Mr. Meyenberg’s video installation seems mostly cool and banal on the surface, but the surreal terror of falling on the wrong side of a war machine — or becoming one of its cogs — makes this work feel like a memorial, as well as a portentous warning.
LOOK HER WAY
Through July 14. Thierry Goldberg, 103 Norfolk Street, Manhattan; 212-967-2260, thierrygoldberg.com.
This beautifully curated group show presents work by six young figurative painters. Among them is Tanya Merrill, whose cartoons of wild West violence look like unfinished Renaissance life studies. She does them in oil stick and Flashe on raw linen, with deft curves, wiggly lines and loosely sketched-in colors. The effect is more like a contact print or a rubbing than a painting, which is appropriate since her subject isn’t violence as much as the impression it might make.
Despite the Expressionist touches in Grace Metzler’s large painting of boys horsing around in a backyard soccer field, she’s at pains to make them look ordinary.
But the way the grass drops off suddenly in the foreground gives the viewer a vivid window into how it feels to watch such ordinary scenes from within a puddle of nebulous apprehension. Maggie Goldstone contributes three color-driven mood pieces, and Anja Salonen two close-ups of women’s faces that balance on the thin line between love and hate.
The only one of the six who’s had a New York solo show is Cindy Ji Hye Kim, whose black-and-white painting of a sexy but muted maid scrubbing the floor while straddling a man’s pinstriped leg is a compelling reminder that the Playboy philosophy of strictly gendered libertinism doesn’t hold together even on its own silly premises.
And Danielle Orchard’s two irresistible oils, which deserve a show of their own, remix references from art history with Modernist tricks to get at the hidden-in-plain-sight double consciousness of the female experience.
Through July 28. Tyler Rollins Fine Art, 529 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 212-229-9100, trfineart.com.
The weightiest themes with the lightest touch: That could be the motto of the perceptive Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (pronounced raz-JAR-min-suk), one of the most prominent artists working in Southeast Asia today. In spectral, delicately comic videos, often with hushed narration and ambient sound, she explores mortality, mental illness, humans’ obligation to animals, and the role of women in Thai society. In many that were on view in a 2015 retrospective at SculptureCenter in Queens, and in two new works here, meaning is unfixed and death is nothing to get worked up about.
The video installation “Jaonua: The Nothingness,” whose five channels are projected on a rug, a bed and other irregular surfaces, broaches these themes through staged sequences and documentary footage, often with animals. A dog and a horse ride on the back of a truck through Chiang Mai; a buffalo is slaughtered in an abattoir; a European woman reads philosophy to an audience of indifferent goats. “Art reminds us of a state of animal vigor,” she proclaims, channeling Nietzsche. The farm animals seem unsure about that.
The captivating new video “Sanook Dee Museum” — or “Fun Museum” — revisits an earlier conceit of Ms. Araya’s: showing copies of renowned Western artworks to Thai villagers, who judge and appreciate them on their own terms. Now she brings village people, along with some monks, dogs and a guitarist, to a new, fictional art institution where the newcomers puzzle over a reproduction of Rembrandt’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” and the Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra’s photo of a mother and newborn. They also look at earlier works by the artist herself, including a harrowing video of a mental patient shot with an anonymizing blur. (“Maybe they don’t have a good camera,” one suggests.) Understanding is incomplete, as it must be in this world, but there are other ways to engage with art at the Fun Museum: At the end, villagers and curators get up and dance.
WEAPON OF CHOICE
Through July 21. Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 860 11th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-237-1439, shivagallery.org.
Humans are ingenious when it comes to creating both art and weapons. (And some of the most beautiful and well-crafted weapons end up in art museums.) “Weapon of Choice” at Shiva Gallery, at John Jay College, examines this crossover in a contemporary context, offering works by 11 artists or collectives.
Most of the weapons here are purely symbolic, like Roberto Visani’s gun sculptures, inspired by the decorated, personalized guns of African soldiers. Others defuse the deadly seriousness of the subject, like Natalie Baxter’s “Warm Gun” series of sewn and quilted guns, some of which droop flaccidly from the wall, or Jessica Kairé’s playful 2012 video demonstrating how to make weapons from tropical fruits.
Real ammunition or weapon parts are included in the collective Detext’s 2013 rug, hand-woven with American, Russian and Israeli bullet casings found near Guatemala City, and Gonçalo Mabunda’s elegant masks made with recycled gun parts. One of the most chilling works is Edwin Sánchez’s “Clases de cuchillo (Knife lessons)” (2006-10), filmed on the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, which shows how to make a crude knife, stab a person and defend oneself.
The end result of weaponry (that is, killing or maiming) is mostly absent in this show. An exception is Harun Farocki’s “Serious Games I: Watson is Down” (2010), in which the dead appear in animated video games used to train United States Marines. Mr. Farocki spent his career exploring how art might be used to understand — and possibly curtail — war and weaponry. Hence, his work, like the show itself, feels appropriate on the premises of a college similarly devoted to exploring humanity’s attachment to violence and its harmful effects.
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