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John M. Armleder

Almine Rech Gallery | New York
39 East 78th Street
January 18, 2017–February 23, 2017

View of “John M. Armleder,” 2017.

John M. Armleder’s slickly designed Furniture Sculpture 230, 1989—made up of three antique-looking chairs on a monochromatic platform—evokes the culture of neoliberal professionalism via high-end decor. Flanking this work are several pieces that span a long career of formal upheaval. Among them are Untitled, Caput Mortuum (Untitled, Dead Head), 1968, and Haejangguk, 2016. They seem to have been capriciously produced and are quite different: The former is a minimalistic gouache drawing; the latter, a volatile splattering of paint, sequins, and glitter.

The element of chance in Armleder’s work—initially inspired by John Cage—and its proximity to luxury household commodities produce and expose a contradiction. Of course, Armleder is famously interested in the contexts in which art is displayed. “The artist has a very restrictive understanding of his own work because he’s so close to it,” he said in a recent interview. “So what binds it all together? It’s obviously time, space—areas. And all that would be wiped out by new time, new spaces.” So is there a radical autonomy exercised by the work? Not quite—significance arises when the form is conversant with its context. The yuppie culture of the 1980s embodied in Armleder’s chic appointments collides with the radical, painterly formalism around them. The effect is ironic and playful yet pointed: Fine art as commodity, regardless of its politics, is at least partly implicated in the indiscretions of financial markets—art is, after all, one of the most potentially lucrative luxury assets. The idea is hardly unique to this gallery space but is nevertheless teased out by Armleder’s collisions.

Tyler Curtis

Carl Ostendarp

Elizabeth Dee Gallery
2033/2037 Fifth Avenue
January 21, 2017–February 25, 2017

Carl Ostendarp, ECH!, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 52 1/2 x 51".

Well known for his minimalist approach to cartoony graphics and text, Carl Ostendarp’s hand-painted work harkens back to the early days of Pop. For his first show at this gallery’s new location, he employs a tool associated with blue-collar labor to make the washed-out, earth-tone-gray backgrounds of his paintings: a mop. The result is an abstract surface that resembles a cosmic soup, or an eruption of lava, possibly signifying a return to the primordial—or the end of the world.

Two types of acrylic-on-canvas work are present: long horizontal landscapes and word paintings. Unifying the first group is a craggy horizon line filled in with an opaque gray that could be read as a series of upside-down drips or a mountain range. Titled after classic Black Sabbath tracks, works such as Behind the Wall of Sleep and Hole in the Sky (all works cited, 2016), with their hazy backdrops, are perfect symbols for our uncertain future. The word paintings, consisting of onomatopoeia favored by comic-book artists—Mad magazine’s Don Martin comes to mind—represent what one utters when reading a daily barrage of disheartening news about the Trump administration. These guttural, gloomy renditions—two of which are titled Ech! and Agh! Argh! Ack! Gak!—would make great protest signs. (Auspiciously, the international Women’s Marches were held on the same day that the gallery opened this exhibition.) Ostendarp skillfully crystallizes the mood of our collective spirit in this grouping of works—totally nauseated.

Chris Bors

“The Stand”

P!
334 Broome Street
January 13, 2017–February 26, 2017

View of “The Stand,” 2017.

Cobalt-blue and charcoal-colored rubber mulch cover the floor, cutting the space into two triangles of color. More ecosystem than exhibition, the artists in Prem Krishnamurthy and Anthony Marcellini’s postapocalyptic show, “The Stand,” play with light, firmament, plants, totemic forms, and animals. The show changes the doomed mood of the desert playground from Terminator 2 to one of strange playfulness.

Here, memories of sulky-dreamy Sarah Connor’s muscled arms clinging to a chain-link fence shape-shift. The outstretched arms of a black NBA player in Paul Pfeiffer’s luminous photograph Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (07), 2002, points to Basquiat’s pained meditations on black resilience and black death. We see the player’s head, wearing the crown of crowd support, ultralight beamed. The black athlete, name and team number digitally removed from his jersey, is not a commodity, not Samson tumbling the pillars of spectacular captivity. The booming digital glow acts as a shield from the arena’s mob, and the death knell of racial iconography. Beneath the hallucinatory blues and yellows flaring in Connie Samaras’s archival pigment print The Past is Another Planet: Huntington Desert Garden, Cacti; OEB 1723, Novel Fragment, Parable of the Sower, 1989, 2016, cactus soil mixes with lines from Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower (1993). While the show takes its name from Stephen King’s 1978 plague novel, Butler’s story of survival yields another insight: “We haven’t even hit rock bottom yet.”

Melancholia seeds this show, as does transformation, formally and materially: Beatriz Santiago Muñoz’s video Cinema, 2014, made in the movie house of a dilapidated US naval base in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, loops on an iPad. Light filters into the theater through trees growing out of earth that holds undetonated bombs. Amid hysteria, dynastic decay, and clamors of uprising, “The Stand” poeticizes pluralities of living with death, playing in the US empire’s wake.

Rachel Ellis Neyra

“Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America”

American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Avenue at 66th Street
October 6, 2016–February 26, 2017

Hiram Powers, James Gibson Powers, ca. 1838, plaster, 11 x 6 x 6".

“Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.” The carving of character by light, as the early camera was thought to do, and as this advertising slogan for photographers of the 1800s suggests, was especially trenchant for those who wanted to remember their dead at eternal slumber’s start, with astonishing veracity, via the daguerreotype’s unearthly powers. Memorial portrait painting is another kind of alchemy—venerable, yet stranger, as it tasks the artist with reviving a kind of familiar glow or personality from the deceased––sometimes using the corpse as a model––for the commissioning bereaved.

This exhibition, curated by the museum’s Stacy C. Hollander, is an extraordinary survey of memorial works—mostly painted and photographic—that were made by artists, both formally trained and self-taught, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America, a time when we were more intimately acquainted with mortality and the rituals surrounding death. Many of the works’ subjects are quite young—children and babies who died from illness, accidents. One of the most affecting is Thomas Wilder’s oil-on-canvas portrait of Anna Baylies Bushee, 1848, which depicts the girl, just barely five, sitting in a dour parlor near a window that looks onto two small angels—ugly, sickening things—awaiting her arrival in heaven. There’s Charles Willson Peale’s Rachel Weeping, 1772–1818, a painting of the artist’s wife crying over the body of their infant daughter, Margaret, who was taken by smallpox: Margaret’s yellowed lips are held shut by a silken chinstrap, her arms securely fastened to her sides by a swath of white ribbon, tied with a dainty bow. There’s even a plaster death mask by Hiram Powers made from his little boy’s face, James Gibson Powers, ca. 1838, who succumbed to “water on the brain.”

Pictures of headstones appear in the exhibition as well—some so crudely fashioned that they look considerably older than just two or three hundred years. Also on view: an ivory medallion featuring a watercolor and graphite rendering of a virginal teenage bride. A photo encased in a velvety, locket-like frame shows a young lady in her casket, lavished with flowers, with an aged paper fragment that reads “Death’s seal is on that cherub brow, and closed that sparkling eye.” Genteel language often poorly conceals such devastating loss.

Alex Jovanovich

Peter Campus

Cristin Tierney
540 West 28th Street
January 19, 2017–March 4, 2017

Peter Campus, affect, 1987, digital photo projection, dimensions variable.

The photograph Earthrise, taken from NASA’s Apollo 8 space shuttle in 1968, captured the Earth as seen from the distance of the moon. Half engulfed in shadow, our home planet looks radiant and fragile—a kaleidoscopic cobalt-blue-and-misty-white shard floating in a vast and unbroken pitch-black sky.

The picture’s capacity to transmit the beauty and vulnerability of Earth is credited with helping to launch the environmental movement of the 1970s. But today, decades after Earthrise and the advent of satellite imagery, we’ve grown accustomed to such all-encompassing aerial views of the planet and, with this familiarity, more confident that we can understand (or even control) its course. We’ve also set our collective sights higher—space missions now explore far beyond our world, plumbing the outer edges of the solar system.

Peter Campus’s black-box exhibition feels remarkable for directing our gaze firmly back to the ground and for imbuing the most minuscule pieces of the Earth’s surface with a sense of mystery and magnificence. On display for the first time in public are five monumental black-and-white photographs of rocks Campus collected in Montauk, New York. The images, all from 1987, illuminate the darkened gallery walls as glittering three-dimensional digital projections. Campus’s head-on, enlarged views of the rocks—with evocative titles such as affect, schism, and half-life—reveal their intricate patterns of pockmarks, grooves, and ridges. Through the artist’s lens, the beach pebbles are transformed into precious gemstones and meteorites that demand the same awe and rapt attention as a night sky.

Hannah Stamler

Beverly Buchanan

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
October 21, 2016–March 5, 2017

View of “Beverly Buchanan—Ruins and Rituals,” 2016–17.

“I think that artists in the South must at some point confront the work of folk artists,” the late artist Beverly Buchanan said. But Buchanan, who is known for her colorful shack sculptures emulating Southern vernacular architecture, was anything but an outsider artist. In the early 1970s, she studied with Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden while working as a New Jersey health educator. She also gained the support of such curators as Lucy Lippard and Lowery Stokes Sims. Yet as a black woman artist who spent the height of her artistic career in Georgia, her work has not been given its historical due.

This exhibition, organized by curator Jennifer Burris and artist Park McArthur, surveys Buchanan’s practice, which commemorated the resilience of black communities while interrogating American racism. Separated into three galleries of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art (triangulated around Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, 1974–79), the layout flips the script on Buchanan’s work. The show opens with her least known pieces—the series “Frustula,” 1978–81, made up of squat, cast-concrete sculptures—artworks in pointed dialogue with post-Minimalism’s industrial-ruin aesthetics. Buchanan pursued site-specificity when she moved to Macon, Georgia, in 1977. From 1979 to 1986, she created a number of humble concrete sculptures, mixed with local materials such as tabby (a cement made with oyster shells, water, lime, ash, and sand, once used for building slave quarters), which memorialized sites of racial violence. Three videos, created by McArthur, Burris, and Jason Hirata, June 10–19, 2016, 2016, document four of her Southeastern projects in situ.

This is an artist-curated show, and the second and largest section—containing more than one hundred archival objects—reveals an artist’s eye. Burris and McArthur include pieces such as the plaid shirt Buchanan painted in, adorned with white crosses and blue and red stars (Untitled, Church on Fire, 1995–96), and photo reproductions of her Guggenheim grant report for the public artwork Marsh Ruins, 1981. The final section, devoted to her miniaturized shacks from 1987 to 2010, is enriched by photos of the 1991 performance Out of Control. Buchanan enacts a conceptual score of symbolic brutality, setting a shack sculpture on fire, only allowing a friend to extinguish it.

