Anyone who has yet to screw up his courage, put his Mace can in his pocket and set off in search of East Village art can relax. It's all being brought to you in a painless, safe and guaranteed germ-free procedure. Jones Troyer Gallery, whose exhibition will run through Feb. 23, has brought this visual phenomenon -- the punk answer to Expressionism -- right here into our midst.
East Village art reflects the daily confrontation with dirt, decay and the challenge of urban survival as interpreted by the white middle-class kids, art school grads all, who stream to the Big Apple hoping for art-stardom. It's gutsy, glitzy and intentionally offensive. It rubs your nose in bad taste and street grime and tempers it with just enough charm and humor to make you like it. It glorifies the superficial, makes a mockery of high art and asks to be taken seriously, all at the same time.
David Wojnarowicz metaphorically sums up this scene in "Chicken of the Sea" by superimposing a rough cartoon of an armed mugging over a Day-Glo green supermarket sale poster announcing tuna at $.99. Stephen Lack gives us a dose of the same violence in loose gestural renditions of newspaper scene-of-crime shots.
Marilyn Minter and Christof Kohlhofer collaborate on a painted interpretation of a photo-sequence of the demolishing of the Madison Hotel. Like an updated Rosenquist, it includes diverse imagery -- huge sensuous female lips, a runner and various abstract patterns. It reminds us that the '60s are already ancient history for this crowd and thus ripe for appropriation.
Rhonda Zwillinger works hard at the deification of "tacky." Sequins, glitter, plastic roses, broken mirror and marbles all go into her installations. The curiously rich beauty of these works is a reminder that visual satisfaction is a momentary physical response to stimuli while value comes from knowing something will last. This won't, but that's the point.
If Zwillinger deifies tacky, Rodney Alan Greenblatt and Claudia DeMonte, formerly of Washington, glorify cute. When Greenblatt is not decorating interior installations in a kind of punk-folk frenzy, he is making the little hand-held houses in pretty pastels exhibited here that open to reveal deities of a sort -- a dog, the devil, even a Gumby-like figure -- and announce the triumph of absurdity over reason.
DeMonte disguises the serious nature of her theme, the escape syndrome, by the liberal application of decorative pastel frosting. Her wall pieces are like debased icons and from one to another she flits -- a tiny fleeing figure in a trailing yellow gown -- leaving all her troubles behind her. "Escape From Sahara" is like a Technicolor travelogue in which DeMonte deserts first the Pyramids, and then Greece -- relentlessly on the move.
It may be the nature of the medium that makes the work of Hope Sandrow seem more serious, but her photographs take us yet another step further in our understanding of this art form. And Jonathan Ellis, too, seems contemplatively out of step here. His spiderlike mutations crawl over a barren landscape and remind us what we are in for if we don't watch out. The work of both deserves serious attention.
This show is full of thrills, but it won't surprise anyone to discover that they are no longer "cheap." Ted Fields' Surrealism
Ted Fields makes his living as a dentist, but the sheer quantity of work in this exhibition at the Addison-Ripley Gallery reveals that he spends an extraordinary amount of time making art. His work comes out of a tradition of surrealist sculpture including that of Rene' Magritte and Jean-Robert Ipouste'guy. Life-size figures, or parts of figures, either emerge or submerge, depending on how you look at it, from or into flat black backgrounds. These disembodied parts, naturalistically colored and clothed, perform mundane acts -- dressing, bathing, smoking. Occasionally, a situation purports to be threatening -- a hand reaches for a doorknob through a broken window -- but generally, not much is going on.
Surrealism, to succeed, requires more. It depends upon either a metaphysical quantity or an ironic humor, or both. Neither is present here.
The problem may be his inclusion of color. When Fields tries similar tricks in bronze, the effect is quite different. In one, wing-tip shoes and knee-high socks stand alone and empty. An equally empty glove rests realistically upon a walking stick. There is a quality of mystery here, heightened by the material, which acts as an important distancing device. These well-cast pieces are his most successful works. The exhibition will continue through Feb. 13.