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“Near & Dear”

EFA Project Space
323 West 39th Street, 2nd Floor
September 15, 2017–October 28, 2017

Brian Zegeer, The Golden Hour (detail), 2017, archival ink-jet prints on plywood, monitors, mixed media, dimensions variable.

In this group exhibition curated by painter Carrie Moyer, the artist puts her multigenerational community on display, an assortment of makers who share a love of formal kinkiness and ingenuity. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt presents delicate, ancient-looking works, several of which were created in the 1960s and 1970s: One is a small foil-and-rhinestone ode to a gay physique mag hero (Untitled, ca. 1970s). The artist’s florid materials have taken on a subtle patina with age, yet they manage to retain their camp vitality. In 2016P-17 (Wave), 2016, Anoka Faruqee applies layers of acrylic paint onto her linen-and-panel surface, then rakes through the wet pigment with a trowel, producing oscillating patterns that evoke Op art flushed through a trippy, contemporary spirituality.

Brian Zegeer contributes The Golden Hour, 2017, a looming plywood sculpture that’s part room divider, part children’s fort. TVs with shifting imagery are installed into a decoupage-like skin of ink-jet prints, twine, and sawdust—an enchanting kind of horror vacui. Jennifer Paige Cohen’s small elegant sculptures, made from strikingly patterned clothing found at thrift shops, complement Zegeer’s gargantuan piece, but are strange creatures from a distinctly separate world. For instance, Hydria with Interior Landscape, 2017, is a garish web of blackened rainbow designs on a lumpy exterior. On the inside, the fabric is sullied by the plaster used to mold it and has the appearance of a freshly removed cast.

Moyer has assembled a gathering of great works made from castoffs and kitsch histories by artists who understand that certain forms of trash make for incomparable treasure. “Near & Dear” is sweet, sentimental, and full of love—why should art be anything else?

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Jordan Casteel

Casey Kaplan
121 West 27th Street
September 7, 2017–October 28, 2017

Jordan Casteel, Memorial, 2017, oil on canvas, 72 x 56".

In 2015, while in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Jordan Casteel took to the streets with her camera and iPhone, photographing men she encountered. Adopting this process for the exhibition of paintings here, the artist presents herself as a flaneuse, capturing the vibrant life of the neighborhood, at night, without categorizing it for easy consumption. In these portraits, men appear alone or in groups of two or three, sitting in subway cars, on stoops, and standing in front of store windows. (Women are absent, save for images on a braiding salon’s awning.) Nonetheless, Casteel’s subjects are perfectly at home in their environments, often bathed in the fluorescence of street lamps, as in Q (all works 2017), where the eponymous subject gazes back, phone in hand, a Coogi-clad Biggie Smalls on his red sweatshirt.

Casteel has a knack for detail where it counts: the sharp glint of light hitting the subject’s sunglasses in Zen or the folds of a black puffer jacket and the stripes of a Yankees hat in Subway Hands. In Memorial, a bright spray of funeral flowers on an easel sits over a street-corner trashcan—the pink bows attached to the easel’s legs feel almost animated, celebratory. The artist also possesses a wry humor: The pair of bemused men in MegasStarBrand’s Louie and A-Thug sit on folding chairs next to a sign that reads “Melanin?”

Casteel’s paintings capture Harlem’s denizens beautifully, a community that has long shaped black American identity despite years of white gentrification. Casteel navigates her terrain with ease, lightness, and empathy.

Tausif Noor

Rosemarie Trockel

Gladstone 64
130 East 64th St
September 13, 2017–October 28, 2017

Rosemarie Trockel, Studio Visit, 2017, glazed ceramic, 24 x 20 x 2".

In both German and English, the past perfect describes a time anterior to another moment in the past. Conjugating “to be” in the temporally aloof, twice-distanced “had been” abstracts the relation between subjects and their prior actions. Titled after the German word for this grammatical tense, “Plus Quam Perfekt,” a solo exhibition of Rosemarie Trockel’s photographs, ceramics, and sculpture made within the last decade, embraces this grammar of estrangement, materializing it into things of austere beauty.

Entering the gallery, the viewer confronts the issue of time in Clock Owners (all works cited, 2017), a vitrine displaying nine white ceramic masks. Arranged neatly in a line, they range in facture from pockmarked and malerisch to plainspoken and reductive, in mood from comic-grotesque to funereal. Hanging above Clock Owners is Studio Visit, one of four ceramic mirrors in the show. Its black surface, lustrous but irregular, returns the viewer’s gaze with a dappled, dark reflection.

A mirror could be called the opposite of a mask: While one disappears the subject behind a prosthesis, the other makes us a spectacle to ourselves. The black mirror, also called the Claude glass in homage to landscape painter Claude Lorrain, was a popular eighteenth-century optical device. It endowed the scenery captured in its convex, tinted pane with a soft, golden tonality associated with Lorrain’s landscapes, transforming nature, in advance, into art. As Studio Visit reaches back to the historical picturesque, it also returns to the present, conjuring the shiny exteriority of a dead smartphone screen.

“Presentness is grace,” the modernist critic Michael Fried famously concluded in his 1967 essay “Art and Objecthood,” polemicizing—contra the Minimalists—that immersion in abstract form transcends the banality and self-consciousness of the body. Trockel inverts the values of this historical, long-gone argument, making pastness graceful, even perfect.

Chloe Wyma

Kahlil Robert Irving

Callicoon Fine Arts
49 Delancey Street
September 8, 2017–October 29, 2017

Kahlil Robert Irving, Seven Pack – Memorial edition, August 2014 (RIP), 2017, glazed and unglazed porcelain and stoneware, blue slip, gravel, glass, decals, various shades of luster, 15 x 14 x 12".

Kahlil Robert Irving’s smashed porcelain, stoneware, gravel, and glass sculptures hold multitudes. The works, cast from Styrofoam food containers, soda bottles, and paint cans, are destroyed and then pieced together into rough assemblages that interrogate material, visual, and political realities. The chaotic Seven Pack – Memorial edition, August 2014 (RIP) (all works 2017) has a sea of cigarette-butt decals adhered to its base, holding aloft seven precisely made ceramic soda bottles. Bricks, Concrete, Tubes (Mass Memorial) exclaims “I am Mike,” while Mass: Meissen TO – GO (KILLING DAILY; DAILY KILLING) screams “Ferguson burns.” Both works, via newspaper headlines and pictures of graffiti, refer to the 2014 murder of Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer. A wallpapered image of a chain-link fence in the gallery creates a decrepit “inner city” backdrop. It turns the whole exhibition into a kind of ruin, or a museological tableau of ravaged urban life.

As such the works reflect the brutality and corrupt politics of today. Bits of what may have been a bowl or a plate form the base of a wreck made from brick and gravel in BLACK and Blue: (RIP – New layers – No Charges for Wilson or Europe)—a meditation on the vicious intersections of social economics and race relations. More headlines about Michael Brown appear among the work’s defiled surfaces. It becomes clearer that the history of porcelain as an indicator of wealth in colonial America is used to deconstruct and forge links between contemporary violence and America’s past. Irving pushes us into a terrifying free fall that forces us to ask, “What now?”

Patrick Jaojoco

Joan Brown

George Adams Gallery
531 West 26th Street
September 12, 2017–November 4, 2017

Joan Brown, Wolf in Room, 1974, enamel on canvas, 97 x 72".

Why isn’t Joan Brown taken seriously? Despite support from curators and collectors throughout her trailblazing, four-decade-long career, Brown remains shockingly left out of the conversation. There are a few factors to consider: Brown was closely affiliated with “West Coast art” in the 1970s and 1980s, when the term was still used pejoratively; her sentimental subject matter was way ahead of its time (consider her domestic scenes, kissing couples, animal portraits, as well as various family members); and most notably, Brown wasn’t afraid of painting an ugly picture, as her inclusion in Marcia Tucker’s landmark “Bad Painting” exhibition of 1978 attests.

This concise and satisfying sampling of Brown’s oeuvre offers the opportunity to bask in the glory of the prolific and ambitious artist, one pleasingly lurid canvas at a time. In her early twenties, Brown experienced a flash of success and fame as part of the Bay Area Figurative Movement—in a 1963 article, Artforum patronizingly referred to her as “everybody’s darling.” But Brown’s work shifted away from expressionism and moved into territory uncomfortably close to the graphic arts in the mid to late 1960s, as exemplified by Wolf in Room and The Swimmers #2 (The Crawl), both 1974. Brown turned to comic figuration at nearly the same time as Philip Guston, whose new work was equally reviled.

Brown painted contemporary life in a bizarrely ordinary manner and with great deliberation. Even her most seemingly simple work brims with caustic wit and humor, tempered by an uncommon sense of humility. New Year’s Eve #2, 1973, shows a woman and a nattily dressed skeleton tangoing under a city skyline, assuredly ushering in the New Year. Keenly aware of the absurdity of being alive, Brown painted our chaotic world exactly as she saw fit.

Beau Rutland

Genesis Belanger

60-40 56th Drive
September 9, 2017–November 4, 2017

Genesis Belanger, Something Fishy, 2017, porcelain, 3 x 6 x 4".

Genesis Belanger’s first solo presentation at this gallery, with modestly sized porcelain, stoneware, and cast-concrete objects, is suggestive and strange. Most of her sculptures are methodically situated throughout the space on cement pedestals and a wall-mounted shelf, while a few occupy the floor. Many of her pieces feature slightly overscale fingers grasping a variety of things that reference oral consumption: bananas, a stick of gum, and a blue Oreo-like cookie with a copious amount of cream filling.

Belanger’s suggestive foodstuffs are framed by a dark whimsy: A porcelain hot dog with a lascivious squirt of mustard is nestled into a stoneware wedge sandal (Dog in Heels, all works 2017) sitting atop a stool with wobbly cigarettes for legs (Sitting Habit). Nearby, an open tin of sardines reveals fillets that are actually cartoon eyes (Something Fishy). Her forms—so eerily smooth, so uncomfortably supple-looking—are rendered even weirder by her confectionary palette that calls to mind fondant icing and Necco wafers.

Belanger addresses her formal debt to Robert Gober—the ur-sculptor of ominously funny and sexualized reproductions of household items merged with body parts—especially by her inclusion of an untitled white porcelain sink plugged by a cement cigarette butt. While the artist’s objects lack the urgency of Gober’s sculptures, which often served as somber testaments to the AIDS crisis, they assure the viewer of their maker’s vested interest in culling the uncanny from the ordinary.

Cat Kron

Joyce Kozloff

DC Moore Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor
October 5, 2017–November 4, 2017

Joyce Kozloff, 3 Elephants, 2017, acrylic, collage, pastel, oil pastel, and found object on canvas, 30 x 42 x 4".

We’ve heard it more times than we can count: It’s a man’s world. And within it, conquest is key to prosperity, requiring a neurotic addiction to territorial expansion. That’s where maps come in. Tools of imperialism and warfare strategy, maps have been utilized as political weapons across the centuries (their most dangerous purpose is to depict land as battlegrounds). But in Joyce Kozloff’s case—as a founding member of the Heresies collective and a major figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement—maps, for the past twenty-five years, have functioned as instruments dedicated to pushing a feminist discourse.

In this exhibition, Kozloff reclaims the world by rendering it with a childlike jubilance. The map paintings here incorporate acrylic, charcoal, and oil pastels, among other media, with a variety of collage elements: most significantly, the artist’s recovered grade school drawings. The intertwining of these aspects creates gleeful tableaux of vibrant yellows, teals, and oranges, full of youthful naïveté and adult sophistication. But Kozloff unveils a thread of exoticization that tells us much about the midcentury US imagination and its public education system. In pieces such as 3 Elephants, 2017, where a pale figure with a monkey on his shoulder rides one of the titular creatures throughout the wilds of Africa, or Dream of the American West, 2017, with desert cowboys astride horses, we’re faced with symbols that go from joyous wonder to blatant reductivism, reckoning with a complicated history.

