Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Start in SoHo with Darja Bajagic and Lionel Maunz’s show. Then head to Chinatown for Al Freeman’s small but boisterous exhibition and slide over to the Lower East Side for MSCHF’s first gallery outing. And in TriBeCa, see Tau Lewis’s current batch of sculptures.
Hours vary at galleries. Visitors should check in advance.
Darja Bajagic and Lionel Maunz
Through Dec. 3. Downs & Ross, 424 Broadway, Manhattan; 646-741-9138, downsross.com.
With the grim flare of a modernist, Lionel Maunz brutalizes the human figure; like a millennial surfing an internet of atrocities, Darja Bajagic cuts the macabre with irony. Bajagic, born in 1990, pings between Moldova and Chicago, while Maunz, 1975, lives in Brooklyn — but their sensibilities rhyme. Each of the four Maunz sculptures on view in the show “Forest Passage” at Downs & Ross has a Bajagic painting behind it, so that one can’t escape the other. Bajagic’s “Baptism by Blood (Mother & Child)” depicts a priest’s frock and hands on a liturgical book, giving the hands holding hunks of muscle in Maunz’s sculpture “My Hands Make the Perfect Wound” a sacramental aura. Bajagic frames her work with the same kind of welded steel stock that Maunz uses for his armatures — their formal sympathy and shared restraint chill the subject matter to the point of reverence.
This ambivalence between schlock shock and mortal meditation makes it difficult to say what you’re feeling — awed, affronted, or only sick. Maunz’s covers his hairless or burnt-looking animal forms in brush strokes, so that they appear fuzzy, gestural and artificial — rather than waxy and transubstantiated like one of Paul Thek’s “meat” works. The leftmost Bajagic painting, a trapezoidal picture of a group burial, has the noncommittal wit of a Warhol electric chair. In the company of Maunz’s mute slaughterhouse, Bajagic’s crypto-occultic wall hangings seem somber — and yet, their burlap surfaces are stitched up with embalmer’s thread: if you can stomach the thought, it’s almost funny. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through Dec. 4. 56 Henry, 105 Henry Street, Manhattan; 646-858-0800, 56henry.nyc.
A used scratch-off lottery ticket, torn in four, creates a fractured grid. The legible words and phrase “WIN” and “CASH / 4LIFE” across the top two fragments ironically read only of dashed hopes. While the lotto ticket may be a dud, Al Freeman’s artwork depicting it — sculpture hung on the wall like a painting — manages to capture the vivacious energy of a hoarse-voiced belly laugh.
The four works together in “Floors” tell a story in this small but boisterous exhibition, the Brooklyn-based artist’s fifth solo show with the gallery. “Lotto Ticket on Dark Wood Floor” (all works are from 2022) is joined by a receipt from CVS promising “$3.00 off” along with a handful of pennies in “Receipt and Change on Pavement.” The other two works each illustrate packages of over-the-counter meds: the twinned torn blue packets in “Alka-Seltzer on Blonde Wood” and the crumbled pair spilling their eight tablets like pink polka dots in “Pepto Bismol on Checkered Floor.”
All are composed primarily of colored vinyl of the sort you’d find covering the booth at a classic New York diner, also incorporating foam, polyester fiberfill and leather, further suggesting upholstery. This wall-mounted format shows Freeman evolving and honing her craft beyond a clever reimagining of Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture updated for the 21st century. She’s a keen observer, quite literally here, of New York streets and floors, with a cartoonist’s knack for honing a familiar object down to its essence. Witty, hard-edge and comfy. JOHN VINCLER
Lower East Side
Through Dec. 23. Perrotin, 130 Orchard Street, Manhattan; (212) 812-2902, perrotin.com.
This is the first gallery outing for the Brooklyn collective known as MSCHF (pronounced mischief), well known beyond the art world for pranks that poke fun at commodity culture. In this show’s most striking piece, that culture comes to include a work of art.
For that work, “Severed Spots,” MSCHF’s creators spent almost $45,000 on a Damien Hirst print that bore 108 of his trademark spots. They then sliced out those spots to function as separate works by MSCHF, on sale at Perrotin for $4,400 each. The Hirst print, now a spot-free web of holes, is listed at $75,000. Profit is this work’s true subject and art supply.
