The Bong Show

Gape-mouthed and half submerged in a glass tank, the double-life-size, scaly green head of David Herbert’s hilarious Creature From Bong Water Bog recalls the melodrama of its black-lagoon forebear while the tubular pink plants surrounding it strike a phallic vibe. Similarly, Rita McBride’s homage to the burnout’s best friend, Bang Bong, thrusts its stem out through a leather codpiece, in sharp contrast to Brian Tolle’s Boing, a bright red tube collapsed in a detumescent puddle. Elaine Reichek can’t resist riffing on Magritte in her small embroidery of a pipe bearing the legend “Ceci n’est pas un bong,” while Ursula von Rydingsvard’s has carved a Bunyanesque bowl out of rough, yard-long, cedar timbers. Michael Joo’s nine-foot-high sculpture The Essence of Taste . . . (2006) features a rubber face mask connected by long plastic pipes to a pair of industrial-grade drums of MSG, a concept that practically induces a headache on sight.

Leslie Tonkonow Gallery, 535 West 22nd Street, 212-255-8450. Through January 20.

Mike Womack

From one side, this large, angled construction of thousands of laser-positioned, credit-card-size mirrors presents concentric squares of color that shift with the viewer’s movement. Only after peering behind the facade do you realize that the pixelated fireworks originate from an ersatz landscape: clouds made from hundreds of blue rubber gloves with plastic purple beads raining from them, a foothill of cardboard pierced with bright red spikes, cheese-doodle stalagmites, and garden-hose bulrushes. Womack has extracted a chromatic diamond from workaday dross.
ZieherSmith, 533 W 25th, 212-229-1088. Through January 13.

‘Drawing Through It’

That stern task-mistress minimalism is exemplified in Sol LeWitt’s pencil drawing of tiny cubes stacked like Euclidean sediment and by Fred Stanback’s use of four white rules to elegantly carve up the interior space of a simply drawn room. More organic is Terry Winters’s
Dorsal View—nets and curves in graphite so ferociously applied that the deckle-edged page feels like a picked scab, while Al Taylor’s 1993
Tin Can and Chopsticks distills those prosaic objects down to their basic geometries. David Nolan, 560 Broadway, 212-925-6190. Through January 13.

Robert Bechtle

With less detail but more soul than photographs, Bechtle’s hyper-realist artworks capture the raking light and vertiginous landscapes of San Francisco. Black triangles zigzag up a white sidewalk next to a gray wall; the peaked roofs that cast the shadows have been cropped out of this charcoal drawing’s frame. In a 2004 painting, a yellow road stripe aligns with a telephone pole to bisect the compostition vertically and tie together subtle flecks of color between twilit sky and pavement. Another drawing contrasts sun-flattened slats and rectangles of garage doors with the profuse textures of foliage, capturing the adulterated paradise that is California.
Gladstone Gallery, 515 W 24th, 212-206-9300. Through January 6.

Brian Dettmer

In this show of dying media transfigured, cassette shells for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and other rock classics have been melted together to form a skull. Nearby, miles of tape wound around a single cassette reel mimic the diameter, infinite striations, and dark color of an old-school record. A real Muddy Waters vinyl LP has been sliced and unfurled into one continuous streamer that meanders down the wall as gracefully as a miniature Mississippi. Even more obsessive are Dettmer’s book surgeries, in which he excises all text, leaving behind only layers of overlapping illustration. Art & Idea, 529 W 20th, 212-462-2600. Through January 6.

Barton Lidice Benes

These secular reliquaries offer a strange collection of ephemera: Par Avion includes a personal check from the Enola Gay’s bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, and Myrna Loy’s luggage tag. Along with other talismans, Ossuary presents a delicate bat skeleton and a dog’s cremated remains compressed into a milkbone. Also on display are sculptural drawing tools, such as a saw blade constructed from pencils, which creates parallel zigzags of graphite trailing across the page.
Lennon, Weinberg, 514 W 25th, 212-941-0012. Through January 20.

‘Peter Caine—Second Coming’

“Hanukah Harry” steers a bicycle while wielding a menorah sprouting dynamite sticks; his passenger, the diminutive “Muslim Mary,” brandishes a torch. Others of these life-size tableaux include an alien erupting from the gut of a priest whose head has been smashed in and Klansmen at the feet of a crucified, pop-eyed scarecrow. Caine’s eight window displays take the bloody rituals at the heart of religion and garnish them with cheap, soiled trinkets and buckets of dripping goo. There’s something to offend everyone on your holiday list. Exit Art, Tenth Ave and 36th, 212-966-7745. Through January 27.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 19, 2006

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