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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

James Rosenquist
Welcome to the Water Planet

Julian Schnabel
Lent Wyler (1989-90), Joe (1987-89) and Gradiva (1987-89)
PaceWildenstein, Chelsea

Julian Schnabel
Untitled (Indian 2)

"Man Ray's Paris Portraits"
at Carosso Fine Art, New York

Man Ray
Elsa Schiaparelli
Carosso Fine Art

Adam Stennett
Three Mice with Foot
Buia Gallery

Jackie Gendel
Jessica Murray Projects
Having a Wild Weekend
by Charlie Finch

The bloom is off Jim Rosenquist, whose retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum is shockingly bland and repetitive. The show affirms Walter Benjamin's famous testimony to the obsolescence of the unique objet d'art in the age of mechanical reproduction: You've seen the brilliant images of Rosenquist in books and magazines so often that the originals are decidedly underwhelming.

Starting at the top o' the Goog, we encountered David Ebony of Art in America discussing the recent student suicide leaps at New York University's Bobst Library. Something about Philip Johnson's design of that space, Frank Lloyd Wright's toilet bowl, and similar atriums everywhere foreshortens the view from the top, almost sucking you down -- another reason why the Goog is the world's shittiest place to look at art.

Prancing down the ramps, we encountered one dull, insignificant collage after another -- we had always loved Rosenquist, even his reticulated flowers and suffocated dolls, until we saw this show, collectively a stream of dimwitted, uninspired flatness.

Worse were the "classics" on the lower ramps, which due to decades of dirt and faded color, appeared to have repeatedly been sprayed with insecticide.

"I guess he just couldn't afford quality materials back then," commented art restorer Lisa Rosen.

The Guggenheim's reception reflected the museum's hard times -- yucky wine, ancient potato/yam chips and a crowd of nobodies. What a stark, spare, desperate contrast to the glorious Rauschenberg orgy just six years ago.

Why Peter Lewis allows Tom Krens to continue is beyond us.

Elegance, however, was not lacking at Julian Schnabel's demure party at Pace downtown. The crowd was larger and visually more winning than that at the Goog. Schnabel's new Indian paintings and old Native American sculptures were as smooth and amusingly conservative as Gaston Lachaise. Humility tinkle-winkled among the ice cubes, and the artist himself shed bombast like a winter coat.

But the finest show opening on Thursday was "Man Ray's Paris Portraits" at Carosso Fine Art on the Upper East Side. Curator Timothy Baum greeted us at the door. "My Red Sox will win tonight, Charlie." Ha ha ha -- but our old pal Tim has definitely won the Man Ray world series.

These vintage prints of expat Paris all-stars, priced between $25,000 and $85,000 and worth every penny, are a must-see for their limpid graying humanity and the startling vulnerability the man (Ray) from Brooklyn coaxed out of the immortals.

They are all present -- in particular, Marcel Proust on his deathbed, and a young, fey, balding Ernest Hemingway are two of the greatest photos ever taken.

Friday night brought two excellent new shows by two old friends, Adam Stennett and Jackie Gendel.

Adam, the longtime studio director for Damian Loeb, debuted his Goyaesque meditations on mice and rats at Vanessa Buia's 23rd Street space, supported by a hip crowd of friends, including Will Cotton and Cynthia Rowley.

Stennett grew up in Oregon and soon discovered he was color blind. As an art student, he devised an elaborate concordance between the shades of gray he saw in real life and the actual colors out there. Combine that with the exigencies of his Canal Street studio, and a friendly taxidermist and, viol, Adam, who resembles Stuart Little in person, became the Mouse King.

We purchased a winsome oil of two meece pondering outer space.

A taxi brought us to Williamsburg, Jessica Murray Projects, and painter Jackie Gendel, lithely sheathed in a Dior off-the-shoulder creation, surrounded by her attractive Texas relatives.

Jackie's new pieces combine her traditional waxy abstract black webs on canvas, images of her own winsome self-longing among them, with a startling new palette wrested from classic Jasper Johns. They are simply superb.

Afterwards, artist Sherry Wong took us to architect Raelene Gorum's brilliant prototype living module on Kent Avenue, soon to be featured on Sex and the City. Without our giving too much away, this brilliant design uses black matting and orange mesh to volumize cubic space at the expense of the floor, so that roommates can live both vertically and privately.

Pleased that I-20 gallery has scheduled a show of Sherry Wong's new paintings for January, we stopped by her studio and snapped up her newest creation at a fair price, before Paul Judelson could snare it.

The best art is the art you take home with you.

CHARLIE FINCH is coauthor of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).