Requiescat in Pace


Known as the “painter of the everyday,” Morandi (1890–1964), was born in Bologna, where he lived a quiet life with his mother and sisters. Early on he absorbed the lessons of his forebears—Giotto, Masaccio, Piero, and other Italian Renaissance masters—but also met such practitioners of modernity as de Chirico and the futurists Boccioni and Carrà. Like the city of Rome itself, where massive, ancient ruins rest cheek by jowl with apartment buildings, Morandi’s small still lifes are simultaneously monumental and intimate. In a 9 x 14 canvas from 1948, the table edge is as indistinct as a distant horizon of sky and sea until a woozy shadow from a flower arrangement interrupts the haze. An even smaller work features a white vase and a sienna cup, each with dark, diagonal stripes; like elegant, formal dancers, they seem to pirouette and ever so gently kiss. These paintings are natura morta at its most transcendent. Go. Pay your respects.

Michel Gondry

Using scenes from his feature film The Science of Sleep as a departure point, Gondry has filled the gallery with sculptures, some interactive—tickle the ivories and images of different people striking the same notes appear on a video screen set inside the upright piano. Elsewhere, pull on a rope and the character on a monitor opens his eyes. In one clip from the movie, Gael García Bernal flees the cops in a bubblelicious little cardboard car; another features fascinating stop-motion animation of a cityscape with monorails and skyscrapers. Viewers can compare it to the original set, which was carved from cardboard and is laid out nearby. Deitch Projects, 76 Grand Street, 212-343-7300. Through Sept 30.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor

A miniskirted mom crawls atop a car while her daughter and husband (boyfriend? abuser?) grab for her; a poolside lounger with pendulous breasts, a martini, and a sneer looks on as another bikini-clad woman confronts a petulant teen clutching his skateboard. Taylor creates her images with inlaid wood veneers—carefully cut to take advantage of the grain to delineate everything from blond tresses to a red muscle car—and the cheap, lacquered surface adds the perfect sheen to her squalid little dramas. James Cohan, 533 W 26th, 212-714-9500. Through Sept 30.

Rivane Neuenschwander

Overhead, transparent slabs of corrugated plastic form a drop ceiling filled with colorful paper disks—at the whim of hidden fans, they continuously clump together and skitter apart like cartoon clouds. A video of ants struggling to drag dime-size pieces of confetti into their lair brings this theme literally down to earth—the insects’ wiry strength and scrabbling agility create a rainbow parade across a brown deadfall of leaves and dirt. Tanya Bonakdar, 521 W 21st, 212-414-4144. Through Oct 14.

‘Year of the Dog/I Mean Woman’

Women contorted into flesh pretzels; models starved into bony clothes hangers; Bettie Page’s splayed legs on a Voice Choices cover. Ellen Levin has torn these and other images from various media and collaged them onto scores of small canvases, freestanding or hanging from the walls, hammering home the point that after decades of feminist awareness, women’s looks are still overwhelmingly judged according to standards mandated by fashion fascists. Although a boom box in the backroom blared ’70s Neil Young on the day of my visit, this energetic show proves that protest is never unfashionable. Protest Space, 511 W 20th, 646-734-4771. Through Oct 21.

Joe Coleman

As obsessive as his subjects, which include psycho killer Ed Gein, doomed honky-tonker Hank Williams, and abolitionist firebrand John Brown, Coleman’s portraits feature maniacally detailed scenes and tiny cursive texts explicating the hideous deeds and artistic achievements of his pantheon of murderers, freaks, and visionaries; the extravagantly tattooed “Chopper Shaman,” Indian Larry, is framed by actual chains, gear sprockets, and exhaust pipes. A densely jumbled tableau of items from Coleman’s Brooklyn apartment—a letter and lock of hair from Charlie Manson, scale-model gallows—reveals some of the inspirations for these horror vacui compositions. Tilton Gallery, 8 E 76th, 212-737-2221. Through Oct 4.

Gabriel Vormstein

A low ledge dusted with powered sugar casts a granular shadow across soil spread on the gallery floor. Figurative drawings and abstract collages of colored tape, all done on large newspaper sheets, continue this vibe of impermanence, especially the discolored circles burned into the newsprint with UV light. In a wall sculpture, withered black cherries, walnuts, and tiny bells dangle from taut horizontal wires like musical notes for a spare, forgotten lament. Casey Kaplan, 525 W 21st, 212-645-7335. Through Oct 7.

Picasso: Life With Dora Maar

This sumptuous book—the page edges are dyed purple and some plates are printed on vellum, creating instant collages with facing images and text—chronicles the volatile couple’s artistic entwinement and includes snapshots of their avant-garde friends, gorgeous reproductions of Picasso’s paintings and drawings of Maar (weeping and otherwise), and Maar’s still startling surrealist photographs, including the 1936
Portrait d’Ubu, a silver print of a long-clawed armadillo fetus.