Anyone who’s followed the tribulations and triumphs of on-‘n’-off lovers Margarita Luisa Chascarrillo (Maggie) and Esperanza Leticia Glass (Hopey) over the past few decades knows that through a lowly medium—the comic strip—cartoonist Jaime Hernandez has been unfurling the Great American . . . what? For sure not merely a novel, since much of the sprawling narrative is communicated in astonishingly evocative black-and-white drawings. With clean outlines, Hernandez deftly portrays physical monologues and conversation: Hopey’s pillow-rumpled hair and drawn-up knees as she silently contemplates a deteriorating love affair; a pot-bellied father and his jock daughter tossing a softball, deep tenderness conveyed through their relaxed limbs.
This new collection of “Locas” tales from the Love and Rockets series focuses on Hopey’s latest job as a teaching assistant, which leads to a series of Hernandez’s patented time-shift panels: Watching her young charges, Hopey sees in their playground dares her own youthful rebellion and subsequent punishment from a father sorely in need of anger-management training. The revolving and ever-widening ensemble cast still attends the occasional punk-rock show, but workaday jobs and bedraggled relationships have blunted the dreams of youth.
Flat black shapes delineating hair, clothes, and shadows turn each page into an abstract mosaic that propels the narrative; fabrics are drawn with rigid grids and stripes interrupted only by dead-on angles and arcs conveying wrinkles and gesture. Over time, pixieish Hopey’s spine has grown sharper, her shoulders, knees, and elbows bonier. Maggie’s alluring curves are rounder under the dimples and ripples of encroaching middle age. Since it’s becoming a bore to see R. Crumb’s place-mat doodles and Raymond Pettibone’s affected klutziness in blue-chip galleries, here’s a hot tip: In the turbulent slipstream between high ‘n’ low, Maggie and Hopey are the state of the art.
Colorful helium-filled balloons tied to an ersatz dry-cleaner’s conveyor traverse a serpentine landscape; slowly meandering through the gallery’s gray geometries, the bulbous bouquet playfully converges space and time. Nearby, video loops of reveling creatures—madly tumbling baboons, shimmying dolphins—convey a graceful abandon too often atrophied in us self-conscious humans. Andrew Kreps, 525 W 22nd, 212-741-8849. Through April 26.
This is Op Art with a vengeance: Seen from across the room, these roughly six-foot-high acrylic paintings truly appear 3-D. The aqua stripes in Stroke (2008) form triangular wedges that fool the eye, seeming to jut from the smooth white ground. Haggerty’s near-flawless execution takes these images beyond decoration or trickery. The gradual winnowing of the red lines in Royal Fold‘s three interwoven planes creates a collision in your brain—from a distance, they recede in perspective, but up close, the elegant curves flatten into the canvas. Hot stuff, all right, though it might make your head hurt. Andreas Grimm, 530 W 25th, 212-352-2388. Through April 30.
Mauve, Naples yellow, and bone-white are among the colors Craven uses for the full or crescent moons in each of these 14-inch-square paintings. The 94 canvases here (the artist has painted some 450) have been worked wet into wet, the lighter color of the half-dollar-size moons blurring into black or midnight-blue grounds, sometimes surrounded by attenuated halos or fractured by crooked tree branches. Craven’s wristy brushwork and misty hues transform oil paint into convincing atmospherics, the rich contrasts offering a sense of clear country air far from urban light pollution. Knoedler, 19 E 70th, 212-794-0550. Through April 26.
Like his fellow sculptors B. Wurtz (plastic grocery bags), Rob Fischer (rusty Dumpsters), John Salvest (chewed bubble gum), and Antoni Llena (ragged foam rubber), Feher is adept at what we can perhaps christen “detritus aesthetics.” In Victoria (2007), he conjures desolate whimsy from a plastic red poppy impaled on a twisted piece of wire garden fence. On the floor, blue-glass marbles in a flattened black garbage bag recall the intimacy of Joseph Cornell’s indigo constellations. Nearby, Toe-Tap is the apt title for a 2007 assemblage precariously balancing a broken chair leg on a yellow spray-can cap. As we create more trash every day, we can perhaps find some small consolation in Feher and other artists mining beauty from abjection. PaceWildenstein, 32 E 57th, 212-421-3292. Through April 26.
The texts in these five-and-a-half-foot-tall posters were culled from the final statements of executed Texas prisoners. They range from the hopeful (“And to my family, I love you and I will see you all in Heaven”) to the philosophically resigned (“When you are dealing with reality, real is not always what you want it to be”). Few of us are cursed to know the hour of our demise; these piled-up sentences read like a Burroughs cut-up of regret, rueful atonement, and shaky bravado: “I love my mother, brother, sister, grandmother, cousins, and nieces, and my brothers and sisters I have never met. . . . I’m very sorry. I’ve got to go now. . . . Tell the guys on Death Row that I’m not wearing a diaper. I can’t think of anything else.” Alexander Gray, 526 W 26th, 212-399-2636. Through April 26.