Ugly Americana


In this group dissection of American pop cult, Brian Block photographically enlarges a page of David Mamet’s blistering Glengarry Glen Ross script—”MOSS: What’s your name? BLAKE: Fuck You, that’s my name. You know why, mister? Because you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight and I drove an eighty-thousand-dollar BMW.” In the rear gallery Block has used a paint roller to slather abstract, de Kooning–esque swoops over a portion of a BMW billboard. Elsewhere, Noah Khoshbin has stenciled a typical celebrity puff piece on the wall: “Spunky young singing star ________ is full of surprises when she opens the door of her elegant suite at the _________ Hotel.” Every proper noun has been excised—your brain involuntarily struggles to fill in “Cheyenne?” “Avril?” “Kelly?” Five-foot-high mug shots of Sid Vicious and Patty Hearst by Russell Young pair the English lout with the American heiress in a celebrity marriage of meager talent, inept crime sprees, and hapless victimhood.

‘Selected Works’

This summer grouping has a school break vibe: plastic mesh grounds, lumps of plasticine clay, vividly colored string, and thick strokes of paint imbue Richard Tuttle’s 2005 “Space-Is-Concrete” series with a sweet joie de vivre. Malcolm Morely’s massive oil painting Rat Tat Tat presents a colorful array of parts from World War I biplanes: with five-foot wingspans, these cutout models of Nieuports and Fokkers await a Brobdingnagian kid to fulfill their destiny. Bertozzi & Casoni’s amazingly lifelike glazed-ceramic sculpture features an ape perusing a copy of L’Origine Delle Specie, surrounded by chain-smoked cigarette butts snuffed out in the tarry dregs of espresso cups. Sperone Westwater, 415 W 13th, 212-999-7337. Through Sept 1.

‘Summer, Light’

Leo Villareal’s Column 6 (2005) brings Dan Flavin’s fluorescent concepts into the digital age: Myriad red, green, and blue LEDs contained in long plastic tubes flash in ever changing chromatic sequences. Like the colorful mother ship in Spielberg’s Close Encounters, this computerized rainbow starts slowly, then gains speed with hues that sometimes blink and other times flare and fade gradually. The syncopated dance jumps from tube to tube and then slows to a soothing gray stasis before the light show begins anew. Sandra Gering, 534 W 22nd, 646-336-7183. Through Aug 11.

‘Gray to Black’

This elegant collection of A-list work includes Mark di Suvero’s Octo (1990), a small but striking sculpture of cut steel staves joined into an angular orb that could be Agamemnon’s face mask. Richard Serra weighs in with one of his large-scale, dense oil-stick drawings . Quieter are a pair of ink and tempera works from Bill Jensen’s “Drunken Brush” series—the mingling of blacks and whites and the differing viscosities of the media imbue these notebook-size drawings with layers of radiance.
Danese, 535 W 24th, 212-223-2227. Through Aug 25.

Hans Richter

Born in 1888 to a prominent Jewish family in Berlin, Richter began collaborating with the Zurich Dadaists after he was wounded in World War I. Later labeled a degenerate artist by the Nazis, he eventually made his way to New York, creating striking artworks and groundbreaking films and eventually founding the Film Institute of City College. This wide-ranging exhibit includes scores of drawings and paintings and such wonderful films as 1961’s Dadascope, which features carnivalesque title cards and vibrant shots of billiard balls, metronomes, balloons, hands, masks, spinning washing machines, and other colorfully juxtaposed objects which provide a visual interpretation of Dadaist poems. Maya Stendhal, 545 W 20th, 212-366-1549. Through Sept 16.

DC Super Heroes Postage Stamps

You’ve got to be dead or fictional to get your own stamp, and since both Superman and Batman have died and been resurrected numerous times they make both cuts (unlike Jackson Pollock’s philatelic portrait, the post office didn’t have to Photoshop cigarettes out of their mouths). Wonder Woman and Supergirl are among the 20 newly issued stamps, as is the Flash, in a profile by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson: one emphatic black contour of forehead, nose, chin, shoulder, and biceps divides fire-engine-red figure from deep-yellow background. A reproduction of Batman

1 (1940) features Bob Kane’s stiff figures animated by his brilliant design—a jagged scarlet cityscape counterpoints the flowing midnight-blue and lime-green capes of the Dark Knight and Boy Wonder. Lichtenstein ripped off the comics and Warhol transfigured them, but the original pop art remains indomitable. Available from the USPS while supplies last.