In another project, also on view at Perrotin, MSCHF offers to forge the metal from any gun into a sword: They have already turned a grenade launcher into a massive two-handed blade; a pump-action shotgun is now a Scottish dirk. If Americans want to bear arms, maybe these are closer to what the founding fathers imagined.
The project known as “Wavy Shoes” consists of sneakers from brands like Adidas and Asics redesigned by MSCHF to look half-liquefied, like shoes seen in a fun-house mirror. The price and status of high-end footwear is clearly not about function; by making versions you could never run in, MSCHF puts that fact on view.
Some gallerygoers are going to ask if all this caustic play counts as art. My question, rather, is whether it fits too cozily into the business art genre established decades ago by Andy Warhol and his fellow conceptualists, and then pursued by descendants like Takashi Murakami and Hirst.
MSCHF’s surgically altered spots could almost as easily be by Hirst himself. BLAKE GOPNIK
Through Jan. 7 at 52 Walker, 52 Walker Street, Manhattan; (212) 727-1961, 52walker.com.
We, as a species, are impressed by big things: large animals, supertall buildings, supersize food. In art, however, bigger is not always better. Take Tau Lewis’s current batch of sculptures in her solo debut, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei, ” at 52 Walker.
The Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based artist blasted onto the North American art scene half a decade ago, a hugely talented 20-something who cobbled together gritty, almost haunted sculptures and tapestries with scavenged materials. Then she was discovered: tapped by important curators and recruited by large galleries, culminating in her participation in the current Venice Biennale.
“Vox Populi, Vox Dei” follows on the heels of that heady experience and finds Lewis running a little low on ideas. Six giant heads with bombastic titles like “Mater Dei” (all works are from 2022) and “Trident” conjure masks and ferocious monsters, deities and power figures from a panoply of cultures. Materials here include repurposed leather, fur, silk, rawhide, shells and snakeskin. The works are impressive — i.e., big — but rather basic. (I always think, in these instances of “giantism,” of what Roberta Smith once wrote about Zhang Huan’s giant sculptures: “The main subject here is scale itself; height, volume and quantity as well as hours of human labor.”)
The Fine Arts & Exhibits Special Section
Much ink has been spilled on the art world devouring its young. On the one hand, it’s fortunate that Lewis has found success. On the other, it’s bittersweet: The wild ideas and compositions Lewis created when she was relatively unknown, crafting curious objects in her studio, were better. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through Nov. 12. Kravets Wehby, 521 West 21 Street, Manhattan; 212-352-2238, kravetswehbygallery.com.
There is a glut of figurative drawing and painting that washed over the contemporary art scene in the past three to four years. It’s now difficult to find artists that use the human figure to say something unique and unexpected. Then there is Jamea Richmond-Edwards at Kravets Wehby. I recently saw this Detroit-based artist’s work in the exhibition “Legacies of the Great Migration,” which originated at Mississippi Museum of Art, in Jackson, Miss., and is now at the Baltimore Museum of Art. When I first saw her work, I thought of mythmaking, how her depictions of familial characters, while flattened to almost the appearance of hieroglyphics (but with exuberant color schemes), become dynamic because they are infused with urgent narratives.
In this show, “Currency,” the same urgency is present as Richmond-Edwards places herself in the role of the hero, though one who’s doubtful of her own provenance. In “Holy Wars” (2022) she rides a unicorn into battle alongside her tribe. Then in “The Great Return” (2022), she visually wrestles with the possibility (suggested via a DNA test) that her ancestors may have been Indigenous American and not entirely, as she had assumed, African. In this painting she presents two versions of herself, one that is obsidian and another that is brown. There is also a figure of a canine meant to represent Anubis, a god who ushers humans into the afterlife. Richmond-Edwards wrestles with all this inherited and hypothesized personal history and uses painting to meld them into a story of who she has come to be. SEPH RODNEY
Through Nov. 12. Gladstone Gallery, 515 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-206-9300, gladstonegallery.com.
