reviews

  • Erna Rosenstein, Północ (Portret matki) (Midnight [Portrait of the Artist’s Mother]), 1979, mixed media on canvas, 26 × 20 1⁄8".

    Erna Rosenstein, Północ (Portret matki) (Midnight [Portrait of the Artist’s Mother]), 1979, mixed media on canvas, 26 × 20 1⁄8".

    Erna Rosenstein

    Hauser & Wirth

    Erna Rosenstein (1913–2004) was a Polish Jew and Communist who ended up abjuring her political party when Poland fell to the Soviets after World War II. But she didn’t abandon Judaism, despite the loss of her parents, who were murdered by a bandit while her country was under Nazi occupation. Though terribly disillusioned, she never lost faith in the substantive illusions of art. She was a painter as well as a poet: A member of the avant-garde Kraków Group during the 1930s, she refused to make propagandistic socialist-realist art under Joseph Stalin’s brutal reign.

    This wide-ranging exhibition,

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  • John Currin, Mantis, 2020, oil on canvas, 74 × 39".

    John Currin, Mantis, 2020, oil on canvas, 74 × 39".

    John Currin

    Gagosian | 541 West 24th Street

    Many right-wingers in the United States see Donald Trump as towering, blond, and strong: a homegrown model of the Aryan ideal. In reality, he’s just a little over six feet tall, and the flaxen color of his starchy locks, at least these days, is almost certainly due to something cheap and bottled. “Make America Great Again,” a slogan that’s supposed to evoke visions of a white, postwar, and prosperous US, is corrosive propaganda, a strain of poisonous nostalgia that grows out of troubled times. Trump is a travesty of power and virility, a deep-discount Übermensch who rose from the most abysmal

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  • Suellen Rocca, Departure, 2012, oil on canvas, 30 × 30".

    Suellen Rocca, Departure, 2012, oil on canvas, 30 × 30".

    Suellen Rocca

    Matthew Marks Gallery | 523 West 24th Street

    In art, as in dreams, the everyday often finds itself transposed into the realms of the symbolic, the archetypal. Personal is the word Suellen Rocca (1943–2020) preferred for the simple enough stuff that appears throughout her paintings and drawings: Fish, birds, weeds, boats, chairs, houses, and more populated the twenty-eight works in this moving show, including three oil paintings and five drawings the artist made in the last year of her life. In the mid- to late 1960s, when the young Rocca made her debut alongside the other Chicago-based trickster talents who called themselves the Hairy Who,

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  • SoiL Thornton, “Husband” chair (SC), 2021, vinyl, D-rings, blower tube, Quiet Box blower. Installation view. Photo: Charles Benton.

    SoiL Thornton, “Husband” chair (SC), 2021, vinyl, D-rings, blower tube, Quiet Box blower. Installation view. Photo: Charles Benton.

    “Niloufar Emamifar, SoiL Thornton, and an Oral History of Knobkerry”

    SculptureCenter

    For this exhibition in three separate acts—a sort of nongroup group show—Niloufar Emamifar presented works related to SculptureCenter’s archives, spanning its founding as Clay Club in 1928 to the present. The pieces were displayed in the institution’s lower-level warren of narrow hallways. SoiL Thornton blocked an entryway to this sepulchral space with their enormous “Husband” chair (SC), 2021, a brown-vinyl cube attached to a Quiet Box fan, and exhibited a selection of conceptual garments made from materials such as foil, bells, and wire. Upstairs in a compact reading room were complimentary

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  • Pat O’Neill, The Decay of Fiction, 2002/2018, single-channel 35 mm and 35 mm transferred to digital, five-channel digital edit, color, sound, 11 minutes 30 seconds.

    Pat O’Neill, The Decay of Fiction, 2002/2018, single-channel 35 mm and 35 mm transferred to digital, five-channel digital edit, color, sound, 11 minutes 30 seconds.

    Pat O’Neill

    Mitchell-Innes & Nash | Chelsea

    How does one capture a sense of time bedeviling itself? Experimental filmmaker and artist Pat O’Neill’s show here, “The Decay of Fiction,” interrogated this notion. The first time I visited, I felt as if I were witnessing a palimpsest of hauntings—decades of ghosts sealed inside a building’s many surfaces roaming freely. Yet the second time around I experienced an additional sensation: a sustained feeling of displacement caused less by the spooks’ presence than by an uncanny sense of their being both stuck inside a specific historical moment and forever pushed outside it.

    For The Decay of Fiction

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  • Alvaro Barrington, Black Power, 2021, oil and acrylic on burlap in artist’s wooden frame, steel oil drum, shelf, metal chains, 75 1⁄4 × 103 × 26 1⁄2".

