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“Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying”

EFA Project Space
323 West 39th Street, 2nd Floor
March 31–May 13

Sondra Perry, ffffffffffffoooooooooooouu
uuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
, 2017,
video and bicycle workstation, dimensions variable.

The blank white wall that faces the viewer when entering the New York installment of this exhibition is no curatorial oversight. Rather, it is a component of an installation by artist Cassie Thornton (Psychic Architecture, 2017), its smooth drywall surface a bureaucratic metonym for the emotional walls that Americans erect when they negotiate the healthcare system. At once familiar and frustratingly ungenerous, the wall is a fitting mascot for this group show, organized by Taraneh Fazeli, which takes place in New York City with satellite events in Houston—two major hubs of finance and healthcare. The works and performances in “Sick Time” give a lived dimension to issues like chronic pain, exhaustion, stress, and laziness—a term that usually carries a great deal of racist baggage—and reveal how these things are bound up within the fabric of capitalism itself. As such, many of the pieces here are object-activity hybrids that let viewers confront their own physical limits.

Sondra Perry’s hacked stationary bike is wired in front of four chroma-blue TV screens that play a laughing and oozy deconstructed image based on her likeness; Danilo Correale’s No More Sleep No More, 2015, features a dressed bed that doubles as seating for a video he made while sleep-deprived, thus forming a kind of parallel litmus test for the viewer’s sleepiness. But Fazeli does not seek solutions in interactivity. Instead, programs such as publication releases (to inaugurate, for instance, the Canaries’ patient-centered resource guide for sufferers of chronic illness—an element from a larger three-part project called Notes for the Waiting Room, 2017, involving Jesse Cohen and Carolyn Lazard) and talk-backs make up at least half of this dual show, using social interactions as experiments for how well the art world can truly function as a sanctuary from the oppressive metrics of neoliberal capitalism. Never have these arguments for non-normative ways of measuring time felt so urgent.

Katie Anania

Nickolaus Typaldos

Marvin Gardens
1532 Decatur Street
April 7–May 14

Nickolaus Typaldos, Mineral Mountain Boogie Boogie, 2017, cast urethane resin and aluminum powder, 23 x 14 x 2".

Nickolaus Typaldos’s current exhibition evokes a future time, in which synthetic objects have become petrified along with their organic counterparts. In this small gallery, the artist has hung four sculptures that, cast from resin and aluminum, echo space rocks and pewter. In Cloudy Old Harry (all works 2017), an unidentified bulbous shape pokes through a scrap of bubble wrap to form a tumorous lump, while in Mineral Mountain Boogie Boogie, a floppy baseball cap and a Bic lighter are fused to chunks of molded Styrofoam. Nearby, some loopy rope spelling “Anthem” riffs on the desperation of jingoistic sentiments.

Although these cast objects recall archaeological specimens, their uncanny surfaces and prop-like appearances take us into an imaginative, science-fictional space. Typaldos’s pieces also call to mind Jasper Johns, in particular, the elder artist’s ancient-looking metallic lightbulbs and flashlights of 1970. This exhibition thus occupies a curious position between the midcentury neo-Dadaists, who were already recycling the readymade strategies of their early-twentieth-century forebears, and our contemporary moment, wherein discarded things carry the discomfiting aura of capitalist nihilism.

The exhibition’s tone is one of a conflicted elegy—detritus here is at once lamented and fetishized. A couple of cast-paper plates, Eclipse Deceiver and Deep Space Dickens, deepen this effect, signifying the entwinement of brash disposability with the more gratifying corners of American culture—the culinary accoutrements of county fairs and taco trucks, for instance. Meanwhile, the disorienting effect of living through the twilight of consumerism is echoed by a large vinyl wall adhesive titled Interior Inversion for a Room. This mural presents a concentric, Op-style diamond pattern, at once exhilarating and nausea-inducing. If Typaldos’s approaches are sometimes familiar, his mimesis of our capitalist surroundings possesses a shrewd and captivating candor.

Mitch Speed

Bryson Rand

La MaMa Galleria
47 Great Jones Street
April 13–May 13

Bryson Rand, Paul (Brooklyn), 2015, archival pigment print, 40 x 28".