Anicka Yi’s paintings immediately hit with the uncanny sensation of looking at biological specimens housed within glass slides as viewed under a microscope. That the works are quite large only adds to their topsy-turvy effect. They draw you in to look closely, giving a three-dimensional sense of depth with areas of focus and blur through seemingly transparent passages and layers.
Yi often incorporates aspects of biology and technology into her art, as in her 2021 London commission at the Tate Modern’s immense Turbine Hall, which she turned into something of an open-air aquarium populated by floating drones resembling mechanized jellyfish she called “aerobes” with accompanying scentscapes of evocatively piped-in odors.
It’s somewhat surprising, then, that this South Korean-born, New York-based artist’s first gallery show here in nearly a decade consists entirely of paintings — well, at least ones that partly use UV printing. As paintings, they surprise but do not disappoint.
“Ö§ñJñM” (2022) could be mistaken for a zoomed-in detail or background of a Francis Bacon canvas if he ever painted fish guts. The soft browns and beiges of “†R†W†R§†0WRK” (2022) could be a study of mushrooms. Her titles may make a copy editor squirm, but these paintings rejoice in conjuring glimpses of living organisms, though sometimes they are only discernible as the beautiful writhing monster of painting itself. JOHN VINCLER
UPPER EAST SIDE
Through Nov. 12. Michael Werner, 4 East 77th Street, Manhattan; 212-988-1623, michaelwerner.com.
It’s hard to achieve a neatly folded corner on a velvet painting: No matter how tight you pull, you’re always left with a bulging mass of fabric. But then there isn’t much that’s tidy about the British painter Issy Wood’s pleasingly discomfiting pictures, often executed on black velvet, the short pile fuzzing out the image so it never fully resolves, like something experienced in a fugue and half-remembered. (The rest, on linen, are crisper, but not enough to dispel the unplaceable dread.)
Wood’s subject matter in her show “Time Sensitive” avoids the medium’s 1960s black light kitsch. The material also assists in sly visual tricks, as in “Go, Daddy! (Naming Names),” 2022, a set of Op Art sports-car bucket seats, foreboding and napped, as if Bridget Riley got into modifying Volkswagen GTIs. Cast in dusky tones, as though seen behind a murky scrim, Wood’s pictures are impenetrable to easy interpretation, which suits fine. Whether arrays of porcelain soup tureens and antique armor breastplates are personally talismanic or proxies for our compulsion toward accumulation, their dull glint telegraphs the same unease.
Wood is drawn to a just-tolerable degree of gruesomeness: a venal, distended cow udder, an open wound. A mouth of acid-marked teeth surges across the length of a seven-foot-wide canvas, gums bared to display a glistening canker sore, like a pearl lodged inside a sallow oyster. The paintings seem to wish to repulse — nothing about them can be accused of being pretty. Unfortunately for them, they’re too compelling to be left alone. MAX LAKIN
‘What We Leave Behind’
Through Nov. 13. Glyndor Gallery, Wave Hill, 4900 Independence Avenue, Bronx; 718-549-3200, wavehill.org.
A receipt hangs from the back pocket of a pair of jeans. The supermarket brand is visible, as are some of the purchased items listed, collaged into a life-size composition — part painting and part assemblage — where the real and the imagined are intermingled. The work, “Publix” (2021), was created by Estelle Maisonett, one of three artists in the exhibit with deep roots in the Bronx, who each use found material — the titular objects left behind — to create their works. Maisonett and Dennis RedMoon Darkeem were both born and raised in the Bronx, while the third artist, the Detroit-born Michael Kelly Williams, taught in the public schools there for more than 20 years.
The ample space given to each within Wave Hill’s Glyndor Gallery feels like three solo shows on a shared theme. Williams in “Anyanwu’s Medicine Bag: For Octavia Butler” (2020) and “Olu Iwa: For Cecil Taylor” (2019) creates sculpture incorporating found items like dozens of keys to honor radical Black elders. Darkeem employs traditions of his Yamassee-Seminole heritage — patchwork, carving and weaving — to make work like “Tall Man” (2022), a totemic standing figure made of wire and 365 leather belts, in various tones from black to brown to caramel.
