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Anna and Bernhard Blume

Peter Freeman, Inc.
140 Grand Street
June 3, 2016–July 22, 2016

Anna & Bernhard Blume, Hansel und Gretel, 1990/1991, gelatin silver prints, each 35 x 18".

If Hitchcock could have hired El Lissitzky as a set designer and cast Pee-wee Herman as a lead, the results might have looked a lot like Anna & Bernhard Blume’s oeuvre. In “Scenes from a Photo-Novel”—the couple’s first solo show in New York since 1989—grids of black-and-white photos and drawings storyboard the mounting terror of a priggish German couple, acted out by the Blumes themselves, as sculptural elements and household objects begin to run amok and hurtle through space, seemingly vivified by an unseen, vengeful telekinetic. The hyperbolic physical comedy of a Saturday-morning cartoon prevails: A man clings for dear life to a falling tree, clutching his hat to his head, in Hansel and Gretel, 1990/1991. In Kuchenkoller (Kitchen Frenzy), 1985/2016, potatoes appear to emerge from a sieve and whirl across a room in ring formation.

Much can be said of the Blumes’ roots in the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Joseph Beuys taught and Sigmar Polke was a classmate. And given that these gravity-defying scenes were created in the 1980s, one can’t help but wonder how some of them were shot pre-Photoshop. (With the help of safety nets and cushions, apparently.) But most intriguing is the extent to which this oeuvre, right now, feels fiercely contemporary, or at least astonishingly consonant with the concerns of a generation of emerging photographers, who—preferring cool formality over messy anthropology—are building elaborate, often semiabstract sets for their images, captivated by the picture plane’s primal role in their medium. The Blumes’ works evince a similar set of formal concerns, presciently exploring the overlap with filmic and graphic-novel representations of violence. In Transzendentaler Konstrukt (Transcendental Construct), 1992/2016, beams and blocks, sick of being objects, become pugilists instead, impaling Anna and socking Bernhard in the jaw. It all seems like a nightmare in which Constructivism’s legacy has come to life, determined to beat the crap out of its bourgeois inheritors.

Dawn Chan

Sam Lewitt

Swiss In Situ
102 Franklin Street, Temporary Location)
June 8, 2016–July 24, 2016

View of “Sam Lewitt,” 2016.

After recently performing Samuel Beckett’s Not I (1972), actress Lisa Dwan wrote: “Only a few of us know what it is to hang in that darkness . . . till the curtain opens to let in the laser of light that fires the mouth and then to speak so fast you can’t think and think so fast you can’t speak . . . yet speak she must.” In the play, a disembodied mouth, illuminated by a single beam of light, spews an agitated text after a long silence. Save for this mouth, the room is pitch black, making the senses of those patrons in the dark acutely attuned to the language happening before them.

For Sam Lewitt’s first institutional solo exhibition in New York, “Less Light Warm Words,” the artist employs a similar tactic. Lewitt has removed the fluorescent lights from the main gallery and redirected the electricity to ten slim, floor-based copper heating circuits. Virtually illegible pairings of words, some of which derive from industrial vocabulary—“VACUUM SEALED,” or “DEFOGGED MIRROR”—are written out in the circuitry on the heaters, implicating language in the pathway of energy belonging to each piece. The gallery is temporarily bereft of its fluorescent lighting, housing both a host of high-temperature electro-glyphs and, consequently, a heat unbearable in Manhattan’s summer months. Like the purposeful monotony of a spotlit mouth in the void, Lewitt’s composition of space and the speech acts it contains are here subject to concerted focus.

Tyler Curtis

Joseph Geagan

90 Ludlow St.
June 25, 2016–July 24, 2016

Joseph Geagan, The Fiddling Mykkis, 2016, pastel on paper, 50 x 38''.

Joseph Geagan documents his scene in a delicate analog mode, with pastel and paper instead of an iPhone. The artist’s exhibition here, “Toast for Old Chum,” consists of sixteen large drawings depicting Geagan’s glamorously louche friends in an electric, expressionistic style. At first glance you think you’re looking at East Village denizens, circa 1980-something. But Geagan’s not a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgist. Though the artist’s pictures are deliberately handmade, they are, paradoxically, suited to Instagram (on the gallery’s feed, some of Geagan’s subjects pose in front of their representations). The diaristic tone of these works creates a strange intersection of autobiography and allegory. His figures transmit a wide range of characteristics—erotic, hilarious, evil, or incandescent—which we see perfectly in Village Predator (all works cited, 2016), a creepy, quasi-self-portrait, and in The Street Stalker, a depiction of a Baudelairean pervert malingering on Orchard Street at dusk, looming over splayed nudes.

Polymorphous notions of sexuality and identity are at play. Take The Fiddling Mykkis, a group portrait with transfabulous rapper Mykki Blanco. This is a glitteringly queer family, “nuclear” only by sheer force of their all-encompassing charisma. And the debauchers of Elsie from Chelsea defy today’s norms of productivity or restraint—they embrace the libidinal now. Geagan reconfigures Weimar decadence—George Grosz, Christian Schad, and Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin—for New York City, 2016. Surface and style is self, my friends, and total liberation.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

“I Am Silver”

Foxy Production
2 East Broadway, 200
June 26, 2016–July 29, 2016

Justin Vivian Bond, My Barbie Coloring Book, 2014, watercolor on archival paper, 14 1/2 x 11 1/2''.

The lovely and occasionally creepy figurative paintings by six intriguing artists take shade beneath the curatorial parasol of a Sylvia Plath poem. “I Am Silver,” the show’s title, is borrowed from the first line of “Mirror,” in which the poet assumes the titular object’s dispassionate voice. With sly, mounting despair, she/it narrates the waning of a woman’s desirability. Beauty and its cruel, ridiculous genderedness might be the metasubject here. In Plath’s tradition, the works on view mourn, satirize, cheapen, or resent beauty, or make it horrifying, without utterly eradicating it.

Chelsea Culprit’s Watermelon Crawl, 2016, is a funny, unsettling iteration of art-class Surrealism in a punchy Lisa Frank palette. Lavender lips hover on a damaged canvas while a disembodied arm boasts a watermelon-patterned, bubble-fingered hand opposite a green talon. Kiki Kogelnik contributes an exhilarating monster-woman in Untitled, ca. 1972. She’s got bedroom eyes and a pinup pout, but her face is striped in candy colors, with crimson spines sprouting from a head of helmet hair. Becky Kolsrud’s girls are phantoms—her druggy, Kilimnikesque faces peer wistfully though lattices. Justin Vivian Bond’s meticulous diptychs are full of mysterious longing: Bond pairs self-portraits with reverential homages to the iconic Estee Lauder model Karen Graham, both of them styled identically. Sojourner Truth Parsons presents a cool, grubby take on Matisse’s buoyant compositions in the forbiddingly titled The same rope that pulls you will hang you his and hers edition I, 2016. An angular bright-pink nude floats in a collaged environment, with a wonderfully nonchalant, dingy daub-y white poodle in the foreground. Anna Glantz dramatizes another common thread—the mirror as hallucinatory springboard. Her painted pastiches—sci-fi scenarios suggesting time travel and other worlds—are more views through the looking glass than renderings or distortions of its reflections.

Johanna Fateman

Xaviera Simmons

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street
June 22, 2016–July 29, 2016

Xaviera Simmons, Red (Number One), 2016, color photograph, 48 x 60''.

Don’t take the stairs to Xaviera Simmons’s show in the second-floor galleries, as it starts in the elevator. A video titled Islands (all works cited, 2016) plays on a monitor mounted above the doors. One looks up in order to look down at the ocean, a single shot of choppy water. The short loop is a fitting introduction to this transporting multimedia exhibition in which seductive images of water and sun-soaked terrain, their locations never identified, become symbols for an abstract site. Simmons’s “island” is metaphorical and mediated, much as “the body” is, a parallel emphasized by the pronounced erotic juxtapositions favored by the artist. For example, Two Minutes One Second Seven Frames features alternating footage of ripped, jock-strapped go-go boys undulating in a club and a clip of waves—a swimmer’s rhythmic strokes in the distance breaking the cerulean surface. In the photograph Red (Number One), a woman, shot in front of majestic cliffs, holds a bulletin-board-like grid of photos, selections from the artist’s collection of Jamaican dancehall-culture images that depict daggering, a newish kind of dance known for its stylized simulations of sex acts.

Simmons refers to such indexical image-boards as “maps,” and the large-scale text-based Saturated, a white-on-black sculptural work, further elucidates her interest in the term. An edited stream of phrases culled from maps reveals the lush repetitive language—speculative, poetic, colonial, and scientific—used to describe land and bodies of water. And the show itself is a kind of map––the “foundation for a unique choreographic score,” the press release states, for a future performance that will, no doubt, reflect Simmons’s eye for evocative combinations of pedestrian movement, nightlife culture, and the natural world.

Johanna Fateman

Anna Sew Hoy

Koenig & Clinton
459 West 19th Street
June 9, 2016–July 29, 2016

View of “Anna Sew Hoy,” 2016.

The twelve artworks in Anna Sew Hoy’s show mostly stand apart from one another. But, via supports and sightlines, they are all inextricably intertwined. Cords are embedded in resin arms, while ovoid sculptures form frames around neighboring works. Oozy blue-jean tentacles creep into your peripheral vision. There’s really no place in the gallery to hide from Sew Hoy’s creations. The voyeuristic mirror-eyes of Invisible Tattoo, 2016—also the exhibition’s title—reflect all the dimensions of the surrounding pieces. The artist uses the mirrors as mute figures of surveillance, and each one is hugged by denim to weirdly amplify its sensuous, bodacious curves.

Sew Hoy’s everyday materials summon up the body—deformed, fragile, marvelous—cleverly, even viscerally. All three objects from “Utopic Accumulation (Arm Hook),” 2012–16, have electrical cables buried into their sickly amber limbs. Two of them hold Denim Worm, 2016, stuffed jean things whose varying lengths either skim or lazily rest entangled on the ground, depending on the number of Frankensteined pant legs they possess. These goofy creatures counteract the cerebral coolness of Bubble Space (Partially Buried), 2015, two fiberglass domes set in purple sparkly sand. It’s the only work that feels separate from the others. Maybe it’s because if you turn just so, it’s the only thing you’ll see without visual disruption in this deftly manipulated exhibition.

Yin Ho

“The Highs of Everyday Life”

Reena Spaulings Fine Art
165 East Broadway, 2nd Floor
July 1, 2016–July 30, 2016

View of “The Highs of Everyday Life,” 2016.

The year in American media has been nothing if not a shrill, torrential fever dream: an obsessive and escalating news cycle reflecting a savage reality torn apart by killer cops, active-shooter rampage, virulent right-wing populism, and a looming American vote of world-historical consequence. A sardonic reversal of political discourse, then, arrives in the deliberately patchy whirring of this group exhibition during an election year, a time when many galleries exert themselves to prop up their best approximations of politically motivated art. This show is different. Organized by Monika Senz, it critically examines daily life under advanced capitalism, in tones that seem to irreverently fly in the face of the dour nation. The works feel almost vintage in their listless tranquility, a kind of stoned obsession with decor, wellness, lifestyle, and cocktail parties.

A series of photographs by London-based artist Georgie Nettell, “Opportunity,” 2015, showcases elegant, deeply unremarkable interiors by the artist’s friends, belonging to their well-to-do parents’ orderly homes. Two photographs of highbrow galas by Josephine Pryde, warped and printed on aluminum tubes (Style, My Daughter and Have I Got My Shoes On - Am I Still Me?, both 2009) require a more rigorous scrutiny—they seem like a hissing reply to the instant legibility and rapid dispersal of images today. Sam Pulitzer’s five anxious, introspective wall texts, “Untitled,” 2016, are scattered throughout the gallery, and echo his memorable 2014 Artists Space exhibition, where visitors were also directed through the gallery by a prescriptive wall text. Two video works, one by Loretta Fahrenholz (Que Bárbara [That Bárbara], 2011) and another by Nettell and Morag Keil (The Fascism of Everyday Life, 2016), capture la vie bohème from vastly different class perspectives, from indulgence to restraint. Restraint, in fact, may be this show’s major strength, gleefully scaling back ambition and intellectual density to lead us toward the docile, Kracauerian politics that script contemporary experience.

Boško Blagojević

“Empirical Intuitive Absorption”

Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 West 24th Street
June 28, 2016–August 5, 2016

Matthew Ronay, The Kernel, 2016, basswood, dye, gouache, steel, 18 x 31 1/2 x 11''.

As an extension of a lecture he gave in March 2016 at Miami’s Pérez Art Museum, Matthew Ronay contextualizes his own recent wood sculptures with works by Fernand Léger, Serge Charchoune, Terry Riley, and Graham Marks to investigate how abstraction can intuitively tap into and communicate elemental concepts. With the exception of Léger’s foreboding, nebulous form in Green Foliage, 1930, the artist’s graphic, object-centered works struggle to transcend their subject matter and are the least effective here. But we do get a rare opportunity to view the work of Léger’s contemporary, Charchoune, an overlooked painter and poet who hopscotched between genres, eluding categorization.

Ronay’s selections illustrate Charchoune’s eclectic approach to abstraction, from doodled symbols to dense monochromes. Charchoune’s vibrant, symmetrical seascape, La croix marine (The Navy Cross), VII-VII, 1950, looks like the direct inspiration for Ronay’s sculpture The Kernel, 2016, a boat of stacked tongues carrying a spongy egg across a rippled slab of azure-stained basswood. Ronay transforms his material into supple, velvety forms that playfully allude to the body—arterial tubes, porous sacs, and juicy folds. In contrast, Marks embraces the imperfections and grittiness of clay to create heavy earthen sculptures that resemble overgrown seedpods or geological specimens.

As Riley’s undulating and hypnotic compositions wash over the exhibition, ebbing in and out of our awareness, Marks’s sculptures lie in repose, functioning as punctuation marks. Performed on an electronic organ modified with digital delay loops, Riley’s drone-heavy, raga-like pieces, including Shri (Mister) Camel, 1980, play from a wall-mounted turntable, though they might as well be transmitted from an interstellar church. For Ronay, these varied abstractions are more than a reduction of forms—there is a consciousness that connects the works to one another, and forces far greater.

Chris Murtha

Yanyan Huang

106 Eldridge Street
June 24, 2016–August 5, 2016

View of “Yanyan Huang: Giardino del Tempo,” 2016.

