1. Luke Smalley: Retrospective is open at ClampArt until May 9, 2015.
Luke Smalley died suddenly at the age of 53. He left behind three distinct bodies of work titled Gymnasium, Exercise at Home and Sunday Drive. ClampArt hosts a retrospective of the American photographer comprised of those three. Once a model and personal trainer, Luke graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in sports medicine. His interests are clearly spotted in his work (as the titles also might suggest) as it all features jocks performing in various ways. All black and white, Gymnasium was the first of the photographer’s series. It took him 15 years to complete before he moved on to his first color venture, Exercise at Home followed by Sunday Drive. All of Smalley’s work pairs what has been called “a casually minimalist aesthetic with a retro nostalgia.” Yearbooks and fitness manuals from the beginning of the 20th century inspired many of his early images. His whimsical and sexual photography toys with the crossing of fashion and social ideals of femininity and masculinity.
2. John Giorno: Space Forgets You is open at Elizabeth Dee until May 9, 2015.
John Giorno’s explosive, visual and concrete works continue in a new series of rainbow paintings that occupy the front gallery. Works such as Living In Your Eyes, Life Is a Killer, and I Want to Cum In Your Heart coexist and resonate. The exhibit continues with two bodies of drawings, including Thanx 4 Nothing, God Is Manmade, and It’s Worse Than I Thought. The devoted rooms to each series manifest the range and depth of Giorno’s creative production in painting, graphite, and watercolor. The pulsating delivery of Giorno’s reading style, with line breaks and repetition, dictate tempos within the exhibition and encourage reinvestigation of phrases. Many of the texts employed in Giorno’s new works were originally sourced from poetry that the artist has written, or lines that never made themselves into a final poem. The clarity of the words’ visual impact hangs in the air and penetrates the mind. Giorno’s history with concrete poetry techniques date back to his first visual works in the late 1960s. The culmination of his practice today, can arguably be traced back to his first series, when Giorno was exploring the audio and visual perception of words on a field. This interest led to collaborations and sound recordings that further defined Giorno’s live performances.
3. Philip-Lorca diCorcia: East of Eden is open at David Zwirner until May 2, 2015.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s East of Eden, begun in 2008, takes as its source of inspiration the economic and political climate of the United States towards the end of the Bush era. Identifying a parallel between the financial collapse and the biblical Book of Genesis in terms of an “ensuing loss of innocence,” East of Eden consists of singular, at times disparate images of people and events after “the fall,” unified by a pervading sense of disillusionment. Its title further refers to John Steinbeck’s 1952 magnum opus, which echoes many of the themes in the Book of Genesis, such as the classic struggle between good and evil, the hunger for acceptance and greatness, the capacity for self-destruction, and especially guilt and redemption. Whereas East of Eden incorporates more readily apparent symbolism than the artist’s previous series, the various sources are intricately weaved and layered, and the works’ referential ambiguity allows for open, wide-ranging interpretations. The exhibition includes Cain and Abel (2013), which portrays the biblical brothers as a gay couple, with arms wrapped around each other, while a nude pregnant woman, a modern-day Eve, watches over them. The men’s ambiguous gesture—are they embracing or fighting?—appears intensified by the red and blue colors of their respective shirts that hint at the existing divide in America between the political parties. Other photographs on view are Upstate (2009), where an apple tree slowly emerges from a tangle of surrounding foliage, and Abraham (2010), in which a red dart, balancing inches away from the face of a young man, evokes Abraham’s sacrificial offering of his son Isaac. In San Joaquin Valley, California (2008), two black vehicles, driving along a highway that stretches through a barren, unpopulated landscape, become metaphors for Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise.
4. Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin is open at MAD Museum until August 30, 2015.
Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin is the first museum exhibition to explore the work of renowned New York-based designer Ralph Pucci, who is widely regarded for his innovative approach to the familiar form of the mannequin. Having collaborated with luminaries such as Diane von Furstenberg, Patrick Naggar, Andrée Putman, Kenny Scharf, Anna Sui, Isabel and Ruben Toledo and Christy Turlington, Pucci’s mannequins not only expand the parameters of this ubiquitous sculptural form, but reflect major cultural trends of the past three decades. As Pucci was building his business in the 1970s, the notion of the “super model”—the living mannequin with a personality—emerged. Pucci captured this catalytic moment in his work, finding inspiration from sources as varied as Greek and Roman statues and the performance costumes of the New York Dolls. Pucci personified the previously anonymous form in new and challenging ways, creating visions of physical beauty that were more specific, empowered, and diverse than the fashion industry had previously allowed. More than commercial armatures or sculptural forms, his mannequins became agents of change in our attitudes to the body, to fashion, and to individual identity.
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks is open at Brooklyn Museum until August 23, 2015.
Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat filled numerous notebooks with poetry fragments, wordplay, sketches, and personal observations ranging from street life and popular culture to themes of race, class, and world history. The first major exhibition of the artist’s notebooks, Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks features 160 pages of these rarely seen documents, along with related works on paper and large-scale paintings. A self-taught artist with encyclopedic and cross-cultural interests, Basquiat was influenced by comics, advertising, children’s sketches, Pop art, hip-hop, politics, and everyday life. Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks emphasizes the distinct interplay of text and images in Basquiat’s art, providing unprecedented insight into the importance of writing in the artist’s process. The notebook pages on display contain early renderings of iconic imagery—tepees, crowns, skeleton-like figures, and grimacing faces—that also appear throughout his large-scale works, as well as an early drawing related to his series of works titled Famous Negro Athletes.