Lara Atallah

Ron Baron

Smack Mellon
92 Plymouth Street
September 23, 2017–November 5, 2017

Ron Baron, Beyond-Beyond (detail), 2017, ceramic and hardware, dimensions variable.

Ron Baron’s Beyond-Beyond, 2017, is made up of nearly one hundred pairs of white ceramic shoes cast from discarded footwear that might’ve belonged to laborers, mothers, businessmen, or children. Some have neat perforations, others are stabbed by nails. Carefully arranged across the concrete floor of this gallery, they create a void. One cannot help but think of the souls the works commemorate. And, indeed, Baron’s sculptures come from a place of loss: The artist had always used items found at vintage shops and yard sales, and an unnamed tragedy that profoundly affected his family caused the artist to see these castoffs in a different light, as evidence of forgotten lives.

The artist’s installation forces us to think about the various kinds of human relationships—romantic, filial, professional—that give meaning to and complicate our narratives. The shoes seem organized by an intuitive logic: A pair of men’s dress slip-ons sits beside some tiny Mary Janes with spikes growing out of them; high heels are strewn about as if they were just removed. The work draws us into a deep and ghostly silence.

Beyond-Beyond is a meditative experience. In conjunction with the gallery’s cathedral-like ceilings and dramatic spotlighting, this elegant display makes us feel like we’ve encountered a sacred space: a church, or even a charnel house. Baron gracefully transforms junk into meaningful objects that gently whisper—we just have to listen attentively.

Kiara Ventura

Danilo Correale

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
September 28, 2017–November 9, 2017

Danilo Correale, At Work’s End (detail), 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable.

The first article of the Italian constitution reads: “Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labor.” But what form of government could presume a social order not founded on labor? And what would this society look like? Italian artist Danilo Correale confronts these issues in his installation At Work’s End (all works 2017), his first solo show in New York.

In one room, the artist invites viewers to relax, close their eyes, and lie down on one of a set of chaise-lounge sculptures while listening to a record that plays the voice of a hypnotherapist (Reverie, On the Liberation from Work). On side A of the vinyl, titled “Deliverance,” the narrator guides us through a visualization exercise that illustrates a typical day in a postwork world, with no wake-up alarms or appointments. In the next room, bathed in a faint purple light, we take in the disc’s B side, called “Transition.” It is accompanied by a video that asks us to consider the idea of a universal basic income, which would allow people to focus on their own emotional and intellectual needs in a stress-free environment.

Correale’s project represents an antidote to the obfuscation and atrophy of a world dominated by outmoded, populist rhetoric and a lack of objectivity. For a moment, he lets us inhabit a possible elsewhere, where we can redesign ourselves and go back, in a completely natural fashion, to being Homo ludens. We leave the exhibition with a state of mind that has reached our innermost depths—as if we had just come out of a dream that offered us a glimpse of a perfect freedom that, with each waking minute, slowly crumbles away.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Veronica Santi

Sheila Pinkel

Higher Pictures
980 Madison Avenue
October 14, 2017–November 11, 2017

Sheila Pinkel, Manifestations of a Cube (detail), 1978–82, 3 xeroradiographs, 33 x 17".

Though you wouldn’t guess it, the cube in Sheila Pinkel’s multidimensional object study Manifestations of a Cube, 1974–79, is a glass dish stolen from a Japanese restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. For the show here—which one could characterize as a biography of the item—Pinkel tried capturing the form’s essence through xeroradiography, color Xeroxes, and other imaging techniques. At certain points in her investigations, the thing becomes exceptionally rich, strange, mercurial, and vivid, pulsating with a mysterious energy. The press release calls the twenty-nine-foot-long presentation of photograms, made between 1976 and 1977, “visual music.” Indeed, it has all the formal qualities of a score—perhaps one composed by Alban Berg of the Second Viennese School, simultaneously ordered and surprisingly cacophonous.

In the suite of four cyanotypes from 1976, the cube takes on a chilly, cosmic appearance as it sits on what looks like some distant, otherworldly surface. The 16-mm film short Intuition, 1977, was the first digital film made at the USC School of Engineering Image Processing Laboratory. The cube flickers in different colors, mutating into a group of rectangular bars. One of the reasons the artist called the piece Intuition was because seeing the colors metamorphose “reminded me of my own intuitive mental processes.” Without question, Pinkel’s delightful meditation on this elementary object yields endless wonder.

Yin Ho

Keith Mayerson

Marlborough Contemporary | New York
545 West 25th Street
October 12, 2017–November 11, 2017

Keith Mayerson, Resurrection (The Trumps Meet The Pope), 2017, oil on linen, 29 x 22".

A famous photograph taken in 1970 depicts Elvis Presley—caped in black velvet, his mouth slightly agape—shaking Richard Nixon’s hand: an enduring spectacle of fading Americana clasped with disastrous politics. It’s no wonder Keith Mayerson chose to paint the encounter, Elvis Nixon (all works 2017), for “My American Dream: Mystery Train (in loving memory of Daniel Tinker Knapp),” a show whose nostalgia is menaced by the tensions of an increasingly fractured country. Here, American landscapes often threaten to implode into abstraction, as in the monumental Paso del Norte: the US/Mexico Border, which portrays Ciudad Juárez as a near-mutilated slab of mustard yellows and bright grays. Nearby, a nuclear power plant and steel factory hint at the deindustrialization that helped fuel last year’s election.

In Resurrection (The Trumps Meet The Pope), Donald, Ivanka, Melania, and Jared pose with the pontiff in front of Pietro Perugino’s 1499 painting Christ on the Sarcophagus. Trump’s mouth contorts into a ghoulish smile; Francis wears a stonier expression. In three purely abstract works, intestinal thickets of paint—mostly putrid skin tones and vile greens—are politicized by their parenthetical dedications. Iconscape (POTUS) doesn’t differ much from Iconscape (Heather D. Heyer), though both muster a cathartic wrath denied by the other works.

Mayerson began this ongoing series during the George W. Bush administration, in 1999; the project now spans three American presidencies. Much has been made of Bush’s own oil paintings, and perhaps a juxtaposition is useful, as Bush and Mayerson both shroud patriotic spirit in ominous sentimentality. Yet this exhibition derives its quiet force by challenging power, not through empty homage. Rather than attempting to comfort or atone, Mayerson seeks to question: Does the American dream still exist, or did it ever, and to whom, exactly, might it belong?

Zack Hatfield

Alessandro Pessoli

Anton Kern Gallery
16 East 55th Street
October 12, 2017–November 11, 2017

View of “Alessandro Pessoli,” 2017.

For the artist Alessandro Pessoli, as for many of us, 2016 was an annus horribilis. The unease he found in the studio pushed him to experiment, discovering archery and creating custom bows and arrows for his new hobby. The artist’s solo exhibition here, full of paintings, ceramics, and sculptural installations, functions as the site of an epic battle in which he plays both hero and villain.

Our journey begins on the gallery’s first floor, with 2016 Empty Year, 2017, a wooden rack carrying the implements of his newfound pastime along with, among other items, a neon sign, a ceramic chicken head, and a small speaker blasting minimal electronic music and techno, ranging from Lee Gamble and Rashad Becker to Angus MacLise and Luciano Cilio—music Pessoli listens to while working. At the far end of the gallery, 2016 Empty Year extends to a particularly frenetic shooting session: Masses of arrows pierce a silk-screened panel carrying a picture of the artist. Surrounding this piece and continuing onto the second floor is an array of garishly painted self-portraits with titles such as Fuck You Alessandro and Against Me, both 2017. (In the latter, the artist’s elephantine nose is invaded by two large, green flies).

On the third floor is a reprieve from the conflict: Trattoria Sandrino, 2012–17, a little café with whimsically painted brick wainscoting, small seascape paintings, and a Nespresso machine on a large plywood table—a gift to the beleaguered viewer and a rest stop for the artist’s troubled ego. Despite Pessoli’s illustrations of tormented selfhood, the exhibition is permeated by a celebratory playfulness that seems to indicate he might be winning this existential skirmish after all.

Tabitha Piseno

Jacob El Hanani

Acquavella Galleries
18 East 79th Street
October 2, 2017–November 17, 2017

Jacob El Hanani, Untitled (from the Mondrian Series), 2011, ink on paper, 18 x 18".

Jacob El Hanani makes minutely detailed, dazzlingly obsessive drawings without the aid of a magnifying glass. Now seventy, he works in ten-minute bursts to avoid damaging his eyes. He spends months, even years, on a single composition. He uses ink on paper or a quill on gessoed canvas. These, at least, are the stable facts of El Hanani’s practice. Everything else about his art dwells in lush and disorienting ambiguity.

Most obvious is the question of where the viewer is meant to stand in relation to El Hanani’s drawings. His second exhibition here covers four decades. The drawings are so faint that they seem like shy living things, lingering between visibility and invisibility, reluctant to fully appear. Thirteen works on canvas line the front gallery. Fifteen smaller works on paper fill the back gallery, all behind glass. You almost have to mash your face into them to understand the extreme precision of El Hanani’s marks.

Drawings such as Untitled (from the Mondrian Series), 2011, and Linescape (from the J.W. Turner Series), 2014–15, demand you do a little dance before them—a few steps back to see formless abstractions, a few steps forward to decipher elaborate city grids and oceanic textures. Born in Casablanca, raised in Tel Aviv, and based in New York since the early 1970s, El Hanani is deeply indebted to the Jewish tradition of micrography. But as his titles suggest, he is also clearly invested in questions of modernism, urban rhythm, and the natural sublime. The best piece in the show, Alhambra, 2016, gives Islamic geometry a minimalist spin. What begins as a question of pure form—the endless possibilities of a steady, hand-drawn line—ends in a dense, fascinating matrix of mixed-up histories, geographies, and cultural movements.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Mary Kelly

Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea
534 West 26th Street
October 19, 2017–November 22, 2017

View of “Mary Kelly: The Practical Past,” 2017.

Mary Kelly’s landmark installation Post-Partum Document, 1973–79, tracing out the early years of the artist’s life with her son, from his first consumption of solids to his acquisition of language, has been so consistently present in intellectual discourse that it is hard to imagine the history of feminist art without it. So crystalline was Kelly’s articulation of psychoanalytic principles that it is also easy to forget how prosaic the work really is. The soiled diapers give evidence that she did a good job weaning her baby. The record of his every utterance expresses the abundantly common frustration of a child totally ignoring his parent’s command.

This exhibition, titled “The Practical Past,” is a reminder that Kelly’s work is fundamentally useful and that Post-Partum Document proposed new motherhood and early childhood as firsts in a long series of traumas, extending to the world of political upheavals, to ‪the promise and failure of revolutions past and present.

A trio of diminutive letterpress prints from 2016 outlines Kelly’s concern for three historical moments, which she describes in poetic texts. In Unguided Tour c. 1940, three men are reading in a London library during the Blitz. In Unguided Tour c. 1968, a woman hoists a flag in Paris on the eve of a general strike. And in Unguided Tour c. 2011, protestors gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, only days before the reign of President Hosni Mubarak crumbled. The pieces function as guides for larger-scale pictures made solely of compressed lint (yes, yes, the stuff you scoop out of your dryer filter). Kelly’s show riffs on these surreal irruptions of hope while reeling from old anxieties about the stubborn disjunction between good (leftist) politics and bad (or often insufficiently feminist) behavior.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Aria Dean

american medium
515 W. 20th St., 3N
October 19, 2017–November 25, 2017

Aria Dean, Untitled (Obscenities), 2017, galvanized steel, silk, wax, 39 x 10 x 50".

