Want to see new art in New York this weekend? Check out Christian Walker’s treasurable photographs in SoHo and Lari Pittman’s “sparkling city with egg monuments” in Chelsea. And don’t miss Shuvinai Ashoona’s fantastical panoramic drawings at the Meat Packing District.
Through Jan. 7. Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, 26 Wooster Street, Manhattan; 212-431-2609, leslielohman.org.
For reasons sometimes hard to know, treasurable artists drop from the radar. Having them back in sight is a gift and Leslie-Lohman Museum delivers one in “Christian Walker: The Profane and the Poignant,” a first survey of a photographer who had an art world presence in the 1980s and 1990s — he made a notable contribution to, among other shows, “Black Male” at the Whitney Museum — and has since been all but forgotten.
Born in 1953, Walker was active in Boston’s early gay liberation movement. His first major photographic series, “The Theater Project,” documented the city’s red-light district, the infamous Combat Zone, as it was known, that drew both gay and straight people. In his next series, “Miscegenation,” he took the intimate mingling of Black and white male bodies as a subject, at a time when the gay rights movement was largely white, and did so using an experimental technique of applying pigments directly to photographic prints.
Much of Walker’s career coincided with the AIDS crisis. The toll in lives it took, and the race-based inequities it revealed, became major themes for him. A larger consciousness of loss thrums through his art, evident in portraits of family and friends early and late. Eventually he became lost himself. In the mid-1990s, he moved to Seattle, where he cut off most of his East Coast contacts, lived for a time on the street, and died, most likely of a drug overdose, in 2003.
His work survives only in bits and pieces. The Leslie-Lohman show, organized by Jackson Davidow and Noam Parness, is an act of hunter-gatherer persistence, and a heroic one: a generous tribute to a memorable artist, and a gift to an audience for whom he has been restored. HOLLAND COTTER
Through Nov. 4. Lehmann Maupin, 501 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-255-2923, lehmannmaupin.com.
There’s a political tang to the Los Angeles-based painter Lari Pittman’s embrace of “decoration,” a quality the heroic painters of the last century demeaned as feminine and domestic. Pittman’s latest body of work doesn’t rebut so much as overwhelm the supposed mere-ness of the decorative arts. Moments of filigree delicacy and broad motifs constitute the vertiginous sweep, scale and intricacy of the compositions: sprawling Edwardian cities crowned with glowing eggs.
Eight large paintings and another very large panoramic one, each titled “Sparkling City With Egg Monuments” and numbered, draw on a vocabulary of peacock feathers, oak leaves and argyle to embellish canted stone towers and buttery streetlights, trimmed in teal and peach. Nested in tangles of conduits, sprouting from long stalks and sitting on layers of bridges are the eggs, symbols of birth and rebirth, perhaps urban renewal, and one imagines that a society that prized the egg would also prioritize the future. In these glittering cities, there are eggs within eggs, like the four packed into the feathery fifth in “#6. ” In “#3,” where a central large shell swims with blade- and bag-like forms, an egg-shaped nucleus contains the word “Please” rendered in musical script. Their ovoid outlines contain maps, dreams, salutations — “Abrazos” and “Thank You” — the ingredients, maybe, of a civil society.
The paintings are also dazzling, like stained glass. Their rhythmic schematics would be hard to build. But the symbolic space Pittman pries open within a limited palette of hues and forms can be a restorative place to dwell. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through Nov. 4. Fort Gansevoort, 5 Ninth Avenue, Manhattan; 917-639-3113, fortgansevoort.com.
Traditional Inuit stories often involve the transformation of a person into an animal. In Shuvinai Ashoona’s large-scale work on paper, “Drawing like the elephant” (2023), tusks appear to erupt from the mouths of two human forms. One figure has the feet of a bird and another the legs of a polar bear. And is that an alligator standing on its hind legs like a person in the center?
The depicted figures hold drawings, which similarly feature beings holding even smaller drawings. This mise-en-abyme composition of an art competition at once draws in and confronts the viewer’s expectations. You have to look closely to read the phrases: “2023 winner for each animal drawing,” and then “winner for showing animals do draw.” Here she’s provocatively satirizing and rejecting the settler-colonialist violence of viewing the native artist as a human animal or curio. Ashoona, who works primarily in colored pencil and ink, descends from an Inuit dynasty of artists working in Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset), Canada. Her grandmother was Pitseolak Ashoona and her cousin was Annie Pootoogook, who showed at Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany.
Standout works, across three floors of recent drawings (all 2023), include the intricately detailed landscape panorama “Eggs and Rocks,” which harks back to Ashoona’s early monochromes, and “Love of Mother Earth,” in which a woman in a light green parka reaches skyward, with her back to the viewer before two children, as globes of mini earth-bubbles float above: a vision of ecological sorrow or of so many possible worlds? JOHN VINCLER
Carlos Villa and Leo Valledor
Through Nov. 4. Silverlens, 505 West 24th Street, Manhattan. 646-449-9400; silverlensgalleries.com.
Carlos Villa (1936-2013) and Leo Valledor (1936-1989) grew up together in San Francisco, the children of Filipino immigrants. Both became artists. Both moved to New York, though Villa went back home after a few years to teach at San Francisco Art Institute. But Valledor made hard-edge nonfigurative painting, while Villa, after starting in a similar vein, found his artistic voice with feathers, body prints and performance.