The history of twentieth-century straight photography is sprinkled with the work of queer makers—think of Herbert List, or Peter Hujar. But if the tradition has grown to look a bit staid by its black-and-white aesthetics and formal idealism, an undercurrent of transgression, Bryson Rand suggests, can revitalize it. The artist expands upon this notion in his current exhibition, which consists of images ranging from a portrait of a handsome, wounded man (Vincent [Brooklyn], 2016) to a semiabstracted shot of dead flowers in front of his husband’s parents’ house (Untitled [Rumson, NJ], 2016).

Behind a wall at the back of the gallery hangs a row of smaller, more sexually explicit images, like an exclusive little orgy being guarded from the timid, or the uninvited. Unlike Robert Mapplethorpe, another member of the canon Rand inserts himself into, he isn’t afraid to include blurs or depict his subjects in natural, asymmetrical compositions. The artist trades airless, rigid classicism for a more vivid record of sensuality and community.

The most striking photo, Paul (Brooklyn), 2015, exudes a sense of quiet yet glorious fantasy. We see a man sitting in the grass, perhaps in a cozy backyard, barely veiled by a mist of spilling water. The liquid beads glitter like stardust, evoking visions of old-school Hollywood glamour. This seemingly candid document feels marvelously abundant—it has so much loveliness to share, so much affection to give.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Andrew Ross

False Flag
25-20 43rd Ave, Long Island City
April 15–May 15

Andrew Ross, Untitled (figure), 2017, clay, Styrofoam, wood, primer, 60 x 48 x 34".

The story opens with a mole. A big one. Untitled (mole) (all works 2017) lies with its butt greeting you at the door. The mammal is accompanied by an untitled print of an oversize ant, the image taken from an M. C. Escher illustration. Escher once asked, “Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?”

The Dutch artist might have ignored the fundamentals of gravity, but Andrew Ross takes them head on, laying out a narrative where gravity is a character as real as the mole or ant. Ross’s exhibition—with its creatures, exotic garden, and reclining man admiring an apple—distorts what could otherwise be seen as a kind of pastoral. Using the language of display (plinths, pedestals, trusses), Ross teases out the purgatory between what we experience and what we know: the heavens, the earth, and the scaffolding that connects them. The many faces of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson found in Ross’s flowers (Untitled [landowner]) hammer this point home.

One suspects Tyson would admire the way that Ross’s universe, situated in the double helix of fact and fiction, gives body to the forces we usually take for granted. His Untitled (Figure), a nod to the Newtonian myth, locates us in a moment of wonder when daydreams collide with reality. The ceiling and floor collapse and leave us with a divine sense of self-awareness. In the words of Tyson: “We are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us.”

Kat Herriman

“Finally Got The News: The Printed Legacy of the US Radical Left, 1970–1979”

Interference Archive
131 8th Street, No. 4
January 26–May 14

Cover of Triple Jeopardy: Racism, Imperialism, Sexism, November 1971.

Between military strikes in Yemen and a spike in auto-plant injuries in Alabama, the modern world persists in its technological brutality. The good news? It may have created the tools for its own undoing long ago. The mechanisms that subjugate workers, women, people of color, and indigenous peoples are as much the products of modernity as is the democratization of media in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The current exhibition here shines a light on a broad selection of historical pamphlets, newsletters, and posters—borrowed from the archive of historian Brad Duncan—where the American Left demanded more from the postwar social contract or called to utterly reconfigure it. The show presents an ambitious plurality of movements that were often fraught, with many organizations reluctant to include the struggles of women and minorities. On a poster from 1970, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement puts forth their program targeting the UAW’s institutional racism, while demanding dignified wages from the Detroit Chrysler plant. Across the room, a 1971 issue of the Third World Women’s Alliance’s newspaper, Triple Jeopardy: Racism, Imperialism, Sexism, outlines why socialism’s egalitarian and anti-imperialist tenets must be concomitant with women’s liberation.

At this early point in the Trump administration, bourgeois liberals and some segments of the Left alike clumsily try to wrench identity politics from meaningful considerations of class dynamics, and vice versa, to various ideological ends. This show is a powerful reminder of the overlapping and numerous continuities between postwar liberation struggles, providing more than a few cues for radical organizing—and subsequent media-making—today.

Tyler Curtis

Leslie Hewitt

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
530 West 22nd Street
April 7–May 13

Leslie Hewitt, Topologies (Fanon mildly out of focus), 2017, chromogenic print, 30 x 30".

