“Once I Had This Dream,” an exhibition of paintings by Gretchen Scherer, is at Art 3 Gallery through June 24. Scherer, who lives and works in Brooklyn, paints rambling manses and crumbling chateaux as seen through a fun-house mirror—their staircases swerving, their portraits multiplying, their baroque furnishings collapsing into a labyrinth of distorted decor. “I often think about the way I imagine spaces before I see them and how my ideas differ vastly from the way those spaces actually appear,” she says. “It’s these places we create in our minds that inform my paintings … The images I use to collage are mostly from homes in the Victorian era. These pictures hold a fascination for me and cause me to wonder if there is something lurking under the surface. As I’m collaging I imagine the people that lived in those spaces; I begin to catch glimpses of their former lives.”
“Inside-Out,” an exhibition of woven paintings by Samantha Bittman, is at Morgan Lehman Gallery through June 17. Bittman uses a loom to make complexly patterned textiles, which she then overlays with acrylic paint. Her practice derives from a fascination with the timelessness of weaving: “the basics of the over and under warp and weft interlacements has remained unchanged,” she said in an interview with New American Paintings: “I feel like it is evolutionarily locked in our brains somewhere … I am more engaged with the aspects of weaving that are rooted in mathematics and numbers, as well as the accumulative nature of the weaving process … My work typically has an underlying invented logic, either apparent or slightly hidden.”
“Happy Dark,” an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Maren Karlson, is at Brooklyn’s Interstate Projects through June 18. Karlson, who lives and works in Berlin, populates her drawings with demonic cartoons, lurid, sinuous lines, and distended patterns—as if the elemental figures of some netherworld have started to skew and melt under the pressure of their occult lifestyle. Her exhibition takes its title from some lines by Clarice Lispector: “Only the mercy of god could yank me out of that terrible indifferent joy in which I was bathing, complete. For I was exulting. I was coming to know the violence of the happy dark—I was happy as a demon, hell is my maximum.”
I grew up a latchkey kid in a rough, working-class California suburb. My mom worked long hours in the city, so I usually found myself alone in the apartment on weekday evenings, with an antenna TV that picked up three or four fuzzy stations and a radio receiver with seventies-era wood-panel speakers.
I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard Joe Frank’s voice on the radio. It has a low, gravelly tone. It bears resemblance to a traditional broadcasting voice, but it’s more hushed, as if the announcer has finished reading the news, turned off the microphone, poured himself a drink, and begun to confess to a stranger in the production booth
Frank’s shows often begin with gentle, pulsing music, followed by a monologue in which he pretends to be anyone from a third-world dictator to a preening narcissist to a regular person trapped in a nightmare. He enlists voice actors to participate in disturbing dramas in which ex-lovers leave desperate phone messages, argue with strangers, or laugh mechanically for uncomfortable lengths of time.
There’s no way to do his programs justice by describing them here. You have to hear them.
One thing Joe Frank pioneered with his shows is the use of background noises to achieve a documentary effect—something that’s now become almost ubiquitous in nonfiction radio. Frank’s programs turned radio into literature.
In recent years, Frank has been writing brief vignettes meant to be read, rather than performed. Having grown up memorizing his unforgettable voice, it’s impossible for me to read what he writes without hearing him. I’m taken back to my childhood apartment, lying face up on the shag carpet, the lights out, and the whispering anticipation and fear that came in the first moments of his shows.
Being a cartoonist, albeit a rather colicky one, I thought perhaps I might be able to grab onto some of the mood of what his program does without the advantage of sound. So with Joe Frank’s blessing, I’ve turned one of his written vignettes into a cartoon.
“Where I Live,” an exhibition of photos by Tom Arndt, is at Howard Greenberg Gallery through July 7. Arndt, born in Minneapolis in 1944, took these pictures in 2015 and 2016, as he roamed the Twin Cities and their environs, plus North Dakota and Montana. “I am like the people that I photograph,” he has said. “I am not traveling through.”
“The Art of Whipped Cream,” an exhibition of drawings, sketches and paintings by Mark Ryden, is at Paul Kasmin Gallery through July 21. Ryden created this work for the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Whipped Cream, an adaptation of a 1924 Richard Strauss ballet about a boy who eats too much candy and, in the delirium of a world-class sugar high, dreams that his dessert has come to life. Ryden designed props, costumes, and backdrops for the production, combining sugary pinks and pastels with a darker palette of grays and neutrals. The result: a candy land that threatens to become sickeningly sweet.