A chandelier festooned with pills and hundreds of glittering syringes hangs at eye level; tiny crystals impaled on the exposed needles are as radiant as drops of nectar. This bedazzling bauble, Space Station (2008), perhaps promises escape to a higher plane through chemically altered consciousness (or maybe it’s a metaphor for our health-care crisis). Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth’s collaboration tickles myriad synapses—some viewers might flash on Fred Tomaselli’s 1999 mural Gravity’s Rainbow, with its garlands of pharmaceuticals suspended in thick resin. And indeed, there’s a Pynchonesque breadth to Hope and Roth’s themes of evolution, chemistry, death, and regeneration—here are panty shields embroidered with the names of both fertility and contraceptive drugs, a baby crib sporting a playful mobile of the Ritalin molecule (which rotates to the strains of “What a Wonderful World”), and a mosaic of gel capsules depicting an apocalyptic video game. Especially disturbing are the skulls of over-bred pets such as the Pekinese and Great Dane, exquisitely carved from walnut and crystal, and mannequins of pigeons that have been fitted with the crocheted plumage of birds—ivory-billed woodpecker, dodo—exterminated by man’s incursions. Humanity has short-circuited evolution, this duo informs us, and what we have to show for it are ersatz fowls decked out like Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
‘Art and China’s Revolution’
Chairman Mao is everywhere, in photos, drawings, posters, paintings, and tchotchkes, his visage (including a big mole on his chin) standardized in 1949 by China’s Central Propaganda Department. Included here are bold posters of workers and soldiers with beaming smiles or determined grimaces, all furthering the Cultural Revolution within Mao’s cult of personality. Rather shocking are innocuous landscapes that held no ideological purpose and thus were condemned for “bourgeois decadence.” A beautiful ink painting (1972) depicting rugged pine trees, by Shi Lu (1919–89), is typical of work that led to the imprisonment and torture of apolitical artists. Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, 212-288-6400. Through January 11.
These eight abstract canvases by Bischoff (1916–91) reveal the roots of the boldly painted figures that the Bay Area artist became well known for in the shadow of Abstract Expressionism. With its totemic composition and dark moody colors, #3 (1948) suggests the influence of colleague Mark Rothko. Four years later, a canvas of jagged blacks and oranges looming over a blue biomorph offers Picasso strained through Bischoff’s enthusiasms for jazz and Krazy Kat comics. George Adams, 525 W 26th, 212-564-8480. Through December 27.
Matthew Day Jackson: ‘Terranaut’
With skeletons fashioned from metal grids and gnarled wood, small floor sculptures ranging from a pyramid to a lifesize skull, and a bedraggled spacesuit jammed against the wall by a towering plank, Jackson leavens death with material spirituality. A beautiful black Brâncusi-esque monolith rises like a sylph from a marbled slab, which resembles a satellite view of a riverbed and resonates with the title: As Seen From Outerspace. Peter Blum, 526 W 29th, 212-244-6055. Through November 8.
Peggy Bates: ‘Barachois’
By deftly pouring bright acrylic onto smoothly primed canvases, Bates creates expressive, if elusive, vistas. The vivid paint runnels convey a palpable sense of shifting gravity while the varying opacities blend into transitions as smooth as flowing tides. In a few pieces, squiggled skeins of color convey dynamic energy like the spikes of an EKG monitor, fusing a technological frisson to Bates’s organic imagery. 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, 532 W 25th, 917-701-3338. Through November 11.
Hilary Berseth/Kevin Zucker
Programmed Hive #7 was created by bees in one of Berseth’s custom-designed hives; the honeycombed surface of this undulating cone oozes an almost carnal physicality. Another cone-shaped sculpture, this time fabricated from nickel and copper, was left to fester in an electroplating bath, which caused it to sprout nodules as random and delicate as a coral reef. Kevin Zucker collaborated with beings higher up the food chain—53 artists were asked to provide images based on particular themes for five different paintings. After silk-screening an old-school perspective grid on each canvas, Zucker painted simple shelving units to “hold” the contributions. Then the chosen objects—including paint cans, fragments of monuments, and books (Academic Still Life, 2008, includes Color Psychology and Color Therapy)—were photographed and printed onto the “shelves” at angles that give the illusion of receding space. Whether mad scientist or curator, these gents are impresarios of the hive mind. Eleven Rivington, 11 Rivington St, 212-982-1930. Through November 9.