There is a comedic straightforwardness to Aria Dean’s work that betrays her ulterior motives. The artist deploys cliché, often and with pleasure, starting with the first eyeful of her exhibition, Untitled (Obscenities) (all works cited, 2017), a sculpture composed of a handmade red satin bow dangling from a steel chain and pipes. An overtly romantic gesture sullied by wax drips and telltale traces of manual facture, the droopy gift-wrapping sets the tone for Dean’s pushback against objects’ undue symbolic burden.

Dean is playful, not precious, with her materials. Carry the Zero, a plastic blowup doll with a spigot for a mouth, lies vulnerable on the floor. Its transparent body calls to mind a sex toy or the cartoonish chalk outline of a murder investigation. The artist layers reference upon reference until the object’s meaning collapses into chaos. For example, the series “Untitled (Canvas 1-4#),” is made up of cotton batting stapled to sets of stretcher bars and burned in areas with a lighter—Dean’s take on the blank canvas. Her fuzzy paintings, readymade jokes that tweak Minimalism’s conceptual heft, also allude to American slavery, which provided the infrastructure for the industry to flourish today.

The artist draws parallels between the way objects are treated and the way blackness is unfairly loaded as a surface, identity, and idea. Sincerity and irony meet in her video A River Called Death. In the film, shots of a starry night and the Yazoo River in Mississippi are captioned with a narrative starring Death as a figure synonymous with the mysticism and everydayness of the Southern tributary. “She waded in, ducking under,” reads the silent screen. “It’s just a quick ride to the bottom where wood splinters and limbs appear one and the same.”

Kat Herriman

Marcia Marcus

Eric Firestone Gallery | New York
4 Great Jones Street, 4
October 12, 2017–December 2, 2017

Marcia Marcus, Nude with Mirror, 1965, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 47 1/2 x 30 1/2".

The twenty-three paintings by Marcia Marcus here deliver one knockout after another. In the oval portrait Nude with Mirror, 1965, a woman languorously appraises her own reflection. In Florentine Landscape, 1961, three ghostly, pale figures and a pumpkin patch appear like holograms beamed into an ancient garden. In Frieze: The Porch, 1964, three distinctly different pictures—a double portrait of the critic Jill Johnston and the painter Barbara Forst, a self-portrait of the artist in a billowing floral robe, and a picture of her as a child with her father—are all crammed together in a way that feels weirdly spacious.

Marcus, who is now eighty-nine and no longer working, excelled at a very particular style of compositional strangeness. She used oils and acrylics, canvas and linen, gold and silver leaf, graphic patterns and actual textiles, hand-drawn leaves and piles of sand, all collaged into singular paintings holding elements of portraiture, still life, and landscape together in awkward but exhilarating tension. Her figures, highly stylized though often sketchy, occupy an extremely shallow picture plane, while her exquisitely detailed grounds plunge into perspectival spaces characterized by preternatural clarity.

Johnston, a friend of the artist, described Marcus’s style as “rigorously formal yet dramatically intimate,” combining a sense of “intense lyrical abstraction” with an “uncanny realism,” which accounts for the fact that her figuration is all detail and defiance. In her heyday, Marcus was bold, her milieu decidedly mixed, her work clearly innovative. Nearly half of the paintings here have been drawn from private or institutional collections. Her historically pivotal, star-studded biography screams for greater recognition. Why does Marcus remain so little known? Maybe this show, museum-like in quality and covering fifteen key years, will at least shift the question from a why to a what-if.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Martín Ramírez

Ricco / Maresca Gallery
529 West 20th Street, Third Floor
October 26, 2017–December 2, 2017

Martín Ramírez, Untitled (Brick Structure with Arches), ca. 1960–63, gouache, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, 24 x 18 1/2".

The current exhibition of work by the late Martín Ramírez, “A Journey,” leads viewers in exploring the world of outsider art through one of its most illustrious practitioners. Ramírez was thirty years old when, in 1925, he decided to cross the Rio Grande, leaving his pregnant wife and three children in Mexico behind for the US. He arrived illegally in his new country, where the dream of finding a better life shattered after he started laboring on the California railroads and in mines. In 1931, Ramírez was unemployed and in a state of confusion, and the police found him on the street. He was then committed to Stockton State Hospital, where he was diagnosed as a catatonic schizophrenic. He repeatedly told them that he was not insane and could not speak English, and he tried escaping the place numerous times. Eventually, however, he stopped talking and started drawing.

In this show, viewers encounter variations of a man on horseback, one of the artist’s most iconic and popular figures—perhaps a reference to the Cristero fighters of his former homeland. There are also obsessively rendered architectonic structures composed of repeating arches, rows of little bricks, and patterns that look like wood grain. When he did not have access to his usual materials, he used what he found in the hospital. Untitled (Brick Structure with Arches), ca. 1960–63, for example, was created on gift-wrapping paper with a mid-1950s design that melds with Ramírez’s picture.

Untitled (Train and Tunnels), 1954, likely the most complex work in the show, is a vertiginous network of concentric lines and darkened tunnels with a train running along a track of impossible construction. Ramírez is a solitary traveler through memory, and his drawings are fearless.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Veronica Santi

Arthur Ou

Brennan & Griffin
122 Norfolk Street
October 27, 2017–December 10, 2017

Arthur Ou, Pt. Reyes, October 21, 2016, 8:34AM, Version 1, 2017, hand-tinted gelatin silver print, 60 x 50".

Arthur Ou’s photographs here were taken during a single day, from sunup to sundown, at the Point Reyes, California, coast last year. After making a sequence of exposures from the same aerial vantage, the artist tinted each nearly identical analog print with waxed pigment, so that gradations bloom across what would otherwise be an unspectacular seascape. Despite such a deliberate technique, there is a narcotic uncertainty to the photographs, a feeling deepened by the press release’s epigraph from Ludwig Wittgenstein, who remarks that the future “moves not in a straight line, but in a curve, and that its direction constantly changes.” For his current exhibition, premised on infinite possibilities, it is fitting that the works hover between the pictorial and the abstract, painting and photography, reality and fiction. Even the blush of these rhyming seascapes is mercurial in its iridescence, evoking the fickle emotional weather of a mood ring.

Ou’s previous show at this gallery, which displayed fourteen black-and-white portraits of photographers reading Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, sought meaning in the minutest of expressions via reiterations of stillness. This theme continues in “A Day of Times,” which derives a quiet irony from the patience and dedication involved in something many of us do every day: run similar images through different filters, be they technological or psychic. These works combine Warholian replication with an interest in augmenting the American landscape through color—an interest shared by peers such as David Benjamin Sherry, though Ou’s compositions feel markedly disembodied. Each title’s specificity, such as Pt. Reyes, October 21 2016, 8:34AM, Version 1, 2017, reflects little of the pictures’ ambiguity and lunar distance. If you begin to find yourself feeling geographically or philosophically stranded, you might try to think, with Wittgenstein’s words in mind, of the future.

Zack Hatfield

Jessica Vaughn

Martos Gallery | New York
41 Elizabeth Street
October 26, 2017–December 10, 2017

Jessica Vaughn, South Beach Blue No. 389, 2017, fabric scraps on Plexiglas, 57 x 39 x 1/2".

Earlier this fall, Omer Fast drew the ire of Chinatown antigentrification activists for his installation at James Cohan’s downtown space, which mimicked a stereotypical neighborhood discount storefront. Jessica Vaughn’s current exhibition, “Receipt of a Form,” confronts similar issues of urban movement and displacement, but she wields her materials with a lighter hand. Vaughn’s modus operandi is simple: She relocates the everyday elements of city life, such as worn-out public-transportation seats and their upholstery scraps, into the gallery. Yet her sculptural works mostly function as frames for empty space, communicating the ghostly absence of the bodies they are intended to support.

In Learning From the Work of Others (all works cited, 2017), the only flat, wall-hung work in the show, seven digital prints of carbon paper surround a photocopied diagram from a public-transit upholstery manufacturer. Labeled “Efficiency 73.95%,” the diagram depicts the pattern that workers must use to cut out as many elements—seat arms, backs—from a single piece of fabric as is possible. (Vaughn has added her own cryptic notes to the photocopy, likely referring to the gallery installation.) Along the floor, Vaughn has laid sculptures she created from upholstery scraps backed with Plexiglas; she titles them after the cloth’s fabrics or colors, such as the vibrantly patterned South Beach Blue No. 389 or Boomer Blue No. 340 #2. Seven sets of retired El seats, from the Chicago Transit Authority, are pinned to two walls in After Willis (rubbed, used and moved) #008. On one wall, there is a perfect set of four; on another, only three, with a noticeable gap—a symbol, perhaps, of the city’s segregation, of personal loss, or just of the inefficiency of public infrastructure.

Wendy Vogel

Scott Covert

127 Henry Street
October 19, 2017–December 10, 2017

127 Henry St
October 19–December 10

Scott Covert, Donna & Sylvester, n.d., acrylic and oilstick on canvas, 31 x 31".

Death pairs well with glamour: Think of Marlene Dietrich’s prostitute-spy character in Dishonored (1931), as she applies her lipstick before meeting a firing squad; Bette Davis as terminally ill socialite Judith Traherne in Dark Victory (1939); or Divine’s punk murderess Dawn Davenport in John Waters’s Female Trouble (1974), where the actor soliloquizes from an electric chair like a demented starlet accepting her first, and final, Oscar.

Scott Covert certainly understands the seductive appeal of merging Eros and Thanatos: For twenty-five years, the artist has traipsed the world, from Père Lachaise in Paris to LA’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park, making gravestone rubbings of the famous, fucked-up, and fabulous. Nineteen of the mostly acrylic-and-oilstick-on-canvas works, sometimes zhooshed up with glitter, are elegantly installed across two mausoleum-like exhibition spaces. Frank E. Campbell would be proud.

Of course, Marilyn Monroe makes a number of appearances in Covert’s show, quite memorably in Big Pink Marilyn #2 (all works cited, n.d.), where the doomed actress’s name and the years “1926–1962” become a pattern over fields of white and pale rose. The sensuously cool hues make one think of the skintight, nude-colored dress Monroe wore to serenade President Kennedy at his birthday celebration—an eroticized shroud, laden with rhinestones—only months before her suicide. Disco queens Summer and James share the marquee in Donna & Sylvester, while assholes Breitbart and Cunanan occupy the same circle of hell in Andrew Andrew. Covert loves his celebrities, à la Warhol, of whom the artist is a clear spiritual descendant (tender homages to Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis crop up in Covert’s pictures, too). Though the Pop painter frequently rendered his subjects as flattened, inanimate symbols, Covert does the opposite. He locates his dead in order give them one last breath—a moment that, we all hope, stretches out into forever.

Alex Jovanovich

Jacqueline Humphries

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street, Ground floor and 8th Floor
October 27, 2017–December 16, 2017

View of “Jacqueline Humphries,” 2017.

In the 1960s, US-government bureaucrats and corporate tinkerers developed ASCII, a symbolic code that uses the Roman alphabet to represent images. In the 1980s, its early adoption on the Usenet gave rise to ideograms for graphics—foreshadowing our current preoccupation with memes. Adapting this early-internet nostalgia with a nod to those who have apocalyptic visions of painting’s demise, Jacqueline Humphries’s recent abstract canvases hum with a frenetic energy, buoyed by their scale and thickly textured surfaces.