Wendy Vogel

Sophie Hirsch

Larrie
27 Orchard Street
February 5, 2017–March 5, 2017

Sophie Hirsch, Reformer, 2017, silicone, fabric, plaster, graphite, metal, springs, wood, leather, 100 x 64 x 36".

In the back room of Sophie Hirsch’s current show is Reformer, 2017, a plaster arrow riding an industrial-looking body-shaping machine. The sculpture faces itself in a pair of mirrors, recalling a Pilates studio with its BDSM-like balance of pleasure and torture. Joseph Pilates considered Contrology, his tension-and-relief method, the only route to bliss. Martha Graham and George Balanchine swore by it. If her work is any indication, Hirsch does too.

The artist approaches quick-drying materials such as plaster and silicone with an interest in posture, gravity, and compromise between flexibility and resistance. Studio props such as straps and blocks give constraints to Hirsch’s floppy bodies, which would otherwise collapse under their own weight. Bending, folding, twisting—the abstract sculptures read as instructional diagrams. Her series of shadowbox works, “Muscle Test 1–5,” 2016, strengthens this allusion.

While at first her concerns feel largely formal and materialistic, they are not what one leaves with. Hirsch’s work brings oppositional forces together to create new equilibriums, whether it be a hard-edge feminine aesthetic or a wall-mounted sculpture that begs to be called a painting. Rather than going outside for inspiration and depth, the exhibition’s bodily overtones demand inward expansion. Starting with the figure and working outward, the show feels like a rally for enlightened navel-gazing. Hirsch encourages not only self-awareness but excavation. Her sculptures seem to ask, How can we extend ourselves safely? How can we be bridges?

Kat Herriman

Peter Caine

frosch&portmann
53 Stanton Street
January 19, 2017–March 5, 2017

Peter Caine, The Great Wall of Trump, 2017, mixed media, animatronics, dimensions variable.

Much Trump-related art pokes at the president’s perceived physical inadequacies, faltering at superficiality and failing to elucidate concerns within our body politic. Peter Caine’s exhibition “The Old Man and the Sheep” is an eviscerating exception.

Known for videos and installations of animatronic sociopolitical tableaux and pop-cultural critique, as well as animal husbandry presentations, Caine has an idiosyncratic on-screen persona lightened by cynical wit. Here, he shows three kinetic works with four life-size figures of a rapturous Trump in various stages of sexual degradation. Aping the protagonist’s theatricality, the mixed-media constructions operate only in response to spectators. With pendulous genitalia, the president variously brutalizes a sheep from behind; masturbates in an altered Nazi uniform into a melon; and seems ready to engage in rapey oral sex with a kneeling man. All of this is set to the pneumatic sound track of juddering, mechanical intercourse.

Despite this pungency, Caine’s principle assets are refined insight and layered meaning. As Trump rams the sheep, the term “golden fleece” gets reinterpreted—one wonders if the unfortunate beast represents America or his own voters. The kneeling individual in The Great Wall of Trump, 2017, wears a sign identifying him as homeless and offering to “suck dick” as Trump’s gripped phallus protrudes through a fragmentary wall. The subjugation and humiliation of marginalized groups raises Trump’s omnipotent tendencies and victory-mongering. Particularly horrific is the wretch’s face, which is a livid, pink mirror of Trump’s features, a detail that is biblically egomaniacal in recalling an earlier figure that cast man in his own image.

Darren Jones

Pieter Hugo

Yossi Milo Gallery
245 Tenth Avenue
January 26, 2017–March 11, 2017

Pieter Hugo, Portrait #3, Rwanda, 2014, digital C-print. From the series “1994,” 2014–16.

The “born free” generation of South Africans—those born after the fall of apartheid in 1994—has recently come into the limelight as protest movements such as #FeesMustFall or #RhodesMustFall have swept university campuses and city streets. The country’s youth have rallied against the intensification of economic disparity and the lingering effects of historical traumas. As time passes, the Mandela-era dream of the “rainbow nation” seems to slide further away.

South African photographer Pieter Hugo offers a more enigmatic vision of this generation with his series “1994,” 2014–16, employing portraiture as a means to signify, however obliquely, the immense cultural transitions it has witnessed. While the eldest born-frees are in their twenties, Hugo’s subjects are younger children, some mere toddlers, from both South Africa and Rwanda (where 1994 marked the unspeakable horrors of genocide).

Hugo is lauded for his disquieting, almost feral aesthetic; he has photographed those on the fringes of society throughout southern and West Africa. Here, though, the work is somewhat more metaphysical: Children are made archetypes of contestation, survival, and hope. They face the camera, seated or recumbent, posed within verdant landscapes or against the looming edifices of rural schools. One of his most arresting images, Portrait #3, Rwanda, 2014, shows a Rwandan girl, draped head to toe in pale-pink fabric, seated on the ground. She gazes forward solemnly as she extends a flower branch and a green frond. Elsewhere, boys and girls in oversize soiled frocks recline against grass and dry earth or pose near mossy trees. These settings invoke the unpredictability and even the cruelty of wilderness, while the children’s clothing, mostly donated from Europe, locates them within a discordant contemporary moment. The photographer’s gaze is inquisitive and searching—his subjects respond with an onerous sense of clairvoyance.

Allison Young

Steve Wolfe

Luhring Augustine | Chelsea
531 West 24th Street
February 4, 2017–March 11, 2017

Steve Wolfe, Untitled (Anna Karenina), 1985–87, oil, enamel, ink transfer, modeling paste, canvas, wood, 7 1/2 x 5 x 2".

Love is rarely tender, especially with cherished objects. Sometimes they become so much a part of who we are that they, too, accumulate the scars, scrapes, and burns of affection. Steve Wolfe’s current posthumous exhibition offers up impeccable re-creations of books, book covers, and records from the artist’s personal library, made to look as worn by time and use as the originals. Every tear and scuff is fabricated through oil paint, ink, and graphite; every misaligned spine, intentional.

Wolfe’s remaking of Voltaire’s satire, in softcover, Untitled (Candide), 1988–89, surprises by its vibrancy. Its colors and textures are exquisitely vivid—more real than real life. Other books are “stained” by coffee cup rings, “faded” by the sun. The rough, painterly cover of Untitled (Anna Karenina), 1985–87, belies the coated sheen of the standard Penguin Classic. But its warped, frayed form keenly delivers the familiar story of a tome that has ventured once too often into the crushing depths of an overloaded backpack. Elsewhere, the artist’s books exist solely as covers, collaged onto a single plane (Untitled [Study for Mumm/Jose Cuervo Cartons], 1994). They flawlessly capture the brittle textures and acid-browned colors of the crumbling texts you’d fish from the dollar crate at the Strand.

Wolfe has taken the inspirational energies provided by his library and harnessed them into hours and hours of scrupulous labor. His imitations become utterly sacred through this extraordinary care. These are saintly bodies—conceived by mysterious processes and coated in precious pigments—that carry the kind of divinity one can only find in books.

Nicole Kaack

Lynn Hershman Leeson

Bridget Donahue
99 Bowery, 2nd Floor
January 27, 2017–March 12, 2017

View of “Lynn Hershman Leeson: Remote Controls,” 2017.

Seated in overstuffed leopard-print armchairs, visitors to Lynn Hershman Leeson’s second solo exhibition at the gallery navigate, via remote control, the dumpy virtual living room of Lorna, a middle-aged agoraphobe whose experience of the world is entirely mediated through her television. Clicking on various objects unlocks bits and pieces of a schmaltzy vernacular media culture, such as boozy cowboy ballads, daytime talk shows, televangelical sermons, and amateur music videos. In one of the game’s three possible endings, its lonely heroine commits suicide.

The first interactive videodisk, Lorna, 1979–84, can claim importance in a broader media history beyond twentieth-century art, though Hershman Leeson has likened the piece’s random, nonhierarchical sequencing to “electronic cubism.” Even more fragmented and multiperspectival is Deep Contact, 1984–89, the first artwork to employ interactive touch screens. Viewers are invited to touch the virtual leather-clad physique of a Teutonic hardbody named Marion, whose various parts open onto a labyrinthine sexual fantasy with fifty-seven forking paths. In her 1985 essay “Interactive Technology and Art,” Hershman Leeson espoused optimism about the enfranchising potential of interactive technology. “The art world,” she wrote, “has long functioned on the presumption that viewing art is passive, while only making art is active. Technological change in the form of laser and video art, however, is changing this traditional way of viewing art.”

But Hershman Leeson’s avant-garde technologism is cut with camp, horror, and feminized abjection, undergirding an eerie feeling that interactivity is as much about capture and control as it is about activation and agency. Between the Snowden leaks and a Twitter presidency, the narrative around technology has acquired a dystopian charge, and Hershman Leeson’s work is increasingly recognized for its Cassandra-like premonitions of technological panopticism. Such anxieties explicitly structure her new installation, Venus of the Anthropocene, 2017. A grotesque mannequin torso faces a vanity mirror rigged with a camera and crude facial-recognition software that attempts—with modest success—to identify the viewer’s age, gender, and mood.

Chloe Wyma

Andrea Joyce Heimer

Hometown
1002 Metropolitan Avenue
January 29, 2017–March 12, 2017

Andrea Joyce Heimer, I Am Jealous Of Everyone You Have Ever Been With And There Have Been Many, And Then I Find Out Some Of Them Were Squirters And I Am Undone By This Knowledge. It Weighs On Me Like A Stone., 2016, acrylic and pencil on panel, 30 x 40".

Of all the deadly human sins, envy is perhaps the most unavoidable. It makes us mourn the things we never had in the first place while reminding us of what we have to lose. In “A Jealous Person,” Andrea Joyce Heimer’s new exhibition, the artist has made narrative, quilt-like paintings that yearn for some sense of firm identity. Her complex renderings of flattened domestic interiors and natural landscapes are psychological minidramas. And their titles, though verbose, are deeply personal.

I Am Jealous Of Those Who Can See Their Own Facial Features Echoing Down Their Family Lines Like A Voice Telling Them Just Where They’ve Been. (all works cited, 2016), is likely related to the artist’s disquietude reflecting on her adoptive family. It depicts a neat row of pale, similarly featured figures in a room, acting in tandem as they get ready for a meal. Standing apart from them amid some tall plants is a dark-skinned woman; opposite her is a portrait of a black swan: A pair of beautiful creatures, linked by their otherness, are alienated from all the rest. I Am Jealous Of Everyone You Have Ever Been With And There Have Been Many, And Then I Find Out Some Of Them Were Squirters And I Am Undone By This Knowledge. It Weighs On Me Like A Stone. depicts dozens of nude women seeping bodily fluids, swimming around a single eroticized male. It’s relatable—who hasn’t fretted imagining a lover’s previous exploits?

