Cult Carnage


‘The Nightly News’

This joyfully polemical group show features such provocations as Jackie Salloum’s “Caterrorpillar” plastic toys: the blister pack displaying a tiny yellow bulldozer trumpets “Over 12,700 Palestinian Homes Demolished.” Nearby hangs Lydia Venieri’s large photograph that conflates the 9-11 attacks with consumer-driven cuteness through two anime-inflected dolls whose wide eyes reflect the burning twin towers. In Snap and Snuff, Fred Wilson offers two Venetian statues of Moors holding candelabras; the first of these old-world versions of lawn jockeys is practically strangled by snaking hoses attached to acetylene tanks while the other is engulfed in tubes leading to a bevy of fire extinguishers. Dominating the gallery is Robert Boyd’s video Heaven’s Little Helper, which opens with scenes cribbed from the 1981 film Masada and closes with an image of an angelic Hello Kitty. In between are blindingly fast cuts of cultish carnage: David Koresh preaching; the FBI’s battering rams at Waco, echoing those in Masada; corpses, courtesy of the Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown, and Aum Shinrikyo sects. It’s a greatest-hits of religious fanaticism and violence, all to the tinkling beat of Britney’s Everytime. Luxe Gallery,
24 West 57th Street. Through February 10.

Felipe Barbosa and Edgar Orlaineta

This pairing of witty Latin American artists begins with the Duchampian glee of Orlaineta’s two bicycle wheels connected into a figure eight and titled Moebius—the endless bachelor. Barbosa likewise twists prosaic objects into sculptural conundrums:
Spacial Drawing is a spikey sunburst of colored pencils glued together at their points. Cokes, his five nested plastic soda bottles, wouldn’t look out of place in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. Sara Meltzer, 525-531 W 26th, 212-727-9330. Through February 3.

Thomas Burleson

These labyrinthine drawings are enigmatic beauties, as if the artist were illustrating Thomas Pynchon’s paranoiac Crying of Lot 49 in the style of those nigh-indecipherable ’60s psychedelic posters. Burleson (1914–97), was a shipping inspector for California aerospace colossus Lockheed from 1959 through 1977, and frequently used official forms as grounds: a pink, eight-inch-high shipping tag has been covered with ballpoint-pen conveyor belts, pipes, and flanges all riveted together to perform unknowable functions. Burleson created thousands of vibrant drawings, often imagining animals and humans trapped in technological mazes or between sinuous brick walls, sometimes abstracting his own self-portrait into mechanical fantasias. Louise Ross, 511 W 25th, 212-343-2161. Through February 24.

Brian Ulrich

Bleaching fluorescents turn the vast, beige-carpeted floor space of a failed store into a desert in which “Final Sale!” signs surround one forlorn rack of skirts. Another of these large-scale photos features folding chairs tucked into stars’n’stripes cases and stacked like flag-draped coffins. Elsewhere a woman with a cell phone clamped to her ear stares blankly at the shelves of gourmet foods plunging away from her in one-point perspective. Ulrich’s pictures capture the frantic ennui of shopping amid the sensory overload of big-box stores. Julie Saul, 535 W 22nd, 212-627-2410. Through February 10.

‘Cyanide and Sin’

A gross of original true-crime mags from the early ’40s through 1970 are arrayed along the walls and in vitrines; if lurid tableaux of threatened (and sometimes fatally vengeful) babes surrounded by such teasers as “Midnight Doom for the Sunshine Girl” are your poison, you’ll be in heaven here.
Roth, 160A E 70th, 212-717-9067. Through February 17.

George Bellows

Although they lack the bloody rawness of his boxing paintings, these lithographs of the sweet science fascinate—in two versions of Firpo knocking Dempsey through the ropes, there are variants in the scrambling spectators and the challenger’s swollen, impassive face. Preliminaries, printed in 1916, captures swells in top hats and gowns arriving under cover of an arena’s darkness as two palookas lean into each other under the glare of the distant ring. Craig F. Starr, 5 E 73rd, 212-570-1739. Through February 10.

Guy Hundere

During chase scenes in The Flintstones, the same lamp and window would flash by over and over again. Hundere’s video projection expands on this effect: skeins of road tar and the occasional post flash by, as if the viewer is staring from a car driving cross-country. In the far distance a farmhouse set amid sunny fields never changes position. It’s every kid’s nightmare—trapped in the backseat, asking “Are we there yet?” for all eternity. George Adams, 525 W 26th, 212-564-8480. Through February 10.

‘Polish Socialist Conceptualism of the ’70s’

Don’t let the didactic title put you off—these videos, made by artists who tried to remain true to Communist ideals while transcending hidebound Socialist Realism, retain some of the colorful vivacity of Poland’s renowned graphics. Images of a figure jumping futilely at a towering wall and groups of youths swaying in rhythm are visually powerful, but the ineffectiveness of this challenge from within to a corrupt regime is poignantly exposed: a video recreation of a 1985 guerilla transmission by a cadre of astronomers who superimposed Solidarity slogans over the lies of official broadcasts is a reminder of what truly roiled the failing government.
Orchard, 47 Orchard Street, 212-219-1061. Through January 28.