For these most recent paintings, Humphries has reinterpreted—or “cannibalized,” in the artist’s words—her past work, piling up laser-cut stencils of emoji and kaomoji in pieces such as (#J^^) (all works 2017), where smiley faces repeat and coalesce almost sculpturally, inviting viewers to decode the artist’s inscrutable layers. The broad, red, gestural strokes of TQ555 recall Cy Twombly’s later paintings, and the pocked surface left by the stencils adds another effervescent rhythm.

Humphries has championed innovation in abstraction, freeing it from its often self-serious origins (think of the artist’s groovy black-light paintings, which she started in 2005). But a sense of alarm can be detected in the artist’s mind: One large canvas streaked with swaths of yellow paint, under which a big, stressed-out figure can be seen, is titled simply Worried Emoji:).

Tausif Noor

Valeska Soares

Alexander Gray Associates
510 West 26th Street
October 26, 2017–December 16, 2017

Valeska Soares, Epilogue (detail), 2017, mixed media, 3' 11“ x 18' 3” x 3' 10".

“This is a true story,” begins the text on a page torn from the back of a book, humbly framed and inconspicuously placed at the start—or is it the finish?—of Valeska Soares’s first show here. Located on the second floor, the piece isn’t on the checklist. It both is and is not part of the show. It marks a new beginning and at the same time signals continuity, introducing the installation Epilogue, 2017, an epic variation on Finale, 2013. Finale consists of an antique dining table topped with mirrored glass and covered with dozens of dainty vintage drinking glasses, all of them filled with spirits. Epilogue features five such tables, end to end, with many times more glasses and an almost overwhelming smell of alcohol. To walk into the room is to wonder: What kind of extravagant party was this, and what cleared out the revelers so quickly that none of them downed their drinks? The text on the page continues: “. . . although some names and details have been changed to protect the guilty.”

Born in Brazil in the 1950s and based in Brooklyn since the 1990s, Soares specializes in a kind of domestic terror that is familiar to an international generation of feminist artists whose works span old worlds and new, intimations of home and exile, evocations of liberation and restraint. Where Soares differs from her contemporaries is in how she finds and alters pre-existing materials. The new series of paintings “Doubleface,” 2017, includes four portraits of women, variously procured, which have been turned to face the wall, painted monochromatically, cut, and folded to reveal eyes, a nose, and, in one case, hands. They are ambiguous objects, and perhaps not totally convincing as images, but they are wholly in keeping with Soares’s love of mystery and drama.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Phil Collins

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
November 2, 2017–December 16, 2017

Phil Collins, Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, 2014, video, color, sound, 91 minutes.

In baghdad screentests, 2002, he auditioned everyday Iraqis for a nonexistent Hollywood movie, throwing Andy Warhol’s example into the harrowing pause between international sanctions and a catastrophic war. In they shoot horses, 2004, he filmed two groups of teenagers in Ramallah, Palestine, who danced for eight hours straight, treading delicately toward ideas of heroism, exhaustion, and collapse through tracks by Beyoncé and Bananarama. In marxism today (prologue), 2010, he added a Stereolab sound track to the discomfiting creep of nostalgia for a set of systems and structures that failed, for all their promise.

If you’re of the opinion that the last of those works by Phil Collins is one of the best essay films by an artist ever made, then you might find his latest exhibition here curious—darker in mood, more ambitious in terms of material. An immersive installation surrounds the twenty-one-minute video Delete Beach, 2016, created in collaboration with a renowned anime studio in Japan. Small sand dunes spill through the lower gallery, strewn with cheap beach furniture, discarded milk crates, an abandoned walker, rubber tires, and pools of oil that bubble and shimmer to a light show. The film tells a totally convincing story about a post-oil economy gone dystopically wrong, pitting the First Wavers against the renegade, anticapitalist Burners.

Linked by a small selection of lithographs based on cel drawings from the making of the film, Delete Beach is paired here with Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, 2014, a complex, ninety-one-minute portrait of Glasgow as experienced through the extremes of its residents, including improbable young parents, wasted ravers, petty criminals, and angry mystics. The throughline, of course, is Collins’s pop sensibility and incomparable ear for music. Don’t miss the film’s “intermission,” featuring “voodoo-rave-sensations” Golden Teacher.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Andrew Cannon

White Columns
320 West 13th Street, Entrance on Horatio)
November 4, 2017–December 16, 2017

Andrew Cannon, Beaver, Real Estate, John Astor, 2017, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, plastic resin, urethane foam, polystyrene, foam, pigment, 64 x 48 x 8".

When a beaver makes its lodge, it’s an instinctual operation. The final structure is awkward, jutting, but has a peculiar beauty all its own. In the bottom left corner of Andrew Cannon’s Beaver, Real Estate, John Astor (all works 2017)—one of the wall-mounted, relief-like works in the current show, his first solo in New York—we see a profile of the titular creature (the beaver, not Astor), likely working on its house. Cannon’s gripping pieces take the beaver’s process as a model through which to think about artmaking: an unwieldy accretion of gestures and synaptic firings that are totally animal but capable of yielding otherworldly results.

At first sight, Cannon’s works appear to be heavy ceramics, as their “glazed” surfaces suggest fired clay. But upon closer examination the pieces are revealed to be made of urethane foam, among many other things—holographic foil, oil paint, putty, and gold leaf, to name a few—coated in pigment and epoxy resin. Epoxy is often used to seal metals, which adds a mechanical sheen to industrial surfaces. But the effect here feels handmade, like someone’s first stab at pottery, or Rosemarie Trockel’s memorable deformations of such craft media. Landscape recurs throughout: Italy in Goethe looks like a dirty slab of emerald and possesses the natural majesty of a scintillating geode. In Carnation Sign, there’s a mushroom with perfectly rendered gills. Above it, crystalline flowers bloom—an ecological image rife with the ecstatic. Cannon’s sculptures are newfangled objects that play with sensations and sensibilities as old as time.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Libby Rothfeld

178 Norfolk Street
November 5, 2017–December 17, 2017

Libby Rothfeld, Bulletin Board #1, 2017, laminate, water bottle, UV Plexi-prints, charcoal, tape, paper, thumb tack, 37 x 37 1/2 x 5".

Libby Rothfeld’s exhibition here, “Noon and Afternoon,” is chock-full of vessels not exactly yearning to be filled. Ruined cardboard boxes prop up seemingly flimsy laminate desk legs in Desk / System (all works 2017). Several empty and half-empty plastic water bottles sit atop the table and other sculptures in the show. Many of her titles include the word “system,” as if there’s some kind of steadfast order that needs to be reckoned with in these existentially unsettled and haunted objects. Both Rack / System and Chair / System are geometric, quasifunctional support structures for clothes that have been enshrouded by dry-cleaning bags. Seen together, they lament the roteness of adult professionalism: Bland garments in various shades of anemic yellow and dead chocolate—with the requisite white dress shirt—reinforce a horrible sense of status quo.

A water bottle fits perfectly in the top slot of Bulletin Board #1, a wall-mounted block on which there are two paper receipts, drawings of an outstretched hand, and inset Plexi-prints of bizarre sushi ads buried under clear packing tape. None of it looks particularly important, or appetizing. The words and images feel like traces of random thoughts, things that want to be special enough to be recollected but aren’t. Hand (Mask), a vinyl print of the phrase “Butternut squash x 3” written in pen on an open palm, is embellished by a goofy monkey-face mask fashioned from Ultracal. The print isn’t crisp; the mask is crude. Rothfeld is not beholden to perfection—her works embrace the homely, cast-off, and ordinary. But the artist creates an exceptional gestalt from her unapologetically “dumb” items and sources—a body of work that very much deserves to be remembered.

Yin Ho

Yasue Maetake

The Chimney
200 Morgan Avenue
November 3, 2017–December 17, 2017

View of “Yasue Maetake: Reverse Subterrestrial,” 2017.

“Reverse Subterrestrial,” the title of Yasue Maetake’s exhibition here, suggests the dredging up of something buried. Indeed, her site-specific installation produces the strange sensation of plunging into the depths, even as you ascend the vertical space of the two-story structure. The artist’s immersive environment appears in states of both dissolution and becoming, conjuring postapocalyptic visions of slow but resolute regeneration. Maetake’s process is one of productive destruction: beating, boiling, and burning initiate physical transformations in materials that include steel, aluminum, fiber, tree bark, and animal bone. The resulting marks—stains, rust, and oxidation—create patinas and textures that evoke time’s passage, imbuing even the delicate handmade paper constructions with unexpected durability.

The juxtaposition of industrial metals, often forming large structural apparatuses, with more organic accretions conjures the sense of a long-abandoned built environment. Although the forms remain abstract, they loosely reference flora and fauna. Molded paper-pulp sculptures, sometimes activated with videos projected onto their craggy surfaces, look like aquatic plant life, while sprawling limbs of aluminum and graphite could belong to giant insects. When the structures evince a human presence, it is through objects rather than bodies: Rusted impressions on the surfaces of fiber pulp appear to have been made by pressing tools into the wet material, suggesting once-useful implements turned obsolete. The “Three-Legged Idol” series, 2014–17, intimately scaled tripods of bone and bark adorned with trinkets and origami constructions, evokes talismans imbued with the desires and superstitions of their makers. But overall, “Reverse Subterrestrial” is a posthuman environ, picturing a time and place in which humans have wrought untold destruction yet new life forms proliferate.

Paula Burleigh

Hayv Kahraman

Jack Shainman Gallery | West 24th Street
524 West 24th Street
October 26, 2017–December 20, 2017

Hayv Kahraman, Mahaffa 1, 2017, oil on linen, 35 x 25". From the series “Mahaffa,” 2017.

For more than a decade, the Baghdad-born, Los Angeles–based artist Hayv Kahraman has been making paintings in a style that is unmistakably her own, mixing elements of Persian miniature and Renaissance portraiture with a vaguely Japanese aesthetic. She works on raw linen and leaves ample space untouched. She paints women with ghostly white skin, red lips, strong brows, and calligraphic shocks of black hair. The figures in painting after painting always appear to be the same person, with subtle variations. Kahraman has arranged them into sacrificial scenes; cast them as evil marionettes; as one waxing the mustache of another. Her levels of humor and pathos go up and down. But one may reasonably wonder to what extent Kahraman is repeating herself, getting stuck in her subject.

She offers a striking answer—and a way forward—in this show. Risking the total destruction of her work, Kahraman has lately taken to delivering her paintings to a facility in the garment district of Los Angeles, where they are systematically shredded and returned to her in strips (Strip 1, for example, all works 2017). She has cut the linen of one painting and woven it into another (in the series “Mahaffa” and “Mnemonic Artifact”), emulating the pattern of a braided palm-frond fan, which was one of the only sentimental objects her family packed into a single suitcase when they fled Iraq in 1992, traveling through Africa and the Middle East on false passports before settling as refugees in Sweden. Her furthest departure yet is a pair of near abstractions, T25 and T26, made from pamphlets that were distributed to US soldiers in Iraq, ostensibly guiding them, via pictograms, to understand a few phrases of Arabic and Kurdish for a hearts-and-minds campaign—or, more accurately, teach them the vocabulary of war.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Anton Ginzburg

Fridman Gallery
287 Spring Street
November 14, 2017–December 21, 2017

View of “Anton Ginzburg: Staring and Cursing,” 2017.

A century ago, Russia’s October Revolution catapulted universalism from the worker’s table to the seat of state power, and the prospective elimination of class created fruitful opportunities for the avant-garde. Kazimir Malevich and his lesser known contemporaries, such as Mikhail Matyushin, sought to inaugurate a transcendental aesthetic language through abstraction and explore the limits of human perception—a project that underpins Anton Ginzburg’s current show.

