Drawings, Photos, and Films Way off Museum Mile

By mid-July, after you've trooped up the Guggenheim's crowded ramp to see the massive retrospective for Louise Bourgeois, shouldered through the elegant Neue Galerie to peer at 20th-century German and Austrian work, and inspected the Met's porcelain with your aunt (again!), you might be ready for something far from the familiar Museum Mile. Happily, the city's quieter venues—whose eclecticism generally discourages the tourists—are offering up the summer's freshest art.

Philip Guston: Works on Paper
Through August 31

The Morgan Library takes off its starched shirt, stashes the medieval Bibles, and throws a party for that lovable eccentric Philip Guston. Devoted to the artist's work with pen and pencil, the traveling exhibit reveals how Guston, ever restless, used the spontaneity of drawing to experiment with forms that he would use in his paintings. He tests out abstractions both friendly and frenetic, flirts with a Zen-like minimalism, and finally explores cartoony depictions of everyday objects. (Those perplexed Klansmen also appear.) Deeply hurt in the early '70s by critics who reviled his late work, Guston gets a fitting recompense here. & The Morgan Library, 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, 212-685-0008.

Drawing on Film
May 29–July 24

They're some of the most charming, frightening, and bizarre movies ever made, but you've probably seen few of the experiments in this exhibit surveying 70 years of a covert practice: drawing and painting on individual frames of film. Two dozen works by13 artists run the gamut from Disneyesque cartoons to acid trips. Norman McLaren's five-minute 1955 masterpiece, Blinkity Blank, is like one of Miro's paintings come to life: Geometric birds skitter, spin, and explode to synchronized chamber music. Alchemist Jennifer West stains 16mm film with cherry juice, perfume, and various lotions to create sensual psychedelia. The renowned Stan Brakhage, in Glaze of Cathexis and other works, sends you on thrill rides through dense abstraction. & Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, 212-219-2166.

Summer Reading
June 5–August 9

Tadzio, that nubile kid from Death in Venice, appears ina Polaroid montage by John O'Reilly, a longtime wizardof the form. Painter Andrea Higgins evokes the trousers worn by Dorian Gray, the tormented hedonist of Oscar Wilde's novel. And Julie Chang borrows imagery from Chinese gimcracks to interpret Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness. Cliffs Notes not included for this inventive group show of work inspired by books. Hosfelt Gallery, 531 West 36th Street, 212-563-5454.

Contemporary Ruins
June 12–July 18

Give your ice cream a topping of tristesse with photographs by the French duo of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, who capture stunning visions of decay and destruction in abandoned urban areas. Richly textured, these formal compositions conjure near-death dream states: The view of a crumbling room in Detroit's once-elegant Lee Plaza Hotel, with its overturned piano and ghostly dust, might be a postcard from the end of time. The apocalypse has never looked so good. Point of View Gallery, 638 West 28th Street, 212-967-3936.

2008 Altoids Award
June 25–October 12

The mint makers have handed out their first biennial prize to four practitioners of rough-edged aesthetics. Lauren Kelley hilariously lampoons racial stereotypes with jittery stop-motion animation that provides a pageant of clay figures, plastic dolls, and cheesy props. Michael Stickrod investigates his Midwestern relatives in raw slice-of-life videos, employing blunt and discomforting camera work à la filmmaker Ross McElwee. Michael Patterson-Carver draws colorful folk-art agit-prop that he once sold on the streets, while New Yorker Ei Arakawa—inspired by the rapid assembly of Super Bowl halftime shows—stages loosely structured "Happenings" that combine construction, dance, and coy theatrics. It's all curiously engaging stuff. New Museum, 235 Bowery, 212-219-1222.

 
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