This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

SARA SZE

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Sarah Sze’s Crescent (Timekeeper) immerses visitors at Tanya Bonakdar (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through October 19, free, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
212-414-4144
www.tanyabonakdargallery.com
www.sarahsze.com

Sarah Sze has long been creating intricate, fragile ecosystems that feel like a complex construction made of giant toothpicks (and just about anything else she can find) that could come tumbling down with a mere touch. These installations have grown more detailed over time, incorporating high-tech electronic elements while expanding the breadth of its range. Her latest immersive exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar in Chelsea begins outside the gallery and continues in the hallways, large main space, back room, and upstairs, on the walls and the floors and the ceilings. There’s something everywhere, transforming parts of the gallery into her studio, revealing her extraordinary process. Originally a painter who now considers herself a sculptor, the Boston-born, New York-based artist centers the show with Crescent (Timekeeper), an exquisite work consisting of dozens of objects, from ladders, boxes, and rocks to plants, lamps, and bottles. Videos are projected onto torn pieces of paper, including a flying eagle, prowling wolves, the swirling ocean, and a burning fire, enhanced by sound as well, each open in its own internet browser, leaving it up to the viewer to make a narrative.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Sarah Sze reveals some of her methodology in Tanya Bonakdar back room (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

There are no barriers to prevent you from getting too close to the delicate piece; there’s a guard situated on the other side of the room, but Sze trusts us to not wreak havoc. She also shows us what she’s doing; the hallway is filled with her notes, some of the materials she uses (tape, paint, push pins, photographs, videos), while behind Crescent (Timekeeper) is a stack of slowly turning projectors, casting light and shadows everywhere. The back room is a cluttered studio setting with boxes, painted canvases with images stuck on, water bottles, paper towels, and other general detritus — the process has become the work.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

A studio space offers viewers a look at Sarah Sze’s creative process (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Upstairs is a room of four gorgeous painting collages, streaks of white paint on the floor forming a half-moon around one, as if beaming in through the skylight. Be sure to get close to the works to experience their startling depth. In the smaller, dark room, Sze lays bare her process of projecting tiny images onto a wall, revealing how she first designs them on a computer, then projects them through a sculptural form and onto the far wall. It’s utterly ingenious and wholly captivating.

Sze’s works are particularly suited to our image-saturated urban life, and especially here in New York City: Her Triple Point (Pendulum) is part of MoMA’s “Surrounds: 11 Installations” exhibition opening next week and her Blueprint for a Landscape can be seen all over the 96th St. stop on the Second Ave. subway. And in 2006, her partially submersive Corner Plot welcomed people to the Scholars’ Gare entrance to Central Park.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Paint forms a kind of floor sculpture in Sarah Sze show in Chelsea (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

In her 2018 essay “The Tattered Ruins of the Map: On Sarah Sze’s Centrifuge,” Sze’s friend, award-winning writer Zadie Smith, writes, “Like so much of Sarah Sze’s work, Centrifuge is a complex constellation of elements, in which all constituents present themselves simultaneously. . . . After the rupture, after the apocalypse, amid the ruin of cables and wires, someone might ask: what was the purpose of all of those images within and through which we lived?” This is true of her current Chelsea show, as Sze merges disparate components and artistic disciplines, both analog and digital, to forge a deep dive into the nature of time, space, and memory in a chaotic age.

VISION PORTRAITS WITH Q&As

(photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Filmmaker Rodney Evans explores his increasing blindness in Vision Portraits (photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

VISION PORTRAITS (Rodney Evans, 2019)
BAMfilm, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
October 18-20
718-636-4100
www.bam.org/film
www.thefilmcollaborative.org

“In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m just looking for guidance in how to be a blind artist,” filmmaker Rodney Evans says in Vision Portraits, his remarkable new documentary playing October 18-20 at BAM. Evans follows three artists as they deal with severe visual impairment but refuse to give up on their dreams as he seeks experimental treatment for his retinitis pigmentosa. Manhattan photographer John Dugdale lost most of his eyesight from CMV retinitis when he was thirty-two but is using his supposed disability to his advantage, taking stunning photos bathed in blue, inspired by the aurora borealis he sees when he closes his eyes. “Proving to myself that I could still function in a way that was not expected of a blind person was really gonna be the thing,” he says. “It’s fun to live in this bliss.” Bronx dancer Kayla Hamilton was born with no vision in one eye and developed iritis and glaucoma in the other, but she is shown working on a new piece called Nearly Sighted that incorporates the audience into her story. “How can I use my art form as a way of sharing what it is that I’m experiencing?” she asks.

(photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Dancer Kayla Hamilton is not about to let visual impairment get in the way of her career (photo by Kjerstin Rossi)

Canadian writer Ryan Knighton lost his eyesight on his eighteenth birthday due to retinitis pigmentosa, but he teaches at a college and presents short stories about his condition at literary gatherings. “I had that moment where I had a point of view now, like, I realized blindness is a point of view on the world; it’s not something I should avoid, it’s something I should look from, and I should make it my writerly point of view,” Knighton explains. Meanwhile, Evans heads to the Restore Vision Clinic in Berlin to see if Dr. Anton Fedorov can stop or reverse his visual impairment, which is getting worse.

Vision Portraits is an intimate, honest look at eyesight and art and how people adapt to what could have been devastating situations. Evans, who wrote and directed the narrative features Brother to Brother and The Happy Sad, also includes animated segments that attempt to replicate what the subjects see, from slivers of light to star-laden alternate universes. BAM is hosting several postscreening Q&As, with Evans, moderated by Kirsten Johnson, Friday at 7:30; with Evans, moderated by Imani Barbarin, Saturday at 5:00; with Evans, moderated by Jourdain Searles, Saturday at 8:30; and with Kjerstin Rossi, Mark Tumas, Hannah Buck, and Hamilton, moderated by Charmaine Warren, Sunday at 4:30.

NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL: THE SECOND WOMAN

The Second Woman repeats the same scene from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night one hundred times (photo by Heidrun Lohr)

The Second Woman repeats the same scene from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night one hundred times (photo by Heidrun Lohr)

THE SECOND WOMAN
BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Pl.
October 18, 5:00 pm - October 19, 5:00 pm, $25
718-636-4100
www.bam.org/secondwoman

Last month, Cyril Teste’s multimedia adaptation of John Cassavetes’s 1977 film Opening Night kicked off FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival, an immersive production highlighted by the US stage debut of French star Isabelle Adjani. Cassavetes’s film stars Gena Rowlands, his wife, as a theater actress getting lost between fiction and reality during out-of-town previews of a show called Second Woman; Cassavetes plays her leading man. Now BAM is presenting another unique exploration of the film in its Next Wave Festival. Beginning at 5:00 on the afternoon of October 18 and continuing for twenty-four consecutive hours, actress Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Blaze) will perform the same scene from Opening Night one hundred times, each with a different man playing opposite her. (There will be short breaks at 7:00 pm and then every two hours.) Created, written, and directed by Nat Randall and Anna Breckon, Second Man features video direction by EO Gill and Breckon (there are four cameras in use), lighting by Amber Silk and Kayla Burrett, sound by Nina Buchanan, and set design by Genevieve Murray/FUTURE METHOD STUDIO.

As opposed to theater, which is live every night, a movie scene can be done over and over again until everyone involved — particularly the director and the star — is happy with the result. However, in this case, Shawkat — who in Miguel Arteta’s Duck Butter played a character on a twenty-four-hour date with another woman, making love every sixty minutes — will be caught in an endless loop, a repetition that will be different every time as the other actor changes. “The Second Woman takes as its starting point the idea that emotions and identities are culturally and historically specific, and that gender identities are defined by, and produced through, emotional cultures and norms,” Randall and Breckon explain in a program note. “Taking gender, as a particular relation to cultural power and privilege, as its focus, The Second Woman explores the ways in which gender privilege and power expresses itself through feeling.” Advance timed tickets allow entry at 5:00 and midnight on Friday and 4:00 and 8:00 am on Saturday; otherwise, you can buy tickets at the venue, and you are allowed to leave and come back at any time as space permits.