Spectral shapes manifest in light clouds of color through the undulating barrier of Trace Fields (all works 2016), which hangs from a brass rod in the gallery window. Heralded by this luxurious patch of printed silk, Yanyan Huang’s effervescent show, organized with Alex Ross, follows like an exotic garden path. Swimming through colors and amorphic blobs, visitors are immersed in a space tricked out with inscrutable designs.

Huang’s paintings are as mesmerizing as they are impenetrable, overflowing with hairline strokes and fern-like bursts. Calligraphic characters of vibrant hues pulsate in decadent works that are neither referential nor abstract. Being become present II offers a swathe of watery brown paint reminiscent of the beady-eyed head of a dolphin and a yellow patch like a four-fingered cartoon hand. Being become present III is home to a feisty squiggle that raises its head with a precocious tilt. Like a jungle to get lost in, the wallpaper piece Untitled (Spoonflower) is a sultry forest of graffiti-like marks whose lushness befits the opulent humidity of the summer swelter. Violent fuchsias and jaundiced greens peek coyly from the background, made alien by digital effects; Photoshop’s lasso tool leaves a muddy stamp upon this work.

A faux-marble shelf sports an array that marries ikebana to the stateliness of an old-estate solarium, all part of an “Untitled (ceramic set).” The artist’s formal flexibility allows her to map any medium. Skillfully flowing between the digital and the dimensional, Huang proves—if, indeed, we remain unconvinced—the unity of art and design.

Nicole Kaack

“It’s Not Your Nature”

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery
100 Eleventh Avenue
June 2, 2016–August 5, 2016

Beauford Delaney, Untitled (Trees), ca.1945, oil on canvas, 29 x 23''.

Summer shows can feel like that other seasonal occurrence, the stoop or yard sale. “It’s Not Your Nature” is a hodgepodge of art under a vague sign. But when you’re dealing with Lee Krasner, Harry Bertoia, and Norman Lewis—and when your view is Fairfield Porter’s, across the barrier islands in Maine—it’s compelling stuff to sift through. It’s also a rare chance outside of a museum to see so many modern American masters up close and personal.

The show’s title is a confusing pun, as the pieces seem very much in the nature of the twenty-two artists on display and incorporate an expansive conception—whether petroglyph, bird, branch, or sky—of what one thinks of when it comes to the natural world.

But it’s the work that matters, and there are wonders. Lenore Tawney, a fiber-arts pioneer who was a confidant and studio neighbor of Agnes Martin at Coenties Slip in New York, is represented here by a stunning unraveling of Minimalist line, Arbor #1, ca. 1960: a profusion of golden flowers that climb up rambling vines of wool, linen, and silk open-warp weaving. In delightful directional counterpoint, Hale Woodruff’s painting Landscape with Fallen Star, 1979, hangs next to it. Another strong cluster includes a knockout small Joan Mitchell, Untitled, ca. 1967, that carries in its blue-green abstraction the tonic viridity of two adjacent works: Beauford Delaney’s Untitled (Trees), ca. 1945, and Alma Thomas’s Lake Reflecting Advent of Spring, 1973. Depending on your nature, you’ll find your own treasures.

Prudence Peiffer

Hilton Als

The Artist's Institute
132 East 65th Street
March 2, 2016–August 7, 2016

View of “Hilton Als,” 2016.

Hilton Als’s “One Man Show: Holly, Candy, Bobbie, and the Rest” is strung together loosely, just like the celebrated New Yorker critic’s personal essays. Voice is structure; memory comes in vivid rushes; friendship is a seismic force. This, the first phase of the artist’s six-month season at the Artist’s Institute (also the inaugural project of the Institute’s new UES address), is a dreamy paean to, as the artist writes, “various personages who lived in a pre-Transparent, pre-Caitlyn, pre-anything world.” Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling, the figures named in Als’s title, were trans Warhol Superstars; but Bobbie, we learn, was not famous—just a luminous friend, represented here by a small image in a corner of this elegantly makeshift installation. In Bobbie, 2016, an old-fashioned projector shows vintage slides of an angelic blond, a gender-indeterminate young person. In one picture, they are standing in the sun on the street, almost smiling, gazing at a point slightly above an unknown photographer.

The gallery is kept dim, lit by all manner of budget mood lighting. In one room, colored bulbs with messy, exposed cords accent Judy Linn’s striking black-and-white portraits of drag legend Ethyl Eichelberger from 1990, while a loop of louche art films plays on an adjacent wall, as a disco mix made by Als pumps from little computer speakers. Elsewhere, a handful of flickering liquid tea lights sit on the floor, not too far from the piece Stormé, Bobbie and the Rest, 2016, in which a classroom overhead projector throws a faint image of Bobbie onto the wall—and onto Diane Arbus’s 1961 portrait of butch dreamboat and Stonewall hero Stormé DeLarverie.

This is not a photography show, though photos anchor it; and it’s not a group show, though many artists haunt it. This is curating as artistic practice, as shrine-making—a “one-man” exhibition that engenders so much more.

Johanna Fateman


Lehmann Maupin | Downtown
201 Chrystie Street
June 24, 2016–August 12, 2016

Mickalene Thomas, Angelitos Negros (Black Little Angels), 2016, 8 two-channel HD videos, sound, color, 23 minutes 18 seconds.

A Tim Rollins and K.O.S. installation—Darkwater III (After W.E.B. Du Bois), 2013—sets the tone of this show. Pages of the titular author’s essays are mounted on twelve panels hung side by side, partially obstructed by gold acrylic and “furnace black” watercolor. Indeed, the work looks as though it were recovered from a fire. One of panels reads “Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery.” This statement, written in 1920, could not be more apropos now, where black men and women are still part of a ruthless cycle that subjugates and victimizes.

Just past these pieces is Kader Attia’s collage series “Modern Architecture Genealogy,” 2014. It reminds us that colonization boils down to a twisted rewrite of the Pygmalion and Narcissus myths. Here, the artist offers up representations of conquered, non-Western bodies who are expected to become mirror images of their rulers in order to be deemed “civilized.” The architecture here seems like a prison for fragmented, vulnerable identities. Elsewhere, the indefatigable Mickalene Thomas’s multichannel video Angelitos Negros (Black Little Angels), 2016, comments on femininity and sexuality by revisiting Eartha Kitt’s performance of Antonio Machín’s song of the same name. The video—Pop, yet transcendent—is a message of empowerment for women forgotten by the system.

At a time when levels of xenophobia are painting a racial landscape that echoes the first half of the twentieth century—or, frighteningly, even earlier—exhibitions like this one are vital and necessary. “Repossession” asks us to fight against a hatred that’s become far too normalized.

Lara Atallah

Alice Tippit

Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
327 Broome Street
June 30, 2016–August 12, 2016

Alice Tippit, Part, 2016, oil on canvas, 24 x 20''.

Alice Tippit’s boldly graphic, hard-edge paintings are refined and puzzle-like. In these sketchbook-scale works, she offsets a cool, formal harmony with a wry and cryptic language of symbols, arabesques, and geometry. Irregular vases, decontextualized fruit, elongated hands, and weird animals populate her spare compositions, evoking vintage textile design and antique sign painting as well as art history. In Iris (all works 2016), a Victorian crescent moon hangs facing down—like a happy, Cyclopean eyelid—in a velvety-black sky. A canary-yellow banana under it makes a big clownish smile. Flat is the profile of a forest-green boob with an inverted nipple, set against a coral-flesh background. Or is the nipple-dip not negative space but a protruding part of a concave object in green space instead? Tippit’s paintings ask us to toggle between myriad readings. And hues of sepia, peach, and terra-cotta pop up in most of the works on view, so we seek out the body everywhere.

Up close, you see the paintings are carefully, subtly constructed, containing rich areas of barely-there color gradients and cross-fades. Part might be the most detailed piece. Rendered in a vaguely familiar illustrational style, a sullen face with precise features emerges from a field of beige. The “part”—a midpoint of the subject’s striking hairstyle—doubles as a butt crack. It’s hard not to notice that the dark, wavy shoulder-length hair looks like the silhouette of a person from the back, bent over. Pointed toes and shapely calves raise an ass into the air. Such genial lasciviousness along with painterly lushness lends the artist’s unsolvable riddles rare appeal.

Johanna Fateman

Francisco Ugarte

Cristin Tierney
540 West 28th Street
July 7, 2016–August 19, 2016

View of “Francisco Ugarte,” 2016.

Slow, accident-prone, temperamental, occasionally indistinct—the slide projector is an endearing thing, as it mimics a range of clunky human idiosyncrasies familiar to us all. It is evocative, nostalgia-inducing. It takes us through the rabbit hole of dreary art-history surveys in overwarm auditoriums, or the dusty rec rooms of distant relatives, where we vicariously relive their vacations, birthdays, barbecues, and graduations. When a projected image hits a taut surface, we can’t help but fall into the rhythms of narrative, picture after picture after picture.

It’s not that Francisco Ugarte’s “Slideshow” is haunted, but the absence of representational imagery from the four projector works in the dimly lit gallery, indeed, unsettles. Words cannot make sense of the projectors’ incessant chatter. Nonetheless, Ugarte’s strange environment allows us to witness the malleability of light and color through hundreds of manipulated slides. In Untitled (Light and Corner), 2008, the slides are printed with geometric shapes that get flashed into the corner of a wall. The Kodak Ektagraphic’s lens finds no focal point on the slide’s glassy center, but it never stops attempting to locate one, so the light gently pulses on the wall with every successive image-form. For Untitled (Primary Colors), 2015, three projectors offer up abstract, modernist compositions made from the titular hues—so scintillating, so seductive. A plinth near the exhibition’s entrance holds a light box where rows of Ugarte’s altered slides can be viewed (Untitled [Light Box II]), 2016. It’s here that the secrets of the artist’s compositions reveal themselves very quietly by the illuminated traces of tiny cuts and humble bits of tape.

Kaitlyn A. Kramer

“THINGS: a queer legacy of graphic art and play”

253 East Houston Street, Ground Floor
July 17, 2016–August 21, 2016

Tom Rubnitz, Pickle Surprise, 1989, video, color, sound, 1 minute 30 seconds.

Curt McDowell’s soft, grainy voice trickles throughout his 16-mm film, Loads, 1980. The camera frames the low-cut pants of a man’s ass as McDowell quietly muses, “I’d like to be on a sling hanging from his back fucking him while he walked down the street if I could.” McDowell’s “If I could” makes celluloid a second skin, and second only to skin. His fantasy contraption, a creation that has him bouncing like a bad baby boy down the street on a man’s back, weaves desire into the world of objects.

This group exhibition, curated by Bradford Nordeen, houses an excess of whatchamacallits: the things we forgot in couch cushions—like Aimee Goguen’s plastic melted ephemera (face hat and bad dinosaur, both 2010)—which miraculously resurface. The show focuses on the work of McDowell, Tom Rubnitz, and Robert Ford, artists whose lives were cut short by the AIDS pandemic, along with a younger generation of queer agitators born in the 1980s. The handmade and meticulously placed boudoir vanity objects in Seth Bogart’s Necessities, 2015–16—a jumbo bottle of Truvada tablets, a Kimono-brand ultrathin condom wrapper, and a bottle of Jean Paul Gautier’s “Le Male,” among other items—with Rubnitz’s 1989 video Pickle Surprise, featuring drag goddess Sister Dimension shouting the titular phrase, make us feel that Pee-Wee’s Playhouse is the queer child’s portal between yesterday and today. Looming large on the far wall, original copies of Ford’s black queer underground zine Thing (1989–93) are near Brontez Purnell’s dancey Super 8 film Free Jazz, 2013, and Rafa Esparza’s paños puñales (cloth daggers). you can see it in their faces. uno (faggot handkerchiefs... one), 2011—white boxers with ballpoint-ink faces and dark smears of bodily fluids. The works in the show, at first glance, seem frivolous, like precious childhood junk disinterred from a basement. But these seemingly improvised artworks embody a reckless charm rather unconcerned with the sterility of an LGBT archive.

Katherine Brewer Ball

“Mirror Cells”

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
May 13, 2016–August 21, 2016

Liz Craft, Spider Woman Purple Dress (detail), 2015, papier-mâché, mixed media, dimensions variable.

“Emo is on the verge of a comeback,” I told a friend not long ago. And wouldn’t you know it, the next day I heard the unmistakable wah-wah melody of Modest Mouse’s “Dramamine” thudding through my floorboards, courtesy of my neighbors. Though it is not exactly twee, we are living in a moment of confessional culture, bolstered by important discussions about the social consequences of identity. “Mirror Cells,” the first group show of contemporary sculpture in the Whitney’s newish building, acknowledges this personal turn. The exhibition brings together five artists who realize inner worlds through hands-on and collage techniques. As curators Christopher Y. Lew and Jane Panetta argue, this work contrasts with the art world’s recent obsessions with technology.

The sensibility at play is more hermetic than polemic. Win McCarthy’s low-relief tabletop installations loosely depict shabby cities in miniature. They recall Joseph Cornell in their ambition to capture a fleeting moment in time. They are adorned with newspaper headlines, voodoo-ish dolls, photos, poems in everyday language, and daily horoscopes (the artist was apparently born under the sensitive sign of Cancer). Elizabeth Jaeger’s nearly flat, cracked ceramic vessels on sawhorses, “Jack Jaeger,” 2016, pay homage to her grandfather. And yet, politics (of selfhood and otherwise) aren’t completely abandoned. Rochelle Goldberg’s installation No Where Now Here, 2016, evokes environmental disaster through animal forms coated with an oily glaze, staged on a sprouting bed of chia seeds. Four video sculptures by Maggie Lee, playing chapters from her experimental documentary about her mother’s sudden death, Mommy, 2015, hearken back to avant-gardists such as Nam June Paik but also call to mind the funereal shrines of various Asian cultures. Liz Craft, the oldest artist in the show, presents her creepy “Spider Woman” figures, 2014–16; a series of “Little Lips,” 2016; and speech-bubble sculptures. While some of the latter works are free of text, others contain searing messages directed at women—notably, Your Pussy or Your Life, 2015.

Wendy Vogel

Brandi Twilley

Sargent's Daughters
179 East Broadway, Ground Floor
July 26, 2016–August 26, 2016

Brandi Twilley, Christmas Tree, 2015, oil on canvas, 32 x 56''.

