Art in the City: The Lady and the Tramp 

John Waters: Unwatchable
Marianne Boesky Gallery, 535 W 22nd, Chelsea

Wandering into Marianne Boesky recently, I found John Waters himself — impish, wiry, and mustachioed — giving a tour of his new show. Leaping around the gallery, he pointed out the gags behind the photographs, sculptures, and text pieces, giggling mischievously when we got the punch line. With his trashy, kitschy films now canonized on Broadway, Waters is using visual art to satirize the movie biz. Among the pieces in the show are the title still from gay-porn-horror movie My Ass is Haunted, a sculpture of baby Michael Jackson reaching out to baby Charles Manson, and an audio recording of a box office on the opening night of Harry Potter. Waters takes potshots at art celebrities as well, fabricating focus group surveys of the works of John Currin, Richard Serra, and Cindy Sherman, among others, complete with requests for more “happy colors.” The work is exuberantly goofy and playful — a room full of one-liners that somehow add up to a statement against self-serious, commercial entertainment.

Stefana McClure: The Year of Spagetti and other Works on Paper
Josee Bienvenu Gallery, 529 W 20th, Chelsea

Born in Ireland but obsessed with Japanese culture, Stefana McClure makes extremely subtle text pieces that address the passage of time. Her best-known works are her Films on paper, for which she superimposes the subtitles to an entire film onto a piece of paper, resulting in two soft, blurry lines at the bottom of a color field. For this show, she’s applied the same approach to manga books, such as Atom Boy and Akira, transcribing all of the Japanese text from the speech bubbles onto one colored page. The works function simultaneously as minimal abstractions and as compressed narratives, of which only portions are readable. In a separate body of work, McClure fitted typists with gloves with typewriter balls attached to each finger and asked them to type out a given story onto a Teflon surface. The spinning balls punch random letters into the Teflon, and the prolonged typing creates strange clusters of letters around each finger. These typed pieces are especially opaque, but they offer an interesting new method of mark-making and writing.

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