Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start in Tribeca with Mary Manning’s playful, juxtaposing 35-millimeter prints. Then head to Chelsea for Johannah Herr’s riff on New York World’s Fairs of yore. And don’t miss Julia Wachtel’s ironic combinations of cartoons with photographs.
Tuan Andrew Nguyen
Through May 7. James Cohan, 52 Walker Street, Manhattan. 212-714-9500; jamescohan.com.
This exceptionally moving solo takes its title, “Unburied Sounds,” from its main work, a 58-minute narrative film that screens on an hourly schedule in the gallery. Its protagonist, a woman named Nguyet, runs a scrapyard in the coastal province of Quang Tri, an area where the ground is seeded with unexploded bombs and land mines from the American war in Vietnam. Nguyet’s younger brother was killed by a cluster bomb fragment, and she copes with her own crippling PTSD by making abstract, Alexander Calder-style mobiles from salvaged bomb metal.
The film slowly reveals — to us and to her — art to be her salvation. Through a Buddhist monk, she learns to turn the mobiles into musical instruments with healing properties. And through her skill with metal-casting she creates prosthetic limbs for a young man who was brutally disfigured by the same explosion that killed her brother, transforming him into a kind of golden-armed Buddha.
The artist, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, who is a co-founder of the Propeller Group, a collective based in Ho Chi Minh City, supplements the show with chime-like sculptures like those that appear in the film, all fashioned from weaponry and tuned to therapeutic frequencies. But it’s the film, which is far more nuanced and surprising than my description suggests, that’s the treasure. This spring, New York City is rich in full-length videos — a handful form the soul of the 2022 Whitney Biennial — and Nguyen’s is one of the best. HOLLAND COTTER
Through May 21. Canada, 60 Lispenard Street, Manhattan. 212-925-4631; canadanewyork.com.
Everyone is a photographer now. With cameras in nearly every phone, we’re overrun with snapshots taken and either posted or forgotten, accruing in the cloud. Mary Manning’s photographs in “Ambient Music” made me feel awakened to looking at pictures again. The New York-based photographer juxtaposes 35-millimeter prints in clusters and pairs to make beautiful and open compositions that playfully draw you in.
In “Genuflect” (2022), a swan’s head disappears into dark water in the larger central photo. Below is a small photo that looks like a drain (but probably isn’t), neatly scaled to match the diameter of the bird’s neck. In “Bar Soap” (2022), a large still-life of peach tissue paper emerges plantlike from a nested stack of mint green baskets that typically hold berries. This is paired with a vertical arrangement of three images including two of Merce Cunningham dancers in a rainbow of monochrome costumes. In the top one, the dancers are in a line across the stage; below they are diffusely distributed in a variety of movements — from afar the figures are so small they are merely pointillist flurries of color. Like Cunningham, Manning shares a cultivated sense of ease and play that feels undergirded by practiced attention and discipline.
Surrounded by the work, I sensed an affinity with the immersive installations of Wolfgang Tillmans, but the effect here is less busy and more introspective. Manning conjures a careful, slow, and, better world for looking at photos, at least while you’re in the gallery. JOHN VINCLER
Through May 21. Field Projects, 526 West 26th Street, #807, Manhattan; fieldprojectsgallery.com.
With their novelty buildings and “Futurama” attractions, world’s fairs can seem like absurd spectacles, but in her exhibition “I Have Seen the Future,” the artist Johannah Herr, aided by the writer Cara Marsh Sheffler, explores their dark side.
The show takes inspiration from the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs. Mint green gallery walls, trippy wallpaper pieces and linoleum flooring create a ’50s-meets-’60s aesthetic. It seems fun until you start looking closely. The Brooklyn-based artist uses this tactic often, drawing in viewers with dazzling visuals that are loaded with political significance.
Rotating on pedestals are seven colorful, flocked architectural models for buildings in an imaginary fair. Their designs satirize harmful trends and policies of the time, like “The American Home Pavilion (Suburban Jubilee),” 2022, a house with a picket fence so high it recalls prison bars, suggesting the exclusionary ethic of the suburbs. Wall texts by Marsh Sheffler are enthusiastically caustic; one for the “International Pavilion (Exporting America)” (2022) — a globe occupied by pieces of the U.S. map — reads: “See the entire world from a single point of view!”
