Beatles, Mad Bomber, Sonic Youth, Balaklava: Chelsea NYC

Michael Rakowitz Message
A Libyan flag embroidered with a message to Paul McCartney in an artwork by Michael Rakowitz being shown at the Lombard Freid Gallery in New York. Source: Lombard Freid Gallery via Bloomberg

“Paul -- you wanted to play Tripoli in 1969. Inshallah, you will play in a free Libya soon!”

The Paul is McCartney and the text is embroidered on the Libyan flag’s green and red stripes. It refers to a canceled Beatles tour in North Africa in 1969 -- and more recent events in the region.

In “The Breakup” exhibition at the Lombard Freid Gallery, conceptual artist Michael Rakowitz draws parallels between the dissolution of the Beatles and political events in the Middle East in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It includes video and audio footage as well as music and political memorabilia in glass vitrines.

In one, the album cover for “A Hard Day’s Night” is flanked by covers for recordings of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Another display shows maps of Jerusalem and the English town of Liverpool, a stone from the Western Wall and a piece of brick from the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where the Beatles honed their talents.

“They performed 292 times there between 1961 and 1963,” Rakowitz wrote with a black marker on the glass surface.

Prices range from $4,000 to $35,000. The show runs through Oct. 17 at 518 W. 19th St.; +1-212-967-8040;

Mad Bomber

A sense of danger and the smell of burning tires hit you on entering Anna Kustera Gallery.

Both emanate from a messy worktable overflowing with wires, wax, old newspapers, electric drills, pliers, nails, chalk, duct tape and empty beer cans.

The installation, “Worktable #9 (Minneapolis), he of Righteousness,” simulates “the lair of a mad bomber,” according to the press release. It’s the highlight of Gregory Odell Green’s unsettling new exhibition, “The Second Principle of History,” which tackles themes such as terrorism and religious fanaticism.

Another object in the show is a 1908 Bible, opened to reveal a black-and-white illustration and a bomb cut into the pages. The title: “Biblebomb #1908.”

Framed in dark wood, “MATT.-V-44” is an illuminated Bible page from the Gospel of Matthew. “Love Your Enemies” is splayed across the surface in a large font while a smaller typeface provides instructions on how to build a nuclear bomb.

Prices range from $2,500 to $40,000. The show runs through Oct. 13 at 520 W. 21st St.; +1-212-989-0082;

Sonic Youth

An exhibition at 303 Gallery, just a few doors west, brings together multimedia pieces by Karen Kilimnik and Kim Gordon, a founder of the rock band Sonic Youth.

The show is sparsely installed and has a rebellious sentiment. It feels like someone or something has been bouncing off the walls, with black paint smears and crude writings in red ink left on otherwise clean white surfaces.

Gordon’s three-channel video “Proposal for a Dance” is projected on a wall and features two female performers in Rodarte dresses and two electric guitars. They are making lots of noise, whipping the instruments and rolling around on the floor. Shots of a loud crowd appear on a separate channel, as if the audience were present and at once disconnected from the show.

Kilimnik’s video features black-and-white footage of British female pop band Bananarama. The terrible quality of the image underscores the cheesy content. Her 1992 “Blood Drawings,” done in viscous red ink, are oddly immediate and expressive.

Prices range from $30,000 and $100,000 for Kilimnik, $12,000 and $18,000 for Gordon. The exhibition runs through Sept. 29 at 547 W. 21st St.; +1-212-255-1121;

Balaklava Swimming

“Balaklava Drive,” Moscow-based Sergey Bratkov’s 2009 black-and-white video at Leo Koenig Inc., shows lanky teenage boys jumping excitedly into the water from a pier in the Black Sea town once known as Balaklava.

Set to a quiet, nostalgic tune, the video can be watched from an elevated platform, which recalls seaside promenades and Soviet-era podiums. A pile of rocks, pieces of cement and broken pipes on the floor by the screen allude to destruction.

The town of Balaklava, the site of a battle between the British and Russian forces during the Crimean War, gave its name to the headgear most recently favored by Pussy Riot.

Bratkov’s video is an edition of five; price: 20,000 euros ($26,118). “Balaklava Drive” runs through Oct. 20 at 541 W. 23rd St.; +1-212-334-9255;

Muse highlights include Lance Esplund on art and Jeffrey Burke on books.

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