In the center of the gallery, viewers encounter Sky Poles II, 2016, a duo of porcelain totems glazed in gradations of blue. Despite their earthly materiality, the columns seem to reach for the atmosphere and function as pylons granting entry to the immersive mural behind, Color-Space Initiative 2, 2017. Mint and cerulean rectangles become an abstract landscape layered with four panels of mirrored glass (“COEV Compositions,” 2016–, a separate series of works) to create a horizon line. Ginzburg studied and adapted the theories and methodologies of Matyushin, who hypothesized a mystical augmentation of human perception through artistic training. The result is a body of work that is deeply formal as well as phenomenological, beckoning viewers to perceive themselves in the here and now.

Ginzburg’s “ORRA” paintings, 2017, octagonal panels of geometric abstraction, utilize vibrant color combinations related to Matyushin’s extensive studies. They allude to something beyond, but their handmade tactility projects a sense of immanent presence. Stripes and squares of blue, peach, orange, and green, among other hues, conglomerate into a frontal cross composition. Colors push and pull, confusing figure and ground. Though Ginzburg’s exhibition laments the lost possibilities of a utopian abstraction, it proposes a hopeful future for painting, full of vitality and breath.

Owen Duffy

Lewis Stein

Essex Street
55 Hester Street
October 29, 2017–December 22, 2017

Lewis Stein, Untitled, ca. 1968, billy club, nail, 34 × 1 × 1".

After reading Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Structure of Behavior (1942) while studying architecture at MIT, Lewis Stein developed an interest in dance and subsequently took classes at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. During a summer workshop with Anna Halprin that year, participants went on a field trip to Mendocino. When prompted to build structures on the beach, Stein dug a hole. Shortly afterward, the artist began the subtly anarchistic body of works on display here, whose functions are associated with the regulation and policing of space.

The objects, all Untitled, generate a pervasive atmosphere of malaise. This could be attributed to how these items are used for control and, simultaneously, the impotence rendered by their display as art. Some of the pieces include a wooden billy club, ca. 1968, which hangs by a nail at the entrance to the gallery. There’s also a set of stanchions and red velvet rope, ca. 1971, interlocked in a configuration that outlines an enclosed space in the center of the gallery. A chrome-plated rail, ca. 1972, stands in front of a working push-button door buzzer, ca. 1976. And a functioning sodium streetlamp, ca. 1979–80, with its original steel extension arm, is installed on a wall only eight feet from the ground, suffusing everything with its warm light. Isolated and stripped of their abilities to punish, regulate, or restrict, Stein’s works present a kind of realism predicated on the physiological response to stimulus—a rare opportunity to be intimate with a set of specific spatial relationships that govern conduct.

Tabitha Piseno

Anna Conway

Fergus McCaffrey | New York
514 West 26th Street
November 1, 2017–December 23, 2017

Anna Conway, Potential, 2015, oil on canvas, 52 x 80".

In contemporary usage, ideas of luxury and aspiration tend to draw upon the same visual vocabulary. Architecturally speaking, this means the cool, clean lines of midtown modernism, accentuated by an expensive-looking emptiness. After all, true luxury implies exclusivity. For it to matter most, it must be yours, and yours alone.

Anna Conway attends to the slippages between the haves and have-nots with this able-bodied fleet of eight oil paintings. The images immerse viewers in the sleek surrealism of ad-ready landscapes, poured-concrete playgrounds for upmarket sedans or the kind of Arco-lit interiors where a handsome young man might present his exotic brunette—in this context, a blonde feels too cheap—with the little box that lets her know she’s “worth it.” The paintings’ titles tend to tout the formless virtues peddled on motivational posters: Determination, Devotion, Perseverance or, perhaps the most pliable, Potential (all 2015). The painter’s pristine execution echoes the would-be flawlessness of her settings, save for the soft intrusions, the orange extension cords, and pre-Keurig coffee pots that signal someone else’s presence. Figures themselves are rare and always seemingly accidental. For example, in Haniwa, 2017—named for the Japanese ritual mask propped on a pedestal in a vast, gallerylike space—the janitor stands rigidly fixed in the shadows, his floor polisher giving him away.

This preoccupation with questions of display reflects in Conway’s treatment of collected items (tabletop antiquities, di Suveroesque lawn sculptures, or even the taxidermied rhinoceros, rearing in the dark of a glass-roofed courtyard). The importance of these objects is that they can be owned, even as Conway’s larger composition glides just beyond the viewer’s grasp.

Kate Sutton

Donald Baechler

Cheim & Read
547 West 25th Street
November 2, 2017–December 23, 2017

Donald Baechler, Severed Shadow, 2017, acrylic and fabric collage on canvas, 40 x 40".

Donald Baechler has been likened to Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg for his sculpture and collage, respectively, but his paintings are most often compared to those of children. Though he discourages this last comparison, it is easy to see why it proliferates: The artist’s canvases often contain a single outlined figure placed on pastel patches rendered in the short, erratic hatch marks of a youth with a marker. Here, some works appear to depict children—with large, round heads and stubby arms, they are reminiscent of Peanuts characters; some even have parentheses bracketing their eyes like an anxious Charlie Brown, as in The Hard Double (all works cited 2017).

But rather than juvenile ebullience, there’s a subtle note of loneliness in these figures that drift through undefined space, disconnected from one another and their surroundings. Human contact is rare, beyond the grip of an anonymous arm on a handcuffed man with his back to us, peering into an abyss of splattered acrylic in Severed Shadow. These alienated ciphers are also estranged from the ground, which is often a medley of soft colors with the occasional paint-dripped grid, as in The Ordinary Song. Together, these works evince the paradoxical coexistence of community and isolation—a familiar experience, regardless of age.

Alexandra Germer

Adam Putnam

535 West 22nd Street, Third Floor
November 16, 2017–December 23, 2017

Adam Putnam, Eclipse, 2016–17, gelatin silver print, 8 x 10".

The subjects of the fifty-four intimate photographs and eighty-four short films that comprise Adam Putnam’s exhibition “Portholes” include in situ windows and doors, disjunctive architectural elements, celestial light sources, ranks of trees, and spans of dune. Also, there is the occasional human, shrouded or otherwise obscured. The photos’ gauzy processing strips away detail so that bodies and objects take on a degree of abstraction. The blur is never so much as to imply nostalgia or squander Putnam’s precision; paradoxically, it clarifies. The result is a kind of cerebral psychedelia—Kenneth Anger on some mordant ADHD meds. In Cushions, 2016–17, a long, flat pillow almost levitates; in Sandman, 2016–17, a fracturing of white, black, and gray in myriad shades—seemingly a metallic blanket covering someone’s head and shoulders—frustrates visual resolution in the foreground. Almost anything planar seems as if it could “flip” visually and become not an object but a gateway. A trio of Corner works, numbered I, IV, and V, 2016–17, resemble that illusionistic line drawing that oscillates between suggesting a cube and a room. The moon appears in a work titled Eclipse, 2016–17, not as an object but as a cutout opening onto a realm of light.

The snippet-like films of Reclaimed Empire (2010–17) follow a similar path, a little clearer-eyed but perhaps more eerie for it, abetted by a sparse but abrasive analog-synth sound track juxtaposed with sounds of nature. A nude form crouched under a Plexiglas construction stretches a limb; black mist drifts within a plywood chamber in front of a black-tipped column; a lens flare yellows out the head of someone gazing toward the sun. Putnam’s commitment to film as a medium—the photographs in the show are mostly gelatin silver, unique, and made from large-format negatives collected over the last decade—is at least correlative with his work’s occult overtones. For something to dematerialize, after all, there first has to be a tangible object.

Domenick Ammirati

Maryam Hoseini

Rachel Uffner Gallery
170 Suffolk Street
November 5, 2017–December 23, 2017

Maryam Hoseini, Don’t Talk about Women If You Are a Liar (detail), 2017, acrylic, ink, pencil, latex, dimensions variable.

Maryam Hoseini wields abstraction as a tool for flattening and blending social space. In “Of Strangers and Parrots,” her first solo show with this gallery, stripes become serpents, limbs become lakes, and penciled-in leg hairs become hieroglyphs. Whole figures are discernable, but they are piled on top of one another or stacked. This collapse of body and background into airless, stylized planes creates unease.

The people in Hoseini’s paintings live on thin margins. The artist hints at their identities with declarative titles such as Don’t Talk about Women If You Are a Liar, Women Liars Are Losers, and Liars Make Women Promise (all works 2017). It is, of course, impossible to separate the women from the liars—Hoseini seems to simultaneously revel in and reject this state of discomfiture.

By laying bare feelings of confinement and confusion with art-historical imagery, Hoseini sets a stage for looking at homosocial spaces and the paradoxical ways they are preserved in contemporary life. Whether it’s a bathroom in New York City or a hammam in her native Iran, these spaces have continually provided the architecture for the oppression of the other. But rather than shy away from her involvement in this terrain, the artist implicates herself in its construction and maintenance through her own false dichotomies: liars versus women, abstraction versus figuration. By creating a heightened sense of self-awareness, Hoseini asks viewers to give themselves over to intersectional thinking.

Kat Herriman

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
327 Broome Street
November 16, 2017–December 23, 2017

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Blue Dancer, 2017, oil on canvas, 68 x 54".

In all but one of the eight large paintings on view in Tunji Adeniyi-Jones’s assured solo debut, a curvaceous, androgynous figure, or pair, floats in space, twisting and turning ethereally through dense vegetation, the coils of a serpent, or gentle foliage that may well be underwater. Adeniyi-Jones’s compositions pack everything into a shallow plane. What appears at first to be rougher, more gestural brushwork—in, say, the upper right corner of an otherwise super-smooth canvas such as Blue Dancer, 2017—becomes, with a closer look, an almost divine source of light filtering into the picture, adding depth, enhancing color, and deepening the mystery of who, what, and when we are seeing.

Paintings such as Red Twins, 2016, owe an obvious debt to Matisse. The two Blue Dancer paintings included here, both 2017, seem inconceivable without the dramatic turn in Chris Ofili’s career to the blue paintings he began making in Trinidad twelve years ago. But the real engine of influence is the book giving this exhibition its name—Robert Farris Thompson’s Flash of the Spirit (1984), a magisterial study of how the visual arts and philosophies of five ancient African civilizations traveled from the old world to the new, with everything from cosmograms and ideographs to praise-chants and divination literature taking on radically new forms and purposes as they entered the cultural milieus of Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the American South.

Flash of the Spirit was first published not quite a decade before Adeniyi-Jones was born in London to a Yoruba family from Nigeria. Filled with drawings, photographic reproductions of priceless artifacts, and irresistible passages on notions of paradise and mystic coolness, Thompson’s book also provides a generous framework for the artist’s stylized vocabulary and playfulness with time.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Raghubir Singh

The Met Breuer
945 Madison Avenue
October 11, 2017–January 2, 2018

Raghubir Singh, Monsoon Rains, Monghyr, Bihar, 1967, C-print, 9 1/2 x 14".

Raghubir Singh’s first camera was a gift from an older brother, who brought it back from a trip to Hong Kong. Singh, fourteen at the time, used the camera to join the photography club at his Jesuit high school in Jaipur. He took pictures constantly and developed them in a rudimentary black-and-white darkroom. On one of his parents’ bookshelves, he found a book of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work in India and pored over it intently.

Singh went to college to study history but dropped out. He needed to find a job. It was only after he applied to nearly every tea company in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and was rejected by all of them that he turned to photography as a career. Starting in the 1960s, he worked as a photojournalist—magazines offered him decent pay and unlimited access to Kodachrome slide film—and then settled into a rhythm of self-directed projects, which found their fullest expression in books (Singh published thirteen in his lifetime, with a fourteenth released posthumously). He died instantly of a massive heart attack in 1999, just fifty-six.