SHITAMACHI: TALES OF DOWNTOWN TOKYO

Yasuki Chiba

Yasuki Chiba’s Shitamachi is part of Film Forum series focusing on the popular downtown area of Tokyo

Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Series runs October 18 - November 2
212-727-8110
filmforum.org

Tokyo’s downtown area known as Shitamachi, which means “low town,” has been a popular setting for movies since cinema began. Southeast of the Imperial Palace, it consists of small neighborhoods going back to the Edo period, filled with traditional Japanese culture particularly for the lower classes. You can explore its many facets in the Film Forum series “Shitamachi: Tales of Downtown Tokyo,” twenty-five films that take place in the geographical area seemingly invented for the movies. Running October 18 to November 7, the festival features a wide range of films, from Yasujirô Ozu’s Record of a Tenement Gentleman and Shôhei Imamura’s Eijanaika to Sadao Yamanaka’s Humanity and Paper Balloons and Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s Reason, from Kenji Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame and Nami Iguchi’s The Cat Leaves Home to Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro and Ishirô Honda’s Godzilla. The series is copresented with the Japan Foundation and programmed by Aiko Masubuchi, who will introduce screenings of Tadashi Imai’s Still I Live On and Satsuo Yamamoto’s The Street without Sun, while Steve Sterner will play live piano accompaniment to Ozu’s Woman of Tokyo. Japanese master Akira Kurosawa was drawn to Shitamachi for several of his tales about class struggle, and Film Forum will be showing four of them, highlighted below.

Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune star in Kurosawa noir DRUNKEN ANGEL

Takashi Shimura and Toshirô Mifune star in Akira Kurosawa noir Drunken Angel

DRUNKEN ANGEL (Akira Kurosawa, 1948)
Friday, October 18, 12:30, 4:50
Saturday, October 19, 5:10, 9:40
Wednesday, October 23, 4:20, 10:15
Friday, November 1, 9:30
filmforum.org

The first film that Akira Kurosawa had total control over, Drunken Angel tells the story of a young Yakuza member, Matsunaga (Toshirô Mifune), who shows up late one night at the office of the neighborhood doctor, Sanada (Takashi Shimura), to have a bullet removed from his hand. Sanada, an expert on tuberculosis, immediately diagnoses Matsunaga with the disease, but the gangster is too proud to admit there is anything wrong with him. Sanada sees a lot of himself in the young man, remembering a time when his life was full of choices — he could have been a gangster or a successful big-city doctor. When Okada (Reisaburo Yamamoto) returns from prison, searching for Sanada’s nurse, Miyo (Chieko Nakakita), the film turns into a classic noir, with marvelous touches of German expressionism thrown in. The terrible incidental music lapses into melodramatic mush, preventing the film from reaching its full potential greatness, but that’s just a minor quibble.

STRAY DOG

Takashi Shimura and Toshirō Mifune team up as detectives tracking a stolen gun in Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog

STRAY DOG (野良犬) (NORA INU) (Akira Kurosawa, 1949)
Friday, October 18, 2:30, 8:20
Saturday, October 19, 1:20, 7:10
Thursday, October 24, 12:30, 9:45
filmforum.org

Akira Kurosawa’s thrilling police procedural, Stray Dog, is one of the all-time-great film noirs. When newbie detective Murakami (Toshirō Mifune) gets his Colt lifted on a trolley, he fears he’ll be fired if he does not get it back. But as he searches for the weapon, he discovers that it is being used in a series of robberies and murders — for which he feels responsible. Teamed with seasoned veteran Sato (Takashi Shimura), Murakami risks his career — and his life — as he tries desperately to track down his gun before it is used again. Kurosawa makes audiences sweat, showing postwar Japan in the midst of a brutal heat wave, with Murakami, Sato, dancer Harumi Namiki (Keiko Awaji), and others constantly mopping their brows — the heat is so palpable, you can practically see it dripping off the screen. (You’ll find yourself feeling relieved when Sato hits a button on a desk fan, causing it to turn toward his face.) In his third of sixteen films made with Kurosawa, Mifune plays Murakami with a stalwart vulnerability, working beautifully with Shimura’s cool, calm cop who has seen it all and knows how to handle just about every situation. (Shimura was another Kurosawa favorite, appearing in twenty-one of his films.)

STRAY DOG

Rookie detective Murakami (Toshirō Mifune) often finds himself in the shadows in STRAY DOG

Mifune is often seen through horizontal or vertical gates, bars, curtains, shadows, window frames, and wire, as if he’s psychologically and physically caged in by his dilemma — and as time goes on, the similarities between him and the murderer grow until they’re almost one and the same person, dealing ever-so-slightly differently with the wake of the destruction wrought on Japan in WWII. Inspired by the novels of Georges Simenon and Jules Dassin’s The Naked City, Stray Dog is a dark, intense drama shot in creepy black and white by Asakazu Nakai and featuring a jazzy soundtrack by Fumio Hayasaka that unfortunately grows melodramatic in a few key moments — and oh, if only that final scene had been left on the cutting-room floor. It also includes an early look at Japanese professional baseball. Kurosawa would soon become the most famous Japanese auteur in the world, going on to make Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, The Lower Depths, and I Live in Fear in the next decade alone.