The show is anything but subtle, but neither are world’s fairs. Herr and Marsh Sheffler deftly adopt their subject’s style and parody it to the point of painful exposure. It’s not limited to the gallery, either — they’ve created a guidebook that mashes up found texts with vintage ads. Like a General Motors pin at the 1939 expo that read “I have seen the future,” it’s the ultimate souvenir. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through June 4. Helena Anrather, 132 Bowery, Manhattan. 917-355-7724; helenaanrather.com.
There’s an enormous picture window at one end of Helena Anrather’s new gallery space, three panes of glass joined, or divided, by thin white epoxy seams. It looks over a block on which at least three different versions of the Bowery — one in Chinatown, one dotted with luxury hotels, and one in the old lighting fixtures district — are all jammed together.
It’s the perfect setting for six new paintings by Julia Wachtel. These landscape-oriented pieces, each made of as many as five separate panels placed edge to edge, juxtapose silk-screened found photographs of contemporary life with oversized hand-painted cartoon characters. In “Fulfillment,” the piece that gives the show its title, a photograph of an endlessly receding Amazon warehouse is placed beside a cartoon reindeer with piercing blue eyes. In “Duck,” a shot of the heavily bearded cast of the reality TV series “Duck Dynasty” is interrupted by a jauntily marching Donald Duck.
At first, the cartoons just come off as comments on the photos. The reindeer is an ironic nod to the cheery mascot that hides every dystopian corporate reality; Donald brings some levity to the weirdly serious “Duck Dynasty” cast. But the characters are so crisp and straightforward next to the fuzzy, ambiguous photographs that they slowly begin to read as an alternate reality, one in which America’s disintegrating public discourse is replaced by the narrow but reliable certainties of art. Whether you find that comforting or unnerving depends on which side you’re looking at. WILL HEINRICH
Through April 30. Pace Gallery, 540 W 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-421-3292, pacegallery.com.
The exhibition title links the name of a Thelonious Monk tune back to the Greek poetic device of a repeating line or phrase. The vocabulary of jazz is built partly on artfully working repetitions: rhythms, melodic lines, the standard. In the gallery, repetitions and revisions enact a call-and-response play across old and new works by three friends — Melvin Edwards, Sam Gilliam and William T. Williams.
I arrived as an unabashed fan of Sam Gilliam’s work, particularly his immense draped cloth paintings. Here “‘A’ and the Carpenter II” (2022) features layers of warm oranges, cool blues, brown-purples flowing in a parabola over a wooden sawhorse, with a gathering of cloth on the floor, knotted into a sphere larger than a basketball. Williams is represented by two paintings of geometric abstractions and three works of asemic writing nodding to Arabic calligraphy and graphic scores.
The revelation is Melvin Edwards’s series utilizing chains and barbed wire, first in mixed-media paintings on paper from the 1970s and then in an untitled 2022 installation. The new piece is paired with a second Gilliam painted-cloth construction and his sketch of draped spilling cloth from 1969. It feels like Edwards has picked up Gilliam’s theme in the drawing and transformed it some 50 years later in his deconstructed web of gleaming barbed wire and, at bottom, curtain-like arcs of chain. The result is a lively dialogue across the decades on freedom versus confinement, and lightness versus heaviness. JOHN VINCLER
Joe Bradley: Bhoga Marga
Through April 30 at Petzel, 456 West 18th Street, Manhattan; 212-680-9467, petzel.com.
Joe Bradley has been having solo shows in New York galleries since 2003. But his latest at Petzel — his first in six years — feels like the first show of the rest of his career.
His new paintings are strong-colored works that balance gracefully between representation and abstraction. They may be the most conventional of Bradley’s career, but they are also the most engaging.
Bradley devoted the first decade of his CV to what might be called ironic, anti-painting paintings. They were post-conceptual and challenging: You had to decide if they qualified as paintings. The best of these bare-minimum works was a series of enormous raw canvases that boasted a single motif outlined in black oil crayon. While monumental, they had the intimacy of doodles and were drawn all at once without adjustments, which was impressive.
Then came a transitional phase during which Bradley started applying paint with a wide brush to dirty canvases whose footprints and paint drips were part of the composition. These were rough and beautifully scaled. But the play of intention against accident was familiar, from somewhere between Julian Schnabel and Abstract Expressionism. ROBERTA SMITH
Lower East Side
Through April 30. Sperone Westwater, 257 Bowery, Manhattan; 212-999-7337, speronewestwater.com.
