Lauren Clay

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street
October 25–December 21

View of “Lauren Clay: Windows and Walls,” 2018.

Windows and walls are aswirl in Lauren Clay’s anachronistic realm of optimism. Upon entering, one has the impression of stepping into a giddy loggia populated by bright meringue entities steeped in candy-colored gradients. Angles, apertures, and thresholds are untethered—feints in a watery world where flatness and fatness are equally buoyant. From floor to ceiling the gallery gets the full treatment, plastered with digitally printed enlargements of Clay’s hand-marbleized collages depicting Neoclassical facades. The chatty liquidity of the marbling process is everywhere, skewing conventions of structural rigor. Scale and texture are playthings: When magnified to this extent, the pulpy consistency of the original paper is visually exaggerated, giving the walls the appearance of being felted or even slightly soggy.

Clay’s seven sculpted plaster forms take loose cues from architectural features such as embrasures, and most are named accordingly: windows, screens, a trellis. Though sizeable enough to suggest a kinship with adult human bodies (each with particular quirks), they are not merely anatomical and have an open relationship with symmetry. The swollen amplitude of Fat Trellis (all works 2018) and Narrow Screen is disrupted by skinny curls and serpentine tendrils, while Double Ascending Stair nurses pink tresses in its rolls. These deviations toy with the rotundity of the whole and lead the eye astray.

Four architectonic collages are individually framed and quietly displayed in the back of the gallery; their smallness speaks to interiority in a way that magnitude cannot. Looking at them feels voyeuristic because of their modesty. Here is the world of miniatures, models for great edifices—reminders that most monoliths begin as handiwork.

Charity Coleman

Gimhongsok

Tina Kim Gallery
525 West 21st Street
October 25–November 30

Gimhongsok, Untitled (Short People), Red, Gold, Orange, Red, Pink, 2018, cast bronze, stone, 51 x 15 x 16". From the series “Untitled (Short People),” 2017–.

With whimsy and candor, Gimhongsok’s sculptures reward the epicure’s predilection for subtlety as well as the hedonist’s quest for pure joy. The artist’s acuity in merging conceptual rigor with an attention to form coheres the two groups of sculptures in this exhibition. In the first series, “Incomplete Order Development,” 2018, blocky, Cubist humanoid figures, most of them roughly three feet high, look as though they are balancing on their heads or standing upright, arms raised to the skies. Constructed in cement, their surfaces are pocked and spotted, vestigial indicators of their past lives as Styrofoam blocks.

The nineteen sculptures on display from the series “Untitled (Short People),” 2017–, index more than one hundred of the artist’s acquaintances. Relatives, former classmates, colleagues, and students were asked to blow up colorful balloons, which were then cast in bronze and stacked in groups of four, five, and six—an extension of the artist’s prior series “MATERIAL,” 2012, and “8 breaths (everyday monument),” 2014. (In “MATERIAL,” for instance, the artist asked several of his family members to make a wish while blowing into balloons; the resultant title is an acronym of these hopes: mother, achievement, travel, everyday wonders, rightness, interest, attraction, and love.) For “Untitled (Short People),” the balloons are produced in varying sizes and a range of colors, from lemon yellow to slate gray and metallic gold. Each stack is perched atop a stone, perhaps for textural contrast rather than stability. As abstractions of figures who have populated, impacted, and perhaps since exited the life of the artist, the sculptures function as a procession of relationships, both heavy and light, that comprise an individual life.

Tausif Noor

Denise Scott Brown

carriage trade
277 Grand Street, 2nd Floor
October 25–December 22

Denise Scott Brown, La Concha Motel, Las Vegas, ca.1966, giclée pigment print on Hahnemuhle archival paper, 17 x 21."

Vegas was her idea. In 1968, architects Denise Scott Brown and her husband, the late Robert Venturi, chaperoned thirteen Yale students—nine of them studying architecture—to the city for a field trip. Four years later came Learning from Las Vegas—their landmark, somewhat trollish retort to the fusty grade of International Style then ascendant. That treatise’s so-called populist championing of vernacular modes and classical allusions remains relevant and divisive, though Scott Brown’s immense legacy still often serves as a footnote to Venturi’s. This small exhibition of research photographs—and her first US solo show—offers a subtle corrective, reminding us how her curiosity and nimble, voracious observations spurred one of contemporary architecture’s most contentious movements.