The nuanced exhibition draws a portrait of the Bronx itself, partly because of Wave Hill’s bucolic setting, a meditative space to reflect on waste, ecology and urban space, with unobstructed views of the Hudson that frame the river with trees so that you’ll forget a highway runs in between. JOHN VINCLER
More to See
UPPER EAST SIDE
Through Nov. 26. Acquavella, 18 East 79th Street, Manhattan; 212-734-6300, acquavellagalleries.com.
Tom Sachs’s new show is called “Spaceships.” Fans of the artist’s crowd-pleasing shop-class space program won’t be disappointed. For those tired of that gimmick, the exhibition also includes a well-tooled Technics turntable made of wood, an upright vacuum cleaner with a vintage Chanel purse for the dirt, and a model Titanic that really sinks. It’s the sort of sculpture that back-of-house museum contractors make when things are slow, only more so. His studio staff were there at the crowded opening, discernible among the masses by the 10 Bullets patch on their work shirt breasts: one bullet for each point of Sachs’s strict code of conduct. With a skill set that includes construction, woodworking, sculpture and light electrical, they aren’t fabricators so much as acolytes of a D.I.Y. religion.
While art workers stand up to management in Philadelphia, and shout down Highsnobiety and Christie’s attempt to merchandise their toil, this show speaks of the exhibition technician and the gallery preparator. The unpainted plywood is nice plywood, the screws visible along the self-consciously unerased pencil lines are nice screws. There’s even an outright shrine to the Makita 18-volt battery mounted on one wall, ranks of them charging in their cradles, waiting their turn to power the LEDs on screens on the extraterrestrial landers crafted from a self-cleaning litter box or a mop bucket, a stiff little Stars and Stripes planted on its roof. It’s a homage to the art handler aesthetic — despite the spaceships. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through Nov. 26. Luxembourg + Co., 595 Madison Avenue, Manhattan, 212-452-4646, luxembourgco.com.
Modernist genius is often best encountered in commercial galleries, with their intimate viewing conditions and lack of institutional authority and entrance fees. So it is with “Joan Miró: Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Stars,” the thrilling inaugural show revisiting this Catalan artist’s radical early years at Luxembourg + Co. Formerly half of Luxembourg & Dayan in the East 70s, the gallery’s new quarters are in the fabled Fuller Building, the great Art Deco landmark at 57th Street and Madison Avenue. At its former street address, 41 East 57th Street, it once housed several of New York’s leading galleries; its current address is the more pedestrian 595 Madison Avenue. Go figure.
The show examines Miró’s break with traditional painting and adult restraint, after his liberating exposure to French modernism in general and Surrealism in particular. He reduced his medium to exuberant automatist drawing on monochrome fields of color. His biomorphic forms were often simply outlined, as in “The Kiss” (1924), where you can locate the point of contact and maybe a few blue sparks (or hairs, or petals), but not much more. Some forms are slightly filled in, as in the more legible “Painting (The Lovers — Adam and Eve),” from 1925. Standouts include two large works, both titled “Painting” (1936), where Miró improvised on the raw, glowing side of Masonite, mingling black shapes and outlines with daubs of color. They are presaged by two 1924 works sparely drawn in pencil on cigar-box tops painted white. The fissured white suggests both refined earth and floating ethers — a lunar landscape for Miró’s weightless mysterious creatures. ROBERTA SMITH
Through Nov. 27. Public Art Fund in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 334 Furman Street, Brooklyn; 212-223-7800, publicartfund.org.
When I sat down on a shady bench in Brooklyn Bridge Park recently to contemplate Leilah Babirye’s “Agali Awamu (Togetherness),” a suite of nine-foot-tall carved pine sculptures that form part of the five-person show “Black Atlantic,” an enormous ship called the SSI Magnificent happened to be gliding past right behind them.