Heimer is primarily self-taught, and her pictures occupy a folksy realm: Volumes of visual information are packed into satisfying, epic stories. The carefully applied ornamentation of her works may at first strike one as surreal. But her allegories speak to a very common kind of pathos—we are indeed mostly jealous people.

Anne Prentnieks

Henry Chapman

Kate Werble Gallery
83 Vandam Street
February 10, 2017–March 18, 2017

View of “Henry Chapman: Phthalo Blue Red Shade,” 2017.

Henry Chapman’s carefully gessoed canvases, smooth as polished stone, are adorned with pigments that bleed, à la Helen Frankenthaler, into their white grounds. Between his spare, painterly passages, which range from assiduously prim to flagrantly scatological, Chapman adds screen-printed texts: Some are taken from a European travelogue; others rehash moments from the artist’s daily life or are just made up. If Enlightenment gentlemen traveled the Continent for enlightenment (think Goethe in Italy), Chapman’s wanderings through some of the same terrain—Berlin, Rome—are pure indulgence, pleasure: One must see the Holbein show at the Bode, after all, not on Instagram. But there’s a weltschmerz that glazes all this fabulous jet-setting, too. Maybe a visit to a brothel called the Artemis would lift the spirits—read about it in Luke in Berlin (all works cited, 2016–17).

In Greenpoint, yolky spheres linger below faint gray words crossed out by a tidy excess of ink, like an old master canceling his intaglio plate. Green Field offers up small, clocklike diagrams, with vectors that seem to record anger, sorrow, pleasure, resolve, desire, and pain. They are charts of human frailty and the vicissitudes of time. Yammerings about allergies and oysters pop up throughout Chapman’s paintings as well. These narratives are too boring to be irritatingly narcissistic, and yet—surprisingly—they draw you in, likely because the works are so pale and enigmatic. Chapman practices a very funny, wan kind of seduction—honestly, the man can’t be bothered for too much more.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

Yancey Richardson Gallery
525 West 22nd Street
February 2, 2017–March 18, 2017

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Mirror Study (Self-Portrait)_Q5A2059, 2015, archival pigment print, 32 x 24".

Paul Mpagi Sepuya is self-consciously part of a deep lineage of queer cultural practice. His process journals reveal his engagement with Bruce Nugent and other gay writers from the past century, and his intimate color portraits call to mind earlier photographs by Lyle Ashton Harris, Peter Hujar, and Rotimi Fani-Kayode. The writer and critic Hilton Als included Sepuya in his 2016 exhibition on James Baldwin, poetically situating him as one of Baldwin’s creative “children.”

This exhibition includes a handful of such portraits: black and white men, at times draped in rich fabric and posed in a formal studio setting, à la Baroque painting. But most of the pictures here are fragmented—collages of Sepuya’s large-scale prints: torn, overlaid, and rephotographed. Works such as Mirror Study (Self-Portrait)_Q5A2059, 2015, rather overtly suggests process—from the messiness and fractured nature of the self to the archival aspects of artmaking, down to saving and indexing files on a computer.

But for all their layering, Sepuya’s photographs have a distinctive unity, derived from his shooting into a mirror and drawing his varied source materials together onto a single plane. In these studies, figures are never complete, and we are asked to consider the lineage of studio portraiture itself—its artifice and self-performance a form of analogy to the more quotidian masquerade of everyday life, of looking at our reflection and searching for a sense of cohesion. Sepuya’s camera resists such cohesion and adds contemporary resonance to the traditional, canonical, and subcultural alike.

Ian Bourland

Camilla Wills

Chapter NY
249 East Houston Street
February 19, 2017–March 19, 2017

View of “Camilla Wills: Driven by Thoughts,” 2017.

Camilla Wills’s current exhibition has all the dark cheer of a Victorian orphanage. The show exudes the kind of artifice and perversity one would find in a posh nineteenth-century parlor. Block the Windows and Change the Date, 2017, is a piece of cloth blacking out the gallery’s windows. The year 2016 is laser cut into a pattern on the fabric. This gesture—an act of disavowal or merely a decorative preference—shutters the gallery and allows us to experience daylight as an endless repetition of yesteryear. Neatly stuffed into a filing-cabinet drawer is Press Release, 2016–17, a self-portrait made from a wedding dress silk-screened with press releases written in lorem ipsum, a filler or dummy text used by graphic designers. The dress resembles Pierrot’s leotard and frames the social contract between artist and audience as a fool’s game. Wills loves to baffle and does it with a straight face. Even the actual press release for the show is enigmatic, containing lines such as “Readability is against expression.” The artist’s associations—poetic, ersatz—rattle language’s hold on meaning. She is a printmaker par excellence as well, and the medium’s ubiquity here compounds her destabilization of the world-making power of words.

The purgatorial Contract of Indeterminate Duration, 2017, is a bedsheet ghost that surveys the gallery on a rotating motor. In two pockets, the phantom carries Oblivion Seekers, 2017, a pair of empty birds nests. Wills’s unified object is simultaneously self-possessed and vulnerable. It seems to ask, “Do you believe in ghosts?”

Sam Korman

Eleanore Mikus

Craig F. Starr Gallery
5 East 73rd Street
February 3, 2017–March 25, 2017

Eleanore Mikus, Tablet 142, 1965–66, acrylic on wood, 34 x 52".

Eleanore Mikus made the majority of her Tablets atop her studio floor, fitting sections of plywood into an eccentric patchwork then setting the arrangement with wooden braces and glue. The pressure subtly reconfigured each piece, yielding an improvised pattern of dents and grooves. Ripping the structure from the floor and reversing it, she applied repeated coats of gesso and white oil to its surface, marshaling paint as a form of adhesive to bind disparate elements. The result evolved into a series that Mikus started in 1961 and pursued until 1968, lingering on each piece for weeks or even years. Their deliberate facture parallels the perceptual mood they conjure: dulled and rapt, like staring at waves. Plays of light and shade color their surfaces with hints of pollen, peach, and plummy gray, leavening the monochrome’s sameness with difference. The effect is amplified by Mikus’s varying use of oil, acrylic, enamel, and epoxy paint, which lends each Tablet a specific, subtle luminosity.

When describing the series, Mikus speaks of objects worn through contact: pavement, driftwood, shoe heels, and subway turnstiles. Often refined with sandpaper or wax, each seems less painted than caressed. Consider Tablet 142, 1965–66: four identically sized panels overlain with strips of thin wood. Pocked and puckered, the strips abut and overlap one another, producing ridges whose shadows look like drawn lines. The texture recalls the theatrical drapery of certain Baroque paintings, wherein folds prompt virtuosic demonstrations of chiaroscuro. The inclusion of Untitled, 1967, a board swathed in dark rose-colored cloth and bound with rubber bands, corroborates the comparison. Swelling surface into volume, its pleats are mnemonics: memories of contours modeled by hand. Thus contextualized, the Tablets disclose the doubled temporality inherent in their namesake: both an ephemeral pad for scribbles and an enduring monument, primed to relay a mystical message.

Courtney Fiske

Ron Gorchov

Cheim & Read
547 West 25th Street
February 16, 2017–March 25, 2017

Ron Gorchov, Nausicaä, 2016, oil on linen, 98 x 78 x 13".

There is much evidence of classicism in reductive art practices. Rarer, however, is the presence of the more willful and subjective impulses of neoclassicism, in which classical order is not adhered to but depicted. Ron Gorchov’s signature shield-shaped paintings would not be out of place gripped by a dying marble warrior. Gorchov’s canvas, featuring a rounded edge and a concavity in the center, is not an optical illusion or a sculptural push into space—it is an image open to interpretation. The fact that these paintings encourage symbolic viewing sets them apart from much contemporaneous abstraction.

Two mysterious and evocative curvilinear forms often appear in the centers of Gorchov’s paintings. They are reminiscent of the symmetrical scrolls on string instruments, the sexy dimples on the lower backs of many humans, or inchworms wiggling together on invisible strings. These forms are companions, never in conflict. It is significant that Gorchov gives us the back of the shield, the defensive rather than the aggressive side—the side that contains and protects the life within. These idiosyncratic paintings are loaded with intent, and what is so human about them is the mystery of the intent. The intensity of our own actions hardly explains them to others. This gap allows us to imagine each other. And one spends much time in front of these paintings imagining what they are.

The work is deeply sensual. In Nausicaä, 2016, washes of baby blue seem to sweat down and around a yellow and a cobalt form. The raw edges, the isolated and wiggling central forms, and the sheer physicality of these pieces makes them beautiful in the classical sense of the term.

Matthew Weinstein

“Evidentiary Realism”

Fridman Gallery
287 Spring Street
February 28, 2017–March 31, 2017

Josh Begley, Information of Note​, 2014, C-print, 40 x 40".

“Evidentiary Realism,” the title of this exhibition, is a term coined by its curator, Paolo Cirio. It refers to art that, in his words, “portrays and reveals evidence from complex social systems.” The works in this fourteen-person show heighten our awareness of the foul social and political infrastructures that seem to be dominating much of the world today.

Navine G. Khan-Dossos’s series “Expanding and Remaining,” 2016, uses ISIS’s English print magazine as a source for colorful, systematic abstract paintings, rendering the basic graphic structure of the periodical’s layout sans text. Nearby is Josh Begley’s Information of Note, 2014, a collage of photographic documentation of Muslim-owned venues in New York, taken from the NYPD Demographics Unit—a secret surveillance program that was leaked to the press in 2011. One of the more challenging works in the show is Seamless Transitions, 2015, James Bridle’s 3-D video tour of immigration, detention, trial, and deportation sites throughout the UK. Their sterile architecture, without people or sound, offers up a painfully detached view of places where fates, often capriciously, are being determined.

This profoundly affecting presentation is the first in a series of shows that will focus on evidentiary realism. The project has an online presence as well, with a catalogue of artworks, related texts, and an open invitation to artists to apply for future exhibitions. In Hannah Arendt’s Life of the Mind (1978), she writes: “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” Making up one’s mind about the devastating effects of political machinations is crucial.

Naomi Lev

“Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965”

Grey Art Gallery
100 Washington Square East, New York University
January 10, 2017–April 1, 2017

Jean Follett, 3 Black Bottles, 1958, mixed media on wood, 11 2/3 x 19 1/2 x 1 3/4”.

A few of the artist co-ops and alternative spaces featured in this show have recently gained some art-historical due—via, for instance, the Blanton Museum’s exhibition on the Park Place Gallery and the Birmingham Museum’s survey of the Spiral Group—though more research and scholarship is still much needed. “Inventing Downtown” is a welcome antidote as the first exhibition to examine a synergy among works and ephemera from fourteen artist-run galleries below Fourteenth Street (with the exception of the City Gallery in Chelsea and Richard Bellamy’s Green Gallery in midtown). It’s a treasure trove that discloses a much smaller yet wilder local scene than the sprawling and somewhat faceless one we know today.