This most comprehensive retrospective of Singh’s photography to date, “Modernism on the Ganges,” tells the story of his life and work through eighty-five of his pictures. Singh held close to the influences of Cartier-Bresson and the Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, a lifelong friend. But while they stuck to a black-and-white vision of the world, Singh drew upon eighteenth-century Rajput miniatures and the more colloquial twentieth-century tradition of hand-coloring studio portraiture. The show delicately punctuates its loosely chronological narrative with comparative images, tracing out Singh’s sources of inspiration, the work of his peers, and younger photographers whom he mentored. It allows for an incredible accumulation of detail, building in complexity toward a surprisingly nimble argument about color, photography, modernism, and a porous world.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

“Charles White—Leonardo da Vinci.”

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
October 7, 2017–January 3, 2018

Charles White, Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man), 1973, oil wash on board, 60 x 44".

What if all exhibitions were like this one—shrewd, focused, and rounded out by Vedic natal charts? For the “Artist’s Choice” genus here, David Hammons has paired Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man), 1973, a monumental work from the museum’s collection made with oil wash on board by his great Los Angeles–based teacher Charles White, with a powerful, complete sketch by Leonardo da Vinci: a small brush-and-ink study on paper, The drapery of a kneeling figure, ca. 1491–94, on loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Though they were made some 450 years apart, the coupling inspires chills, like a poignant song with a two-part harmony.

According to the detailed charts (by the astrologer Chakrapani Ullal), White was born with Virgo rising, and da Vinci with Sagittarius rising—both in the first half of April. Leave it to Hammons to notice the equivalence of their star sign, Aries, in addition to the ample formal resonances here—for instance, sfumato, a blurring effect like smoke or a cloud drifting over and dimming a surface, runs across both works. It produces a spellbinding result in Black Pope, a complex chorus of shapes in shades of brown and burnt umber that finds at its center a man in a heavy coat and scarf bearing a signboard overlaid with the word NOW. No better time. But who is this holy man? More will be revealed soon through context and history: White’s first major retrospective in several decades will tour the Art Institute of Chicago and MoMA next year, and will finally land at LACMA in March 2019.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Françoise Grossen

Blum & Poe | New York
19 East 66th Street
November 3, 2017–January 6, 2018

View of “Françoise Grossen,” 2017–18.

In the two years since septuagenarian Swiss-born artist Françoise Grossen mounted her first show here, several institutional exhibitions have positioned her as one of the most inventive fiber artists of her generation. Grossen’s strange, corporeal forms speak to her eclectic training—she studied architecture and textiles in Europe, got an MFA in California, and spent a great deal of time in Africa, observing various craft techniques. This show features twenty works from 1970 to the early 1990s, showcasing the breadth of a practice that, as she describes it, “broke with the wall.”

Based in New York since the 1960s, Grossen’s influences include experimental dance choreography made for the floor. The piece Embryo, 1987, composed of knotted manila and cotton rope wrapped at the base with synthetic material, resembles a defeated, floor-bound body—or one tucked into child’s pose. Works such as Timbuctu, Alpha, and Delta (all 1991–92) suggest darker histories; suspended from the ceiling and tinged with red, they look like punished flesh.

The show takes an archival turn with a gallery devoted to Grossen’s large-scale public installations of the 1970s and 1980s—often commissioned for incongruously sterile spaces. A wall of black-and-white photos documents her dramatic knotted constructions in open-plan offices, hotel ballrooms, and cavernous university buildings. The opposite wall displays scale models of the installations, such as the intricately braided Maquette for Citibank, 111 Wall Street NY, 1979, in shades of earthy burnt orange and burgundy. In the rougher-hewn Rudin Management Fragment, 1981, dozens of golden ropes hold a loose wad of fabric—it feels like a long, gauzy mass of hair. It’s hard not to read the jarring shift in aesthetics and politics of the Reagan years in this work, and the gulf that would divide Grossen’s art from the hard-edge geometric work we typically see in the corporate lobbies of today.

Wendy Vogel

“Interwoven Dialogues”

Aicon Gallery
35 Great Jones Street
November 30, 2017–January 6, 2018

Hassan Hajjaj, Hindi Kahlo, 2000, metallic Lambda print on Dibond with wood and Coca-Cola cans, 51 x 37".

For almost fifteen years, the Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj has been making loud, uproarious photographs pairing the conventions of historical West African studio portraiture with the accouterments of Arabic kitsch. The pictures are light and fun and quote knowingly from art history, pirated fashion, and the curious flotsam of globalization. People tend to love or hate Hajjaj’s work—a predicament not helped by his sobriquet, the Andy Warhol of Marrakech. But wherever you fall on the spectrum, you can probably agree that the work doesn’t quite play well with others.

Perhaps it’s a sign that this crammed but generous show of ten very different artists is working. The exhibition includes three of Hajjaj’s portraits—Hack, 2011; Zezo Tamsamani, 2010; and Hindi Kahlo, 2000, a riff on Frida—and they are wonderfully offset by three of Omar Victor Diop’s portraits. Diop, from Senegal and a generation younger than Hajjaj, captures doses of attitude, utterly contained in the bodies of his subjects, with his images of young, regal, and defiant women. Hajjaj’s sensibility, by contrast, is diffused over patterns, poses, references, and elements of assemblage. So well do these six images ticktock that one can easily forget the ostensible binary here is Africa and South Asia, not the Maghreb and the sub-Sahara, figuration and abstraction, minimalism and maximalism, masculine and feminine, seriousness and play.

“Interwoven Dialogues” is, of course, a patently lousy title, but the sheer density through which the curator Awam Amkpa is exploring textiles—physically and metaphorically, as tactile material and social code—allows for meaningful and surprising links, not only between Hajjaj and Diop but also between the Algerian calligrapher Rachid Koraichi and the more conceptually minded Aisha Khalid, from Pakistan, whose rose-is-a-rose diptych West Looks East, 2013, packs in another dichotomy still.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Sage Sohier

Foley Gallery
59 Orchard Street, Ground Floor
November 29, 2017–January 7, 2018

Sage Sohier, Bleaching ritual, Washington, DC, 2003, archival pigment print, 28 x 34".

Sage Sohier’s “Witness to Beauty” opens with a portrait of a woman at a vanity, looking at herself in a handheld mirror. This is the artist’s mother, Wendy Morgan. She looks at herself, Sohier looks at her mother, and the viewer looks at the artist looking at her mother. There are, therefore, a series of frames—in a literal sense, too, as framed paintings, mirrors, and family photographs seem to adorn every wall in the pieces’ domestic settings. These backdrops often feel highly staged: Magazines are arranged just so on the coffee table, and the subjects’ outfits mimic those in the family portrait hanging above the couch. This emphasis on composure is not incidental; the gallery states that the impetus for this body of images was Sohier’s sense that she could never compete with her mother for looks (Morgan was a model), so the artist had to content herself with being on the other side of the camera.

As a motivation, beauty is treated lightly. Mum and Laine making me up, Washington DC, 2004, shows Sohier being gussied by her gleeful sister and mother as Sohier childishly sucks in her lips. Mum exercising in her pool, Washington, DC, 2001, captures Morgan floating nude in a swimming pool, her illuminated breasts uplifted by a neon-green noodle. Despite the levity (and occasional sappiness), there is something equally laborious, even disturbing, about this “beauty” one is made to witness. It entails bleaching rituals, cedar enzyme baths, a face-lift, and the stifling presence of flowers. Perhaps Sohier is indeed better off behind the camera.

Mira Dayal

Petrit Halilaj

New Museum
235 Bowery
September 27, 2017–January 7, 2018

View of “Petrit Halilaj: RU,” 2017–18.

Petrit Halilaj’s complex exhibition merges issues of identity, collective narrative, and echoes of past battles in a dreamlike environment populated by flocks of imaginary birds. In the two-channel video The city roofs were so near that even a sleepwalking cat could pass over Runik without ever touching the ground (all works 2017), Halilaj interviews people living in the titular village in Kosovo, where he grew up—an area that contains important Neolithic settlements found during archeological digs in 1968 and 1983. After the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, the artifacts became displaced. The most valuable pieces are currently stored in Belgrade’s Natural History Museum—inaccessible to the people of Runik but vividly alive in their minds. With handheld cameras, Halilaj visits rural neighborhoods and farms, and walks in fields where women, men, and children still dig up fragments of ancient pottery and animal bones. They share recollections of their discoveries with an intensity that highlights a deep attachment to the symbolic values of their heritage.

We watch the video reclining on soft fabric sculptures in the shape of large fowl, which takes us to the following room, where Halilaj’s research on the habitats of migratory birds becomes a metaphor for a utopian free world. Here we find the sprawling installation RU, made up of about five hundred objects and fragments collected from Runik’s historic sites. Small pots, vases, and cups are placed on thin bronze legs and appear as odd avian creatures perched on intricate branches, either sitting around a pond or scattered on the floor. The delicate poetry of this fantastic landscape shifts nostalgia for a lost past to a lively present, where memories and legends give shape to a new world, devoid of borders.

Ida Panicelli

“War and Pieced: The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics”

American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Avenue at 66th Street
September 6, 2017–January 7, 2018

Artist unknown, Sailor’s Quilt, late nineteenth century, wool felt, embroidery thread, 90 x 70".

Hands with rifles in them seem like better playthings for the devil than just idle ones, but most of the devastatingly beautiful nineteenth-century quilts on view here are the products of assiduous busywork that likely kept the British Empire’s working-class soldiers and sailors out of trouble in their leisure time. Blood-red, blue, gold, and cream hues dominate the rich, matte mosaics, which are sewn from thousands of tiny hexagons, diamonds, triangles, and squares, excised primarily from the heavy wool of military uniforms. While some of these quilts are embroidered with heraldic or narrative elements—crowns, cannons, ships, or flags—such embellishments are afterthoughts to their exquisite geometric patterning. With their suede-like texture, meticulous construction, and palpable heft, they are seductive objects regardless of their backstories. But the eerie gravitas that distinguishes them derives from imagining the men sewing in their quiet hours, delicately handling fabrics that may have seen the chaos and horror of the Crimean War, Britain’s ruthless imperial expansion in Africa, or the brutal enforcement of colonial rule in India.

The wall text tiptoes around the global role of its (mostly anonymous) male quilters, referencing their hardships in some detail while largely avoiding acknowledgment of the murderous rapacity of the British and the atrocities committed—perhaps by some of these crafters personally—in the very euphemistically termed “volatile landscapes” where they were stationed. And while I wanted more discussion of how the formal characteristics of these textiles might be influenced by local traditions, especially given the prominence of exoticism in the decorative arts of the Victorian era, credit is given where due to the extent it’s possible. The most gorgeous quilts, featuring brighter colors, intricate appliqué work, and beading, are those from mid-to-late-nineteenth-century India. So virtuosic are their design and construction, the accompanying description notes that they are not always the work of untrained infantry but sometimes of regimental or—surprise, surprise—Indian tailors.

Johanna Fateman

Elia Alba

The 8th Floor
17 West 17th Street, 8th Floor
September 21, 2017–January 12, 2018

Elia Alba, The Spiritualist (Maren Hassinger), 2013, ink-jet print, 20 x 30".

The sixty individual portraits of nonwhite artists taken by Elia Alba for her current exhibition here, titled “The Supper Club,” are mostly of people she came to know through a series of dinner parties she organizes. Topics surrounding race, the art world, and visual culture are frequently discussed at these events, and the project became an expansive, multidimensional discourse on selfhood and politics.

