Just Do Art, March 6, 2014

Richard Mosse: “Vintage Violence” (2011, 72 x 90 in.). Part of the “Fly Zone” group exhibit, on view at Westbeth Gallery through March 16.  COURTESY OF JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY & THE ARTIST

Richard Mosse: “Vintage Violence” (2011, 72 x 90 in.). Part of the “Fly Zone” group exhibit, on view at Westbeth Gallery through March 16. COURTESY OF JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY & THE ARTIST

Claudia Vargas: “Rope Jump IV” (2013, Charcoal & beeswax on etching paper, 56 x  42 in.). Part of the “Fly Zone” group exhibit, on view at Westbeth Gallery through March 16.  COURTESY OF VAGA & THE ARTIST

Claudia Vargas: “Rope Jump IV” (2013, Charcoal & beeswax on etching paper, 56 x  42 in.). Part of the “Fly Zone” group exhibit, on view at Westbeth Gallery through March 16. COURTESY OF VAGA & THE ARTIST

BY SCOTT STIFFLER   |  GROUP EXHIBIT: FLY ZONE  Living in an age of interconnectivity and information overload has done little to awaken the global consciousness, when it comes to reducing the toll war takes on its youngest victims. But greed, anger and theft of resources haven’t shattered the “joyful innocence that children carry within them” (according to the organizers of this Westbeth Gallery exhibit). With work both subtle and graphic, seven artists navigate the “Fly Zone” — a contradictory realm in which both inhumanity and resilience exist. That’s hardly the only irony at work here, though.

In a series of photographs taken during President Obama’s 2009 address to the nation regarding the addition of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, Christopher Morris looks upon the “hollow sea of gray” and wonders if the stoic West Point cadets are about to receive Karmic payback for the Russian counterparts “we, America, killed by shooting their helicopters out of the sky” three decades ago. “How would we feel today if the Russians were supplying stinger missiles to the Taliban?” On the same walls, Nichole Sobecki takes a nine-month-old boy — who has just died of severe acute malnutrition — on his mile-long funeral procession from a South Sudan refugee camp to a makeshift burial site. Richard Mosse shoots the eastern Congo conflict with Kodak Aerochrome infrared film — a discontinued military surveillance technology developed for camouflage detection that keeps the flesh of soldiers as is, but transforms the surrounding greenery into a vibrant landscape of lavender, crimson and hot pink. Bringing a contrasting perspective to these disturbing images, Claudia Vargas uses charcoal lines drawn on beeswax-covered paper to depict a series of children at play. Armed only with a jump rope, her carefree figures transcend culture, politics and all manner of oppression.

Free. Through March 16, 1-7pm daily, at Westbeth Gallery (155 Bank St., enter through courtyard btw. West & Washington Sts.). For info, visit flyzoneshow.com, christophermorrisphotography.com, richardmosse.com, martharosler.net, elliottsharp.com, nicholesobecki.com, claudiavargas.net and mariangoodman.com/artists/lawrence-weiner.

 

THEATER: the SHAPE OF SOMETHING SQUASHED
A high-strung leading lady, a playwright in need of funding and an aging, once-promising actor: these usual suspects of the greasepaint circuit are certainly a motely crew. But hardwired insecurities, a script of dubious quality and the loss of a legendary star who was the ace in the hole for a looming backer’s audition aren’t enough to quash their dreams. Whether driven by love for the work, love of self or the simple fact that they’re far too damaged to find gainful employment beyond the footlights, Tom Noonan’s latest play has sharp claws — and a genuine soft spot — for those who’ve spent their lives in the theater. He should know.

After three decades spent shepherding original works to the stage, longtime East Village resident Noonan closed his Paradise Factory doors in 2012, for a two-year renovation. Unlike the desperate, abovementioned thespians who pin their hopes on a cash infusion from coked-up hedge fund types, real-life “Something Squashed” playwright/director Noonan funded his theater’s $4-million upgrade (a second performance space, vastly improved facilities and room to rehearse!) with a grant provided by the City of New York.

L to R: Talia Lugacy, Monique Vukovic and Grant James Varjas in “the Shape of Something Squashed.”  PHOTO BY JIM CHOW

L to R: Talia Lugacy, Monique Vukovic and Grant James Varjas in “the Shape of Something Squashed.” PHOTO BY JIM CHOW

Fellow taxpayers, rest assured that it was money well-spent — just as “the Shape of Something Squashed” seems (from the script we were given) to be a solid bet for getting a rich return on your investment of time. Packed with emotionally fragile schemers and dreamers who’ll do anything to ensure that the show goes on, this warts-and-all depiction is a decidedly unglamorous inaugural production for the new, much-improved Paradise Factory. It would have been easier to launch with a revival that celebrated past glories. But Noonan and his colleagues (a cast of equally accomplished Factory regulars) take a far more challenging path: lay bare what makes these people tick, and ask for little if any sympathy. By the time the curtain comes down, you may not be cheering for the choices they make — but you’ll at least admire their ability to take a hit, absorb the shock and keep on moving.

Through March 16. Wed.-Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 7:30 & 10pm and Sun. at 5pm. At the Paradise Factory (64 E. Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For tickets ($30), call 866-411-8111 or visit paradisefactory.org.

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