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Richard Hamilton, "Man, Machine and Motion," 1955. Thematic exhibition. Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, and ICA, London. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London. Courtesy the Estate of Richard Hamilton
Technology both distinguishes humanity from our evolutionary ancestors and threatens some of our species’ greatest qualities. The man-versus-machine debate has reached fever pitch in recent years, with East Coast students decrying a cyborg generation and the biography of Steve Jobs flying off shelves faster than his gadgets function. “Ghosts in the Machine,” which opened July 18 at the New Museum, offers a “prehistory of the digital age,” which investigates—without judgment—the relationship between art and technology and explores the debate through the minds of more than 70 artists, writers and thinkers. Hope and fear—two definitively human qualities—propel many of these works, from Kafka’s mechanical torture device to Richard Hamilton’s Man, Machine and Motion (pictured above), which uses modern technology to imagine a new role for art in society. On view through September 30; 235 Bowery; 212-219-1222; newmuseum.org.
Meanwhile, the collages of cult artist Mark Flood are fun-house mirrors held up to that same society, which, in his vision, is artless, populated by the relics of American pop culture. His early work—as well as a smattering of his more recent, acerbic lace paintings done in the colors of an oil spill—has taken over the townhouse gallery Luxembourg & Dayan in “The Hateful Years.” The top floor has been turned into a basement-like punk-rock lounge filled with small works and the scraps of a celebrity obsessive, complete with a Mark Flood stand-in chosen from the ranks of the artist’s studio.
Flood’s work parallels the appropriative collage art of the Pictures Generation (a movement including artists like Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman), but his is more abrasive, emotive and obsessive—and more difficult. Instead of engaging intellectual abstractions like “What is art?” it questions the sources of the dreams we share and the identities we idolize, puncturing holes in our assumptions with xeroxes of a paperback copy of the book Sybil and thrift-store canvases. “Peel Back to See If You Are a Winner” demands one piece in block letters. It is a warning—suddenly you realize you’re not sure if you are. On view through September 29; 64 E. 77th St.; 212-452-4646; luxembourgdayan.com.