What does New York Art Galleries Have This Week?

Bunny Rogers

Through Oct. 9. Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan; 212-570-3600, whitney.org.

The artist Bunny Rogers, who was born in 1990 and is a published poet, has received a lot of attention in a short amount of time. Now she is having her first museum exhibition in the United States, a large video installation titled “Brig Und Ladder” that meditates on the pain of teenage alienation.

Like many of her contemporaries, Ms. Rogers works with an extended back story. But the haunting quality of her animated videos and the impressive physical precision of her objects can be alluring, as often happens with the works of other cosmologically minded artists — like Matthew Barney, for example, or members of a younger generation, like Kaari Upson and Helen Marten.

At the center of Ms. Rogers’s cosmology is the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, its spectacularization in the media and the disturbing sympathy online for the shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, especially among young women who called themselves Columbiners. Around this charged center swirl references to television shows like “Clone High,” an animated parody of overly earnest teen dramas; the melancholy music of Elliott Smith; and Tilikum the orca at Sea World who killed three people. And throughout floats the question of the outlets that teenage girls, as opposed to boys, find for anger and fear.

From left, “A Very Special Holiday Performance in Columbine Auditorium”; Tilikum body pillow; and Columbine Auditorium seating, all from 2017. CreditBill Orcutt

Ms. Rogers explored the tragedy in “Columbine Library” (2014) and “Columbine Cafeteria” (2016); “Brig Und Ladder” concludes the trilogy. In a theater setting, it starts with a slightly tedious video titled “A Very Special Holiday Performance in Columbine Auditorium,” in which three sad young women — including Joan of Arc, from “Clone High” — perform “Memory,” the soppy hit from “Cats,” slowly, lugubriously and in Russian. It could easily be a memorial service. A large stuffed-animal body pillow of Tilikum lies beside the screen, offering comfort. A doorway with red velvet curtains leads backstage to three sets of sculptures: mops for cleaning up blood; office chairs seemingly gouged by bullets; and elegant ladders, a means of escape or a stairway to heaven.

Additional pieces include “Memorial Wall (fall),” a stretch of chain-link fence festooned with red leaf-shapes that evoke room fresheners, and “Lady train set,” a large painted wood version of the perky young neighbor, named Lady, from the “Thomas & Friends” series. Her cheerfulness seems poignantly out of place.

ROBERTA SMITH

Works by Mary Heilmann, from left: “Davis Sliding Square” (1977); and “1st Three for Two: Red, Yellow, Blue” (1975), on view at Craig F. Starr Gallery. CreditDan Bradica

Mary Heilmann

Through Oct 28. Craig F. Starr Gallery, 5 East 73rd Street, Manhattan; 212-570-1739, craigstarr.com.

In the end, all art is Process Art. The first and last things you see in an artwork are the materials and methods with which it is made. This is nowhere more evident than in painting, which is essentially the history of its changing surfaces and techniques. Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings made process conspicuous and within a decade his influence was epidemic, especially in three dimensions. When the term Process Art was coined in the early 1970s, it generally referred to sculpture and installation art, thanks to artists like Allan Kaprow, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier and Eva Hesse. But a few dissented and made process paintings, including Jennifer Bartlett, Harriet Korman, Lois Lane and Mary Heilmann, who from 1975 to 1978, pared down the medium to the red, yellow and blue abstractions presented in an adamant, invigorating exhibition at Craig F. Starr Gallery.

After studying painting and ceramics and trying her hand at sculpture in the late 1960s, Ms. Heilmann, then based in Los Angeles, returned to painting but stayed very much in the Process Art game. The group of 13 compact, blazing works on display here show her hitting her stride. Her exclusive use of primary colors offhandedly challenged Mondrian and Barnett Newman. Her thick, boxy canvases were object-like and sculptural, and her technique relates to glazing ceramics, as three bowls by the artist attest here. Her compositions are mostly fields of color with contrasting bands of at their edges, blue within yellow or red and vice versa; some of the bands are brushy, others hard-edge.

