Allan Stone's "World in a Box": Cornell's Buddies
The title of this show couldn't be more apt. The boxlike constructions here by various artists—most created in previous decades and all selected from the late Allan Stone's private holdings—are like intensely personal time capsules, filled with confessions, dreams, and nostalgia.
The series begins with stagecraft. Al Wolfson's miniature, meticulously detailed dioramas—a Lexington Avenue subway station and the interior of a grungy walk-up, both circa 1983—suggest two intense but fleeting memories. The solemn, shadowy views hint at moments of long-past significance. On a larger scale, in the style of stop-motion animation, Kathy Sins modeled a common urban nightmare: comically giant roaches overtake a kitchen while a human couple screams in horror.
Stone, whose tastes ran the gamut from de Kooning to folk art, was clearly a fan of richly evocative assemblage. Inside a cabinet, Primarosa Kurhajec linked parts of antique toys with strands of rope, making heartfelt but mysterious connections. Similarly, Philip Sultz stuffed a display case with remnants of books and then blurred the glass with smears of white paint—another piece suggesting something vaguely recollected (appropriately, without a date). In Wayne Nowack's enigmatic Propriete de L'Etat (1970), an elegant fold-out box reveals a delightful assortment of brass hardware and yesteryear trinkets—all of it arranged to resemble an apparatus of some magical function. Naturally, assemblage pioneer Joseph Cornell (whose art Stone championed) is here, too: four spare and sedate enclosures that sit on the shelf like little seaside reveries.
Other containers hold accumulations of identical objects, shifting the mood away from introspection into social commentary. Dan Basen's windowed vault of Pepsi bottles and Armand Fernandez's Theoreme de Ferme (1960)—packages of aspirin piled into a Plexiglas bin—appear to mock cultural conformity by enshrining its emblems. But Rosamond Berg does the opposite; her array of little cloth bags, each of them subtly colored a different shade of white, seems to celebrate diversity. So did Allan Stone, whose epic collection of everything and anything remains, as ever, a thrill to discover.
DIANE TUFT: 'AFTERMATH'
Shortly after the 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Diane Tuft flew over the crater and surrounding area in a Cessna and took photographs of the altered landscape. As with her previous visual explorations of harsh environments (Tunisia, Greenland, the Great Salt Lake), Tuft wasn't documenting anything specific, but looking for texture and form. Shot with equipment that captures near-ultraviolet light, enhancing contrasts and tints, the scenes are otherworldly. A foaming tide, thickened by ash, spreads along a tar-black shore. Waterways snake around vivid yellow islands.
Often composed in a way that makes the spatial orientation unclear, many of the images approach abstraction. The distinct sections of Aftermath #3—a rough white triangle and two panels of aquamarine and charcoal-gray—bring to mind the Color Field school. Not to be missed, four photographs kept in the gallery's back room (left off the walls for reasons of space) are among Tuft's most painterly—stark, ethereal visions that prove, once again, that you can't beat nature for beauty. Marlborough Gallery, 40 West 57th Street, 212-541-4900, marlboroughgallery.com. Through April 21.
RALPH LEMON: '1856 CESSNA ROAD'
From an improbable collaboration came an improbable film. Some years ago, experimental choreographer and dancer Ralph Lemon happened to meet Walter Carter—a former sharecropper and, at 100, the oldest person in Little Yazoo, Mississippi. Charmed, Lemon began inviting Carter (who died in 2010) to participate twice a year in various art-based tasks. Their last project, the subject of this 30-minute quasi-documentary, involved Carter making a conceptual journey to another planet inside a homemade spaceship, painstakingly built out of scrap-yard junk. Although explained only in accompanying notes, Carter and his wife also act out scenes from Tarkovsky's Solaris and Godard's Alphaville, two oddball sci-fi flicks about the importance of human connection. Nothing makes much sense, but through scenes of quiet tenderness, the film becomes a meditation on love and death. In the end, after completing his rocket flight, Carter lies alone in a fallow field wearing his silver space suit and white helmet—a bit bewildered but poignantly transcendent. The Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, 212-864-4500, studiomuseum.org. Through May 27.
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