In 1972, Allan Sekula decided to interrupt the “capitalist circulation of luxury goods through robbery and waste,” so he shoplifted pricey cuts of meat and tossed them under the wheels of big rigs thundering down the highway. The black-and- white photos documenting Meat Mass—long-haired artist skulking out of a Safeway; a gelatinous smudge on the freeway pavement—capture the spirit of this large group show, culled from the Generali Foundation’s seminal collection of conceptual art. In 1969, Valie Export pulled her crawling male collaborator on a leash through a crowded Vienna shopping district; photos of this street-theater gender-bender show passersby both appalled and amused. A 1993 series of videos based on commercials made for the Humanic shoe-store chain between 1969 and 1983 looks like early MTV by way of the Playboy Club: garish clothes, robotic figures, close-ups of pouty lips, and a dreamlike clip of a helmeted man in a food-encrusted suit being engulfed by pigeons. These documentary works, plus sculptures and drawings, use powerful visual hooks to lure us down the psyche’s strange alleyways. Don’t get run over.
Philippines-born Ganapin has mastered the use of scissors and a hole punch to transform—no, transmute—color prints of other artists’ work into eye-poppingly bold mandalas. She carefully paints the edges of the tiny circles so that no obtrusive white lines appear, then painstakingly places thousands of them into each immaculate design. In 2006’s Untitled (John James Audubon’s Great Egret), Ganapin cut up hundreds of announcement cards for an exhibit of the great naturalist’s work; the obsessively repeated patterns of yellow beaks and dark eyes form a hypnotic, flowerlike circle. Another joy of this show is how the varying source materials—reproductions of a Lichtenstein painting, say, or an Egyptian statue—change the mood from whimsical to mystically somber. McKenzie, 511 W 25th, 212-989-5467. Through April 21.
Yet more obsession here: These early typewriter works (1958–66) oscillate between pattern and content as you move close enough to discern the words. A grainy rectangle from five feet away is actually a list of the periodic elements—a critical mass typed with no intervening spaces except before a “cium” that hangs forlornly near the bottom of the page, cast off from “Lawrencium” by the stern logic of text justification. Some pieces create saw-tooth and diamond shapes from words of varying lengths, while others feature repetitions of simple words (“time,” “bell”) in irregular striations that gather like sediment, leaving found poems to serendipitously pop into view like fossils. Andrea Rosen, 525 W 24th, 212-627-6000. Through April 21.
Nancy Brooks Brody
We have a hat-trick of meticulousness this week. For the two-foot-square Hard to Soft (2006), Brody has channeled the exacting approach of Agnes Martin into lyrical grids of pencil strokes in Venetian plaster, delicately etching the soft surface with pencil leads of varying densities to create undulations that flow from light to dark. In other pieces, she stitches shiny white thread through buff paper; the contrasting sheens form arcs of light that move across the surface like weather. The interiors of rocks she has cracked open have been painted stark white before being rejoined, leaving bright fault lines to record a violent action. Virgil de Voldére, 526 W 26th, 212-343-9694. Through April 28.
One more for the obsession crowd. As with Andre, part of the fascination of Green’s work, which is made from those thin plastic labeling strips embossed with letters, is how the images begin as geometric cascades of pure form before coalescing into such phrases as “IMeMyMine.” & (2005) is constructed from strips of thousands of ampersands, some of them angling out in radiating waves. With hard-edged stripes that recall Barnett Newman’s colorful “zips” and a reflective tondo that recounts a deadpan mathematical riddle, Green’s work is loaded with allusions, but its beguiling visual resonance comes from dense, painterly compositions. Outrageous Look, 103 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-218-7656. Through April 22.
“Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797”
Although civilization is always tenuous—viz the 2003 looting of the Iraqi National Museum while American forces stood idly by—this exhibit chronicling a millennium of cultural interchange between the West and Islam bears witness to the humanizing power of art. These often gorgeous examples of Renaissance painting—check out the clouds in the scene of Saint Stephen being stoned by an Ottoman mob—are enlivened by interwoven abstractions borrowed from Islamic design; elsewhere in the show, sumptuous textiles, ceramics, and metalwork reveal sources and influences traveling both ways across the Mediterranean. (You may get a sense that some Italian painters loved turbans simply because they were beautiful objects to model in space.) The power of much of this work comes from its capacity to transcend the religious and political tensions it sometimes depicts. Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710. Through July 8.