The results are bold and obvious, like flags, easy-peasy you might say. But they are also magical and mysterious, especially if you try to figure them out. Which colors are on top, which underneath? Which layer has the textures of the brush? Which bands of color are paint added or paint subtracted, stripped away with a squeegee while wet? Why do they look silk-screened when they are made by hand? Most were clearly made quickly and incisively, which required a great deal of planning and concentration — one move after another with no re-dos. The works make reference to Josef Alber’s concentric squares and Frank Stella’s stripes and go beyond, to a signal demolition of the customary division between geometry and gesture.

ROBERTA SMITH

Installation view of “Palais de Justice” at Paula Cooper Gallery. CreditSteven Probert

Carey Young

Through Oct. 14. Paula Cooper Gallery, 534 West 21st Street, Manhattan; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.

Brussels has drawn even with Berlin as Europe’s coolest city for contemporary art, but amid its new galleries and cheap studios are grand, gruesome reminders of Belgium’s 19th-century empire. None are more imposing than the Palais de Justice, or central courthouse, a ghastly mash-up of Baroque, classical and Assyrian motifs that sprawls over more than six acres of the capital’s heart. (“It wants to be as terrible as the Law, severe and sumptuously naked,” Verlaine wrote after seeing it.) It’s here that the British-American artist Carey Young shot her icy, thoughtful, technically accomplished new video, which takes a distinctly feminist view of jurisprudence.

In “Palais de Justice,” establishing shots of the monstrous courthouse precede long takes of female judges at work, which Ms. Young filmed without permission through the portholes of courtroom doors. Lawyers, defendants and witnesses appear only in partial view, blocked by walls or curtains, as the stern-faced magistrates, all middle-aged and wearing black robes with white neck bands, nod along or stare down petitioners. We never hear the pleas, only ghostly, ambient sounds from the giant courthouse’s halls, and the silent female judges appear unimpressed and unbending. (An associated series of depopulated photographs of the courthouse, bearing the Kafkaesque title “Before the Law,” doubles down on the video’s eeriness.)

“Palais de Justice” is projected here at massive scale, as domineering as the courthouse itself, and its view of gender and law is at once sensitive and bleak. You may briefly fantasize that Ms. Young has found some alternate Brussels where women are in charge. But more often, and more disturbingly, it feels like a juridical peep show, in which the criminal law appears as just a special case of a male-dominated society’s pitiless daily judgments.

JASON FARAGO

Mike Kuchar’s “Blue Eyes,” 1980-2000s. CreditAnton Kern Gallery 

Mike Kuchar

Through Oct. 7. Anton Kern, 16 East 55th Street, Manhattan; 212-367-9663, antonkerngallery.com.

Mike Kuchar’s over-the-top felt-tip-and-ink drawings of gay male fantasyare weirdly innocent. The underground filmmaker (and twin brother of the other filmmaking Kuchar, George) started dreaming up his bronze-skinned, blue-eyed, naked Vikings and gladiators in the 1960s as commissioned illustrations for privately printed comic books.

In the exhibition “Drawings by Mike!,” they still have the bright colors, lush details and graphic anatomical exaggerations of a vintage Mad Magazine cover. They also have Mad’s vaudeville-style over-determination, the conviction that any joke worth telling is worth telling again: Candles drip, bottles of Champagne and rum spurt, and the naïve farmhand in “Adam’s Eden” has “GOOD BOY” and “BAD BOY” tattooed on his shoulders to underscore the miniature devil and angel sparring to advise him.

But in contrast to those spurting bottles, the key to the drawings’ dreamy innocence is that the serpent in this garden hasn’t yet brought down la petite mort on anyone’s head. In fact, Mr. Kuchar’s achievement is to have combined such vividly realized details — the farmhand’s pout, the turn of a berserker’s hip, a reticulated green brontosaurus — into scenes that seem oversaturated with sexual suggestion but are actually completely unspecific. In “Play Stations,” two naked men stand in front of a basement wall covered with crudely lettered graffiti expressing crudely transactional desires and demands, and they look utterly befuddled, as if they have no idea what to do with each other.

By ROBERTA SMITH, JASON FARAGO and WILL HEINRICH

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