“Charles Ray,” Matthew Marks (24th St., through April 18)
“John Chamberlain,” Gagosian (24th St., through April 4)
**”Ron Arad: In Reverse,” Paul Kasmin (27th St., through March 14)
Charles Ray has accrued an engaging oeuvre through his ability to come up with novel objects that tap the psyche uncomfortably but always deliver a primary sensation of art play. His memorable colossal toy fire-truck parked on Madison Ave. nearly took the edge off the infamous 1993 Whitney Biennial; and his Freudian family mannequins are already compelling classics. The gilded relic currently on display at Matthew Marks–a (real) truck compacted down to a 5-ft. or so coffin-rectangle encased in silvery chrome–well, there you have it, alone in the ginormous gallery–a bit overdetermined by its surrounding void. (It’s definitely “something,” and there is one additional piece in an ante-gallery for suggestive context.)
Still, visually (at the very least) Ray’s metal junk-cube pales in (inevitable) comparison with the exuberance of car-crush pro John Chamberlain’s sculptures down the street at Gagosian. The diversity of Chamberlain’s medium-restricted abstractions is always impressive, never mind in the midst of another museum-challenging (and winning) extravaganza that pairs Chamberlain’s postwar American art innovation with full-scale, reconstructed, industrial-inspired environments by French mid-century architect, Jean Prouve. (What’s overdetermined here is the invisible but palpable, piped-in macho characteristic of installations in this space in particular within Gagosian’s enterprise!)
**I will admit that I missed (by a few days) what may be the tour-de-force of this sub-genre, the compressed Fiat 500 wall “paintings” by Ron Arad at Kasmin, and flipped when I noticed it online – wow. The idea was to flip the idea of designing 3-D utilitarian objects on the screen, a staple for the internationally renowned designer, and re-turn such things into purely aesthetic objects. Anyone interested in this sort of thing, you need to know about this. I was introduced to Arad’s work over two decades ago at the Cartier Fondation’s then new building (Blvd. Raspail). In Jean Nouvel’s jewel-like, faceted space were shining steel kidney-bean-shaped tables covering a huge gallery like a puzzle shaken slightly apart. From a above, it was floating lily pads, like a giant, futuristic Monet. You can find images on the web. I didn’t have to. It made a strong, lasting impression.
on the scree