Memories continually recalled take on a bleary specificity. A similar kind of dissonance suffuses Leslie Hewitt’s current exhibition, in which photographic still lifes of single objects betray the nuances and slippages needed to make meaning of both personal and social histories. On one wall, artifacts on top of hardwood and photographed from above build up subtle narratives through association and texture. Topologies (Fanon mildly out of focus), 2017, takes the dog-eared cover of the titular writer’s provocative anticolonial manifesto The Wretched of the Earth (1961) as its subject: “The handbook for the black revolution that is changing the shape of the world,” the paperback announces. Its apocalyptic ambience is offset by a gossamer cloth’s floral embroidery in Topologies (folded memory object), 2017. Nearby, four chromogenic prints of dahlias hang in a series titled “Color Study,” 2016. Their variations are sometimes imperceptible, though three photographs are black and white while one depicts the petals in vivacious yellow. All materialize against a backdrop of blackness, a nod, perhaps, to seventeenth-century bodegónes.

Gravelly footage of rippling waters, disco stars on Soul Train, and the fleeting Manhattan skyline—shot from a moving car’s window—appear in Hewitt’s video Static, 2017, which is also a part of IWIWT (Extended Break), 2017, a video collaboration with William Cordova, whose own exhibition runs concurrently with this one. Voices become incomprehensibly layered as imagery is punctuated by television snow. A photograph of a wooden Bible box with foliate carvings (RAM, 2017) appears in the gallery’s sparsest room. A slip of paper peeking from its lid reveals indecipherable handwriting. On the floor, a minimal, rectangular sculpture, Untitled, 2017, is held in place by oak joints, like a copper blueprint for a room in which we’ll never set foot. That the metal is an electrical conductor feels pertinent, but then again, it’s easy to read too much into Hewitt’s elliptical illegibility.

Zack Hatfield

Sara Cwynar

Foxy Production
2 East Broadway, 200
April 7–May 14

Sara Cwynar, Tracy (Grid 2), 2017, pigment print mounted on Dibond, 30 x 38".

In Sara Cwynar’s pigment print Tracy (Grid 1) (all works 2017), the artist’s titular friend reclines in an outfit of pale, foamy pink against a studio backdrop of multicolored squares. The bright, syrupy composition seduces from a distance, but up close you can see its flaws: the rips in the backdrop fabric, the chips in Tracy’s nail polish, the web of wrinkles in her shirt, and the hollow, far-off look in her eyes, more dead than dreamlike.

The piece is one of many standouts in “Rose Gold,” Cwynar’s meditation on color. Throughout a small selection of photographs and one film of the same title, she asks a kaleidoscope of questions, among them: How does color captivate and manipulate us? Why do we react differently to hues over time? As she observes in the film, today we crave Apple products in rose gold but abhor as kitschy and fusty any item in harvest gold, a shade of mustard yellow trendy during the 1970s. And while a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, its color can convey a range of feelings, from sympathy to romantic love. It’s unclear what Cwynar’s Flower, a rose in vibrating, acidic purple, signifies. But as an object, it is no less “real,” no less natural than the cultivated, hybridized stems we consume by the dozen.

In the second grid photograph on view, Tracy (Grid 2), we see this woman once more before the same backdrop. Her pose is identical, save for her eyes, which stare questioningly out at the viewer, and her hands, which are downturned in front of squares of light, almost fleshy orange. Is she searching for a trace of herself—her body, her skin, her matter—amid the Pantone sea?

Hannah Stamler

Eva O’Leary

CRUSH CURATORIAL
526 West 26th Street, Suite 709
April 6–May 6

Eva O’Leary, Hannah, 2017, archival pigment print, 21 1/2 x 27".

It’s getting old—young women and girls being appointed our go-to champions of bravery, pluck, solidarity, or whatever. If only all of us could be as unafraid as Fearless Girl, or as incomparable as Kendall Jenner in her desire to quench a cop’s thirst—would we then overcome? Put a smile on, these corporate mockups of girlhood seem to say. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Thankfully, Eva O’Leary’s portraits of adolescent girls, currently on view in the artist’s first solo show in New York, honor a more complex reality. Framed at close range and mostly shot through a two-way mirror against a glowing, internet-blue backdrop, O’Leary’s subjects aren’t exactly self-possessed. (Were you as a teenager?) With mouths relaxed and gazes a bit distant, the girls have been captured in a quick moment, likely unaware of the camera’s shutter. There’s a wariness in their wide-eyed, blank expressions: O’Leary has been careful not to let any cautious instincts or—gasp—self-consciousness go undocumented, as they so often do on social media. No filters here—blemishes, acne, and the true texture of skin have stayed put.