Alba tailors each portrait to the artist. She chooses an assortment of backdrops, props, and costumes to accentuate her sitters’ personae while subtly highlighting their contributions to the cultural landscape. The titular artist in The Spiritualist (Maren Hassinger), 2013, for example, makes work that explores nature as a complex and psychological space for political and personal transformation. She appears as a dancing vision dressed in white, surrounded by violet foliage. In The Provocateur (Coco Fusco), 2013, Fusco—famous for a rigorous multidisciplinary practice that interrogates colonialism, gender, and race—stares intensely at the camera, practically burning a hole through the viewer. The performance artist featured in The Thespian (Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz), 2014, looks like an old Hollywood screen siren. She clutches a strand of pearls and points her eyes heavenward, a figure ensconced and confident in her own glamour.

Through the work Alba provides her community with a solid stage that connects it to the rest of the world. Her pictures add a theatrical dimension to concepts of identity, blurring the hard boundaries of “difference” into something more slippery and beautiful.

Naomi Lev


Artists Space
55 Walker Street
November 18, 2017–January 21, 2018

Pena Bonita, Stalled on the Way to Rosebud, 2017, mixed media, 33 x 42".

Long before there was a Manhattan, the epicenter of savage capitalism all dolled up with shimmering lights and unyielding skyscrapers, there was Mannahatta—a Lenape place-name that means “island of many hills.” As an institution that “acknowledges its location on Indigenous land,” this nonprofit gallery brings together several artists, including Jolene Rickard, Kay WalkingStick, David Martine, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, for an exhibition that examines, through beauty and bloodshed, ideas surrounding American Indian heritage.

The show starts off with Pena Bonita’s Stalled on the Way to Rosebud, 2017, a work made up of four framed photomontages. Each part features a man, who functions as a kind of backdrop, examining his car engine in the middle of South Dakota’s Badlands. He is surrounded by an assortment of characters, such as “wanton” women, a baying ghost coyote, and hitchhiking Indian youths. Bonita’s kitsch nightmare is a real slice of frightening wilderness—a natural landscape poisoned by native stereotypes and white culture’s stupidity.

In G. Peter Jemison’s Buffalo Road III Choices, 1987–90, the titular animal—an extraordinary source of food, a symbol of divine abundance—is seen here as a great beast embellished with China marker. On its right side, the creature is imprisoned by collaged images of George H. W. Bush, gas masks, and other violent or inauspicious emblems. The left side of the work, however, has pictures of indigenous women, kayaks, and river views: an altogether calmer environment. Started during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and finished in Bush’s, Buffalo Road offers up dark commentary on rapacious American politics and expansionism: an extraordinary centerpiece for a richly complicated show.

Lara Atallah

René Magritte

Bruce Silverstein Gallery
529 West 20th Street, Third Floor
November 30–January 27

René Magritte, Le rendez-vous, Georgette Magritte, Bruxelles, 1938, gelatin silver print, 9 x 7".

René Magritte and his wife, Georgette, never had children—that kind of production wasn’t high on the Surrealist agenda—but they did keep a menagerie of pets, including dogs and cats and much-beloved pigeons. In one of the most striking images in this closet-size but museum-quality show of Magritte’s little known photography, Georgette poses against a black background, her arms crossed high in front of her chest, a bird perched on each hand.

Magritte’s Le rendez-vous, Georgette Magritte, Bruxelles, 1938, carries the same mischievous spirit, the same intimation of magic, that characterizes Surrealist photography all over the world. One wonders if Magritte took his own photos or films seriously. Did he consider them more than just the stuff of family albums, playful experiments with friends, or a tool for documenting paintings in progress? He took pictures all of his life and enthusiastically picked up an 8-mm camera in his last decade. But it wasn’t until the 1970s, when a cache of previously unknown work turned up, that Magritte’s experiments in photography and film were discovered and came to be studied.

The process has been slow, the pace quickened only recently. Last summer, a public gallery in Australia opened an expansive show titled “René Magritte: The Revealing Image,” featuring 132 photographs and eight films, which considered how they might change history’s appraisal of the artist. This exhibition, by contrast, is decidedly intimate, with just twenty-six photographs and no films. The edit is nimble, however, and the sequence moves swiftly: from a self-portrait, René Magritte fumant une cigarette (René Magritte Smoking a Cigarette), 1914, to a pair of marvelous solarized prints from 1928—L’espion (The Spy) and L’usage de la parole (The Usage of Speech)—to later collaborations from the 1950s and 1960s. Magritte’s own assessment may have been correct, but the works here show the art of his leisure time to be formidable indeed.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Michael Stamm

DC Moore Gallery
535 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor
January 4–February 3

Michael Stamm, Virtue Vest, 2017, oil, acrylic, and flashe on linen, 28 x 21".

Woe to the modern young urbanite who tries to remedy his existential queasiness with the sundry potions and palliatives offered up through the wellness-industrial complex. Is there any homeopathic pill, miracle woobie, blessed fruit, or chill yoga teacher that can coax you out of your rarefied malaise, your bummer ennui, as the world around us continues to burn?

Michael Stamm uses these conditions as a pretext for his exhibition of paintings here. Thank goodness it’s flimsy. Stamm is a painter of exceptional skill and finesse who has the preternatural ability to synthesize the lessons of Alex Katz, George Tooker, Domenico Gnoli, and two Walters—Sickert and Gay—into exquisitely wrought pictures that feel simultaneously out of time and of the moment. Everyday items are suffused with a deep magic: Jewels, buttons, and various comfort beverages (steaming, on the rocks, or fizzy with Alka-Seltzer) function as divine symbols. Virtue Vest (all works cited, 2017) depicts a garment of quilted black diamonds, based on one Stamm’s therapist wears, that doubles as a portal. The entrance is guarded by a crafty-looking necklace in the form of a woman’s face, an oracle with sleepy eyes that likely refuses to appease her interlocutors with easy answers. The pullover besieged by hellfire and death in Saint Sweater features a bannered message in Latin that reads “CONSILIO FIRMATEI DEI,” or, “It is established by God’s decree.” The phrase, along with an illuminated crown rendered across a man’s arms drawn up defensively, is taken from Joan of Arc’s family crest—signs of unbelievable devotion and, unfortunately, grisly ends.

Stamm is a fabulously eccentric image-maker who loves to warp history. His paintings are playful and sharp in all the ways we expect a contemporary artwork to be. But they’re also fussy, sentimental, and stubbornly old-fashioned—a great deal better than clever, and so much more gratifying than “cool.”

Alex Jovanovich

Elizabeth Catlett

Burning in Water
317 10th Ave.
November 28–February 3

View of “Elizabeth Catlett: Wake Up in Glory,” 2017–18.

The Senegalese poet Léopold Sédar Senghor once said that “everyone must be mixed in their own way.” That idea, according to the philosopher Souleymane Bachir Diagne, in his book African Art as Philosophy (2011), was central to Senghor’s belief that African art was the expression of an aesthetic, a philosophy, an entire cosmology, and that it would only have meaning if it were open to the world and had access to freedom. The art of Elizabeth Catlett seems to take up that line of thinking and push it further, producing it anew.

For this show, titled “Wake Up in Glory,” twelve of Catlett’s sculptures and two of her prints are gracefully arranged in a long and improbably narrow storefront. The works—in wood, bronze, and marble—cover more than sixty years of the artist’s fascinating life. Born in 1915 in Washington, DC, Catlett studied at Howard University after the Carnegie Institute of Technology rescinded her scholarship upon learning that she was black. She was also the first African American student to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa. In 1946, she moved to Mexico, where she married her second husband, raised three sons, and joined an influential artists’ collective. She renounced her US citizenship, only to have it restored in 2002, a decade before she died. In her vast oeuvre, Catlett combined elements of West African and pre-Colombian art with European modernism and the graphic clarity of political posters condemning racial injustice.

The sculptures here are wholly indicative of Catlett’s breadth, ranging from the powerfully figurative, such as Political Prisoner, 1971, a bronze of a woman standing with her hands tied behind her, leaning back as if to scream, to the mesmerizingly abstract Magic Mask, 1970–80, a smooth, oblong, anthropomorphic piece with five large circles carved through the wood.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

José Leonilson

Americas Society
680 Park Avenue
September 27–February 3

José Leonilson, O ilha (The Island One), 1991, thread and metal on canvas, 14 x 11".

José Leonilson was born in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 1957––seven years before the military coup that kept the country under the rule of military dictatorship until 1985. He spent most of his career working in São Paulo and traveling around the world until his untimely death due to complications resulting from AIDS in 1993, at the age of thirty-six. While his career was coterminous with the rise of the 1980s generation of Brazilian painters exploring a postdictatorship Brazil, his complex and diaristic intimacies set him apart from his peers.

Leonilson once said that he only made work intended for people he loved. Works on view here include collage, fabric assemblages, paintings, and drawings that use poetics and other discursive strategies to grapple with an emotional self-portraiture under a death sentence. O ilha (The Island One), 1991, is a small, spare canvas with an enrobed figure embroidered onto the surface. He stands next to the Portuguese title—a combination of masculine article and feminine noun—atop the words “handsome, selfish.” The work processes Catholic religiosity, familial fealty, and desire through a queered metaphor for loneliness. Saquinho (Small Bag), 1992, is a vibrant orange pouch, cinched tightly with copper wire and embroidered with Leonilson’s initials, “J. L.,” and his age at the time, “35.” It is a rendering of the self as vessel, container, pocket. We are left to wonder if the bag is representative of him keeping his diagnosis from his family or if it is a work about trying to hold onto something of himself before cachexia set in.

This exquisite and intelligently curated survey also lays bare a certain institutional egregiousness. We are indeed lucky to be gifted with this first-ever solo exhibition of Leonilson’s work in the United States; however, it begs the question: Why, despite the commercial and institutional visibility of artists who deal with sexuality, mortality, and disease, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres and David Wojnarowicz, has a body of work of this political importance and poetic urgency remained largely unknown?

John Arthur Peetz

Raha Raissnia

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
December 1–February 4

Raha Raissnia, Fountain, 2017, charcoal on paper, 36 x 60".

“All a blur”: We describe monotony the same way we describe chaos. Raha Raissnia’s drawings, despite their quiet consistency, have their genesis in revolution. Amid the 1979 uprising in Iran against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the artist, then a child, accompanied her father to the streets of downtown Tehran, where he would photograph demonstrations. She inherited his interest in the medium, and in “Alluvius”—her debut solo museum show—Raissnia reckons with tensions of identity and form by rephotographing and then drawing found archival imagery amassed over time. Rather than contest the notion that the camera lays claim to utter truth, Raissnia unsettles distinctions between media to suggest how images are laundered into personal truths. Perception becomes a kind of skeleton key, one remade and remade again unto meaningful divergence.

“Alluvius,” 2016, one of two series here, consists of a dozen mixed-media drawings. One can make out urban architecture; a wraithlike face; and a spectral human hand cupped into a claw, reaching into darkness. The smaller charcoal drawings that form “Canto,” 2017, blurry and luciform, appear less drawn than impressed. Occasionally, shadows resolve into human silhouettes, slurred by Raissnia’s translation. The exhibition’s centerpiece is in the corner, where an analog projector relays a carousel of hand-painted, 35-mm slides onto a framed scrim. Slides depict faces and hands as time nearly stills, expiring in slow, satisfying ticks. The source image for a larger work, Fountain, 2017, was scavenged from the trash (a box of slides had been thrown out by a lab at Brooklyn College). The drawing, muddily Photorealist, depicts a seemingly abandoned mosque’s empty fountain. While a different artist might have used this backstory to evoke annihilative neglect concerning personal and national memory, Raissnia, through her process, suggests a more generative decay.