Showing together for the very first time, according to Silverlens Gallery, in “Carlos Villa & Leo Valledor: Remains of Surface,” the artists enrich each other immeasurably. The intellectual quality of Valledor’s work, the sense that every aesthetic decision is a kind of serenely bloodless chess move, highlights the artifice and deliberation in Villa’s approach. At the same time, Villa’s energy and self-expression expose the passion and personality implicit in Valledor, making his saturated colors sparkle and pop.
Valledor’s “We Shall Overcome,” from 1983, is a group of four shaped canvases marked with simple stripes and diagonals of red, gold, black and white. Bracketed by face prints, they glow like neon. A roughly contemporary unstretched canvas by Villa, meanwhile, marked with dozens of black and gray faces interspersed with fabric scraps and chicken bones, is a powerful demand that the artist’s identity, as he conceives of it, be given space in the canon. But it’s also as carefully composed and balanced a composition as his friend’s. WILL HEINRICH
Through Oct. 28. Matthew Marks, 523 West 24th Street, Manhattan; 212-243-0200, matthewmarks.com.
A handful of current painting shows in New York involve canvases stuck on idiosyncratic supports, as if the paintings themselves aren’t enough. Wade Guyton has the most elaborate (and least gimmicky) armature of all: free-standing metal scaffolding that augments the walls to display 35 untitled, identically sized paintings (2020–23). Wandering through the aisles at Matthew Marks feels like shopping in museum storage. Figuratively speaking, though, the ranks of pipes are a dry joke about Guyton’s perennial, self-reflexive subject: the galleries, machines and discourses underpinning heady conceptual work like his.
The paintings seem pitched to different tastes. Into abstract art? Consider a smeary, neon canvas resembling a glitchy Gerhard Richter squeegee painting. A Guyton die-hard? There are variations on the large black sans-serif X he’s used since the 2000s. Politically inclined? Another group reproduces New York Times articles describing violent clashes — from Russia attacking Ukraine to the NYPD kettling protesters.
The works aren’t paintings, actually, but Epson inkjet prints on linen, which Guyton folds in half, runs through the machine twice, then unfolds and stretches. They winkingly declare their status as products of a honed, repeatable process. Several show romantically worn studio rooms or twisted modernist furniture; one depicts a black, hot pink and orange abstraction coming off the press. In the abstract works, the expressivity or uniqueness that Abstract Expressionism continues to evoke is undermined by certain passages that repeat across the fold. But the folds are also jarring, imperfect flashes of chaos — each artwork is singular after all. TRAVIS DIEHL
Lower East Side
Through Oct. 29. Marc Straus Gallery, 299 Grand Street, Manhattan; 212-510-7646, marcstraus.com.
In his U.S. debut solo exhibition, the Nigerian ceramic artist Ozioma Onuzulike offers an elegant invitation to think about climate change. His assemblage “Of Harvest and Mixed Feelings” (2023) appears to consist of stacked yams mounted with wire to vertical boards hung from the wall, creating eight columns with nearly 20 of the tubers stacked on each. The yams are actually made of fired earthenware and stoneware clays. Their arrangement brings to mind both the rows of a farmer’s field as well as minimalist paintings like Agnes Martin’s masterwork “Friendship” (1963), at MoMA, with its grid of gold leaf and oil paint rectangles. But here Onuzulike’s grid is complicated by a parabola of singed darkness rising from the bottom of his wall-mounted construction like a wave from left to right.
Yams are an essential crop of Nigeria and many other African nations of the so-called yam belt. Climate change has disrupted the growing season, with crop yields predicted to further decline, increasing regional food insecurity — a complex situation Onuzulike distills in a single emblematic work.
Most of the seven works on display use clay beads and wire to make objects that are both sculpture and textile, recalling the flattened bottle-cap constructions of the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui. In “Lagbaja’s Extra-Large Danshiki” (2023), nearly 16,000 beads in the shape of palm kernels — fired with ash and recycled glass glazes in a variety of colors and textures — combine to replicate the familiar Yoruba garment at a monumental scale of more than 10 feet square. JOHN VINCLER
Through Oct. 27. R & Company, 64 White Street, Manhattan; 212-343-979, r-and-company.com.
Roberto Lugo’s ceramics are easy to love. His vases, pots and jugs often feature Black celebrities and historical figures — among them Harriet Tubman and the rapper MF Doom — painted amid profusions of mismatching, multicolored patterns and motifs. They’re over the top, fun and serve the current desire for more representation of marginalized communities — a clever shake-up of an old art form, à la Kehinde Wiley.
But Lugo’s exhibition “The Gilded Ghetto” drives home that his work is far more than clever. The show includes “The Pigeon Crib” (2023), a riff on the artist James McNeill Whistler’s late 19th-century Peacock Room; the “Della Robske” wall reliefs (2023), modeled after the work of the Italian Renaissance sculptor Andrea della Robbia; and large vessels from the “Orange & Black” series (2022–23), inspired by ancient Greco-Roman pottery. Together they demonstrate Lugo’s far-reaching studiousness, skill and creativity. He isn’t just repeating a winning formula — he’s pushing himself to continually reimagine what the traditional container of ceramics can hold.
