The organic lasciviousness of art nouveau permeates Antoni Gaudí’s 1889 dressing table: The legs twist like tree roots, the cockeyed mirror frame dissolves into coagulated undulations of wood. Photographs, models, and drawings of the deeply Catholic architect’s massive church La Sagrada
Familia (still under construction 81 years after his death) conjure up visions of H.P.
Lovecraft’s elder gods—all fleshy protuberances, jagged spirals, and exuberant maws. Geographically closer to France than Madrid, Barcelona’s tradi
tions of visceral Catholicism, economic egalitarianism, and rebelliousness (the city was a center of resistance to Franco’s fascism) provided a rich loam for the protean modernism of Picasso and Dali, along with lesser-known painters such as
Hermen Anglada Camarasa, whose images of women in gowns and large hats dissipate into masses of leached color and sharp tonal contrasts. This sprawling, exciting show includes a selection of powerful anti-fascist posters, but it’s the 1938 suite of stark red-and-black etchings by Joan Miró that packs the most graphic wallop—the surreal figures are a howl of despair and defiance against the lowering darkness of Franco’s advance.
Nature is the greatest engineer, and some of her most intricate work, such as beetles’ wings and seedpods, is at the core of Crisp’s mixed-media paintings. A hexagonal grid scored into a support panel surrounds the wasp hive at the center of one piece; in the three-foot-square Fisherman’s Valentine (2006), thick layers of encaustic obscure the radiating arms of a dozen starfish. In a horizontal painting, Crisp insets hundreds of acorn caps under circular overlays of the clear mineral mica, conveying something akin to the mysterious geometries of an ancient constellation chart. Denise Bibro, 529 W 20th, 212-647-7030. Through May 5.
‘Translucent, Transparent, Transported’
This compact show of three Chinese artists traverses broad territory. Hu Bing riffs on a classical still-life motif, but her colored bottles combine smooth and shattered surfaces, lending them contemporary angst. Similarly, Lin Yan’s rice-paper reliefs molded from riveted steel set off a compelling dissonance between material and imagery. More conceptual is Zhang Hongtu’s faux Christie’s catalog, featuring photographs of his own sculptures: The blue-and-white glaze on a “Ming Dynasty” Coke bottle depicts a “continuous scene of boys at play,” while a bronze Big Mac box dates from the “Han Dynasty, 206 B.C.–A.D. 220.” Cheryl McGinnis, 1287 Madison, 212-722-1144. Through May 5.
A semicircular wall of fans drives alternating breezes through the gallery; barely discernible lines of pigment trail down seven large sheets of paper; a bank of nine televisions throw light onto the wall of a darkened room. Finch’s palimpsests of perception are grounded in scientific investigation: Using an anemometer, he gauged the prevailing winds at Walden Pond; for the seven-sheet, color-spectrum piece, he thinned watercolors to near invisibility. The still images on the TV sets were culled from The Searchers—as they slowly cycle through ever-darkening scenes, the fading light mimics sunset in Utah’s Monument Valley, where John Ford’s canonical Western was filmed. Postmasters, 459 W 19th, 212-727-3323. Through April 21.
The environmental holocaust sparked by ill-advised Soviet-era irrigation
projects has left the once thriving Aral Sea practically a desert. Radek Skrivanek’s warm-toned black-and-white photos of rusty buoys and
abandoned boats listing on dry, scrubby planes limn the ongoing ruin. In contrast, Wyatt Gallery and Will Steacy document the drenched aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Gallery captures the devastation wrought on buildings, his saturated colors bringing out blooms of mold on the walls and reflective puddles covering the floors. Steacy discovers pathos in anonymous snapshots snatched away by the deluge—his poignant prints of stained, crumpled prom photos, wedding portraits, and family pictures are fossils from the flood. Peer, 526 W 26th, 212-741-6599. Through May 12.
The onerous formal attire on display in Velazquez’s ravishing portraits of Spanish royalty—brocaded gowns, voluminous capes, long hair sculpted into flower-studded fans—contrasts sharply with the casual duds of crowds flowing past the Prado’s masterpieces in these large-scale color prints. But this German photographer’s deep focus and rich colors fuse the hoi polloi to the exalted, creating a conceptual web that spans four centuries and connects an old master, his royal patrons, enthralled (or bored) viewers, and this contemporary artist directly to you.
Marian Goodman, 24 W 57th, 212-977-7160. Through April 28.