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Henry Urbach

526 West 26th Street


Through June 10

E. V. Day takes the idea of exploding sexual stereotypes a little too literally. Her contribution to the current Whitney Biennial is an installation piece in which a white halter-topped dress like the one worn by Marilyn Monroe in some famous photographs is caught in the act of being blown to bits. In other words, it's a detonated sex bomb, an effect accomplished by suspending little fragments of the dress from wires.

For her first solo show in New York, Ms. Day does something similar with ''Transporter,'' a darkened, spotlighted installation centering on a shimmering silver-sequined evening gown. Here the garment, which evokes the dress that Monroe wore when she sang at John F. Kennedy's 1962 birthday party, doesn't so much explode as transform itself. It may be enduring some kind of Miss Havisham-like decay or maybe it is being disassembled one sequin at a time by the hundreds of prying male eyes. Or perhaps it is being ''beamed up,'' as its title suggests, remanded to the sky, like some mythological heroine, there to become a constellation.

Ms. Day underscores the last reading by suspending from the ceiling about two dozen attenuated ''Celestial Pelvises,'' which are looped and coiled strands of seemingly jeweled surgical wire on which resin has been dripped.

Ms. Day's work is one of the latest examples of the suave, entertaining political art that has succeeded the more didactic efforts of the early 1990's. Instead of moralistic combinations of image and text, the viewer is treated to clever visual jokes that can trigger a host of amusing readings. But that still doesn't stop any or all of them from being one-liners. ROBERTA SMITH