And yet, as Linda Nochlin wrote, “realism and loveliness are not mutually exclusive.” Many of the girls have long hair, which O’Leary lets fill the frame and take on a striking, Pre-Raphaelite quality. Faces are divinely illuminated, with highlights from the strobes landing softly on cheekbones and foreheads. Bright headbands, lipstick, and treated hair create densely saturated, almost painterly swathes of electric color. Nearby, O’Leary has projected videos of her subjects onto opposite walls (Concealer, 2017). The girls remain still, but their eyes dart, and their hands sometimes fiddle. The energy contained within these tiny, nervous gestures is both magical and startlingly real. That’s the problem with Fearless Girl—it props up a false ideal of a feminine character who prioritizes sangfroid over self-preservation. But is there no truth in beauty? Luckily, O’Leary has shined a light.

Juliana Halpert

Stephen Irwin

INVISIBLE-EXPORTS
89 Eldridge Street
April 7–May 14

Stephen Irwin, Untitled, 2008, altered vintage pornography, 11 1/2 x 8 1/2".

Pornography isn’t often concerned with subtlety and wistful reflection, but Stephen Irwin treated it, in works on view in this posthumous exhibition, as a vehicle for elusive delicacy that repels our expectations. Pages from vintage magazines, gay and straight, have been removed, treated with solution, bleached, and carefully scrubbed of most imagery, transforming them into sculptural sheets of sepulchral timelessness. The remaining visual elements open the work to a reading as something like classical statuary, after the inevitable compulsion to discern the original compositions has been overcome. Irwin moves the source material from woozy Vaseline romance into ghostly academic studies, most fully realized in Untitled, 2008, where a Renaissance-style hand emerges from the creamy background, augmented with creases and tears suggesting age.

Several works permit partial detailed observation of a mouth, hair, or a patch of fabric, but voyeuristically so, via glory-hole motifs. Only another Untitled, 2008, seems incongruous here, showing sex too clearly and losing its balance in doing so. These works insist on dispassionate consideration of their marbled solemnity, an engagement utterly resistant to the impatient clicking and furtive snatching of internet-era pornography viewing.

A related suite of untitled graphite and pastel drawings, mostly from 2003, depicts faces on heat-treated plastic, warped and crinkled into haunting grotesques, evoking death masks. Their brittle appearance makes palpable the difficulty in accurately preserving memory, and the emotional value we place on rites and objects of remembrance such as this very exhibition.

Darren Jones

Trish Tillman

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street
April 6–May 13

Trish Tillman, Afterschool Locker (detail), 2017, hand-printed vinyl, wood, metal, horsehair, resin, tacks, 66 x 37 x 6".

Imagine a ménage à trois between a suburban thrift store, a midcentury modern furniture salon, and a sex shop—the love children born of such a hot-’n’-heavy session might be Trish Tillman’s sculptures. The artist’s current exhibition includes eleven deliciously queered, carefully composed objects. Longhorns, horsehair, metal studs, tassels—Tillman’s decorative references are eclectic but with a Texan flair, and ready for all manner of action with their helpful orifices and prongs.

Her wall-mounted modular pieces seem like headboards from the world’s kinkiest hotel. Afterschool Locker (all works 2017) is anchored by something fin-like wrapped in vinyl and hand-printed with Dioresque, graffiti-like scribbles. A pink wooden hook in the shape of a tulip protrudes from the base; two hanks of thick black horsehair, threaded with silvery chains, sprout from either side. In Housekeeping, the fabric cover of an ironing board is partly unzipped, its golden suede skin exposed to a phallic, gold-plated base. Tillman’s libidinous objects are rife with absurdity: At the center of First Class Quick Fix, a rainbow assortment of dog leashes pokes through a pipe that rests inside of a luxe and vaguely orthopedic-looking cushion.

