Pam Lins

Rachel Uffner Gallery
170 Suffolk Street
March 4–April 22

View of “Pam Lins: she swipes shallow space by the slide drawer,” 2018.

A cycloramic print of slide drawers, of the kind used by predigital professors of art history, wraps around Pam Lins’s exhibition here. The labels have been replaced by a spectrum of monochrome rectangles. It’s as if art’s timeline, after one too many conflicting narratives, has now been reorganized by color. Inside this is a circle of cheerful blond-wood stools with footrests that match the hues of the slide drawers. On each stool sits a pointed ceramic block. In the center, a blue, rectilinear metal tree, swipe puddle tree (all works 2018), sprouts fruit-size aluminum forms, each incised with a mark.

In contrast with much recent work in ceramics, Lins’s approach to the medium is mercifully adult. She questions where it lies historically, or if its roots in craft mean it defies categorization altogether. Is clay only at home in new systems, such as color-coded slide drawers and trees of marks? The blocks are the most compelling elements of this installation.

Upon entering the gallery, one can only see the lovely, dun faces of the Matterhorn-shaped blocks. Each face contains a fragment of a classical relief sculpture. The images mostly depict hands—holding, gesturing, or reaching—as in she swipes shallow space by the slide drawer (joining), in which two hands overlap in what looks like a missed handshake. When one walks around the circle, the decorative, patterned backsides of the forms reveal themselves. It forces a jump in time and suggests that formalism has always been waiting for us: on the backs of stone reliefs and paintings, atop empty pedestals stacked in museum storage rooms, and inside tiny cardboard slide frames locked away in drawers, their contents invisibly repeating antique models of art history.

Matthew Weinstein

Carlos Reyes

167 Rivington Street, Lower Level East
March 2–April 1

Carlos Reyes, West Side Club (detail), 2018, salvaged cedar, glass, birch, hardware, dimensions variable.

The bathhouse’s conflation of recreation and sex is closer to the raw spirit of 1960s gay liberation than to the slew of tedious apps and websites for hooking up today. The West Side Club in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood bills itself as the city’s “premier social relaxation club for gay and bisexual men.” For his installation here, West Side Club, 2018, Carlos Reyes reclaimed cedar planks from the club’s old sauna, converting the timeworn wood into elegantly austere sculptures. The inscriptions on the vintage planks aren’t completely dirty; only one picture of a dick is immediately visible. But we do read an array of cities and countries: Istanbul, London, India, and Sri Lanka, among others. Perhaps they’re memories of travels past or dreams of future trips—a different set of desires and experiences. Names and dates also appear. We don’t know who left them, but excavating the emotion of these messages is part of what makes Reyes’s installation so intriguing.

West Side Club joins a string of artworks that evoke queer social spaces, most obviously Tom Burr’s re-creations of cruising grounds and Times Square porn theaters. But there’s a distinction, as Reyes makes abstract objects out of elements from the original site. His approach, though memorial in its way, is not mimetic.

The artist’s materials speak volumes about the need for contact without the hindrance of a digital membrane, of going out into the world to talk to, touch, or flirt with a real person. So, leave home, be vulnerable, take a risk. Arenas for lived interactions persist, and there is hope in that.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Emma McMillan

134 Bowery 4S
March 4–April 1

Emma McMillan, GROTESQUE WOMAN CARYATID, 2018, oil and acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 24".

When Donald J. Trump bought the Bonwit Teller building in 1979, the young developer promised that the Art Deco friezes adorning the department store would live out their days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He, of course, lied. Jackhammers turned the limestone nudes to dust for the sake of expediency. In their place, he erected Trump Tower, a landmark now synonymous with nouveau-riche baroque. A case of radical erasure and accelerated repetition, Trump’s black-mirror castle calls authorship into question as it relates to the intermingling of art and history.

Emma McMillan’s new paintings and drawings respond to the Bonwit Teller story directly and indirectly. Chasing the lithe thigh dancers from the original facade, the artist sketches a new timeline. The images, mostly characters and geometric patterns recovered from the exterior, appropriated or imagined, live stacked on top of one another, creating a palimpsest of curves and gestures. Her painting GROTESQUE WOMAN CARYATID, 2018, for example, depicts a seated woman beneath a doorway design from Manhattan’s Chanin Building. She slips in and out of the present.

The relationship between these layers, surface and underpainting, is contentious. McMillan’s scratchy facture is scar-like. Her surgical aesthetic brings out the corporeal qualities of paint and the mechanical aspects of the body. Her palette, which pits bright poppy against dark purple and acid green, electrifies. Unlike the walls of Trump Tower, where glass shields the public from opulent interiors and mercenary tactics, McMillan’s world is one in which the past and present are utterly transparent—brutally so. The artist folds time over itself, and the results are romantic, biting.

