• Mario Merz

    The Museum of Contemporary Art | MOCA Grand Avenue

    In Mario Merz’s show here, the art looked like it had been brought to the laboratory for examination under controlled conditions. The setting was so clean, so sanitized of all sense of signifying context, that it left Merz’s work looking theatrical and self-important. Arte povera’s arbitrariness reads as material poetics only in situations that exhale some—any—air of cultural history. But MOCA, once you’re inside it, seems as rootless as a space station, and Merz’s work only heightened that impression.

    What this commissioned installation revealed was the tacit psychological program of the building’s

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  • Jim Shaw

    Dennis Anderson Gallery

    Jim Shaw’s show here contained some of the most obsessive, darkly imaginative, funny, and painful work that has stared back at this viewer from any wall in a long time. Consisting of more than 70 pieces of uniform, pagelike size, all hung at eye level, the installation formed a continuous ring around the room, surrounding and trapping visitors. The wide variety of volatile images seemed distilled from inflamed fears, wracked attractions and repulsions—a catalog of conflicting longings and repressions dating from adolescence and beyond. The experience was a little like being swallowed by a whale,

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  • Tom Knechtel

    Pence Gallery

    In the spirit of childhood curiosity and horror, Tom Knechtel has drawn and painted a world of animals, principally the bat. Early in life most children learn that bats are to be feared. The animals’ habits—sleeping upside down, seeing by sonic screeches—seem too complicated and surreal for barbaric city intelligence. Knechtel depicts the maligned creatures in various states of life and death, most of them fantasy dramas. In a series of six silverpoint portraits entitled “A Commedia Dell’Arte Troupe for Nora Klein,” 1988, Knechtel has drawn immaculate straightforward renderings of bats’ faces.

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