Competing with the constant movement of New York Harbor — not to mention with the steel-belted, glorious Brooklyn Bridge overhead — isn’t easy. But Daniel S. Palmer and the artist Hugh Hayden, who curated “Black Atlantic” for the Public Art Fund around the theme of African diaspora identities, use the incongruity to their advantage. Babirye’s chunky, darkened figures, each adorned with rusty cogs and bits of metal plating like jewelry, turn their backs to the water, like friends, or maybe just countrymen, who’ve been put to shore in a strange land. Standing within sight of the Statue of Liberty, they serve as a forceful counterpoint to the idea of an America built chiefly by willing immigrants.
The show’s other works ride a similar ambiguity, blending comfortably into the lush park even as they disrupt it with a different story line. Kiyan Williams makes a large version of the bronze “Statue of Freedom” that sits atop the U.S. Capitol, and then covers it in soil, as if it had been buried for four hundred years; Hayden contributes a surreal, unnerving rowboat with built-in wooden ribs and whale-like vertebrae; Tau Lewis’s meditative, starfish-like steel plates are adorned with African patterns; and Dozie Kanu’s concrete couch encapsulates the awkward beauty of a hybrid identity as it sits on Texas-style wire rims. WILL HEINRICH
Through November. Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. 718-638-5000; brooklynmuseum.org.
Art is great, but have you ever stopped to really look at the wonder of a tree? The outdoor plaza of the Brooklyn Museum has been taken over by “The Gray-Green Divide,” a site-specific installation by the New York-based British data journalist Mona Chalabi that got me thinking about the contrasting pleasures and privileges of both seeing art and spending time in nature. Her ink and colored-pencil drawings of the 100 most common trees in New York City are reproduced across the walls and steps at the museum’s entrance. An accompanying pair of Brooklyn maps reveal that areas with more trees remain considerably cooler, while a chart shows a correlation between neighborhood wealth and the number of trees. My 5-year-old daughter was moved enough by the display to hug a tree along Eastern Parkway because trees are helpers. I too began to see trees differently, as indicators of urban social inequity.
Afterward you can walk from the plaza to the neighboring Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the nearby Prospect Park. I’ve spent countless hours these past two years here feeling as if I escaped the city as I trekked up Lookout Hill or by considering the park’s many old and impressive trees, like the Camperdown Elm imported from Scotland and planted near the Boathouse in 1872, later immortalized in verse by Marianne Moore. Chalabi’s installation reminded me of one of the most clarifying standards for art. How does any given artwork compare to a tree thoughtfully considered? JOHN VINCLER
Through Dec. 3. Susan Inglett Gallery, 522 West 24th Street, Manhattan. 212-647-9111; inglettgallery.com.
Hope Gangloff, who has spent decades painting mildly psychedelic portraits of her friends, neighbors and neighborhoods, has turned her attention to the plant-filled landscapes in and around her house in upstate New York, where she moved just before the pandemic. In her latest show at Susan Inglett Gallery, there’s an almost incendiary burst of round red apples; a naked, heavily trimmed rose of Sharon bush poking up over bluish snow; and a blooming lilac framed, in the window of a work shed, by scissors, light switches and a decoratively sliced up Budweiser can.
There’s a lot of drawing in these scenes. Her trees and bushes, especially, which she outlines with black on purple or olive, and to whose bark she gives texture with abstracted, almost calligraphic scribbles, made me think of comic book art. In “Weed Forestin’/Summer,” raindrops like long glass rods streak down across an intricate tableau of marijuana plants. But she keeps all her lines at a careful density, just tight enough to support patch after patch of glowing color — because for Gangloff, color is really the thing.
Considered one by one, Gangloff’s colors range from exaggerated to unreal, sometimes with disarming effect. (I mistook one bright orange willow tree, in “Rose of Sharon in Winter,” for construction safety netting.) Together, though, they create a vision of the world that’s recognizable but heightened, like everyday reality with the volume turned up. WILL HEINRICH
Through Dec. 3. The School, 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, N.Y.; 518-758-1628, jackshainman.com.
How should art respond to difficult times? That’s more or less the question of a new group show at the School in Kinderhook, N.Y., and it offers a range of answers.
