Slick, digitized graphics clutter our days with such meaningless insistence that even a short visit with the rudiments of picture-making—line and mass—gives pleasures that feel almost revelatory. Viewing this elegant, no-frills show (whose plain title suggests its reductive spirit) is a little like rereading Plato’s discussion of forms.
The venerable Richard Artschwager, whose inclinations often run toward minimalism, provides the starting point in charcoal homages to the power of the pure line—like fluorescent tubes in the negative, his two black bars radiate a grayish glow. Sculptor Mel Kendrick brings a similar austerity into three dimensions with Double Core, a rough-hewn macquette; two halves of a wooden cube, each with an interior cone, whimsically balance atop the other with the appeal of a child’s puzzle.
Other artists apply their geometric studies to the construction of systems. Barry Le Va’s arrangements of heavily inked ovals, triangles, and connecting lengths are like diagrams for his better known floor sculptures, while Steve DiBenedetto’s odd-angled enclosures, sketched with densely criss-crossing stanchions, create a kind of dream-state architecture. Elsewhere, gallerist David Nolan has perfectly positioned John Duff’s marvelous plant-like towers—investigations, actually, into Kepler’s conjecture about packing spheres—opposite the crowded cellular patterns, rendered in graphite, of Alexander Ross.
The most complex works belong to the mathematically inclined Jorinde Voigt. Her Symphonic Area variations, transforming musical ideas into visual elements, are masterpieces of imagination; penciled waves of parallel lines, resembling contorted staves, sweep across the paper under an array of symbols and annotations, all carefully constructed from a rich visual language of her own invention.
‘The Prismatic Eye: Collages by Anne Ryan, 1948–1954’
True inspiration didn’t find Anne Ryan until she’d turned 58, in 1948, when she saw an exhibit of Kurt Schwitters’s Merz collages. Like many a late bloomer making up for lost time, she worked at a feverish pace, producing in just six years more than 400 exquisitely gentle abstractions of cut-and-pasted material—an effort tragically curtailed by a fatal stroke.
The early efforts, copying Schwitters, included urban ephemera like bus tickets and sugar-cube wrappings, but Ryan soon adopted a softer style, patching together ragged and geometric snippings of fabric, cellophane, and specialty paper. Rejecting the ego-driven bigness of the New York School, she kept her compositions intimate and restrained, colored most often in pastel shades of red, blue, and beige. Tucked away in a far corner, this charming exhibit only confirms the long-standing fringe status of an artist who deserves far more attention. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave, 212-535-7710. Through September 6
‘Julian Dashper (1960–2009): It Is Life’
Make your way down a crumbling industrial stretch at the edge of Carroll Gardens, find a door that declares “No Trespassing,” and ascend a metal staircase to a small, solemn room. Here, attached to the wall, a black cell phone will occasionally ring for several minutes. No one will answer it. The attempted connection comes from the future—specifically, New Zealand, always ahead of everybody, calendar-wise—but it suggests, too, an origin in the afterlife.
The concept, Future Call, belonged to Auckland native Julian Dashper, a widely admired artist of pointed wit who died last year at the age of 49, after a struggle with cancer. In the past, it was always Dashper who had dialed, but now his widow, Marie Shannon, is performing the piece as part of an appropriately stark memorial here, in a gallery devoted to minimalism. The rest of the show consists only of text—brief, written remembrances from friends and fellow artists that have been tacked up in rows.
The unadorned tribute was, in fact, at the center of Dashper’s work, though often touching on satire. The artist recorded the sound of a Dan Flavin fluorescent tube for a piece titled Buzz, mimicked Kenneth Noland’s target paintings, and produced a series of bare stretcher bars after studying at Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation. Needling art-world narcissism, he sometimes honored himself, in his simply titled Curriculum Vitae—now duplicated, without satire, by dozens who knew him. Dashper’s influence was clearly far-reaching: His existence remains in the future. Minus Space, 98 4th Street, Brooklyn, 347-525-4628. Through September 4