Shot with a touristy casualness, Scott Brown’s pictures recall the banal, deadpan vistas of Stephen Shore’s and Ed Ruscha’s photographs (viewers immediately encounter a panoramic collage of casinos modeled after Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966). But the pleasures lie in seeing how Scott Brown sees: how the bronze, bikinied odalisque in a suntan-lotion ad becomes an extension of the mountainous horizon behind it (Tanya Billboard, 1968, which later graced the dust jacket of Learning from Las Vegas). Or how lushly sculptural the gimcrackery of overlapping motel and wedding chapel signage can be (as in Architettura Minore on the Strip, Las Vegas, 1966), or La Concha Motel, Las Vegas, ca. 1966, a nocturnal snapshot involving a floating neon onion dome and electric seashells (“no sense of space at all,” says Scott Brown of the scene, in the catalogue for the show). Two videos, filmed by a camera mounted to the prow of a Ford, take us down the Strip, whose excess now feels quaint. Indeed, despite this show’s diagrams, cerebral wall text, and intuitive arrangement, the images appear mostly evacuated of their polemical charge. And yet from Scott Brown’s tendency to notice those places that force us to gawk, there is still much to learn.

Zack Hatfield

“Focus: Wiener Werkstätte Jewelry”

Neue Galerie New York
1048 Fifth Avenue
October 4–January 21

Josef Hoffmann, Bracelet acquired by Mäda Primavesi, 1914, gold, diamond, ivory, 2 x 8".

Literally a jewel box of a show, this exhibition of jewelry, made by the Wiener Werkstätte (1903–32)—a coalition of Viennese artists and artisans committed to fusing traditional craftsmanship to modern design principles—is hidden amid a sea of contour drawings by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Curator Janis Staggs has assembled an impressive collection of recherché miniature masterpieces here, many drawn from private collections, and displayed them in a wooden vitrine lined with a luscious black fabric that sets off their polychromatic, semiprecious stones. Diamonds have little place in the Werkstätte’s oeuvre; Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, the workshop’s cofounders, believed that the value of a piece should derive from design and craftsmanship, not from the material’s costliness. Gemstones such as opals, carnelian, coral, bloodstone, and leopardite take center stage in these delicately wrought bijous, lending their gorgeous rainbow hues to strikingly modern, symmetrical compositions that draw on Art Nouveau tropes but never fully succumb to the style’s signature floridity, instead anticipating the next decade’s attention to geometry.

One of the show’s most astonishing pieces is also one of its oldest: a necklace from 1903 designed by Moser, bought by Klimt and then gifted to his partner Emilie Flöge, who often paired the piece with tentlike reform dresses that she herself designed. The necklace’s base is a chain dotted with silver four-pointed stars, off of which hang drops of carnelian inset with tiny diamonds that are only visible to its wearer. In his signature brooches, twelve of which are on view, Hoffmann managed to fit rounded gems into square silver frames so that the eye roams contentedly around their ping-ponging forms. Meanwhile, a necklace by Maria Likarz-Strauss dated 1919–20, created by sewing thousands of glass beads around a silk chord, would look particularly fantastic on any stylishly kooky woman from the Upper West Side. It is an absolute pleasure to see these items as Hoffmann and Moser would have presented them—not as mere baubles, but as the exquisite objets d’art they truly are.

Canada Choate

Minoru Yoshida

Ulterior Gallery
172 Attorney St
October 20–November 25

Minoru Yoshida, Space Doll, September 25, New York, 1974 (detail), 1974, graphite and watercolor on paper, 29 1/2 x 22".

In 1970, Minoru Yoshida—already a rising star of the Gutai group—moved to the United States from Kyoto. He originally planned for a quick return but stayed in New York for almost a decade. In three video documentations of performances from 1976, on display here, Yoshida dons his “synthesizer jacket,” a sculptural garment that looks a little like a Plexiglas corset lined with circuits. Responding to the artist’s body and movements, the jacket emitted a variety of electronic drones—sounds that one could characterize as techno-bagpipe.

In the video Absolute Landscape No. 3 (Psychic Revolution), 1976, Yoshida is balancing atop a precarious-looking abandoned building in Woodstock, New York. He resembles a 1950s B-movie astronaut or a male Barbarella. When he descends, two women join him, wearing silver reflective eye coverings and similarly futuristic-looking costumes. The extraterrestrial trio pour salt onto a vast roll of paper, making an assortment of shapes. Eventually, they light the tableau on fire. It’s a solemn yet trippy ballet. The group seems to deliver an indecipherable new message, à la the aliens in the 2016 movie Arrival. Immerse yourself in their trance.

