I admit it. I have a teddy bear. I found him face down in a puddle when I was six. Thanks to Same Difference, the powerful group show at the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, I don't know if I'll ever be able to sleep with him again. Rare photo and video works by artists including Wols, Walker Evans and Douglas Gordon alone make the trip worth it. But the heart of the exhibit is a room of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling vintage photographs of people with their teddy bears.
What amazed me was the number of full-grown adults -- married couples, chorus girls, even entire regiments -- who wanted to be photographed with their Poohs and Paddingtons. A disproportionate number were clearly taken in Nazi Germany. Individually, these photos would be just plain weird. Combined, the effect is decidedly sinister.
Yet the real shocker comes in a small dead-end room at the end of a long photo-lined passageway. Kneeling on the floor is Maurizio Cattelan's Him, a child-sized Hitler effigy. His eyes are turned up toward a small transom of light, his hands folded as though praying for absolution.
But there is no sense of forgiveness in this show. Not for anybody who tries to avoid fierce reality by clothing it in a guise of childhood innocence. Thousands of teddies bear witness to firstname.lastname@example.org
Same Difference Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation (778 King West), Saturdays only, noon to 5 pm, to June 30, 2004. 416-603-2227. Rating: NNNN