While some of the artists will be familiar, particularly those who embraced the cheap paints, varnishes, and kitsch objects littering 1950s consumer society in the wake of the Korean War (such as Donald Judd, who reviewed some of these galleries, and Claes Oldenburg, who feels omnipresent), there are many more who have been excluded from the canon. And we really should know them better. Sari Dienes, who showed at City Gallery, took an ink-coated roller out into New York, covering subway grates and tombstones with paper or fabric to make her sepulchral transfers. Jean Follett was associated with Hansa Gallery and made sulky sculptural assemblages with trash and found objects. She also fled New York in the early ’60s after a breakdown, and a delinquent former landlord demolished much of her work. I could go on—the capriciousness of taste and luck is merciless. But what emerges most impressively here is the pervasive sense that none of the artists were merely interested in dollars. They were committed to extending, advancing, and opening up aesthetic and philosophical conversations for the benefit of the common good.

Lauren O’Neill-Butler

Jeremy Couillard

yours mine & ours
54 Eldridge Street
February 17, 2017–April 2, 2017

Jeremy Couillard, Alien Afterlife (detail), 2016–17, mixed media, dimensions variable.

On a dusty, slate-colored couch reeking of bong water and dirty laundry, Jeremy Couillard invites visitors to experience a multidimensional journey into the great beyond with Alien Afterlife, 2016–17. The installation’s centerpiece is a video game designed and engineered by Couillard, unfurling as a quest for reincarnation amid kaleidoscopic landscapes and eccentric extraterrestrials. When the player is killed, the game abruptly ends with a stern and graphic “NO!” Moments later, you are returned to a limbo/home-base level called the Mother, sans penalty, likely because the character was dead to begin with. The whole virtual experience is suffused with the comic absurdity of early-1990s first-person-shooter games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom but carves its own unique position within the genre as a metacritique of dimensional reality.

The gallery’s installation is living-room space culled from something between the neon cyberpunk motif of a William Gibson novel and Spicoli’s bedroom from the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. An empty bong waits patiently on the coffee table, and a number of dated smartphones, along with an iPad, display 3-D renderings designed by Couillard of exterritorial stoners lollygagging about time and space. In the dark, neon-lit basement below the gallery, the exhibition takes a startling turn as a pair of animatronic gray aliens clank away at laptops, communicating to one another via a localized chat room. At one point during the conversation one alien asks a pertinent question of the other: “What is your art about?” The response: “USB—Uncle Sad Bedroom.”

Gabriel H. Sanchez

Eleanor Antin

Alden Projects™
34 Orchard Street
February 24, 2017–April 9, 2017

Eleanor Antin, Untitled (Eleanor Antin’s Mother Telling the BOOTS’ Fortune), 1973, vintage gelatin silver print, 8 x 10".

Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots, 1971–73, on view here, plays well to our current state of alienation. The exhibition readdresses the piece’s political subtext while bringing to light recently rediscovered B sides from this seminal work. With deadpan humor, Antin ridiculed the Vietnam War, issuing her protest in the form of fifty-one postcards, each depicting fifty pairs of military-grade rubber boots gallivanting in different parts of the American landscape. The narrative slowly unfolded in the mailboxes of somewhere between six hundred and a thousand recipients, with boots goofily trespassing under fences, riding roller coasters, or traipsing in a meadow. They stand at attention, evoking rows of dead soldiers. Antin attributes the pronoun he to the project throughout her archival materials—militarism and maleness, after all, fit so well together. She and others were quick to pun on the title, too, as in the 1973 New York Times headline “100 Boots’ to End Cross-Country ‘March’ at Museum.”

The new/old works read like grievances and escapist fantasies from the Nixon era. They also draw out the immediacy of her project and emphasize that the dematerialization of the art object still requires a tight crop. 100 Boots at the Checkpoint. San Onofre, California. February 15, 1972, 10:20 a.m., 1972, forms a serendipitous link between that time and the present, as the boots line up on the customs checkpoint at the US-Mexico border. Perhaps Antin thought the image was too unambiguously critical, hence it was cut from the original piece. Another picture offers up Antin’s mother playing a clairvoyant (Untitled [Eleanor Antin’s Mother Telling the BOOTS’ Fortune], 1973), while Untitled (100 Boots and the Artist Under the Brooklyn Bridge), 1973, captures the artist’s New York homecoming from the West Coast. Why revisit this series today? An important lesson from the counterculture: There’s no wrong way to protest.

Sam Korman

Jonathas de Andrade

New Museum
235 Bowery
January 25, 2017–April 9, 2017

Jonathas de Andrade, O peixe (The Fish), 2016, 16-mm film transferred to HD video, sound, color, 38 minutes.

Fishing is a display of male sensuality that is supremely underrated. In Jonathas de Andrade’s thirty-eight-minute film O peixe (The Fish), 2016, the handsome protagonists are the ageless, chiseled fishermen of a coastal village in northeastern Brazil. Wet skin catches the glimmering sunlight on the surface of the water. They steer their boats and swing their hooks. Muscles swell.

Interrupting the tranquil ambiance of lapping water and wind drifting through the palms is the tug of a line, a ripple below. But then a sudden urgency to retract the net causes an explosion of violence and primal masculinity. From this point, de Andrade turns abruptly toward maximum absurdity. Each fisherman takes his catch and lifts it to his chest, entering a meditative embrace. As the fish struggles for its life, he strokes its scales, reversing the role of the midwife—rather than ease the entrance of life into this world, he lovingly assists in its departure.

As in much of de Andrade’s work, there is an intellectual subtext here about the relationship between modern and precolonial Brazil. But that pales in comparison to the many contrasting visceral impulses he forces us to confront at once. This imagined shamanistic ritual in which a hypermasculine, exoticized, and sexualized figure cradles an alien body—the size of an infant, with strangely human lips—is violent and bizarrely romantic. O peixe evokes a shock further heightened by the sounds of labored breathing from both parties. As viewers, we get the sense that our emotions are being played with—much to our delight.

Janelle Zara

A. K. Burns

Callicoon Fine Arts
49 Delancey Street
February 26, 2017–April 9, 2017

A. K. Burns, She Was Warned, 2017, cement hydrocal mix, concrete, rebar, steel wire, steel concrete reinforcement, plastic, pigmented resin, 73 x 25 x 12".

Outsiders are not welcome: A forbidding fence obscures the view through the front window of the gallery. Two more like it appear throughout the space, each patterned with barely legible phrases à la Donald Rumsfeld: Known known, known unknown, and unknown unknown. In the exhibition “Fault Lines,” A. K. Burns reflects on the power of language to colonize our physical realities with political polarities. A picture of the Dakota Access Pipeline crawls like a blind, wormy beast through the sunshine landscapes of the show’s press release, while Better Off Without You (all works cited, 2017) is a suite of adhesive prints that transpose newspaper images of the terrain surrounding the pipeline. A page from the New York Times is overlaid with an imprisoning and painterly grid in Post Times (Weather Report).

Burns inscribes these images of our current dystopia with phrases that are frightening precisely for their actuality and absurdity: Here, Rumsfeld’s puzzling wordplay on whether or not Iraq was supplying “weapons of mass destruction” to terrorist groups literally becomes barriers. Mitch McConnell’s comment on Elizabeth Warren being shut down in the Senate as she argued against Jeff Sessions’s appointment to the post of attorney general inflames She Was Warned, the artist’s sculpture of Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting and childbirth. The sculpture You’re Fired features this famously bloviating phrase from our current president, floating up from a foot like a happy-go-lucky manacle chain. The language of spin and debasement never ceases: The “known unknowns” of yesterday are the “alternative facts” of today. Burns’s barricades guard our borderlines, conceal the truth, and cut us off from the rest of the world. Ignorance is its own conviction, but the margin by which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote says that we are not all true believers.

Nicole Kaack

Vija Celmins

Matthew Marks Gallery | 522 West 22nd Street
522 West 22nd Street
February 10, 2017–April 15, 2017

Vija Celmins, Blackboard Tableau #12, 2007–15, 1 found tablet, and 1 made tablet: wood, leather, acrylic, alkyd oil, pastel, 11 x 8 1/2".

Vija Celmins is a ruthless poet. The artist’s images in this exhibition—rippling waters, blank slates, stones, stars—are as obdurate as they are yielding, as everything as they are nothing. Experiencing a fastidiously constructed painting, sculpture, drawing, or print by the artist, often made over many years and with an endless supply of patience, is not unlike looking into a mirror. You see yourself in the picture or object you’re gazing at—or falling into—wondering how it came to be, and how you got there, too.

Celmins frequently works small—it is when she is at her most astonishing. Here, Night Sky #26, 2016–17, a painting nearly five feet tall depicting exactly what it’s titled, doesn’t carry the same concentrated, jewel-like charge of her more modestly scaled oil-on-canvas works, such as Reverse Night Sky #1, 2014, a sort of negative image of the cosmos; Untitled (Falling Star), 2016; or Untitled (Ochre), 2016, perhaps a yellowing section of our ancient Milky Way, or bubbling hot metal, freshly poured out of its crucible. Reverse Night Sky #3, 2016, a charcoal drawing, looks like a dirty paper towel and a glimpse into forever.

Celmins was born in 1938 in Latvia. She and her family fled the country prior to the Russians seizing it from the Nazis in 1944. They lived in a refugee camp in Germany, overseen by the United Nations, before relocating to Indiana in 1948. The artist’s slate works—exacting reproductions of children’s blackboards, paired with their originals—feel stolen out of time, wrenched from World War II. They are lonely-looking, penitential things. Unsentimental. Mean, even. While Celmins’s starscapes ask us to countenance the impossibility of the universe, her slates, portals of dusty, grim beauty, force us to consider the ground we stand on, six feet below.

Alex Jovanovich

Louis Zoellar Bickett

Andrew Edlin Gallery
212 Bowery
March 3, 2017–April 15, 2017

View of “Louis Zoellar Bickett,” 2017.

Recent exhibitions around the AIDS crisis have been critiqued as too focused on how art scenes were affected in major cities—how refreshing, then, to see an exhibition that hones in on a singular, rural experience. Louis Zoellar Bickett’s show is a room-size installation comprising a vast collection of ephemera related to loss in its many forms, with visual jokes and texts that imbue the pieces with the artist’s wry sense of humor. Bickett, based in Lexington, Kentucky, began his archive in 1972, at the age of twenty-two. Early items include branches from a beloved apple tree his mother cut down during his childhood (The AIDS Tree, 1986–90). The saved branches are wrapped like wounded limbs. “Daddy” is often invoked here, too, though it’s left ambiguous as to whether Bickett is referring to his own father, whose passing is noted in several items, or a sexual daddy.

