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Top five shows: Jan 9–15, 2013

The best of the week in art.

1/5
Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise

Dara Friedman, PLAY
Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Sat 11–Feb 22
Role-play and fantasy—whether personal or interpersonal, sexual or romantic—are the subjects of Friedman’s latest video, which features vignettes of performers (mostly as couples, but sometimes, individually) in varying degrees of undress. Throughout the piece, the artist toggles back and forth between color and black and white, and low-resolution and high-def, as a way of signaling certain states of mind, perhaps, or the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined. Friedman’s point—that all behavior is a form of fiction—isn’t exactly new, but she delivers it with undeniable verve.

2/5
Photograph: © The Estate of Harry Callahan

“HARRY CALLAHAN: CITY”
Pace/MacGill, Thu 9–Mar 8
Created between the 1940s and 1970s, Callahan’s photos of urban landscapes often include tightly cropped shots of buildings, as well as close-ups of the expressions made by pedestrians (mostly women) as they go about their business. Taken as a whole, the images portray midcentury city life as something like a desolate, waking dream.

3/5
Photograph: Courtesy David Zwirner

Stan Douglas, Luanda-Kinshasa
David Zwirner; Thu 9–Feb 22
Douglas’s latest film imagines a fictional band—made up of real-life professional musicians—recording at the Church, the famed Columbia Records studio on East 30th Street that produced such legendary albums as Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Period details suggest a 1970s setting, while the music evokes a subject of some of the artist’s recent work: the Afrobeat scene of Nigeria, Angola and elsewhere in Africa.

4/5
Photograph: Galleria Nazionale delle Marche

“Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tue 14–Mar 30
The Met displays four paintings by Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, showing them together for the first time. The works, all featuring religious subjects, were originally created as objects for private devotion.

5/5
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Werner

A.R. Penck: Felt Works 1972–1995”
Michael Werner, Thu 9–Feb 22
Mention German artist A.R. Penck, and most people think of allover paintings depicting stick figures and glyphlike symbols whose decryption requires watching hours of Ancient Aliens. This exhibition, however, concentrates on a little-known aspect of his work: a series of sculptures created out of stuffed felt over a 20-year period.

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