Embroidering on reality, Joana Choumali takes color photographs in her native Ivory Coast, prints them on cotton canvas and embellishes them with stitching. Shocking-pink balloons, flowering-branch headpieces or silver lines that radiate like energy fields transform a windswept beach or a littered unpaved street into a fairyland.
A sequence of twelve embroidered iPhone photographs that she made of Grand-Bassam, a beach resort that was devastated by a terrorist attack in 2016, won the prestigious Prix Pictet three years later. Choumali titled the series “Ça va aller,” a local expression that translates loosely as “It’s gonna be all right.”
Those pictures are included in “It Still Feels Like the Right Time,” her first solo exhibition in this country. Most depict solitary pedestrians with a melancholy stillness that is complicated by the colorful handwork. The instantaneous snap of the picture-taking is countered by the laborious meditative process of the stitching.
In a subsequent collection produced this year, “Alba’hian,” which in the Anyin language denotes the energy of dawn, Choumali works on a larger scale, portraying groups of people, sometimes in multipanel compositions. These photographs have been collaged to create theatrically flamboyant skies and larger-than-life figures. The tropical scenes are lusher, with luxuriant vegetation, and the embroidery denser. They are covered with a delicate voile, as if shrouded by a humid mist.
In one, “I Am Enough” (2022), a sorceress juggles planets as she stands alongside a beach pier, conjuring the cosmic in the quotidian. It could be Choumali’s self-portrait. ARTHUR LUBOW
Lula Mae Blocton
Through April 30. Skoto Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, Manhattan, 212-352-8058, skotogallery.com.
I encountered Lula Mae Blocton’s art for the first time only three years ago in the traveling exhibition “Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989.” In that febrile, figure-intensive show her 1975 abstract geometric painting “Summer Ease” was a meditative stopping point. The politics of the era were present but indirect: The colors were those of the rainbow flag, but tonally nuanced and applied to an off-center grid of rectangles. The work didn’t directly read as gay or Black, or feminist, which may be one reason Skoto’s tight survey of two decades of early work, from 1970-1980, curated by Barbara Stehle, is Blocton’s first New York City solo since 1978.
It’s a beauty. The early geometric oil paintings and wonderful colored pencil drawings, with their stroke-by-stroke textures and blurred contours, have the look of soft woven cloth. With the 1980s, their foursquare geometry splinters into diagonals in adjustable, multipanel compositions. Illusionistic space turns some of these paintings into galactic landscapes. And the interest in prismatic color intensifies: Light, optical and, one senses, metaphorical, becomes a primary subject.
Her work beyond the 1980s has been much influenced by African textile designs, as will no doubt be evident in future shows at Skoto, which is planning a career survey as a series of solo exhibitions shows. I look forward to seeing this visual narrative unfold and to being brought up-to-date on what’s happening with this artist-illuminator, who is in her 70s, in the Now. HOLLAND COTTER
Barkley L. Hendricks
Through April 30. Jack Shainman Gallery, 513 West 20th Street, Manhattan; 212-645-1701, jackshainman.com.
The African American painter Barkley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) is best known for his portraits, but the sixteen Basketball Paintings now at Jack Shainman, made between 1966 and 1971, are just as exciting. (During lockdown, Shainman featured them in an online show.)
Some are straight-ahead depictions of hoops and backboards and balls. Others take the game’s signature forms — the ball’s circle, the arcs and right angles of a court’s markings — and turn them into pure pattern.
The standard way to talk about such works is in terms of late ’60s battles between abstraction and representation: They seem to hesitate between the two, as though Hendricks had yet to settle on his trademark figuration.
I prefer to read them metaphorically, less about issues of style as about the game of art, and the skills and positioning it takes to score in it. If art is like basketball, then painting becomes more verb than noun, more action than object. It’s about a set of moves, and the rules that shape what counts as fair or foul — and who gets to play at all.
The Basketball Paintings stage a witty demonstration of all the ways there were to score points in their era, from the new hyper-realism to the latest in color-field art.
Hendricks was between college and graduate school when he made most of them, so we can think of him as still semipro but picturing life in the majors.