Yoshida the expatriate, dressed as an alien, plays with otherness. Two fabulous drawings are also presented here, precise renderings of a battered doll stuck into a pile of rocks (Space Doll, September 25, New York and Space Doll, October 6, New York, both 1974). We see the doll in the Woodstock performance; Yoshida briefly cradles it in his arms. These images are extraordinarily weird, a combination of academic draftsmanship and deep surrealism. Even though they were created more than forty years ago, they could have been made yesterday.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Franz Gertsch

Swiss Institute / CONTEMPORARY ART
38 St Marks Pl
September 19–December 2

Franz Gertsch, Luciano I, 1976, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 78 x 117".

Installed in the back room of the Swiss Institute’s ground-floor galleries, like the children’s section in a bookstore, are some of Franz Gertsch’s earliest works, such as small drawings based on fairy tales of teapots come to life, Begegnung (Encounter), 1957, and a woodcut print of a man cursed to become a bear, Vor dem Spiegel (Tristan Bärman) (In Front of the Mirror [Tristan Bärman]), 1961. The artist returns to the subject of the mirror stage in his later photorealist paintings, based on photographs he projected onto canvas and painted in darkness. At Luciano’s House, 1973, depicts adolescents preening themselves, in the process of going out and growing up. These works overpower in their scale and precision; one can almost smell the cigarette smoke staining the frayed wallpaper in Luciano I, 1976, a monumental picture of a boy sitting amid the remnants of a dinner party. But the hyper-detailed rendering also manages to turn the image into an abstraction of pure texture, and Luciano’s skin, awash in a moody celadon, calls to mind the slippage between porcelain and flesh.

“Natascha,” 1988, a triple portrait comprised of three oversize woodcut prints, darkens in gradations, from hospital-gown green to sanitarium blue. The series is punctuated by a fourth woodcut, Schwarzwasser (Blackwater), 1991, where, in place of a face, we get the dimples and reflections of a dark body of water. Subject becomes object becomes vapor. As with Christian Schad’s Neue Sachlichkeit portraits of the 1920s, there is something intoxicating about the glacial potency of Gertsch’s human subjects, who live within a beautiful state of arrested development. An odd space that, like the world of fairy tales, is tinged with a touch of horror.

Hiji Nam

Catherine Opie

Lehmann Maupin
536 West 22nd Street
November 1–January 17

Catherine Opie, Artist #2 (The Modernist), 2016, pigment print, 40 x 27".

Among the photographs on display here is The Modernist (2018), Catherine Opie’s first film: 852 black-and-white photographs sequenced over twenty-two minutes. The proximate reference is Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), another film built from stills and less than half an hour long. Marker uses post–World War III Paris to push it along—Opie opts for Los Angeles and modernist architectural hits of the twentieth century.

Inspired by California’s Lake County fires of 2016, Opie’s nameless character—played by Pig Pen, a trans artist from the Bay Area—decides to burn down several landmark John Lautner buildings, including the Chemosphere and the Sheats-Goldstein Residence. The arsonist is a compressed index of American masculinity: greasy hair, Dickies, Red Wing boots, full-bleed tattoos, and hand-rolled cigarettes. Without dialogue, and for only one glorious moment of sound, Opie tracks Pig Pen’s unfussy physicality as they torch these homes, the physical traces of outdated luxury and niche optimism. Who was supposed to buy all these spaceships?

The Chemosphere may be in the Jetsons portfolio, but that future never arrived, especially for someone like Pig Pen, now looking down the barrel of being erased as a trans person, per a recent edict by Trump’s administration. Opie’s photographs, especially of the wooden matches Pig Pen lights, are sumptuous and calm. In a number of Opie’s tableaux, Pig Pen reclaims the serial killer’s wall collage and turns the trope of the dead-girl map into a mural of dead splendor made with images cut from an imagined LA Times. Opie has been critiquing the built environment for almost thirty years, photographing homes and freeways since the 1990s. The landscape in The Modernist is the Hollywood Hills, but it’s also the American nowhere, the desert that never gets the dream community. The portrait is of Pig Pen, and anyone else who is forbidden to reach that house on a hill. At one point, when Pig Pen sets up small models in a backyard, it looks as if our hero has a plan for swapping out the modernist bubbles with new homes. But it all goes up in flames.

Sasha Frere-Jones

Chrysanne Stathacos

SITUATIONS
127 Henry St
October 20–November 25

View of “Chrysanne Stathacos: Do I Still Yearn for My Virginity?,” 2018.

Cannabis is in the air, from an October issue of Bloomberg Businessweek (with a cover that reads “Pot of Gold? ELEVATE YOUR PORTFOLIO!”) to Canada’s recent legalization of the substance. Chrysanne Stathacos’s ivy and marijuana paintings, made in 1990 and now on view here, champion the healing properties of the plant avant la lettre, anticipating today’s global decriminalization and legalization movement.

