Jun 16, 2023
What to See in N.Y.C. Galleries in July
Advertisement Supported by By Holland Cotter, Blake Gopnik, Max Lakin, Travis Diehl, Martha Schwendener, Will Heinrich, Dawn Chan, John Vincler, Jillian Steinhauer and Seph Rodney Want to see new art
By Holland Cotter, Blake Gopnik, Max Lakin, Travis Diehl, Martha Schwendener, Will Heinrich, Dawn Chan, John Vincler, Jillian Steinhauer and Seph Rodney
Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Check out “Luxe, Calme, Volupté” on the Lower East Side or “Reclamation” at Hudson Yards. And don’t miss Rachel Rossin’s “mechs” in Chinatown.
Lower East Side
Through Aug. 11. Candice Madey, 1 Rivington Street, Manhattan; 917-415-8655, candicemadey.com
For many young artists in the cash-poor, art-rich East Village of the 1970s and very early 1980s, bathtub-in-kitchen tenement apartments were also studios. You get an immediate sense of forced spatial economy in “Luxe, Calme, Volupté,” a salon-style group show of some 70 works from that time and place, each small enough to have been done on a kitchen table.
The show is a piquant tasting menu of a moment when realist art was suddenly in high flood after a long Minimalist/Conceptualist-induced drought. For a sense of new possibilities explored, or revisited, check out a 1981 Times Square cityscape by Jane Dickson, or Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt’s 1986 altar boy valentine, or a sculpted pair of spike heels (real spikes!) by the great Greer Lankton, or a companionable 1988 trifecta in the form of Gail Thacker’s photograph of Mark Morrisroe photographing Rafael Sánchez.
More than anything, this is a portrait show, of artists’ lovers and friends, almost all artists themselves. Together they define a brief, bright community occupying a gentrifying bit of turf, and a dolorous passage in time: Several of the artists represented here would die of AIDS, with Richard Brintzenhofe, Luis Frangella, Peter Hujar, Nicolas Moufarrege and the experimental photographer Darrel Ellis among the early losses. (The Madey show has been organized by Antonio Sergio Bessa and Allen Frame, curators of the Darrel Ellis retrospective now at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.) Happily, illusions of “luxe, calme and volupté” were still possible when much of what’s here was made. HOLLAND COTTER
Through Aug. 11. Sean Kelly Gallery, 475 10th Avenue, Manhattan; 212-239-1181, skny.com.
For the concluding exhibition of NXTHVN’s graduating fellowship cohort, the artists in this program founded in 2019 by the painter Titus Kaphar and two partners in New Haven, Conn., have produced work that is visually arresting, materially inventive, and takes real risks.
In the group show, “Reclamation,” Donald Guevara has fashioned collages of human limbs, animal appendages and bits of popular iconography mounted amid a rabble of multicolored shards titled “Glitches” (2023). His installation, which reads as a stop-motion blur of activity, brings to mind Sylvia Plath’s line from “Elm”: “a wind of such violence will tolerate no bystanding.” Another highlight is Anindita Dutta’s assemblages that combine black boots and shoes in which the heels are replaced by cruelly curved horns paired with sumptuous leather, cloth and feather textiles. Her series “Sex, Sexuality, and Society” (2023) finds that sweet seam between the phallic and the feminine, making it obvious that clothing really is talismanic conjuring in disguise.
Edgar Serrano’s paintings flirt with horror, but with a light, comical touch. The red-eyed ghoul shrieking underneath a Stahlhelm military helmet in “Doctor Hardcore” (2023) seems both silly and disturbing. Lastly, in the downstairs gallery, Ashanté Kindle’s circular paintings of hairstyling strips and acrylic on wood panel expound on her fascination with Black people’s hair. Her previous work was mostly obsidian, but now has added variegated pigmentation and objects such as hair bows and beads that give the paintings more visual voltage. The entire exhibition is like this work: sensuality embedded in intellectual curiosity. SEPH RODNEY
Through Aug. 11. Magenta Plains, 149 Canal Street, Manhattan; 917-388-2464, magentaplains.com.
The ground floor gallery at Magenta Plains is configured as a chapel — but of what faith? The New York artist Rachel Rossin is as much a programmer as a painter, and her exhibition embroiders the boundaries around “the human” with knowing reverence. On a round LED screen mounted to the ceiling, the video “The Maw Of” pans and zooms through 3-D renderings of disembodied nerves and skeletons, glowing networks, and the orange and blue blobs of bodies viewed in infrared. It’s a celestial tondo of the posthuman, a portal to the angels or their digital avatars. It turns the room red.