Ideas surrounding place are brought to the fore in myriad ways. Objects in glass jars abound: Studio Trash: 102 West Second Street #2, Lexington, Kentucky 15 July 2002, 2002, features, among other things, an undergarment, a soda can, and a handwritten note. There’s a vial of water (Oxford, Mississippi, 2001) and Forgiveness Is Essential, 2008, dried horse dung in a kind of glass candy jar that is omnipresent in matriarchal kitchens throughout the South. Bibles are everywhere: A stack of them is immaculately punctured for “The Glory Hole Bible Project,” 2000–2004. What I Read (Nude), 2015, is a photo triptych taken at Walmart, Bickett’s preferred local photo studio. Wearing only his glasses, the artist looks surprised as he wields an open Torah, Bible, and Koran. Lovers and friends long gone are represented in this morbid, joyful catalogue, a paean to suffering, nostalgia, and the fleeting nature of time.

Lilly Lampe

Jochen Klein

Galerie Buchholz | New York
17 East 82nd Street
February 9, 2017–April 15, 2017

Jochen Klein, Untitled, 1996, oil and collage on canvas, 66 x 57".

Jochen Klein’s current show of paintings, collaborations, and studio ephemera makes plain how deeply enmeshed the artist was in his community and the larger world. Klein was taught painting under the classical master-student model at the Munich Kunstakademie but was doubtful of the medium’s potential. He stopped painting for years and became involved in activism and other forms of artmaking. Thomas Eggerer, a close friend, collaborator, and fellow student at the Kunstakademie, worked with him on writing and a site-specific work. In the 1994 essay “The English Garden in Munich,” Klein and Eggerer discuss the urban park’s deliberate artifice as nature framed for human enjoyment. They made an artwork in the English Garden, too: On the outside of a toilet near a popular gay-cruising area, they installed a kind of public bulletin board, Leave a Message, 1994, bringing private desire into the open.

Klein made unapologetically beautiful images when he returned to painting. Perhaps his hiatus from the activity allowed him to combine the declarative nature of the medium with a self-awareness of the longing that occurs as we scrutinize a work for beauty. Untitled, 1996, is a painting of a large white duck and a small puppy whose beak and nose are so close that the two appear to be nuzzling. Set against a bleary and luminescent green landscape, the collaged animal duo melts into their phantasmagorical surroundings.

Miracles of Life, a 2009 print by Wolfgang Tillmans, hangs in the last room of the exhibition. Tillmans identifies as both an artist and an activist. He was also Klein’s boyfriend at the time of the painter’s death from AIDS—he was only thirty when he died. Klein reminds us of how we define ourselves—and our place in the world—by the company (friends, lovers, teachers) we keep. No one should have to go it alone.

Yin Ho

“The Intricacies of Love”

BronxArtSpace
305 E 140th Street, 1A
March 16, 2017–April 15, 2017

Julia Brown, The Young Mothers Project, Part I, 2014, HD video, color, sound, 11 minutes 4 seconds.

As children, we are the freest, most uninhibited versions of ourselves that we will ever be. Life has yet to mold us into self-conscious “grown-ups,” limply following decorum, jaded by bullshit. This three-person exhibition looks askance at adulthood and the dynamics between kids and their surroundings. Julia Brown’s dual-channel video The Young Mothers Project, Part I and Part II, 2014, present different versions of the same world. In Part I, a steady camera is pointed at a single mother seated in her living room, talking about the struggles of parenthood, while her daughter restlessly fidgets on her lap. In a memorable section of Part II, we experience the world as seen through the eyes of mother and daughter, both of whom were given a camera by the artist to record a typical Friday night at home. The daughter’s camera races from the floor, to mom, to the drawings on the fridge—the constant motion is a reminder of the boundless curiosity and enthusiasm that fuel children to explore.

Glenn Ligon’s End of Year Reports, 2003, eight screen prints on handmade paper, are reproductions of documents found in his mother’s apartment—evaluations of the artist completed by his teachers when he was an adolescent. They certainly seem prescient—Ligon is described as a young man dismissive of authority figures and as someone who is “cunning” and who “can be very loud when he wants to make a point.”

Over at the gallery’s annex a few blocks away, John Waters gives us a remake of his 1972 cinematic trashfest, Pink Flamingos. For the video, named Kiddie Flamingos, 2014, children are seated at a long table, eccentrically dressed up like the film’s characters, taking turns reading the much-edited script aloud. The piece’s strength lies in the actors’ over-animated performances and the knowledge that the original source’s perversity has been cleverly camouflaged.

Lara Atallah

Paul Chan

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street, Ground floor and 8th Floor
March 3, 2017–April 15, 2017

Paul Chan, Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental) (Pentasophia [or The happiness of living in the disaster of the western world]), 2016, nylon, metal, concrete, shoes, fans, various papers, 151 x 130 x 98".

For his current exhibition here, Paul Chan has made nylon figures—hooded, tapered, or headless—fixed atop fans that inflate and animate them in wild contortions and macabre dance. Electrical cables run from power outlets via concrete-filled shoes, a grounding device that connects each “breather” to the corporeal and domestic. Some forms are presented with props such as a rug, a flag, or turf, further pointing to human connectivity. On the walls hang symbolic ink-on-paper charts of stitching patterns used to achieve particular airflows and movements. Individually and in groups, the works play out an eerie dichotomy as they billow, fall, and swell. They seem tormented by the relentless roar and thrust, or are perhaps lost in diabolical reverie; the ritualistic, operatic melee seems threatening while evoking pity for the wraiths’ storm-tossed plights.

The largest installation is Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental) (Pentasophia [or The happiness of living in the disaster of the western world]), 2016, which consists of five linked specters on a stage, arranged around a well with the letters R-I-R-I-M-K-M-I painted along its interior—an invocation of the demon Naberius. But as with many works here it is the beguiling rhythm of the breathers that creates the spectacle and poignancy, rendering much of the supporting material extraneous. This is exemplified in the quieter, hunched loner, Le Baigneur 1 (The Bather 1), 2016, whose simple, swaying manner is acutely sorrowful. Chan harnesses the very air we breathe, in concert with oppositional forces—lift and gravity—to convey mesmerizing emotivity and imbue his aerodynamic marvels with an elementally designed sorcery.

Darren Jones

Ricky Swallow

Maccarone | 630 Greenwich Street
630 Greenwich Street
March 3, 2017–April 17, 2017

Ricky Swallow, Split (with ball) #5, 2017, patinated bronze, oil paint, 14 1/2 x 17 x 10 1/2".

For his first solo exhibition in New York since his 2006 survey at MoMA PS1, Los Angeles–based Australian sculptor Ricky Swallow embraces an unprecedented degree of abstraction. The artist has made bronze casts of configurations of studio scraps—cardboard, rope, leather, wood—that could be called a kind of found or incidental abstraction. On several occasions, Swallow has talked about his “built-in moral resistance” to abstract modes, yet his folk version of the genre, for lack of a better term, complicates our understanding of what abstraction can do. Swallow is, above all, most interested in the beauty and emotional charge everyday objects can carry, as he elevates their humble functions and properties aesthetically and empathically.

The verisimilitude and craftsmanship of his painted and patinated bronze pieces invite careful and extended looking. Swallow’s newer works here play with balance, weight, and tension. In Split (with ball) #5 (all works cited, 2017), for instance, white rope has been looped through what look like four small sections of red tubing. The object, a soft parallelogram, stands on a pair of rounded corners and a gold-colored ball bearing. The whole composition is bound by a single piece of taut string. Such considerations of physics are also present in Bow/Drop #2, which asks us to contemplate a length of rope that does not slacken from the pull of gravity—a force that has been neutralized by the bronze. Throughout the exhibition we constantly question how these sculptures came to take on these particular arrangements. Perhaps it is because Swallow is a bricoleur—an uncommon mind with the unique skill to cull the marvelous from the ordinary through playful and surreal transmutations and juxtapositions.

Alex Bacon

Hope Gangloff

Susan Inglett Gallery
522 West 24 Street
March 18, 2017–April 22, 2017

Hope Gangloff, Wigmore in Leucadia, 2017, acrylic and cut paper on canvas, 72 x 108".

Hope Gangloff’s latest solo show approaches painting with the medium’s history close at hand. The works sit comfortably within genre—portraiture, still life—but we instantly recognize her subjects as familiar and utterly contemporary. Consider the men that appear in works such as Ebon in Studio Light and Ryan Hart (all works 2017). Gangloff renders their scruffy beards, plain clothes, and casual hairstyles with a rare talent—not too unlike Alice Neel or Sylvia Sleigh—firmly planting them within the now and simultaneously well beyond. Her subjects, like Neel and Sleigh’s, are often friends, drawn from her own intimate, bohemian circle.

Gangloff’s artistic bloodline is rich, as her formal stylings are a confluence of painting’s best and brightest: Degas, Van Gogh, Cassatt, Matisse, Klimt, Schiele. Picasso’s Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, 1920, seems to function as a kind of template for her exquisite use of line. Her larger-than-life Wigmore in Leucadia and Last Fourth certainly share Picasso’s approach to modeling a body’s extremities, especially in the way she gracefully renders the limbs of the wanly macho guys of her milieu. This sensitivity, with just a trace of the dandy, suffuses the way she handles their faces, too.

One could call the artist’s palette neo-Fauvist: Deep ultramarines, pallid greens, and washed-out yellows commingle with fluorescent reds, oranges, and violets in expert, novel combinations. Gangloff paints the people and poses of everyday life—but with her generous vision and expert hands, they pass from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Nathaniel Lee

Anne Ryan

DAVIS & LANGDALE COMPANY, INC.
231 East 60 Street
January 31, 2017–April 22, 2017

Anne Ryan, Untitled (No. 435), 1952, mixed media, 8 x 7".

In 1948, six years before her death at the age of sixty-five, the poet Anne Ryan discovered the collages of Kurt Schwitters and likened the artistic technique to a visual sonnet. One can see why; both modes often scrape together disparate materials—haptic or not—to evoke a highly compressed self-expression. Ryan soon became an ardent collagist, creating hundreds of works. Unlike Matisse, who approached the same medium in his own final years, Ryan kept her compositions small. Confected from textiles as well as scavenged objects such as twine, paper, mesh, and feathers, the twenty abstract assemblages displayed here are multitudinous, by turns amoebic and explosive, vibrant and subdued.

Untitled (No. 435), 1952, fashions a crude kaleidoscope out of pastel blues, greens, tans, pinks, and periwinkles. A couple of pasted papers appear to be singed. At its top, a piece of gilded foil, like candy-wrapper shrapnel, glints.

