David Haxton at Priska C Juschka; Mie Yim at Michael Steinberg; Erin Rachel Hudak at Jan Larsen
The first thing I thought of when I saw David Haxton's large-scale color photos of cut and slashed paper was Titian's 1571 painting Tarquin and Lucretia, a brutal rape scene illustrating the ruthless politics of ancient Rome that's filled with angular limbs, sweeping shadows, and lush, warm color. Haxton, a photography professor at the University of Central Florida, pushes the freshman exercise of photographing curled, cut, and folded sheets of paper into an evocative and dramatic realm. Now in his mid-sixties, he studied as a painter before turning to photography and film during the 1970s and '80s, designing elaborate, if flimsy, sets of paper, cloth, and string. Swathes of colored backdrop paper form the subjects (such as they are) of these nine images, from 1980 to 2006, each with a deadpan title, such as No. 141, Shadows From Torn Magenta on White. The sheets are weighted by spring clamps, draped over strips of wood, and riven by rectangular openings; the creams and grays of No. 536 call to mind the irregular geometries of Le Corbusier's architecture, the yellows, oranges, and aquas of No. 629 one of Hans Hofmann's resplendent canvases. While such allusions come easily, these rough-and-ready compositions—with their shards of light and layered shadows—ultimately move beyond the nuts and bolts of illusionistic space to create an emotional zone for the theater of your mind. (Priska C. Juschka, 547 W 27th, 212-244-4320. Through February 14.)
The place one's psyche might romp when perusing Mie Yim's illustrations for her alphabet book, A.B.C. of S.E.X., is a whole other story. These sunny pastels of fuzzy creatures in down-and-dirty positions—one performs a rim job to illuminate "A"; others surround a pink feline on her knees for "G"—are the perfect expression of an oversexualized, infantilized culture, in which some grownups do the nasty in furry costumes derived from plush toys. Elsewhere in her new show, this Korean-born artist reworks the old "scary doll" trope in deft paintings that focus tightly on the visages of toys, her raking brush conveying the chalky radiance of pastels while delivering ambiguous abstractions of candy-colored orbs and bulbous curves. In 2008's The Gatekeeper, a yellow beak anchors a round green face, whose edges bleed into a beautiful, claustrophobic background teeming with adorable minions bathed in crepuscular light. This quirky show is titled "Strangers," an appropriate moniker from someone who notes in her artist's statement that she identifies herself as "a stranger both to the big Western art boys of the past and present and to vacant, poppy Asian culture." (Michael Steinberg, 526 W 26th, 212-924-5770. Through February 7.)
The sculptor Charles Long shone in last year's Whitney Biennial, with beautifully pale and elongated pieces inspired by heron droppings. His new body of work, consisting of spindly frameworks studded with irregularly shaped pods, may be even more wondrously abject. Stand in one corner, then walk in a circuit around the gallery and watch the lopsided grids of these five tall objects sinuously interweave with one another. The surfaces—whether smooth steel armatures or rough, bulging plaster—have been delicately painted in muted pinks, greens, dirty oranges, and other adulterated hues. In one sculpture, pencil-thin crosshatches of gray steel cascade past the clotted appendages of what could be a mummified squid; across the gallery, an attenuated salmon-colored blob has been sloppily pressed up against an uneven grill slathered with drippy green paint. Bludgeoning old-school surrealism with ascetic minimalism, Long offers us intimations of flesh harried by geometry. (Tanya Bonakdar, 521 W 21st, 212-414-4144. Through February 21.)
Although Dear America, I Still Love You wins the Best Title award for any artwork I've seen so far this year, there are a number of other pieces here by Erin Rachel Hudak that more fully realize the knotty implications of those words. These collages include faint images from The New York Times, their ghostly affect reminiscent of Rauschenberg's solvent transfers of mass imagery for his Dante's Inferno drawings. A similar sense of dread runs through Hudak's energetic jumbles of roadkill, stenciled bombs, blurred headlines, and splattered paint. But amid the guns and war machines, couples kiss (though one partner is generally painted over) and deer gaze out from bushes, wary of outlined predators lurking nearby. In a smaller drawing, the words "run dead run dead run dead" tumble down the page in scrawled pencil, perhaps a binary ode to America's exhilarating promise and flawed reality. (Jan Larsen, 123 Baxter St, 718-797-2557. Through February 1.)
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