These brilliant paintings prove he was already there. BLAKE GOPNIK
Through April 30. Marlborough, 545 West 25th Street, Manhattan. 212-541 4900; marlboroughnewyork.com.
The British artist Maggi Hambling has painted churning seas, violent sprays and other roiling bodies of water for the last two decades, but the suite of pictures she made last year, emphatically rendered snow-capped peaks dissolving into glacial melt, on view in her current show, “Real Time,” are sparer and sadder. Their calligraphic marks and impressionistic application recall Chinese literati and Japanese nanga painting, but with reverence for the natural world displaced by rage.
Hambling’s stuttering strokes seem to cascade like condensation, whorls of indigo and optic white weeping into marine and slicks of silver. In places the paint is caked onto the canvas in icing-thick impasto, elsewhere it’s ghostly thin, so delicate as to seem to seep through from the back of the canvas — an elegy for the rapidly vanishing. The cool palette can feel soothing, until you remember you’re looking at a cataclysm.
These are joined by another series of human crimes against nature: animals in captivity. Like Hambling’s liquefying landscapes, these rattle between abstraction and figure, so that the defeated heap of a lion jolts into view as quickly as it fades away again, and the silhouette of a polar bear flickers as it’s overwhelmed by a fluid blue-gray field. These are not happy paintings. Hambling depicts her creatures inching toward death or having already arrived there. They’re also proxies for the rest of us, and the prisons of our own design. A dancing circus bear, its torqued face shifting between euphoria and agony, suggests there’s more than one way to dissolve. MAX LAKIN
More to See
Through May 7. Yossi Milo Gallery, 245 10th Avenue, Manhattan. 212-414-0370; yossimilo.com.
Cameron Welch’s solo show, “Ruins,” at Yossi Milo is a knockout — in almost the physical sense. It is full of large, ambitious, brilliantly executed mosaics full of so many disparate cultural references, snarling faces and masks and intimations of violence that it can initially be hard to focus.
Such artistic confidence and artisanal finesse can feel like Neo-Expressionism all over again and is especially reminiscent of the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, although Basquiat had a finer appreciation of empty space and breathing room. Welch seems guided by an unwavering horror vacui. His mosaics carom from the Greco-Roman-African worlds to our own uneasy time, with many stops in between.
At the center of his mosaic “Fugue State,” is a Pietà, with some role reversal: A woman in a Burberry plaid shroud lies across the lap of a probably male figure, perhaps Christ enthroned. To the left, a cherub and the Lamb of God. To the right, a prone female nude out of Modigliani, a devil wielding a brush and palette and a protester holding an anti-police sign who resembles Jordan Wolfson’s demonic animatronic puppet, ambiguously titled “Colored Sculpture.”
Welch, who is 31, was making painting-collages before taking up mosaic four or five years ago. He has improved rapidly, enriching and updating his medium with pieces of marble, stone and several kinds of reverse glass imagery (abstract painting, photographs of ancient pottery, his handprints). To say that he might have discovered his artistic destiny is putting it mildly. ROBERTA SMITH
Lower East Side
Through May 14. Ramiken, 389 Grand Street, 917-434-4245, ramiken.biz.
Painting is always in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, it harks back to basic instincts, like the marks made by children with whatever materials they can find. At the same time, it’s an academic discipline that demands a measure of philosophical significance to exert its critical and economic value. Credibly bridging these poles is a challenge, which the Berlin-based painter Lukas Quietzsch pulls off in his show “Parallel Warnings in Simple Arrangements.”
The seven large paintings here are simultaneously casual but meticulous, dumb and sophisticated. Quietzsch paints with gouache on canvas, giving the works a weathered look. The carefree acid-house approach is pushed further in canvases like “Untitled” (2021), which depicts an egg yolk wearing sunglasses at the center of a multicolored sunflower. Other works are more abstract and rigorous, with jigsaw compositions or blown-out centers, suggesting the collapse of painterly order and linear perspective.
Two “Untitled” (2021) canvases — one mostly black and white, and one dominated by passages of juicy crimson — include an elegant jumble of shapes that perform a perceptual bait-and-switch. Confusing background and foreground, the geometric forms here open into other possible paintings, like a series of portals.
