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Gallerina

This Week: Must-See Arts in the City

Exhibits examining new wave and post-War Japanese culture, a New York photographer's chronicle of gay culture and urban decay in the '70s, and a New Jersey painter's work inspired by a trip to Laramie that tangles with sexuality, identity and violence. It's a heady week in the New York art world. Here's our guide to what's resonating:

Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art at the Japan Society This highly anticipated exhibit does away with stereotypical notions of Japanese culture—such as the relentless focus on ‘kawaii,’ or cuteness—and introduces a new generation of contemporary artists working in more conceptual veins. While many of the pieces borrow from traditional Japanese aesthetics, such as Ukiyo-e prints, the content of the show examines a gloomy array of modern worries, from environmental destruction to rampant industrialization to gender identity. With tragic events still unfolding in Japan, this is certainly an emotionally wrought time to be studying the work of the country's contemporary artists. The art tells an interesting story, showing human figures that disintegrate into the man-made. (Tomoko Kashiki's subtle canvases are a stand-out in this regard.) The exhibit also features pieces—like Makoto Aida's disconcerting canvas "Ash Colored Mountains"—that eerily echo the images of devastation being broadcast on the news. It’s as if every anxiety about this disaster had been writ into these works of art prior to it ever happening. In the event that you need further incentive to see this compelling show, the Society is donating 50 percent of all admission fees to its earthquake relief fund between now and June 30. Opens Friday in Manhattan.

Longing For Identity: Postwar Japanese Photographers at Yoshii Gallery on the Upper East Side This small exhibit of vintage photographic prints—featuring some of Japan’s best known shooters—provides an excellent counterpoint to the art on view at the Japan Society. Featuring a collection of pictures taken between the 1950s and the ‘70s, it shows a nation creating a new sense of identity for itself in the wake of a brutal and devastating war. Obsessions with death, industrialization and sexuality united the works of the seven disparate photographers on display — at a moment in Japan’s history when traditional culture was giving way to the age of technology. Yoshii is located in the same building as the Gagosian Gallery (which is currently displaying an absolutely stunning exhibit devoted to Kazimir Malevich) — a good opportunity for a two-fer. Through April 9, in Manhattan.

Alvin Baltrop: Photographs, 1965-2003 at Third Streaming in SoHo When the Bronx-born Alvin Baltrop began shooting Manhattan’s Hudson River waterfront in the 1960s and ‘70s, the area consisted of a series of dilapidated piers and abandoned warehouses. It was also an important gay cruising spot (and a hub of prostitution and drug dealing). Baltrop passed away in 2004 but the posthumous resuscitation of his works has been remarkable. Due to their subject matter, his black and white photographs received little attention during his lifetime. But since his death, they have been featured in exhibitions and even have graced the cover of Artforum (in 2008). Consider this a fine opportunity to examine the artful documentation of a piece of New York that is forever gone. Through May 14, in Manhattan.

Facing Laramie at LZ Project Space on the Lower East Side The New Jersey-based painter Robert O’Connor recently took a trip to Laramie, Wyoming to explore the place that drew national headlines in 1998 when a young gay student by the name of Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered there. O’Connor’s related paintings, which include his own self-portrait, tackle the issues of identity and sexuality raised by the killing. Also part of the exhibit will be a sound installation by artist Matt Page. Opens on Thursday, in Manhattan. An artist’s reception is scheduled for Friday at 7 P.M.