The show’s centerpiece and largest collage, Untitled (No. 618), circa 1948–54, is gauzed entirely with skin-shaded patches. Pale hues of sand and marmoreal bisque plunge softly into deeper tones of ecru and beige, where dried glue puckers beneath the surface into tiny alpine textures. In other works, fibrous honeycombs stretch across mundane and bizarre decoupage. A tender crescent moon makes an appearance. Embracing quieter colors and quotidian materials, the collages’ presence might feel humble—the artist even signed them in pencil—yet their aura lingers, like some half-remembered dream. Ryan’s late move to collage, itself a biographical volta, shunted her legacy firmly into the context of Abstract Expressionism, where she’s been relatively overlooked. Yet to say Ryan did not devote those last years to poetry begins to feel, after seeing this show, somehow mistaken.

Zack Hatfield

Allan McCollum

Mary Boone Gallery | Chelsea
541 West 24th Street
March 4, 2017–April 22, 2017

Allan McCollum, Collection of Two Hundred and Forty Lost Objects, 1991, 240 cast concrete dinosaur bones, dimensions variable.

I was midway through a Google image search when I descended into the subway. My cell-phone service flickered out before the results could fully load, leaving the screen crowded with uneven rectangles of gray, tan, and black. When the pictures materialized a few moments later, I felt disappointed. In their chrysalis state, they were full of possibility. Now, they were dead ends.

I was reminded of this experience later in the day while visiting Allan McCollum’s “Lost Objects.” Throughout his decades-long career, McCollum has created hundreds of plaster casts in the shape of framed artworks with black centers. For this exhibition—the artist’s first at this gallery—curator Piper Marshall paired several of these Plaster Surrogates, 1982–, with a video titled May I Help You?, 1991, a collaboration between McCollum and Andrea Fraser. In it, an actress playing a gallery docent gives a tour of a room packed with Surrogates, stopping to describe different pieces in detail. She gestures to these black rectangles as if each of them were wildly different—one a pastoral landscape, perhaps; another a gestural abstraction.

McCollum’s uniform black canvases do not function as voids but rather as prompts for stories and fantasies. The two other works on view similarly seek to imbue plain or familiar items with a sense of intrigue or the uncanny. The main room hosts Collection of Two Hundred and Forty Lost Objects, 1991, a dizzying display of cast dinosaur bones; and in the back room, Marshall has hung a selection from Actual Photos, 1985, a project done with Laurie Simmons, featuring photographs of toy figurines shot with a microscopic lens to reveal their deformities and differences.

Hannah Stamler

“ONE.”

WE BUY GOLD
387a Nostrand Ave
March 19, 2017–April 24, 2017

Harold Mendez, let X stand, if it can for the one’s unfound (After Proceso Pentágono) II, 2016, ink and toner on paper mounted on Sintra, 29 1/2 x 19 1/2".

Inaugurating a Bedford-Stuyvesant art space named after the neighborhood’s cash-for-gold shops, the exhibition “ONE.” traffics in sobering monochromes rather than glittery baubles. The three exhibiting artists are united in their desire to explore how political abstractions become tools of oppression. Yet that doesn’t mean their works rely on representational tactics that are easily digestible. Torkwase Dyson reveals how environmental degradation, architecture, and racial injustice are intertwined. The artist gives us two new reliefs, subjective interpretations of black architecture, such as nomadic structures, that relate to her concept of black compositional thought. She affixes wire forms to simplified, architectural-seeming abstract panels. Before Black Mountain and the Anthropocene (Tuareg Women: Namadcity), 2017, references the Tuareg Saharan tribe, a matrilineal society that favors radical female sexual liberation.

Renee Gladman’s drawings are composed of letter-like forms that arc into sketches of densely populated city skylines. Some are overlaid with expressionistic washes of gouache. The effect recalls Conceptual forebears such as Robert Smithson’s A Heap of Language, 1966, or Jackson Mac Low’s densely scrawled, illegible poems from the 1990s. It also suggests the ultimate incommensurability of text and lived experience.

Los Angeles–based Harold Mendez’s work, also currently on view at the Whitney Biennial, finds more breathing room here. Untitled (Death Mask), 2015, consists of an oxidized copper replica of a pre-Columbian death mask in a singed cardboard container. For let X stand, if it can for the one’s unfound (After Proceso Pentágono) II, 2016, he distressed and reprinted a photo by the Mexican antiauthoritarian art collective Grupo Proceso Pentágono. The image shows decontextualized violence—a man being punched in the face and electrocuted by attackers whose identities lie outside the frame. It’s a staggering image, especially in a moment when the question of representation (in the sense of who speaks for whom) is igniting the art world.

Wendy Vogel

Rene Ricard

Half Gallery
43 East 78th Street
March 29, 2017–April 26, 2017

View of “Rene Ricard: So, Who Left Who?,” 2017.

The poet Rene Ricard, who died in 2014, was once called “as hip as it gets . . . but he wasn’t cool.” There’s nothing cool about staking your own heart before a hardened audience. And in a post-Barthes world, neither is lavishing your authorial signature all over everything. “Rene Ricard,” or his initials, often scrawled on the works here, are at the same scale as his painted poems, which are accusations, recriminations, reproaches, and, of course, odes. Over and over, spoken and written, he insisted on his name, not as a point of pride but rather as resignation to an inescapable fate. What a pity, having to be nothing but yourself when everything else can be taken away.

Quite a few of these paintings, dating back as far as the 1980s––in addition to a 1977 video of the artist reading on a DIY TV program called Public Access Poetry—have never been shown before, and they don’t feel like they were made to be shared with many. These bombastic, declarative things seem best suited to showing up unannounced and unasked for, like missiles. The oil-on-canvas Untitled (‘Then If God Is Love…’), 2003, takes that first phrase over a generic black-and-white landscape and finishes it off with “There is no god.” R. R. was not here to help a girl out. The hasty look of Ricard’s works would seem to confirm that they didn’t have to be paintings at all. But we might listen better when the message is writ large, hung, and awaiting our reception. The targets we hope to reach via poetry are often missed, “and the heart slithers back under its rock,” as Ricard eloquently states in the video. At least the painted messenger can hover in your periphery, or color your vision.

Paige K. Bradley

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

“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

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

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue
January 11, 2017–April 30, 2017

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

Ken Tisa

Gordon Robichaux
41 Union Square West, #925, Enter on 17th Street)
February 26, 2017–April 30, 2017

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

Eva O’Leary

CRUSH CURATORIAL
526 West 26th Street, Suite 709
April 6, 2017–May 6, 2017

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

Postcommodity

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
March 25, 2017–May 6, 2017

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, 2017–May 6, 2017

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

Leslie Hewitt

Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
530 West 22nd Street
April 7, 2017–May 13, 2017

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

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

EFA Project Space
323 West 39th Street, 2nd Floor
March 31, 2017–May 13, 2017

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

Bryson Rand

La MaMa Galleria
47 Great Jones Street
April 13, 2017–May 13, 2017

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

Trish Tillman

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street
April 6, 2017–May 13, 2017

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

“March Madness”

Fort Gansevoort Gallery
5 Ninth Avenue
March 16, 2017–May 13, 2017

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

Stephen Irwin

INVISIBLE-EXPORTS
89 Eldridge Street
April 7, 2017–May 14, 2017

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

Arthur Russell

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) | Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue
March 1, 2017–May 14, 2017

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

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

Interference Archive
131 8th Street, No. 4
January 26, 2017–May 14, 2017

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

Sara Cwynar

Foxy Production
2 East Broadway, 200
April 7, 2017–May 14, 2017

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

Nickolaus Typaldos

Marvin Gardens
1532 Decatur Street
April 7, 2017–May 14, 2017

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

Andrew Ross

False Flag
25-20 43rd Ave, Long Island City
April 15, 2017–May 15, 2017

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

Aaron Johnson

Joshua Liner Gallery
540 West 28th Street, Ground floor
April 20, 2017–May 20, 2017

Aaron Johnson, Gone Truckin’, 2017, acrylic on polyester knit mesh, 56 x 60".

Aaron Johnson’s grotesquely distorted figures revel in working-class American pastimes—indeed, comparing them to Trump’s “deplorables” is inevitable. Johnson’s paintings are created with several different techniques: One uses a sheet of stretched plastic where images are painted backward with layers of acrylic polymer then peeled off and adhered to polyester knit mesh; another utilizes donated socks and acrylic paint to build up a three-dimensional surface. In Gone Fishin’, 2017, a man and woman ride a ramshackle canoe, dining on hamburgers, pizza, and red wine as hungry birds overhead grab both their food and the fish swimming below. The textural detail achieved with the painted and molded socks creates horrific-looking human skin and a swirling, tumultuous blue-green sea, turning this normally tranquil hobby into an all-out war for junk-food nourishment. One of the reverse paintings, Gone Truckin’, 2017, features a heterosexual couple embraced in a kiss as they are violently thrown through the windshield of their pickup truck, which has hit a deer, while two individuals in the cargo bed play music on a violin and guitar, seemingly oblivious to the bloodshed. The works share a sense of bawdy chaos, their characters trapped in a myopic, me-first philosophy.

In a related body of works on paper, Johnson blots paint, à la Max Ernst, to create various forms and textures. A gruesome scene develops in Law and Order, 2016, where a cast of miscreants around a dinner table seems ready to cannibalize a splayed nude body. No one notices a policeman shooting a fowl-headed figure in the heart, as they are too busy with their immoral appetites.

Chris Bors

Jerry Blackman

Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
120 Essex Street, inside Essex Street Market
April 19, 2017–May 21, 2017

View of “Jerry Blackman: Undone Yin Yang,” 2017.

A nonlinear notion of time—where past and future coincide, cycling in an eternal return—is represented by Jerry Blackman’s forever-unfinished artworks here. Huddled in the middle of the space, archaic-looking disks in gray, blue, and cream indicate a turn toward the past (all works untitled and 2017). These process-based, freestanding sculptures, created with equal parts water and plaster dust, seem prepared to roll away at any moment—a pair of them jump out from the gallery’s walls. The show feels like a dusty, crumbling excavation site. A round, smoky platform grounds the rest of the pieces in the room, establishing a kind of order and solidity for the jutting, impermanent structures.

Hung on the surrounding walls in five sets of two are sleek graphite drawings that evoke the smooth perfection of a utopian future. Reminiscent of Sol LeWitt’s A sphere lit from the top, four sides, and all their combinations, 2004, the drawings indistinctly separate the darkness of yin from the light of yang, proving that one cannot appear without the other. Set in bleak frames that match the walls, the diptychs, symmetrical and modern, also appear strangely antiquated. Time operates on numerous registers in Blackman’s immersive tableau, seducing and confusing the viewer. The tension he creates settles on a temporal area where the only possible moment of recognition is now.

