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Although comics are generally a testosterone desert, some women, as evidenced by this 100-year survey in MOCCA’s friendly, ramshackle space, have managed to blossom. During the Roaring Twenties, Nell Brinkley drew a full-color broadsheet of young lovers as cave folk, giving elaborate attention to the girl’s leopard-skin frock, flower-strewn blond tresses, burgundy lips, and goth eyeshadow. But by the ’40s, women had moved out of the love-genre ghetto: In 1948’s Werewolf Hunter, Lily Renee knitted entire pages into powerful compositions with brilliant designs featuring checkerboard tablecloths, expressionist shadows, and circular panels. In 1969, legendary comic-book colorist Marie Severin proved her drawings could thrill the fanboys with a baroque, beautifully textured Sub-Mariner cover. Curator Trina Robbins displays her own chops with the smartly stylized, ironic Disastrous Relationships comix. Mikhaela B. Reid contributes Wartime ABC’s (2003), which ends with “W” for “fearless Warrior,” picturing our president on a golf course; “X, Y, and Z” is a white-on-black text panel reserved for nameless soldiers lost “due to a helicopter malfunction.”
‘The Way of Chopsticks’
A solitary chopstick is as futile as one hand clapping. The husband-and-wife team of Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen work independently, using identical mediums and dimensions, but combine their pieces on completion. The viewer has to stoop below a horizontal scrim of white cloth to fully observe a prone pair of 26-foot-long chopsticks—in a startling coincidence both chose Beijing’s central axis as a subject. Dong’s features a hammered steel map; Xiuzhen’s is studded with scale models of the city’s landmarks fabricated from nylon stockings. Twin videos filmed during a recent residency in New York each showcase one of the artists’ own hands, the first tightly gripping a Statue of Liberty tchotchke while the other draws constant chalk circles around a maddened ant. The symmetrical dissonance of this show is a unique portrait of a marriage. Chambers Fine Art, 210 Eleventh Ave, 212-414-1169. Through July 28.
“Draw (drô’ing) n.”
At first, Emil Lukas’s sculptures feel like a conjurer’s trick: flat, eroded stones, like refugees from a surrealist painting by Yves Tanguy, stacked on paper shelves pushpinned to the wall. Closer inspection reveals that the objects are not rocks at all but weathered foam-rubber detritus. Amparo Sard similarly stretches the boundaries of drawing by pricking sheets of paper with thousands of pinholes, the outlined figures and objects casting distorted shadows as if refracted underwater. Martin McGinn turns photos of grocery aisles upside down; with the addition of dark paint, they become the nocturnal canyons of a futuristic megalopolis. BravinLee Programs, 526 W 26th, 212-462-4404. Through July 28.
‘Diamonds Cut Diamonds’
There are numerous gems in this compendium of sculptural grotesqueries: head-on, Dave Choi’s Barf (2006), a coagulation of expanded foam, taxidermy eyes, and clear tubing, represents a rabid, snarling animal; its circular frame of plastic suction cups works like a cone worn by a flea-infested dog but is also reminiscent, believe it or not, of Carravaggio’s ghastly tondo depicting Medusa’s severed head. Similarly, Morgan Herrin’s six-foot-high, pink polystyrene Big Baby riffs on the ancient Greek masterpiece Laocoön, but here the writhing snake gives birth to squiggling infants while the pudgy title figure boogies like an air guitarist. Bryan Basnett constructs wheelbarrows, washer-dryer combos, and sledgehammers from gelatinous melted toy plastic; Kate Horne’s shabby materials—grocery bags, tissue paper, wire—only add to the intensity of her braying horse heads and vicious curs. Rare Gallery, 521 W 26th, 212-268-1520. Through July 29.
In a 1983 photo, the white-bearded artist appears to be snoozing while numerous Magic Markers hanging from tree branches move gently over paper NRA targets. Other pieces by this too little known Fluxus maestro (1923–1988) include a wall covered with forms Watts collected from the U.S. patent office in 1964, documenting such trademarks as “Can-a-Pop” carbonated sodas, the “Dubl-Pop” fishing lure, “Peanut Pop” puffed peanuts, and the utilitarian “Pop” riveting tool. His pyramid of baseballs (1968–71), with faux signatures from Goya, Duchamp, Manet, and other blue-chip artists, plunges down a rabbit hole of appropriation as it comments on the frenzied collecting and worship of relics of all stripes. Leslie Tonkonow, 535 W 22nd, 212-255-8450. Through July 28.
Justin Lowe: ‘Helter Swelter’
Hot damn, summer in the city—it’s 95 in the shade and all I want is a cold one. Ah, a bodega. Shoot! The fridge doesn’t work—the Gatorade is baking! And those pork rinds and antediluvian pastries couldn’t be less appetizing amid these harsh fluorescent lights, peg board walls, and drooping plastic streamers. What’s that music coming from the back room? It sounds like an ice cream truck jingle on acid. Wait! It
is an ice cream truck—but its gutted insides are plastered with posters from trippy, violent movies. Who is that woman popping like a jill-in-the-box from Winston Churchill’s forehead? You’ll never find this video, not even at Kim’s. Drug-front bodegas; abandoned scaffolding; E. coli on wheels—this summer show is too dead-on: You can feel the grit on the back of your neck. Run, don’t walk, to the Hampton Jitney, before it’s too late! Oliver Kamm/5BE, 621 W 27th, 212-255-0979. Through July 28.