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When Andy Kaufman, the entertainer, so-called anti-comic and Elvis impersonator extraordinaire, died in 1984 at 35, he left behind two very distinct if connected personas.

The better known is Andy Kaufman, the television star who provided some of the funniest moments on the popular sitcom “Taxi” in the guise of the loopy auto mechanic Latka Gravas, he of the high-pitched voice, unidentifiable accent and alternate sense of reality. As Latka, Kaufman appeared on all five seasons of “Taxi” (1978 to 1983); it brought him fame, financial independence and a television special. (This was stipulated in his first contract.) But Kaufman didn’t like the sitcom format and agreed to stay on the show only when the writers allowed Latka to develop multiple-personality disorder so he could play other characters.

The second persona is Andy Kaufman, the stand-up innovator, politically incorrect satirist and cult figure revered by comedians and artists alike — an artist in his own right. This Kaufman, who had been obsessed since childhood with professional wrestling, invited women to wrestle with him onstage, to the outrage of many feminists. He behaved unpredictably on talk shows, often leaving his hosts semi-flummoxed. He led perplexed audiences in grade-school-like singalongs and once invited the audience members at the Improv in New York to touch a cyst on his neck, albeit only after they washed their hands. Following his ineffably odd evening “Andy Kaufman Plays Carnegie Hall,” he took the entire audience for milk and cookies.

...The second Kaufman is the subject of “On Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman,” an engrossing, idiosyncratic exhibition at the Maccarone gallery in the West Village. Latka is nowhere in sight. The show has been organized by the artist Jonathan Berger, who makes the relational aesthetics reference in the news release.

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art gallery with vitrines

A view of the vitrines in “Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman,” at Maccarone Gallery, New York, NY.   Credit:  Jeffrey Sturges

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