On the curved back wall hang five portraits of “mechs” — robotic suits of anime armor. Their purplish, blurred silhouettes seem printed on top of the ridges of milky paint depicting pale, layered figures and puddling abstractions. In “Just like Velveteen Rabbit, Mech Standing,” the largest and center panel, the mech’s beatific pose echoes an obscure, winged shape sketched into the pulsing lavender shadows in butter yellow and grass. Several, such as “SCRY. 1 Corinthians 13:12.,” a picture in minty pastels where the mech’s pilot’s face punches through the haze, incorporate line drawings of dragons labeled Bad or Good in a naïve hand; others feature angels. The apostle Paul had heaven in mind when he wrote, in 1 Corinthians, that “now we see as through a glass darkly”; Rossin’s cyborg icons hold out that true vision might require a higher power, a congestion of human and machine. TRAVIS DIEHL
Upper East Side
Through July 28 at Sprüth Magers, 22 East 80th Street, Manhattan; 917-722-2370, spruethmagers.com. On long-term view at Dia:Beacon, 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, N.Y.; 845-440-0100, diaart.org.
Senga Nengudi is a pioneer of performance art and installation, coaxing meaning and dark messages from materials like plastic, sand and nylon stockings. A compact survey of her works from the late 1960s to 2020 can be seen in “Spirit Crossing” at Sprüth Magers (presented jointly with Thomas Erben Gallery) and Dia:Beacon.
At Sprüth Magers, works made in New York in the ’70s include photographs of fabric cutouts, called “Spirit Flags,” suspended in liminal, derelict urban spaces. (One of her most famous works is the collaborative performance “Ceremony for Freeway Fets,” from 1978, which took place under a Los Angeles overpass.) The suggestion of spirits lingering in alleyways or descending fire escapes is palpable in “Down (Purple),” “Red Devil (Soul 2)” and “Drifting Leaves,” all from 1972. A few “Spirit Flags” are here too, like “Twins” and “Holler” — both conceived in the early ’70s and remade this year — which are alternatively buoyant and dark, conjuring the flayed skins of martyrs in European paintings or dark moments in American history.
Dia’s presentation is initially more austere. Sheets of clear vinyl, folded carefully and filled with colored water, are mounted on the wall or lined up on the floor. A large rectangular installation, “Sandmining B” (2020), made with sand, pigment and nylon, explodes the stillness, though. Every hour for a few minutes, a recording plays of Nengudi reading a text about bones and blood and ghosts. Honoring her African American ancestors and conjuring their spirits, she has made her work sacramental and mediumistic; all the humble objects around you are suddenly activated. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through July 29. Jane Lombard Gallery, 58 White Street, ground floor, Manhattan; 212-967-8040, janelombardgallery.com.
“Island Time” can be a derogatory phrase: a way to mock various Pacific Rim and Caribbean cultures for a supposed indifference to punctuality. But it can be used — jokingly, fondly — by island inhabitants too: a reminder that succumbing to the tyranny of clocks and timers might be just one of many possible ways to live.
Taking “Island Time” as its title, this show includes videos, paintings and sculptures by twelve artists based in the Philippines. Its curator, the Filipino American artist James Clar, seemingly asks how Filipino constructions of identity — and the pace of daily existence — can exist with and also apart from chronological systems imported by colonizers.
Extending across a curved wall, “Silent Gravity” (2023) by Miguel Aquilizan greets visitors with sculptures of tropical fruit, pearls and fragments of mahogany wood — an invasive species. Aquilizan’s piece is one of many to include imagery of local vegetation, landscapes and histories — often interrupted by grids and frames. In one video by Poklong Anading, a balmy sunset unfolds beyond the right angles of a fence in the foreground. Shireen Seno’s work, “To Pick a Flower” (2021), constructs a taxonomy of old archival photos featuring plants endemic to the Philippines alongside the people who interacted with them — from laborers to brides to sniffy-looking European botanists.
Then there’s “Proof of Work” (2023), by the collective KoloWn, which invites visitors to record their day’s activities on a time sheet, then pin it to a wall in a grid. Filling one out takes a moment, and turns a gallery visit into something unexpected: the chance to ponder the tempo of your own life, fast or slow as it may be. DAWN CHAN
Through July 28. ACA Galleries, 529 West 20th Street, fifth floor, Manhattan; 212-206-8080, acagalleries.com.
