When asked in an interview what he thought of recycling, the sculptor B. Wurtz replied earnestly, “I wish I could take my egg carton to the store and have them refill it with eggs.” His rickety conglomerations recycle what the rest of us view as trash—mesh fruit sacks and wood scavenged from the streets, those ubiquitous plastic grocery bags, objects that barely register at all—into surpassingly delicate sculptures. Are the gathered, dark-red topknots of a net bag innately beautiful? Or do these scraps of detritus rely on Wurtz’s discerning eye to unlock their potential, like Miche langelo’s figures awaiting their release from marble blocks? One five-foot-high piece feels like a sad-sack bivouac: A plastic shopping bag, absurdly printed in camouflage, is hung above two bags patterned with vertical stripes, one red, the other blue, tenuously anchored to weathered boards by thick wire and clothespins. This pathetic campsite, all gossamer plastic gently flailing in the air conditioner currents, is touchingly beautiful, a fragile transmutation of civilization’s most prosaic trappings into something elusive yet satisfying.
As our popular culture washes over the globe like a kitsch tsunami, Hawkins surfs the wave to Nepal, where she takes photos and videos of herself desperately seeking the authentic “other” of faraway lands. But the anthropological quest of this tall, somewhat ungainly white girl keeps running into Nike swooshes, Coca-Cola cans, and natives in Leonardo DiCaprio T-shirts. The cultural disconnect continues in a photo where she is carried in a large basket on the back of a local; enclosed by faux wings, she seems in an ecstatic swoon, a platform shoe dangling from her big toe as a liveried driver opens the rear door of a waiting low-rent limo while a sextet, heavy on brass and percussion, serenades her. In another shot, she presents panty-clad buttocks covered by diaphanous sweats as she bends down before a dark-skinned youth holding a drink tray. Is she servicing the servant, or is this earnest emissary of Western empathy oblivious to the help as she concentrates on body sculpting? Zach Feuer, 530 W 24th, 212-989-7700. Through Sept 23.
‘An Atlas of Drawings’
As antagonistic, literal, and blunt as a high school shooter, Bruce Nauman’s 1986 watercolor Swaztika/Prayer Wheel shows four joined, crooked arms flipping the bird. Fraught with multiple meanings—Nazi brutality, adolescent rage, ancient rituals of cosmic contemplation—Nauman’s composition is typical of this show’s complex juxtapositions of ideas, images, and artists. On one wall, the ink whirls of Piero Manzoni’s thumbprint echo the spiraling pencil lines of a Robert Smithson hung nearby. These curatorial collisions encourage reflection about the long, varied road between a drawing and a more fully realized effort: Manzoni managed to sell cans of his own excrement to adventurous (masochistic? idiotic?) collectors; Smithson translated his doodles into the ghostly solidity of his oft submerged spiral jetty. Similar couplings of Paul Klee’s sketches of fruit with Louise Bourgeois’s organic abstractions imbue this broad sampling with a heady, overripe nimbus of association. Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd, 212-708-9400. Through Oct 2.
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. Stellan Holm, 524 West 24th Street. Through September 16.
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.