As the exhibition title suggests, Quietzsch’s practice aims to work on multiple registers. This applies to ethos and credibility too, which are established through painterly marks. After all, who do you trust more in today’s world: the rational, cultivated painter or the transgressive naïf? Quietzsch attempts to split the difference and largely succeeds. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova
Through May 14. Heller Gallery, 303 10th Avenue, Manhattan. 212-414-4014; hellergallery.com.
When the midday sun floods the windows of the Heller Gallery in Manhattan, the 19 pieces of cast glass by the Czech artists Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova illuminate the room like a medieval chapel. That’s no accident. Works by the internationally acclaimed couple — Libensky died in 2002, Brychtova in 2020 — include windows for St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, and an extraordinary tiny chapel in the Czech town of Horsovsky Tyn. Applying their talents to what had long been the province of goblets and chandeliers, they explored glass as a sculptural medium, teasing out its secrets of light and color.
The exhibition showcases such gems as “Tall Head,” a foot-high casting with a reverse-relief head encased in its folds. Its color shades from amber to burgundy, varying with the light and the thickness of the glass. Heads were a common theme for the couple: With “Cross Head,” a brutally angular piece in orange, inner voids make the light play with the thickness and polished surface of the glass, while “T-Head,” a 400-pound half oval of gray-green glass, is inspired by bronze Hellenic helmets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Some of the pieces here are maquettes, small trial versions of what would eventually be castings 3 or 4 feet tall. This includes the exquisite 8 ½-inch high “Arcus III,” a keyhole-shaped piece whose color ranges from sapphire blue to pinkish brown. The artists’ use of color creates a vibrant emotional pull: The pastel hue of “Diagonal,” a raspberry-sorbet-colored square arch seems to exude happiness. PETER S. GREEN
Through May 14. Bridget Donahue, 99 Bowery, 2nd floor, Manhattan. 646-896-1368; bridgetdonahue.nyc.
The comedic performer Morgan Bassichis is probably best known for shows that are a kind of queer, lefty, Jewish love child of cabaret and stand-up comedy. But the artist, who uses the pronouns they/them, has also made videos, albums and books, elements of which are featured in “Questions to Ask Beforehand,” their first solo exhibition (accompanied by a few live performances).
It’s a tricky transition. Bassichis’s work turns so much on the energy of human interaction, I found the gallery a little lonely. But four videos provide good grounding. In one, filmed in a bathtub, Bassichis sings rousingly about how “you can do anything in the bathroom”; in the others, from a series called “Pitchy” (2020), the artist answers an interviewer’s questions with coy, chanted improvisations, repeating phrases until they gain an incantatory power. Bassichis is masterly at creating a feeling that’s simultaneously conspiratorial and uncomfortable, like when someone tells a joke, and you’re not sure you totally get it, but you laugh anyway.
Bassichis’s persona is a fool who’s actually a wise man (I think). In the titular installation, made with DonChristian Jones, a set of pamphlets lists questions to ponder in advance of different situations. One for joining an organization reads, “Are we sure history will look favorably on us?” along with, “I forget, we are or we are not anarchists?”
I relate to the anxiety that drives such inquiries, and I admire Bassichis’s ability to turn it into art. What I get from their work, in addition to much-needed laughter, are ideas for how to critically, caringly and creatively approach the daunting world. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Lower East Side
Amalgamation: 10 Years of Shin Gallery
Through May 21 at Shin Gallery, 322 Grand Street, Manhattan. 212-375-1735; shin-gallery.com.
You may wonder whether you’ve found a curiosities shop upon entering Shin Gallery’s 10-year anniversary exhibition. The show charts the gallery’s history in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and its namesake collector’s wild but slyly judicious tendencies, with nearly 100 items filling three rooms.
The show, fittingly titled “Amalgamation,” creates groupings at times brilliantly intuitive, like a drawing of a reclining onanistic female figure by Egon Schiele paired with a monoprint on a pillow by Tracey Emin (who exhibited her own disheveled bed in 1999 at the Tate in London). Elsewhere, the connections are delightfully weird, as in Henry Moore’s sketch of huddled biomorphic fragments, “Ideas for Wood Sculpture” (1932), sandwiched between James Castle’s childlike composition of a figure in front of a house and the French master François Boucher’s “Death of Meleager” (ca. 1720), in black chalk, ink and wash on cream paper. A baby bird drawing by Bill Traylor (1939) in pencil on cardboard appears to be fleeing the scene, as the drawings that occupy the first room are hung mostly frame to frame, putting masters besides outsiders. JOHN VINCLER
Upper East Side
‘Pompeii in Color: The Life of Roman Painting’
Through May 29. Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 15 East 84th Street, Manhattan. 212-992-7800; isaw.nyu.edu.
