March/April 2017: 20 Gallery Shows in New York
These days galleries in New York have excellent shows on display: this week everything revolves around New York’s most important art fair, the Armory Show. It is Armory Week 2017, and the city is even more filled (if possibile) with art professionals and lovers scouting for novelties, inspiration and more in the city.
LOWER EAST SIDE — The most fervent contemporary art scene is well established in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The gallery spaces here are still big – or, in some cases, punitive – and artists can really take advantage of their flexibility (or character) to create immersive installations. Needless to say, these are the ideal locations for solo shows.
Starting from an artist – a name – like Ed Fornieles (at Arsenal Contemporary through March 26) who was well able to meet the challenge with his Finiliars, digital creatures of guaranteed popularity whose cuteness is undeniable. They nevertheless carry – are programmed to react accordingly to – a stream of data sets produced by companies, currencies, and large institutions. Like other artists, Fornieles seems to respond to a generalized call to use complex cultural/popular communication to create an empathetic space in between the viewer and art that carries (socially) relevant content. Meaning, we are at one with what is around us, even when we don’t have knowledge of it; the impact is here carried by smiling or sobbing Finiliars.
A common destiny is also sensed while looking at the all-around “pleasant” paintings by Elliott Green on show at Pierogi (through March 26). Human Nature is the title of the show – or shouldn’t it be just nature, since Green’s “4D” strokes imprint a perpetual movement to his (inhuman) subjects, which are seen in their change through time. Green succeeds in really creating a metaphorical connection between his technique and his base concepts, rather than trying to render a graphic representation of them.
More exhibitions worth visiting for the immersive quality of their installations are Joanna Malinowska’s Not a Metaphorical Forest at Canada (through March 12), and Dana Yago’s The Lusting Breed at bodega (through April 2). Joanna Malinowska investigates the beauty of futile endeavors – because aren’t they all futile – in a wooden aftermath, be it beavers’ creativity or human discards. Dana Yago’s tableaus are rendered throughout the intensity of their media – pressed wool dyed and cut with pressurized water. The recognition is challenging, though some tableaus bear reference to classics such as Courbet, and all of them to certain epochs and practices in regard to women labour.
A certain regard goes to Kader Attia’s Reason’s Oxymorons at Lehmann Maupin (through March 4). Here “spacial immersion” takes a different direction: restrictive, office-like cubicles colored in dark tones host video stations where different human scientists (ethnographers, psychiatric and philosophical practitioners and theorists) from Europe and Africa discuss topics that bear different universal and cultural value, from “Genocide” to “Trance”.
Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys present different videos grouped as Xanax Film Festival, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise through April 30. The depression of the title is a joking reference to some of the themes represented in the videos – “documented” recollections of experiments and findings of human (presence?) remains. Understated offerings to the inscrutability of our intentions – let alone existence – especially when testified by a “final” point.
Another solo show is dedicated by Downs & Ross to Vikki Alexander (through March 12). Her work from 1981-1983 is shown at the two gallerists’ new joint location. Just like Alexander appropriated commercial photography, for this Armory week 2017, with their unusually-shaped space Downs & Ross successfully appropriated Alexander’s work in turn.
Notable group shows are Shadow Cabinet at Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space (through March 5) and Heartbreak Hotel at Invisible-Exports (through April 2). Cuchifritos is a very interesting project space, with a unique location inside the Essex Market, and confirms itself as an active experimenter presenting The Shadow Cabinet project. From the project’s website: “we call for the Avant-Garde of the United States, the pioneering thinkers and inventors and visualizers, to not object to what has happened, but to project what could instead happen.” Heartbreak Hotel at Invisible-Exports carries many names, among which notably Tracey Emin, who defend – and excercise – the right to despair, when times are dark. Which could in fact be the cathartic way to go about this.
CHELSEA — For this Armory week 2017, most Chelsea galleries have displayed their best. A number of solo shows – as usual for major prime market galleries – opened in the most famous Manhattan art district just before the start of the Armory art fair; others will close right after New York’s busiest art week is done.
