sun-spotted cleavage and tanned, never-too-rich-or-too-thin gams (some sporting razor stubble exposed by contemporary photography's remorseless hi-def resolution). Who knows if that heap of pink shards on a burnt roll is edible, but the disembodied, white-gloved hand serving it up just might belong to a bitter mime who's forsaken his dream and become a caterer. Give this vivid exhibition credit that it so easily conjures such tales in your mind.Greenberg Van Doren, 730 Fifth Avenue, 212-445-0444. Through October 6.


Friedrich Kunath

A television as leaden as the dead Marat juts from a half-filled bathtub, playing a video of an anchored sailboat. At the other end of this multimedia installation, an upright piano has been sawed in half, but a large mirror makes it appear whole. In between is a blue-jean-swathed coffin, framed snapshots of people with their backs turned, Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky CD thrust into the mortar of a brick chimney, and a teardrop-shaped bookshelf featuring Heinrich Böll, Malcolm Lowry, and Joan Didion—plus slapdash canvases with colors repeated in a painted stairway to nowhere. (Heaven, perhaps?) The broody, grad-school vibe is perfectly balanced by witty formal relations (those departing relatives next to the casket), evoking a lovely elegy to the luxurious ennui of youth. Andrea Rosen, 525 W 24th, 212-627-6000. Through October 13.

 
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