Lock And Load


If last autumn brought overdue surveys of underrated women, namely Yoko Ono and Adrian Piper, the spring belongs to some of the toughest guys around. New work by Martin Kersels, Sean Landers, Brad Kahlhamer, Glenn Ligon, Takashi Murakami, Mike Smith, Steven Pippin, Roxy Paine, and Ron Mueck hits the gallery walls. So does old work by three of the most sublime dead white males ever: Vermeer, William Blake, and Marcel Duchamp. And in May, half a century’s worth of Leon Golub‘s abrasive paintings of giants and mercenaries hole up in the Brooklyn Museum. This may be the season of the unrepentant renegade male.

Right now, Paul McCarthy is taking New York by storm. It’s not as if the West Coast actionist is exactly a stranger in our town, but with a retrospective of some 100 works at the New Museum of Contemporary Art (through May 13, 583 Broadway, 219-1222), two installations at Luhring Augustine (through April 4, 531 West 24th Street, 206-9100), a third in Deitch Projects’ garage-annex (through April 7, 18 Wooster Street, 343-7300), and a fourth in the former IBM building’s garden courtyard (through April 20, 590 Madison Avenue, 980-4575), this Salt Lake City-born artist’s fabulously twisted vision arrives with barrels blazing. Finally we get the full impact of his acute sensibility and his regressive behavioral art, which revels in blood, guts, sex, violence, potty accidents, male hysteria, and vomitous spew (mostly metaphoric), as well as tree fucking and other primal forms of infantile tantrum, adolescent yuckiness, and visceral delight. Housebroken, he’s not.

McCarthy’s messy fusion of unrestrained performance, installation, sculpture, video, ketchup, chocolate, paint, toilet humor, and drawing, which spans the past 25 years, remains consistently and thoroughly ornery. He gave birth, as it were, not only to a slew of unforgettable ketchup-and mayo-splattered images but also to a litter of other twisted artists. In fact, his anal-oral-genital stew of cultural clichés, social taboos, art-historical send-ups (including a gilded parody of Jeff Koons’s Michael Jackson), and grossout humor may have spawned the whole genre of maverick bad-boy art, from Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, and John Miller on. McCarthy, however, a graduate of an agricultural college in Utah, has been going at it longer than anyone. He’s more than an impulsive naughty boy: His is truly wild-man art.

So it’s hard to believe that the current New Museum retrospective, which premiered at L.A.’s MOCA, is the first survey ever of his sculptural, architectural, and photographic performative work. Supplementing it is McCarthy’s legendary 1991-92 installation, The Garden, which has never been seen in New York. No Eden, it reveals its motorized secrets at Deitch Projects’s garage-annex. At Luhring Augustine, Santa Chocolate Shop, a highlight of the 1997 Whitney Biennial, reappears along with a new sculpture titled Wooden Boxhead.

As if that’s not enough, McCarthy’s 1999 installation, The Box, previously shown only in St. Gallen, Switzerland, reveals its contents in the former IBM building’s garden lobby, thanks to the Public Art Fund. A vast, cluttered work space 50 feet long and 20 feet high, it contains the entire contents of his California studio—chairs, shelves, tools, worktables, found objects, video cassettes, and all. The catch—and there’s always a catch to his work—is that this off-the-wall studio-in-a-box (and its contents) is installed at a skewed right angle to reality. Think of it as the workshop of a latter-day Gepetto, where blockheads and other critters, including one with a rabbity head and a 50-foot-long rubber penis, are hammered into being.

“I’ve always had an interest in repression, guilt, sex, and shit,” said McCarthy a couple of years ago. His in-your-face, over-the-top oeuvre of violation—enacting taboo rituals of penetration, castration, and elimination—is now getting its overdue 15 minutes of testosterone-fueled Big Apple fame. But his pioneering work, which has long exposed our heritage of prurient puritanism and hypocrisy, has staying power as well as shock value. Exposing our heritage of not-so-little white lies involving innocence, depravity, cowboys, Indians, and other mythic aspects of boyish Americana, as well as tastelessness and trauma, McCarthy’s outrageous art guarantees that neither Pollock’s drips and dribbles nor the Absolut Vodka billboard on Lafayette Street will ever seem quite the same. Neither will Pinocchio or Santa Claus.


March 6-April 14

Sculpture Center, 167 East 69th Street, 879-3500

Finnbogi Petursson, Roman Signer, and Holly Zausner are among the artists in this show of instantaneous, transitory, and ephemeral sculpture, curated by Gregory Volk and Sabine Russ.


March 8-April 7

Lance Fung, 537 Broadway, 334-6242

In “New Inventions, Part Two,” the Thai artist presents his fictitious mad inventor’s mad mechanisms for exploring Eastern and Western ideas.


March 8-May 27

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, 879-5500

Some transcendent paintings by Vermeer are the draw here.


March 9-April 28

Lehmann Maupin, 39 Greene Street, 965-0753

“Set Diagram” crams in 60 new paintings, each of which measures one meter by one yard.


March 10-April 14

Gagosian, 555 West 24th Street,

An artist whose polite abstractions are infiltrated with subtle but insistent symbols of African American invisibility shows new paintings.


March 10-April 21

Metro Pictures, 519 West 24th Street, 206-7100

The new paintings, drawings, and sculptures in this show are the latest in his series of dreamed objects.


March 16-April 14

Marianne Boesky, 535 West 22nd Street, 941-9888

Influenced by manga, anime, and traditional Japanese art, the Japanese art star shows paintings of computer-generated fungal and floral images. He calls the show “Mushroom.” And at Grand Central Station, he has an installation in Vanderbilt Hall.