The “Orange & Black” pieces are the most understated, which makes them standouts. In the titular colors, the vessels display scenes related to the life of the artist, who was raised by Puerto Rican parents in an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood. “School to Prison Pipeline” (2022) has three wraparound, horizontal bands stacked atop one another, all showing people waiting in line: for school lunch, a government food-benefits program, and a meal in prison. The repetition of figures creates a staccato rhythm, pointing to the quotidian horrors of a corrupt system in a disquieting but beautiful way. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Upper East Side
‘Chopped & Screwed’
Through Oct. 28. White Cube, 1002 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; whitecube.com.
The entry of an established international gallery like White Cube into New York, its sixth city after Paris, Hong Kong, West Palm Beach, Seoul and its native London, can’t help feeling like a show of force. “Chopped & Screwed,” the inaugural exhibition, installs work by marquee names — Mark Bradford, Adrian Piper, Georg Baselitz, Julie Mehretu — around a sumptuously renovated former bank building on Madison Avenue, and there’s a chromed-out BMW motorcycle in the middle of the floor.
But Courtney Willis Blair, who curated the show, finds plenty of thought-provoking moments among the heavy names. The motorcycle, titled “The Lover, off the road (after Barbara),” is Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s tribute to the filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who famously rode a BMW of her own. Danh Vo’s bronze cast of a 16th-century Christ figure — gleaming, gnarly, marked with flame-colored seams and dimples — hangs across the room from David Hammons’s 1988 “Air Jordan,” a disconcertingly handsome piece of black inner tube studded with rusted bottle caps bent into the shape of cowrie shells. Between them, the two pieces are a master class in the cultural construction of majesty. The staid vertical stripes of Theaster Gates’s “Civil Color Spectrum” (2023), a red and yellow palette of discarded fire hoses, are a perfect rejoinder to the procession of Klan hoods in a Philip Guston drawing; upstairs, a chrome-plated drain by Robert Gober winks at “Everything #5.1,” Piper’s window cut into the wall. WILL HEINRICH
Through Oct. 28. Karma, 188 & 172 East Second Street, Manhattan; 212-390-8290,karmakarma.org
Nan Goldin called the painter Jane Dickson “a correspondent from Hell,” a slightly extreme characterization of Times Square, even in its ’70s smut den incarnation, which she began depicting while living and working in the neighborhood; its current state as a capitalist theme park is, in other ways, much worse. The 16 new fluorescent street scenes here revisit a presanitized version of the city, Dickson’s solitary, spectral figures slicing through ink-black sidewalks and floating in and out of pleasure places, vibrating within a gaseous cloud of neon and indeterminate menace.
Much of that effect is thanks to their execution with oil stick or acrylic on linen and felt, a smeary, diffuse quality that translates effectively to oleaginous peep shows and greasy fast food counters as if in a half-remembered dream. Dickson’s high-keyed palette and optical color mixing give an Impressionistic flavor, like if Paul Signac painted liquor store marquees.
The paintings’ linguistic thrust — each work depicts the come-ons and entreaties of street signage — is reminiscent of a Frank O’Hara poem. The stacked text of “Promised Land 2” (2023), “PROMISED LAND / BOUGHT / ALL CASH” reads like a deadpan obituary for the American dream. Dickson’s work is halfway between cultural preservation and lament, seizing in electric amber a moment when you had to leave your house to get your kicks. But like Hopper, whose lonely New Yorkers roam the streets looking for something they never find, Dickson roots around the national psyche and encounters only shadows. MAX LAKIN
Through Nov. 4. Staley-Wise Gallery, 100 Crosby Street, Manhattan; 212 966-6223, staleywise.com.
Top hats, walking umbrellas, topiary hedges, lorgnettes: These were a few of Rodney Smith’s favorite things. Reflecting his upper-crust background and aesthetic preference for striking geometric forms, they appear repeatedly in his witty, elegant fashion photography.
Showcased at Staley-Wise Gallery in beautiful large posthumous prints and in a sumptuous new monograph supervised by Paul Martineau, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Smith’s fashion pictures, most of them taken in the ’90s and aughts, offered an alternative to the sex-and-violence sensationalism that juiced fashion photography at that time.
Instead of drawing inspiration from soft-core pornography, Smith found it in classics of cinema (a shot of a man chasing or being chased by a biplane is a quote from Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”) and painting (a rear view of a nude woman who has taken off the white gown that is the putative focal point of the fashion shot is a riff on Ingres’s “Grande Odalisque”).
Smith, who died in 2016, ensured that every detail was to his liking. The placement of an umbrella-toting man between the gap of the World Trade towers in the distance, the architecture of a model’s wide-brimmed hat and flared skirt against a line of conically pruned conifers — it was all perfect. His greatest inspiration was the wistful whimsy of Magritte. A man wearing a top hat and floating in air above a giant top hat (made of wood and black fabric) in an Italianate topiary garden is worthy of the Surrealist master. ARTHUR LUBOW
Through Oct. 28, Paula Cooper Gallery, 521 West 21st St., Manhattan; 212-255-1105, paulacoopergallery.com.
When in late 1965 Jay DeFeo removed “The Rose” — an abstract painting that weighs almost a ton and remains by far her best-known work — from her San Francisco apartment studio, it was the end of a long-term relationship. To build it, she had slathered and chiseled layer upon layer of thick oil-based paint for eight years. Adding to the upheaval, her marriage was collapsing.
