'Naked!' at Paul Kasmin; Jessica Dickinson's 'Here'; 'Looking at Music: Side 2' at MOMA

Let's face it, one of the great joys of art viewing is the opportunity to check out people with no clothing on. Curated by Adrian Dannatt, this expansive exhibition strips off the pretensions of the idealized nude to get at the unadorned naughty bits, with images of naked females in Kasmin's main gallery as well as those of men, cheekily subtitled "Size Matters," relegated to the gallery's annex. Bare flesh is, of course, among the oldest and most various of subjects, and so the show ranges back in history as well as across genres and mediums. Not surprisingly, humor prevails, from Moyses van Uyttenbroeck's 1626 depiction of a ruddy man in a swimming hole grasping at the pale, plump body of a fleeing lady, to Mel Ramos's 2007 Pop sculpture of an upright banana peeled to disclose a topless blonde woman. But one also finds the straightforward, deadpan realism of Philip Pearlstein's Two Nudes With Red Drape (1965); the somewhat demure eroticism of Duncan Hannah's Crazy Horse Revue Dancer (2009), a gamine-haired girl lowering her panties; the vigorous expressionism of Cecily Brown's 1999 canvas of a boy engaged in two-handed masturbation; the fetishism of Walter Robinson's recent painting of a woman displaying her feet; and a surreal photo-collage from 1936, by Georges Hugnet, of two unclad women wrestling. There's a body and approach to suit anyone here, except a prude.

Jessica Dickinson: 'Here'

Abstract painting has been going through an identity crisis. The combination of modernist theories and mystical yearnings that spawned it early in the last century has long ago lost its generative vitality—it's a set of ideas that has been relegated to textbooks. But abstraction might just find itself again through the efforts of young artists like Jessica Dickinson, whose show "Here" largely avoids the neither-here-nor-there of pure decoration or awkward pastiche. Instead, her title points to the artist's concern with material presence in the three oils and four mixed-media works on paper in this exquisite outing. Because the paintings are made with limestone polymer, their surfaces manage to suggest texture and weight while remaining flat. For instance, the viewer seems to look down through layers of built-up pigment in Distance-Come Closer, in which the ghost of a robin's-egg-blue rectangle, scoured and abraded as if it had been exposed to inclement weather, hovers on a mottled grayish field. Before-Almost, a mostly white gouache on paper, exploits the physical, three-dimensional aspects of its material through cuts, punctures, and creases in paper. All the pieces in "Here" offer a contemplative kind of beauty that hold the viewer rooted in the moment. James Fuentes LLC, 35 St. James Place, 212-577-1201. Through September 20

'Looking at Music: Side 2'
'Naked!' exposure: Kenny Scharf's Space Orgy, 2009
Mark Markin
'Naked!' exposure: Kenny Scharf's Space Orgy, 2009

Details

'Naked!'
Paul Kasmin Gallery
293 Tenth Avenue, 511 27th Street
212-563-4474
Through September 19

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The seminal punk club CBGB is now a clothing boutique; there are high-end hotels on the Lower East Side. But the raucous energy of the punk and new wave scenes that animated New York in the '70s and '80s lives on, at least for a few more months, in this nostalgic exhibition, which explores the intersection of art and music in the last decades of the 20th century. It was a category-defying, cross-contaminated era that presaged today's downtown DIY aesthetic. Graffiti artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rammellzee, and Fab 5 Freddy came together to make the hip-hop record Beat Bop, while poet and musician Patti Smith drew portraits of herself and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. If many of the album covers and songs, which play on listening stations, are familiar, the early music videos, film pieces, and cable-TV shows—many rare and unavailable for viewing elsewhere—remain startlingly fresh. Sonic Youth's first video, "Death Valley '69," directed by Judith Barry and Richard Kern, is a cool send-up of campy horror films; Glenn O'Brien's TV talk show TV Party is just hilarious. Perhaps most importantly, however, "Looking at Music" argues that art doesn't have to be a profession—some of the best can be a by-product of friends getting together and having a good time. The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, 212-708-9400. Through November 30

 
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