A white man wearing a high-collared, richly brocaded jacket slowly rises into the frame; the chiaroscuro lighting and long, high-ceilinged halls conjure a vampire flick set in a faded antebellum mansion. A beautiful black woman swings into view—the camera cuts to the man’s hands grasping the flowing fabric of her white gown, and then back to her face which registers shame and anguish. In the mesmerizing 2006 DVD Mammy/Daddy (filmed inside the New-York Historical Society building), the husband-and-wife team of Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry has created a human “topsy-turvy” doll, using the form of this 19th-century biracial toy to capture the uneven power plays between master and slave. Elsewhere, Kerry James Marshall throws the malignancy of race hate into sharp focus by superimposing gold lockets around the faces of three white girls, isolating them as individuals even as they join the jeering crowd in a famous photograph of a dual lynching in Marion, Indiana. Thirty other artists plumb the pathologies of race in America, including the Jamaica-born Renee Cox, who contributes an astonishingly powerful self-portrait as the machete-wielding Queen Nanny—an 18th-century leader of escaped slaves—regally staring down the viewer.
This exhibit of four international photographers examines the stalemate between humanity and nature: Vultures feed on mountains of garbage under a crepuscular mist in Guatemala City’s dump; the dense green lushness of Korea’s DMZ is blissfully free of strife save for hedgerows of barbed wire; children stroll past trompe l’oeil trees and bucolic villages painted on the high, stone defense wall of a Jerusalem neighborhood; and, although photographed in Ireland, the thousands of red, white, and blue shotgun cartridges littering a vista of gnarly dirt piles and scrubby bushes feel like wry commentary on America’s profligate, lumber-headed militarism. Julie Saul, 535 W 22nd, 212-627-2410. Through June 30.
Sounding like the street name for a designer hallucinogen, Boroson’s sculpture Liquid Sunshine (2006) envelopes the viewer in lowering clouds shot through with shafts of light. But this roiling weather is fabricated from huge nylon pillows filled with forced air and suspended from the ceiling. Monofilament line strung from the gauzy folds to the cilia-like flanges edging a bevy of steel cherubs, flattened and screwed to the gallery floor, completes an effect that is half Spielberg, half Percocet daydream. Sara Meltzer, 525-531 W 26th, 212-727-9330. Through July 1.
“Nightmares of Summer”
Francesca DiMattio’s paintings of sailing vessels are as abject and dark as the Flying Dutchman—Ship Wreck (2006) is a collision of textures, the thick acrylic paint having been forced through coarse screens. Diane Arbus’s 1965 photo of a nudist family contrasts sagging jowls and rolls of pale flesh with horn-rimmed glasses and the sharp diagonals of some Detroit behemoth’s tail fin. Michael St. John’s hysterically deadpan collage, Dead Body Inside (2006), presents a photo of a decrepit, paint-peeling shack surrounded by knee-high weeds. Fourteen other artists from the last eighty years contribute to this descent into the season’s langour. Marvelli Gallery, 526 W 26th, 212-627-3363. Through July 8.
These beguiling canvases feature depopulated plazas, stairwells, and vestibules, the angled planes of modernist architecture recreated in slabs of grayed-out blue, dirty yellow, and clotted red. Snaking handrails provide a sinuous counterpoint to rectangle, square, and trapezoid, drawing the eye into virtuoso palette-knifing and brushwork. The bleakness of these concrete-and-steel dead zones is transcended by Hellmich’s sharp formal instincts, which make abstract slats and checkerboards surprisingly beautiful. Lehmann Maupin, 540 W 26th, 212-255-2923. Through July 14.
Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos
Chelsea is chockablock with zombies, vampires, and other outré creatures created by 30- and 40-something artists; apparently in their youth, before art history classes taught them to appreciate Pollock’s lyrical labyrinths and Warhol’s insightful mass media dissections, their eyes were snagged by Basil Gogos’s pan-chromatic portraits, which adorned the 1960s–70s magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. From his first commission of a green-and-yellow-faced Vincent Price starring in Roger Corman’s House of Usher, Gogos’s method of mimicking colorful spotlight gels upped the eerieness quotient. This new book (introduction by Rob Zombie) is at pains to point out Gogos’s “fine art” training; indeed, his swift brush-handling, accurate anatomy (albeit often submerged beneath mutant flesh), and abstract textures easily outdistance much of the camp fare on view in the galleries. www.creativemix.com/vanguard/