This unusual loan of Pompeian frescoes from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy — arranged by the curator Clare Fitzgerald — is a rare chance to catch ancient Roman visual culture mid-stride.
Consider one six-and-a-half-foot-tall portrait of Hercules and Omphale — a queen who briefly enslaved the famous demigod. At first, its colorful but faded surfaces give you the impression of a sketch waiting for final details, though you can still appreciate the cunning composition. Drunken Hercules, leaning on a helper, turns one way and severe Omphale the other, yet they’re both head-on to the viewer, with a discreet crowd of extras tucked neatly behind their shoulders. A delicate balance of pinks and blues makes the picture vivid but not aggressive — perfect dining room décor.
But enough detail does survive not only to make the picture engaging, but also to make its mythical scene seem less like a religious archetype than a homey fairy tale. Hercules, the strongest man in the world, is blind drunk and staggering — you can see it from the way his legs turn and his eyes gape open — and he’s put on Omphale’s clothes. Omphale’s look is harder to parse. Is it contempt? Indignation? Either way, she’s clearly unamused. Two attendants turn to each other, one with a gossipy “can you believe this?” look, the other praying; an old man supporting Hercules is too worried about keeping him upright to spare a thought for disapproval. WILL HEINRICH
Through June 4. Flag Art Foundation, 545 West 25th Street, Manhattan. 212-206-0220; flagartfoundation.org.
The first thing I heard about Peter Uka, a Nigerian painter based in Cologne, Germany, is that his father was a sign painter. I couldn’t help finding echoes of this family business in Uka’s New York debut, a suite of incredibly appealing scenes, painted from memory and imagination, of the groovy Nigeria of his 1970s childhood.
There’s the mileage he gets out of large blocks of color, like a bright yellow door set in a cool gray wall in “Dengue Pose II.” And there’s the slick pop of the colors themselves — the orange wall behind a young woman in a white dress in “Front Yard Things,” the deep red backdrop behind three giddy young men in “Sunday Folks.” There’s the graphic zip of his compositions, as jaunty and well-balanced as avant-garde record album covers. And there’s his overall economy, the way he confidently foreshortens a pointing finger or builds convincing faces from nothing but highlight and shadow.
But in the end what struck me most was how comfortable Uka is giving visual pleasure. It’s interesting in this respect to compare his “Basement Barbers” (2018) to Kerry James Marshall’s 1993 masterpiece, “De Style.” Where Marshall’s painting is grand, political, aggressive and inspiring, Uka’s is quieter and more intimate, a real everyday moment presented just as it is. WILL HEINRICH
Through June 11. Blank Forms, 468 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn. 347-916-0833; blankforms.org.
Jerry Hunt (1943-93) was a lot of things: a “virtuoso talker,” according to a new book devoted to the artist; a modern-day shaman who was a cross between a 1950s insurance salesman and the Beat writer William S. Burroughs; and an electronic music pioneer who lived in Texas but was better known in Europe. “Transmissions From the Pleroma” at Blank Forms examines Hunt’s career, showcasing his videos, photographs of his outré performances, handwritten musical scores and enigmatic objects such as his totem-like “wands,” made with the assemblage artist David McManaway.
Born in Waco, Texas, Hunt was trained as a classical pianist and plied his craft everywhere, from jazz clubs to strip clubs. However, he once said, “I might have given up on music altogether if it hadn’t been for John Cage and the new emphasis he gave to communication.” Cage’s experimental influence can be felt everywhere in Hunt’s work, from videos in which he carries on absurd conversations to musical scores that look more like abstract drawings. The curious “wands,” often used in performances, cobble together sticks, old gloves and hardware parts.
One deadpan video is titled “How to Kill Yourself Using the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide Gas” (1993). The work calls to mind the famous existentially tinged quote by the French writer Albert Camus: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Hunt’s video adds to that proposition a consideration of everyone else who might be affected by that decision. Suicide, after all, as he stresses, involves more than the individual performer. MARTHA SCHWENDENER