Just in time for the holidays comes a show about money. The brave German communist John Heartfield’s photomontages include a 1932 image of Hitler, his arm lifted in a Nazi salute as a corpulent businessman hands him cash; the deadpan caption is lifted from the führer-to-be’s own propaganda slogan: “Millions Stand Behind Me.” Another of these sepia-tinted images features a Christmas tree with the branches bent into swastikas. One of Peter Kennard’s Cold War–era images riffs on a James Bond–style tableau of jet-setters who crowd a casino table, using ICBMs for chips. Shirin Neshat’s color photograph is a symphony of contrasts: a woman in a flowing black burka walks past the white poured-concrete curves and geometric grids of a postmodern building. Particularly powerful is a 2002 print by Dennis Adams, in which the headline “PAYBACK” is discernible on a tabloid sheet tumbling through a cloudy sky. Flotsam from a hijacked plane? A burning tower? An American bomber?
Yamada Hikaru’s stoneware Black Pottery Screen (1982), with its three dozen half-moon shapes suspended in rows of cutout circles, is as surreal as a Louise Bourgeois sculpture, and Mishima Kimiyo’s mysterious Package (1986), wrapped in a crumpled stoneware facsimile of the Times front page, recalls both Warhol and Oldenburg. But Yagi Akira’s delicately glazed porcelain nesting bowls, ranging from six inches across to smaller than a nail head, remind us that simplicity is often the purest path to beauty. Japan Society, 333 E 47th, 212-832-1155. Through Jan 21.
The paintings in Row’s recent series of abstract paintings, “Demons in Paradise,” range from roughly four to seven feet on a side and share undulating curves of varying transparency in closely tuned colors: reds over oranges, whites partially obscuring grays. Filled with allusions (the overlapping shapes writhe like a mass of serpents; titles include Tantrum and Memento Mori), these multi-textured compositions gain energy from overlapping paint layers and vigorous brushwork that sometimes form lushly smooth arcs, and other times cast off splatters like sparks from a grinding wheel. Von Lintel, 555 W 25th, 212-242-0599. Through Nov 11.
‘Americans in Paris’
Although the Met’s publicity materials flog John Singer Sargent’s voluptuously aquiline Madame X (and no painter more deftly captured the fish-belly paleness of late-1800s haute society), it is the artist’s Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) that’s really the showstopper in this huge exhibition of American artists who traveled to or were influenced by the 19th-century capital of the art world. Complex lighting, textures, and facial expressions, plus a stabbing chevron of red to balance the girls’ black-and-white frocks, give this canvas an abstract freshness. In a nearby gallery, Mary Cassatt reveals a similar modernity in her 1878 painting of a little girl whose bloomers are exposed by her splay-legged sprawl across a bright-blue easy chair—an unknowing innocence that the no-nonsense brushwork enhances. Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Ave, 212-535-7710. Through Jan 28.
This Chicago-based African American artist has filled the gallery with his increasingly famous “Soundsuits,” which in some incarnations are used as costumes for dance performances and in others as freestanding sculptures. Fabricated from cast-off clothing, beads, twigs, sequins, bottle caps, and all manner of flea market detritus, they are rainbow-colored and gloriously multi-textured, and while most have a playful, Mardi Gras exuberance, some possess darker edges: Gourds erupt from the stomach of one figure like oversize maggots; when viewed from the side, the tapered headpieces on a few outfits recall the regalia of the Ku Klux Klan. Jack Shainman, 513 W 20th, 212-645-1701. Through Nov 11.
A standing couple straddles a woman lying on a concrete beach in Chicago; he’s tugging at his skimpy swimsuit, and the trio of open limbs implies a rollicking threesome. These vintage black-and-white prints from the 1970s also include shots of bare feet strolling the sensuously curving edge of a swimming pool and a garish painting of a centerfold babe abandoned on the sidewalk. It was a tawdry decade (highlighted by mucho macho chest hair), but these bold compositions convey a sweet hedonism. Gitterman Gallery, 170 E 75th, 212-734-0868. Through Dec 2.
‘I Am Plastic’
In the late ’90s, some Asian designers began making Frankensteins from various toys, such as G.l. Joes with recast limbs and orange Afros or monkeys with stereo-speaker heads. This cultural cannibalism combines Charlie Brown scale (outsize heads on little bodies) with South Park attitude to achieve a doe-eyed cuteness corrupted by grafitti provocation and funhouse violence. A broad spectrum of these limited-edition creatures are documented in this new book, including How2work’s 12-inch-high Che action figure replete with fatigues, cigar, and pistol; numerous bulbous little bears with tattoos and scars; and myriad permutations of bunnies, including Superdeux’s Be My Slave. In high-gloss black, with a zipper across its blank face, it’s a mash-up of Jeff Koons’s stainless-steel inflatable rabbit and Pulp Fiction‘s leather-encased gimp. abramsbooks.com