Amy Pleasant has an absolutely riveting show up at the Jeff Bailey Gallery. It seems unlikely that its theme is in any way 9/11-related, but anyone who lived through the attack and the days afterward will find special resonance in her paintings’ grey-toned, swirling clouds of smoke and silhouettes. Ironically, the show’s centerpiece – the wall-sized black silhouette of a woman sleeping, her back turned to the viewer – is the least compelling. But the guy falling through the clouds – only the outline of his ankles and shoes visible through the black smoke – and the fat man with the glasses tumbling out of the lower right corner are disconcerting, to say the least, and the mixed hues of the clouds are spot-on. There are also a couple of large works, each of whose centerpiece is a woman getting a consoling hug, one a city scene with doors and windows visible amidst the smoke, the other extremely evocative of the billowing sky after the Twin Towers were detonated and came down.
Photographer Walter Niedermayr has a collection of his signature multi-panel distant shots up at the Robert Millery Gallery through March 14. The most obvious one is also the most potent, a side view of New Museum on the Bowery, its practically hypnotic mesh exterior contrasting with the neighborhood visible in the distance in the lower lefthand corner, graffiti and all: wow, people actually live here! The most amusing of the photos is a bunch of tour boats circling amidst icebergs, an outboard-motor-propelled pontoon boat looking particularly jaunty and carefree. Yikes! There are also several panels of people climbing beach dunes, and a ski slope. Nature dwarfs everything here. Nobody’s fooling anyone.
Julie Allen has a typically playful, in fact absolutely delightful, Rube Goldberg-esque collection of sculpture up at McKenzie Fine Art, also through March 14. Many of her colorful plastic creations look like something you might expect to see after getting halfway through a plastic model kit for a car, or an aircraft: lots of axles and other mechanical parts. Dare you to get through this without cracking a smile – it’s impossible. On display: one of the arms from the Scrambler (you know, the carnival ride, the one with the arm that goes up and down as the inner axle spins)? A strangely connected lighthouse and millwheel? A bizarre caterpillar vehicle with what looks like the explorer arm from a space rover? A headless robot picking up something, and a baby’s arm holding an apple (just kidding about that last one).
And in lieu of a scathing dismissal of another current Chelsea show – trying hard to hold back the contempt here – renderings of drunken facebook photos of your spoiled, rich college pals are not, as one “artist” calls them, “scandalous.” Scandalous would be a spycam photo of Dick Cheney getting fucked up the ass by Jeff Gannon.