Artistically paralyzed for several years afterward, DeFeo found her way back through a serious engagement with photography that began around 1970. Hardly shown publicly in her lifetime, her remarkable photos are featured in their most extensive exhibition to date, “Inventing Objects,” at Paula Cooper Gallery, and a just-published monograph, “Jay DeFeo: Photographic Work.”
Like Man Ray, whom she admired, DeFeo prized vision and originality over technical proficiency. Like him, too, she explored cameraless photography to compose abstract forms. Some of her photographs were sketches for the acrylic paintings she made post- “Rose,” but most were conceived as independent works.
Her black-and-white photographs, like her typically black-and-white paintings, reveled in geometric patterns she located in landscapes and botanical studies, recalling Californians of the previous generation — Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and especially Imogen Cunningham. She added her own twist, as in juxtaposing veined tropical leaves against a greenhouse glazed grid.
DeFeo loved fragments. She isolated part of a fringed white lampshade against a black wall. She assembled torn-out images to make collages and arranged broken glassware before her camera. Destruction, construction — they were equally beautiful to her. ARTHUR LUBOW
‘Women Reframe American Landscape’
Through Oct. 29. Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, N.Y.; (518) 943-7465, thomascole.org.
A placard on Thomas Cole’s porch marks where the Hudson School patriarch liked to look out at the valley and lament the loss of the wilderness. The irony is that Cole’s fantastic landscapes never quite existed: he wasn’t mourning nature, but the ideal he’d built on it. An exhibition at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site shows the extent to which the idea of landscape has been rethought. His former residence and studio host work by 13 contemporary women and collectives, including Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Wendy Red Star, and Jean Shin. A poster in the stairwell by the Guerrilla Girls demystifies the Hudson River School’s boys’ club, while Anna Plesset’s trompe l’oeil painting-of-a-painting, Thomas’s autumnal view of the Cole manse as copied by his sister, Sarah, shows the complexity of the Hudson School legacy.
Across the garden, Cole’s old studio houses the first survey of second-generation Hudson River School painter Susie Barstow — which is also the first survey of any female Hudson River School artist — and six landscape painters from her circle. While the men went big, Barstow earned her reputation specializing in the small- and medium-size canvases popular in the last half of the 19th century. A few of her paintings, like the piercing chartreuse “Sunshine in the Woods,” perform the genre’s best trick, depicting not leaves or trunks in a clearing but something more ephemeral: the air itself. In another picture, aptly titled “Landscape With Fading Tree,” a trunk blends into the sky; nature is literally disappearing. TRAVIS DIEHL
More to See
Cold Spring, N.Y.
Through Jan. 8. Magazzino Italian Art, 2700 Route 9, Cold Spring, N.Y.; 845-666-7202, magazzino.art.
Pop Art finally arrived in 1962, when Andy Warhol and 28 playful upstarts, displaying their wares in “New Realists” at the Sidney Janis Gallery, drove Mark Rothko, the master of sober, hovering shapes of color, to leave the gallerist in a pique.
One New Realist must have needled with special force: the proto-punk Mario Schifano. For across the 80 works in his big new exhibition, “Mario Schifano: the Rise of the ’60s,” it becomes obvious that this Italian interpreter of Coca-Cola (a logo he loves to quote) understood the goals of Abstract Expressionism even while he mocked them.
As with Rothko, his muse was the square — just the wrong kind. In pencil Schifano drafts rounded squares inside crisp-cornered ones, replicating the era’s tube televisions. Into them he mortars sloppy brushloads of enamel paint, the pigment of outdoor signage. In “Elemento per Paesaggio” (1962), squares stack up helter-skelter, recalling TVs in a pawnshop window.
Elsewhere, color lampoons consumer choice. In two untitled works from 1961, one square wears a yellow-and-cobalt reminiscent of the Spam tin, while the other is done in the signature cream-and-crimson of Coke. Across each foreground, Schifano draws a cartoon rope seat and bucket, vacant, as if the billboard painter has just taken lunch.
Schifano knew that studio painting had, through reproduction, joined mass media. Where Rothko’s generation yearned for pure, unmediated color, Schifano submits to modernity’s mediator: the screen. It’s fitting that in the stillness of the Magazzino’s Brutalist pavilion, no titles or dates clutter the exhibition. For those, you must download the app. WALKER MIMMS
Through Jan. 7. New York Public Library, 476 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 917-275-6975, nypl.org/events/exhibitions.
Has there been another exhibition whose venue so perfectly suits its art? In one of the slender halls on the third floor of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue headquarters, a civic landmark, hang photos shot in the slender cars of the New York subway, another symbol of the city. Walk down the hall at N.Y.P.L., and you might be on a platform looking into a stopped train: In one car, a weary-looking straphanger scowls while a rider in a head scarf and coat looks beatific; in another, a young woman ogles a dandy.
The Irish photographer Alen MacWeeney, 84, took these 44 photos in 1977 after arriving in Manhattan to work for Richard Avedon. They nod to the subway shots of Walker Evans from four decades earlier, with one major difference: In most of them, MacWeeney cleverly enlarges two subway shots onto one sheet of photo paper; with no seam between them, they register as a continuous scene. That gives each print a subtle surrealism, as we absorb the breach in space and time across its two photos without recognizing that they began life separately: A woman rests her eyes in a car that, thanks to MacWeeney, appears to have expanded into a maze of graffitied walls; another car seems to show its inside and outside at once, like a Möbius strip.