Takashi Shimura does a stellar job with a rare leading role in Kurosawa’s captivating melodrama IKIRU

Takashi Shimura does a stellar job with a rare leading role in Akira Kurosawa’s captivating melodrama Ikiru

IKIRU (TO LIVE) (DOOMED) (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
Sunday, October 20, 1:20
Thursday, October 24, 4:50
filmforum.org

In Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 gem, Ikiru, winner of a special prize at the 1954 Berlin International Film Festival, the great Takashi Shimura is outstanding as simple-minded petty bureaucrat Kanji Watanabe, a paper-pushing section chief who has not taken a day off in thirty years. But when he suddenly finds out that he is dying of stomach cancer, he finally decides that there might be more to life than he thought after meeting up with an oddball novelist (Yunosuke Ito). While his son, Mitsuo (Nobuo Kaneko), and coworkers wonder just what is going on with him — he has chosen not to tell anyone about his illness — he begins cavorting with Kimura (Shinichi Himori), a young woman filled with a zest for life. Although the plot sounds somewhat predictable, Kurosawa’s intuitive direction, a smart script (cowritten with Hideo Oguni), and a marvelously slow-paced performance by Shimura (Stray Dog, Scandal, Seven Samurai) make this one of the director’s best melodramas.

The Lower Depths is another masterful tour de force from Akira Kurosawa

The Lower Depths is another masterful tour de force from Akira Kurosawa

THE LOWER DEPTHS (DONZOKO) (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
Saturday, November 2, 12:50, 8:40
filmforum.org

Loosely adapted from Maxim Gorky’s social realist play, The Lower Depths is a staggering achievement, yet another masterpiece from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa. Set in an immensely dark and dingy ramshackle skid-row tenement during the Edo period, the claustrophobic film examines the rich and the poor, gambling and prostitution, life and death, and everything in between through the eyes of impoverished characters who have nothing. The motley crew includes the suspicious landlord, Rokubei (Ganjiro Nakamura), and his much younger wife, Osugi (Isuzu Yamada); Osugi’s sister, Okayo (Kyôko Kagawa); the thief Sutekichi (Toshirō Mifune), who gets involved in a love triangle with a noir murder angle; and Kahei (Bokuzen Hidari), an elderly newcomer who might be more than just a grandfatherly observer. Despite the brutal conditions they live in, the inhabitants soldier on, some dreaming of their better past, others still hoping for a promising future. Kurosawa infuses the gripping film with a wry sense of humor, not allowing anyone to wallow away in self-pity. The play had previously been turned into a film in 1936 by Jean Renoir, starring Jean Gabin as the thief.

OPEN HOUSE NEW YORK WEEKEND 2019

Kings County Distillery at the Brooklyn Navy Yard will offer tours during Open House New York weekend (photo courtesy of Kings County Distillery)

Kings County Distillery at the Brooklyn Navy Yard will offer tours during Open House New York Weekend (photo courtesy of Kings County Distillery)

Multiple venues in all five boroughs
October 18-20, free - $5
212-991-OHNY
www.ohny.org

Although $5 reservations for most of the usual suspects for the seventeenth annual Open House New York Weekend are long gone, there are still plenty of opportunities to go behind the scenes at numerous unique churches, art and design studios, universities, breweries, cultural centers, and other architectural sites, particularly if you’re willing to travel away from midtown and downtown Manhattan. There are hundreds of locations that are open for free, although you might have to wait on long lines, whereas snagging a reservation at one of the below guarantees you admission. Among the classic free sites are the Actors’ Temple, the African Burial Ground National Monument, the AT&T Long Distance Building Lobby, the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Castle Williams on Governors Island, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Central Park’s Belvedere Castle, Central Synagogue, City Hall, Dyckman Farmhouse Museum, the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, FDR Four Freedoms State Park, the Federal Hall National Memorial, the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Fort Tilden in the Rockaways, Fort Tryon Park Cottage & Heather Garden, the General Grant National Memorial, the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York — and that is only through the beginning of the alphabet. Reservation lines close soon, so you better hurry.