Samuel Argyle

Céline Condorelli

P!
334 Broome Street
April 23, 2017–May 21, 2017

View of “Céline Condorelli: Epilogue,” 2017.

“Epilogue,” the architect-artist Céline Condorelli’s current exhibition about exhibitions marks the swan song of P!, Prem Krishnamurthy’s “mom-and-pop Kunsthalle,” which has, in its fleeting five years, staged more than forty shows and offsite projects, many of them prodding the fraught marriage of form and the social. A happy pairing, then, as Condorelli’s work has long been invested in ransacking the political implications of historical models of display while proposing new ones. Here, the artist, in the spirit of the gallery, is reflexive: The exhibition takes as fodder the institutional memory of the space while it considers the ways in which display—already a practice of hiding and revealing—is historicized. Condorelli finds the conceit of the afterimage useful. In the print It’s All True, 2017, P!’s storefront is obscured with a palimpsest of its past shows; After Image (Bayer), 2017, is composed of a series of graphic vinyl forms adhered to the front window, which fractures and flattens our view into or out of the gallery.

Condorelli takes on an interlocutor in Bauhaus polymath Herbert Bayer, a seminal if controversial figure in the history of exhibition design. (Though Bayer’s sympathies were ultimately unclear, he designed propaganda for the Nazi party.) She includes his 1930 drawing/collage Extended Field of Vision, where an eye in a suit (think of art collective/rock band the Residents) stands before a field of variously hinged planes, their vectors demonstrating the reach of his vision—Bayer was already attuned to the extreme demands the media puts on our attention. The work is installed on a brick substrate that was exposed by the artist when she excised a piece of the gallery’s plaster wall. She repurposed the removed part to make an upholstered bench (Alteration to Existing Conditions [II], 2017), a support for conversation. Indeed, though the gallery’s legacy will be compressed into digital impressions, it will likewise be fleshed out anew in discursive space.

Annie Godfrey Larmon

“Body Language”

COMPANY
88 Eldridge Street, 5th Floor
April 20, 2017–May 21, 2017

View of “Body Language,” 2017.

The body, in its irrationality and potential for extinction, overwhelms language. This group show, with its melancholic and liberatory overtones, gestures toward that idea. Forcing a strict divide between language and movement, niv Acosta’s digital film Clapback, 2016, brings together sequences from a performance that debuted at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. Part of the video presents questions accompanied by house music. The queries alternate between the stuff of social-media surveys (“Kissed any of your Facebook friends?” “Slept in until 5PM?”) to items directed toward specific identity groups (“Do you have more than one black friend?” “Fled from your country of origin?”). A list of names—the victims of police violence—flash in staccato, which are then abruptly replaced by a slowed-down view of Acosta from the back, twerking for minutes against an animated outer-space background. The artist memorializes the dead through physical, eroticized labor.

Visions of the future become interlaced with humor and nostalgia in Jacolby Satterwhite’s collaborations with his late mother, Patricia. He pairs family photos with her drawings of imaginary QVC products, made as part of her psychotherapy program. In the video The Matriarch’s Rhapsody, 2012, Satterwhite animates his mother’s hand-drawn designs—sometimes practical (an electric pencil sharpener), sometimes absurd (a “cock on wheels”)—as rotating, three-dimensional forms. Sometimes he demonstrates her inventions while vogueing in fantastical getups. A similarly hand-made, searching sensibility infuses Tschabalala Self’s mixed-media work Flower Girl, 2017, in which a voluptuous female figure and its dark shadow sprout delicate blossoms from their mouths, craned skyward in a laugh or scream.

Jimmy DeSana’s Cibachrome photographs lit in juicy, saturated colors—private performances for the camera that recall burlesque and punk ballet—anchor these younger artists in a lineage of queer aesthetics. DeSana’s untimely death from AIDS in 1990 is a sobering reminder of the way othered bodies become both politicized and precarious.

Wendy Vogel

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

Daniele Milvio

Downs & Ross | 55 Chrystie Street
55 Chrystie Street, Suite 203
April 30–May 28

Downs & Ross | 106 Eldridge Street
106 Eldridge Street
April 30–May 28

View of “Daniele Milvio,” 2017.

Daniele Milvio’s recent works feel like an unholy amalgamation of Cy Twombly’s beautifully loopy imagery and Anselme Bellegarrigue’s Anarchist Manifesto (1850). A number of Milvio’s smaller pieces, dark and ethereal things, are covered with swirling, barely legible script on linden wood supports. A snippet of text in Mastro Titta (all works cited, 2017)—the nickname for Giovanni Battista Bugatti, the Papal States’ head executioner from 1796 to 1865—reveals that they are menus for a spezzatino, or stew, of neoliberals, among other sorts of folk. Nearby, two larger paintings (Teresa! Senti Quanto Pesa! [Teresa! How Heavy It Is!] and Sire, Il Cicalaro [Sire, the Gabber]) anchor the show. In both pictures, rows of party people are violently murdered, via decapitation or throat-slitting. As the menu paintings suggest, they’ll be the main ingredients for a tasty cannibalistic repast. A sculptural trio of bloody heads, all untitled, sit on pikes—they’d make Salome proud. And metal chains, fixed to the walls by grotesque little creatures, recall Renaissance door knockers or accoutrements for an s/m dungeon.

Milvio’s fusion of madness, human-flesh-eating, and dark humor is political theater à la Grand Guignol. His destruction is gleeful, satanic—rich with vengeance, loaded with spite. Such a purgative bacchanal would be useful to many a contemporary appetite in this age of evil power-grabbing and demagoguery. Of course, you can’t take Milvio’s exhibition as an act of capitalist and social critique too seriously, but you certainly don’t want to undermine the liberating schadenfreude such a nasty vision has to offer.

Nicholas Chittenden Morgan

David Novros

Paula Cooper Gallery | 534 West 21st Street
534 West 21st Street
April 27–June 2

David Novros, Untitled, 1975, oil on canvas, 117 x 168 x 2".

David Novros’s current exhibition comprises four paintings and four works on paper from the 1970s. All postdate his first site-specific fresco from 1970, which was commissioned by Donald Judd for his Spring Street residence in New York City. Novros, so much more than a Minimalist, is interested in continuing the tradition of painting as an immersive, site-specific experience—as it is in Paleolithic cave art, Byzantine mosaics, and Renaissance frescos—one that can profoundly alter its surrounding architecture.

Untitled, 1975, is a large-scale work painted with luminescent monochromatic blocks assembled into two unconventionally shaped canvases evoking basic post-and-lintel construction, or a fragmented pictorial rectangle. His palette is restrained and often evokes the richness of earth and unpolished stones, as in the tripartite Lent Painting, 1975, which is full of glossy blacks, dusty reds, and greens.

Novros understands that paintings are objects, as have many in the generation of artists with whom he came of age. But he also senses the importance of allowing painterly intuition to take control. Perhaps the most important thing he shares with his Minimalist peers and the lineage of in situ art to which he responds is the desire to activate the viewer as he or she takes in the work. For example, in Untitled (Frog Altar), 1975, the work changes, tonally and physically, as we walk from one side of the piece to the other—as do we, phenomenologically speaking. This bodily engagement through the artist’s reductive painterly facture is the reason Novros was one of the handful of painters Judd supported, and it is also what makes Novros relevant today.

Alex Bacon

Will Eisner

Society of Illustrators
128 E 63rd St
March 1–June 3

Will Eisner, Il Duce’s Locket, 1947, ink on paper, 16 x 23". Title page for The Spirit, May 25, 1947.

Will Eisner was one of the most influential and trailblazing comic-book artists in his field, and this retrospective underlines the power of his legacy. Stories about his costumed crime fighter, the Spirit, were published from 1940 to 1952 as a stand-alone comic-book supplement in American Sunday papers. The Spirit—a sophisticated narrative written for an adult audience—was acclaimed for its cinematic compositions (think Orson Welles, Fritz Lang) and innovative use of the splash panel, in which a single image takes up the entirety of the page. Eisner redrew the title logo frequently to fit the mood or theme of every new tale. More than forty of his original Spirit pages are on display, including images of the story Quirte from November 21, 1948, where he relayed the plot through the eyes of the antagonist, a creepy narrative device used much later in John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween.

Eisner reinvented himself in the 1970s when he discovered the work of underground comic artists such as Robert Crumb, who unabashedly accessed the full depths of his imagination. Although not a fan of the pornographic content, Eisner realized through their example that there was an opportunity to create something more personally satisfying, and he set to work on A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories (1978), a historical, slice-of-life piece about Jews living in Depression-era New York City—the book popularized the designation “graphic novel.” Contract’s lead story is partially based on Eisner losing his daughter to leukemia when she was sixteen. The graphic novel, with its exquisite draftsmanship and dramatic pacing, is nonetheless a realistic and haunting depiction of ethnic identity and the human condition. This and other of Eisner’s literary masterpieces profoundly shaped the medium and were harbingers of Art Spiegelman’s landmark Maus (1991) and Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World (1997).

Chris Bors

“Soft Skills”

The James Gallery, CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, The City University of New York
April 14–June 3

Danielle Dean, Pleasure to Burn, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 7 minutes 42 seconds.

Martha Rosler’s text and image work Know Your Servant Series, #1: North American Waitress, Coffee Shop Variety, 1976, includes a list of remarks concerning the ideal female server, suggesting that she should be forthcoming but in the background, kind but impersonal, and a hard worker who never breaks a sweat. This group exhibition plays up such contradictions of feminized work while emphasizing its performative aspects and the real labor it requires to produce pleasure for others. Here, pieces associated with second-wave feminism such as Rosler’s are positioned alongside younger artists’ output no doubt informed by that generation. The show thus opens up an art-historical gamut, but it also addresses the socioeconomic shifts within it: the increase of women in the labor market as well as the surge of service-sector, “pink-collar” jobs, not necessarily performed by women.

Productive juxtapositions highlight latencies in older artworks that yield contemporary resonances. Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (I am your reservoir of poses), 1982, lays out the title’s parenthetical phrase in the artist’s signature typeface beneath a large sun hat masking a woman’s body. In the context of the exhibition, Kruger’s image, once connoting the female body in art history, now provides a reading in which stereotypically female qualities—empathy, subservience, flexibility—become models for a precarious workforce to follow.

Danielle Dean’s Pleasure to Burn, 2012, expands upon Kruger. In an office-like setting, four women (two of color, two white) take turns repeating phrases to one another in emotional registers ranging from glee to despair—such as “wipe that smile on your face” and “laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color”—derived from ads targeting female consumers. In this racialized dramatization, the attitudes aren’t just imposed by some external patriarchal order; they are also internalized and reproduced in subtle interactions and gritted smiles between women.

Sarah Lookofsky

Adriana Ramić

Kimberly-Klark
788 Woodward Avenue
April 29–June 4

View of “Adriana Ramić: Machine that the larvae of configuration,” 2017.