Kat Herriman

Deana Lawson

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
530 West 22nd Street
March 1–April 2

Deana Lawson, Barbara and Mother, 2017, pigment print, 69 x 55".

Across ten majestic photographs, Deana Lawson pursues a mood of staged portraiture that pushes into the candid elegance of the everyday. In the spirit of collaboration, these works are caught somewhere between the direction of the artist and the resolve of her subjects, playing on modes of fiction that merge with authenticity. For this show, Lawson extends her practice of photographing existing domestic environments by exhibiting appropriated images—scanned, printed, and scaled up—alongside her own work. In the found picture Kings, 2016, nine young black men are posed against the gridded lights of a painted cityscape. The snapshot cuts across a quintet of heads—the seam where Lawson folded the original image, which she carried in her journal for three years.

Lawson’s interventions in the domestic spaces she photographs go almost unseen. Yet her touch is everywhere: in a broken, floral-faced clock that belonged to her aunt Lois or a glinting pair of seagull decorations that belong to Lawson herself. Gilded frames lend a splendor to the artist’s frank portraits. The wistful woman of Eternity, 2017, for instance, is transformed into a figure of regal beauty, surrounded by lilac hues. And we are grounded by the woman in Barbara and Mother, 2017, who bares her prosthetic leg without shame. Her daughter stands behind her, grinning, mimicking mom’s pose. Photographed in Brooklyn, South Carolina, Jamaica, and South Africa, these portraits are connected by a palpable intimacy, a kinship played out in the shared biographies that Lawson constructs.

Nicole Kaack

Kay Rosen

Alexander Gray Associates
510 West 26th Street
February 22–April 7

Kay Rosen, Triumph Over Trump (Blue Over Yellow), 2017, Acryla gouache on watercolor paper, 22 1/2 x 30 1/2''.

A deranged band of outlaws has taken over the US administration, and this is increasingly the case all over the world. Their collective nihilism is the reigning new world disorder. So how about some fun to counter their skeptical notions of truth, a little humor to keep us afloat while they propagate alternative facts, and some of our word games? For nearly five decades, Kay Rosen’s work has tested the limits of language, and her latest exhibition continues this by gathering recent pieces that walk a fine line between protest paraphernalia and linguistic innovation—the invention and introduction of new terms into the grammar of normative life that feminists have always excelled at.

Directly across from the entrance to this show is the mighty Scared and Sad, 2018, reading “BOO! HOO” in glossy Halloween hues of orange and black. Shock and denial are, of course, the first stage of grief. Second up are pain and guilt, which we get on either side this work: the wonderfully ludic Uh Oh Eek, 1986, a two-panel painting from the Reagan era that shows a U-shaped face with o’s for features on the left as another figure, on the right, does a facepalm. Across from that is Trickle Down, 2016/18, a pillar of letters spelling out the title, with the word trick at the top. A robust depiction of our current tax plan? Seems so.

Rosen’s works are always playfully timeless and urgent but her latest pieces, many of which feature a translucent application of gouache on watercolor paper, can’t resist addressing our current dilemma. Among these is the optimistic Triumph Over Trump (Blue Over Yellow), 2017, wherein an aquamarine i and h were added to the sad man’s name, bodying forth a second potent message: Save your generation.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Eduardo Terrazas

Timothy Taylor 16×34
515 West 19th St
February 22–April 14

Eduardo Terrazas, 1.1.304, 2018, wool yarn, wooden board, Campeche wax, 47 x 47". From the “Cosmos” series, ca. 1973.

The artist Eduardo Terrazas is famous, of course, for his part in the urban design of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. That year’s games are legendary: Remember the raised fists of African American sprinters on the winners’ podiums; George Foreman knocking out a Russian boxer and waving an American flag; the boycott of South Africa; and, just days before the festivities began, the government’s massacre of Mexican students. Remember too the indelible “Mexico 68” logo, melding optical illusion, modernism, and folk art. Born in 1936, Terrazas had trained as an architect and urban planner. His first appearance as an artist wasn’t until 1972. But from the beginning he had an entire cosmic system of artmaking worked out—and this, his first show in New York since 1974, fits a perfectly compatible little piece into his painting project, “Possibilities of a Structure,” ca. 1973.

All but one of the sixteen small- to medium-size geometric abstractions on view are part of Terrazas’s “Cosmos” series, ca. 1973, which offer seemingly endless variations on the same arrangement of two concentric circles nestled into four squares (Terrazas has assigned all of his shapes meaning, from planet Earth to the age-old celestial orb, with gravity cutting between them). What changes from one piece to another is the unpredictable placement of colors, which appear woven but are in fact made of wool thread pressed into layers of Campeche wax spread into wooden panels. The technique, from the Huichol people of western Mexico, is ancient, but Terrazas gives it real zip—so much so that that the writer Martin Herbert once noted that it is perhaps most interesting to think of Terrazas’s work as a problem. Why is it so likable? What accounts for its magic? Maybe it’s the artist’s capacity to bring codes of visual pleasure into dramatic political circumstances, without being oblivious to either.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Amy Talluto

Black & White Gallery / Project Space
56 Bogart Street
February 23–April 1

Amy Talluto, Measured and Divided, 2017, oil on panel, 24 x 30".

Opting to paint complex landscapes almost exclusively in one color could make for undistinguished results, but in the ten oils here, Amy Talluto has produced symphonic arrangements of green, ranging from deepest phthalo to honeyed laurel. Dashes of pink, crimson, and yellow also crop up, to shimmering effect. The technical proficiency of her sumptuous compositions, based on forests around the artist’s Catskills home, parlays them into sites of ethereality.

In Measured and Divided, 2017, several dark trunks dissect the foreground, framing a nearby clearing. A haze of impenetrable celadon foliage looms in the distance. Talluto’s atmospheric luminosity remarkably articulates the dank stillness and peculiar, otherworldly light of woodland interiors. Her tableaux are imbued with just enough imaginative splendor to evoke mythical possibilities. As with most fairy tales, much of the initial thrill and tension lies in whether or not the protagonists exist at all. Though we don’t see any supernatural forms, it is conceivable that they might dwell within the tunneled copse of Orange Pool, 2017, or the gloomy canopy of Tree with Fungus, 2016, which reads as a glittering nighttime constellation.

But allegorical hints throughout the exhibition—withered knots, skeletonized limbs—point to sobering prospects. In Red Pool, 2017, one of six smaller gouache-on-paper works, the titular pond looks corroded, perhaps poisoned by human intrusion, so that even when magic is afoot we seem never to be far from destroying it.

Darren Jones

Lionel Maunz

178 Norfolk Street
February 18–March 25

Lionel Maunz, In the Sewer of Your Body (detail), 2018, cast iron, steel, glass, 82 x 36 1/2 x 36 1/2".

Lionel Maunz finds flesh to be malleable in the most torturous sense. It is rendered not in soft resins and pink plastics but black iron, closer to the torqued bronze of Rodin than the gleeful puttiness found in MoMA PS1’s 2017 exhibition “Past Skin.” A condition report for one of the sculpted figures on display, In the Sewer of Your Body (all works 2018), the show’s titular piece: Hand like a glove, flesh creased at the wrist; knobs of malignant tumors; facial tissue webbed; gaping wound above right breast. The creature—for it seems not quite human, haunches hugging sunken chest—is encased in a glass cube, as if a specimen. This museological mode of display becomes more disturbing, literally operational, in the back gallery. Three conjoined steel slabs, positioned like surgical tables just below waist height, hold the decaying cadaver of a boy and a clunky apparatus identified as a “gynecological restraint.” Nearby, Cradle of Sperm sits heavily on the floor like a dentist’s chair, with curved armatures intended to constrain the viewer’s body (calf braces, chest straps, head pillow, and groin prong with ovoid opening). The imagined patient might be Francis Bacon’s Pope Innocent X.

Maunz claims to be working through views on sin, antinatalism, Calvinism, and the horrific architecture of Josef Fritzl’s basement prison for his daughter, who was monstrously abused for twenty-four years. The result is a re-creation of the associated agonies. I am reminded of Doreen Garner’s performance Purge, 2017, a “dissection” of Dr. J. Marion Sims in retribution for his forced gynecological experiments on enslaved black women in the nineteenth century. Indeed, if Maunz’s sculpture of a dead man chained to a hull-like crypt doesn’t conjure enough specters and shackles, his process must. The iron is, after all, cast, poured into a mold to conform to some form, a body whose negative shell is still out there, asking, Whose ghosts are these?

Mira Dayal

“Baya: Woman of Algiers”

Grey Art Gallery
100 Washington Square East, New York University
January 9–March 31

Baya, Femme et enfant en bleu (Woman and Child in Blue), 1947, gouache on board, 23 x 18".

Some two dozen women are currently haunting the lower floor of the Grey Art Gallery. They aren’t exactly ghosts or malevolent spirits. Neither are they just figures in the normal painterly sense, although they are painted, gorgeously, in twenty-two gouache-on-board works, wearing outrageously patterned dresses below complicated hair. They are the women of Baya, the Algerian artist of Berber and Arab heritage who was orphaned at five, adopted by a wealthy French patroness, and dropped into the heart of the Parisian avant-garde in the aftermath of World War II. She wanted to be known by her first name alone. Indeed, she turned her name into a movement and pledged her allegiance to Baya-ism. André Breton, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso hung on her every word.

All of her women here are painted singly or in pairs, including the catty Femmes attablées (Women at Table), 1947, and the dreamy Femme et enfant en bleu (Woman and Child in Blue), 1947. Baya’s subjects are set against vibrant wallpaper and often seen in the company of exotic birds. The images are certainly mind-blowing, but they are also eerily circumscribed. All but two are dated 1947, the year of Baya’s solo debut at Galerie Maeght. She was sixteen. She couldn’t read or write. Baya wasn’t even her real name; she was born Fatma Haddad. In 1953, she returned to Algeria. She married, had six children, and stopped painting for a decade. Then she started again and painted for the rest of her life, exhibiting continually in Algeria until her death in 1998. In this exhibition, she is contextualized by Picasso’s ceramics and Zineb Sedira’s wonderful three-channel video Mother Tongue, 2002. But what of Baya’s own later work? For that, we’ll have to wait, hopefully not for long.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Zach Blas

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
January 27–April 21

Zach Blas, Jubilee 2033, 2018, video, color, sound, 28 minutes 38 seconds.

“Get off the internet!” intones Le Tigre in the soundtrack to Zach Blas’s video of a performative lecture, Inversion Practice #1: Constituting an Outside (Utopian Plagiarism), 2015. It’s a proposition that has become a mantra among self-helpers and the digital-weary. But as the artist suggests in his exhibition here, it’s easier to envision the end of the world than the end of the internet. This idea is a perversion of Fredric Jameson who, along with writer Paul Preciado, the economic-geographer duo known as J. K. Gibson-Graham, and Karl Marx, is cited, edited, remixed, and read aloud via a text-to-speech function in Blas’s video, indicating that an anticapitalist view of the internet may be as obvious and reproducible as your laptop’s copy-and-paste function.

The centerpiece of the show—indicated by a vinyl floor sigil titled The Seal of the Absolute, 2018, inspired by Derek Jarman’s 1978 queer anarchist film Jubilee—is Jubilee 2033, 2018. In the video, Ayn Rand ideologues and an AI avatar populate a world where capitalist techies are locked in a bloody war. If Blas’s glimpse into the silicon ball of the future demonstrates a nihilistic streak, it is tempered by a commitment to gazing clearly at the materials of our present. Totality Study #1: Internet, a definition, 2015, posits this all-encompassing digital space as the “everything everywhere of contemporary cultural representation.” Rendered in vinyl in florescent green, one of the 216 Web-safe colors from the internet’s earliest days, it is a wink at nostalgia and a wide-eyed look to tomorrow.

Tausif Noor

Tessa Perutz

Pablo's Birthday
57 Orchard Street
February 15–March 24

Tessa Perutz, Summertime Drive, Bourgogne (Peace and Love), 2018, oil on canvas, 28 x 22".

In Tessa Perutz’s “Karma Solaire,” all but one of the paintings are landscapes made up of brilliant shapes—nature is rendered as an experience of color. Eight of these works, plus a self-portrait with a companion, are presented in memory of Perutz’s friend Paul Saeio, a French artist and poet who died suddenly last year at the age of twenty-nine. The sketches Perutz made during two memorials for Saeio in France—one in Burgundy and the other at his studio in Bagnolet—were the launching point for her current works here, full of vineyards and country roads crowned by trees. In a statement for her exhibition, Perutz tenderly writes that she aims to bring Saeio’s “existence full circle.”

Each painting is like a poem, with crystalline shapes that fit together like a puzzle. Perutz has found patterns in nature and flattened them into abstractions that hint at other images, such as butterfly wings, UFOs, and melting ice cream. In Summertime Drive, Bourgogne (Peace and Love), 2018, the artist pairs rich, dark hues with delicate pastels and creams: Yellow-striped and chartreuse mountains define the horizon beneath a forest-green foreground, and a bright-red sun peeks out from a pale-pink cloud. Indeed, Perutz’s landscapes are both careful color studies and schematic designs. The artist has created a body of work that, despite its origins in death, gives us nothing but vibrancy.

Alex Garner

“Josef Albers in Mexico”

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Stamler