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New York

What's on in NYC: Barbara Kruger’s return and Ana Mendieta’s hirsute visions

Plus two offbeat takes on Abstract Expressionism

Galerie Lelong has successfully kept the work of Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta alive and surprising since her premature death in 1985. In this, the third exhibition of her work, Galerie Lelong presents a series of early photographic and video works as well as Mendieta’ s better known later series of works entitled “Body tracks”. In this series, “Facial hair transformations” and “Facial cosmetic variations”, both from the early 1970s, are clearly indicative of Mendieta’s then-groundbreaking interest in the body, gender, and disguise. The first work documents Mendieta’s removal of the facial hair of a male companion and the placement of his hair on her own face. In the startling series of self-portraits which comprise the second work, Mendieta disguises her appearance with cosmetics, wigs, and prosthetic devices. Bucking all conventions of feminine beauty, the artist theatrically distorts her face in works that foreshadow Cindy Sherman by more than a decade. Ana Mendieta, until 20 December, Galerie Lelong, 20 West 57th Street, 5th floor, NY 10019; % +1 212 315 0470; fax +1 212 262 0624

Canadian artist Rodney Graham is presenting his film “Vexation Island” at 303 Gallery. The film debuted this summer at the Venice Biennale and documents the type of Sisyphean tasks that Bruce Nauman’s videos have agonisingly explored over the last couple of decades. The Cinemascope film shows the artist dressed in eighteenth-century garb as a castaway on a desert island. Apparently asleep or unconscious on the beach, Graham is watched over by his parrot, as the camera occasionally zooms in on his bloody forehead. Finally awakening, the artist-Robinson Crusoe gets up and starts to shake the coconut tree only to be knocked out by the falling fruit. Repeated over and over, the film supposedly upends the familiar tale of progress and triumph implicit in Defoe’s novel.

Rodney Graham, until 20 Dec, 303 Gallery, 525 West 22nd, NY 10011, % +1 212 255 1121, fax +1 212 255 0024.

Re-emerging after a four year disappearance, Barbara Kruger is back with Eighties-style bravado. The artist famous for her advertisement-like slogans has simultaneous shows at Mary Boone and at Jeffrey Deitch’s cavernous new space on Wooster Street. In addition to this double-dose, Kruger has hired a bus to travel on a circuit from Eastern Queens to the Empire State Building bedecked with the catchy Krugerisms which have now become Eighties graphic art (and shopping bag) classics. Kruger claims that it was her last few years spent living in celebrity-crazed LA that inspired her recent series of portraits. These works are faux-marble likenesses of J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn and a life-size half-exposed Marilyn Monroe perched on the outstretched arms of Bobby and Jack Kennedy. At Deitch’s space Kruger is showing a mix of videos and projected slogans.

Barbara Kruger, until 20 Dec, Mary Boone 745 Fifth Avenue, NY 10151, % +1 212 752 2929, fax +1 212 752 3939; Jeffrey Deitch, 18 Wooster Street, NY 10012, +1 212 343 7300, fax +1 212 343 2954).

Matthew Marks will present deadpan German photographer Andreas Gursky’s work in December. Gursky photographs both landscapes and interior views, producing large format colour images that subtly manipulate perspective to create panoramas. Exploring the manner in which human life, industry, and the environment mould and control each other, Gursky has explored the cityscapes of Hong Kong, Salerno, Singapore and Los Angeles, capturing each city’s abstract topographical outline in still, meditative images. Gursky lives and works in Düsseldorf, where he studied with the famous husband-and-wife photography team, Bernd and Hilla Becher.

Andreas Gursky, until 24 Dec, Matthew Marks, 523 West 24th St, NY 10011, % +1 212 243 0200, fax +1 212 243 0047.

At Cheim and Reid the work of Joan Mitchell and John Chamberlain will be juxtaposed. Mitchell and Chamberlain have remarkably similar histories according to the catalogue text written by critic Klaus Kertess. Both artists were born within a year of each other, grew up in Chicago, and attended that city’s Art Institute. Both were enormously influenced by Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, and were inspired by contemporary poets-she favoured Frank O’Hara and he Robert Creely. Although the group of works on exhibit suggest few direct formal similarities, the comparison’s strength lies in the two artists’ translation of Abstract Expressionism through each of their respective vocabularies of fervid paint strokes and crushed and folded scrambled car parts.

Joan Mitchell and John Chamberlain, until 10 Jan 1998, Cheim and Reid, 521 West 23rd Street, NY 10011, % +1 212 242 7727, fax +1 212 242 7737.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 76 December 1997