Third Streaming is showing work by Bronx-born photographer Alvin Baltrop, who spent much of his life documenting gay culture and plenty of urban decay on Manhattan's Hudson River piers.
Third Streaming is showing work by Bronx-born photographer Alvin Baltrop, who spent much of his life documenting gay culture and plenty of urban decay on Manhattan's Hudson River piers. ( © 2011 The Alvin Baltrop Trust )
Baltrop, who passed away in 2004, left an artful record of a time when vast tracts of New York City were up for grabs. Above, an untitled image of one of the piers, shot between 1975 and 1986.
Baltrop, who passed away in 2004, left an artful record of a time when vast tracts of New York City were up for grabs. Above, an untitled image of one of the piers, shot between 1975 and 1986. ( © 2011 The Alvin Baltrop Trust )
Male sexuality and desire is a regular theme in Baltrop's work. In this image, an untitled photograph of sailors taken between 1969 and 1972.
Male sexuality and desire is a regular theme in Baltrop's work. In this image, an untitled photograph of sailors taken between 1969 and 1972. ( © 2011 The Alvin Baltrop Trust )
At Yoshii Gallery on the Upper East Side, an exhibit chronicles the work of post-War Japanese photographers. Shown here: 'Oh Shinjuku,' by Shomei Tomatsu, from 1969.
At Yoshii Gallery on the Upper East Side, an exhibit chronicles the work of post-War Japanese photographers. Shown here: 'Oh Shinjuku,' by Shomei Tomatsu, from 1969. ( Courtesy Yoshii Gallery )
The photographs in the exhibit — taken between the 1950s and '70s — are unsentimental, showing a nation grappling with issues of urbanization and industrialization. Above, an image by Nobuyoshi Araki.
The photographs in the exhibit — taken between the 1950s and '70s — are unsentimental, showing a nation grappling with issues of urbanization and industrialization. Above, an image by Nobuyoshi Araki. ( Courtesy Yoshii Gallery )
'Barricade, summer 1968, Sink,' by Kazuo Kitai. The photographer has long worked in the documentary vein, capturing a society in a state of transition.
'Barricade, summer 1968, Sink,' by Kazuo Kitai. The photographer has long worked in the documentary vein, capturing a society in a state of transition. ( Courtesy Yoshii Gallery )
At the Japan Society: Makota Aida's canvas, 'Ash Colored Mountains' — in which the mountains are composed of disconcerting piles of faceless salarymen.
At the Japan Society: Makota Aida's canvas, 'Ash Colored Mountains' — in which the mountains are composed of disconcerting piles of faceless salarymen. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
'Dialogue with Absence,' 2010, by Chiharu Shiota, a wedding dress pierced by plastic catheters and a red liquid that stands in for blood. The sounds this piece makes are spectacularly grotesque.
'Dialogue with Absence,' 2010, by Chiharu Shiota, a wedding dress pierced by plastic catheters and a red liquid that stands in for blood. The sounds this piece makes are spectacularly grotesque. ( Courtesy Galerie Christophe Gaillard/Haunch of Venison. Via Japan Society. )
Tomoko Kashiki's landscapes frequently show figures melting into man-made settings. Shown here: the painting 'Roof Garden,' from 2008.
Tomoko Kashiki's landscapes frequently show figures melting into man-made settings. Shown here: the painting 'Roof Garden,' from 2008. ( Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company. Via Japan Society. )
Kumi Machida's 'Relation' uses traditional materials (sumi ink on paper), but in a contemporary context — in ways that deal with integration of man and machine.
Kumi Machida's 'Relation' uses traditional materials (sumi ink on paper), but in a contemporary context — in ways that deal with integration of man and machine. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
A certain unease about technology permeated the show. Shown here, a detail of a painting by Yamaguchi Akira — 'The Nine Aspects,' from 2003.
A certain unease about technology permeated the show. Shown here, a detail of a painting by Yamaguchi Akira — 'The Nine Aspects,' from 2003. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
Artist Tomoko Shioyasu (right) stands before her cut-paper piece, 'Vortex,' which created a swirling pattern of light on the floor.
Artist Tomoko Shioyasu (right) stands before her cut-paper piece, 'Vortex,' which created a swirling pattern of light on the floor. ( Carolina A. Miranda )
At LZ Project Space, painter Robert O'Connor is exhibiting works inspired by a recent visit to Laramie. Shown here: A detail from the piece 'One Day this Kid,' 2011, a visual nod to David Wojnarowicz.
At LZ Project Space, painter Robert O'Connor is exhibiting works inspired by a recent visit to Laramie. Shown here: A detail from the piece 'One Day this Kid,' 2011, a visual nod to David Wojnarowicz. ( Courtesy LZ Project Space )
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