Between Vermeer and the Lightning Rod


Three photographs are arranged in a diagonal: a stone stairway upon which two men race toward a Buddha; a Land Rover with a small porch, railing, and stairs lashed to its roof; and a station wagon parked before a large sign that perhaps read “WASH,” though the W has been cropped out of the frame. Directly opposite this trio stands an actual lightning rod, green with
oxidation and piercing a rusty weather vane. These elements converse about big themes-—faith, death, ascension. Other matchups in this room-filling installation include a photo of an artist copying a Vermeer paired with a portable easel, and a broken office chair that speaks to a shot of an armless classical statue. Art and life are again entwined in Girls’ Footprints (2007), which
situates a photo of schoolgirls dashing through snow above a gray plush-pile rug studded with depressions that match the positions of the girls’ shoes. In Arno Light, a chandelier is suspended in front of a mirror that also reflects a photograph hanging on the opposite wall, which depicts a similar light fixture. None of the flame-shaped bulbs are lit, but, as in all of Bloom’s conceptual doppelgangers, the piece travels a richly meandering path, a reflection of the Florentine river of its title.

Julianne Swartz

Antennae topped by drooping wires jut out of squat cement blocks; driven by tiny clockworks concealed in the chunky bases, the flexible metal strands rotate slowly and skittishly. One wire pierces a miniscule slip of paper that reads “Hope,” but it’s difficult to read as it waggles like a snuffling, uncertain animal. In Obstacle Mountain, a plastic blob, suspended on a long wire leash, drags around a little cement hill, stuttering through its never-ending orbit on the floor.
Touch Knowledge features a tiny suspended lightbulb that trails a hairlike wire—each time it comes into contact with a coil of thicker wire, a circuit is completed and the bulb glows briefly. Brutish and delicate at once, these homely materials become poignant actors in Swartz’s existential dramas. Josée Bienvenu, 529 W 20th, 212-206-7990. Through June 29.

Tony Cragg

The half-formed heads twisting and protruding out of these large sculptures bring to mind some cheesy cultural associations, such as Terminator 2‘s liquid-metal assassin and the 360-degree futurist profile of Mussolini. And yet the broad, flattened visages that arise in Caught Dreaming seem of a piece with its hulking, rhinoceros–like carriage. Plus a group of bronze abstractions—some painted ripe yellow or zesty scarlet, and one, Digital Skin, black as a truck tire and inscribed with ones and zeros—are folded and tucked into themselves, their torqued, intersecting parallel lines and smooth recesses simultaneously conveying technological brio and organic exuberance. Marian Goodman, 24 W 57th, 212-977-7160. Through June 9.

‘Flowing Streams: Scenes From Japanese Art and Life’

In the 18th century, a Buddhist vestment was patched together from a donated Noh costume; the result is a polychromatic grid pattern of undulating lines and chrysanthemum blooms. A sumptuous robe hangs nearby, decorated with orange satin maple leaves and curving blue streams edged in silk thread. A white-spotted pattern in the water has been created by binding the fabric before it was dyed, leaving behind what the artisans referred to as “fawn spots.” Nineteenth-century paper stencils that were used to dye fabrics are beautiful objects unto themselves: whorls and arabesques represent waves, flowers, and water wheels, while overlapping concentric circles can be read abstractly or as water droplets sending ripples across a still pond. The Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710. Through June 3.

Nguyen Bach Dan

In 1999, Bach Dan, who lives in Vietnam, saw snow for the first time during a fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center, and she has conveyed that sense of pervading light in her current black-ink paintings of bamboo stands and dense forests. Leafy Woods welds bright sky to watery reflections through atomized layers of gray stippling veined with sinuous black tree branches. Executed in the studio, these works have an imaginative, graphic quality, which in one instance imbues black blots and blotchy lines with both the tactile presence and the dreamy essence of lotus blossoms. Denise Bibro, 529 W 20th, 212-647-7030. Through June 9.

Zilvinas Kempinas

First you hear the chattering static. Then, walking around a black wall, you’re confronted by a
rectangle the size of a small movie screen, striated by frenetic black lines through which objects-—ceiling lights, electric fans—flare in and out of view amid bright white radiance. What at first seems poor reception on a massive TV turns out to be a separate room behind a scrim of hundreds of strands of videotape kept in constant slapping flux by the fans; get real close and this kinetic, strobing contrast seems to almost smack you. The dark videotape, stripped of its usefulness as recorded data (last year’s Twilight Zone marathon, perhaps?), has now become the filter for an agitated and enigmatic luminosity. It could be seen as the perfect television show-—plotless, borderline assaultive, and utterly hypnotic. Spencer Brownstone, 39 Wooster, 212-334-3455. Through June 9.

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