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Deceived by Deitch Projects' façade, which currently resembles the decrepit video store in Michel Gondry's movie Be Kind Rewind, one slacker took in the meager display of VHS tapes on the rickety wooden shelves and asked incredulously: "You guys don't rent DVDs?" Had he wandered into the vast reaches of the gallery rather than stalking out in a huff, he would have found numerous quick-and-dirty movie sets, including "Living Room," "Office/Waiting Room," and "Corridor," each labeled with helpful tips such as "This area would perhaps be useful for chases or a suspenseful scene." Indeed, a faux-brick hallway that opens out onto a gritty urban alley—which includes a Voice distribution box, no doubt appropriated for authentic Gotham street cred—seems a fitting backdrop for anything from high-kicking musical number to ghastly murder scene. It's all up to you and your four to 14 friends (or strangers, who can join in to flesh out your crew). You'll have 45 minutes to vote on your genre, title, and storyline, and then another 45 to determine scenes and cast. Next comes "Camera Check-out" ("There are no retakes. One take, good take," a sign informs you), and for the next hour, you're P.T. Anderson, Martin Scorsese, or Ed Wood, while your friends vie for Oscars behind the wheel of a chopped VW perched before a rear-projection screen, or around a campfire with orange fabric flames. No ideas? You can always watch the films already in the can; they're projected in an often hilarious—though not always intentionally so—loop. But the ambience encourages just winging it. During the Best in Show staff's visit, the shot list for a wolfman flick, Night of the Erotic Moon, was being animatedly hashed out by a group of thespians, some of whom appeared to have just met. There's been no final determination of what will happen to these five-to-20-minute epics—directors' cuts or no, each is owned by producer Gondry, and beyond the notion of making a book of stills, he hasn't decided. But there's magic in meandering through the nuts-and-bolts phoniness of moviemaking and then experiencing the finished stories. Just like Tinseltown's most polished product, these D.I.Y. blockbusters reveal our yearnings to live lives outside our own.
There's less theatricality than usual from this Vancouver photographer, but these huge images still convey heightened drama. Young boys playing war run through a vacant lot as one of them, with a deadly serious demeanor and elaborate water gun, watches over three prisoners; day laborers loiter on a gloomy morning, one young man slouched as if from the weight of the years still ahead of him. The settings in these black-and-white prints are as expressively composed as paintings—trees and clouds play against the geometries of buildings—and the subjects, all paid to carry out their activities where Wall has placed them, are simultaneously as unaware as passersby on a surveillance tape and as carefully arranged as figures in a Poussin. Marian Goodman, 24 W 57th, 212-977-7160. Through March 22.
One floor above the Wall exhibit, Meeks's photos also capture subjects going unconcernedly about their business, but these are crows, pecking through rotting plants strewn over clotted ground. The birds feel like harbingers of grief; the mood has much to do with Meeks's elaborate process of shooting black-and-white film and then making prints on vellum coated with wax and acrylic, creating a very faint and mysterious cataract between image and viewer. This technique transforms a crow flapping over irrigation pipes mounted on broad steel wheels into a haunting vision of cannons in some forgotten Gettysburg. One dramatic composition juxtaposes a crow, partially cut off by the top edge, flying past a collapsing sunflower stalk, the black, turgid earth looming up from the foreground like a freshly turned grave. Candace Dwan, 24 W 57th, 212-315-0065. Through March 29.
These acrylic and enamel paintings zoom from meticulously rendered product placement—tiny Windex bottles and Pledge cans provide sharp color accents—to hippie visages and psychedelic vistas recalling the glory days of '70s double-album cover art. Space shifts with tectonic violence amid pyramids and seashores populated by humans and enigmatic masks and symbols. Fyan applies multiple layers of paint, and this density is heightened by such titles as In the Softest Grey Petals of the Bomb Lay Your Finger Across My Lips (2007). Perhaps the original imagery inspiring such a flight of schizophrenia displeased the artist, because he scraped and sanded it into oblivion, exposing the white-painted support board and creating islands of color, which abstractly map a world where the title makes beautiful sense. Perry Rubenstein, 527 W 23rd, 212-627-8000. Through March 29.
This Mumbai-based artist engineers elaborate mechanisms to perform repetitious and riveting actions: A suit dips endlessly into white liquid, which drains from the breast pocket like milky tears; five pairs of Lucite shoes march in lockstep; an air compressor fills and deflates a condom with the sonorous intensity of a bellows organ; rotating cameras mounted within the rib cages of a herd of animal skeletons transmit whirling imagery to nine video screens. The rhythmic sound and repetitive motion convey a sense of human regimentation butting heads with spiritual nature, resulting in a deadlocked and portentous energy. Tilton, 8 E 76th, 212-737-2221. Through March 29.
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