“The chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table” — that phrase by Isidore Lucien Ducasse is supposed to capture surrealism’s signature weirdness. But what about the encounter of an umbrella with another moment in its own existence? That’s the more peculiar strangeness we find in MacWeeney’s subway. BLAKE GOPNIK
Liz Magic Laser
Through Nov. 19. Pioneer Works; 159 Pioneer Street, Brooklyn, 718-596-3001, pioneerworks.org.
Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris is both famous and notorious. A wellspring for modern psychology and neurology — Sigmund Freud trained there under Jean-Martin Charcot — it’s also known for popularizing the term “hysteria,” a now discounted female malady. Salpêtrière is still a working hospital, though, and it serves as the stage for Liz Magic Laser’s excellent film, “Convulsive States” at Pioneer Works.
The cast of the film, made in collaboration with the French journalist Laura Geisswiller, includes doctors, historians, therapists, clergy and artists. We visit a dance class for people with muscular dystrophy and gaze upon paintings by psychiatric patients. There are laboratories with beeping computer monitors and sculptures outside the hospital that conjure the troubled spirits of residents, past and present — as well as a visit with the sculptor Fabrice Brunet, who also teaches tai chi and leads Laser through a few exercises.
Ultimately, the film and a series of eight smaller videos, with people performing various types of bodywork, explore psychosomatic disorders and how to treat them. Laser admits to her own mild afflictions — although the doctors at Salpêtrière treat them with a shrug, rather than offering serious prescriptions. The project is interesting for showing the infinite approaches to pathology and treatment. If you’re experiencing a twitch or convulsion, should you be exorcised (one priest here says he receives an occasional request to do so), or go to a yoga class or solicit medical experts? The answer is clearly tied to the time and place in which it’s asked, but also who wields the power to make such decisions. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Through Dec. 23. Hauser & Wirth, 443 West 18th Street, Manhattan; 212-542-5662; hauserwirth.com.
“Once There Was a Mother,” a show of very late Louise Bourgeois drawings, prints and embroideries at Hauser & Wirth’s new 18th Street outpost, takes its name from a 1947 text she wrote and illustrated about a woman’s relationship with her son. (The new space, which includes a screening room, bookstore and reinstallation of the Roth Bar along with a comparatively modest viewing room, is dedicated to artists’ editions.) Despite the title — and despite depictions of babies floating on serpentine umbilicals, or naked fathers in explicit silhouette — the work’s emphasis is squarely on a woman’s own subjective experience of maternity.
In a 10-foot-high “Self Portrait,” in embroidery, watercolor and ink on fabric, birth hits a woman’s body as heavily, and ineluctably, as a train wreck. Small collaged images show a woman gestating and transforming around the circumference of a clock face, while at 12 o’clock, still pregnant, she’s throttled by a faceless, blood-red man. In “The Good Mother,” another blood-red stick figure discharges a silvery cloud of aluminum from one enormous breast. This one could be, if you want, a portrait of maternal claustrophobia, or of some primordial Jungian fertility symbol. But it could also be the way an artist, after living for nearly a century, cut straight through symbols and ideas to the carnal heart of a defining human experience. WILL HEINRICH
‘We didn’t ask permission, we just did it …’
Through Dec. 8. Mishkin Gallery, 135 East 22nd Street, Manhattan; 646-660-6653, mishkingallery.baruch.cuny.edu.
Six years ago, Puerto Rico endured the perfect storm of Hurricane Maria and a fiscal crisis, while decolonization discourse peaked on the mainland. But the art scene there has long been grass roots and adaptable. Embajada (or “Embassy”), the curatorial moniker of Manuela Paz and Christopher Rivera, ambitiously take the recent history of Puerto Rican biennials to Manhattan, with a survey of work previously included in three series of international group shows staged between 2000 and 2016. The artists and issues that emerged there remain active and acute. Several participants, like Edra Soto and Daniel Lind-Ramos, have appeared lately in big Caribbean surveys at the Whitney and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The show at Mishkin provides some background.
At the gallery, a line of rolled coins snakes around a vitrine of ephemera. The Mexican artist Damián Ortega produced “100 dólares de dieta” for the first PR Invitational by living without cash and exchanging his $100 stipend for 10,000 pennies. The Gran Tropical Bienal embraced beaches and jungles, represented here by “Escuela de Oficios,” the cattail-fiber mat and crates of printed matter of an outdoor library by Jorge González Santos. On the wall, the mesh “Ponchos Anti-Zika” by Jessica Kairé embody the specter of fever. Mike Egan organized the three Cave-In shows in a cavern that once sheltered nationalist rebels. Artists like Rivera, Andra Ursuta and Candice Lin produced work in situ. Andy Meerow pasted the rock with posters reading “Wet Pain”; on Mishkin’s walls, that raw message hits home. TRAVIS DIEHL
Upper East Side
Through Oct. 21. Gagosian, 821 Park Avenue, Manhattan; 212-796-1228, gagosian.com.
Cady Noland, an exacting arranger of ready-made Americana, rarely debuts new work. Even her formidable career survey in 2018 took place not in her native United States but at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt. This notorious scarcity makes her sculptures an event, in the sense of sneakers or (say) vintage beer cans: Their appeal might puzzle the layperson, but thrill the collector.
