reviews

  • Mickalene Thomas, May 1977, 2021, rhinestones, glitter, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 98 1⁄8 × 82 1⁄8".

    Mickalene Thomas, May 1977, 2021, rhinestones, glitter, acrylic, and oil on canvas, 98 1⁄8 × 82 1⁄8".

    Mickalene Thomas

    Lévy Gorvy | New York

    There used to be a joke that went around the art world: When is a painting finished? The answer: When it goes to the conservator. The truth lurking in this gag addresses the experience of many painters who’ve realized they didn’t always know when to quit. Mickalene Thomas’s strength, in part, resides in the very fine line she walks between a fabulous intricacy and a dizzying overabundance. In her show of collaged canvases here—the first of four successive exhibitions, all to be titled “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” and to be staged throughout the fall at Lévy Gorvy’s other branches, in London,

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  • Laura Parnes, Tour Without End: Twenty-One Portraits and a Protest, 2014–19, digital video, color, sound, 92 minutes. From left: Cameron (Jim Fletcher) and Cookie (Kate Valk).

    Laura Parnes, Tour Without End: Twenty-One Portraits and a Protest, 2014–19, digital video, color, sound, 92 minutes. From left: Cameron (Jim Fletcher) and Cookie (Kate Valk).

    Laura Parnes

    Pioneer Works

    Guilt frames Laura Parnes’s feature-length video Tour Without End: Twenty-One Portraits and a Protest, 2014–19, on view as part of the artist’s multiplatform installation at Pioneer Works. In its opening sequence, Joan (played by musician Lizzi Bougatsos) sings a song on-screen in a voice that’s at once sultry and girlish: “I feel guilt / I feel guilt / Though I know I’ve done no wrong I feel guilt.” As her lament continues, Parnes cuts moments later to a view out a car window through which we see a sign declaring HILLARY FOR PRISON 2016, then to a white lifted truck flying an American flag,

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  • Hugh Hayden, Good Hair 2, 2021, wooden desk, Tampico, nylon, epoxy, 33 1⁄2 × 24 × 27". From the series “Good Hair,” 2021.

    Hugh Hayden, Good Hair 2, 2021, wooden desk, Tampico, nylon, epoxy, 33 1⁄2 × 24 × 27". From the series “Good Hair,” 2021.

    Hugh Hayden

    Lisson Gallery | 504 West 24th Street | New York

    Sculptor Hugh Hayden has enjoyed quick success, his work interrogating the idea of the American dream, often symbolized through the kitchen table, to explore class, aspiration, and the African origins of American cuisine, especially in the South. Hayden’s strength lies in his skillful use of wood—specific types of which he often sources from particular places for their cultural and historical import—as both material and symbol. His exhibition here, titled after his pet name, “Huey,” drew on memories of his Texas upbringing to tackle the knotty subject of African American childhood through

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  • Janaina Tschäpe, Blue Moon, 2021, casein, oil stick, and oil pastel on canvas, 9' 8" × 12' 11".

    Janaina Tschäpe, Blue Moon, 2021, casein, oil stick, and oil pastel on canvas, 9' 8" × 12' 11".

    Janaina Tschäpe

    Sean Kelly Gallery

    Symphonic constellations of velvety color swirled over and through the six paintings in Janaina Tschäpe’s solo exhibition here. Immediately commanding attention, they constituted the artist’s response to the drama of nature as experienced during the pandemic lockdowns, first in the countryside near São Paulo, and then in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. Whereas the theme of the elements has run through much of her art, these works, alongside seven accompanying drawings, departed from earlier allusions to the lushness and beauty of the outdoors in favor of a focus on its power, in particular

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  • View of “Michael Dean,” 2021. From left: Unfucking Titled Poor [Verso], 2021; Unfucking Titled Free, 2021; Unfucking Titled Free, 2021.

    View of “Michael Dean,” 2021. From left: Unfucking Titled Poor [Verso], 2021; Unfucking Titled Free, 2021; Unfucking Titled Free, 2021.

    Michael Dean

    Andrew Kreps Gallery

    Turner-nominated artist Michael Dean, a soft-spoken and sweary Geordie sculptor in his mid-forties, considers himself, above all else, a writer. Typically angular, vaguely anthropomorphized forms made from everyday construction materials such as concrete, corrugated metal, and plywood, his installations develop from his impulse to transform the solitary experience of putting words on a page into something that you can walk around and touch. On the main floor of Dean’s first exhibition at Andrew Kreps, nine freestanding concrete-and-steel sculptures were arranged across the length of the gallery

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  • Brea Souders, Untitled #26 (from Vistas), 2019, watercolor on ink-jet print, 12 1⁄2 × 10".

    Brea Souders, Untitled #26 (from Vistas), 2019, watercolor on ink-jet print, 12 1⁄2 × 10".