Exhibited for the first time, the artist’s canvases bring to mind the work of Joan Mitchell and Pat Steir with their verticality and abstract botanical forms. Stathacos uses a range of techniques—etching press, silk screen, and the direct printing of leaves, roses, and hair—to build layered surfaces. These processes coalesce in Potted Passion #2, where directly printed images of marijuana leaves, in black and white, hover over patches of ivy (an evergreen that symbolizes eternity and the strength of friendship) rendered in blue. At the edges of the canvas, the white marijuana leaves take on a spectral character, as they almost disappear into the work’s pale ground. The late artist and activist Jorge Zontal, a member of the queer art collective General Idea, provided Stathacos with the cannabis plants, which he grew in his garden apartment (Zontal died in 1994 from AIDS-related complications). Stathacos’s works, produced during a time of indelible loss, are not only diaristic but funerary.

Mysticism and spirituality have long informed Stathacos’s practice, and her shadowy, elemental depictions of nature in reds, golds, silvers, blacks, and whites lend themselves to a shamanistic reading. In these canvases, altered consciousness becomes a mode of witness and remembrance.

Sophie Kovel

Stuart Davis

Kasmin Gallery | 293 Tenth Avenue
293 Tenth Avenue
September 13–December 22

Stuart Davis, Rhythm—George Wettling, 1947, gouache and pencil on board, 13 x 16".

Blue jeans, jazz, 1930s America; sailors and signage in New York’s Times Square, the stench of fish rolling off the river, and the plaintive sound of a trumpet snaking through the air. Stuart Davis, of course, was at the center of it all. But the artist’s pictures here aren’t the exuberant, hot canvases of his retrospective that took place at the Whitney Museum in 2016. This exhibition of spare, mostly black-and-white drawings and paintings, hung against smoky blue walls, features almost no color at all. Bebop drummer Art Blakey comes to mind—he said that “jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.” I think of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, too, who once said, “I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once.”

Maybe that thin, high trumpet is coming from Eddie Condon’s jazz club, which used to be located on West Third Street in Greenwich Village. Its address can also be found in Rhythm—George Wettling, 1947, Davis’s tribute to the titular Dixieland drummer. The show’s title, “Lines Thicken,” refers to a kind of sonic texture found in jazz, where a melody is shadowed in close harmony. Formally, this exhibition is full of such moments. Davis’s lines come together and branch out like urban streets, taking swooping, angular detours. Images such as musical staves, clefs, and notes mingle with cityscapes, boats, buildings, chimneys, fish, flowers, and even an armchair in a sort of interior-exterior cartography. His strokes are so rewardingly bold and sure, but on occasion we can see the faintest of hesitant, whispery pencil traces—they feel like a benediction.

Rahel Aima

Bodys Isek Kingelez

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
May 26–January 1

Bodys Isek Kingelez, Kimbembele Ihunga, 1994, paper, paperboard, plastic, and other various materials, 51“ x 73” x 10' 5".

There are three key moments that keep the legend of Bodys Isek Kingelez burning. One is when the Congolese sculptor—maker of intricate paper objects known as “extrêmes maquettes”—quit his job as a schoolteacher in Kinshasa and began making art, feverishly, from paper, scissors, a razor, and glue. The second came when a Kingelez sculpture arrived at the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaire. The staff there refused to believe he’d made it himself and demanded he create another one onsite. He did, and they immediately hired him as a restorer. The third was his participation in the 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la terre” (Magicians of the Earth), which catapulted Kingelez to international acclaim.

His first US retrospective here turns on three similar moments, illuminating formal shifts in the work that subtly reflect changes in the artist’s life. Soon after “Magiciens,” Kingelez, who had been making singular buildings such as Allemagne An 2000 (Germany Year 2000), 1988, and Paris Nouvel (New Paris), 1989, began to construct entire cities, such as Kimbembele Ihunga, 1994, named after the artist’s birthplace. Some years later, he started incorporating lights and transparent materials, which give Ville de Sète 3009 (City of Sète 3009), 2000, for example, its majestic glow. And then, toward the end of his life (Kingelez died in 2015), he returned to the found packaging materials he began with, using mint boxes and lightbulb cartons in Nippon Tower, 2005.

By turns playful and austere, rigidly chronological and blessedly open to what art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu has termed the artist’s “ecstatic imagination,” “City Dreams” moves lightly through thirty-three examples of Kingelez’s work. Lines of thought about colonialism, liberation, repression, health, and the realities of life that find welcome relief in utopian propositions arise naturally from the sculptures themselves. Curator Sarah Suzuki, whose accompanying catalogue is exceptional, deserves credit for lending astringent analysis to Kinglez’s context without ever dampening his magic.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie