We probably need an OSHA regulation to protect gallery receptionists from works such as Deposition—a slide whistle perched atop a large, bare tree branch that loudly chirps ”
blooooot–veerrooooop–whooo– weee–whoooo” all the livelong day. Powered by beaded drive-chains, this ersatz fowl is immediately engaging, yet the denuded branch and endless bleating quickly create an edgy discomfort, as if someone forgot to turn off the animatronic songbird at a shuttered funhouse. Nearby, a huge photo installation (Veil, 2006) seems to picture a graveyard with hundreds of headstones receding into multiple perspectives. Slowly, though, the slabs resolve into a series of white tissues jutting from a Kleenex box that is barely visible as a marbleized plane beneath all the irregular white shapes. This documentation of a mundane gesture—plucking tissues from a box—conjures tragicomic images of cheap shrouds and honking noses. A mad scientist of materials, Hawkinson transmutes cardboard and plastic strapping into a buckskinned scout with massive, baseball-glove appendages, and creates a plant —which sprouts huge ear, mouth, and nose blossoms-—from Bondo auto-body filler. Audacious and wildly entertaining, Hawkinson happily unleashes Frankensteins into life’s rich pageant.
You’ve seen the set-up innumerable times: a nude, usually female, posed in a studio, bathed in a strong light source that carves her body out of a dark background. Yet Dalkey’s drawings (all executed in the past eight years and curated by the painter Wayne Thiebaud) are about as good as the genre gets. He models skin with smooth, volumetric smudges, which convey the spreading weight of flesh against hard surfaces while leaving chairs and easels roughly cross-hatched
in the palpable shadows. These ravishing sketches reveal anew why the ancient method of eyes playing over a figure for hours and guiding a hand’s movements across a page easily whips the monocular mechanics of the camera. Paul Thiebaud, 42 E 76th, 212-737-9759. Through June 23.
These pages from illuminated Bibles, some reaching back more than a millennium, focus on the Book of Revelation, the Technicolor disaster movie of its time. Bright squares of primary colors create powerful abstract compositions when seen from across the room; up close they’re chockablock with demons and serpents writhing across lakes of orange flame. A facsimile copy of the 1220 Las Huelgas Apocalypse proves a wonderful treat: Thumbing through its large pages unveils a graphic sophistication—gilded details, multicolored text, beautifully filigreed capitals—that dazzles jaded contemporary eyes. Morgan Library, 225 Madison, 212-685-0008. Through June 17.
James Casebere: ‘The Levant’
These images of ancient amphitheaters and dusky mosque interiors feel slightly off-kilter, a sensation confirmed when you realize that they’re photographs of table-size models. Shorn of detail,
Tripoli (2007) is a desert city lit by orange street lamps, where apartment windows have a cooler cast and blocky buildings are illuminated from above by white spotlights or flares, adding a sense of menace to the nighttime scene. Elsewhere, gray rubble fills a round interior, remnants of a collapsed dome blurred by the dust of long neglect. Casebere gives us haunting visions of a region where tragedy cannot be as easily contained as the beauty he marshals for his meticulous recreations. Sean Kelly, 528 W 29th, 212-239-1181. Through June 23.
A young, Armani-clad man clasping a briefcase climbs aboard a snorting bull. In extreme slow motion they burst out of a red gate, then the animal bucks, the harsh lighting bringing out the flowing lines of the bull’s muscular undulations. The businessman, tie and limbs flailing like one of Robert Longo’s spastic dancers (or sniper victims), rides the tumult; when his case explodes in a flurry of white paper against the dark background, he slowly leaps and spins away from the furious beast, all to a rhythmic soundtrack of bellows, thumps, and cowbells. Is this four-minute video a metaphor for El Norte’s capricious power over Lebrija’s native Mexico? A lament for artists buffeted by a mindlessly raging market? Whatever the impetus, the long, weaving shadows impart a surreal and fatalistic charm. I-20, 557 W 23rd, 212-645-1100. Through June 23.
If process art is about the production of an artwork and conceptual art channels complex ideas, this China-born artist may have midwifed their ultimate love child: a deluxe reprint of
The Communist Manifesto using a labor-intensive technology from roughly the same time—1848—that Marx and Engels unleashed their revolutionary specter on the world. Giving off a rough, fragmented sheen, 39 sets of movable iron slugs of reverse Chinese characters are arrayed in wooden frames on a table that makes a long march through the gallery; on the wall opposite each type block hangs its printed parchment. Huang Rui’s art has been heavily censored in his homeland—at the show’s opening he described China’s repressive leaders as having “followed the thinking, not the beauty” of the original text, a flaw this work remedies with steely élan. Chinese Contemporary, 535 W 24th, 212-366-0966. Through June 21.