Two glowing television sets play different channels, illuminating the fluorescent green faces of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles printed on a bedspread. Rain buckets wait on messy floors beneath water-damaged acoustic ceiling tiles; clothes burst from dresser drawers; and mass-produced art—a scene of fiery fall foliage, a ship in rough seas—hangs on the walls. These are some of the poignant, portentous details captured by Brandi Twilley’s beautiful, moody oil paintings in “The Living Room.” With each medium-size horizontal canvas, she offers a different view of the same titular space, where one (and then, later, maybe two) children sleep. We never see the people who live here, though. The passage of time is marked by sundry changes, such as the addition of a pulled-out trundle bed or holiday decorations. Multicolored globes on a starless tree reflect the scant light of the cluttered interior in Christmas Tree, 2015.

Three breathtaking paintings show the room on fire. Bright white and gold flames leap up from the floor and bed in Fire and TV, 2016. A gap in the blaze shows us a dark, forlorn television up against a far wall—it cannot be rescued. Twilley’s images of fire are rendered with urgency, and these moments of smeary Impressionism provide a compelling counterpoint to the otherwise lucid, semirealistic style of her domestic inventories. The show’s subject matter, not surprisingly, is very personal. When the artist was sixteen, in 1999, her childhood home burned down. “The Living Room” is a speculative re-creation of that lost space, synthesized from Google searches, surviving Polaroids, and memory. Twilley’s searching hand, an alternately softening and sharpening filter, makes this show feel uniquely truthful—an unfixed and incomplete account of an era and place, the result of a singularly rigorous and melancholy process.

Johanna Fateman

“Daydream from 2013”

333 & 331 Broome Street
July 22, 2016–August 26, 2016

Libby Rothfeld, Option #1, 2016, tile, grout, cement, porcelain, potatoes, glassware, rock, plastic basket, 33 x 36 x 21".

2013: too recent to be nostalgic about, but long enough ago to feel like another lifetime. The Surrealists thought they could harness the latent energies of outmoded objects to revolutionize society. In contrast, the artists in this group exhibition, curated by Matthew Flaherty, find potential in the barely obsolete. The key to the show is, perhaps, in its title: “Daydream from 2013.” These makers prefer dreaming while awake, as that diaphanous membrane guarding the unconscious becomes looser, closer, and probably looks a lot like the fabrics and shiny resins of Olivia Erlanger’s wall sculptures, or Anna Glantz’s Waiting for Paul Revere (all works cited, 2016), a painting of a hunky male visage floating near a startled geezer in a nightcap. They’re both trapped in a digital-looking rectangle while hovering over an amorphous ground.

Rose Marcus’s photos are like weirder Louise Lawlers: interrogations of museological structures that, in their odd angles and futuristic frames, also feel supernatural, as if you’re tripping through the Met’s modern wing in a fugue state. Libby Rothfeld’s Option #1, offers up a salmon-colored shopping basket full of potatoes on top of a tiled base. The base carries detritus likely sourced from a restaurant supply store on the Bowery: doll-size cups filled with what appears to be clear liquid, and miniature straws. The potatoes have enormous roots, like ratty lengths of knotted hair. Among them rests a tenderly wrought crown of clay, and sculpted into the crown and base are human faces, which give Rothfeld’s shrine a strange, oneiric feeling of sentience. The artist deftly submerges the mystical in the material—like everyone else here—unleashing extraordinary sensations from seemingly ordinary images and things.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Meriem Bennani

22-25 Jackson Avenue at 46th Avenue
June 19, 2016–August 28, 2016

View of “Meriem Bennani: FLY,” 2016.

To be a fly on the wall at Meriem Bennani’s first institutional solo show is to adopt her perspective of contemporary culture. Her video installation FLY, 2016, mimics the mosaic structure of a fly’s eyes with a patchwork of projectors, creating an immersive experience. Resembling a concept room that a first-year architecture student might draft in SketchUp, the irregular, multiscreen theater requires the viewer to construct a strategy for digesting the seventeen-minute film. Seating is not a problem; Bennani provides benches.

The story centers around a wedding set in Bennani’s native Morocco. A fruit fly that resembles Clippy, the Microsoft Word mascot, serves as a guide for the peripatetic narrative that skips from genre to genre, scene to scene. The insect addresses the audience directly, pausing only to sing a baby-voice ballad hardly recognizable as Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better.” The short, something like a music video, is a reconstitution of television tropes. The young artist interrupts her Travel Channel–worthy shots of the souk with reality TV–style confessionals, blooper noises, and other cartoonish interventions. Pixelated flames lick unharmed actors—her family and friends—as they dance their way into the night. Reality and the virtual commingle.

A nod to the input streams that compete for our attention both on and offline, the kaleidoscopic installation accepts the oscillating gaze of the metamodern state and builds upon it. Looping in perpetuity, FLY invites allusions to Morocco as a developing nation caught between past and present. Bennani has a reverence for high and low culture, and the artist’s fluency across media allows her to make something that, though not entirely subversive, is universally enjoyable.

Kat Herriman

“The Female Gaze, Part Two: Women Look at Men”

Cheim & Read
547 West 25th Street
June 23, 2016–September 2, 2016

Celia Hempton, Ben, 2015, oil on polyester, 20 x 24''.

In a curatorial move akin to a Sadie Hawkins dance, this exhibition asks women to flex their female gaze and depict men. Thirty-two artists present varying perspectives on the male form—from neutral, detached portraits to ones steeped in obvious desire. Many offer up their sitters in attitudes historically reserved for female subjects, as come-hither nudes or odalisques. Others catch them in private moments of sleep or self-love, both literal and figurative, as in Grace Graupe-Pillard’s painting of a young artist mid iPhone selfie, hand curled in a manner that recalls Dürer’s Self-Portrait in Fur Coat, 1500.

The phallus persists throughout, though this emblem of masculinity is recast in the service of female pleasure or made delicate, even feminized. Celia Hempton haloes supple, skin-toned paintings of erogenous zones with pale blues, and Louise Bourgeois’s 1964 sculptural ode to male anatomy is cheekily titled “little girl,” or Fillette (Sweeter Version), 1968–99, a joke Lynda Benglis takes further in Smile, 1974, a smirking double-sided bronze dildo. Who needs men when we’ve already manufactured their replacements? Benglis’s comment on female self-sufficiency is echoed in Jenny Holzer’s marble bench, the sole nonfigurative work, engraved with “Men don’t protect you anymore.”

But hewing to gender roles can sometimes be fun. A 1965 Diane Arbus photograph brilliantly captures a teen couple in gendered self-fashioning playing at man- and womanhood. The girl raises dark, heavily penciled lids at the camera. Her boyfriend looks sidelong in studied aloofness, his hand on his belt loop and legs splayed in what this generation of female observers would unhesitatingly dub a manspread.

Hannah Stamler

Gabriel de la Mora

The Drawing Center
35 Wooster Street
July 15, 2016–September 2, 2016

Gabriel de la Mora, B-53, 2015, vintage radio speaker fabric, each 20 x 8 1/2".

Gabriel de la Mora cleverly reconfigures collections of found objects scavenged from flea markets in Mexico City, where he lives, into pristine minimal installations that uncannily give form to experiences, processes, and forces that are otherwise nearly invisible. His current exhibition fills the space’s back wall with what initially appears to be a salon-style hang of small-scale monochromes, two small maroon panels, and the occasional glint of gold punching through a monotony of blacks, tans, and grays. Upon closer inspection, these works are revealed to be fabric screens from old speakers. The display is mirrored along a central vertical axis on the main wall and continues in a neat row along each flanking wall. Its symmetry wittily echoes that of traditional stereo technology.

Each matching pair is marked with a distinct imprint, the afterimage of a sustained encounter between the specific architecture of the speaker that housed the screen and the countless sounds that passed through it over decades of regular use. While the variety of textures, weaves, colors, and sizes of the fabric reveals the rich material history and shifting trends in stereo speaker design and technology, the display’s clinical precision tempers any simple nostalgia for its golden era. These are mute witnesses, visual inscriptions of collective aural pasts. Each is also a portrait, a biography of its user(s) told through the traces of their listening choices. The accidental forms sometimes cohere into a face or mask, suggesting a spectral presence.

With little in the way of didactics, the installation remains almost illegible as an archive—it is, however, more intelligible through other faculties. It challenges us to glean meaning and information from deposition patterns of particulate matter shaped by vibrations, waves, rhythms, and melodies, to begin to comprehend other syntaxes and grammars that, though imperceptible, are definitely present and consequential.

Murtaza Vali

A. R. Penck

Michael Werner | New York
4 E. 77th Street
June 9, 2016–September 3, 2016

A. R. Penck, Untitled (Group), 1961, oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 51”.

The painting at the entrance of the gallery, Elektrischer Stuhl (Electric Chair), 1960, sets the tone for this offering of A. R. Penck’s early work. A baby-faced man sits strapped in an electric chair while an anonymous crowd looks on. In the front row, a woman covers her face with her hands in agony. Hands and heads form visceral motifs in this exhibition, where the artist’s trademark stick figures and symbols are already present as sophisticated visual agents tracing a history of violence.

In Untitled (Group), 1961, a small being is flanked by two towering men. The man on the right, with a distinctly erect penis, is cracking a whip over the tiny subject, while the other man raises an enormous finger, like a shrill pedant. The latter holds up a framed depiction of the scene that the (possibly?) sadomasochistic pair is trapped in, which causes a subtle mise en abyme of confusion and terror. Systembild (System Image), 1966, shows conjoined twins, one of which is writing the letter A, with other beings who display the letter as if it were unimpeachable law.

The darkly political underpinnings of Penck’s pictographs don’t go unnoticed. A room full of his sculptures, many of them named “Standart-Modell” (“standart” being a portmanteau of the words standard and art) and most created between 1972 and 1973, are composed of mundane objects, like aluminum foil, painted glass bottles, and boxes. The materials, seemingly fashioned to highlight their commonness or ubiquity, were the only items readily available to Penck as a nonestablishment maker in the former German Democratic Republic.

Yin Ho

Kristin Smallwood

American Medium
424 Gates Avenue
August 11, 2016–September 4, 2016

View of “Kristin Smallwood: IUD,” 2016.

The floor of Kristin Smallwood’s busy multimedia exhibition “IUD” is papered with clippings from straight porn magazines and women ripped from fashion glossies. She sneaks some photographs of herself into the messy X-rated collage, too. These images are decidedly glum—mug shots, not beaver shots. Smallwood merges the genres, sort of, in a video that loops on a small wall-mounted monitor. The Perfect Woman (all works 2016) shows the artist in close-up lip-synching, deadpan, to Whitney Houston’s soaring 1992 ballad “I Will Always Love You,” her face transformed by the ingenious superimposition of a vagina. The artist’s nose, replaced by a clitoris, becomes a stretchy beak; her mouth ghoulishly misaligns with the opening of the so-called birth canal.

Birth control is a theme here. Throughout, Smallwood plays with the iconographic qualities of the T-shaped copper-coiled intrauterine device—it’s totally phallic and almost a crucifix. Baby Mobile, a delicate kinetic sculpture, incorporates IUDs and wire hangers, conjuring pregnancy’s prevention as well as a horrific manner of its termination. The mostly bubble-gum pink painting Deity of Infertility 1 shows a horse with the device protruding from its body like an erection. There’s another horse on view, a stuffed toy hanging from a fuchsia noose, with dildos emerging from the ends of its legs. Perverse but still cute, the customized toy also appears in the video I Thought We Were Adults. It comforts Smallwood, distraught on a bed, dressed in baby-themed fetish wear (pigtails, thigh-highs, and a lingerie-onesie hybrid). The piece’s audio is a clandestinely recorded break-up discussion in which the artist’s abject “other woman” status is painfully spelled-out by a male voice. Using the discomfiting depiction of her own failure—as a romantic/pornographic object, as a reproductive vessel—for a springboard, Smallwood finds fertile terrain in sarcastic absurdism and fantastical sexual counter-imagery.

Johanna Fateman

“The Limits of Control”

Station Independent Projects
138 Eldridge Street, Suite 2F
August 12, 2016–September 4, 2016

Kohei Yoshiyuki, Untitled, 1971, gelatin silver print, 9 x 13''. From “The Park” series, 1971–79.

Landscapes can be deceitful. The city park you thought was a haven of innocent wonders is, at night, swarming with sexual activity. Parking lots, which Joni Mitchell considered the opposite of paradise, are sometimes used for religious ceremonies. And a refurbished kitchen—domestic landscape—that so impresses a dinner guest might actually feel like a prison cell to its owner. So how can we know what a landscape means to its inhabitants? Susan Sontag noted that understanding “starts from not accepting the world as it looks.” Taking these words to heart, Finnish curator Ilari Laamanen has assembled photographs from various countries and time periods that question our relationship to the built and regulated habitats we live in.

In Parking Lot Hydra, 2009, for example, Estelle Hanania shows Bulgarian men in yak costumes celebrating Kukeri, a ritual intended to ward away evil spirits, in an empty parking lot. On one level, her photographs dramatize the spatial meeting of tradition and modernity, of past and present. But on another, they also call attention to the general power that humans have to metaphysically transform, or even hallow, their physical surroundings. Those transformations are often negative, as in Kohei Yoshiyuki’s grainy, Moriyamaesque shots of nocturnal voyeurs spying on couples in Japan’s public parks. Here, the park is an erotic arcadia for lovers, but something between a gallery and a prison for Peeping Toms. Iiu Susiraja’s indoor self-portraits critique gender roles with a mordant humor that puts housekeeping magazines—and men—to shame. In Training, 2008, Susiraja rides a treadmill wearing a knitted hat with loaves of bread protruding from it like pigtails. Exercise and cooking: How liberated the modern multitasking woman is!

Sontag’s critique of visual complacency was actually part of a diatribe against photography. But by expanding and, indeed, perverting our associations with commonplace sites, Laamanen’s exhibition returns curiosity and suspicion to our eyes.

Ratik Asokan


Austrian Cultural Forum New York
11 East 52nd Street
May 4, 2016–September 5, 2016

Hermes Payrhuber, Ode to the Rope with a Knot with a Hole, for Thomas Bernhard, 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.