This 2023 batch of sculptures, all untitled, gathers her studied red, white, blue, black and silver palette of cans and police gear into spare but menacing tableaus. Some strongly resemble work she made during the Reagan administration. One piece, an aluminum walker decorated with black straps, leather gloves and toy badges, is from 1983. Trays of Polaroids in the window sill offer installation views of Noland’s work from previous decades, including veritable walls of Budweiser. Of course, many of her materials are themselves collectibles — one sculpture pairs shiny chains and trash cans with ’70s-era pull-tab Budweisers and a steel milk crate ominously stamped with the name of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency.
Other works confront the viewer with actual grenades and bullets, suspended in clear acrylic cubes, alongside badges and drink cans given the same treatment. The munitions have been drilled out and the gunpowder emptied. (Resin heats up as it cures.) The encased Buds and Cokes have been drained, too. They still contain the symbolism of a consumer culture protected with lethal force. Noland repeats herself, but then so does the country. TRAVIS DIEHL
Through Oct. 21. Monya Rowe Gallery, 224 West 30th Street, No. 304, Manhattan; monyarowegallery.com.
Nothing much happens in Polina Barskaya’s 13 new, modestly scaled paintings, which, given art’s vogue for overstimulating a viewer into submission, is a relief. But then again, entire worlds churn under their softly constructed surfaces. The artist’s muted depictions of herself, alone or with her husband and young daughter, can be startling, not for their voyeurism, which barely registers, but in their banality: They get in and out of bed, bathe and loaf in various states of undress. These are domestic tableaus minus the domicile; her scenes occur in hotel rooms and holiday rentals, private but transient, calm but not enough to escape anxiety.
Her concerns have an antecedent in the Intimists, the group of Post-Impressionist dissidents including Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard who, weary of the oppressive grandeur of the plein-air painters, moved their work inside, where they actually lived, transposing psychic turmoil into the intimacy of breakfast rooms and unmade beds. Barskaya’s compositions are more stable than Bonnard’s, but they share a vibratory ambiguity, each mark establishing the image but also disturbing it. These aren’t romantic flourishes. The artist appears behind tired eyes, sunk into the far reaches of the room, an emotional distance that may as well be unreachable.
Barskaya, who was born in Soviet-era Ukraine and resides in Brooklyn, works from photos, which means the finished image is one of multiple consciousness — the artist memorializing herself both in a specific moment and also her memory of it. What results in the translation is a minor but persistent melancholy, the realization of impermanence, an elegy for time and its evaporation. MAX LAKIN
Through Oct. 21. Gagosian, 555 West 24th Street, Manhattan, 212-741-1111; gagosian.com.
During a decade-long career tinged by the economic malaise that shrouded Japan in the 1990s, Tetsuya Ishida practiced a kind of realist-Surrealism, depicting unnatural things happening within the recognizable confines of postindustrial life: salarymen swelling to the size of office blocks in which they’re entombed; sullen shut-ins disappearing into the furniture. His pictures suggest an airless worldview where the only thing worse than not having a job is having one.
In Ishida’s finely rendered nightmares of techno-automation and modern isolation, 76 of which are on view here, bodies transmogrify into despondent machinery or are dismembered and factory-packaged, barely veiled allusions to the dehumanizing effects of corporate capitalism.
Ishida’s protagonists are recognizable in another way, too: all sharing the artist’s round, guileless face, though not as autofiction. They are, as he said, “self-portraits of other people.” Their repetition functions as a two-way mirror: a kindness that declined to trap others within his scenes of abjection, but also refused to absolve a viewer of a shared suffering.
There are traces of cyberpunk manga in Ishida’s body horror, but his work largely diverged from dominant Japanese styles. Unlike the more palatable and chromatic Neo Pop of his contemporaries that shunned the unrelenting bleakness around them, Ishida, who died in 2005 at 31, channeled Surrealist forebears like Leonor Fini and Leonora Carrington, embracing a mesmeric gloominess and despairing palette. These are unlovely images, hard to look at. Ishida knew we look away at our peril. MAX LAKIN
‘City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Space’
Through Oct. 22. Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-534-1672, www.mcny.org.
New Yorkers may think of their city as secular, but a fascinating show demonstrates that the Big Apple is indeed a “city of faith” — signaled not only by its churches, mosques, temples and synagogues, but also the aromas of halal carts, the religious exemptions to alternate-side parking rules, or the people who walk around with cross-shaped marks on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday.
The exhibition pays special attention to South Asian communities (including a sizable Indo-Caribbean diaspora). Through documentary photographs, artworks, maps and videos, “City of Faith” shows how these groups have made space for themselves in a city that has often considered them “outsiders,” especially after Sept. 11, when Muslims of all origins, Hindus and Sikhs were increasingly subject to state surveillance and xenophobia.
An artist’s book by the poet Divya Victor commemorates South Asians who have been victims of racial violence. Pamphlets, posters and paintings nod to the role artists have played in protests, including those organized at J.F.K. airport in 2018 after the president, Donald Trump, imposed a “Muslim ban”; among the works in this section are a set of small portraits of South Asian feminist activists by Jaishri Abichandani, each decorated in a style that could be called “desi maximalism.” A video installation by Utsa Hazarika, centered on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nods to the historical connection between the civil rights movement in America, immigration policy and the anti-caste struggles of South Asian Dalits as well as to the yet unfulfilled promise of true allyship between the communities. ARUNA D’SOUZA
Through Oct. 21. Ortuzar Projects, 9 White Street, Manhattan; 212-257-0033, ortuzarprojects.com.