As a progenitor of the style writing movement, the artist Phase 2 developed a visual language that collided typographical deconstruction with the volatility of street life, advancing subway art’s urgent scrawl into a dense cosmology of form. This five-decade survey of his work includes 25 examples across paper, canvas, and aluminum engravings and still only glances at the magnitude of his contributions to hip-hop culture. (He was an accomplished dancer, improving upon the breaking and uprock styles and assembling the B-boy crew New York City Breakers, as well as a graphic designer, developing the geometric cut-and-paste aesthetic he called “Funky Nous Deco” for party fliers that popularized the foundational music of the period).
But his voice was clearest in paint. Credited with inventing the bubble letter technique — known as “softies” for their inflated, pillowy look, and later, accelerating the “wildstyle” evolution, a kinetic, labyrinthine expressionism that traded legibility for propulsiveness, Phase 2 embraced a totalizing vision of aerosol art. He rejected the “G word” (meaning graffiti), its insufficiency he likened to “calling a meteor a pebble.”
The show charts his progression into increasingly florid work — near-cryptic symbology woven into baroque, calligraphic abstraction, which he made nearly until his death in 2019. That restlessness is evident in the insistence of his line, as in “Hieroglyphs” (1987): fluid, continuous, without a discernible end point. As he explained of his nom de plume, in typically oracular fashion: “One is a beginning and two is the next step. Two is forever.” MAX LAKIN
Through July 29. Vito Schnabel Gallery, 455 West 19th Street, Manhattan; 646-216-3932; vitoschnabel.com.
Almost any of the 16 Giorgio de Chirico paintings in “Horses: The Death of a Rider” could sustain an exhibition by itself. A couple from the late 1920s are less polished, and you could reasonably call “Two Horses on a Seashore,” 1970, a little glib. But for the most part the lush, peculiar and consistently delightful paintings show the Greek-born Italian painter at the top of his game for the better part of five decades.
As the exhibition title suggests, every canvas also holds one or more horses, often backed by one of the mysterious landscapes he’s known for. Carnal but loaded with symbolism, the horse is a living link to antiquity, making it the perfect subject for a history-conscious artist like de Chirico (1888-1978). It’s also full of bulging joints and fleshy mounds, and de Chirico approaches it, visually as well as conceptually, as a kind of chimera, a grab-bag of separate moments and encounters.
The majestic white steed in the title piece, “Death of a Rider,” rears up on a twilit beach, letting its rider tumble off like Icarus behind it. In the distance stands a city on a hill; nearby, two voyagers or gods watch from a rowboat. But the horse’s posture is actually that of a statue, its foreleg bent, its head in a dramatic profile that doesn’t quite match the angle of its body. To one side it’s a crouching, unconscious power; to the other a self-possessed, even arrogant personality. Altogether it encapsulates the drama of the scene, at once active and eternal. WILL HEINRICH
Through Aug. 4. Chapter NY, 60 Walker Street, Manhattan; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.
Two drawings by Lee Lozano, both untitled from 1964 and 1969, anchor this group show, which consists otherwise of recent paintings, sculptures, installation pieces and photographs by living artists. Lozano’s drawings of abstract but vividly spatial forms vibe with Philip Guston’s cartoonish figurative style from the same period.
At the gallery’s entrance, cameron clayborn’s sculpture “a short list of grievances” (2022), a gathering of dyed and stuffed muslin like oversized sausages, hangs above the wood floor feeling bodily, akin to Louise Bourgeois. The carbine red of two works by the Beirut-based artist Dala Nasser frame the back and a side wall. Hung like paintings, the large cloth-based works are like skin grafts of a landscape, as the artist exposes her materials outside to the elements before bringing them back inside to be hung. Here the landscape conjured is American. The works, “Cochineal I” and “Cochineal II” (both 2023), are named for the beetle, found on prickly pear cactus, used to make red dye.
The five silver gelatin photographs by Sam Moyer (all 2023) give the exhibition serious heft. Four depict giant slabs of composite stone, perhaps segments of an eroded sea wall, the fifth a field of long undulating grass — all in concrete frames inset with Long Island beach stone aggregate.
Summer group shows often feel motivated more by a desire to gather the participating artists together for the opening night party, but here the works cohere: a weighty whole, a sustained event. JOHN VINCLER
Through Aug. 7. SculptureCenter, 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens; (718) 361-1750; sculpture-center.org.
In important ways the New York contemporary art world was a much bigger place three decades ago than it is today, not in size but in its thinking. For a few multiculturalist years our smaller, adventurous art spaces experimented with bringing spirituality into their premises, not just as an object of study but as an active practice, a way to think about what art is, or can be.
