Leonardo Drew at Sikkema Jenkins; Superflex’s ‘Flooded McDonald’s’; Iannis Xenakis at Drawing Center


If you left one of Louise Nevelson’s ominous sculptures in a forest for several years, you might end up with something resembling Leonardo Drew’s Number 134, a barricade-like structure assembled from wooden discards that sprout the occasional tree branch. Eyeing both the grande dame’s transformations of junk and the action painters’ methods, the Brooklyn-based Drew has been making such monuments for two decades now. But while past work touched on his African-American heritage, with elements such as raw cotton and rope, these new pieces—all essentially reliefs—largely jettison overt references.

Drew shows up quieter here, meditating on texture, form, and movement. In Number 130 (Drew’s titles are all sequential), a dark mass of small, vertically aligned wooden blocks thrusts into an expanse of lighter-colored bits; so tightly arranged, the flow of objects suggests brushstrokes. Many gestures here follow a painter’s two-dimensional inclinations. Mixing the muscular and the delicate—dominant shapes, covered by black or brown wood scraps, are decorated with twigs—Drew isn’t conjuring Pollock so much as Motherwell.

Above all, the show demonstrates Drew’s delight in the essence of things. Several works appear in the shape of a silhouetted tree stump, as if the artist were paying homage to the origin of the show’s primary material. Elsewhere, demonstrating a collector’s passion, Drew devotes large spaces to grids of geometric cutouts and scavenged wooden shards.

Not everything here is so introspective. A massive piece, stretching the length of an entire wall, packs explosive energy—like a bombed room viewed from above, it begins with piled timber and sends debris reeling across scarred tiles. Named after Da Vinci, Leonardo Drew remains vibrantly inventive.

Superflex: ‘Flooded McDonald’s’

A relentless flow of water inundating the abandoned interior of a Mickey D’s franchise will undoubtedly invoke memories of Katrina and New Orleans, but Flooded McDonald’s—an eerie 21-minute video from a Danish collective called Superflex—plays as a doomsayer’s vision of consumerism’s fall. After close-ups of burgers, fries, and juice machines that hint at links between immediate gratification and disaster, the surge enters, steadily rising. Smiley Ronald McDonald topples, the lights flicker and die (a Titanic moment), and eventually we’re underwater in a swirling mass of disintegrated food, ghostly trash, and drowned plastic toys. It’s high-end apocalyptic art, filmed with the cool of Kubrick. There’s a similar fate in Burning Car, in which a Mercedes sedan, that premier symbol of wealth, spontaneously combusts; the camera circles the inferno in a kind of ecstasy.

If that’s not enough, the solemn hypnotist of Financial Crisis will calmly fill your thoughts with dread before telling you, on the snap of his fingers, to wake up happy. Their work may verge on agitprop, but Superflex is super-sharp. Peter Blum, 526 West 29th, 212-244-6055. Through March 22

Iannis Xenakis: ‘Composer, Architect, Visionary’

Music as a visual construction tends to occur only to fans of LSD or the few blessed with synesthesia, but for the 20th-century avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis, picturing sound was a guiding principle. Trained in mathematics and architecture—he assisted Le Corbusier for 12 years—Xenakis first developed his orchestral works as rigorous schemes, mapping them out on paper. Based on hyperbolic functions, probability theory, and vector matrices, these initial sketches weren’t intended as art, but their dense arrays of arcs, symbols, and text—filling the walls like snapshots of the artist’s wild mind—create an incidental beauty. Rivers of interconnected lines and clusters of colored dots establish ideas for Pithoprakta (1956), a piece of shimmering “sound clouds,” while an image that brings to mind a fruit tree diagrams the positions of players and audience for Terretektorh (1965), a “polytope,” which gives music a kind of architecture.

Be sure to listen to Xenakis’s enthralling, richly dissonant compositions on a provided iPod and at two listening stations. In one, a monitor displays Mycènes Alpha (1978), the first piece that Xenakis created on a machine that translated hand-drawn organic forms into electronic drones—a fascinating encapsulation of the composer’s approach. Like so much of Xenakis’s unnerving work, the sounds that emerge will vibrate in your soul. The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster, 212-219-2166. Through April 8

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 16, 2010

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