A loose inspiration for Hermes Payrhuber’s multimedia installation Ode to the Rope with a Knot with a Hole, for Thomas Bernhard, 2016, is the titular author’s 1971 novella, Walking. The book, which is about a man triggered to madness by a questionable set of trousers in a storefront, contains frantic and labyrinthine monologues on perception, experience, and the state. Walking is an apt metaphor for this show, which seeks to corrupt the white cube’s displacing capabilities, despite the modern exhibition’s attempts to divorce viewers from realities beyond its parameters.

Martin Beck’s one day after another, 2014–15, reproduces his notes and philological meditations regarding the words exhibition and display on letter-size pigment prints. They confront the show’s overarching theme: Brian O’Doherty’s Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (1976), a text examining the history and atemporalizing effects of this (by now) very familiar context for art. Judith Barry’s video installation They Agape, 1978—depicting two female architects talking against a sound track with songs by Gang of Four and the B-52s—comes to life via a motion sensor, forcing spectators to complete a piece projected across two adjoining walls. Similarly, Beck’s appropriation of his own writings highlights what O’Doherty calls the “flow of energy between concepts of space articulated through the artwork and the space we occupy.” Beck literally reframes his texts within the idiosyncratic gallery, while Barry employs silence, punk rock, blank walls, and the mundanity of architectural work to reveal the labor of spatial production, and, more pointedly, the erasure of women in said production by the very institutions of representation.

Tyler Curtis

Roberto Burle Marx

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
May 6, 2016–September 18, 2016

View of “Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist,” 2016.

At the entrance to this exhibition, one is seduced by a real garden of yellow bromeliads and pulsating, patterned walls, inspired by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx is known for his animated biomorphic designs, such as the graphic pavement along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, and the scintillating, verdant discotheque that is the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park—gigantic modernist arrangements that simultaneously disrupt and compliment their surroundings.

Burle Marx’s site plans, such as Design for the Minister’s Rooftop Garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio De Janeiro, 1938, or Design for a Garden for the Grand Hotel, Pampulha (Unbuilt), 1943–44, are pragmatic documents that are also masterly abstract paintings. His archive is vast, and his distinct vision suffused many facets of his creative endeavors, from Cubist oil paintings and ink portraits to theater sets and jewelry.

Works by contemporary artists that engage Burle Marx’s legacy also punctuate the space. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s video Plages (Beaches), 2001, captures lively images of Copacabana Beach—and Burle Marx’s adjacent mosaic boardwalk—during New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2000. Juan Araujo’s Pavimento exterior del Banco Safra Casa Central (Exterior Pavement of Banco Safra Headquarters), 2015, is an oil painting based on a photograph of Burle Marx’s mineral roof garden for the titular bank. And Nick Mauss’s glazed ceramic plaque, Askew, 2016, is situated near Burle Marx’s own ceramic tiles. Burle Marx was a multihyphenate maker whose design “practice” was, really, a guide for an immersive, aestheticized lifestyle. His rich imagination directs us toward a charmed way of life.

Grant Johnson

Lauretta Vinciarelli

183 Stanton Street
June 9, 2016–September 18, 2016

Lauretta Vinciarelli, Night Nine, 1996, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22''. From the “Night” series, 1996.

Light can be terribly cruel. Excessive amounts can damage eyes and burn skin. Think of José Saramago’s Blindness (1995), a story about a bright-white sightlessness that inexplicably afflicts an entire city, causing violence and horror. Or the Old Testament God: an incandescence who was severe and punishing.

One could easily assume the light depicted in Lauretta Vinciarelli’s numinous watercolor paintings is healing and warm. The architect and artist—who died of cancer on August 2, 2011, her sixty-eighth birthday—studied Eastern philosophy and was especially devoted to the eleventh chapter of the Tao Te Ching, which discusses the importance of nothingness. Indeed, the rooms and spaces in Vinciarelli’s works are empty, save for her various streams of light. But this luminousness is circumspect. It rarely suffuses. It peeks around corners and walls from unknown sources and pours itself carefully out of windows, doorways, and skylights. It is controlled, discriminating—a radiance refusing to illuminate all.

For ten years, the artist and Donald Judd were romantic partners. The cube-like forms of Vinciarelli’s Pond Water (Study 1) and (Study 2), both from 2007, overlap formally with Judd’s stack sculptures. But her exquisite renderings, in moody gradations of emerald, are funereal, spectral—dark sisters to Judd’s polite and businesslike objects. The most arresting pieces in Vinciarelli’s show are from her 1996 “Night” series. They appear to be pictures of bridges, temples, or cenotaphs—tombs without bodies—subtly lit and mirrored from below as if by pools of water. Their symmetry and clean lines pull from the vocabulary of modernism, but their spirit is rooted in something far more unknowable, and much older. Maybe they’re structures of the underworld as imagined by the ancient Greeks, built by the damned, to welcome us ruefully at the end of this long and tiresome journey.

Alex Jovanovich

“The Plant Show”

99¢ Plus Gallery
238 Wilson Avenue
July 29, 2016–September 25, 2016

Sean Gerstley, Oval Funnel Planter, 2016, ceramic and white-gold luster, 17 x 8 x 12''.

Enter the claustrophobia of the greenhouse, complete with the cloying, damp humidity and the clawed, ecstatic growth of tropical plants. In an alternate reality to Martha Stewart’s Container Garden Ideas for Any Household blog, Simran Johnston has curated a show that marries sculpture to function. But this is no IKEA, and it ain’t no country club, either. In operations variable in their complexity, twenty-four artists carry out their tasks dubiously, adding an asterisk to Martha’s assurance that plants will “purify your home.”

Ryan Oskin’s Amazon Lights (all works cited, 2016) doesn’t elaborate on the traditional potted houseplant any more than a handful of insect-repellant incense sticks driven into an unsuspecting root system. Corey Rubin gives us a new spin on the seeds-in-the-coffee-tin trick with Pepsi Native Sometimes, where a tender shoot seeks out the narrow tab on the titular soda can. Other schemes are more complex, such as Sean Gerstley potting his plant in something not unlike those walkers that allow toddlers to orbit around living rooms (Oval Funnel Planter). Charlotte Patterson’s Autonomy in Restructure stacks vine-clad cinder blocks by resistance, while Cody Hoyt’s Four by Four Palm raises his plant in a puzzle of interlocking wooden arms.

Many of these designs are tantalizingly cruel toward nature: Priscilla Jeong’s flower precariously rests in the shallow water spill of FlaqueD’eau; Eric Pietraszkiewicz smothers his plant between faces of the concrete tiles in Paver Table. The reflective Mylar of Maggie Wong’s Room to Grow shimmers through the transparent walls of B. Thom Stevenson’s Growth Fund—both works seem to happily favor the chilly, synthetic verdure of the green screen over the steaminess of the jungle. These sadistic gestures are appropriate to a society that would rather bring nature indoors than venture outside to enjoy it.

Nicole Kaack

Danny Lyon

Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street
June 17, 2016–September 25, 2016

Danny Lyon, Willie, 1985, gelatin silver print from film stills, 14 x 15''.

Moving deftly through all the major stages of Danny Lyon’s work to date, “Message to the Future” touches on police brutality, civil rights, sexual ambiguity, wayward masculinity, violence heaped upon immigrants and the working class, and the strange, shifting sands of democracy in the United States at a time of near-frantic discontent. It is, in other words, timely and prescient in ways that no one involved probably imagined it would be in the summer of 2016.

The artist’s emotional range here is vast and volatile: In one image, Stokely Carmichael smolders in anger. In another, James Baldwin turns up a defiantly proud nose. In another still, National Guardsmen nearly rip the photographer Clifford Vaughn to pieces. In Lyon’s longest, most trenchant film, Willie (1985), a broken man plops down on the ground in his underwear to sing old country gospels with the saddest grain of worry in his voice.

Lyon has never really been canonized because he never really played by the rules. He got too close to his subjects and strayed too far from home. He was indifferent to Susan Sontag and detested the magazine Life. Early on, Lyon named himself an heir to Walker Evans and Robert Frank. He emulated James Agee and internalized Jean Genet. “There is a job to be done and that is to continue the work of Evans and Frank in a changing and beautiful country,” Lyon wrote in 1964, at the height of an election season as alarming as our own. This exhibition gives viewers more than 175 ways to work through it—via prints, films, and collages set against a contemplative ground—and the resolve to do better.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Jimmy DeSana

Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street
August 14, 2016–September 25, 2016

Jimmy DeSana, Birds, 1985, Cibachrome print, 10 x 8''.

Photographer Jimmy DeSana made a career of defamiliarizing the domestic. He troubled suburban interiors with nude models in precarious poses, recasting everyday objects as BDSM props in his spare, elegant tableaux. He also used outlandish color—saturated effects often achieved with gel-covered tungsten lights—to make normal things lurid, clubby, better. “Remainders” is a modestly sized show of small-scale works, images that have not been exhibited for more than two decades, in which the figure is mostly absent and objects are uncannily abstracted. In Spools, 1985–86, the titular threadbare posts are not immediately recognizable; DeSana’s framing renders their scale ambiguous. They could be spooky, featureless towers, looming pale in the greenish night. Other pictures provide items that are easier to identify—argyle socks, a baseball—but we’re not reassured. DeSana’s isolated positioning of them in murky settings seems perverse.

The artist, at forty, succumbed to AIDS in 1990—these photos were taken shortly after his diagnosis. In this light, the body’s absence is telling. When faced with one’s own mortality, the relative permanence of things such as spoons and aluminum foil is perplexing, even cruelly arbitrary. Perhaps DeSana’s stylishly unsettling depictions of the quotidian obliquely reference his HIV status. With a characteristic dash of dark humor, the artist deals with the specter of expiration more directly in Birds, 1985. A background of intense scarlet threatens to overwhelm the silhouette of a man in a black suit and top hat. An aerial view of a small flock of doves huddling together obscures his face almost entirely. Via a gorgeous double-exposure trick, the magician disappears himself.

Johanna Fateman


Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
July 13, 2016–September 25, 2016

Alejandra Seeber, Knit on Perspective, 2016, oil on canvas, 76 x 65".

In “Caza,” three contemporary female artists—Rochele Gomez, Margaret Lee, and Alejandra Seeber—examine an intimacy not often explored: that between the home and an artwork. Curated by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, this exhibition interrogates the sundry ways art can infiltrate interior spaces, both physical and psychic, and what it means to create works born of personal expression, idiosyncrasy, or obsession.

Hernández Chong Cuy complicates the ways in which the home can become a locus for issues of class, labor, and value. Gomez’s sculpture The Hour of the Star (all works cited, 2016), a window constructed from brooms, serves as an instrument for observing one’s own dwelling as a display. Lee’s painted photographs W.D.U.T.U.R #1 and W.D.U.T.U.R #2 examine ostensibly refined AbEx stylings—drips, slashes, and splashes produced through the filter of high-end shower fixtures. They are markers of a kind of care—aesthetic and hygienic—that only some people can afford. Seeber’s painting Knit on Perspective, with interweaving patterns that throw perspective into disorder, examines decor misaligned from the sphere of interior design. The exhibition allows viewers to partake in discerning what happens to a home when placed under the scrutiny of those living outside of it, while also experiencing the comfort it offers.

Nectar Knuckles

“Race and Revolution”

Building 8A, Nolan Park
Governors Island
August 3, 2016–September 25, 2016

Nicholas Galanin, You Are On Indisneyian Land, 2016, photograph, red-cedarwood shavings, dimensions variable.

The paint on the ceiling peels while fuzzy balls of mold grow in rows on the floor of a nineteenth-century Army building on Governors Island, Manhattan. In this makeshift gallery, on land that was once a Lenape fishing camp, nine artists respond to this country’s legacy of colonialism and violence. Nona Faustine’s topless photographic self-portrait, Not Gone with the Wind, 2015, taken at the historic eighteenth-century Prospect Park, Brooklyn, home of the Lefferts family—wealthy Dutch settlers and slave owners—sets the tone. Faustine, a black artist, born and raised in Brooklyn, gazes directly at the viewer as the Lefferts house looms behind her. She reminds us that American racism is very much alive and well, and its administrative enactment lives on today in museums, national parks, and galleries.

In Nicholas Galanin’s You Are On Indisneyian Land, 2016, red-cedarwood shavings are gathered around a fireplace underneath a large glossy tourist photograph tacked to a wall. In the picture, a white-looking family takes a snapshot of their children peeking out from either side of a totem pole carved by a nonindigenous artist, at Sitka National Historical Park in southeast Alaska. Galanin, a Tlingit/Unangax̂ transcustomary artist, raises questions about cultural tourism and appropriation in the popular imagination. It is as if the shavings, remnants of a Tlingit dugout canoe Galanin is carving with his brother, were the fragments of the ersatz totem pole in the photo—a symbolic dismantling. The artists here take on familiar historical scenes without making them easy and turn a decaying white fantasy landscape into kindling.

Katherine Brewer Ball

Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens

International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP)
1040 Metropolitan Avenue
June 29, 2016–September 27, 2016

Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens, Income Inequality in the United States (1910–2010), 2016, wood, ink, string,
20 x 74 x 1''.

The twenty-two whimsical sculptures that make up Montreal-based Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens’s exhibition “Measures of Inequity” look like the products of an especially dexterous arts-and-crafts class at a Marxist elementary school. Each translates a graph or diagram sourced from a scholarly journal that charts the unequal distribution of global wealth—resulting from neoliberal economic policies—into models ingeniously crafted from common household materials. Blond wooden sticks serve as axes, while brightly colored strings trace line graphs, stretched into and held firm by white threads anchored to frames. Translucent colored plastic fills in areas under curves and bar graphs, casting jewel-like shadows on adjacent walls like stained glass. Handwritten titles accompany each work, simply identifying the source image. Given their tabletop scale, many feel decidedly architectural: The alternating peaks and troughs of Income Inequality in the United States (1910–2010), 2016, suggest the skeletal silhouette of a skyline.

The linear structures and strong geometries of these modest constructions evoke the aesthetics of Constructivism. Some resemble handmade prototypes for visionary structures, like Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, 1920, or Constant Nieuwenhuys’s New Babylon, 1959–74. Others, owing to their rich colors and charming DIY execution, resemble the forms and structures of children’s playground equipment. Together they reveal the ludic impulses that drove much avant-garde experimentation. Through play, humor, and color, these objects counter the cold, hard objectivity of economic data, rendering otherwise immaterial mathematical and statistical abstractions tactile and present. The inevitable bodily droop of the strings compromises the rigid precision of the line graph; the countless tiny knots needed to hold them in place cloud their clarity. The colored plastic induces moments of sublime sensory pleasure. These material effects seem to soften the data—it becomes palatable and possibly even somewhat pliable, making the inequities measured no longer feel irreversible.