The first institutional solo show of the artist Edgar Calel, titled “B’alab’äj (Jaguar Stone),” is a reminder of this. Born in 1987 in Guatemala, where he lives and works, Calel is of Mayan Kaqchikel ancestry and that heritage shapes the character of his monumental SculptureCenter installation of raw earth, rough stone and fire in the form of burning candles. In appearance, the piece suggests an altar, a memorial, and mazelike garden. Its content interweaves cultural, political and personal histories.
Obliquely, poetically, Calel refers to Mayan views of the earth as a dynamic, responsive, sacred being. He offers a lament for an Indigenous people historically persecuted in their own land. And he presents a tribute to continuity in the form of family, his own. (Sections of molded soil spell out the syllable “tik,” the sound he remembers his grandmother making to call wild birds for feeding.) The resulting SculptureCenter piece, beautiful to see, isn’t a “religious” work in any narrow sense. It’s a spiritual charging-station, multipurpose, real. HOLLAND COTTER
Through Aug. 11. Klaus von Nichtssagend, 87 Franklin Street, Manhattan. 212-777-7756; klausgallery.com.
Oranges are uniquely at home in the imagination. You can easily look past their surface texture and treat them simply as shapes, and they share their name, if not their very identity, with a color. There’s also their history as symbols of exotic luxury. In other words, they’re the perfect subject for “Mirror Grove,” the latest seminar in perception and design from the Brooklyn-based painter’s painter Graham Anderson.
In eight modestly scaled paintings with evocative titles like “Masks Without Owners” and “The Chimeric Mesh,” Anderson makes oranges look like hazy spotlights, paper cutouts, hovering planets, bouncy Art Deco ornaments, office-supply stickers, glowing buttons and elements of ancient Roman frescoes. He does all this with a combination of flat, saturated color, trompe l’oeil shadows and tiny, overlapping daubs of paint that split the difference between TV static and Ben-Day dots.
In “Advice From the Sun,” an enormous disc hangs like Pharaoh Akhenaten’s abstracted sun god between two gently rolling spheres. A smaller disc, nearby, is adorned with a sprig of schematic leaves. The fact that each of these planetlike orange circles is itself made up of tiny orange circles makes clear that the music of the spheres is also the music of atoms, and vice versa. But Anderson isn’t using his painting to illustrate this familiar, if always mind-boggling, truth. He’s using the truth to adorn his painting. WILL HEINRICH
Through Aug. 27. Institute of Arab & Islamic Art, 22 Christopher Street, instituteaia.org.
Behjat Sadr, who died in 2009, was a prominent painter in Iran before moving to Paris in the early 1980s. Her work demonstrates how artists absorbed a dizzying array of influences after World War II. For Sadr, this meant the earthy approach of European Informel painters like Alberto Burri and Jean Dubuffet, but also the systemic geometries of Islamic architecture — and even the exaggerated, Pop brushstrokes of Roy Lichtenstein. This show at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art shows off her range with paintings, installations and haunting collages.
Sadr studied in Rome in the mid-1950s and the canvases from that period, many painted on thick, toothy surfaces like Burri’s, are charged with carefully controlled formal energy. Later, she would scrape patterns into the “abstract” image, creating what looks like wood grain or that Lichtenstein brushstroke. The buoyant stripes in a kinetic work from the late 1960s, made with window blinds attached to the surface of a canvas, appear and disappear, depending on your perspective. The collages made in Paris feature photographs of arid Iranian landscapes, but also one of an unidentified man, seemingly silenced by a criss-cross pattern plastered over his mouth.
At root, many of the works are charged with subversive politics. Sadr left Iran after the 1979 revolution and her work reverberates with radical poetry and powerful histories. It feels vitally important now, at a moment when women are leading a protest movement in that country, to see the visionary work of this groundbreaking woman artist. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through Aug. 19. Artists Space, 11 Cortlandt Alley, Manhattan; 212-226-3970, artistsspace.org.
The entrance to rafa esparza’s exhibition “Camino” is flanked by two paintings. In order to face either one head on, you must stand on a small, uneven platform of homemade adobe bricks. This is a message from the artist: He’s not interested in a seamless viewing experience. He wants you to think about the ground you’re walking upon.
The Los Angeles–based artist may be best known for his extreme performances. For example, at Art Basel Miami Beach last December, he turned a coin-operated pony ride into a lowrider bike outfitted for his body, so that participants rode him. By comparison, his first solo show in New York is tame. It recalls his contribution to the 2017 Whitney Biennial, where he created a room of adobe bricks. That installation was more immersive; this one is conceptually tighter.
