These beguilingly simple paintings—attenuated visions of Shiva’s life-besotted penis—float in a realm not of abstraction or representation, but of devotion and meditation. Painted by anonymous worshippers of the Hindu deity, they share one basic element: a vertical ellipse centered on a simple ground of found paper. Created during the past four decades, the 71 small pieces gathered here play endless variations on the “linga” composition (which can be traced back 4,500 years), presenting the oval in flat color or adulterated by watery splatters or interspersed blots. The contrasts can be strong-—black solids surrounded by dissipating orange or yellow halos; white bisected by a purple spine of drips—but they are softened by the fields of stained brown and gray paper (even in weathered decrepitude, paper is a prized commodity in India’s poorer regions). Some of these repurposed pages reveal lines of handwriting bleeding through from the versos; others are fringed with ragged, decoratively patterned borders. There’s a mysterious aura to this sampling, culled from the much larger collection of a reticent Indian scholar who, when asked if he wished to be identified in the catalog, never replied. (In fact, it was a number of years before he would allow the works to be exhibited on this side of the world at all.) The frieze of simple, repeated shapes that girds the gallery emanates an atmospheric density, the myriad textures and hues inducing a contemplation markedly different from that which we might bring to the science-based abstractions of Terry Winters (whose weighty, organic gouaches are called to mind). Even an atheistic Western lunkhead can feel an intention here beyond voluptuous surface beauty, can sense aesthetics trumped by a search for some primordial form—for the egg of the universe.
To paraphrase that old saw about the ’60s: If you wish you could forget the ’70s, you were definitely there. Tannenbaum’s photos document O.J. Simpson in Conehead regalia on theSaturday Night Live set; a grimacing John Travolta busting an awkward move amid a sea of flaring bell-bottoms; Roy Cohn holding court at Studio 54, his face resembling Dorian Gray’s portrait after a particularly nefarious stretch; and Jack Nicholson, flash-blasted through the window of a limo at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, his dangling cigarette evoking a cross betweenDoonesbury‘s Uncle Duke and an indicted mafioso. John and Yoko are here, too, and one color photo of the former Beatle overflows with pathos: Lennon stares into a light, stage right, his beaky profile balanced by a long orange panel behind him that reads “I LOVE MY TIME”—which would end two weeks later with four bullets from a snub-nosed .38. Steven Kasher, 521 W 23rd, 212-966-3978. Through November 3.
If Dada was originally an angry blast of absurdist flatulence directed at a bourgeoisie that had mindlessly supported the meat grinder of World War I, two video artists in this group show hammer at equally tough nuts. Zachary Fabri has stated that he often uses himself as a “representation of the ‘other,'” which somewhat explains this black man’s hilariously disturbing performance at a traffic intersection in Iceland:My High Fructose Corn Syrup Fix and White Flour Constipation (2006). He stops traffic by drinking, gargling, and seemingly vomiting Coke all over himself, while shimmying ecstatically. The piece ends on a haunting note as Fabri smears white flour on his face and staggers down the twilit street. In his own raucous video, Miguel Ruiz wears a mask inspired by Mexican wrestlers (to which he’s added a beak and horns) while shadowboxing and dancing to an incendiary (and wildly catchy) song protesting the 2006 killing of a Puerto Rican nationalist by the FBI. Using DIY green-screen technology, Ruiz transfers chops he learned from making comic books and paintings to create a layered and ebullient eruption of righteous anger. Rush Arts, 526 W 26th, 212-691-9552. Through November 3.
Although McGinness brings a high- gloss, nearly Koonsian patina to this gallery-filling installation of prints and sculptures, his obvious godfather is Andy—check out the silver wallpaper flocked with cartoonish jesters, turtles, skulls, and Lord knows what else from this artist’s omnivorous pop imagination. But nothing ever came out of Warhol’s pre-digital Factory with the technical razzmatazz ofRainbow McTwist, a propeller-like fan of 12 skateboards etched, through a laser-woodburning process, with images of handcuffs, winged crowns, medusan snakes, and other esoterica. (No doubt the master of Pop would’ve loved the way the stacked boards spiral out from a central axis like a Pantone swatch book.) Rubber stamps and goofy protest buttons (“Somewhere Between Bauhaus & Bosch”; “Outsource D.I.Y.”) get the street-culture-to-high-art makeover as well. Pace Prints, 521 W 26th, 212-629-6100. Through November 6.
Chris Ofili: ‘Devil’s Pie’
Eschewing the elephant dung that so incensed former mayor (and—God help us—presidential hopeful) Rudy Giuliani, Ofili continues to wrangle with Christian themes in these tartly beautiful sculptures and paintings. His current take on the Virgin is utterly lascivious, imagining the Annunciation as a knee-trembling embrace with the Angel Gabriel—he in rough, dark bronze, the Mother of God burnished to a reflective glow. Her naked body is a cascade of fecund curves, and both figures in this life-size sculpture wield probing, tentacle-like limbs. The striking nine-foot-high paintingIscariot Blues is all deep purple and indigo, a midnight scene with Jesus’ betrayer swaying in the breeze; the lush vegetation and bluesy musicians to one side evoke a Southern lynching more than a guilty suicide. David Zwirner, 525 W 19th, 212-727-2070. Through November 3.
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