Omya Alston’s Stereotype Mirror (2003) puts the viewer on the business end of some verbal pimp-slapping: Your reflection appears only in the unfrosted areas of the mirror, letter-shaped sections that spell out such epithets as “project ho,” “chicken head,” and “ghetto bitch,” culminating in the lower right corner with “welfare queen.” Posing as Pam Grier totally Coffy’d-out with a pump-action shotgun, huge spherical afro, and glittering hoop earrings, Ifétayo Abdus-Salam uses self-portrait photos to ask, “Who’s the fairest of them all?” Continuing with appropriations of the rappers Lil’ Kim and Trina, scantily clad and progressively blonder, Abdus-Salam embodies various ideals of contemporary female beauty. Felicia D. Megginson’s drawings twist jet-black hair into symbols of obsession—one ‘do is relaxed into a massive pompadour, others are twisted into sex organs, a black-power fist, a pair of hands gripping prison bars, and dollar signs on a gold-leaf ground. With Uzi Coozie (2007) Heather Hart turns ideas of femininity, wholesome crafts, and domesticity upside-down with her pistols and automatic rifles covered in crocheted “cozies” and suspended from the ceiling. The anger in this show is matched by sharp wit, and Hart’s disturbing installation of “concealed” weapons reveals that happiness is definitely not a warm gun.
‘Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art’
Ranging across nine centuries, these paintings embark on real and imagined travels. Some of the ancient scrolls celebrate the elaborate comings and goings of dynastic royals or juxtapose flowing calligraphic poems (“High on the mountain the beautiful colors are cold”) with spare images of hushed landscapes. A 1996 work by Yu Peng pays homage to earlier styles, but with its garish colors and multiple viewpoints—a view of towering, craggy mountains is slightly obscured by a screen decorated with landscape images—he gives scroll painting a contemporary edge.
Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710. Through August 26.
At first only saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc’s dark hair, festooned with yellow flowers and green leaves, is visible, floating outside the window of an empty apartment. For almost 13 minutes he improvises bluesy wails and jazzy trills as the camera then pans across swaths of Berlin from a high vantage point. Video artist Sala suspended Moondoc from the top floor of an apartment building nicknamed “Long Sorrow,” and this sky-high perspective is made intimate by close-ups of Moondoc’s slightly jaundiced eyes and his teeth biting the reed. But a sense of existential gloom descends when, against a darkening sky, a distant plane seems to fly right into the window where Moondoc had earlier been floating. Marian Goodman, 24 W 57th, 212-977-7160. Through March 31.
There is biblical drama in some of these black-and-white photographs: Sunlight rakes a forest surrounding an inviting glade and the leaves glitter like Eden; ghostly figures scurry for shelter under iron-gray clouds. Other shots—a pig corralled by men in spattered rubber boots, an old woman with eyes shut as silhouetted figures seem to dash away from her—are sorrowfully human. Taken between 1953 and 2000—sometimes with expired film, which only increases the graphic sensibility Giacomelli (1925–2000) acquired during a typesetting apprenticeship in his native Senigallia, Italy—these pictures veer from earthy illustration to beautifully coarse abstraction.
Silverstein, 535 W 24th, 212-627-3930. Through March 31.
Natacha Ivanova’s splashy mural of a sleeping beauty, horse-size rabbit, toy soldiers, and glowing owls captures the way dreams drift between homey logic and charged fantasy. The painting is the perfect keynote to this international group show, set in a raw space that was once (according to the gallery assistant) a “gentlemen’s club.” Which perhaps explains the cheesy relief of a woman astride a large cat situated above the drained swimming pool in a back room; Vuk Vidor’s painting
Down and Speechless (2006), depicting an abject Green Lantern spouting blacked-out speech balloons, is propped up in the deep end. In the main gallery you can follow the ping-pong balls in Egill S whimsical video as they bound between real buckets on the floor, and also take in Chris Sauter’s huge American flag, in which the stripes have been tilled by a star-spangled plow. No doubt this space sported some interesting hijinks in its previous incarnation, and this inaugural show is carrying on the tradition. Cueto Project, 551 W 21st, 212-229-2221. Through March 24.
This collection of 30 still lifes, landscapes, and figure paintings seems at first almost self-effacing: They are generally no larger than 12 inches on a side, and the paint often fades out near the edges, exposing the canvas or wood supports. Yet these powerful, contemplative works draw you in deeper the longer you look. Like Morandi, York exquisitely tunes his colors, so that a black, red, and white tin can holding red and ochre flowers feels surrounded by air and fragrance; the weathered boards of a fence are compositionally tied to a verdant field by the brown and gray flecks they share. York is a remorseless observer and understands every detail of his scenes, but paints only what’s needed to convey them; the rest is what painting does better than any other medium—an ineffable alchemy of shape and color.
Davis and Langdale, 231 E 60th, 212-838-0333. Through March 31.