Here, a winding path of bricks connects life-size portraits of members of esparza’s largely queer community. The paintings are also on adobe, referencing his Mexican heritage and accentuating his subjects’ brown skin. On the walls hang renderings of L.A.’s 110 Freeway, featuring concrete tunnels and embankments. This sets up a tension over how we build society — in concert with people and the earth or with little regard for them?
A striking painting at the back depicts P-22, the mountain lion that famously crossed two L.A. freeways. Its stride and stare mimic those of the human figures, all coalescing to issue a kind of challenge: What would it take to embrace a more sustainable way of life? JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through Aug. 12. Picture Theory, Greenpoint (address available with an appointment), Brooklyn; 917-765-9762, picturetheoryprojects.com.
Apartment galleries offer intimate experiences with art that the blue-chip behemoths of Chelsea cannot. At Picture Theory in Greenpoint, a record played on a turntable in what would normally be a sitting room. The music was familiar: the distinctive fingerpicking style of the guitarist John Fahey — folk and blues flecked with traditional Indian raga — whose artwork rather than music I came to see.
The phrase “American primitive,” used for Fahey’s music, equally fits his visual art: All 17 works on paper or poster board were made in the last few years of his life when he was on the road touring or at home in Salem, Oregon. (He died in 2001.) Tempera, spray paint and markers are mostly employed to render layered fields of poured, soaked, sprayed and impressed color. Emergent forms in the compositions are occasionally outlined with a marker. Two jotted drawings, in marker only, are vaguely surrealist. The other untitled and largely undated works tend toward primary colors or, less frequently, pastel tones. Some incorporate glitter or iridescent materials.
Despite the exhibition’s title, “Fields of Reptiles and Mud,” the work is bright and joyous, a vivid and fascinating contrast with his vast body of music. The exhibition is the result of collaboration between Picture Theory’s founder, Rebekah Kim, and John Andrew, the manager of Fahey’s painting archive — two former colleagues at David Zwirner gallery who bonded over a shared appreciation for outsider art. It’s worth seeing what spills onto the page when a musical genius turns to another medium. JOHN VINCLER
Through Sept. 10. Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens; 718-592-9700; queensmuseum.org.
Aliza Nisenbaum grew up in Mexico and now lives in New York. So do many of the people in Corona, Queens, whom she’s spent years painting in their homes and workplaces, in her studio at the Queens Museum or while they were enrolled in a class she once taught called “English Through Feminist Art History.” The museum’s wonderful “Queens, Lindo y Querido” (Queens, Beautiful and Beloved), a wide-ranging show of her work, includes portraits of Delta Air Lines and Port Authority employees; of Hitomi Iwasaki, the show’s curator, in her plant-filled office; and of an art class that Nisenbaum offered to food pantry volunteers at the museum, displayed along with a selection of the volunteers’ own works (“El Taller, Queens Museum”).
It’s worth mentioning all of this because Nisenbaum’s interest in people, her need to connect with them, doesn’t just provide content for her paintings — it comes through in their form. Realistic but with heightened colors and flattened planes, they’re homey and glamorous at once, capable of absorbing any number of idiosyncratic details. “El Taller” (The Workshop) presents 10 budding artists, five working on self-portraits with the aid of small mirrors, against the unreal purple mists of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. And then there are the paintings-within-the-painting, each with its own distinctive style, not to mention 19 naïve, multicolored games of “exquisite corpse.” It’s a tribute to Nisenbaum’s generosity — and to her skills with composition — that it all inhabits a single room in harmony. WILL HEINRICH
Through July 21. Petzel Gallery, 520 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-680-9467, petzel.com.
Presiding over Cosima von Bonin’s “Church of Daffy,” an eclectic congregation of sculptures and wall works, a dark gray statue of the titular duck raises his arms to his god — a gesture of supplication, or resignation. Or maybe thanks: nearby, a soft trash can overflows with stuffed Bugs Bunny dolls, a mess of furry feet and gloved hands. Von Bonin’s deadpan displays of cartoon characters evoke their bundles of exaggerated traits. In this cosmology, Daffy’s venal impulses and commendable persistence force him into a pointless, unwinnable rivalry with a happy-go-lucky hare. The duck is rigid and alone, while the bunny is pliable, containing multitudes.