Murtaza Vali

Aidan Koch and Madeline Hollander

260 Johnson Avenue
August 27, 2016–October 2, 2016

Aidan Koch, The Library Door, 2016, brass, dimensions variable.

The technofuturist aesthetic needs an update: Our visions of tomorrow still seem firmly tied to Jetsons-era stylings of burnished-metal robots and aerospace machines. For Drill (all works cited, 2016), Madeline Hollander shrewdly nods to these clichés. In the gallery’s expansive first room, the artist has deployed three aircraft-evacuation slides—those plump, inflatable ramps only ever witnessed on airplane-safety diagrams. They hang from the ceiling, each one a mass of gray and black nylon, more 1980s LaGuardia than current-day JFK. Below them, performers synchronously pace the floor, following invisible footpaths that Hollander adapted from assorted emergency-evacuation plans. They make swift turns and clean, angular flourishes, keeping step with one another on their prescribed course.

In the next room, Aidan Koch’s subjects have been given much less instruction. On one wall, a series of drawings, “A Game I-IV,” depicts several outlined figures dwelling in spare, schematic realms. In one drawing, a nude woman, standing in profile next to a gridded block, wonders aloud: “A game?” Nearby, another woman crouches over a mysterious black game piece and asks, “Will I know if I win?” Elsewhere, someone ominously replies from out of the frame: “You’ll know if you lose.”

Medieval and classical motifs bestow Koch’s works with a dense aura of mystery. The Library Door is a thin gold chain, hung from two nails. On one end dangles a hand-wrought brass key; on the other, a spider. A ceramic doorknob, Open Me, is affixed to one of the gallery’s doors, nearly six feet up. Other works—two masks, two miniature wooden ladders, twin candleholders, a centipede—rest upon a three-foot-high labyrinth in the center of the room. Hollander’s strict trajectories reveal a modern concern for order and efficiency, while Koch invokes an ancient world of folklore and myth. Maybe time is a wide, flat circle, and the past and future are merely different aesthetics.

Juliana Halpert

“The Keeper”

New Museum
235 Bowery
July 20, 2016–October 2, 2016

Howard Fried, The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe, 2014–, 294 wardrobe items, dimensions variable.

Grandpa, kids, the rich, serial murderers: Everybody collects! Freud said it has something to do with toilet training—that losing one’s shit, quite literally, can be a traumatizing experience, and collecting is a way of cauterizing that early-childhood wound. That’s stupid, and deeply ungenerous. It doesn’t explain the eerie profundity of self-described “super-medium” Vanda Vieira-Schmidt’s Weltrettungsprojekt (World Rescue Project), 1995–, a small edifice comprising more than three hundred thousand drawings created to save humanity from supernatural forces of doom, or The Sketchbook from Auschwitz, ca. 1943, a handheld catalogue of horrors illustrating life at the most infamous of Nazi death camps, rendered by a phantom known only as “MM.” These works appear in “The Keeper,” a sprawling group exhibition that interrogates the impulses behind creating and, more specifically, amassing. There are plenty of trenchant offerings from sharp contemporary makers, such as Carol Bove (with Carlo Scarpa), Ed Atkins, Henrik Olesen, and Aurélien Froment. But really, the show belongs to the “outsider artists” (such an irritating appellation), whose obsessions and sorrows emanate freely—even suffocatingly—from their gorgeous, haunted objects.

Arthur Bispo do Rosário spent the majority of his life institutionalized, fashioning sublime sculptures and ecclesiastical garments from all manner of castoff in anticipation of the Last Judgment; Hannelore Baron’s delicate, scorched-looking Wunderkammern feel as though they were salvaged from hell; and the modernist quilts from Gee’s Bend, Alabama, made by descendants of slaves (Loretta, Quinnie, and Missouri Pettway here) are cold comfort pieces, borne of ingenuity, certainly, as well as a great deal of suffering. First-wave Conceptual artist Howard Fried, however, might win the prize for Most Startlingly Tender . . .and the Creepiest: The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe, 2014–, a memorial display of the artist’s dead parent’s clothes, shoes, and handbags, fastidiously organized and entombed behind glass. Through a byzantine selection and authorization process, you can get several pictures of yourself taken by Fried while wearing the deceased matron’s togs and, later on, attend a “celebratory event” in her honor. Filial adoration with a light powdering of necrophilia—moms aren’t easy to please.

Alex Jovanovich

Jesse Chun

Spencer Brownstone Gallery
3 Wooster Street
July 16, 2016–October 8, 2016

View of “Jesse Chun,” 2016.

Jesse Chun’s “Blueprints” series, 2016, comprises twenty-three framed pigment prints, several of which are layered, and covered in dark-blue rectangles and lines. What are these strange schematics, one might ask? Machine diagrams? Alien communiqués? The answer is far more banal. Chun photographed immigration forms and digitally purged them of text, removing their national and linguistic markers. Only the uniform fill-in bubbles and answer grids remain, floating unmoored across the page in geometric patterns that point to a widespread visual language of global transit and expatriation.

Immigration’s paper trail is the medium of choice throughout Chun’s aptly titled “On Paper,” and proves to be an unlikely source of poetry and beauty—terms rarely associated with bureaucracy. “Landscapes,” 2013–15, is a suite of large-format photographs that isolate and hone in on the background images of passport pages—a tree, a waterfall, a mountain range—so heavily watermarked that they almost look pixelated. These nondescript nature pictures could represent any number of countries, recasting passport holders as global citizens rather than affiliates of any single state. For “Forms,” 2016, Chun, a South Korean expat, turned to her personal collection of visa applications to create erasure poems. Some of the resulting verses are abstract, but the most memorable one, from Form #4, provides a manifesto for the exhibition at large: “Mother. Father. ALL sons and daughters, regardless of age or place.” This expression of humankind’s interconnectedness is especially powerful, considering it was wrestled from paperwork intended to classify and divide populations.

Hannah Stamler

Xu Zhen

James Cohan Gallery | Chelsea
533 West 26th Street
September 8, 2016–October 8, 2016

Xu Zhen/MadeIn, Under Heaven—2808TV1512, 2014, oil on canvas, aluminum, 90 x 71 x 5 1/2". From the series “Under Heaven,” 2014–16.

Xu Zhen’s artworks seem to unambiguously—yet problematically—embrace consumer desire. In the first room of the artist’s current exhibition, we encounter Eternity - Aphrodite of Knidos, Tang Dynasty Sitting Buddha, 2014, a Brobdingnagian sculpture in which the body of an ancient Greek statue seems to be devouring a Chinese Buddha headfirst—a figure of the Western imagination (and, historically, bourgeois aspiration) decimating Eastern spirituality. Paintings from the series “Under Heaven,” 2014–16, occupy the gallery’s main space. They look like monstrous wedding cakes, their surfaces engorged with masticated-looking frosting flowers in greasy pinks, crimsons, and violets. The series’ title, a loose translation of a Chinese word that literally means “the whole world,” heightens the uneasiness one feels while gazing at these simultaneously luscious and lurid pictures.

In 2009, Xu initiated an “art creation company” called MadeIn. Since then, all of his artworks have been made under this entity. In 2013, MadeIn launched the “Xu Zhen,” line, which flattened the artist into a kind of brand—or perhaps even a phantom of late capitalism. Throughout his career, Xu has made many clever, slippery plays on the art-as-commodity idea, attracting a great deal of attention and (ironically?) money. The artist recklessly and humorously poses all manner of question about creativity’s relationship to capital, without leaving much room for comforting answers.

Chelsea Liu

Allison Schulnik

516 West 20th Street
September 8, 2016–October 8, 2016

Allison Schulnik, Two Long Unicorns, 2016, oil on linen, 100 x 78".

Allison Schulnik’s previous exhibitions employed theatrical settings to display her stop-motion animations, ceramics, paintings, and drawings. Here, she narrows the focus to her two-dimensional output. Her heavily impastoed narrative paintings, which possess the same physicality and rawness of her works in clay, warrant the attention.

The exhibition’s title, “Hoof II,” alludes to Schulnik’s training as a dancer, as well as to the central role unicorns and centaurs occupy in the show. With their suggestive horns and erections, Schulnik’s unicorns are decidedly male, though their eyes are depicted as vaginal forms, perhaps reflecting their carnal desire. Developed from a group of small gouaches made in 2015, her female centaurs are dubbed “centaurettes,” a term likely borrowed from Disney’s 1940 film Fantasia, a clear touchstone for Schulnik’s subversive and darkly erotic vision. Two of the show’s largest paintings—despite their bucolic settings and creamy, pastel palettes—are violent, salacious . . . qualities patently un-unicorn-like. In Two Long Unicorns, 2016, a pair of these battle-scarred creatures are entwined in vicious combat; while in Centaurette and Unicorn (both 2016), the latter poses victoriously over the defeated former, who is prostrated across a lush forest floor, with an uneasy crowd of plants and critters taking in the scene.

Gin #13 and Lady (both 2016), two bewitching self-portraits painted so thickly that the figures physically emerge from their nocturnal backgrounds, cast the artist as conjurer of these tableaux. If the spotlit drama of Schulnik’s prior installations immersed the viewer within her mythic realm, here we are spectators, like the sylvan gawkers—frightened, but enchanted.

Chris Murtha

Nick Relph

Gavin Brown's Enterprise | New York
291 Grand Street, 3rd Floor
September 9, 2016–October 9, 2016

Nick Relph, Total Piano & Organ, 2016, ink on cotton, 140 x 62".

New York’s Carroll Musical Instrument Rentals, LLC answers the phone when you call the number emblazoned upon Total Piano & Organ (all works cited, 2016), a large canvas work on which the title is spelled out. The telephone is a motif throughout Nick Relph’s solo exhibition here, a symbol that functions as a conduit between absence and presence.

Flaming Frontier, which cuts through the gallery space diagonally, is made up of nineteen double-sided wooden panels, some of which bear C-prints. Pictures of telephones, as well as construction permits, disappear and reappear, phantomlike, through images of architectural renderings and diagrams. One gets the sense that we are looking at some kind of junkyard organism slowly building itself, piece by rough-hewn piece.

Ridicule is a pair of neatly arranged white cotton shirt collars placed on a pedestal. Another piece, with the same title, is a set of smaller, copper-colored prints, glittery and enigmatic. Many of the works in the show appear in pairs and are serialized. But what is the tissue that binds all these objects and images together? Maybe it’s something like that invisible sinew that connects the caller to the called—akin to the musculature that holds a city together. It goes beyond bricks, mortar, steel, satellites, and wires—perhaps a consciousness all its own. Relph indulges in a subtle poetry that marries cybernetic systems to the metaphysical.

Taro Masushio

Ed Moses

Albertz Benda
515 West 26th Street
September 8, 2016–October 15, 2016

Ed Moses, Rose #6, 1963, graphite and acrylic on chipboard, 60 x 40".

Spanning 1951 to ’99, this survey of paintings and drawings by West Coast artist Ed Moses presents a pleasurable mismatch of gestures and techniques. Working horizontally so as to be able to approach his support from all sides, Moses variously sponged, mopped, squeegeed, and rolled paint across canvas, wood, and Mylar. Here, disclosed through an aluminum-colored wash, there, veiled by an accretion of acrylic, these supports treat paint as both a stain and a sheath. Colors and textures mix—soft and matte next to mineral and slick—yielding compositions that seem at odds with themselves. Wall Layuca #4, 1989, outfits unprimed cotton in soggy skeins of black and silvery gray. The work is premised on the irreducibly liquid nature of paint, while Montirr-Aix, 1999, congeals the same in a gummy skin, freckled with bits of bluish glitter. Such incongruities are typical of Moses’s work, which withholds the closure of a signature style.

One of the original Ferus Gallery “studs,” Moses stuck stubbornly to two dimensions. While others in the “cool school” dispatched with painting for plastics and the etherealities of Light and Space, Moses remained committed to the medium, however serious its identity crisis. From 1961 to ’68, he turned to drawing as a way to work through the problems of his paintings. First shown at Ferus, Rose #6, 1963, surrounds stenciled blossoms with serried patches of graphite that resemble Cubist passage. Line serves not to figure but to anxiously fill, as if each mark were motivated by a need to erase the emptiness of its ground. Small stretches of blank chipboard interrupt the densely wrought surface, proposing edges and limits as sites of concern. Two-odd decades later, Ranken #3, 1992, configures line in purling, pneumatic contours. The resulting image, best described as one floating head engulfing another, offers paint as something grotesque and bodily, its material agency threatening to subsume its maker.

Courtney Fiske

Marianne Vitale

89 Eldridge Street
September 9, 2016–October 16, 2016

Marianne Vitale, How’m-I-Doin’ (detail), 2016, pine, oil paint, hardware, 13 x 8 x 8'.

Handcrafted wooden torpedoes, suspended from the ceiling by wires, and souped up with American kitsch—a cow, a car, and camo—mark an intriguing detour, if not a new direction, in Marianne Vitale’s art. If the big, handsome sculptures made from salvaged lumber for which she is best known are strong, silent types, How’m-I-Doin’, 2016, her new installation of ten hand-painted projectiles, is comic, even a little snarky. Here, the splintery romance that characterized Vitale’s countrified totems of postindustrial wreckage is jettisoned for colorful, willfully naive Pop and playful satire. A bovine missile, decked out in Holstein black and white, is authenticated with the imprimatur “USDA Prime,” the summa cum laude of American beef. Another pirates the allover gestural drips of heroic American painter and Cold War cultural weapon Jackson Pollock.

Some works—one emblazoned with Nascar checkers, hot-rod flames, and a quotation from Revelations 20:15 (warning of the fiery lake awaiting the damned); another with the American flag and Uncle Sam’s notorious conscription slogan, “I Want You”—read as genial jokes about contemporary God-’n’-guns–style cultural politics and US adventurism abroad. Others invoke the visual culture of World War II GIs, who decorated warplanes with puerile jokes and randy cartoons as a method of psychic insulation from death. The phallic insinuations of Vitale’s torpedoes become more explicit in a steel-gray projectile decorated with a bikini-clad cutie-pie straddling a priapic missile—a burlesque of the cheesecake pinups that once sexed up the noses of Allied bombers.

