Back to Nature
Some artists range far and wide for inspiration; others look no farther than their own backyard. Case in point: Jessica Bartlet, who depicts a former piece of Connecticut farmland, painted over four years, in Backyard Wilderness. A series of diptychs and triptychs, some of the landscapes are cheerful bucolic scenes, such as “Backyard Mid October” (right, 2012). Others include a house or barn, comfortably coexisting with the vegetation. But in some, the structure is isolated or barely glimpsed—as if to say, nature invariably engulfs man’s efforts.
» First Street Gallery, 526 W. 26th St., 646.336.8053, thru Mar. 23
Asia on the Hudson
Tying into Asia Week New York (Mar. 15-23), the Pier Antiques Show, that vernal riverside festival of collectibles, features a number of Eastern art experts, including The Ivory Tower, whose wares include this Satsuma jar (left, ca. 1900-10), a typical work by Japanese artist Yabu Meizan. Known as The Master of Detail, Yabu used a single-hair brush to paint a serene lakeside (complete with Mt. Fuji in the background) and tiny, pretty figures: ladies in kimonos, kids learning calligraphy. It’s a bit anachronistic—early-20th-century Japan was already an industrialized, and increasingly militarized, power. But this jar, made for export to the West, depicts “how Westerners perceived Japan to be,“ says Ivory Tower Vice President Matthew Baer, “not necessarily the way it was.”
» Pier Antiques Show, Pier 94, 12th Ave., at W. 55th St., 973.808.5015, Mar. 16-17
For artist Joe Sorren, painting is “like hanging out with the most magnificent creatures, sometimes small, sometimes big … always fleeting.” His softly colored fantasies evolve slowly, “waiting to see what happens.” What happened with “The Overture” over three months in 2008 is at right: a fairy-tale scene, in which a redheaded belle, knee-deep in water, peels off her ball gown—paralleling the emergence of an umbrella-toting figure from a tree trunk nearby. The painting, along with other Sorren works both old and new, is on view in The Great Cantaloupe Day.
» AFA, 54 Greene St., 212.226.7374, thru Mar. 31
Bump ‘n’ Grind
A gap-toothed skull fixes you with a “Death Stare.” A bikini-clad babe brandishes a pistol, the words Love Gun None stenciled above her. A multicolored motorbike roars down a tangerine road (“Thunder 66,” left, 2013). Welcome to the Grindhouse, Australian artist Johnny Romeo’s homage to the world of exploitation movies, and all the things that make them great: sex, drugs, violence. The subject matter of this solo exhibit may be gritty, but the paintings are almost pretty, the panache of the pretty psychedelic palette and the broad brushstrokes (executed with a childlike energy) suggesting that Romeo’s tongue is firmly in cheek. Like a car crash, you just can’t look away.
» Porter Contemporary, 548 W. 28th St., 212.696.7432, thru Mar. 30