In a universe filled with technological marvels, is it any wonder that plastic is taking over the world of sculpture? Georg Baselitz may hew wood, Eric Fischl cast bronze and Kiki Smith layer wax -- but for the most mod of the moderns, it's plastic, plastic, plastic. Blame it on Duane Hanson (currently on view at the Whitney Museum).
Start at Basilico Fine Arts, where former Jeff Koons assistant Tony Matelli has installed a tableau of three sculptures in urethane, polyvinyl acetate and fiberglass. The very scary Very, Very First Man: Necessary Alterations shows a pair of life-size Paleolithic males, naked and covered with downy chimpanzee hair. One grimacing figure is trying to attach a false stick-tail to the other's bloody bare behind, turning evolution upside down. It can be yours for $15,000.
Another work is Endless Joy, Endless Everything, a nine-foot-tall money sapling sprouting realistic C notes. It's sold at $10,000 -- 'cause it can be said to exemplify the artistic mindset at the turn of the century? The most unnerving piece is the aptly titled Ideal Woman, a flat-headed midget figure with ordinary-sized hands and feet -- that the artist modeled on his girlfriend. Now that's living dangerously. And yes, it was Matelli who last year made the statue of puking boy scouts.
Over at Marianne Boesky is the much anticipated first New York solo show by Takashi Murakami. The 36-year-old Japanese "Neo-Pop" Japanimator has brought over two life-size plastic sculptures, the huge-breasted Hiropon, who jumps rope with a fluttering stream of milky fluid spewing from her nipples, and the priapic Lonesome Cowboy, who swings a lariat made from his sperm. Murakami makes little drawings and then has specialists fabricate his statues in fiberglass, which he paints by hand. Also on view are lively "splash" paintings, decorator monochromes, all acrylic and bubble gum with his signature cartoon mouse and jagged ejaculation flying across the canvas. The statues are $35,000, the paintings $25,000, all sold. Does anyone see an affinity with Victorian Fairy paintings here?
The only thing better than a real doll is a kinetic one, and for that we visit the back room at Luhring Augustine, where Paul McCarthy's motorized Tee-Pee and Indian from 1995-96 has been installed. McCarthy has placed a two faced head -- female on the front, male on the back -- on a female body. Kindling images of Gene Autry on acid, there's a definite sense of Hollywood light and magic here, with "programmable logic control" that allows the figure to beat a drum, and the like. Yours for $100,000.
Not all artists have that kind of budget. Over at Postmasters is a grouping of store-bought miniature plastic cowboy and animal toys by Mike Ballou. Hacking off the limbs, he glue guns severed body parts together, giving a soldier a giraffe head or a leaping lion human arms. They are painted with high gloss enamel, adding to the effect of plastic mutants from a twisted childhood. A relative bargain, at $750 to $1,500.
Last month's fun included ripe honeydew and exceptional wine at the Bowery Ballroom reception for the Altoids corporate collection of emerging artists. Rule of thumb was nothing cost more than $2,000. For that our new minty Medici got Lucky De Bellevue's Pink Bubbles (1993), Dario Robleto's Polar Soul (1998) and Gregory Green's classic Book Bomb #7 (1994). The room was filled to capacity, no doubt thanks to the work rather than the open bar.
Also notable was the Exit Art opening for its huge show of shows by eight independent curators. So jammed was the opening that hundreds were turned away. Among the themes were "Walking the Line" by curator Dominique Nahas, "Permanent Resident" by O Donald Odita and "Deception" by Franklin Sirmans. The show was funded by a grant from Catherine and Jeffrey Soros. Among the ones to watch: Lisa Ruyter, Dan Devine, Monika Brandmeier, Peter Rostovsky, DJ Spooky and John Powers.