621 W 27th Street Jan. 4-Feb. 4, 2012
Is daily life a cubicle hell? The press seems to think so, since the catchy title of this witty group show, "Corporations Are People Too" -- a quote from Republican front-runner Mitt Romney -- has already garnered notices from three publications. Appropriately installed with fluorescent lighting and elevator music (from a 2010 video by Chris Dorland), the exhibition mixes Office Space-type images by contemporary artists Ian Davis, Kota Ezawa, Jacqueline Hassink and Phillip Toledano with classic photos of gaga-eyed Americans and their newly purchased commercial products by Berenice Abbott, Louis Faurer and Dorothea Lange.
A pop-conceptual touch is added by Moscow-born, New York-based artist Yevgenjy Fiks, who exhibits the letters from U.S. corporations -- Exxon Mobil, The Gap, Staples, McDonald’s, you name it -- that he received after offering them a book by Lenin for their “corporate library.” This kind of comedy was pioneered, of course, at OK Harris Gallery in the early 1970s by Don Celender, who died in 2005.
535 W 22nd Street Jan 5-Feb. 11, 2012
Pictures of our Iron Curtain comrades and their homely habitats have become commonplace in recent years (e.g., “Ostalgia” at the New Museum), but the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen (b. 1935) is a pioneer of the genre, documenting ordinary life in Uzbekistan, Siberia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Moscow and Tartarstan. Her high-key photos show simple people living simply, and are full of color and energy. They're funny, too -- they could be Dash Snow Polaroids from '90s Russia (minus the drugs and the genitals).
Paul Kasmin Gallery
515 W 27th Street Jan. 5-Feb. 11, 2012
Take yourself back to the 1970s, when New York City was half a wasteland and Minimalism and Conceptualism ruled. During those hazy years, James Nares, a young Englishman in New York, snuck into an abandoned Tribeca building at night to hang a large concrete sphere and set it swinging like a four-story pendulum in a back alley. Such was the setting for his hypnotic, 17-minute-long 1976 film Pendulum, a little-seen work that now seems a classic of post-minimalist cinema, in which the camera sometimes rides the moving ball and other times simply tracks it. Newly produced in an edition of six with two artists proofs, one has already been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum (from another gallery, at an art fair), and further sales seem almost assured. The price, someone whispered at the opening, starts at around $45,000.
Also on view are additional films, black-and-white chronophotographs and diagrams of pendulums in motion, a wealth of supporting material like casts and notebooks, and a concrete runway of, you guessed it, spheres of various sizes.
Alexander Gray Associates
508 W 26th Street Jan. 5-Feb. 11, 2012
Conceptual art in the Middle East? The Dubai-based artist Hassan Sharif (b. 1951) presents a small survey of 30 years of performance-based projects, which included pacing back and forth across a barren desertscape and carving seemingly random numbers into trees, as well as some black inked “experimental works on paper” that look like abstracted newspaper print. Don’t trip over Sharif’s three “sculptural installations” -- piles of colored flip-flops or bundles of cardboard installed in the middle of the gallery on square white pedestals. Not quite sure what to make of these, but they look good. The gallery’s debut at Art Dubai in March 2012 is slated to feature a juxtaposition of Sharif’s “text-based works” (where are these?) with those of Luis Camnitzer.
530 West 25th Street Jan. 5-Feb. 4, 2012
What we need is a show about women making art with guns. Niki de Saint Phalle, Emily Jacir, William Burroughs (sorry, wrong gender), and Margaret Evangeline, whose new gunshot-riddled stainless-steel paintings are on view not only at Stux Gallery but also, in a show that opened two days later, at Kim Foster Gallery. At Stux, the shotgun works -- the one illustrated here is Saint Sebastian 9 (2011) -- are interspersed with the artist's large new oil paintings, whose thickly painted linear forms suggest organic structures. "Margaret, they're too tall for the gallery walls," murmured Stux. "Darling, museum atriums are 45-feet-tall," she responded.