Here galleries and artists also challenge themselves by attempting to construct immersive spaces. Starting from the multiple environments created by Yinka Shonibare MBE for Prejudice at Home: A Parlour, a Library, and a Room at James Cohan Gallery (through March 18), that translate rooted stereotypes while exalting the importance of a rich culture and diversified cultural viewpoints.
Another solo show not-to-miss is the one at David Zwirner. The colossus gallery appears to be taking the leap to cover the distance that separates art dealership and museum. A comprehensive retrospective complete with informative appliques displays 50 years of work by New York artist Alice Neel along a path that connects both 19th-Street locations. Uptown (through April 22) covers the artwork Neel produced between 1938 and 1984 while living in Harlem and then on the Upper West Side, and portraying her neighboring community as well as fellow artists.
More immersive exhibitions are the ones created by the sculptural evironments of Jaume Plensa (Silence at Galerie Lelong through March 11) and Wangechi Mutu (Ndoro Na Miti at Gladstone Gallery through March 25). Plensa’s perspective-defying sculptures are further expressed by similar exercises drawn on the wall, reminiscent of similar classic experimentations such as Holbein the Younger’s famously distorted skull in his 1533 painting The Ambassadors, possibly a reference to the concept of vanitas, connected with the inevitable transience of life. Wangechi Mutu, instead, welcomes the viewer to a parallel planet that is quite like ours, but where borders are less defined, giving birth to trans-cultural artifacts and mutated shapes, seemingly made so by some kind of unknown (yet familiar) virus.
Other shows that deserve a visit are Richard Mosse’s Heat Maps at Jack Shainman Gallery (through March 11), and Pier Paolo Calzolari’s And I Say at Marianne Boesky (through March 25). Mosse photographed refugee camps with military technology that reveals heat sources, such as living bodies. In this way, he tried to re-appropriate a military technology to make visible what is unseen, or overlooked, like the hardships of refugee life. Semi-reclusive, 70-year-old Italian painter Calzolari confirms his presence in the US – a scene he didn’t pursue until recently – with yet another show in Chelsea.
More solo shows are dedicated to exceptional painters: Ron Gorchov’s new work at Cheim & Read (through March 25), May Stevens’ Alice in the Garden at Ryan Lee Gallery (through April 8) and Albert Oehlen’s newest oeuvre – with “a base note of hysteria”, in the artist’s words – Elevator Paintings: Trees at Gagosian through April 15.
Among group show, two are the most notable: the impressive collection of Serialities displayed by Hauser & Wirth (yet another art colossus) through April 8, and the 11th White Columns Annual, through March 4. Both shows display some of the finest artwork from the galleries’ collections with convincing pieces by renowned artists. The Hauser & Wirth show features Isa Genzken, Zoe Leonard, Sophie Calle and Cindy Sherman, among many, as further developments on the concept of seriality, whose reference point is set in this exhibition by photographer August Sander and his serial portraits of people of different trades, that he realized between 1910 and 1950 (People of the 20th Century). A long series of famous names is also on show at White Columns. The exhibition is opened by a series of “issues” of an unconventional publication, After Dark by Hilton Als, and goes on to present other significant artwork such as a delicate ready-made appropriation by Zoe Leonard (as commmon in the artist’s practice) and the timeless video (and conceptual) art classic Primary Time (1974) by Bas Jan Ader.
BROOKLYN — This Armory Week 2017 is very busy, but it is definitely worth the trip to visit at least one of the gallery districts in Brooklyn, well represented by the rising scene of Bushwick. Galleries here can afford bigger spaces, often surreally surrounded by a more outer-borough, “urban” landscape than the one that in recent years Manhattan art districts have gotten gallery goers used to.
Luhring Augustine has a location here, now presenting Jeremy Moon: 1934-1973 (through April 16), his artwork immobilizing the viewer into contemplation of its reflective surfaces, emphasized by the grandeur of the space.
Ben Finer’s The Bight at Honey Ramka (through March 5) shows two videos of cinematographic craft (and imagination), along with some physical props in an installation of their own, succeeding in creating a dual exhibition, that simultaneously gives depth to the artist’s work.
Finally, a notable group show is x ≈ y: An Act of Translation, on show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid until March 26.