    Brea Souders

    Bruce Silverstein Gallery

    It is not easy to make an imaginative photograph, because the document tends to solidify whatever it re-presents: The camera’s eye is not unlike Medusa’s, turning everything it sees into stone—petrifying it so that it loses subjective import, becomes hard matter of fact however much it is felt (or romanticized) by the person taking the picture. The camera’s ruthless gaze traps consciousness in reification, as Theodor Adorno surmised. According to the German philosopher, under the “total spell” of the camera’s view, “the subject is lifeless,” despite the artist’s attempt to infuse the photograph

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  • Geoffrey Young, Portal (for Nellie McKay), 2020, colored pencil on paper, 11 × 11". From “Colored Pencil Redux.”

    Geoffrey Young, Portal (for Nellie McKay), 2020, colored pencil on paper, 11 × 11". From “Colored Pencil Redux.”

    “Colored Pencil Redux”

    McKenzie Fine Art Inc.

    Do real artists use colored pencils? Not often, I suppose—it’s something more readily associated with hobbyists, dilettantes—so when they do, there must be a good reason for it. “Colored Pencil Redux” was the follow-up to a show of works in this sidelined medium mounted at McKenzie Fine Art in 2019. Judging by the nearly fifty abstractions on paper by sixteen artists in this recent iteration, the explanation might involve a desire to make space for qualities of obsessiveness, eccentricity, and self-indulgence that are all too often ironed out of professional-grade artwork. Hallmarks of most of

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  • Marcia Schvartz, Erinia (el misterio del arte) (Erinyes [The Mystery of Art]), 2003, mixed media on canvas, 59 × 78 3⁄4".

    Marcia Schvartz, Erinia (el misterio del arte) (Erinyes [The Mystery of Art]), 2003, mixed media on canvas, 59 × 78 3⁄4".

    Marcia Schvartz

    55 Walker

    “Mom was an academic, but I had an irresistible attraction to the old Peronists,” Marcia Schvartz told an interviewer in 2012, “tough old ladies, very strong, with painted pearly nails and rollers.” One perhaps encountered such a figure—the pink, plump, peroxide-blonde materfamilias of Alegría, Alegría, 1976, for instance—in “Marcia Schvartz: Works, 1976–2018.” This vital show was the first US survey devoted to the Buenos Aires–based artist, who is best known for her unflinching paintings of individuals, subcultures, and classes in the time of Argentina’s Dirty War and its aftermath. The exhibition

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  • Agatha Wojciechowsky, Untitled, 1970, pastel on paper, 13 1⁄2 × 13".

    Agatha Wojciechowsky, Untitled, 1970, pastel on paper, 13 1⁄2 × 13".

    Agatha Wojciechowsky

    Andrew Edlin Gallery

    Death is met by sweetness and light in the ebullient, ethereal work of Agatha Wojciechowsky (1896–1986), a renowned spirit medium, teacher, artist, and healer whose drawings, paintings, and sundry personal effects were on display here in a modest but moving presentation titled “Spirits Among Us.”

    Wojciechowsky (née Wehner) was born in Steinach, Germany, came to the United States in 1923, started a family while living in New Jersey, and eventually settled in New York City with her husband, Leo, and two children, Ingeborg and William Roland. She was keenly aware of her preternatural gifts for a

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  • Jennifer Carvalho, Hellmouth, 2020, oil on canvas, 16 × 20".

    Jennifer Carvalho, Hellmouth, 2020, oil on canvas, 16 × 20".

    Jennifer Carvalho

    Helena Anrather

    Jennifer Carvalho’s “Sign of the Times,” her exhibition of fifteen oil paintings at Helena Anrather, pulled the hefty weight of art history into the iffy present. The Canadian artist extracts details from well-known works of art—via cinema, antiquity, and the Renaissance—and reconstitutes them as a trove of murky reliquiae and amputations. She uses a uniformly dark palette, linking disparate eras and iconographies by filtering them through a very particular lens; her subjects are tightly cropped, close up, and dreamily out of focus. In Carvalho’s remakes, aqueous tones and daubed, bleedy lines

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  • Sarah Slappey, Blue Gingham, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas, 80 × 100".

    Sarah Slappey, Blue Gingham, 2021, acrylic and oil on canvas, 80 × 100".

    Sarah Slappey

    Sargent's Daughters

    It’s an accepted idea that unrealistic standards of feminine beauty pushed by fashion magazines and beauty conglomerates have a deleterious effect on society. Most of us enter the prison willingly. Self-care, which emerged as a loosely defined concept of coping with the pressures of modern life (of which looking good is a big one) presents itself as a saner alternative, but has by now been revealed as another trapdoor— a ten-billion-dollar industry that folds beauty into woozy affirmation and pseudo-psychology while reinforcing a kind of solipsism that foists a parallel set of things to buy and

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