It’s difficult to get away with the title Notte d’amore a Venezia (Night of Love in Venice) without it reading like jacket copy for a Harlequin romance. In this work from 1961, Fontana (1899–1968) dragged his fingertips repeatedly through thick silver paint and then cut the canvas 13 times; the lively squiggles trailing from each finger stroke, the slightly puffy edges of his signature slices, and the undulating sheen are indeed sensual. When this deeply tactile artist arrived in New York later that same year, he took his radical gesture of cutting a painting’s surface to new heights of minimalist “just the facts ma’am” materiality amid Manhattan’s unornamented steel-and-glass skyscrapers. The gouged, scratched, and punched sheets of shimmering copper and aluminum in this show have retained their startling presence and pure beauty, while the artist’s underlying primal gesture lives on in Anselm Kiefer’s shredded lead grounds and Damien Hirst’s bisected cows.
This collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century American photos, paintings, cartoons, and illustrations succinctly connects their compositional conceits with the sets and framing of early moving pictures. Even more riveting is the fact that we’ve come full circle: The Edison Manufacturing Company’s raw, choppy, boxing-match film, which captures garishly lit details but few subtleties, feels for all the world like a camera-phone movie on YouTube. Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Sq E, 212-998-6780. Through Dec 9.
Pendulous breasts droop and separate, coming to rest on ample bellies; a nude woman carries a girl on her back, lithe young legs wrapped tightly around the woman’s hips; the girl’s big toe stands in for a meager penis in this sapphic interlude. In these small paintings, faces are often hidden, buried in furrows of flesh, and noses and eyes are erased by flattening shadows or obscuring branches. Yuskavage credits the influence of Bernini’s statues and late de Chirico, but her meaty women also channel horror/fantasy illustrators Frank Frazetta and Arthur Suydam, and are every bit as strange. Zwirner & Wirth, 32 E 69th, 212-517-8677. Through Nov 18.
‘John Keane: Guantanamerica’
Derived from lo-res downloads of detainees at Guantánamo’s Camp X-Ray, this British artist’s paintings of stooped, indistinct fluorescent orange blobs are barely discernible as shackled humans; on some of the canvases, fecal brown crisscrossing implies an intervening layer of chain-link fence. But even at such poor resolution, the resignation implied by a lowered head is remarkable, as is the power conveyed through the erect, dark blurs of the guards. Flowers, 1000 Madison Ave, 212-439-1700. Through Dec 2.
White attacks kitschy found lithographs—bucolic farmsteads, moonlit seashores—with painted 3-D bubble lettering spelling out his titles: Sexy Paintings by Sexy Painters for Sexy People is splayed across a 2 x 4 foot sunny valley. While the titles are fun— His Bad Attitude Was Just Fine With Everyone; Sugar and Bullshit—the true wit of White’s words lies in their smoothly painted integration with the banal scenery. Clementine, 623 W 27th, 212-243-5937. Through Nov 25.
By collaging scores of half-finished jigsaw puzzles and cutting alternating holes in layered posters, Souza sets off a visual overload. The six-foot-square Aroma (2006) features fruits, vegetables, and flowers in a cacophony of color that bleeds from one jagged puzzle edge to the next; the numerous oval cutouts in Andy & Jimi leave just a hint of Warhol’s Marilyn icon visible, and pretty much lose Hendrix amid the psychedelic babel. Charles Cowles, 537 W 24th, 212-741-8999. Through Nov 25.
‘Robert Polidori: Chernobyl‘
These 4 x 6 foot color prints of the deserted contamination zone surrounding the 1986 Soviet nuclear-plant meltdown document shattered tiles strewn across an operating room, vine-encrusted abandoned houses, sheets of paint peeled off kindergarten walls, and mysterious magenta goo slathered over the rusted-steel computer consoles of the huge, blasted control room. The images are formally beautiful but have none of the romanticism of views of the decayed Colosseum or ancient Egypt, only the chill of modern, industrialized wastelands. Edwynn Houk, 745 Fifth Ave, 212-750-7070. Through Dec 23.
‘Jean Shrimpton NY 62’
British Vogue photographer David Bailey captured the swinging London über-model (and his one-time paramour) as she struck contrapposto poses against the dark angles of New York City. Whether emerging from a pagoda-topped Chinatown phone booth with lush scarves and an even lusher flip hairdo or performing a pas de deux with a rifle in a cheesy arcade, Shrimpton (often clutching a teddy bear) seems an enchanted alien briefly touching down in Manhattan’s eternal movie set.
Faggionato Fine Art, 42 E 76th, 212-737-9761. Through Dec 16.