In the late 1950s, New York artist Ray Johnson started mailing flyers and letters to friends and acquaintances. Most ended with an instruction to add something and send the whole thing on to someone else.
Soon a large network of people who exchanged art and ideas through the postal system was born -- decades before Facebook or the Internet. Dubbed the New York Correspondence School, it continued to grow even after its founder’s suicide in 1995.
Johnson’s influence on younger artists is the subject of “Ray’s a Laugh,” a new show at Half Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Artist and actor Leo Fitzpatrick paired several fantastic Johnson collages, lent by Richard L. Feigen & Co. gallery on the Upper East Side, with pieces by his friends, including fashionable 30-somethings Dan Colen, Nate Lowman and Josh Smith.
Eight ink-stained dollar bills on canvas by Hanna Liden echo Johnson’s small collage featuring a single dollar bill and the inscription “Dear Pablo Picasso.” Dash Snow’s naughty hatchling, made of sea shells and adorned with a cigarette butt, plays off Johnson’s collage featuring a cherub and a queen.
Prices range from $500 to $36,000. The show runs through Sept. 7 at 208 Forsyth St.; http://halfgallery.com.
Ella Kruglyanskaya’s painting “Lobster Picnic” depicts a large red crustacean flanked by two plump women. The canvas is part of a two-person show at James Fuentes gallery.
Placed at the center of a colorful blanket, the sea creature looks less like food and more like the star of the composition. So does a clownish monster with a big red mouth and long turquoise nose, peering from another canvas. It takes a minute to realize that it’s a bathing-suit design on a female torso, framed by ample cleavage and sun-tanned thighs.
Benjamin Senior’s lithe joggers and swimmers create a fine counterpoint to Kruglyanskaya’s languid bathers. Tersely painted, the figures form geometric patterns with their matching outfits and identical poses. Rich in blue and violet, they have stripes everywhere from sneakers to swimming-pool lane ropes.
Prices range from $3,000 to $15,000. The show runs through Aug. 5 at 55 Delancey St.; +1-212-577-1201; http://www.jamesfuentes.com.
A highlight of the exhibition “Places” is tucked away in the basement of Stephan Stoyanov Gallery. The two halves of Diana Shpungin’s 26-minute video were filmed at exactly the same moment on opposite sides of the globe. The artist traveled to China to shoot sunrise over the South China Sea. Her husband captured dusk over the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach, Florida. Played side-by-side on two screens, the footage is a romantic communication between two lovers.
Construction and destruction co-exist in Cliff Evans’s digital video, “Camping at Home.” He mixes images of diggers and pipelines that mutilate the Earth with pictures of new Tyvek-wrapped houses rising from the wreckage.
Patricia Cronin’s tiny, ironic canvases depict luxurious listings by Sotheby’s International Realty, their asking prices doubling as the titles: “$15,000,000 (Southampton)” and “$2,300,000 (Emerald Isle on Money Key).”
Prices range from $2,000 to $20,000. The show runs through Aug. 12 at 29 Orchard St.; +1-212-343-4240; http://www.stephanstoyanovgallery.com.
In “New Black,” Alex Markwith’s first solo show at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, the 22-year-old artist turns junk into art.
His 12 raw assemblages are made from found wood, rusty metal, torn fabrics, nails, twine and a slashed rubber tire. One features a metal chain and black leather. A white wooden plank sticks out from the side of another quilted canvas. The pieces evoke S&M, punk rock, Rauschenberg and Arte Povera.
Prices range from $1,500 to $3,500. “New Black” runs through Aug. 5 at 21 Orchard St.; +1-212-375-8043; http://www.nicellebeauchene.com.
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
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