Ben Sakoguchi spent three years as a boy interned in Arizona with his Japanese American family. His prolific series of “Orange Crate Label” paintings, begun in the 1970s, use the style of produce branding developed in California, where his family had a grocery store, to satirize the foibles, hypocrisies and grand injustices of life in the United States. The emotional range of the works is stunning. One relatively blithe 2005 painting picks on baseball sluggers “juicing” with steroids, while another from 1981 features David Duke, a onetime grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and his wife, Chloê Hardin, in their white robes, proudly holding glowing citrus fruits.
There are 94 individual paintings in this show, titled “Belief & Wordplay.” Their cumulative weight is hard to bear. (Not all involve oranges: In the 16-panel “Comparative Religions 101,” 2014/2019, which features a sweeping bruise-hued view of the Grand Canyon, no faith goes unscathed.) Recent paintings carry the orange crate format to a discomfiting level, like the black-on-black tribute to George Floyd that features the text “I CAN’T BREATHE,” with a black wrapped orange near the bottom. Out of context, imagining the victims of racist violence as orange brands would seem insulting, or worse. Here, in the company of a police dog attacking a Black protester and white supremacists condemning Barack Obama with Nazi flags — or any number of awful, actual scenes from Sakoguchi’s lifetime — the absurd orange motif feels like the artist insisting that, while racism and death vein the country, its enduring crime is commodifying life. TRAVIS DIEHL
‘Can You See Me Now? Painting the Aging Body’
Through Oct. 21. Ryan Lee, 515 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-397-0742, ryanleegallery.com.
Being an old woman can be a paradox: You’ve lived for decades and accomplished a lot, but society seems to have no place for you, to the point where you feel invisible. This could be why Alice Neel created one of her most memorable works, a nude self-portrait, at 80: to show the world she was still there.
“Can You See Me Now? Painting the Aging Body” is animated by a similar impulse. The exhibition focuses on depictions of older women made by women, in the process highlighting how rare it is to see such images. I’d love to see a bigger version of this show, but the 13 works here are somber and celebratory, defiant and introspective, capturing a range of experiences.
My favorites use the materiality of paint to render aging flesh. Clarity Haynes’s “Brenda” (2020) emphasizes the soft, curving lines and veins of the torso of her sitter, Brenda Goodman, whose “Double Portrait” (2006), depicting herself and her partner, has layers of oil paint encrusted like dried skin. There’s a theatricality to Joan Semmel’s introspective “Skin Patterns” (2013) — don’t miss her solo show across the street, at Alexander Gray Associates — that resonates surprisingly with Samantha Nye’s paintings of women in her life that mimic Playboy covers. “Entertainment for Men — Mommom as July 1982” (2012) features Nye’s topless grandmother tangled with a telephone. Her skin is marked by wrinkles and freckles, while her belly and hips bulge, but they don’t register as flaws: She looks human and delighted to be playing this part. JILLIAN STEINHAUER
Through Oct. 21. Canada, 61 Lispenard Street, Manhattan; 212-925-4631; canadanewyork.com.
In the 1970s, the painter and teacher Gerald Ferguson helped make the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, in Halifax, into a hotbed of conceptual art. But since painting wasn’t exactly beloved of the conceptualists, he replaced a painter’s classically expressive, intuitive brushwork with a strictly predetermined “process”: Typically, Ferguson placed everyday objects — coils of rope; metal drain covers — under his canvas, then rubbed black enamel paint overtop to grab their images.
In 2008, the year before he died, fate compelled Ferguson to adopt one last process. A broken arm made his rubbings too hard to manage, so he decided to adopt the simplest of techniques: He would paint one-handed with a hardware-store roller, happily foregoing any hopes of fine detail in his pictures. He coupled that with a new and radical subject, at least for where he taught: He used his crude rollering to capture the great Canadian landscape — a rocky promontory; a forested hillside; the seashore — such as no self-respecting avant-gardist would normally depict.
The result of the final Fergusonian process, as seen in this show at Canada, were a series of ultra low-resolution, black-on-black views of nature that seem surprisingly full of emotion. That’s because they are so much in keeping with the mourning we now feel for our warming world.
Ferguson’s black landscapes seem more charred than painted, as though he’d somehow managed to take rubbings straight from Nova Scotia’s forests after this summer’s all-consuming fires. BLAKE GOPNIK
Through Oct. 21. Chapter NY, 60 Walker Street, Manhattan; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.
The New York-based artist Willa Nasatir is best known for photographs that use mirrors and rephotographing (taking photographs of photographs) to make image-puzzles that you might call still lifes after you’ve worked out their spatial orientation and the commonplace elements they contain. Here, three of these characteristically minding-bending photos are joined by five paintings.
It’s worth looking between the photos and paintings, to parse the affinities and distinctions in Nasatir’s approach to each. At a glance, it can be hard to tell which is which. In the photo “Hole” (2023), a blue paper bag illustrated with the head of the Statue of Liberty appears to have been burned through its front and back. A similar magenta bag is visible behind it. Both rest on a mirror that double and further defamiliarize Lady Liberty’s visage. Through Nasatir’s camera, bags flopped down on a table become a single transfixing picture.