Friday, October 18
Justin Paul Inc, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, 9:00 am, 10:00

Big aLICe Brewing Co, Long Island City, Queens, 9:00 am, 10:30, 12:00

Kepco, Inc., Flushing, Queens, 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 3:00

Crystalyn Kae Accessories at Industry City, Industry City, Brooklyn, 9:00 am, 11:00, 1:00, 3:00

Urban Archaeology, Long Island City, Queens, 10:00 am, 11:00, 12:00

Red White and Blue Enterprises, Woodside, Queens, 10:00 am, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00

Legion Lighting & SMASH Industries, East New York, Brooklyn, 10:00 am, 11:30, 1:00, 2:30

Tech Products, Inc., Clifton, Staten Island, 10:30 am, 1:30

Wild East Brewing Company, Gowanus, Brooklyn, 11:00 am, 12:00, 2:00, 3:00

Stickbulb at RUX Studios, Long Island City, Queens, 11:00 am, 2:00, 4:00

urbangreen, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 1:00, 2:00

Watermark Designs, East New York, Brooklyn, 1:00, 2:00

Transmitter Brewing, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00

Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute

Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute offers walking tours and site-specific art during OHNY Weekend

Saturday, October 19
Morningside Park, Morningside Heights, Manhattan, 10:00 am, 1:00, 4:00

Art and Architecture at Lehman College, the City University of New York, Jerome Park, Bronx, 10:00 am, 11:30, 1:00, 2:30

COOKFOX Architects, Columbus Circle, Manhattan, 11:00 am, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00

Museum of the City of New York, East Harlem, Manhattan, 11:00 am, 12:00, 4:00, 5:00

Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Harlem, Manhattan, 11:00 am, 1:00

Ridgewood Reservoir, Glendale, Queens, 11:00 am, 1:00

Friends Seminary, Gramercy, Manhattan, 11:00 am, 1:00, 3:00

Square Roots Urban Growers Inc, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 11:00 am, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00

Van Cortlandt House Museum, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, 11:30 am, 1:30, 3:00

HLW, Garment District, Manhattan, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00

Plymouth Church, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, 12:30 - 3:00

Kings County Distillery, Navy Yard, Brooklyn, 1:00 - 4:00

Chelsea District Health Center, Chelsea, Manhattan, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00

Maison, Upper East Side, Manhattan, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00

The Delson/Transitional Service for New York, Jamaica, Queens, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00

Sunday, October 20
Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, Upper Harlem, Manhattan, 10:00 am, 11:30, 1:00

Morningside Park, Morningside Heights, Manhattan, 10:00 am, 1:00, 4:00

Ridgewood Reservoir, Glendale, Queens, 11:00 am, 1:00

Friends Seminary, Gramercy, Manhattan, 11:00 am, 1:00, 3:00

Van Cortlandt House Museum, Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, 11:30 am, 1:30, 3:00

Building Energy Exchange, Civic Center, Manhattan, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00

Plymouth Church, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, 12:30 - 3:00

Kings County Distillery, Navy Yard, Brooklyn, 1:00 - 4:00

Grace Church High School, East Village, Manhattan, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30

RICHARD SERRA: THE COMPLETE FILMS AND VIDEOS

Richard Serra Railroad Turnbridge 1976

Richard Serra’s 1976 short Railroad Turnbridge is part of complete retrospective at Anthology Film Archives

Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave. at Second St.
October 17-23
Exhibitions continue through February 1, 2020
212-505-5181
anthologyfilmarchives.org

In conjunction with Gagosian’s presentation of three fall Richard Serra exhibitions, Anthology Film Archives is screening a full retrospective of the San Francisco-born sculptor and draughtsman’s films and videos, primarily short, silent, 16mm works, from the late 1960s and 1970s and featuring collaborations with Joan Jonas, Gerry Schum, Babette Mangolte, Robert Bell, Philip Glass, and others. Running October 17-23, “Richard Serra: The Complete Films and Videos” is divided into four programs, consisting of: Hand Catching Lead, Hands Scraping, Hands Tied, Hand Lead Fulcrum, Frame, Tina Turning, and Color Aid; Paul Revere, Anxious Automation, Veil, China Girl, Surprise Attack, Television Delivers People, and Boomerang; Match Match Their Courage and Prisoner’s Dilemma, with Spalding Gray, Richard Schechner, Kathryn Bigelow, Leo Castelli, and Bruce Boice; and Railroad Turnbridge and Steelmill/Stahlwerk. Program four on October 19 at 6:00 will be followed by a panel discussion with curators Søren Grammel, Chrissie Iles, and Jeffrey Weiss, moderated by Benjamin Buchloh.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Richard Serra’s Nine is part of “Forged Rounds” exhibit in Chelsea (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

“Triptychs and Diptychs” is on view at 980 Madison Ave. through November 2, “Forged Rounds” at 555 West 24th St. through December 7, and the gorgeous “Reverse Curve” at 522 West 21st St. through February 1. In addition, Serra, who will turn eighty-one on November 2, is represented at the newly reinstalled Museum of Modern Art with his own room containing “Equal,” four stacked pairs of forged weatherproof steel.

