A visit to Minus Space—a tiny, remote haven for Minimalism—is an experience, appropriately enough, of progressive reduction. Make your way down a bleak industrial strip, open an unmarked steel door, and stand in a blank white hallway of identical doors. Behind one, the closet-sized gallery appears as a chamber for meditation. In this show, five rigorously ordered paintings—all by venerable color theorists with Hunter College associations—hang like mandalas.
Grids dominate. In Four Time, Vincent Longo has crisscrossed parallel paths of peach and pale green (a lovely palette) to make a maplike lattice that clearly honors Mondrian. From the late Doug Ohlson (to whom the show is dedicated), vertical ribbons of contrasting colors fool the eye into seeing different lengths, subtly animating the work. Likewise, Gabriele Evertz nods toward Op Art by having a square’s narrow stripes suddenly change from grayscale to a candy fluorescence along a diagonal, playing with your sense of dimension. Sanford Wurmfeld presents another finely structured chart that maps small shifts in hue, value, and saturation (this one like an excerpt from his massive Cyclorama). And Robert Swain, setting aside his trademark stacks of colored blocks, offers a swarm of red and purple strokes that expand and dance across the canvas like an impressionistic vision of birds—so uncharacteristically expressive it almost seems out of place here.
In the fall, the gallery will move to DUMBO for bigger, and more accessible, digs—leaving behind, alas, this charming cube of Zen.
Jay Critchley: ‘Deep Bones’ Chad Person: ‘A Hero Never Fails’
Goofball activism may be, for most, a fleeting phase of youth, but the dogged Jay Critchley has made a career out of donning odd headwear and presiding, preacher-like, over vaguely politicized rituals. Recalling his sand-encrusted cars from 30 years ago, which mocked our oil addiction, the artist has this time mummified a 1979 MG convertible—a process that involved the removal and wrapping of the automobile’s “organs” and the recitation (by Critchley, wearing a leather helmet) of verses from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Elsewhere, in his super-low-budget 1988 video NRC—An Atomic Journey, he plays the president of Nuclear Recycling Consultants, proposing various plans (a mall, a cathedral) for the transformation of abandoned nuclear-power plants, where Critchley actually performs more of his nutty benedictions. As in Allan Kaprow’s Happenings five decades ago, the lunacy is so earnest it becomes a raw form of art itself.
Not to be outdone, Chad Person has designed a giant, inflatable Underdog—that canine superhero from the 1960s cartoon who always popped an energy pill for strength. Modernized, rebuking Jeff Koons kitsch, the figure slumps next to oversized meds and stares into a smartphone while, before him, a monitor reruns those long-ago rescues of Sweet Polly Purebred. Similar iconic sculptures from Person, like the Big Boy restaurant character, best deliver their satire in photographs taken outside the gallery. It’s surprising, then, that the show does not include one of the artist’s most effective shots—Underdog in a parking lot, absorbed by the phone and oblivious to dense smoke billowing above what appears to be an endangered city. Freight + Volume, 530 W. 24th, 212-691-7700, freightandvolume.com. Through September 10.
‘Sweet Dreams: Comics, Cartoons, and Contemporary Art’
A collection of works influenced by comic books has to include the usual suspects—Lichtenstein, Murakami, Grooms—but this engaging show also makes a number of less well-known connections. In Nick Cortese’s painting Modern Experience, a cascade of primary-color rectangles has destroyed a subway car, as if an Ellsworth Kelly canvas exploded onto a cover of The Fantastic Four. The self-taught printmaker (and sculptor) H.C. Westermann made his Pop culture inspirations clear in the folky sci-fi of his 1967 lithograph Red Planet J. In five linocuts, Carroll Dunham brings a Peter Max palette to sexualized blobs reminiscent of late cartoony work by Philip Guston (also here), while, in a direct example of artful comics, David Sandlin humorously depicts sinners descending into hell with the jittery style of R. Crumb. Brooke Alexander, 59 Wooster, 212-925-4338, baeditions.com. Through September 3.