Andrea Zittel goes to great and sometimes paranoid lengths to establish an equilibrium between freedom and confinement. Even before homeland security became such a pressing issue, she had been relentlessly confronting the complications of inhabiting the stifling, prescribed spaces of the contemporary world. She'd left these behind to live off the grid in the California desert, streamlining and constructing her own life as the basis of her artwork. Her mid-career survey, "Critical Space," includes 75 objects made between 1991 and 2005, including mobile living units so small they don't require a building permit, handmade clothing, an escape vehicle, floating islands, furniture made out of carpeting and documentation of an experiment in which this eccentric, idealistic artist attempted to give flight back to earthbound chickens.

New Museum of Contemporary Art, 556 W. 22nd St., (212) 219-1222. Jan. 26-May 27. There is a separate, unrelated show, "Andrea Zittel: Small Liberties," at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, 120 Park Ave., (917) 663-2453. Opens Feb. 9.

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