One-Line Reviews: Our Staff's Pithy Takes on Tomas Saraceno, Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, and More

Installation view of Tomas Saraceno's "“Air-Port-City / Cloud Cities” at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
(Courtesy the Artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Photo Jean Vong)

Once again, our staff has set out around our Chelsea offices, tasked with reviewing what they saw in a single (sometimes run-on) sentence. Here is what we came up with this week (to see our One-Line Reviews in illustrated slide show format, click here):

* Christopher Astley, “Mayhap,” at Leo Koenig, Inc., 541 West 23rd Street, May 24-June 30

At first glance, Astley’s installation looks like the results of a child’s temper tantrum, but on closer inspection the scattered soft blocks and stacked towers turn into heavy (literally) meditations on both visual abstraction and creative innocence. — Kyle Chayka   

Gusmano Cesaretti, “East L.A. Diary,” at Anna Kustera Gallery, 520 West 21 Street, June 14-July 13

Glad as I am to see at least one shot of a chrome chain steering wheel, it’s even better that the rugged glam, tattoos, guns, and gang symbols captured by Cesaretti while mingling among young Chicanos in 1970s L.A. can manage to be charming, seductive, and fun without also being corny or rude. — Reid Singer

* “Context Message,” at Zach Feuer, 548 West 22nd Street, June 21-August 3  

If you don't think too hard about what the actual premise of this show exploring so-called "networked painting" means, then this hot mess of random-yet-intriguing objects is quite enjoyable, featuring, as it does, atavistic abstract paintings, needlepoint Shakespeare quotes, resin sculpture, a snarky oil-painting of an Artforum review, Joseph Cornell-esque boxes filled with shitake mushrooms, pointillist paintings that bark like a dog, a scroll suspended by a helium balloon, and rustic American quilts. — Chloe Wyma

Awol Erizku, at Hasted Kraeutler, 537 West 24th Street, June 14-July 20

Twenty-four-year-old Ethiopian-born Cooper Union graduate Awol Erizku’s large, serene photographs insert members of New York’s young black creative elite — like Street Etiquette style blogger Joshua Kissi — into masterpiece-inspired portraits (à la “Girl With a Pearl Earring”), and the results surprisingly defy cliché.  — Ashton Cooper

* “Fake Empire,” curated by Lee Stoetzel, at Mixed Greens, 531 West 26th Street, June 8-July 6

This summer show on the theme of architecture and its contemporary mutations gets its punch from two ingenious video pieces that effectively serve as bookends: Rob Carter’s Terry Gilliam-esque stop-motion video of paper cathedrals building themselves out of thin air, which provides an accent of delight, and Olivo Barbieri’s 12-minute video montage featuring sweeping, distorted aerial views of Las Vegas’s flamboyant monuments, which provides a base note of detached contemporary alienation. — Ben Davis

“Great Photographs: Scape,” at Hasted Kraeutler, 537 West 24th Street, June 14-July 20 

As urban dwellers, we New Yorkers often forget the vast expanses of earth beyond our little island, and this group show surveying almost a century and a half of landscape photography confronts the beauty, and destructive power, of both the natural world and the industrial innovations in an attempt to conquer our surroundings. — Shane Ferro

“Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen: Theater and Installation 1985-1990, ‘Il Corso del Coltello’ and ‘The European Desktop,’” at Pace Gallery, 545 West 22nd Street, April 27-June 29

Painted black walls illuminated by the projections of now-historic performances and larger-than-life, playfully colorful prop sculptures of everyday objects help transform the space into what feels, fittingly, more like the set of a stage show than a gallery exhibition. — Alanna Martinez

* Tomas Saraceno, “Air-Port-City / Cloud Cities,” at Tanya Bonakdar, 521 W 21st Street, June 2-July 7

Set against a wall-size photograph of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's rooftop installation, Tomas Saraceno's polygonal, interconnecting pods feel like an awkward advertisement for his other sculpture exhibition uptown — that is, until you walk into the back room, where a Plexiglas panel filled with mutating bubbles and a massive, color-shifting pneumatic sphere remind you that the Argentine engineer-artist's best structures aren't simply art we're supposed to live with, but art that's alive. — Julia Halperin

Joanna M. Wezyk, "Night and Day," at Tina Kim, 545 West 25th Street, 3rd Floor, June 7-July 13

The Polish painter's new series of small-ish portraits of her children and other relatives, allegedly inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince," speaks of nostalgia for the uninhibited inner worlds of childhood, though the show's most affecting piece isn't the most whimsical (which co-stars fuzzy, Gizmo-like creatures), but an off-kilter reflection of her son Mike in a darkened computer screen. Benjamin Sutton

* Holly Zausner, “A Small Criminal Enterprise” at Postmasters, 459 West 19th Street, June 21-August 3

Visual synecdoche is the order of the day in Holly Zausner’s show, for which she has extracted frames from her earlier 16mm film of Berlin, then used them as pixels or building blocks for new photo collages, thereby reframing the way we appreciate both still photography and moving image, and emphasizing the beauty of the part in relation to the whole in each piece.  — Terri Ciccone