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An absorbing installation by Aernout Mik at the Project is also fueled by ambiguity. The piece includes four films projected in a horizontal row. In the two projections on the left, crowds of men, resembling police officers, camera crews and political demonstrators, rush together, jostling and elbowing, as if in pursuit or panic. In the two right-hand projections, children play near an old car. The girls scurry around in veils; the boys wield cardboard versions of camcorders.
Nothing specific happens in any of these scenes, which have been set up and directed by the artist. But the activity is ceaseless, like speeded-up newsreels in a loop. What becomes faintly disturbing is the similarity in behavior of children and adults: a kind of obsessive, purposeless version of play that, Mr. Mik implies, is the manic rhythm of history.
Politically inflected art in static media can work with comparable indirection. Jason Oddy's handsome color photographs at Frederieke Taylor Gallery include a shot of a corporate-looking conference table, each place equipped with a rigidly aligned pad and pencil, and another of a weathered lifeguard stand on a beach. Both pictures are striking primarily for formal reasons until you learn that the first was taken in the Pentagon, the second at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Information fills them with specific meaning.
Amy Cutler's paintings at Leslie Tonkonow at first appear like winsome fairy tales. But they quickly assume the uneasy, sweet-sour look of moral allegories, some of which have topical sources. Ms. Cutler has identified one picture, of figures huddled in boats, as inspired by news reports of the hunt for Saddam Hussein. Another, of women marching through a village, hints at the lockstep force of rigid ideology. Does all of Ms. Cutler work carry such messages? Maybe yes, maybe no; but an illustrator of fairy tales she is not.
In a double-barrel show at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the young New York artist Aaron Johnson combines fulsome painting and collaged images of food, viscera and sexual organs to evoke a consumer culture gone mad. In a complementary selection of small collage paintings, the Finnish artist Riiko Sakkinen combines hand-altered product labels and cartoons to create a Babel of references to racism, fashion and violence.
Finally, formally adroit but more explicit in content are the large-scale drawings by Enrique Chagoya at George Adams, which combine Phillip Guston grotesquerie with the razor-edge wit of editorial cartoons. In style, Mr. Chagoya's show is the very opposite of the concept-intensive exhibitions at Exit Art. But his hilarious image of President Bush and his cabinet in the guise of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, would make total sense there. His roots lie, after all, in the tradition of the Mexican political prints, one of the great modern and post-modern art forms: superbly made, passionately felt, rich in ideals and ideas.