The Daffy statue stands in the corner of a low, rectangular pedestal, a webbed toe overhanging the edge. A lobster-shaped mirror on the wall, claws up, mimics Daffy’s stance. Moving around the room, you can fit Daffy’s reflection into the silver shellfish. “The Lobster” takes the show into the realm of high-polish pop. It’s not praying — that’s just how lobsters are made — it has no choice. This tableau plays out in the first, smaller room. A larger gallery is given over to embroidered plaid-and-felt fabric wall works stitched with cartoon characters, Daffy and Eeyore and Bambi, and phrases like “le snobisme de l’argent.” They play at being paintings, with the secondhand cool of a fashion show. A plush velvet fence makes a slouching corral in the middle of the room. Von Bonin’s cartoon materials are soft and floppy, but their slapstick morality can still be confining. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through July 22. Canada, 60 Lispenard Street, Manhattan, 212-925-4631. canadanewyork.com.
There’s found abstraction: Weathered posters hung in galleries by the Italian artist Mimmo Rotella; animal bones that were at the root of Henry Moore’s sculptures.
And there’s made abstraction: Almost all other abstract art, by the likes of Agnes Martin or Donald Judd.
But the works by the painter Denzil Hurley now on view at Canada seem to inhabit a new category we might call “made found abstraction.”
Hurley’s objects are clearly made, from scratch.
“Orange Glyph,” for instance, presents a bright orange canvas that would live happily among the postwar monochromes of Yves Klein.
The piece titled “J2#1” involves an all-black oblong, about head-high, whose subtle mottling makes it a dark counterpart to the all-white paintings of Robert Ryman.
But Hurley pushes beyond the customary “made-ness” of his abstractions by adding elements that produce a found, functional vibe. The canvas in “Orange Glyph” comes perched on top of a wooden stick that makes the whole ensemble look vaguely useful, like a protest sign soon to be lettered. “J2#1” is anchored in a crude block of lumber, as though waiting to have a marksman’s target stuck to it.
Hurley was a longtime art professor who died, age 72, in 2021; he knew his abstract antecedents by heart. He was also Black. I wonder if the “foundness” in his works captures a sense, widespread among Black artists, that mainstream culture never made those antecedents as fully available to him, or to any Black artist, as they might have been to white artists, who could access European art’s grand tradition without any question that they had a right to it. By making found abstractions, Hurley links his works to functional traditions that bypass fine art altogether. BLAKE GOPNIK
Through July 21. David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, Manhattan; davidzwirner.com.
How do you paint war: and, more to the point, why? In 1864, Édouard Manet painted an American Civil War battle off telegraphed news reports, and updated military painting for an age of mass media. Luc Tuymans has done something similarly important in “Bucha” (2023): a large, challenging, half-decipherable nighttime scene of what looks to be an open grave in the mortified Kyiv suburb of the title. Emergency lights illuminate a solitary worker, reduced to a white specter. Below is drab olive grass, above a heavy sky, but the floodlights have obscured the atrocity site, rendered in open smears of light gray and stifled blues and mauves. The horror fills maybe 95 percent of the canvas, but irregular pink edges suggest that this Bucha scene might be a photograph someone far from Ukraine is flicking past. To one side is a pale circle: a touchscreen’s back button, a digital signpost back to barbarism.
Tuymans has always painted not the violence of war but its related mundanities: a pine tree in a concentration camp, Condoleezza Rice biting her lip. What “Bucha” confirms is that his diverted gaze was never just about Hitchcockian shock. His pinks and blues now blend into unbounded topographies that recall heat-mapping software, while his iPhone motifs, which had felt like a gimmick before, have matured into critical compositional tools. At the bottom of “The Barn,” the diluted idyll that gives this show its name, he diminishes several other paintings on view to thumbnails in a Photos app carousel. Once Tuymans’s muted compositions felt fatalistic; now they appear as committed assaults on our digital fragmentation and the lies that thrive in its cracks. JASON FARAGO
Upper East Side
Through July 22. Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue, Manhattan; 212-249-8950, as-coa.org.
Simple, literal and often quite funny, many of the drawings and performances in Sylvia Palacios Whitman’s exhibition “To Draw a Line With the Body” at Americas Society have been under the radar for decades. At a recent performance and discussion at Americas Society, Palacios admitted that she’d stopped making art for nearly 40 years. She is back now, though, in full force.
Palacios moved to New York from her native Chile in the early 1960s and danced with Trisha Brown. Her early performances — the first ones were staged in Brown’s downtown studio — included absurd, deadpan movements, like picking up a group of performers with a crane in “Green Bag” (1975), moving them across the space and lowering them into a huge green bag made of fabric. In others, she inserted herself into a giant “Slingshot” (1975) or donned big green sculptural hands. Upon her return to making art, Palacios has been drawing, often illustrating episodes from her childhood, and doing performances explaining the drawings, which are almost like comedy routines.