A wall-to-wall landscape of fragrant herbs, green moss, and wildflowers fills the gallery with the sweet, aromatic perfume of a garden at morning. For her first solo exhibition, Adriana Ramić has built an ecosystem, titled Every time step that passes has a cost of one (all works 2017), specifically designed to entice ladybugs. In stark contrast to this natural scenery, hundreds of printed images—what the artist describes as flashcards—cascade down the gallery walls, depicting plants, mysterious diagrams, toxic-waste barrels, elephants, kitties, and balaclavas, among countless other things.

The flashcards are the result of an optical character recognition program that has been coded by the artist to reconfigure images into text—not too unlike what Google Books uses to convert analog type into searchable information. From a suite of thirty generic photos of ladybugs in Key (on display in a small dark room at the rear of the gallery), the program translates the pictures to letters of the Serbo-Croatian alphabet, which then become the immense flashcard backdrop to the very curious work of Land art—it’s as if you’re traversing Walter de Maria’s 1977 New York Earth Room reimagined by Mark Zuckerberg.

Ramić’s show confuses the distinctions between computer programming and the networks of complex systems that govern life. Caught squarely in this uncanny matrix are the gallery’s visitors, who are asked to wear sterile coverings over their shoes before entering the space, so as to avoid disturbing the fragile ecosystem. Flooded by stimuli in every direction, one feels like a complete stranger in the very world that we inhabit daily.

Gabriel H. Sanchez

Peter Howson

Flowers Gallery
529 W 20th St
May 3–June 10

Peter Howson, Prophecy, 2016, oil on canvas, 72 x 96 1/2".

Scottish artist Peter Howson is known for dramatic paintings of brutal melees in urban settings and muscular working-class men in noble combat or heroic poses. Elements of his own tumultuous experiences are often writ large, including his upbringing in a God-fearing environment and his struggles with depression, Asperger’s syndrome, alcohol, and drugs. In 1993, he was Britain’s official artist for the Bosnian conflict. In this role he created a work so horrifying that London’s Imperial War Museum, which had commissioned him, did not accept it into the permanent collection. During a 2000 treatment for addiction, he became a born-again Christian. These themes coalesce with calamitous, biblical frenzy in his current show.

Of several large canvases the principle work is Prophecy, 2016—also the title of the exhibition—a vicious nighttime street battle thick with fighters clamoring toward a central crucified Christ. The baroque cavalcade of ogreish figures and folkloric fiends stretches from spire to gutter as they wield blood-curdling medieval weaponry. Minarets and stone crosses tumble, flags of ISIS and the United States flail, all of which is illuminated by the baleful glow of lanterns and a distant moon. This desperate wreckage of humanity, just shy of being historicist kitsch, is nevertheless moving.

Human-giant hybrids with blistered complexions make up a suite of smaller, divisionist oil-on-gesso panels. While they suffer from a compressed scale, Whoin? Warum? Wie? Where? Why? How?, 2017, depicting a shirtless hulk holding flaming torches, is an unnerving symbol of socialist zeal and tortured resistance. These unabashedly religious works—a quality often shunned in contemporary art—are gripping in their evocation of the church’s barbarous legacy and an apocalypse perhaps only moments away.

Darren Jones

Nancy Spero

Galerie Lelong | New York
528 West 26th Street
April 27–June 17

Nancy Spero, Maypole: Take No Prisoners (detail), 2007, hand-printing on aluminum, ribbon, steel chain, aluminum pole with steel base, dimensions variable.

This exhibition presents Nancy Spero’s contribution to the Fifty-Second Venice Biennale for the first time in the United States. For her large-scale sculpture Maypole: Take No Prisoners, 2007, the late artist transformed a maypole—that folksy emblem of rebirth and community—into a monument to violence, national culpability, and complicity. Ribbons in cheery reds flow from a central beam strung not with flowers but with aluminum tragedy masks that wear contorted, aggrieved expressions. Some have mouths agape in Munchian howls; others spew gore that darts from their jaws like sharpened daggers. On the gallery’s white walls, the tangle of ribbons and ghoulish faces casts shadows that evoke lynching scenes.

The installation, conceived as a comment on the Iraq war, is paired with small gouache and ink drawings from Spero’s “War Series,” made between 1966 and 1970, at the height of the war in Vietnam. The selection includes Maypole/Kill Commies, 1967, which depicts this festive symbol topped with an American flag and weighted down by severed heads haloed in smudged red blood—a precursor to her 2007 piece. Female Bomb, 1966, personifies an explosive as a barren woman, with poisoned, retching skulls where her breasts and womb should be. Helicopter and Victims, 1967, imagines the titular aircraft as a prickly metal dragon that rains a mist of human waste and bones.

Art cannot prevent war. But Spero’s dark and expressionistic work suggests that there are few things more effective at conveying its horror and malignancy.

Hannah Stamler

Cameron Jamie

Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St
530 West 21st Street
April 28–June 17

Cameron Jamie, BB, 1998–2000, Super 8 film transferred to 35 mm, black and white, sound, 18 minutes 20 seconds.

Documentary footage of violence that is dramatized or frivolous risks feeling naive at best and at worst like an ominous rehearsal. Fortunately, these pitfalls are evaded in the current exhibition of three films by Cameron Jamie, portraying ceremonies within different masculine subcultures. Perhaps that is because the artist’s interests tend toward the ethnographic. Each work captures rituals that privilege brutality over piety, though the difference is often hard to tell.

In Kranky Klaus, 2002–2003, male participants costumed as the furred, horned Krampus—the devilish cryptid of pagan lore—enact an annual parade of yuletide sadism, terrorizing their small Austrian village and policing the morality of its children. In BB, 1998–2000, the bruising slapstick of teenage savagery, filmed in Super 8, appears nearly transcendent. A wrestling championship held in a backyard in Southern California is shot in black and white, all frantic pans and zooms, contenders often dissolving into blurs then snapped back into focus. Parts of the tournament play out in slow motion. Folding chairs and trash cans are hurled. Chests are beaten. From rooftops, boys splash into bodies panting on a makeshift wrestling ring. Who better to score this rite of suburban survivalism than the Melvins? Their murmuring guitars and hellish drums lend the footage a chthonic tinge.

Massage the History, 2007–2009, is essentially a Sonic Youth music video with an unlikely premise. A middle-class living room in Alabama transforms, to the sound of a haunted acoustic riff, into a site of intimate rediscovery as two men gyrate: on furniture, a Christmas tree, and the plush carpet. “Not everyone makes it out alive,” Kim Gordon sings in a breezy half whisper. One man caresses a tassel hanging from a table, imbuing it with talismanic potential. To belong to these domestic arenas requires bodily transgression, and yet Jamie choreographs innocence as it usually is—neither lost nor found.

Zack Hatfield

“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

“Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction”

MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
April 15–August 13

Běla Kolářová, Five by Four, 1967, wood, paint, metal paper fasteners, 56 x 39 1/2".

Though it feels like a side gallery, this exhibition is more than a side note of inclusion, thanks to curators Starr Figura and Sarah Meister and assistant Hillary Reder’s thoughtfully pared selection from the museum’s holdings. There are few surprises but some terrific anomalies in these five rooms, grouped roughly by theme (Gestural Abstraction, Geometric Abstraction, Reductive Abstraction, Fiber and Line, and Eccentric Abstraction). To wit: Helen Frankenthaler’s Trojan Gates, 1955, opens the show with a hardened enamel luster and feels like an entranceway to something other than her most famous muted stains. Many paintings in this early field, including Elaine de Kooning’s scrappy Bullfight, 1960, and Joan Mitchell’s magisterial Ladybug, 1957, hint pointedly at these doyennes’ fierce struggle for acceptance without any asterisk.

Things cool off in the next room, in which geometric precision takes over from gestural impulse. The stripe shadows of Gego’s stacked iron sculpture Eight Squares, 1961, is a wonderful complement to Gertrudes Altschul’s photographs, which compose abstract geometry from everyday objects. A discovery for me: the unexpected, severe beauty of Běla Kolářová’s Five by Four, 1967, with the punctures and twists of its gridded metal fasteners. Anni Albers’s Free-Hanging Room Divider, 1949, is used to do just that in a hallway of textiles, ceramics, and Lina Bo Bardi’s iconic Poltrona Bowl Chair, 1951. The corridor opens into the clean Minimalism of Jo Baer, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Eleanore Mikus, Bridget Riley, and Anne Truitt.

Yellow Abakan, 1967–68, a magnificent ten-foot sisal wall sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz, who just passed away, appears in my favorite room, with Ruth Asawa’s great suspended wire sculpture (Untitled, ca. 1955) and Lenore Tawney’s Little River Wall Hanging, 1968, whose delicate linen streams form the shape of a coffin. With a collection this strong, there’s no excuse not to make more space for these artists to hold their own in the main fourth- and fifth-floor painting and sculpture galleries.

Prudence Peiffer

Elaine Cameron-Weir

New Museum
235 Bowery
May 3–September 3

View of “Elaine Cameron-Weir: viscera has questions about itself,” 2017.

Elaine Cameron-Weir’s current exhibition, “viscera has questions about itself,” feels like the laboratory/dressing room of a cyborg goddess. Five otherworldly garments and seemingly sentient accouterments occupy the gallery, titled with chopped and spliced phrases such as “subcutanean tantric the skingrip palpable, it” and “body conduit (dish of) psyche’ dissolved” (all works 2017). A long bolt of enameled crocodile-like skin, Snake 8, is draped down to the floor. In the middle of the gallery is a chain-mail garment with metal breasts and spine, subtly echoing Snake 8’s sinuous verticality. Another piece features two mysterious death baguettes nested in twin beds of white sand that are themselves cradled by troughs that look like a pair of extra-long, lace-up slippers. Inside the work’s shoestrings, little pans cook a thick black liquid—labdanum resin that vaporizes a hint of musky perfume.

Toward the rear of the gallery, the sleeves of a parachute-silk tunic hug a blue-neon tube (Lamp with Garment). Elsewhere, a spherical heating mantle on a ring clamp bolted to a rod contains a glass clamshell (Vault). In this work, uncanny metal jaws, labeled a “dental phantom,” are perched atop something that resembles a beaker stand. Cameron-Weir’s objects conjure both the dark romanticism of sacred keepsakes and the sinister functionality of technical devices ready to spring into action. Indeed, modular elements such as electrical conduit tubes and generic sandbag weights temper the moody affect of more sensual materials. This merging of body and machine is characteristic of a paradigm shift toward hybridity that has occurred over the past several decades. As new ontologies and ideas of non-brain-based intelligence gain traction, perhaps we will listen more closely to our viscera’s questions about itself.

Vanessa Thill