Chloe Wyma

Roz Chast

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
April 14, 2016–October 16, 2016

Roz Chast, Dad’s Favorite Foods, 2014, wool and linen, 50 x 38''.

Since 1978, genius cartoonist Roz Chast has graced the pages of the New Yorker more than twelve hundred times, delivering spot-on vignettes of normal, neurotic people interacting—or keeping their anxious, philosophical thoughts to themselves—in cluttered apartments and wallpapered middle-class living rooms, on busy Manhattan streets, and, sometimes, on the roads of the larger tristate area. Brooklyn-born Chast’s outer-borough antiaesthetic is founded on her famous understated drawing style. Her lines evoke the cat hair likely embedded in the upholstery of the worn sofas she frequently depicts, and her dumpy, frazzled characters are brought to life with virtuosic, unsplashy brevity. The watercolor Doris K. Elston, 2008 (an earlier version appeared in the magazine in 1987), shows the unassuming Doris as a stone monument in the park. The plaque at her feet reads “Brain Surgeon – Professional Model – Artist – Lawyer Plus Mother of Four,” and a woman in a lumpy yellow sweater stands alone before it, experiencing the horror of her own inadequacy. Chast, one of the first women cartoonists to publish regularly in the New Yorker, handily destroyed the old-boy monopoly on urbane wit with her messier strain of sardonic feminist humor.

This lovely exhibition serves as an introduction to Chast’s life-affirming oeuvre but also focuses on her turn, in recent years, to memoir. Drawings from her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (2014), which chronicles her hilarious and difficult journey managing her parents’ decline, show her immense talent as a long-form storyteller while illuminating the autobiographical foundation of her entire practice. It’s a treat to see Chast’s original works and studies here, with their pasted-over thought bubbles and careful, blobby shading. Also, who knew about her beautiful painted pysanka eggs and hooked rugs? The linen and wool Dad’s Favorite Foods, 2014, features exactly what the title describes: her dad, gefilte fish, toast, a banana, a jar of borscht, and more.

Johanna Fateman

Aneta Grzeszykowska

195 Chrystie Street
September 7, 2016–October 16, 2016

Lyles & King
106 Forsyth Street
September 7–October 16

Aneta Grzeszykowska, Selfie #12b, 2015, pigment ink on cotton, 19 x 23". From the “Selfie” series, 2014–15.

Skin, with all of its imperfections, wraps itself around the core of Aneta Grzeszykowska’s two-venue exhibition, “No/Body.” At 11R Gallery, a series of macabre photographs, “Selfie,” 2014–15, depicts bizarre lumps of stylized flesh—pigskin that’s been realistically modeled after (mostly female) body parts. Each sickening, deftly produced picture offers up a mongrel kind of beauty, straight from the cinematic annals of horror and science fiction. A hypnotic video, Bolimorfia, 2008–2010, shows the artist, nude, engaged in a surreal ballet, choreographed to a score by Maurice Ravel. Additional dancers, very much like doppelgängers, also nude, join Grzeszykowska—their collective motions are fluid, like a sinister gang of synchronized swimmers.

At Lyles & King, another video, Negative Process, 2014, provides crucial context for the thirteen black-and-white photographs from the series “Negative Book,” 2012–13, displayed nearby. In the video, Grzeszykowska stands naked before the camera, meticulously applying deep-black paint to her body. It’s an old photography trick—when Grzeszykowska’s black-and-white portrait is solarized, she appears illuminated, apparitional. In the center of the gallery floor sits the physical manifestation of this battle between light and dark: two life-size dolls—Franciszka 2024, 2015–16, a speculative portrait of the artist’s daughter in the titular year, sheathed in white wool; and Untitled (Skin Doll), 2016, a figure in black fetish leather.

Grzeszykowska doesn’t address the racial implications of making her white skin black. Nonetheless, her perverse pictures do succeed in expressing an undeniable feeling of otherness and apprehension. Each photograph from “Negative Book” should be joyous—a family dinner, a day at the beach, tender moments between mother and daughter. But Grzeszykowska is the glowing opposite of her family and friends, a radioactive vision of discomfort and anxiety.

Gabriel H. Sanchez

Sam Lipp

167 Rivington Street, Lower Level East
September 10, 2016–October 16, 2016

Sam Lipp, Do You Smell Fumes?, 2016, acrylic on foamcore, 20 x 16''.

At Yany’s Beauty Salon on Rivington Street, a handful of mostly Hispanic workers can be seen spraying hair products and administering heating regimens over casual chatter, while a distinct trace of aerosol and burnt keratin wafts outside. Next door, beside Yany’s magenta street signage, a work by Sam Lipp, Do You Smell Fumes? (all works 2016), displays its inquisitive title in electric green neon. Inside the gallery, the same thought becomes an aesthetic motif, interrogating notions of purity as they extend to common understandings of wellness, security, and normalized social relations. But, in doing so, the project seems to gloss over another important consideration: How are these ideas socially positioned?

Most of the other works on view, foamcore surfaces painted many times over in acrylic with brushes and steel wool, resemble, in equal parts, bokeh and pixelated grain. One composition echoes its probing question along with some scrawled text reading, “Are you allergic to the 21st century? Do you have trouble breathing?” These lines nod to Todd Haynes’s 1995 drama Safe, in which the life of an affluent San Fernando Valley housewife, played by Julianne Moore, unravels as she develops MCS—multiple chemical sensitivity—a debilitating psychosomatic aversion to many everyday chemicals distributed through global capitalism.

In another acrylic work, Paris Is Paris, a male with his torso, cock, and balls exposed rests in bed next to another body—a moment of serene, banal affection. While Lipp importantly investigates the tenuousness of social binaries and their regulatory functions, the project would benefit from acknowledging how these forces serve class relations. An external menace, the cry of fumes, and the formation of conventional partnerships all conjure up ruling-class attitudes toward the working class—after all, doesn’t hegemony’s very conception suggest power is always under threat?

Nicolas Linnert

Diamond Stingily

Ramiken Crucible
389 Grand Street
September 18, 2016–October 16, 2016

View of “Diamond Stingily,” 2016.

Five unhinged doors, standing upright in space, look more like shields than portals. Each one is titled Entryways (all works 2016). A baseball bat leans on every one of the uniquely worn, deadbolt-adorned rectangles stationed around the dim gallery, evoking the violence and vigilance of everyday life. While these unfriendly readymade and pre-owned doors are the most immediately commanding element of Diamond Stingily’s show, a looping video is the centerpiece. Facing the entrance, on the far wall, is a large projection of vintage black-and-white footage—taken from folklorist Bess Lomax Hawes’s short 1967 documentary Pizza Pizza Daddy-O—that shows African American girls playing in a schoolyard. A chain link fence, installed just in front of the wall, casts its ubiquitous, carceral lattice shadow on the scene. Though the girls appear to be safe and mostly having fun as they run through their repertoire of playground songs, Stingily teases out a haunting refrain. The video’s title, How Did He Die, is taken from a strangely morbid call-and-response chant the girls perform.

The woven construction of the fence echoes in other elements, such as the looping telephone cords that form the artist’s simple, poetic Double Dutch Rope sculptures, as well as in the hardware and braids of Elephant Memory. The latter work, which looks like an airy tapestry from afar, is composed of pairs of long steel chains, each cold stripe hanging from a metal hook. The lengths are accessorized with various colors of plaited synthetic hair—black, gray, brown, auburn, blond—that end in frayed, brushy bursts. One thinks of jewelry as well as shackles. A complicated nostalgia colors Stingily’s powerfully restrained and formally smart show. An Arte Povera artist for our time, she reflects on the normalization and replication of brutal scripts and systems using perfect, pervasive materials.

Johanna Fateman

Nan Goldin

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
June 11, 2016–October 18, 2016

Nan Goldin, Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984, silver dye bleach print, 15 1/2 x 23''.

In a second-floor gallery leading to a dark room where Nan Goldin’s epic slideshow The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1976–96, plays in a dedicated installation, vintage flyers from the artist’s archive highlight its start as an improvised and evolving performance staged in the long-gone clubs and alternative venues of New York’s downtown scene. This canonical masterpiece, shown here in its original 35-mm slide format, comprises nearly seven hundred images: fearlessly intimate snapshot-like documents of Goldin’s chosen family and a devastated demimonde at the height of AIDS. The photos—ordered in untidy categories such as couples, mothers, injuries, male nudes, and shooting up—are appropriately fleeting. Just as one recognizes Goldin’s luminous contemporaries (Greer Lankton, Cookie Mueller, and Mark Morrisroe, to name just a few), they’re gone. It’s impossible to absorb every charming or startling detail. And the enthralling parade is set to an eclectic sound track. You can imagine it playing in any of the cozily derelict East Village apartments or dive bars depicted.

Goldin has called her stark, bruised self-portrait, Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984, the “central image” of “Ballad.” In it, the powder-blue wall and curtain of her background complement the subconjunctival hemorrhage of her left eye and her perversely matching, carefully applied vermillion lipstick. Such bold self-exposure grounds her diaristic magnum opus, giving it a heroic credibility that will forever distinguish it from all the Goldinesque knockoffs made since. This image is not an aestheticization of violence—it’s a refusal to be shamed by it. Her photos are not glamorizing but often undeniably glamorous, simply because her subjects are. The pervasive longing that suffuses “Ballad” parallels our own desire to know more about a very different New York and the minutiae of brilliant lives cut short.

Johanna Fateman

Jonathan Gardner

Casey Kaplan
121 West 27th Street
September 8–October 22

Jonathan Gardner, Bather with Yellow Towel, 2016, oil on linen, 66 x 30”.

The mirrors in Jonathan Gardner’s paintings elude faces. They’re clouded by gray light, like pools of mercury. For Gardner, making his solo New York debut here, surrealism happens in the background. Bather with Yellow Towel (all works 2016) shows a woman lifting her arm to reveal a snowflake of armpit hair—she’s bounded by a drop shadow, like some uncanny digital artifact. Gardner’s figures bend with plastic dexterity. The reader in Salmon Sofa strikes a chaste, Balthus-like pose, allowing patterns to vibrate around her: Blue lines cross a yellow field and clash against orange matchstick grooves. A vase of flowers sits nearby like a fat pink molar. Another nude woman reclines in Waves, her lower body curving over a divan’s flat surface. Is she touching her stomach out of anxiety or idleness?

Dark Mirror, with its isometric potted plant, brings to mind 1980s restaurant murals; it’s a trompe l’oeil playing the same tricks as a screen saver. The Model finds irony at Gardner’s expense: An artist obscured by Cousin It hair displays her latest canvas to her subject, whose legs bulge out impossibly. The painting within a painting is even more simplified and reduced than Gardner’s own forms; the model looks either satisfied or amused. A picture of a desert landscape, pinned by a copper moon, is visible in the distance. The faces in Gardner’s work could sometimes pass for René Magritte’s, but Gardner never implies a narrative, as the Belgian does in The Menaced Assassin, 1927—he only hints at secret jokes.

Chris Randle

Meleko Mokgosi

Jack Shainman Gallery | West 20th Street
513 West 20th Street
September 8–October 22

Jack Shainman Gallery | West 24th Street
524 West 24th Street
September 8–October 22

View of “Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition, Lerato,” 2016.

In two concurrent solo exhibitions at the gallery’s Twentieth and Twenty-Fourth Street spaces, Meleko Mokgosi presents the latest “chapters” in an ongoing series titled “Democratic Intuition,” 2014–. His monumental paintings give us African subjects in compositions derived from vernacular photography, film, and European history paintings, but the project is far more complex than a mere blending of African and Western influences. Mokgosi examines the construction of historical narratives and questions of representation—both visual and political—through a process of continuous becoming: Precise, photorealist renderings are juxtaposed with raw and unfinished swaths of canvas, while multipanel paintings unfold like cinematic storyboards. Several text-based works transcribe, but do not translate, dinaane (Setswana for “folk stories”), addressing the temporality of storytelling and the complexity of cultural translation.

In “Lerato,” on Twentieth Street, Mokgosi reimagines canonical works by the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, whose career was contemporaneous with the Berlin Conference and European imperialism in Africa. In Democratic Intuition, Lerato: Agape I (all works cited, 2016), the artist restages Bouguereau’s Alma Parens (The Motherland), 1883, which depicts a maternal France nurturing her young dependents; Mokgosi’s African protagonist, conversely, embodies France’s colonial exploitation of both land and labor abroad.

On Twenty-Fourth Street, “Comrades II” turns to the legacy of liberation struggles and the notion of democracy in postcolonial Africa. In Democratic Intuition, Lex I, stoic figures inhabit an enigmatic, modernist interior that is adorned with masks and ethnographic photographs. Framed for display and pressed to the picture’s surface, these images highlight the cultural and temporal dislocations that sometimes characterize postcolonial experiences. Here, Mokgosi seems to marshal a Steinbergian “flatbed” aesthetic—also legible in Democratic Intuition, Comrades: Addendum, that features various photographs of African women, done with silk-screen and pigment transfer, that prompt reflection on the mediating role of images in public and political life.

Allison Young

Suellen Rocca

Matthew Marks Gallery | 523 West 24th Street
523 West 24th Street
September 9–October 22

Suellen Rocca, Easy to Handle, 1968, colored pencil, ink, and cotton on paper, 29 x 23''.

Paintings, drawings, purses—if one of these things does not belong, then who really wants to be in that club? Suellen Rocca’s show of twenty-five works from 1965 to 1969, featuring that happy trio, blithely goes its own way, giving pointers to younger artists who incorporate the bold outlines and bright colors of comics, animation, and traditional illustration in their paintings. Mind you, this isn’t some wiseass appropriationist’s high/low move—Rocca’s pictures are resolutely hieroglyphic, and what they take from the ancients gets made up into wiggly modern forms with funky, plastic colors. A pinup-posed figure shrinks away in Bare Shouldered Beauty, 1965, while stuttering scenarios wallpaper the background. Its language is a cipher, but this doesn’t date it, as the scattered focus has the frequency of now.