El Anatsui’s nearly 20-foot-long piece “Stressed World,” which gives the show its name, is an irregular tapestry of brightly colored liquor bottle caps that finds transcendence in garbage and misery.
But it’s the rare work of art that can do that. The next best strategy on offer is a kind of somber opacity, an acknowledgment of the world’s complexity that doesn’t aspire to penetrate it.
Malick Sidibé’s “Vues de Dos” photographs, shot in Mali in the 1960s and reprinted in the early 2000s, show his subjects from behind. You still get a lot of information — age, dress, posture — but you can’t overlook how much more is hidden from you. Michael Snow’s long video “Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids),” in which a curtain flaps to expose brief glimpses of a green Newfoundland backyard, works similarly.
And two sculptors seem to be exploring a new kind of surrealism, one which, instead of liberating us from the clutches of the unconscious, reveals instead how trapped we are. The squat, troll-like wooden figures of the South African artist Claudette Schreuders flirt maddeningly with psychological resonance, while the Cuban sculptor Yoan Capote, currently showing as well in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, aptly sums up the state of the world by presenting a brick wall in a rolling suitcase. WILL HEINRICH
LOWER EAST SIDE
‘Show Your Work’
Through Dec. 4. 601Artspace, 88 Eldridge Street, Manhattan; 212-243-2735, 601artspace.org.
In 1969, Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote a manifesto for “maintenance art.” She proposed an exhibition spotlighting the tasks that go into the upkeep of everyday life, including cleaning and caring for others. “Show your work — show it again,” she wrote of the repetitive and often hidden nature of this type of labor.
In this group show, curated by the artist Gabriela Vainsencher and 601Artspace’s director, Sara Shaoul, the contributors both follow and complicate that brief. Three prints by Ukeles representing work clocks hang near the entrance; their direct conceptual descendants are Walead Beshty’s “Copper Surrogates” (2017—22), two wall-mounted L shapes that would be exemplars of minimalism if not for the fingerprints all over them. Beshty stipulates that the sculptures be handled without gloves, so traces of human labor accrue.
Most artists here don’t show their work so much as point to the systems that determine its value. In T.J. Dedeaux-Norris’s “Untitled (Say Her Name)” (2011-15), the artist, who uses they/them pronouns, tries to separate their lips, which are glued shut. A potent metaphor for the effects of racism and sexism, the silent video evokes a visceral discomfort that for me was heightened by Roman Signer’s nearby installation. “Schnarchen (Snoring)” (1992) features a tent and audio track of Signer snoring, alluding to a performance he did in Iceland. It’s funny, but listening to Signer sleep while watching Dedeaux-Norris struggle, I couldn’t help thinking about who gets license to take it easy and who has to work extra hard to be heard. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
UPPER EAST SIDE
‘Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond’
Through Feb. 19. Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 15 East 84th Street, Manhattan. 212-992-7800; isaw.nyu.edu.
The premise of “Ritual and Memory” at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World — to give some overdue attention to antiquity in the borderlands of Europe and Asia, using rare loans from 11 countries — is alluring, if not ultimately convincing. The show’s 5,000-year spread is simply too long, and it’s difficult to find the continuity between primitive clay artifacts and sophisticated Thracian armor, or a pinstriped drinking horn terminating in a gilded sphynx.
That said, though, the armor alone is worth a visit — a silver shin protector with a woman’s lugubrious face at the kneecap is particularly memorable, as are several discrete hoards of identical solid-gold ornaments. And a 7,000-year-old clay man and woman found, along with tiny altars, toy-size houses and other primitive figurines, in what is now Hungary, are extraordinary. The man has something over his shoulder that, according to the wall labels, might be a sickle or something like a boomerang. The woman, missing head and legs but identifiable as such by two tiny protuberant breasts, is flat and angular, and incised from sternum to knees with an intricate decorative pattern. The original meaning of these incisions is lost, along with the cultural context in which they were made. But the unglazed figure looks so simple, so much like a sculpture you might arrive at yourself, given a few hours and some clay, that you can’t help feeling you might recapture its maker’s intention if only you imagine hard enough. WILL HEINRICH
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