In Good Morning Farewell, Tillman abandons the readymade for the rococo. Here, she tops a geometric teal and metallic-leather spaceship—flattened—with an expressionistic resin crown. This extra bit of ornament, however, is a needless diversion. Her work with familiar forms extends an important lineage of feminist assemblages, from Lynda Benglis’s cunt-celebrating “Peacock” works of the 1970s to Liz Collins’s fabric installations, complete with bungee cords, waterfalls of fringe, and unrepentant eroticism.

Wendy Vogel

Sebastião Salgado

Sundaram Tagore Gallery | Chelsea
547 West 27th Street
March 30, 2017–April 29, 2017

Sebastião Salgado, Kuwait, 1991, gelatin silver print, 60 x 81".

The annihilation of life—it is war’s brazen raison d’être. The splattering of blood and flesh, the smell of decaying bodies on burning land, a permanently ruined environment—the trauma of such horror marks survivors indelibly and gets passed on to subsequent generations. This is the natural outcome of any armed conflict.

Sebastião Salgado’s black-and-white photographs of Kuwait (all titled Kuwait, 1991), shot toward the end of the Gulf War, feel otherworldly. They capture the spectacular violence of smoldering desert landscapes where nearly seven hundred oil wells—set alight by Saddam Hussein’s murderous forces as they were scrambling out of the country—are engulfed in flames. The presence of a human element in most of them, however, grounds these images in a harsher and far less alien reality. Through billowing clouds of smoke, we see firefighters drenched in crude. Their desperate faces are contorted in anguish by the carbon-monoxide-filled air that they’re inhaling. In one picture, a man is lying on the ground, seemingly lifeless, gazing into a blackened sky.

The pieces on view are an unsettling time capsule—they vividly bring back memories of the Bush Senior era and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Governments give many reasons for why war is “necessary,” a “moral duty.” Yet these photographs shed light on what wars really are: legitimized massacres.

Lara Atallah

Erwin Wurm

Lehmann Maupin | Chelsea
536 West 22nd Street
March 30–May 26

Erwin Wurm, Deep Snow, 2016, instruction drawing and Baker Copenhagen bench, dimensions variable.

Since the 1980s, Erwin Wurm’s “one-minute sculptures” have instigated artful absurdity within the gallery space by asking visitors to act out detailed, irrational tasks with a vast spectrum of common objects. In his latest exhibition, “Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order,” the artist employs midcentury modern furniture as elegant props for a new suite of sculptures that will make most modernist design aficionados squirm.

Deep Snow (all works 2016) invites you to step into two wobbly, oblong holes that have been cut into a pristine Baker Copenhagen bench. In the artist’s own handwriting scrawled onto the bench, participants are instructed to lift the thing around their ankles as if putting on an enormous pair of pants. In Spaceship to Venus, they’re asked to sit on an Aalto Tank lounge chair with their bodies turned 180 degrees, while Head TV makes viewers plunge into a handsome Danish cabinet like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Littering the gallery are less interactive sculptures that are just as eccentric—Modernist Pickle features the titular condiment in triplicate, cast in bronze and caught in an acrobatic three-way; 3 Legs is a trio of lifelike human legs, seemingly wanting to scuttle their way out the gallery’s front door.

For Organization of Love, a party of two is asked to suspend a swatch of foam with nothing but their united foreheads. With this piece, as with many of the others, Wurm cleverly engages the ego’s susceptibility to being publicly attentive. When caught in this open, embarrassing display, there’s a tinge of horrible self-consciousness that washes over the body. It gets amplified by the overwhelming sensation that somebody’s cranky grandma is on her way to scold us for playing on the furniture.

Gabriel H. Sanchez

“The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin”

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue
March 17–August 6

Mary Reid Kelley, Charles Baudelaire, 2013, ink-jet print, 22 x 16".

For Walter Benjamin, Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century, not only a center of cultural production but a capital as metaphor—a metonymy for modernity more generally. The contrast between its chaotic street life and the orderly arcade passages that framed its shop windows became the structural concept for his last work, the unfinished Arcades Project, written between 1927 and 1940. This compilation of quotes and original writings is, in turn, the organizing principle for this show combining wall texts by Kenneth Goldsmith and works by Walead Beshty, Andrea Bowers, Nicholas Buffon, Cindy Sherman, Mungo Thomson, and others.

Benjamin’s book is organized into chapters he calls “convolutes,” with headings ranging from “The Theory of Knowledge” to “Idleness.” Curator Jens Hoffmann has matched each of these with an artist. Thus, four photographs from 2009 to 2011 titled New York City by Lee Friedlander are grouped under “Convolute M: The Flâneur.” Friedlander’s camera captures mannequins glimpsed through shop windows. The interior layering with the cityscape is captured in reflection—an equivalent to how Benjamin’s flâneur might have seen the arcades of Paris. “Convolute J: Charles Baudelaire” is represented by a Mary Reid Kelley ink-jet print portrait of the poet (Charles Baudelaire, 2013). If Arcades had a hero, it was the ragpicker, a person who Baudelaire championed as the custodian, and curator, of Paris: “All that the city has rejected, all that it has lost, shunned, disdained, broken, this man catalogues and stores. He creates order, makes an intelligent choice . . . he gathers the refuse that has been spit out by the god of Industry.” The conversation, literal and ironic, between these widely varied works and Benjamin’s text is an argument for W. B. Yeats’s claim that “the living can assist in the imagination of the dead.”

Zachary Sachs

Postcommodity

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
March 25–May 6

View of “Postcommodity: Coyotaje,” 2017.

In the thick velvet darkness of the gallery, a voice whispers, “oyes vengan acá.” Mounted wall speakers take turns asking us to “come over here” in Spanish, echoing the decoy tactics used by the US Border Patrol to seize migrants trying to cross over from Mexico under the blanket of night. On maps, boundaries appear as thin lines, but this exhibition places the audience inside the rich, textured, and opaque sliver of landscape between the communities of Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Mexico.

The aforementioned sound work is half of the two-part installation Coyotaje, 2017—the title is a colloquial term used by Mexicans for people-smuggling. The second part of the piece consists of a giant inflatable monster wearing military night goggles, inspired by the chupacabra, a mythic vampire creature. The animal is illuminated only by the queasy green light of a closed-circuit television that captures images of gallery attendees and projects them back onto the body of the terrifying alien being. From a distance, border agents are very much like chupacabras—their glowing eyes give them away and instill fear.

The work of Postcommodity—an indigenous artist collective comprising Raven Chacon, Crístobal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist—consistently cracks open the bipartisan US narrative of the border to reveal a tangled web of microeconomies and competing desires. Since Richard Nixon declared the “war on drugs,” the US-Mexico landscape has been under increasing national scrutiny. Postcommodity responds to this escalating surveillance by imagining the edges of the nation-state as a conversation, not a cut.

Katherine Brewer Ball

Keith Smith

Bruce Silverstein Gallery
529 West 20th Street, Third Floor
March 9–May 6

Keith Smith, Untitled, 7:12 PM, 24 Dec 71, 1971, mixed media on paper, 4 x 5".

Postcards don’t usually say much: On the front, there may be a picture from the museum or country your friend is visiting; on the back, a few lines that convey some small affection. This delicacy is what makes postcards special. They carry feeling but not the freight of too much personality—they delight and ask for nothing in return. Or at least that’s what I felt about Keith Smith’s postcards, which the artisan bookmaker has been sending to friends for five decades now, a number of which have been brought together for this exhibition.

The postcards sit well in the gallery precisely because they aren’t intimate. They’re certainly not overburdened with text—some carry the artist’s signature, neatly printed, or poetic non sequiturs, such as “LATHER WAS THIRTY YEARS OLD TODAY . . . ” Smith uses the cards as little canvases or bulletin boards for his imagination. With photo negatives, drawings, cutouts, and stamps, he creates modestly sized collages from images that happen to surround him (often they are images of the artist himself).

The form is important. Collages retain the verisimilitude of their sources but displace them from continuity and order. As a result, such works convince us that the original arrangement was arbitrary or at least changeable. Smith’s postcards suggest as much about our lives. Untitled, 7:12 PM, 24 Dec 71, 1971, for example, is entirely blank but for a tiny, tilted drawing of a bird. Charming enough—but the real message reveals itself when you find a bird-shaped hole on the card’s stamp. The liberated bird reminds us to liberate ourselves from boring habit. There are other ways to live, it says, other places to visit.

Ratik Asokan

“March Madness”

Fort Gansevoort Gallery
5 Ninth Avenue
March 16–May 7

View of “March Madness,” 2017.

The culture of the mind (art) and the culture of the body (sports) have stereotypically been pitted against each other. But might female-identifying artists, whose own bodies and gender performance are under constant scrutiny, have a more nuanced perspective on the pursuit of athletic prowess? This is the premise behind “March Madness,” a survey of works by thirty-one female artists. The exhibition title references the NCAA basketball tournaments and calls to mind the political ramifications of the recent Women’s Marches.

The main thrust of the show addresses the clash between the aesthetic ideals of femininity and those of athleticism. Portraiture is a common thread: Cindy Sherman appears in the guise of an ice dancer, Jamaican-born Renée Cox depicts herself as her superwoman alter-ego Raje, and Collier Schorr’s and Catherine Opie’s photographs portray androgynous young sports players. Collage and assemblage also feature prominently, from Martha Rosler’s compositions of female athletes juxtaposed against nature (from the “Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain” series, 1966–72) to Deborah Roberts’s collages of young black female pugilists. A highlight is Pamela Council’s Flo Jo World Record Nails, 2012, an abstract sculpture made from two thousand long acrylic nails and based on patriotic designs favored by the African American track-and-field star Florence Griffith Joyner.

A quieter strain examines the intersection between nationalism and athletics. A still from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, 1936, is tucked next to a set of Jean Shin’s revamped trophies from the series “Everyday Monuments,” 2009, which show trophy figurines engaged in activities such as gardening and baking. Gina Adams, of indigenous Ojibwa, Lakota, and European heritage, gives us two bodies of work related to sports and land dispossession. In O$ Osage 6, 2015, a midcentury archival image of an Osage girls’ boarding-school basketball team, whose sweaters—creepily and incongruously—bear dollar signs.

Wendy Vogel

“Speech”

Pace/MacGill Gallery
32 East 57th Street, 9th Floor
February 9, 2017–April 29, 2017

Jim Goldberg, Prized Possession, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008, gelatin silver print, 19 1/2 x 15".

A brutal truth: Images have long maintained an unyielding tyranny over words. The notion is relayed at the entrance to this show, where a colorful heap of anti-Trump protest signage is quietly arranged. It’s a curatorial ploy apt for this photography ensemble concerned with depictions of speech, a theme vague enough to let a stark image of a young, sinewy Congolese refugee cradling a radio (Jim Goldberg’s Prized Possession, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2008) hang near Irving Penn’s swankily gothic portrait of Carson McCullers, whose own devastating possession is a luxe cigarette holder (Carson McCullers, New York, 1950). A literal and intellectual toothlessness are implied in Gregory Halpern’s Untitled, 2016, in which a brown, manicured hand holds out an upper set of dentures, a bit of plaque accumulated between a cuspid and a premolar. Two naked men, one masked, converse in Duane Michals’s A Man Talking to God 1975, a photographic quintet that charts an existential crisis with handwritten dialogue. In one frame, the unmasked man asks why he doesn’t know that he’s talking to himself. The masked man’s retort: “You choose not to know. You’d rather make noise.”

Elsewhere, the First Amendment is celebrated more directly. Photojournalistic images of Civil Rights revolutionaries and representations of queer culture amplify countless citizens’ abiding struggles to be heard. In an exhibition that can sometimes feel like a greatest hits of photographic expression—though the show is clearly a response to our current political perils, only six of forty-three works were made in this century—the less thematically obvious works resonate longer. Take, for example, Susan Paulsen’s Wilmot, 2013, in which an older woman stands at a church pew, arms raised halfway, fingers straightened, mouth partially open. One would be forgiven for believing that speech had ineluctably slipped into song.

Zack Hatfield

Arthur Russell

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue
March 1–May 14

View of “Do What I Want: Selections from the Arthur Russell Papers,” 2017.

The exhibition “Do What I Want: Selections from the Arthur Russell Papers” is a posthumous homage to a pioneer of electronic music who spent most of his career overlooked. Russell, nearly penniless toward the end of his life, died from AIDS in 1992. This show, an invitation to glance at the various facets of a musical genius, is a visual elegy filled with posters, snapshots, and letters from record producers, such as David Berson of Warner Brothers and Jan Abramowitz of Metronome. And the exhibition’s intimate setup is brilliantly designed to make viewers feel as though they’re part of an exclusive inner circle.

