Spring Guide: Chakaia Booker Is A Radial Radical

A sculptor who never tires of tires

'Unica Zürn: Dark Spring'
April 17–July 23

The Drawing Center scores again with this exhibit of unnerving dream visions inked in the 1950s and '60s by Unica Zürn, when the German poet and artist was battling depression. Companion of surrealist Hans Bellmer, who'd become infamous years earlier for his freakish doll-mutants, Zürn, too, was creating strange new forms of life. Her exquisite creatures—drawn with delicate, almost ephemeral lines—meld elements of birds, fish, and amoebas. They swim across the paper like hallucinations from Zürn's fragile psyche; tragically, in 1970, she leaped from Bellmer's apartment window to her death. The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, drawingcenter.org

April 29–June 20

Not exactly what Goodyear was thinking: Phobic Digression, 2006
Chakaia Booker, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York
Not exactly what Goodyear was thinking: Phobic Digression, 2006

A cross between Cindy Sherman and Hannah Wilke (with a touch of Marlene Dietrich), Swiss performance artist Manon has been giving European audiences her coolly sexual impersonations and distinct body art for 30 years. This survey of her work—the first in the U.S.—features, among photographic projects, two installations from the 1970s: The Lox-Colored Boudoir, a replica of Manon's bedroom, sumptuously outfitted for lovin'; and the set from a performance that had the artist living inside a cage as a chained dominatrix. Swiss Institute, 495 Broadway, swissinstitute.net

'John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning'
May 12–July 18

If photography feels a little stale these days, maybe it's because John Wood singlehandedly exhausted all the possibilities, on display in this lively exhibit of 200 works: multi-frame cubist-like portraits, eloquent montage and mixed-media collages, finely composed landscapes, sequenced triptychs, and photogram abstractions—not to mention experiments in printing and drawing. In his long career, Wood, now 86, has vigorously kept his art fresh. Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square East, nyu.edu/greyart

'Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective'
May 20–August 16

Francis Bacon's screaming pontiffs have become preeminent icons for existential terror, second only to Munch's figure on the bridge, but what may surprise visitors to this traveling (and very thorough) retrospective is that the temperamental painter did some of his finest work in quiet portraits. Sure, the raw meat and writhing figures of crucifixion are all here, but the triptychs of petty thief and lover George Dyer and the lesser-known Man in Blue series demonstrate an extraordinary sensitivity for color and mood. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, metmuseum.org

Ion Birch
May 21–June 27

The smirking youths of Mad magazine cartoons seem to have wandered into the orgies of Japanese shunga in Ion Birch's wacky, deftly penciled erotica. Boys sporting erections the size of baseball bats (and who often resemble Birch himself) team up with girls with gaping vaginas and pneumatic breasts to screw, suck, and frolic in fantasy worlds that often borrow elements from 19th-century engraving—startling wet dreams that make even the gallerist blush. Freight + Volume, 542 West 24th Street, freightandvolume.com

Gosha Ostretsov
May 21–June 20

Experience a battle between masked aliens who have established the New Government and a band of avenging, often buxom, superheroes. Politically minded Muscovite artist Gosha Ostretsov presents another chapter in his ongoing comic-book saga, a loose satire of post-Soviet authority, notably Putin. Here, among other work, he's paneled a room with lifesize versions of his muscular marauders. Claire Oliver, 513 West 26th Street, claireoliver.com

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