Zack Hatfield

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

89 Eldridge Street
December 15–February 4

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Untitled (Tree of Life 23), 1975, Magic Marker, ink, stickers, tape, Canadian postage stamps, envelope, 8 x 9".

Perhaps at the very heart of your subconscious rests Snoopy. Or a scribbly crescent moon with a smile and winking eye. For Genesis Breyer P-Orridge—pandrogyne (a two-spirit being of malleable gender), soft pornographer, and so-called wrecker of civilization—it’s a cartoony little tree that looks like a four-leaf clover, sitting next to a simply rendered house: an image straight out of kindergarten, or the verdant environs of Teletubbyland. It’s the first thing the artist draws when zoning out and doodling—an elementary scene that is at the center of many striking and extraordinarily complicated projects. Don’t scoff: If an oyster’s to create its sublime pearl, it needs that ordinary grain of sand to get started.

Breyer P-Orridge recently unearthed thirty of these almost forgotten tableaux—laden with trippy patterns and fluffy clouds—for this exhibition. Made between 1974 and 1975 and executed in Magic Marker on flayed envelopes from mail-art works sent to h/er, they are soul-healing bits of jewel-toned psychedelia: Friedensreich Hundertwasser–meets–Yellow Submarine–style pictures that are genuinely perverse for their unembarrassed, family-friendly sweetness. Well, mostly sweet: Untitled (Tree of Life 28), 1975, is addressed to COUM Transmissions, the artist’s Dada-inspired think tank (the works were made near the end of the collective’s existence), with the quote “The greatest human catastrophe since Adam got a hard on.”

Taking in these pieces, I like to imagine a twenty-something Genesis with exquisitely shaped eyebrows, clad in studded leather, and wearing a dog collar, gently pushing h/er tangerine and lemon yellow markers around. Though “Tree of Life” reveals yet another rich facet of this multihyphenate maker, it does nothing to codify h/er strange and marvelous depths.

Alex Jovanovich

Ebecho Muslimova

Magenta Plains
94 Allen St
January 7–February 11

Ebecho Muslimova, Fatebe Self Possession, 2017, acrylic and gouache on canvas, 42 x 60".

It’s one thing for a woman to be nasty; it’s quite another thing for her to be unapologetically fat. A little over a year ago, before the #MeToo movement showed the power of collective voices by calling out sexual abusers, Donald Trump deflected criticism, during the presidential debates, about his misogynist attitudes by throwing Rosie O’Donnell’s body up as a rhetorical shield. Add Rosie to a list of full-figured feminists who are brash, excessive, and unafraid of men’s opinions of their bodies. Also enter Fatebe, the flexible, bug-eyed, ultravoluptuous avatar of the Russian-born artist Ebecho Muslimova. This exhibition is Muslimova’s first to include both drawings and paintings of a ribald character that, through an assortment of poses both banal and coquettish, frequently flashes her vagina or anus.

In the ink-and-gouache drawing Fatebe 2017 Show (all works 2017), Muslimova makes artistic doubt a poignant subject: Fatebe tumbles headfirst down a flight of stairs into a basement gallery—namely, the exact space where this show is installed. One breast flops around as another gets dipped into a fecal-looking liquid covering the floor. In Fatebe Asparagus Pee, Muslimova depicts Fatebe as a fertility goddess that is as modern as she is abject. She clutches stalks of the vegetable—once grouped into the same family as the lily, a classical fertility symbol—in her arms, while dozens more are shoved down her throat. She also straddles a pyramid of toilet paper.

Several other paintings return to the theme of self-examination. In the colorful Fatebe Rack, a take on Narcissus, she seems to be examining her vagina in the surface of a kiddy pool while trapped in a laundry rack. Fatebe Self Possession satirizes Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo: Fatebe films into her wide-open vagina, where three miniature Fatebes navigate a winding spiral staircase that exposes some carpeting (get the joke?) right out of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Wendy Vogel

Katherine Bernhardt

333 & 331 Broome Street
January 5–February 11

Katherine Bernhardt, Lima Cola, 2017, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 11 x 16'.

There’s a lot to parse in “Green,” Katherine Bernhardt’s enormously bananas show of paintings and sculptures. Take, for example, Climate Change (all works 2017), a spray-painted picture filled with melty Nike swooshes, cigarettes, deranged fruit, and rectangular birds. It could be a riff on poisonous consumerism and how it’s upsetting nature’s delicate balance. Or, seeing as Bernhardt is an artist who works with a very particular set of colors and shapes from the contemporary landscape that pique her interest (or gag reflex), it could be a straightforward example of unencumbered formalism. Bernhardt’s paint handling is equally yummy and yucky: Gross pools of toxic violets and bile greens commingle with euphoric blasts of spray paint that give some of her subjects an auratic quality, causing them to feel like celestial bodies from galaxies far, far away.

Storm troopers, watermelons, R2-D2s, and Coke bottles juicy with airbrushy brown soda invade the AbExy surface of Lima Cola. The incongruous jumble of things intensifies in the painting Siesta, where a languid Garfield—Jim Davis’s acerbic cartoon kitty—is surrounded by a swarm of live-wire bees. It’s the only canvas in a section of the gallery that’s jam-packed with wooden birds and flowers, all untitled, and colored hot pink. These constructions, oddly furniture-like, willfully take up room: Wings, beaks, leaves, and petals jut out into space, which makes walking around them challenging, even dangerous. But hey, if you have the guts to get close, then do—after all, that’s how Bernhardt rolls.

Yin Ho

“Dream of Solentiname”

80WSE Gallery, NYU Steinhardt School
80 Washington Square East
December 1–February 17

Mariita Guevara, Jesús expulsa a los mercaderes del templo (Jesus Expels the Merchants from the Temple), 1981, oil on canvas, 15 x 22".

This group exhibition tells a story of the Nicaraguan Civil War through the lens of Solentiname, a utopian community established in 1965 by poet, sculptor, and priest Ernesto Cardenal. It features works by community members and other artists sympathetic to their mission. Cardenal is a focal point. His sculptures, vibrant depictions of plants and animals, have a gallery to themselves, as do the community’s paintings. These brilliant works, such as Marita Guevara’s Jesús expulsa a los mercaderes del templo (Jesus Expels the Merchants from the Temple), 1981, reimagine biblical stories in Nicaraguan settings, evidence of religious practice and artmaking as means of survival and direct political actions. Cardenal recalls as much: “Meditation led us to revolution; that was how it had to be, otherwise everything would have been false.”

Curator Pablo León de la Barra presents the conflict explicitly yet remains aware of the power of the image to reduce war and its survivors to something spectacular yet distant. While Susan Meiselas’s powerful war photography receives significant standing, ephemera from the antiwar efforts of New York–based art collective Group Material demonstrate the show’s considered approach: to provide a glimpse into pockets of hope from and for Nicaragua, not simply retell a bloody drama.

The exhibition is a testament to faith in the face of violence, manifest through interconnected artist communities and their work. The profound aspirations of Solentiname are done justice, and this combination of disparate objects allows for a narrative to emerge, something greater than a sterile report on the proceedings—something true.

Lucas Matheson

Patty Chang

Queens Museum
New York City Building, Flushing Meadows
September 17–February 18

Patty Chang, Configurations (Bread), 2017, ink-jet print, 28 x 40''.

For more than twenty years, Patty Chang has consistently put her body on the line. From her early Riot Grrrl–tinged performances and videos to her later filmic investigations, she’s always been in her work, and not just via some dreary collapse of art and everyday life. I mean, in it—exposed but viscerally aware of her vulnerability. This ethics infuses her output with a buoyancy, even while she throws anchors into deep, murky waters. It’s certainly the case in her current retrospective, which weaves together various pieces from her epic eight-year multimedia project, The Wandering Lake, 2009–17, a meditation on the death of her father, raising her young son, and her travels to disparate parts of the globe, including Central Asia and Fogo Island in Canada, among other things.

Ordered and unordered liquid abjection is a theme: In the photographs from the series “Letdown (Milk),” 2017, we see the pumped breastmilk that Chang collected in found vessels while traveling around the shrinking Aral Sea. The local government had prohibited her to film there, so she documented the weaning of her child instead. In the picture Configurations (Bread), 2017, she stands somewhere along the longest aqueduct in the world (which brings water from southern to northern China, including Beijing), urinating through a hotdog bun into a bespoke Shewee. Nearby is an elegantly minimal installation of thirty-two similar urinary devices, each with an exquisite blown-glass component adhered to a plastic bottle collected from the same region. The liquid that sustains us and that we purge are contrasted, then transformed into a sinuous metaphor on the sociopolitical regulation of bodies—of humans and of waters.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Cathy Wilkes

22-25 Jackson Avenue at 46th Avenue
October 22–March 11

View of “Cathy Wilkes,” 2017–18.

The air is cold and heavy with desperation: Witness the tattered cloths, the dirty dishes. A 2006 painting with an overturned saucer affixed to its jejune surface spells out its title in thin pencil strokes: “She’s pregnant again.” The piece is a womb and a void. Look at the children: Their legs are thin or absent, their toys worn, shredded (see the brown Beanie Babies bunny whose velvety ears lie a little too close to that tarnished Swiss Army knife, in Non Verbal, 2005/2011). Their TV is turned off, with a faded red towel thrown on top of it—did it put out a small fire? Cathy Wilkes’s show is full of sparks, both deadened and vibrant. Life is glimpsed through assemblages of used and abused containers, discarded items, and household goods.

But the kids can still draw and write: “All things were made by it and without it was not anything made that was made,” says a carefully transcribed passage on wide-ruled paper in a youthful hand (Untitled, 2017). It’s part nonsense, part faith—a story about creation that rhymes without reason. And Wilkes eschews reason. She intends for her work to be experienced as a vast mystery, unfolding as a kind of maternal detachment. Mannequin mothers stand stiffly in ripped stockings, float above dead nettles, dance while possessed by some cleaning routine, or sit hunched over an alcohol bottle while the young ones watch hungrily nearby. In their wake are those fragments of narrative—crusty residues, shards of mirror—rearranged and broken again for this haunting retrospective.

Mira Dayal

“Josef Albers in Mexico”

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
1071 Fifth Avenue
November 3–March 28

Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: Consent, 1947, oil on Masonite, 16 x 16".

Josef Albers’s series “Homage to the Square,” 1950–76, oil paintings of the titular form in three or four colors on Masonite, are icons of modern art—printed in textbooks, on posters, and, in the 1980s, on US postage stamps. We are familiar with these works. We have memorized their contours. We have learned the principles of color theory and geometry they make manifest. And yet, what remains exceptional about them is precisely what we cannot immediately perceive—the infinity of reactions their disarmingly simple designs cause. What will lingering in front of an Homage piece make us see, and how it will make us feel? Will the squares nest inside one another, as in a set of Russian dolls? Or will they expand out toward us, like an accordion in play? Will they make us serene? Alarmed?

This exhibition, pairing the artist’s paintings with photographs he took in Mexico, hints at even more of what lies in wait beneath these cool exteriors. He and his wife, textile artist Anni Albers, saw an attentiveness to form in pre-Columbian design similar to their own aesthetic principles, and took frequent trips to Mexican architectural ruins from the 1930s on. Might Josef’s squares be about the vertiginous sensation of gazing up at ancient flights of stairs? Or how the sunlight curves over intricate and labyrinthine stonework patterns?

No cultural translation is neutral, and the Albers’ zeal for all things Mexican can feel fetishizing or appropriative. But this in and of itself is part of what makes “Josef Albers in Mexico” tick. Are Josef’s squares original? Are they “modern”? The exhibition prompts these questions and more.

Hannah Stamler