Snapshots narrate the more charmed parts of a difficult life. In one of them, Russell is with his mother on a sunny day, riding a sailboat. The light hits his face, and his insouciance is palpable within the grain of this old picture. Elsewhere, a black-and-white photograph shows Russell timidly smirking as his boyfriend’s hand rests gently on his shoulder. The artist’s stare is terribly arresting.

You can sit on one of the three comfortable gray couches in the space, put on headphones, and take in the surroundings as Russell’s music plays (the artist’s 1980 just-after-disco classic “Is It All Over My Face” is among the offerings). Nearby, a songbook encased in Plexiglas is open to a page with a line that reads: “What does God know ‘bout divine I’ll twist and shout.”

Lara Atallah

Ken Tisa

Gordon Robichaux
41 Union Square West, #925, Enter on 17th Street)
February 26–April 30

View of “Ken Tisa: Objects/Time/Offerings,” 2017.

For “Objects/Time/Offerings,” Ken Tisa has transformed the gallery into a magical grotto, decorated with all manner of beautiful and funny things from his extensive collections. Dolls, puppets, masks, devotional objects, trinkets, and artworks from every continent mingle in dense, layered arrangements along with campy ephemera, dollar-store treasures, and the artist’s own small colorful paintings from the 1980s and 1990s. A wall-spanning grid of more than three hundred of the paintings, each just eight inches tall, is the result of a long-standing daily practice, reflecting Tisa’s sponge-like reverence for diverse styles and cultures, as well as his wry attunement to mass media. The weird, ebullient figuration of artists such as Kiki Kogelnik or Jim Nutt comes to mind, but Tisa’s cartoony faces, body parts, and domestic vignettes are more spontaneous and scruffy. In one inspired repeating picture-within-a-picture suite, he inlays a photographic collage element into the screen of a whimsically rendered television set: A Jetsons-ish hot-pink TV on legs displays a spaceship landing; a bright-blue one, placed behind a jack-o’-lantern, is lit up with an extreme close-up of a dick.

These paintings, made in an era of AIDS devastation and Helmsian anti-art crusades, push back obliquely with their droll enjoyment of gay sex and bodies of whatever gender, while the larger installation they inhabit, in all it’s cacophonous excess, also delivers a message. Glancing around the room, you might spot a Noh mask, an exquisite pair of cardboard sneakers, ornate shadow puppets, carved Makonde figures, a few silver Jenny Holzer stickers, and a red-and-yellow decal that reads “God made me Queer.” With his nonhierarchical, loving arrangement of absorbing material, Tisa comes off not as a curatorial mastermind but as a voice in the crowd, happily agitating for more beauty.

Johanna Fateman

“Rotative Repository of Latin American Video Art: Mono Canal”

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue
January 11–April 30

Joiri Minaya, Siboney, 2014, HD video, sound, 13 minutes 20 seconds.

This group show from fifteen Latin American artists presents an impressive and sometimes deeply affecting series of video works that is hampered by an ill-conceived and amateurish exhibition approach. Given that the videos rotate over a total running time of nearly two hours on a single LCD screen in the Museo’s café, the show’s title is appropriate, though the quiet intimacy evoked by many of the works calls for—and deserves—a more sophisticated exhibition style that would give each work its own space to subtly operate on its viewers. Margarita Sanchez’s As I Inhale, 2013, a mysterious and silent meditation on loss and grief, suffers the most, as its wispy, spectral forms got lost in the glare cast on the screen by the café’s large windows on the day that I visited the exhibition.

Including early-career and globally known artists from throughout Latin America, many of the show’s works focus on the body as a locus of trauma, libidinal tension, and the construction of cultural identity through performance, music, and everyday actions. Eduardo Gil’s 2010 work Muscle Memory (Books of David Alfaro Siqueiros), 2010, features Gil volleying tennis balls against the gallery walls of the famed Mexican muralist’s former studio, interspersed with rapid shots of the ball striking books from Siqueiros’s private library. Joiri Minaya’s Siboney, 2014, also explores bodily movement within a cultural context, showing the artist painting a mural of lush tropical vegetation while the artist, subtitled, angrily questions the Western-centric cultural narrative that traps her as a representative of the exotic and the sensual. She eventually wets her body and wipes the mural from the wall, smudging the leaves and flowers in a smear of color and motion.

Dan Jakubowski