PAUL CHAN: THE BATHER’S DILEMMA

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Paul Chan, Khara En Tria (Joyer in 3), nylon, fans, vinyl, polyfil, 2019 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through October 19, free
www.greenenaftaligallery.com

Hong Kong-born, Nebraska-raised artist Paul Chan uses inflatable air dancers to reference art-historical themes and offer his take on the sorry state of the world in “The Bather’s Dilemma,” continuing at Greene Naftali through October 19. Chan, whose video installations include The 7 Lights, in which animated versions of people and debris fall from above, has created a series of beach tableaux in which the air dancers, generally seen as happy synthetic beings flailing about playfully, are weighed down, stuck, facing the problems tearing us apart despite their often bright color schemes. “At every age, overwhelming structural iniquities bring meaningless and arbitrary suffering and pain,” Chan writes in his “Sex, Water, Salvation, or What Is a Bather?” essay for the “Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection” show on view at the Museum Mile institution through January 12. “And at every age, people organize to resist the best they can to try to stop the calamities from claiming more lives. Progress here means the collective power to stop ourselves from what we are most in danger of becoming. But progress takes a toll, especially on those who want it most. Resistance wears down the spirit, and makes a mess of the body and mind. It is a shame that it feels natural to expect suffering in oneself for the sake of ending it in others, and commonplace to accept this terrible symmetry as the price one pays for progress.”

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Paul Chan, detail, La Baigneur 7 (Teenyelemachus), nylon, fan, dye paint on nylon, shoes, concrete, suicide cords, 2018 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

At Greene Naftali, works such as Khara En Tria (Joyer in 3), 2chained or Genesia and Nemesia, Phenus 1, and La Baigneur 7 (Teenyelemachus) employ specially placed fans to make the figures move in specific patterns with one another, rather than randomly as air dancers usually do. Towels serve as counterweights and also are hung on the walls like canvases. The works recall paintings by Cézanne, Munch, and Renoir but are not celebrations in the sand. Chan continues, “The bather in art breaks with this terrible symmetry by offering an image of another way forward. Works that take up this motif invite us to reflect on how pleasure renews us. They are reminders that pleasing and being pleased – without aggression or guilt – expands our capacity for fellow feeling. Genuine pleasure is rejuvenating. And like that perfect night of sleep, it has a clarifying quality, as if one has emerged from a kind of cleansing. This sense of being cleansed is stimulating and healing, insofar as it helps renew us to more ably face what the day demands.” However, he makes clear: “Progress without pleasure at heart is not progress at all. But pleasure without progress in mind is destructive, deadening, or a bore.”

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Paul Chan, Untitled (Katabasis with suspensions), muslin, nylon, polyfil, wire, wood, rope, inkjet on cotton, 2019 (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Poordysseus is an upside-down bather trapped in a vitrine. The hunched-over, black La Baigneur 7 (Teenyelemachus) includes what Chan calls “suicide cords,” electrical wiring plugged into shoes. The blue Bropheus wears a shirt that says, “Iche Hab Diche Lieb, Mann” (“I love you, man”), and he is situated on a beach towel made of opioid labels and an American flag color scheme. In the back room, smaller models stand on wooden platforms on the wall, studio detritus hanging below. The beach is supposed to be a place of beauty, a respite from the intense pressure of daily life, an opportunity to commune with nature, and one’s fellow human beings, in a carefree manner, despite the possibility of jellyfish and sharks in the water. But Chan also sees at least some hope in “The Bather’s Dilemma”; in the abovementioned essay, he is writing about the Guggenheim show but it also relates to his Greene Naftali exhibit: “Consider the following artworks as spirited invitations that encourage us to recall how enlivening it is to be near or in a river, some lake, or the open sea — and maybe a figure or two, naked or clothed, alone or no, to remember all that has been lost, how close it all is to disappearing, and what it takes to go on.”

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