Critics’ Picks

  • Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, New York Apartment (detail), 2020, website.

    Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, New York Apartment (detail), 2020, website.

    Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    Online exhibition

    “Looking for drama and a home that evokes the feel of an art gallery?” “Do you prefer simple shaker-style wood cabinets with solid surface counters or custom lacquer cabinets paired with a travertine marble?” “Did anyone say ‘development’?” If you’re sick of your own dingy, cramped walk-up and emphatically replied “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be in the market for Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne’s New York Apartment, 2020. On sale for a cool $43,869,676,331, it comes with 65,764 bedrooms and 55,588 bathrooms, and clocks in at just under forty million square feet, spread out over all five boroughs.

    If this all sounds too implausible to be true, it’s because it is. New York Apartment is a web-based work that aggregates online New York City real estate listings—with all their attendant clichés, aspiration-baiting, and staged photographs—into one fictional mega-listing for the perfect pad (though this project, commissioned by the museum, proves that “perfect” can have thousands of permutations). The website is organized into several tidy and seemingly endless columns: One, for instance, has snapshots of rooms—garish, drab, luxurious—lumped together into whiplash-inducing galleries of disparate styles and housing types, while another has an alphabetized list of different “features” where you can find everything from “actual plants” and “additional children” to “meretricious tricks” and “exquisite secrets.” The listing’s no-frills typography and comically bland design lend it the air of a Hans Haacke piece à la Craigslist. Although Brain and Lavigne’s artwork plays it for laughs, the socioeconomic and environmental consequences of our domestic dreams aren’t funny: They pile up like garbage, an index of add-ons that we wanted but did not need.

  • Nate Lewis, Probing the Land VI, 2020, hand-sculpted ink-jet print, ink, graphite, frottage, 44 x 60". From the series “Probing the Land,” 2019–20.

    Nate Lewis, Probing the Land VI, 2020, hand-sculpted ink-jet print, ink, graphite, frottage, 44 x 60". From the series “Probing the Land,” 2019–20.

    Nate Lewis

    Fridman Gallery
    169 Bowery
    March 1–May 31, 2020

    Over the nine years that he spent working as a critical care nurse, Nate Lewis grew intimately familiar with medical imaging via X-rays, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms, and other diagnostic tools. He watched bodies externalize their internal forms and rhythms, demanding they be seen, scrutinized, and cared for—with the caveat that clarity was a possibility but never a promise. It is a preoccupation with these vital images that inspired and informed Lewis’s turn to artmaking. “Latent Tapestries,” his first solo show in New York City, opened at Fridman Gallery in March but has since migrated online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Scrolling through pictures, video, and text, the viewer encounters the artist’s first sonic installation: a jagged, collaged composition of musical contributions by five experimental jazz players. The exhibition has an audible heartbeat, albeit an irregular one.

    The show’s core is easily located in Lewis’s staggeringly detailed hand-sculpted ink-jet prints. After transferring his photographs to thick sheets of paper, the artist proceeded to carve into them with surgical precision. He then applied graphite and ink to the sliced and perforated areas, and even ad-libbed here and there with frottage. The portraits of bodies that emerged have surfaces so variegated that they initially appear collaged. The “Signaling” print series, 2019–20, depicts black bodies in motion: frame-filling figures—stippled, hatched, gouged—that expand, contract, and contort. Another series, “Probing the Land,” 2019–20, portrays the less motile bodies of the Confederate equestrian statues along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Partially consumed by swaths of toothlike patterns, white men and their horses unravel into a patchwork of stripped bronze, bone, and entrails—a reminder that conversations around these violent memorials and the racialized abuses that they chart are still very much alive.

  • View of “Thaddeus Mosley,” 2020.

    View of “Thaddeus Mosley,” 2020.

    Thaddeus Mosley

    Karma | New York
    188 East 2nd Street, 172 East 2nd Street
    Online exhibition

    Though he was a member of the NAACP and an editor at the renowned African American newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier, abstract sculptor Thaddeus Mosley never quite aligned himself with black revolutionary artists and writers such as Amiri Baraka or Dana Chandler. Nor is he a modernist in the manner of Alberto Giacometti and Isamu Noguchi. But he was friends with all of them. At ninety-four, Mosley is still busy in the studio for upward of six hours a day (he stopped doing twelve-hour shifts when he was ninety-one). The artist worked for the US Post Office for forty years in order to support himself and his family. Yet despite having a vast exhibition record and the early support of Leon Arkus, a former director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, he remains relatively unknown.

    In 1978, Mosley was commissioned by Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to make a public work. The monumental sculpture, The Phoenix, 1979, now stands in the city’s Hill District—a historically black area that continues to struggle against Pittsburgh’s misguided attempts at redevelopment. Architect David Lewis, who nominated Mosley for the project, has noted that the sculpture, carved from a single piece of cedar, “never ceases to be a tree.”

    Using fallen logs sourced from Pittsburgh’s Forestry Division—walnut, cherry, sycamore—Mosley’s imposing “sculptural improvisations,” as he calls them, are precarious yet solid, with visible carving marks and inlaid joints. At Karma, many of these works are more than seven feet tall and outfitted with stumps that function as pedestals. Some have titles that poetically allude to their forms, including Curved Suspend, 2013, and Oval Continuity, 2017. Others seem like tributes: Take Totem for Nabta Playa, 2016, which references a region in Egypt that is also an ancient astronomical observatory—the earliest of its kind. Much like the weathered stones of the site’s calendar circle, Mosley’s totem could likewise withstand the test of time. Perge Modo, 2005, a horizontal log topped with a pair of curvy, scalloped figures, takes its name from a phrase in Virgil’s Aeneid, which translates to “Only go on” or “Keep moving forward.”