The One * New General Catalog (NGC) 224 * Brooklyn, NY

Two ones side by side make eleven, and eleven sets of two equal The One, or the basic structure of the inaugural exhibition at New General Catalog (NGC) 224, a new gallery in Greenpoint. For this show, eleven guest curators were asked to select The One artwork that embodies some notion of “prophetic balance.”

Choice, which becomes one with what’s chosen, also functions as a dual statement: the idea of The Onecan be approached personally and subjectively and is dependent upon time and context. The curators’ diverse interpretations of The One are connected, partly overlapping, and pervasive, yet distinguished from one another. They are not commensurable definitions, but temporal assertions that constantly change and shift with new contextual circumstances.

The One also focused on a fundamental element of the curatorial practice: the prerogative of choice. Choice is an amalgamation of conscience and instinct, cognitive guides that define what we remember and forget. It often depends on so little, but holds the power to greatly effect and change lives. The One then, is the “burden of choice,” an active social, cultural, and psychological “proof” that holds each curator accountable to his or her selection.

Walzing Matilda, an installation by Canadian artist Maria Hlady, consists of three mechanized spinning brunette wigs situated in the storefront window of the gallery. Each wig moves in varying clockwise and counterclockwise rotations. Each wig dances to one of three versions of an Australian chorus called “Dancing.” They are absurd, lyrical, and hypnotic. Despite their anonymous and solitary character (there is no face/person to mask or cover-up), they possess a refined beauty that we cannot help but notice. As they seemingly ask us, “shall we dance?” we become one with their harmony and imperfection. Chosen by the curator (and gallery director) Trong G. Nguyen, Hlady’s bizarre trinity is a perpetual dance-a-thon that is uncanny, moving and reassuring in its perpetuity.

Symmetry, geometry, and the thwarting nature of visual perception mark the installation of German artist Monika Goetz, selected by Erin Donnelly and Susanna Cole. Goetz placed two mirrors side by side at eye level, one convex, one concave. Standing several steps away, we see ourselves as an upside-down reflection. Standing tête-à-tête, the mirror image flips right side-up and exaggerates our features. By contrast, the convex mirror reflects the viewer as the tiny epicenter of an extremely wide-angle view. We see two parallel visual realms that contradict regular perception. It is virtually impossible to concentrate on both at once.

Similar to Goetz, John Noestheden’s (chosen by Jayne H. Baum) contribution is characterized by harmonized geometry and minimalist aesthetic, though his “Diamond drawing” additionally references pop culture and fashion. He glued hundreds of tiny, same-sized Swarovski silver crystals on to Rives paper. The elegant composition it is controlled and disciplined, while the crystal shimmer suggests a night sky or snapshots of haute couture.

Elena Bajo’s installation seems a counterpoint to the restrained work of Noestheden. Her incidental and gawky ensemble of found objects (broken umbrellas, unrecognizable old photographs, used mirror and glass panels) paint a life-like “portrait” that is fleeting and intimate. Bajo’s installation is reminiscent of the personal, variable, and incomprehensible aspects that define The One. The artist was chosen by the art collective PRAXIS (Brainard Carey and Delia Bajo).

We can recall the social utopias of modernism in Katerina Seda’s conceptual mass-performance “There Is Nothing There,” chosen by Marketa Uhlirova. On March 24, 2003 in Ponetovice, a small village in the Czech Republic, the artist “staged” a day in the life of an entire community. She asked the local people (all 300 of them) to do routine things—sweep the sidewalk, open a window, cook lunch, or go shopping—but do them on an exact schedule: everyone at the same time, all as one, one day, one village, one artwork. The power of Seda’s project, heightened by witnessing each individual partake in the collective whole, resides in its subtle humor. We can’t believe our eyes as synchronicity replaces chaos (and thereby achieves “prophetic balance”?).

In addition to the curators’ chosen “points of light” that make up The One, it is appropriate that the gallery’s name references the scientific designation for the Andromeda Galaxy, generally considered the farthest point visible to the naked eye.

Zaha Hadid Retrospective, Guggenheim, New York City

Architecturally illiterate, I entered the Zaha Hadid retrospective at the Guggenheim with no knowledge of the architect or her impressive body of work. The exhibit is vast and provides a glimpse into the many facets of Hadid’s work, from painting to flatware design. However, there isn’t a great deal of guidance for people like me, who are unfamiliar with Hadid’s vision and interdisciplinary approach. I was overwhelmed.

The exhibit focuses chiefly and reverently on Hadid’s precise, gleaming models and vibrant drawings. My friend and I regarded the abstracted drawings with some bafflement: “This is supposed to guide someone in building a structure?” “What do those green spirals represent, exactly?” Interestingly, Hadid’s drawings are complemented by Jackson Pollock’s works in the concurrent “Paintings on Paper” exhibit—figurative early Pollocks as revelatory as non-figurative architectural sketches.

Under-represented and divorced from the rest of the exhibit are the buildings themselves, present mainly in a few large-scale photographs. Hadid’s own website attests eloquently to the importance of her buildings in context—how they reflect and shape the natural and urban landscape, as well as the unalienable human activity of the space. Yet the viewer is not really allowed to see the finished buildings in context. Rather, they appear here as an encroachment on the pristine museum space. For me, the photos didn’t represent the triumphant end results of the models, which emanate pure potential; they seemed distant, somewhat sullied by the intrusion of human life. I could already feel the paint chipping, the bathroom door latches breaking.

Moving through this exhibit, I was left with no inclination to visit Hadid’s actual buildings, to be among the grimy trespassers in those far-off, looming structures. But I felt that I would love to be Hadid herself, or at least my romanticized conception of her, luxuriating in my beautiful studio (in this vision, it rather resembles the Guggenheim rotunda), god-like among the tiny, idealized worlds of chipboard, balsa, and styrene.

Superman Returns: Loews Lincoln Square * New York City

I watched the 1976 Superman movie and its sequels, and I enjoyed them. Since then, I’ve cheered through years of Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, and more, always at the edge of my seat, always pumped at the end, never a thought of blue suits, red capes. But minutes into Superman Returns, Warner Bros’ 2006 version, directed by Bryan Singer (the crowd, packed like sardines, cheering from the first note of the theme song), I was bouncing in my chair, gasping, covering my eyes, and yelling at the screen. No superhero beats Superman and my euphoria lasted all the way to the end.

Brandon Routh plays the title role humbly, the way I remember Christopher Reeve playing it. I even noticed a resemblance in his profile. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, just unrecognizable enough under a mop of brown hair—a character, not a star—kept me from missing Margot Kidder. Kevin Spacey makes a great Lex Luther: acting chops and the landscaped face that brings Gene Hackman to mind. And Parker Posey, as Luther’s lady friend, Kitty Kowalski, only left me wishing she would show up more often in Hollywood blockbusters.

A few purists exited the theater disappointed, but that’s no surprise. To them I say, maybe the science of Krypton doesn’t follow this fiction, but it’s a pro-human, pro-earth story, after all. Superman’s empathy—a relavent reminder—crosses all borders. I pumped my fist and hummed the theme song all the way home, happy to have a good ol’ all American hero back in my life.