535 West 22nd Street Jan. 5-Feb. 4, 2012
The dashing Thomas Woodruff stood in the middle of a crowd of young people at his opening, tattoos of flying birds peeking out from his shirt on either side of its high collar, greeting his many admirers. A master of the Lowbrow Esthetic and head of illustration at the School of Visual Arts, Woodruff was unveiling a suite of 25 masterful new paintings on the theme of the Four Humors, exquisitely detailed concoctions of imaginative imagery, featuring tigers, unicorns, butterflies and bouquets set in surrealistic 3D landscapes.
It was 40 degrees outside, and most of the New Yorkers at the show, unsurprisingly, were garbed in dark colors. “Gray is the color of melancholy," noted Wendy Olsoff, the "O.W." of the gallery. But New York is not melancholy, not at all; it's a place of color and activity, bursting open like the many-seeded watermelons and infinitely variable roses that define for Woodruff the "sanguinic humor." We must begin dressing like harlequins at once. Prices for the paintings are in the $15,000-$60,000 range.
Jack Hanley Gallery
136 Watts Street Jan. 6-Feb. 4, 2012
The irrepressible Jack Hanley, who ran a San Francisco guitar store before he opened his gallery, presents an archival exhibition of 1966-1968 Haight-Ashbury -- home to the Diggers, the SF Mime Troupe and an assortment of anarchists and lay-bouts who made absurdity their political credo, organizing 10,000 people to march around the city Federal Building -- not to protest the Vietnam War -- but for no reason at all. The Diggers also were more practical, of course, offering free food every day in Golden Gate Park, setting up a free health clinic, a free bank and free stores. The show features an abundance of the printed material they distributed daily was well as photographs, posters and periodicals.
525 and 533 W 19th Street Jan. 6-Feb. 11, 2012
Approximately 200 of On Kawara’s signature "Date Paintings." Once thought to represent the bare-bones sameness of day-after-day life appropriate to Zen Conceptualism, they are now recast as individual emblems of moments in history by being paired with newspapers from the dates in question. The exhibition includes the very first painting -- executed in NYC on Jan. 4, 1966 -- plus examples from nearly all the countries in which they were made.
Also on view are two 100-year calendars, one from the 20th century and one from the 21st, on which Kawara has tracked the daily progression of his project with colored dots. The artist continues to create the paintings throughout the duration of the show, updating the calendar accordingly.
531 W 24th Street Jan. 6-Feb. 4, 2012
The American pioneer of color snapshots -- the “genre painting” of the 20th century -- presents four distinct bodies of photographs, all executed between 1971 and 1980 while he travelled throughout America’s urban and pastoral landscape. Although each series is a product of the artist’s revolutionary experimentation with the possibilities afforded the medium by the introduction of color, they are equally if not more interesting for the colorful subjects they capture. Taken together, they offer a compelling portrait of the quotidian 1970s in all its mustachioed, wide-lapelled glory.
541 W 24th Street Jan. 7-Feb. 4, 2012
It wouldn’t be far off to call him “Artist of the Year,” and now his seminal (pun intended) installation of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds -- supposedly a metaphor for the People during China’s Cultural Revolution -- is re-installed for its first exhibition in New York after its debut in the Tate Modern in October 2010. Boone’s presentation is smaller than the Tate’s, presumably due to spatial considerations, but the five-ton segment of some 4,000,000 seeds (the Tate's display included 100,000,000!) nonetheless covers most of the gallery’s floor with a thick, rectangular carpet. The whole kit n’ caboodle is priced at $2,750,000.
513 W 20th Street Jan. 7-Feb. 11, 2012
The legendary Canadian avant-garde filmmaker (b. 1929) presents a series of new projections, holograms and photo-based works. The show includes a haunting, ruby-red hologram of two men caught in mid-grimace, a floor projection of Northern Canada’s varying terrains which allows viewers to “get in the way” of the light and alter the piece, and, in the darkened large gallery, a seven-projection monochrome light show designed to "make tangible the shifting focus of the viewers gaze."
EMILY NATHAN is assistant editor at Artnet Magazine.