March 17-April 14

Team, 527 West 26th Street, 279-9219

This London artist, who made an impression here with utterly simple and nearly hallucinatory video works involving her children, is back with new video projections.


March 22-June 10

Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, 570-3676

This survey of digitalia hooks up some 30 visual artists and 15 sound artists who work in visceral and expressive ways with computers, digital cameras, video recorders, projectors, sound mixers, software, and the Internet. Paul Pfeiffer, Diana Thater, and Jeremy Blake are among them.


March 22-April 28

Zabriskie, 41 East 57th Street,

The grand master’s optical contraptions, sketches, photos, and more make a case for his concern not only with perception and illusion but with presentation and display.


March 23-April 21

Brent Sikkema, 530 West 22nd Street, 929-2262

More small drawings and groups of drawings by this Ivory Coast artist.


March 29-June 24

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, 879-5500

More than 175 exalted images by the radical visionary artist-poet are explored within the social, political, and religious context of his time.


March 30-April 28

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, 436 West 15th Street, 627-5258

Last spotted riding a horse through a laundromat, this English artist is known for using toilets and washing machines as cameras. It’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do next.


March 31-April 28

Deitch Projects, 76 Grand Street, 343-7300

The heralded young Turkish artist fuses painting, architecture, computer graphics, and video in “Complete/Incomplete,” an installation. Think of it as a walk-in painting.


March 31-April 28

Paula Cooper, 534 West 21st Street, 255-1105

Something old, something new.


March 31-May 19

Artists Space, 38 Greene Street, 226-3970

Louise Bourgeois, who has hosted a Sunday salon in her home for more than 30 years, acts as curator, presenting emerging artists along with film footage of the salon discussions. Let’s hope its half as fresh and fierce as her own work.


April 4-May 5

DC Moore, 724 Fifth Avenue,

Chuck Close, Philip Pearlstein, Peter Saul, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and a bunch of (hopefully) younger guys look in the mirror and face up to the male ego.


April 5-May 5

James Cohan, 41 West 57th Street, 755-7171

New work by an artist whose precise installations of fungoid life forms and gloppy machine-made sculpture question parasitic modes of creation and replication.


April 6-May 12

P.P.O.W., 476 Broome Street,

In his first solo show of streetwise portraits surrounded by accumulations of significant objects, this African American artist documents his own past.


April 12-September 9

Bronx Museum, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, 718-681-6000

Four gamelike installations refer to chance, fate, and African American culture. Two of them are new.


April 13-May 7

Roebling Hall, 390 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-599-5352

Large hybrid garden paintings on vinyl, installed on an environmental wall painting.


April 13-May 19

Andrea Rosen, 525 West 24th Street, 627-6000

The diaristic artist shows big new paintings inspired by Picasso, probably without his signature loudmouth texts: This time he’s trying to keep his thoughts to himself.


April 18-May 19

Apex Art, 291 Church Street, 431-5270

Acting as curator (and maybe artist, too), the music man plans a show of images from the daily papers, titled “Gesture, Posture and Bad Attitude in Contemporary News Photography.”


April 19-May 26

303 Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street, 255-1121

The artist whose suburban backyard watercolors caused a stir last year returns with new work.


April 19-July 28

The Drawing Center’s Drawing Room, 40 Wooster Street, 219-2166

Milan Grygar, Alison Knowles, Erwin Wurm, Christopher Taggert, and Elena del Rivero take turns in a series of solo shows exploring the intersection of drawing, installation, and performative gesture.


April 21-May 19

Gorney Bravin + Lee, 534 West 26th Street, 352-8372

Her latest work juggles aspects of balance, fragility, and grace under pressure—as well as champagne glasses and broken (and mended) ceramics in boxes.


April 26-June 24

Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, 864-4500

Cutting-edge art of all sorts by some 30 young artists of African descent.


April 27-June 2

Anton Kern, 558 Broadway, 965-1706

The unpredictable and provocative Bock, whose wearable work was last seen on the escalators at MOMA, does a nomadic performance somewhere outside the gallery.


April 27-July 21

Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, 219-2166

With 100 works dating from 1880 to 1895, this artist’s carnivalesque revelers may well prove that he was an early explorer of the society of the spectacle.


May 4-June 2

Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster Street, 941-9475

New paintings by Kahlhamer, whose last show delved into the paradoxes of fleet-footed painterliness, new music, and Native American heritage.


May 5-June 9

D’Amelio Terras, 525 West 22nd Street, 352-9460

In his first gallery show here since 1995, the intrepid explorer of identity issues makes use of black pride coloring books from the ’70s. Expect color and figuration.


May 10-June 23

Mary Boone, 745 Fifth Avenue, 752-2929

Pliable new images by this painter of the plastic fantastic.


May 11-June 16

James Cohan, 41 West 57th Street, 755-7171

This naughty YBA, whose art involves patriarchal (and patricidal) authority issues, solos here. His spookily realistic Dead Dad—shrunk to infant-size—was in “Sensation.”


May 17-August 26

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue, 423-3500

The multinational McGugg, known for great containers and compromised shows, brings an unassailable architect inside for a retrospective. Will his titanium halo silence complaints?


May 18-August 19

Brooklyn Museum of Art, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-638-5000

Giants, dictators, terrorists, mercenaries, thugs, and sphinxes do dirty deeds in some 35 gruff works exploring excesses of individual and institutional power.


June 2-September 16

New Museum, 538 Broadway, 219-1222

This show tracks the South African artist’s animated films, drawings, and performance works—which meld the personal and the political—from 1989 to the present.