The title for the drawing Easy to Handle, 1968, announces itself in the picture with cursive relish. In it, a faceless figure gingerly holds up a bag that promises her ease and deference. Her loins sport lovers doing a bland smooch surrounded by an aura of “ahs” and a “kiss me.” Beneath the scene the artist pays herself a compliment: “This is a lovely picture.” Against a black ground, drooping fingers, or dicks, point to hovering flicks of cotton fuzz, which set Our Lady of the Lovely Picture in bright relief. Bare Shouldered Beauty and the Pink Creature, 1965, seems to be the anchor of the show. The oil-on-canvas diptych is predominately pink, with accents of lime green and chocolate brown. Organized with a rough symmetry, it sends the eye bopping around like a pinball. You can try counting the bottles, sofas, and ice-cream cones for clues, but in the end, Rocca’s world might just be out of your league.

Paige K. Bradley

Rashid Johnson

Hauser & Wirth | Chelsea
511 West 18th Street
September 8–October 22

Rashid Johnson, Antoine’s Organ, 2016, black steel, grow lights, plants, wood, shea butter, books, monitors, rugs, piano, 15’ 8” x 28’ 2” x 10’ 7”.

The title of Rashid Johnson’s current exhibition, “Fly Away,” refers to a musical standard performed over the past century by gospel singers as well as sampled by Kanye West. For this show, the song was also played in the gallery by the pianist Audio BLK. While the inclusion of live music adds a new sensory layer to a career that, for years, has drawn from from a vast archive of signifiers of blackness, the work on display will seem familiar to many. The exhibition is largely given over to two series of paintings: “Untitled Anxious Audience,” 2016, featuring smears of black soap and wax on Johnson’s signature grids of tile; and “Falling Man,” 2015, which references the artist’s earlier assemblages of mirrors, spray paint, and oak flooring. In both, Johnson wears his influences on his sleeve—David Hammons, Chris Ofili, Nari Ward—and, of course, himself, with reprinted and collaged scenes from his own photographs.

But this exhibition allows Johnson to work out his play with materials and referents on a massive scale, especially in the room-size sculpture Antoine’s Organ, 2016—a modular structure that’s fused to its conceptual lattice with an Africana reading room. The work invites you to look inward but keeps you at a distance with an overgrowth of houseplants, small video stations, and stacked books, including Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015). The latter is a knowing jab at Johnson’s own absorption into the global gallery system. Whether the show constitutes the sort of ambivalent critique from within of his forebears or a more solipsistic deployment of his personal history isn’t entirely clear, and, for that reason, it is an important provocation in pressing conversations about identity, memory, and power in contemporary art.

Ian Bourland

Richard Hawkins

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street, Ground floor and 8th Floor
September 9–October 22

Richard Hawkins, Turd Plug to Prevent Nocturnal Insemination, 2016, glazed ceramic in artist’s frame, 23 x 26 x 3 1/2''.

The free downloadable PDF is the contemporary form most suited to the manic conspiracy theorist. Appropriately, a number of them make up the offsite key to “Norogachi: Ceramics After Artaud,” Richard Hawkins’s show of impressively hideous works—glazed tablets that incorporate disturbing, scatological vignettes of a hellish metaphysical realm. The artworks—a speculative merging of Antonin Artaud’s paranoid lexicon of psychic attack with the symbolic imagery of the Tarahumara, an indigenous people of northwestern Mexico—are based on Artaud’s 1936 trip to Norogachi, a remote village in the Sierra Madre, while he was withdrawing from heroin. Artaud’s neocolonial romance with ceremonial psychedelics there became the subject for subsequent writings and—Hawkins proposes—a powerful influence on the drawings Artaud executed during the same period, in a psychiatric hospital.

Turd Plug to Prevent Nocturnal Insemination (all works 2016) presents what looks like a small blood-spattered length of striated shit on a pale ragged rectangle affixed to a pleasant enough background of interlocking multicolored blobs. Shamanic Abortion of the Divine Parasite After Being Raped by the Holy Spirit is rough and childlike yet also a clear, even didactic depiction of the titular scenario. Those familiar with Artaud’s visual invectives will recognize the signature themes of his works on paper. But Hawkins makes Artaudian strangeness even stranger—by inscribing the dramatist’s visions in clay, he unmoors them from their place in time. And while his arresting ceramic pieces are often comically revolting, they maintain an aura of surprising gravitas. Without delving too far into the artist’s hovering digital text-pastiche, one gleans that Hawkins’s scholarship regarding this iconography is deep, detailed, and earnest. His unconcealed desire to be understood is charming; it imbues his ugly art with the excitement of obsessive investigation and a rare sense of vulnerability.

Johanna Fateman

Simon Denny

Petzel Gallery | West 18th Street
456 West 18th Street
September 8–October 22

View of “Simon Denny,” 2016.

“Imagine a world where trust is guaranteed—a world without borders.” These words, spoken in the confident, masculine voice of authority, open Simon Denny’s video What Is Blockchain?, 2016. With slick graphics and soaring music, this infomercial-cum–TED talk promotes decentralized network technology (which serves as the basis for Bitcoin) as a high-tech solution to social problems ranging from the loss of privacy to geopolitical conflict. Projected onto the gallery’s back wall, the video bookends the show’s first room, which introduces us to Bitcoin’s pioneers, embodied by Plexiglas cases screen-printed with their names, portraits, and techno-utopian quotations. (There’s also an achingly of-the-moment invocation of Pokémon, relating to a play on words involving the name of the mythic founder of Bitcoin, whose real identity remains contested.) Next comes a series of rooms in which we learn about three financial companies capitalizing on blockchain—Digital Asset, 21 Inc., and Ethereum—representing the technology’s most visible proponents: venture capitalists, bankers, and libertarians. The ethos of each company is communicated through a variety of objects, including a diagram of ideas, hand-drawn in colorful markers on the surface of a globe-shaped whiteboard; a life-size cutout of its leader; a customized, hypertrophied edition of the board game Risk; and a series of modified computer cases and “deal toys.”

The smooth and glossy materials of these components (mostly Plexiglas and aluminum) invoke the frictionless world conjured by blockchain’s evangelists. But instead of inspiring confidence in this panacea, the show encourages paranoid visions of confidence men, marketing their wares in successive booths at a trade show. And we aren’t the only ones with doubts. Adjacent to What Is Blockchain?, an outer layer of the wall has been removed, revealing a painted sign that reads, in part, “A safe decentralized software platform,” but the word “safe” has been crossed out. Nearby, the voice of authority rejoins: “Blockchain is the truth.”

Tina Rivers Ryan

Colleen Asper

On Stellar Rays
213 Bowery Street
September 18–October 23

Colleen Asper, {Forward Fold, Legs Wide; Triple Triangle}, 2014, oil on canvas, 27 x 69''.

The gaze that’s key to Colleen Asper’s latest works in “Nobody/Monobody” is utterly contained within the self. Asper’s show is a heady concoction that depicts the female body in a wide range of commonplace, yet complicated, yoga poses. The artist’s scrupulously rendered oil paintings, many of which are photorealistic, are built upon rigorously geometric compositional structures and make subtle references to modernism. In {forward fold, legs wide; triple triangle}, 2014, a woman doing a headstand while bent at the waist, her legs in an upside-down V formation, mirrors the black and white triangles on the floor she’s posing on. In the series “{spektrum, hands},” 2016, five filmy, monochromatic rectangles are gently braced by hands, slyly humanizing each formalist slate.

The press release, an abstract dialogue between a “Nobody” and a “Monobody,” makes us think that the figures we are witnessing exist within a vacuum, incapable of receiving any kind of external input. Here, “Nobody” refers to the process of invagination—as Merriam-Webster explains it, “the formation of a gastrula by an infolding of part of the wall of the blastula.” One, admittedly, is entirely confused. Is the active viewing of these pieces akin to the drawing back of a labial curtain—have we been welcomed into the Holy Temple of the Central Core? It’s difficult to say. But one thing is for certain: Asper transmogrifies familiar female shapes into lively and sensuous feminine forms.

Yin Ho

Joe Fyfe

Nathalie Karg
291 Grand Street, 4th Floor
September 14–October 23

Joe Fyfe, Untitled floor sculpture, 2015, found plastic container, vinyl pennants, 7 x 14 1/2 x 8".

Joe Fyfe is uninterested in the line between art and life, and this isn’t immediately apparent in his work. But his thinking about what he calls the dichotomy of “art and stuff”—his art being made from discarded products and advertising materials—elucidates that seeming indifference. The paintings and sculptures in Fyfe’s exhibition here—many of which incorporate found materials, such as kites and weathered fabrics used for advertising in Korea, which are then repurposed in Cambodia for tarpaulins and umbrellas—are hardly apolitical things. Fyfe himself says he deploys these materials to speak to the contradictions of global capitalism. But the appropriation and unpacking of stuff as such suggests a more reflexive question about what art can really say, or ask, while beholden to these markets. By incorporating his own consumerism in Southeast Asia, the artist preempts his work’s absorption into a market that subsequently churns it out as commodity, or more stuff, leaving art’s political capacity effectively neutralized, to paraphrase critic Peter Bürger.

Fyfe’s found objects convey more than just lessons about Orientalism, or the ironies of increased mobility of goods alongside the ever-tightening mobility of people. Two 2015 works, both titled Untitled floor sculpture, variously made up of, among other things, auto parts, a plastic tool container, fake bricks, and lead, showcase both the labor of manufacturing and the politics of culture-making. More to the point, these sculptures underscore how the culture industry and the consumer alike see—or erase—the realities and politics of cheap global labor. “Kiss the Sky” can be read as a show taking aim at the reduction of an avant-garde mindset to stuffdom, revealing the mechanics of its own production, and completing itself once we’ve stepped into the gallery space.

Tyler Curtis

Alex Webb

Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
September 8–October 26

Alex Webb, Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, 1985, digital C-print, 25 x 34''.

Alex Webb has been working in Mexico for three decades now. His is the lonely traveler’s aria that’s been diffused into a symphony of saturnine colors—colors found in the small-town streets of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Tijuana, Cuernavaca—in a Mexico that’s not Mexico City, but also not rural, let alone pastoral.

The dramatic texture of these shots is omnivorous, ruthless. They are formally controlled but emotionally unmoored, extraordinarily dramatic but decidedly indecisive, tightly framed but pointing elsewhere. Webb has expressed his desire to capture how, in his words, “multiple states, multiple situations, and multiple moments can coexist.” He achieves this by presenting several unrelated human dramas in the same frame. Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, 1985, for example, shows four strangers against a sky-blue alley wall. A red blur of a young woman walks past us in the foreground. Two men—one in a cattleman hat, impassive, wearing a dirty shirt, the other so tired his eyes are closed—lean, like indifferent sentries, on either end of the frame. And amid this, totally ignored like uncollected garbage, is a homeless man lying asleep on the ground.

This is the bitter, Bruegelesque glory of Webb’s street photography. He registers the normalization of pitilessness that results when capitalism conquers an underdeveloped backwater overnight. Doing this, he also achieves something more. The four people in Tehuntapec may remain indifferent to one another, but seeing them, we grow aware of the strangers around us, of the ambient social noise that defines urban life.

Ratik Asokan

Sara VanDerBeek

Metro Pictures
519 West 24th Street
September 15–October 29

Sara VanDerBeek, Quilt Collage I, 2016, acrylic on fiberglass-reinforced plaster and water-based reactive dye printed on cotton voile, 48 x 12 x 12”.

Sara VanDerBeek’s work mirrors the changing techniques and cultural status of photography. A decade ago, her practice was broadly curatorial, especially as a partner in the artist-run gallery Guild & Greyshkul. We saw this in her museological photographs, too, which brought together cultural artifacts from pre-modern eras to today. Now, she has turned inward and observational, tracing the perceptual effects of light and time on simple sculptural forms. In “Pieced Quilts, Wrapped Forms,” VanDerBeek zeroes in on the geometric vocabulary of textiles. She returns to her palette of daybreak pinks, hazy purples, and twilight blues, taking them to decidedly hypersaturated ends of the spectrum. VanDerBeek’s six photographic works, three of which are diptychs, include ghostly patterns of diagonals, triangles, and curvilinear designs, created through an analogue-meets-digital process. She shoots shadowy medium-format images, scans the negatives, and collaborates with digital colorists to finalize the prints: a contemporary version of the creative partnership required in quilting.

VanDerBeek’s allusions to women’s work are intensified by historical references. The eye-popping magenta-on-magenta photograph Camino Real, 2016, features a field of rectangles against an even more high-key background. The title is borrowed from Anni Albers’s textile commission––a patchwork of red triangles, from blush to burgundy––for Ricardo Legorreta’s 1968 landmark Hotel Camino Real in Mexico City.

Along with the photographs, the main gallery contains three modular sculptures in brilliantly pigmented concrete that hug the floor. The back of the space, however, feels like a storeroom, with fifteen totemic sculptures crowded together, made of wood or plaster and painted white. This excess is a mistake, as it makes it easy to overlook a delicate new invention for the artist: prints on gauzy cotton voile, which cover several of the objects. The most intriguing oddball of the group is Quilt Collage I, 2016, an irregular form under a tightly pinned textile densely patterned with polka dots, loose grids, and other motifs.

Wendy Vogel

Caitlin Keogh

Bortolami Gallery
520 West 20th Street
September 8–October 29

Caitlin Keogh, Renaissance Painting, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 84 x 63''.

Caitlin Keogh’s current show, “Loose Ankles,” an antique term for a ligament injury exacerbated by high heels—and the title of a 1930 precode romcom—destabilizes conventional female constructs with demure criticism. Keogh, a sure-footed painter, renders mechanomorphic ladies into easy-on-the-eyes pictographs, though their innards are often exteriorized, severed. For Interiors (all works 2016), an invisible, tasseled sash slices delectably through a beheaded mannequin. We also have the distinct pleasure of eyeing a vacant suit of armor modeling female hormonal glands in Renaissance Painting. A looping intestine, or a snake, penetrates another headless torso in Correspondences. Disturbingly diagrammatic, alluringly mannered, and tantalizingly inhuman—Keogh’s femme fatales are, to quote a fellow viewer, “so wrong, but so right.”

These cheeky but twisted representations (part death drive, part sexual attraction) have increased in art-historical specificity, too: Ad Reinhardt’s sepulchral blue sneaks into the background of Wuthering Nephron; P&D permeates everything; and agreeable pastels restrained by precise lines, with notes of Warhol, John Wesley, and de Chirico, traffic in a darker subplot. The “Dior Fragments” series, on mirrors and glass, features excerpts from the fashion mogul’s autobiography. The paintings, however, are the more convincing mirrors, refracting disfigured selves across pools of warped allusions.