One thread running through her work is the everyday nature of art. Common materials like kraft paper and cardboard are shaped into sculptures and exhibited on the floor. Anyone, in her estimation, can make art. At the Americas Society event, Palacios even encouraged an audience member who said they weren’t an artist to go home and make some art. “You never know!” Palacios exhorted. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through July 21. Hill Art Foundation, 239 10th Avenue, Manhattan. 212-337-4455; hillartfoundation.org.
In the catalog for “Beautiful, Vivid, Self-Contained,” a group show he curated at the Hill Art Foundation, the painter David Salle cites a remark the dealer Joe Helman used to make: “Ellsworth [Kelly] is our Matisse.” Salle goes on to unspool his ambivalence about Helman’s comparison, disparaging it, on the one hand, as glib and superficial, but conceding, on the other, that it’s also pretty compelling. Ambivalent or not, it’s exactly this kind of juxtaposition — brisk, intuitive and, for a person as steeped in critical minutiae as Salle, painfully reductive — that gives the show its energy.
One striking, insightful, precarious pairing follows another in this frankly incredible group of paintings that Salle has managed to call in. Red stippling in a recent Walter Price echoes the gray atmosphere of an Edgar Degas; abstraction by Amy Sillman looks like a color negative of Albert Oehlen’s, or vice versa; and Martha Diamond, Willem de Kooning and Brice Marden all use wavering, expressive lines — to very different effects, if you think of their individual contexts, but as mere variations on a theme when they’re side by side. (There are also works by Twombly, Picasso, Matisse, even Peter Paul Rubens.)
It’s true, as Salle fears, that this kind of thing risks being tendentious, and that it may come at the expense of subtlety or art-historical detail. But it’s also surprising and delightful, and after all, neither language nor curation can avoid being at least a little reductive. You might as well make it snappy. WILL HEINRICH
Through July 22. Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-421-3292; pacegallery.com.
Art — in military terms — is psyops: a kind of mental magic with material effects. This is the insight of the MacArthur fellow Trevor Paglen. For years, he’s turned the tools of surveillance back on the U.S. government’s covert operations, from tracking spy satellites with telescopes to photographing secret bases with very long lenses, with results blurry and abstract enough to evoke Rothko. His current show at Pace, “You’ve Just Been F*cked by Psyops,” explores dissemblance and misdirection. A suite of grayscale photos with expansive titles like “UNKNOWN #89161 (Unclassified object near The Revenant of the Swan)” depict nebulae smattered on the black ground of deep space like painterly dust. Pay attention, and you’ll notice the white streaks skimming through the compositions: These are a few of the objects in orbit that the government can’t (or won’t) identify. Debris, probably — maybe decoys.
Paglen likes to show you sublime images, with hidden but profound flaws — evidence of brutality that, once discovered, you can’t unsee. A lurid assemblage on the wall, a chrome and ruby mandala of bullets and numerals orbiting a cackling death’s head, is based on a cryptic military intelligence logo. Its title is a common psyops motto: “Because physical wounds heal …” In the hourlong video interview, “Doty,” projected on the opposite wall, a former Air Force agent admits to, among other things, planting falsehoods with U.F.O. truthers. He’s spilling the tea — yet, in art and war, who can you truly trust? Haven’t you been wounded by art? TRAVIS DIEHL
Through July 14. Kerry Schuss Gallery, 73 Leonard Street, Manhattan, 212-219-9918, kerryschussgallery.com.
With his “Everyday Life” paintings the 21-year-old artist Julian Kent is already past the “looks promising” stage of his career. As seen in New York at the Independent Art Fair and especially in his current gallery debut, his paintings exude a youthful perfection. They operate as both narratives and objects with utmost efficiency; nothing is wasted or left over.
Kent’s small, stylized canvases depict specific moments in the lives of one or two Black people, seen in close-up, often tightly cropped. The setting is usually domestic; the action is primarily psychological and emotional, conveyed in subtle glances and gestures. Kent outlines his shapes in black and uses a palette of inspired plainness; his robust textures are particularly engaging. His small repeating brush strokes can evoke Robert Ryman, Philip Guston and Robert Thompson, only neater; their changes in direction or rhythm, create a sense of sturdiness and care that is implicitly optimistic.