    Alvaro Barrington, Black Power, 2021, oil and acrylic on burlap in artist’s wooden frame, steel oil drum, shelf, metal chains, 75 1⁄4 × 103 × 26 1⁄2".

    Alvaro Barrington

    Nicola Vassell

    Is everything all right over at the New York Times arts desk? In the paper’s review of “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1 this past October, Martha Schwendener devoted whole paragraphs to disparaging the acknowledgment of artists’ ethnic background on wall labels. Three weeks earlier, co-chief art critic Roberta Smith’s write-up on Alvaro Barrington’s recent solo exhibition told visitors to “ignore the overreaching news release at the front desk which ties the artist’s life to that of Marcus Garvey, because of ‘similarities in their migratory paths,’ and consider the work.” Smith then proceeded to

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  • Shannon Cartier Lucy, Dinnertime (Self-Portrait), 2018, oil on canvas, 20 × 31".

    Shannon Cartier Lucy, Dinnertime (Self-Portrait), 2018, oil on canvas, 20 × 31".

    Shannon Cartier Lucy

    Lubov

    A pet Dalmatian cut open on a dissection table, six blackberries strung together with a needle and thread, four pairs of large white panties neatly aligned on an Anatolian rug: The paintings of Shannon Cartier Lucy present a magic realism of precise displacements, suffused with soft kink and macabre sentimentality. The exhibition here, “The Loo Table,” was a follow-up to her 2020 breakthrough debut at Lubov. It was titled after a type of eighteenth-century card table with a foldable top, but the press release encouraged a slippery associative logic: “Loo is the loser, the runaway, a lullaby.”

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  • Beauford Delaney, James Baldwin, 1967, oil on canvas, 39 1⁄4 × 31 3⁄4".

    Beauford Delaney, James Baldwin, 1967, oil on canvas, 39 1⁄4 × 31 3⁄4".

    Beauford Delaney

    Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

    With their intimate scale and close cropping, the nineteen late-career portraits at the center of this small Beauford Delaney survey seemed to conjure up the individuals who surrounded the artist in his adopted home of Paris. Simply composed, paintings such as Untitled (Portrait of a Young Man), ca. 1963, in which a brown-skinned model is set within a background of brilliant-yellow impasto, indicate that portraiture was Delaney’s mode for luscious experimentation with rich color and thickly applied paint. The man’s unguarded expression, an essential feature of the most captivating of these works,

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  • Susan Mastrangelo, Shining Lights, 2020, acrylic paint, yarn, cord filler, fabric, 60 × 48".

    Susan Mastrangelo, Shining Lights, 2020, acrylic paint, yarn, cord filler, fabric, 60 × 48".

    Susan Mastrangelo

    490 Atlantic

    Having flown mostly under the art world’s radar for decades—during which time she’s moved nimbly between abstraction and figuration, primarily in sculpture—Susan Mastrangelo is now doing what looks to me like her best work yet, and it’s painting . . . but only sort of. Her most recent pieces are rectangular and hang on the wall, and there’s even paint on them, but other materials take the leading role. (One might even call her objects polychrome reliefs, to be pedantic about it.) This show, “Safe at Home,” included three smaller works from 2021 (each one thirty inches high by twenty-four inches

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  • View of “David L. Johnson,” 2021. Photo: Sebastian Bach.

    View of “David L. Johnson,” 2021. Photo: Sebastian Bach.

    David L. Johnson

    Theta

    The unlikely affectual centerpiece of David L. Johnson’s inspired New York solo debut here was a silent, slowed-down thirty-six-minute video of a warbler sitting in the middle of a Manhattan sidewalk. Filmed in close-up at ground level in a static single take, the tiny bird had apparently only moments earlier slammed into the glass wall of a Hudson Yards skyscraper it had mistaken for a patch of clear sky. Feathers puffed up and eyes shut tight against the disorientation produced by the collision, the creature sits dazed and motionless—save for the occasional furtive blink—as people pass by to

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  • Janice Nowinski, Nude on a Piano, 2021, oil on panel, 5 × 7".

    Janice Nowinski, Nude on a Piano, 2021, oil on panel, 5 × 7".

    Janice Nowinski

    Thomas Erben Gallery

    The world depicted by painter Janice Nowinski in her exhibition at Thomas Erben Gallery was an alluring one, and not merely because of its fleshy, often naked characters—rendered as solitary figures or arranged into clumpy groupings—that were gleaned from the artist’s personal photographs, evoking works by Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, to name a few. For all their erudition, the twenty-two small-scale oils on view disavowed formal refinement in favor of gestural awkwardness and a rambunctious sense of ambiguity. The gallery walls were partially painted a cool,

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