If real objects are rendered as near abstraction in the photos, the paintings often feature figurative details emerging from otherwise abstract compositions. Is that a duck, a dog or a fox in “Rest” (2023)? Nasatir’s investigative rigor in photography recalls the work of contemporaries like B. Ingrid Olson. In contrast, the paintings don’t yet reach this height. But Nasatir’s apparent genius for building up transparent layers of paint to create depth and chromatic effects is argument enough that she shouldn’t abandon the brush entirely for the camera. She makes magic in photos of everyday objects. In paint, she’s still calibrating the alchemy. JOHN VINCLER
France-Lise McGurn and Rita McGurn
Through Oct. 14. Margot Samel, 295 Church Street, Manhattan, 212-597-2747; margotsamel.com.
Do you see a family resemblance? Dozens of figures fill the gallery from floor to ceiling — in paintings, murals drawn directly on the walls, and soft sculpture and fabric works that inhabit the floor — but it’s the mother-daughter pair responsible for crafting them that raises the question.
The work of the artists Rita McGurn (1940—2015) and France-Lise McGurn (born 1983), both center on figuration, but the contrast in their styles is stark enough that you can, as I did, divide the show accurately in two without looking at a checklist. Two of the nine paintings are by Rita, as are the 15 sculptural works — busts, figures, or carpets — mostly made of wool.
Rita never trained as an artist (attending art school only as a model), yet she created a substantial body of work rarely exhibited in her lifetime. France-Lise studied painting at the Royal College of Art in London and has exhibited at Tate Britain. It makes you wonder: Were France-Lise’s studies more or less of an influence on her eventual art practice than sharing space with her mother’s accruing artworks and witnessing their creation?
Here, the daughter’s lyric, sketched paintings and murals, which render bodies, gestures and faces in few strokes, contain and surround the mother’s delightfully outsider, crocheted beings. The bonds of family are often complex and unknowable. The gallery can barely contain the private catalyzing force of this, put on display without any sentimentality. JOHN VINCLER
‘Heji Shin: The Big Nudes’
Through Oct. 7. 52 Walker, 52 Walker Street, Manhattan; 212-727-1961, 52walker.com.
More like “The Pig Nudes.” The photographer Heji Shin is known to mix high and low — gigantic studio portraits of Kanye West one minute, hard-core gay cop porn the next; as comfortable in glossy magazines as in scrappy galleries. Fittingly, this show puns on the fine-art and fashion photographer Helmut Newton’s 1980s pictures of celebrity skin (called “Big Nudes”). With titles like “Figure Standing” and “Eat Me,” several lush large-scale photographs depict fuzzy, fleshy swine in unsettling modelesque poses, complete with coquettish rows of teats and flicks of tongue. “Reclining Nude,” its peachy subject lying trotters out on a seamless backdrop, is the epitome of porcine soft-core.
Shin’s other series is more somber: Three sets of M.R.I. scans show the artist’s brain, the layers spread out for analysis. If photographs of faces and postures come with the tantalizing promise to penetrate their subject’s essence, Shin’s brain scans represent another order of portraiture. But even as a medical imaging machine lays bare the fatty seat of consciousness, the person remains opaque. The scans push the conceit of the pig pictures into comically bleak territory. “The Big Nudes” promises highbrow titillation but delivers mortality. For Newton’s exquisite models, Shin substitutes an animal similar enough to lend us its heart valves, smart enough to spice our sausages with guilt. The cosmic pun of the pig nudes, really, is to portray both species as meat, plus magic. TRAVIS DIEHL
Long Island City
Chuquimamani-Condori and Joshua Chuquimia Crampton
Through Oct. 2 at MoMA PS1; 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens; 718-784-2084, momaps1.org.
Early in the last century, Francisco Tancara helped Protestant Adventist missionaries build schools in Bolivia on Indigenous land. Today, this labor — presumably on behalf of the Indigenous Aymara community — has been used to justify the church’s continuing presence on native land. These and similar stories form the basis of a project at MoMA PS1 by Chuquimamani-Condori and Joshua Chuquimia Crampton, siblings based in California who belong to the Pakajaqi Nation of Aymara people — Tancara was their great-great-grandfather — and who have also released a series of highly acclaimed musical recordings.
The installation here, which refers to their ancestors being confronted by representatives of the colonial church and state, included two Indigenous and migrant justice symposiums, a live musical performance and what remains: a collagelike banner that stretches two floors, and a seating area in front of this “talking altar.” The banner reads like a cosmic map or sci-fi video game, but also enacts an Aymaran form of writing with images called qillqa. In the center is a large qillqa head that breaks apart to reveal photos of Tancara and the artists’ great-great-grandmother, Rosa Quiñones. You can listen on headphones to stories about a family who bought back their land from a colonial government, as well as accounts of sundry brushes with the authorities.
Rather than merely recounting tales of dispossession, though, the siblings refer to their work as “medicine” — specifically Aymara q’iwa and q’iwsa medicine, or “queer medicine.” Forget aesthetic contemplation, artistic innovation or monetary value. The goal here is art reclaimed by the artists for ritual use: healing old historical wounds — and even, perhaps, a sick and ailing planet. MARTHA SCHWENDENER