Jealous of jetsetting friends who are currently simmering in the tang of Venice’s canals, getting hopelessly lost en route to the Giardini? Here are five stellar shows currently on view in New York that might help sooth that Biennale envy.
It seems like just yesterday that Juliano-Villani, a former studio assistant to Erik Parker, was making pleasantly funky paintings that roiled with slapstick absurdities, stoner humor, and laidback cartoon idiocy (in a very good way). But don’t expect to feel so good after leaving her solo exhibition on the Lower East Side, which crams three epic, multi-paneled works onto as many walls, and oozes with the lurking dread of a bad trip. “Fly Kama Sutra” appears to depict a masturbatory alien and a voodoo doll, while “Windmills of Humanity” could be a 21st-century videogame landscape orchestrated by Dali. “Penny’s Change,” though, is the real slobbering nightmare: The head and torso of a woman in a black puffy jacket — her features smudgily erased, her mouth a gummy, decrepit hillbilly mess — floating in zombie bliss over a wasted desert landscape.
The 62-year-old artist, who has the impertinent curiosity of a painter half his age, shows a series of “Late Product Paintings,” colorful blasts of jarring imagery — tires, toothpaste, cigarettes, breasts surfacing from a bright, Richterish splat — along with another series of “Silver Paintings.” The latter are photo transfers to canvas using shots taken, in 1992, in Salle’s studio, showing a model in front of that decade’s “Early Product Paintings.” As their name suggests, they have a silvery sheen, but there’s nothing perfectionist about the surfaces, which are uneven, at times pocked, as a chance result of the photo-transfer process itself. The juxtaposition of the two series is brilliant — we get capitalism’s hypercolorful cheerleading face side-by-side with its elegiac, quasi-funereal flipside. In certain “Late Product Paintings,” Salle incorporates samples of the “Silver” paintings, the kind of self-cannibalization that makes you think of the artist as a haywire idea-machine — part paper-shredder, part cerebral blender — drawing absolutely everything in before spewing it back out by hand. “Faster Healing,” 2014, places a “Silver” image in the center of a comparatively bright composition — some sort of cascading crackers, a smattering of vaguely AbEx splatter — as if the monochrome element is a concert poster rudely wheatpasted over the canvas by a vandal. With a sharper, less painterly touch, that everything-and-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic might seem like a response to the overload of digital culture (as it does in Jeff Koons’s similarly dense, assistant-rendered paintings from recent years). Salle’s “Late Product Paintings” don’t seem to take a critical stance toward what they regurgitate — there’s too much joy here in the mismatchings and oddball alignments of unrelated things, and I imagined he enjoyed overstocking these compositions to the point of bursting — but the somber “Silver Paintings” punctuate that feverish mood, dragging the consumerist bombast back down to earth.
This four-person show — Andrew Guenther, Jordan Kasey, Nicholas Moenich, and Tracy Thomason — is worth venturing out to the industrial banks of the East River. Kasey’s inventive figurative paintings depict bodies as porous landscapes or, in “Person Asleep In A Beach Chair,” as looming voids. Thomason’s small-scale, textured abstractions — made using marble dust, sheepskin, and other materials — recall the kitschy eeriness of Donald Moffatt.
An almost painfully good survey of the late artist’s paintings and drawings, this show is a must-visit for anyone whose Burchfield mania was reignited by the pair of works in the Whitney’s “America Is Hard to See.” Nature in his hands is always wildly alive — shimmering, squiggling, shaking its branches. Poetic realism morphs into the psychedelic blur of the early ’60s works. A series of early ink-on-paper drawings — bare lines and shards of text (“the spirit of winter lurking in a woods”) — posit Burchfield as some unexpected proto-Raymond Pettibon. These are delirious landscapes of the mind, alternately joyous and riddled with anxiety.
A one-two punch of terrific spring shows at PS1. Bass’s “Off the Clock” works magic with pared-down sculptural elements: ladders, stacked terracotta pots, a metal zigzag on the floor, a vibrant yellow fence. Her paintings are similarly simple, speaking in their own language of cigarettes, alligators, pyramids, and coyly suggestive geometric anatomies. The Belgian oddballs de Gruter & Thys have a selection of films screening in MoMA’s basement — slow-burn strangeness, with their actors generally frozen in place while computer-altered voiceovers spin implausible tales. Upstairs, “Fine Arts” creates a mini-museum of elegant watercolors, all in black frames with straightforward descriptive labels. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the choice of subject, or how the works are arranged. Hunting scenes, moments from history, and quirky animal scenes all coexist, none more important than the others — “The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius” just as privileged as “Four Dogs And a Cat On a Bicycle.”