The paintings at the Independent were fraught with apprehension — the racial stress that are far too constant to Black American life. The paintings at Schuss replace tension with moments of quiet enjoyment and togetherness cherished by all people. In “Late Afternoon,” a young woman and man sit in their living room; he touches her arm. In the background, a television shows a hand reminiscent of the hand of God bringing Adam to life in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Did this cue the man’s light touch, or does it underscore the transformative power of touch, and love?
“Grey Gardens,” takes its title from the Maysles brothers’ 1975 documentary about the eccentric mother-daughter pair of high-society dropouts, Big Edie (Edith Bouvier Beale) and Little Edie, who lived in a squalid mansion in East Hampton with several dozen cats. But he substitutes a visibly less eccentric couple: a Black father and son with their cat. Their eyes convey different emotions: happiness, worry and watchfulness. WASP propriety is embraced and mocked by one of the painting’s largest shapes: the son’s tattersall shirt. ROBERTA SMITH
Through July 10. David Benrimon Fine Art, 41 East 57th Street, second floor, Manhattan; 212-628-1600, davidbenrimon.com.
The churning color of Nachume Miller’s last paintings suggest phosphene, the impression of seeing light without any of it being there — a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has pressed on their eyeball with eyes closed. They also resemble something molecular: pulsating neurons or synapses firing under stress, a revolt of the body.
The retinal effects of “Suns & Illusions,” completed from 1996 to 1998, while Miller was undergoing treatment for and until he succumbed to brain cancer, are a Transcendentalist’s embrace of the unknown, a transmutation of the natural world into the spiritual one. They are orgiastically physical. Blooms of fungal forms metastasize in fractal, hallucinatory patterns — somewhere between algae and apparition — bisected by shafts of light that appear as if clawed into the paint by bare hands. (The more probable technique is hinted at in a short film showing Miller attempting what looks like automatic drawing, including gripping multiple pencils at once.)
The darkness of Miller’s earlier preoccupations — etchings of cadaverous bodies and haunted visions that evince inherited trauma (his parents were the only members of their families to escape the Holocaust) — lifts here, lighter in palette though no less intense. The smeary, diffuse color fields, reminiscent of Gerhard Richter’s squeegeed abstracts, eventually crowd with the gesture Miller used nearly his entire career, a fluid, whorling mark, akin to da Vinci’s apocalyptic “deluge” drawings, that threatens to consume itself. They become more densely packed as Miller nears death, a radiant horror vacui — an artist filling in the empty space for as long as possible. MAX LAKIN
Lower East Side
Through July 8. François Ghebaly, 391 Grand Street, Manhattan; 646-559-9400, ghebaly.com.
Staring you down from the back wall is the passionless alloy skull of a Terminator, specifically the T-800 model portrayed (with skin) by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The California-based artist Jaime Muñoz combines motifs from Central American textiles, Catholic shrines and auto body shops in beatific, biting homages to the SoCal working class. “Machina” turns to the dark side of mechanized labor. The three large paintings on view depict more or less benign metallic products — Hollywood’s killer cyborg, a mechanical knight and a can of Boing! soda — in minty, glittering pastels, embellished with printer’s marks and Love’s truck stop logos, in looping designs that seem indebted to Lari Pittman.
The canvases look hands-free, technical and clean. Muñoz renders a richer line among machines, imitation and replacement in a pair of ink on paper drawings. In Mexico, Pato Pascual, a cartoon duck bearing an infringing similarity to Disney’s star fowl, Donald, advertises Boing! soda; “Diagram Drawing #8” has Pascual and a spidery prosthetic hand accompanying a picture of a worker on the bottling line.
In a similar composition, Muñoz inks the emblems for Love’s and Utility trailers above a diagram of an industrial robot arm and a portrait of A08, the eerie robot “dog” by Boston Dynamics, a war machine with a sinister resemblance to man’s best friend. Both drawings portray the alienating beauty of industry, which — if not quite the rise of the machines — speaks to the uncertain value of human life in an increasingly automated world. TRAVIS DIEHL
Holland Cotter is the co-chief art critic of The Times. He writes on a wide range of art, old and new, and he has made extended trips to Africa and China. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2009. More about Holland Cotter
Will Heinrich writes about new developments in contemporary art, and has previously been a critic for The New Yorker and The New York Observer. More about Will Heinrich
Jillian Steinhauer is a critic and reporter who covers the politics of art and comics. She won a 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant and was previously a senior editor at Hyperallergic. More about Jillian Steinhauer
Seph Rodney is a curator and art critic in Newburgh, N.Y. He is co-curating a show on sports that should open at SF MoMA in 2024. More about Seph Rodney