News & Politics

Lock And Load

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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.


‘ONCE, THEN SOMETHING’

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.



TOP CHANGTRAKUL

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.



‘VERMEER AND
THE DELFT SCHOOL’

March 8-May 27


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


Some transcendent paintings by Vermeer are the draw here.



TERRY WINTERS

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.



ELLEN GALLAGHER

March 10-April 14


Gagosian, 555 West 24th Street,
741-1111


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



JIM SHAW

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.



TAKASHI MURAKAMI

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.



MARIA MARSHALL

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.



‘BITSTREAMS’

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.



‘MARCEL DUCHAMP ON DISPLAY: OPTICS, EXHIBITION INSTALLATIONS, MUSEUMS’

March 22-April 28


Zabriskie, 41 East 57th Street,
752-1223


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.



FREDERIC BRULY-BOUABRE

March 23-April 21


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


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



WILLIAM BLAKE

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.



STEVEN PIPPIN

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.



HALUK AKAKÇE

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.



SHERRIE LEVINE

March 31-April 28


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


Something old, something new.



‘SALON’

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.



‘SELF-MADE MEN:
MALE SELF PORTRAITS’

April 4-May 5


DC Moore, 724 Fifth Avenue,
247-2111


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.



ROXY PAINE

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.



BRETT COOK-DIZNEY

April 6-May 12


P.P.O.W., 476 Broome Street,
941-8642


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



WILLIE COLE

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.



CADENCE GIERSBACH

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.



SEAN LANDERS

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.



DAVID BYRNE

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.”



TIM GARDNER

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.



‘PERFORMANCE DRAWINGS’

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.



BARBARA BLOOM

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.



‘FREESTYLE’

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.



JOHN BOCK

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.



‘BETWEEN STREET AND MIRROR: THE DRAWINGS
OF JAMES ENSOR’

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.



BRAD KAHLHAMER

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.



GLENN LIGON

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.



INKA ESSENHIGH

May 10-June 23


Mary Boone, 745 Fifth Avenue,
752-2929


Pliable new images by this painter
of the plastic fantastic.



RON MUECK

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.”



‘FRANK O. GEHRY RETROSPECTIVE’

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?



‘LEON GOLUB: PAINTINGS 1950-2000’

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.



WILLIAM KENTRIDGE

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.