Combining Borscht Belt gags and Woody Allen–ish angst over sex and death, Jerry Meyer has assembled an arcade of wit and quirky nostalgia. Wall-mounted light boxes—bright with Pop colors and filled with images, objects, and joking text—beckon your attention like those old Coney Island machines that assessed your personality for a dime.
Freud’s famous essay (the show’s title) on repression and guilt provides the comic cues. In Worries and Unhappiness, Local and Express, a modified subway map renames all the stations as neuroses and afflictions—the No. 5 line in Brooklyn includes stops in Anhedonia, Anencephalic, and Ann Coulter. Further on, Stop Stop Please Stop presents a color-coded cycle of familiar parental admonishments above absurdist instructions for assembling a toy and dealing with ADHD.
Such amusements, tame with humor but engaging in their design, lead to the wacky central exhibit. Here, constructed from dynamite crates, a dimly lit room holds the century-old, experimental equipment of Harris Claster (Meyer’s fictional great grandfather), who converted women’s sexual energy into electricity. The skills evident in the artist’s earliest constructions—household appliances converted into objets d’art—give the tall tale its marvelous “authenticity.” Ancient voltmeters and other gauges have been cleverly modified, relabeled, and refitted with glowing displays to create devices like the Fantasy Booster and the Genital Convergence Electrical Threshold Generator. A wire-mesh cup grips the breast of a dressmaker’s dummy and a black dildo hangs menacingly on the wall from a frayed cord.
The scene of secluded deviancy suggests the dioramas of Edward Kienholz, while the carefully assembled historical touches, urging your belief in everything, bring to mind the disorienting “science” of L.A.’s infamous Museum of Jurassic Technology. There’s even an academic paper, written with Nabokovian playfulness by an invented art historian, that purports to examine Claster’s inspirations. It’s an imaginative, and very funny, tour de force.
Iva Gueorguieva: ‘A Stitch in Graft’ and ‘Cut’
In the early 20th century, the Futurists declared a new approach to painting that would capture the frenetic pace and overwhelming sensations of cities remade by technology and speed. Fracturing the picture into multiple perspectives and depicting movement as overlapping frames in a film, works like Gino Severini’s Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin (1912) verged toward a dazzling abstraction. Updating the tenets of that short-lived movement for the current era, Iva Gueorguieva’s recent paintings at Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe (“A Stitch in Graft”)—one of two concurrent shows for the Bulgarian-born artist—produce similar spellbinding effects. To stand before The Tree Thinks of Tumbling or Raft (or anything else here) is to experience a dizzying sense of free fall, a dreamlike plunge into information overload, as if you were traveling through Google itself. Fluttering ribbons, organic shapes, streaks, strokes, solid and washed-out colors, and fragments of unidentifiable things swirl in giant maelstroms. Impressions of the world rush past, but you recognize almost nothing. As in chaos theory, larger principles—a clockwise spiral or a beautifully focused palette—establish a vague organization, but the movement is endlessly disorienting.
A more personal theme runs through her Grown Child series. Playing again, it seems, on Futurist notions of time and space, Gueorguieva depicts the gestures between herself and her son, mixing both memories and visions of moments 20 years from now. The style remains resolutely complex, but in each center, a kind of calm openness—such as the womb-like oval of Grown Child: Gathering—makes the mothering instinct clear.
Over at BravinLee Programs (“Cut”), figurative elements are more obvious in the artist’s delicate and much sparer collages. The same jagged geometry, now formed by roughly cut strips and sections of paper, takes on more structure, delineating human forms. You can recognize a head, an arm, and the body of Crooked Man, a delightful piece that may remind you a little (like other portraits of men here) of Dubuffet’s primitivism. In the back room, the enchanting Borne Down comes closer to the massed images of the paintings. In a view of family life, quick sketches of birth, storybook animals, and sex float in a Pollock-like sea of lines and shapes—a perfect transition between two sides of a significant talent. Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe, 525 W. 22nd, 212-445-0051 and BravinLee Programs, 526 W. 26th, 212-462-4404. Both through May 27