An ambivalence toward art history as “lifestyle” fodder is a source of rich, generative texture in this perverse pageant, and the exhibition seems to subtly indict the art world for synchronizing itself with fashion’s clock. Attention can waver, but Keogh exposes something steadfast lurking in all her tender arabesques and deliberately polished surfaces.

Margaret Kross

Charles LeDray

Craig F. Starr Gallery
5 East 73rd Street
September 9–October 29

Charles LeDray, Daisy Chain, 2013–14, fabric and human bone, 1 x 16 1/2 x 15 1/2''.

Charles LeDray’s miniatures are as enchanting and magnetic as panoramic Easter eggs or the Stettheimer dollhouse, but without the whimsy or windows to peer into. Though, actually, there is an austere glass case displaying treasure among the mysterious objects in this spare, dimly lit installation of his work. Chic little vases or urns—made on a doll-size potter’s wheel, one imagines—fill the glass shelves of the vertical vitrine. There are fourteen hundred black porcelain vessels in Throwing Shadows, 2008–16, each one unique. LeDray meticulously fabricates his work without assistants, and the time necessary to complete this intriguing sculpture is palpable.

Other works are skillfully and laboriously carved or hand-stitched. Daisy Chain, 2013–14, has a whiff of the macabre about it, even before you learn that the brittle white flower crown, laid out on a creased black fabric square, is made from human bone. Mourning Coat, 1991, is a beautifully tailored Lilliputian garment displayed like a pressed flower or pinned butterfly. Overcoat, 2004—a handsome doll’s trench shown upright and open to reveal a cascade, or “body,” of even smaller clothing—is charming, and a little horrifying. Shrunken menswear, buttons, the tiniest teacups, and stuffed bears are recurring ingredients in LeDray’s condensed, ambiguously antique arrangements. Like the realm of child’s play, the almost narrative world of his art does not conform to a uniform scale. Decontextualized elements, rendered in varying degrees of smallness, all make believe together. The fey, particular behemoth who painstakingly created and arranged these objects into fantastical situations feels strangely absent, far away in space and time. But LeDray’s commitment to his queer vision suffuses the show. Its quietly strident handmadeness is simultaneously invisible and overwhelming, a totally magical effect.

Johanna Fateman

Alma Thomas

The Studio Museum in Harlem
144 West 125th Street
July 14–October 30

Alma Thomas, Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset, 1970, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 48".

Among her kaleidoscopic abstractions of botanical and celestial phenomena, a statement by Alma Thomas is stenciled on the museum wall: “Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.” Taken axiomatically, this might read as Pollyanna denial or cool aestheticism. But in their claim to universal subjectivity and transcendent beauty, there’s an indisputable if paradoxical politics in the paintings of the late Washington, DC, abstractionist, who—at the age of eighty, in 1972—became the first African American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum.

With their ribbons, wheels, and allover patterns of abbreviated brushstrokes, Thomas’s paintings are romantic but not mystical, emotive but not sentimental, pretty but not precious. In Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses, 1969, Fauve-style garlands of tessera-like gobbets of paint shuttle up and down the canvas. A torrent of feathery brushstrokes against a blue-black ground, the dreamy, disco-pink Cherry Blossom Symphony, 1973, recalls Monet’s woozy, horizonless lily ponds. One of several NASA-inspired paintings, Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset, 1970, riffs on aerospace as a source of abstraction, estrangement, and galactic sublimity. The planet—viewed from some astronomical distance—becomes fiery bands of red, orange, and yellow, suspended in a gaseous poppy-colored field.

For a modernist humanist such as Thomas, art transcended spatial, temporal, and political exigencies. “Creative art is for all time,” she insisted, “and is therefore independent of time . . . of age, race, and nationality.” Though resistant to identitarian politics and social dramas, Thomas’s art was unavoidably entangled in them. They impelled her late-in-life break into the Whitney, following activist demands for the inclusion of African American artists. Two oil sketches depicting the 1963 March on Washington—in which she participated as a septuagenarian— give historical texture to Thomas’s astral abstractions, grounding them in ongoing, unresolved antinomies of abstraction and representation, universalism, and difference.

Chloe Wyma

Lillian Schwartz

Magenta Plains
94 Allen St
September 18–October 30

Lillian Schwartz, Olympiad, 1971, video, color, sound, 2 minutes 33 seconds.

The 1970s art world was, in general, skeptical of the computer’s artistic value. Fittingly, The Artist and the Computer, a 1976 documentary on Lillian Schwartz’s work at AT&T’s Bell Labs, possesses the corny vibe of an educational after-school special. The movie alternates between clips of Schwartz’s computer-generated films and footage of her explaining the skill and artistry behind them. In one scene, she flips through a book on nineteenth-century art (before a roaring fire, naturally) and pauses for an aside on modernism’s debt to science and technology. The camera, Schwartz reminds the audience, was useful to Impressionist facture, and color theory informed pointillism.

This earnest appeal to acknowledge the computer’s place within art’s unfolding history feels utterly quaint today. But the documentary, shown at the entrance to this exhibition, reinforces just how groundbreaking the artist’s oeuvre was. Perhaps it also explains why many of her films, displayed here on loops in the gallery’s basement, read as takeoffs of past artistic movements, demonstrating the computer’s capacity not only to mimic better-established art forms but to supercharge them. In Olympiad, 1971, tessellated outlines of human figures run in Muybridgean arcs. Enigma, 1972, featuring flashing bands of colored light, is Mondrian on psychotropics. And in Fantasies, 1973, circles and rectangles swirl and meet in formations that recall stained glass. Though other works pull from chemistry and biology (such as Apotheosis, 1972, developed from pictures of cancer radiation treatment), Schwartz’s ability to put a mesmerizing, often painterly spin on digital imagery is consistent throughout her work and indeed makes her a pioneer of the form.

Hannah Stamler

Ieva Epnere

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
September 17–November 5

Ieva Epnere, Sea of Living Memories, 2016, three-channel HD video, sound, color, durations variable.

Memories are shape-shifting narratives that time can ruthlessly mold and alter. Much like the sea, they are a force to be reckoned with, and if we are not cautious, they can drown us. To an image maker, memories can be extraordinarily useful weapons, as they have the power to dismantle the lines between fiction and reality.

In Ieva Epnere’s video Sea of Living Memories, 2016, Latvians remember when their small country was under Soviet rule, which started in early World War II and lasted until 1991. Military maps, footage of the sea, black-and-white photographs, and the aged faces of citizens suffuse this work. The accounts we hear, especially those from former soldiers, are cut through with world-weariness, despair, and occasional moments of brightness. After all, what are these fighters left with but their recollections, once the battle is over? For the veterans who stayed and built lives on these shores, tales are a refuge.

Among them is Ivans, a man who worked as a cryptologic technician for the Soviet army, disguising information so that it could not be intercepted. As he muses about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, his tone fluctuates—we detect a strange excitement as he relives this dangerous bit of history. The Baltic Sea fills the screen with its grayish-blue hues, which reminds us that the vastness and unpredictability of such a large body of water can break lives. Beneath its serene surface, the sea carries its own strange codes and secrets, faint whispers trapped in waves, rippling across time.

Lara Atallah

Art & Language

Carolina Nitsch Project Room
534 West 22nd Street
September 9–November 5

Art & Language, Paintings I, No. 7, 1966, archival inks printed on Hahnemühle paper mounted on wood, 30 x 59". From the series “Paintings I,” 1966.

Fifty years separate the two series of work on view here by Art & Language, the fiercely Conceptualist collaborative that originated in 1966 and began to publish its namesake journal in 1969. Four works from “Paintings I,” 1966, a characteristically text-based series of ink on paper adhered to wood, span two walls of the diminutive gallery. Nearby is “These Scenes,” 2016, comprising five framed works that visually summon Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 monochrome Black Square. Like the 1960s works, “These Scenes” extends the spare aesthetic and rigorous intellectualism that formed Art & Language’s historic model of critique. This authorial structure—one of commanding textual provocations—appears consistent over half a century later. Can the same be said of today’s viewers?

“The situation now is more complex and expanded,” reads Paintings I, No. 7, 1966, in thickly printed ink. The quote is from Robert Morris’s seminal “Notes on Sculpture,” written that same year, in which the artist attempts to essentialize the genre through capacities of form and scale. One textual component of “These Scenes” also underscores a kind of discursive shift—printed opposite a black square, it marks institutional critique as the “sine qua non of institutional power, a negative condition that drives the search for autonomy.” Artistic freedom, something Malevich also stressed in his Suprematist manifesto of 1927, is referenced here repeatedly, like a harbinger of wisdom. It makes one wonder: Is redemption the sine qua non of critique? Scholars such as Jacques Rancière and Bruno Latour offer a bleaker view on the promise of enlightenment, assailing the position of critics (and necessarily that of the audience) as themselves belonging to the age-old structures of domination and subjection. For all these works’ emphases on epistemological shifts—their probing of critical assumptions—it’s striking how they uphold a rather familiar authoritative pedagogy.

Nicolas Linnert

Victor Burgin

Bridget Donahue
99 Bowery, 2nd Floor
September 8–November 6

Cristin Tierney
540 West 28th Street
September 8–October 22

Victor Burgin, UK 76 (detail), 1976, archival pigment print, 40 x 60''.

Victor Burgin premises his art on misalignment. His early work commutes among image, narrative, and theory, pleasuring in the friction among disjointed forms of meaning. Exemplary from this period is UK76, 1976, a suite of eleven black-and-white photographs of workaday scenes: a supermarket, a sidewalk, a factory. On display at Bridget Donahue as a pendant to two digital projections at Cristin TierneyMirror Lake, 2013, and Prairie, 2015—each photograph is contoured by text cobbled from structural Marxism, promotional copy, and Burgin’s own aphorisms. Pasted directly to the wall like street advertisements, these composites of image and glyph anticipate their own disuse. Their presentation upends our sense of space, bringing the gallery’s outside, inside. We especially feel this in Burgin’s extensive suite of books, from Between (1986) to Some Cities (1996), where excerpts from UK76 appear. Such locational drift befits Burgin’s mode of ideological critique, which finds meaning not behind representations but between them, spaced by layers of allusion that disallow any stable authorial position.

Consider the depiction of a working-class suburb in one of the images from UK76. Captured in straight documentary style, the photograph reports an asphalt landscape where anemic plots of grass preface nondescript homes. Two pedestrians interrupt the scene, like the umbrella-bound figures of Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris streets, indifferent to one another’s presence as well as to the dog in the foreground. A gloomy sky expresses the mood as clouds slouch over power lines and taper into the composition, calling to mind the conventions of one-point perspective. Yet while perspective aims to construct a coherent pictorial space, Burgin’s textual overlay, either a quotation or a parody of an exotic travel brochure, dislocates the scene. Couched in all-caps, its closing line—“Today is the tomorrow you were promised yesterday”—grafts present and past onto a counterfactual future. Looping fantasy and reality, the work attests to Burgin’s expanded understanding of the image as a phenomenon whose implication in discourse and desire exceeds the strictly visual.

Courtney Fiske

Phil Collins

The Met | Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
December 11–November 6

Phil Collins, How to Make a Refugee, 1999, video, color, sound, 12 minutes.

At least three exhibitions on view this fall on the Upper East Side telegraph, in divergent ways, historical instances of statelessness. These include Zoe Leonard’s affecting pictures at Hauser & Wirth, incorporating aged snapshots of her family who fled Poland in the wake of World War II; Phil Collins’s mesmerizing video How to Make a Refugee, 1999, at the Met, which was shot during the Kosovo War; and Karin Schneider’s show at Dominique Lévy, with its recent Artforum advertisement placed on the floor presenting a child in a refugee camp in Serbia. Of these, Collins’s short work is the sleeper hit. Tucked in a back corner of the museum, it is a quiet triumph that aptly scrutinizes what we mean when we say refugee crisis—a term that should be credited to political, hegemonic powers and not to displaced human beings.

The video commences with a photo shoot centering around a boy in Macedonian refugee camp. He removes his shirt to show a scar on his stomach, while a reporter parlays questions to him via a translator, ostensibly about his wound. Providing little information and no subtitles—though a nearby wall text informs that the boy is a Kosovar-Albanian refugee—the work is suffused with emotive detail, particularly when his family joins him at the end for a portrait. Throughout, Collins’s roaming shots, as if captured by a spy camera, contrast sharply with what he describes as the “rational or sensational standards of journalism,” offering a contemplative moment away from the noise to look and think about statelessness—a phenomenon that may be at its worst today but, as Hannah Arendt argued, that has been the result of every significant political event since the end of World War I.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

“Total Proof: The GALA Committee 1995–1997”

Red Bull Studios | New York
220 West 18th Street, Street level
September 30–November 27

The GALA Committee, Target Audience, 1995–97, paper, steel, plastic, pigment, 18'' diameter.

If primetime is the ultimate venue for product placement, then shouldn’t it also work for plugging art? So wondered Mel Chin, who in 1995 contacted the set decorator of the sexy Los Angeles soap Melrose Place with an offer to make props for the show. She agreed, and Chin, with a network of artists collaborating under the moniker “The GALA Committee,” began a two-year project of churning out artworks for the series. In return for their unpaid labor, they demanded just one thing: the license to respond, subtly, to social issues.

In “Total Proof,” more than ninety-four of the group’s pieces are on view for the first time in New York, staged in rooms built to resemble the original sets. TV monitors scattered throughout the galleries add to the Universal Studios effect and screen clips of Committee items in their natural habitat––peeking out from behind Heather Locklear’s blond mane, or clasped in the well-manicured hands of her costars.

Like the show’s different plotlines, the works range in drama and intent. RU 486 Quilt, 1995–97, a blanket embroidered with the abortion pill––made for a character grappling with an unplanned pregnancy––issues a bold political statement. Other objects are far more tongue-in-cheek: When the show’s creators requested “optimistic, California-lite” paintings for a budding artist introduced during the fourth season, the Committee delivered Hockney-style canvases based on archival police photographs of famous Angeleno crime scenes. Some of the cleverest props took aim not at current events but at TV itself. A dartboard titled Target Audience, 1995–97, features only numbers between eighteen and forty-nine, in reference to the program’s target age demographic––it’s the same group that, for a time, became unwitting consumers of Conceptual art.

Hannah Stamler